To the Rufeisen lawyers

Your argumentation will centre around the points below, using the documents provided and the notes for each witness to prepare a cohesive and convincing presentation in court.


  • 1. Oswald Rufeisen, Brother Daniel, is a Jew according to the Halakha, since his parents were Jewish. He would therefore be a Jew for the purposes of Document No.8, supposing that he ever wanted to marry.

    2. The concept of ethnic group or community is not synonymous with that of religion and a person who is Jewish by ethnic group does not necessarily have to believe in the Jewish faith. Additionally, many people have no strong feelings about their religion and declare themselves Jewish anyway. The issue of faith is irrelevant in a secular state and to decide otherwise means the state is theocratic.

    3. Some religious authorities hold that no-one ever ceases to be Jewish, even after conversion, as it says in Isaiah 26,2:

    "Open the gates, and let a righteous nation enter, that keeps the faith", from which the sages interpret in Sanhedrin page 44(a) that - irrespective of his actions or even his sins - a Jew is forgiven by G-d, so we must accept all Jews.

    4. Rufeisen feels himself to be Jewish, has sincerely declared himself to he so, and the state cannot be governed by religious precepts in this sense, since any sincere declaration can only be subjective and as such must be the only criterion for decisions.

    5. The Government Ordinance of 20/7/58 (Document no.7) which serves as a basis for the Minister's refusal, has no basis in law, and only the Minister has the power to make decisions - so the Government Ordinance is not binding.

    6. The Minister's refusal to grant him this right is totally arbitrary, springs from considerations beyond the law - maybe even outside pressures? - constitutes an attack on the law and the applicant's rights, and dicriminates against him.

    7. We are here to define the meaning of the word Jewish in the Law of Return (1950/5710), whether it also includes a Jew who has converted, but continues to feel himself a Jew.

    In view of the renewed existence of a Jewish sovereign state, there is - and justifiably so - a new side to the concept and definition of Jewish together with a new pride in being Jewish. In the past many chose to deny their identity for purposes of career or just survival. Today, many choose to assimilate because the rituals and murmurings they associate with Judaism mean little or nothing to them. How much do today's Jews actually know or wish to know about Judaism? Here we have someone who identifies positively with the Jewish people and - there is no doubt - was born to Jewish parents.

    Our interpretation today needs to be far broader than previously, in order to allow people to identify in different ways and provide encouragement and understanding.

    To be distributed to Rufeisen, his old acquaintance, his lawyers & the priest

    1. Rufeisen biography Name: Oswald Rufeisen. Born: Poland, 1922.

    Jewish parents; traditional Jewish education.

    Joined Akiva Zionist movement with his two brothers. They fled to Vilna (Lithuania) and from there to Kibbutz Akiva in Mandate Palestine after the outbreak of World War II. Oswald also joined the Vilna hachshara programme but did not have the opportunity to leave.

    The German invasion of USSR, June 1941 (Operation Barbarossa) meant that Poland, including the Soviet zone, was totally overrun, including Mir. Much of Mir's Jewish population was executed and the remainder segregated first in the ghetto, then in the old fortress. (The connection between Vilna and Mir is that the famous Mir Yeshiva in Poland was transferred to Vilna in 1939 because Lithuania was still independent and remained so until 1941.) Rufeisen was captured by the Gestapo and escaped; he acquired a document certifying him as a German Catholic and worked as translator and secretary for the German Police, having already become active in the armed Jewish resistance. In August 1942, he learnt of a German plan to liquidate the Mir Jewish population on August 13th, so he informed the community. About 200 of the 850 still alive escaped to the forests and joined the Russian partisans - the rest were slaughtered.

    Rufeisen, denounced to the Germans, was captured and escaped again, taking refuge in a Catholic convent where he converted to Christianity. He left, joined the partisans and was almost executed by them as a German spy, but was reprieved when a Jew from Mir in the resistance recognised him. After the war, he was decorated by the Russians for his partisan activities.

    1945: Rufeisen enters the Carmelite order as Brother Daniel, intending to move to a convent in Eretz Yisrael eventually. He requests permission from the Church to apply for an exit visa from Poland in order to move, but the visa is not granted after numerous applications. He feels very attached to the Jewish people and to Poland, but eventually has to renounce his Polish citizenship in order to receive exit papers of the type given to Jews leaving for Israel.

    His subsequent application in Israel for an immigrant certificate as an oleh is refused, although the then Minister of the Interior sympathises. He applies to the Supreme Court for an order nisi to compel the Minister to justify this refusal or grant the status as requested under the terms of paragraph 3(a) of the Law of Return. The case comes to court in 1962, 4 years after his immigration. Rufeisen has come to court to be treated on an equal footing with other immigrants and because he has never renounced the Jewish people as his own and wishes to join them in their national destiny.

    Distribution as relevant



    Legal Expert

    Use arguments 2 & 7 from the Rufeisen lawyers, integrating them with your attitude that the Law of Return has a purpose, namely,

    "to be open for Jewish immigration and for the ingathering of the exiles" - and not to limit the type of Jew who can immigrate.

    Refer to section 3(a) of the law.

    In your opinion, the existence of a Jewish state changes the relationship of Jews to being Jewish from a religious to a religious and national definition. The Law of Return is not itself concerned with the religious definition at all. The Government Ordinance is irrelevant and so the bona fide statement of the applicant stands and must be accepted.


    Immigration Ministry Official

    In practice, the Ministry of the Interior has always accepted bona fide declarations in cases of immigration. The policy has always been to encourage immigration and studies have shown that many immigrants are Jews who never felt Jewish until they experienced some feeling of alienation or discrimination in their native country. This has often been the reason why they choose to come to Israel.

    Sartre explains it very well,when he says,

    "a Jew is someone whom others consider to be Jewish ... Most people in the world are not authentic workers, Christians ... or Jews in that they are not and cannot be one hundred per cent consistent since their personal interests and those of their group differ at times. So most Jews are far from being totally Jewish. In fact they define themselves as others see them, that is to say, as a result of antisemitism. This is the only factor which does and can unite a very diverse people and in this sense Brother Daniel is Jewish - the Polish authorities, the Nazi Germans and he himself declare it so".

    The Government ordinance is irrelevant; the Minister acted beyond his authority as the declaration was made in good faith.



    In Sanhedrin 44(a) (Soncino Talmud, Sanhedrin, p.285, English) it says: "Even though a Jew has sinned, he is still called Israel".

    This is our interpretation of Isaiah 26,2. We all serve the same G-d. Indeed, Sifra, Leviticus, interprets Isaiah 26,2 as follows: "the righteous nation: The Holy one, Blessed be He, declares no human being unfit. He receives all. The gates are open at all times, and all who wish to enter - enter".

    In halakhic terms, Brother Daniel is Jewish (argument 1, lawyers) and no one can cease to be Jewish.


    Mir acquaintance

    How many Jews in different periods of history have known that their lives are in danger because of their Jewishness? Many simply died as martyrs; others hid their Judaism. Oswald Rufeisen hid his Jewishness and saved the lives of hundreds of other Jews. Today he wishes to actively rejoin the Jewish nation and we should honour that wish.

    Here, use a few personal anecdotes from the war years.


    Bnai Brith

    Include argument 6 from the Lawyers' notes and talk of the Jewish fight against discrimination, for tolerance, that is being harmed by the terms of the Minister's decision.



    Talk of Rufeisen's constant references to his Jewish affiliations and ties to the State of Israel and the ingathering of the exiles.

    We all worship the same G-d.




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15 Aug 2005 / 10 Av 5765 0