Ad shows Russian bride receiving a conversion certificate by fax machine after calling a conversion hotline number • Shas says ad is meant to criticize the state's conversion system • Lapid: Ad is clear example of ignorant Judaism preaching hate.
Shlomo Cesana and Israel Hayom Staff
Shas' televised campaign ad, which MK Nino Abesadze submitted an official complaint against on Tuesday.
Photo credit: YouTube
MK Nino Abesadze.
Photo credit: Knesset website
MK Nino Abesadze (formerly Kadima, now a candidate on the Labor party list), who also heads the working group for immigrants within the Labor party, submitted a complaint Tuesday with the Central Election Committee to ban a televised campaign ad for the Shas party.
The ad shows a Russian bride receiving a conversion certificate by fax machine at her wedding ceremony, after calling a conversion hotline number. The ad, according to Shas, is meant to criticize the state's conversion system by highlighting the ease with which non-Jews can convert.
According to a statement released by Shas, "Nothing bad was said about anyone in the broadcast.
"The issue of mixed marriages and fake conversions can lead to assimilation and loss of the state's Jewish identity. A country that fights assimilation abroad cannot allow assimilation at home. The ad is meant to highlight the insufferable ease with which it is possible to enter a mixed marriage, under the auspices of a law that [Yisrael Beytenu Chairman Avigdor] Lieberman, one of the leaders of Likud-Beytenu, promoted. Following the positive responses we've received from former Likud voters, we plan to continue to run the ad tomorrow, too."
“The Shas broadcast is racist and presents the immigrant population in a ridiculous light,” Abesadze said.
The following is a translation of the controversial dialogue:
Groom: “Marina, what is the fax for?” Bride: “Beytenu sent it, a wedding present.” Groom: “How nice of him. But what the hell – a fax?” Bride: “To receive “ishur” (certificate).” Groom: “'Ishur' for what?” Bride: “From 1-800-convert.” Groom: “1-800-convert?” Bride: “Da, you call 1-800-convert and receive 'ishur'.” Groom: “Wait, you aren’t Jewish?” Bride: “I am now!”
Yesh Atid Chairman Yair Lapid responded to the ad on his Facebook page on Wednesday, saying: "The absurd wedding campaign ad aired by Shas yesterday is a clear example of ignorant Judaism preaching hate. How dare they insult immigrants from the former Soviet Union in such a way? How do those who don't serve in the army dare slander those whose children enlist in the Israel Defense Forces in high numbers and protect our lives? How do those who have made unemployment their religion dare insult Israeli citizens who work hard and whose taxes fund the yeshiva [religious school] students? This is not Judaism, this is simple racism and Yesh Atid will fight against any attempt to besmirch immigrants. They are our brethren."
Rabbi Shai Peron, no. 2 on the Yesh Atid party list, called the Shas campaign ad "offensive, ignorant and invasive."
Peron added, "If [Shas rabbis] are allowed to determine who is Jewish, we will be forced to live in a racist country that persecutes loyal citizens, who carry the burden, serve the state and uphold its values with faith and love.
"After trying to gather a few extra votes by invoking the ethnic demon and failing, Shas decided to turn its hostility toward the immigrant population. Shas' Judaism isn't our Judaism. Those willing to gain another vote and a half at the cost of humiliating kosher and loyal Jews, deserves to receive widespread public denunciation.
"The moment of truth has arrived and we are all obligated to decide who will lead Israel in the upcoming years. Will we let Shas' people continue to sow the terrible seeds of hate and divisiveness … or will we all join together to form a healthy society?"
Meanwhile, the provocative campaign ad also received criticism from the religious camp on Wednesday. Rabbi Shaul Farber, the founder and director of the Itim foundation, an independent non-profit organization providing information and advocacy for the Jewish lifecycle, condemned the ad by saying it cynically exploits Israel's conversion system.
"As an Orthodox rabbi," said Farber, "I remind everyone that the Torah says over 36 times that it is forbidden to degrade the convert. To my sorrow, Shas, in the matter of its conduct pertaining to conversion, is violating the laws of the Torah. I call on [Shas spiritual leader] Rabbi Ovadia Yosef to cancel this campaign immediately."