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Top US Jewish leader warns incoming government against tampering with Law of Return

Judah Ari Gross is The Times of Israel's religions and Diaspora affairs correspondent.

Opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Opposition leader and former prime minister Benjamin Netanyahu (L) speaks William Daroff, CEO of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, at the Knesset in Jerusalem, February 22, 2022. (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

A prominent, famously uncritical Jewish American leader expresses serious concerns over a proposal by the presumed incoming government to severely restrict Israel’s Law of Return, saying it threatened a “bedrock of Zionism.”

Speaking on a panel at a conference on Israeli-US ties, the head of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, William Daroff, stresses that he is loath to criticize the government, joking that they were “out of time” when asked about the nascent coalition, but makes an exception to address the religious parties’ demand to remove the so-called “grandchild clause” from the Law of Return.

That clause allows citizenship for anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent so long as they don’t practice another religion.

“The Law of Return is a bedrock of Zionism. Our forebears took the Nuremberg laws and said if one grandparent was enough to kill you, it’s enough to let you in,” Daroff says. (While similar, the Law of Return is not actually based off the Nazis’ Nuremberg Laws, though this is a commonly held belief.)

The Conference of Presidents CEO adds that he is “very concerned” about the moves to alter that clause.

Several international Jewish groups have raised concerns about this proposal and its potentially deleterious effect on Israel-Diaspora ties, along with other legislative measures demanded by members of the Religious Zionism party as part of coalition negotiations.

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