'We'll fight for our right to be Jews,' says Venezuelan group leader

Nine Venezuelan Jews were disappointed and surprised by the recent rejection of their applications for aliya, but will not give up on their dream to move to Israel, a member of the group told The Jerusalem Post on Tuesday.

Juan Ferreira (real name withheld), who is considered the leader of the small community of converts from the rural town of Maracay, said the three families intend to do “the same thing that the Jewish people we now belong to have done throughout their history.”

The Interior Ministry told the Post that the reason for the rejection was that the applicants were not affiliated with a recognized Jewish community and their preparatory conversion process had not been conducted in an acceptable community framework.

“We are going to trust in God and fight for our right to be Jews in the land of the Jews,” Ferreira said. “We have a halachically accepted conversion with a Beit Din [and] we have belonged for almost 19 months to a traditional Jewish community located in Valencia, the Carabobo State in Venezuela.”

Lauding the Valencia community, which the families joined in June 2015, Ferreira said they were warmly welcomed from the beginning.

“This small community has taught us that the values of Judaism exist and are applied,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the two families who have children, Ferreira expresses their desire to raise their children in a Jewish environment and to have Jewish grandchildren.

They wish for them to “through their own experiences accept the decision that their parents made for them, and experience a Jewish life both religiously and intellectually – not just the antisemitism which we inherited by uniting our destiny with the Jewish people,” he said, stating that the Venezuelan government is “100% antisemitic.”

He also pointedly said that antisemites are unlikely to ask whether or not they are converts before persecuting them.

Ferreira explained that when they began their conversion, they did not intend to make aliya but instead hoped to establish a Jewish Masorti community in Venezuela. “Unfortunately, this objective could not be obtained due to the deteriorating situation in Venezuela,” he said.

The group began studying for their conversion in 2011, well before the country’s economic disaster.

Ferreira also addressed a report he read saying that the Interior Ministry was suspicious of the group’s intention to make aliya, believing it was a means of escape from financial problems.

“It’s no secret that my country, Venezuela, is going through difficult times. We have gone from being an oil power to a potential humanitarian collapse,” he said, but added that this should not make their wish to find a better life for their children invalid or suspicious.

He pointed out that “Israel is Israel, thanks to immigration."