New Article: Paz, Biopolitics and Public Opinion in Recognizing Non-Citizen Children in Israel

Paz, Alejandro I. “Speaking like a Citizen: Biopolitics and Public Opinion in Recognizing Non-Citizen Children in Israel.” Language & Communication 48 (2016): 18-27.





This paper examines the public sphere process by which non-citizen children of labor migrants came to be recognized as Israeli citizens. In response to a public campaign, three government resolutions were issued in the 2000s to provide Israeli citizenship for these young non-citizens. Generally, studies of non-citizen migrants have emphasized their deportability and illegality as the primary aspect of the biopolitics of contemporary citizenship. On the other hand, I draw attention to the mass mediated process from which public opinion emerges to set the boundary between citizen and non-citizen. To describe this, I examine the pragmatics of voicing non-citizen children in public discourse. I also describe how legal documentation became the semiotic technology through which public opinion was rationalized bureaucratically.




New Article: Kemp & Kfir, Migrant Workers’ Rights Activism in Israel and Singapore

Kemp, Adriana, and Nelly Kfir. “Mobilizing Migrant Workers’ Rights in ‘Non-immigration’ Countries: The Politics of Resonance and Migrants’ Rights Activism in Israel and Singapore.” Law & Society Review 50.1 (2016): 82-116.





How are the rights of migrant workers mobilized in non-immigration regimes? Drawing on an ethnography of human rights NGOs in Israel and Singapore, two countries that share similar ethnic policies but differ in their political regime, this study contributes to scholarship on migrants’ rights mobilization by expanding cross-national analysis beyond the United States and West Europe and diverting its focus from legal institutions to the places where rights are produced. Findings show that differences in the political regime influence the channels for mobilizing claims but not the cultural politics of resonance that NGOs use when dealing with the tensions between restrictive ethnic policies and the expansion of labor migration. While restraints in authoritarian Singapore operate mainly outside the activists’ circle, in the Israeli ethno-democracy they operate through self-disciplining processes that neutralize their potential challenge to hegemonic understandings of citizenship. Paradoxically, success in advancing rights for migrants through resonance often results in reinforcing the non-immigration regime.




New Book: Kritzman-Amir, ed. Where Levinsky Meets Asmara (in Hebrew)

Kritzman-Amir, Tally. Where Levinsky Meets Asmara: Social and Legal Aspects of Israeli Asylum Policy. Jerusalem: Van Leer Institute and Bney Brak: Hakibbutz Hameuchad, 2015 (in Hebrew).





In recent years, thousands of non-Jewish African asylum seekers have arrived to Israel, the state of Jewish refugees, numbering several tens of thousands. Migration of asylum seekers is a common phenomenon in almost all countries of the world. Questions of sovereignty and control of borders and society, belonging and status, demographics and security, culture and religion, as well as welfare and social justice have a decisive influence on the attitude towards asylum seekers in Israel and abroad, and cast a dark shadow over their future. Against this background, it is no wonder that the treatment of refugees became a politically charged issue arousing severe controversies between the legislative, the executive and the judiciary authorities.
This volume is the most comprehensive collection of articles that dealing with asylum seekers in Israel. It includes twelve articles seeking to characterize the communities of asylum seekers in Israel and to critically and comparatively describe the changing policy applied by the authorities and civil society. The articles are by scholars of various disciplines as well as involved activists. Among other topics, the book discusses the bureaucratic system of the State of Israel dealing with asylum applications; the experiences of asylum seekers in Israel and their ways of integration in the urban landscape; the religious life of Christian asylum seekers; asylum and gender; the exclusion of asylum seekers by restricting their entry at the border and their confinement in detention camps; refugees who are citizens of enemy states and Palestinian refugees; and viable solutions to the refugee problem. The essays in the volume serve as a foundation for studying this field and future research, and can be employed to assist policymakers and decision-makers.



New Article: Cohen, Changing Politics of Israel’s Diaspora Strategy

Cohen, Nir. “A Web of Repatriation: The Changing Politics of Israel’s Diaspora Strategy.” Population, Space and Place (early view; online first).





Diaspora strategies were explained against the backdrop of neoliberal reforms, within which context governments in sending countries sought to mobilise skilled migrants for homeland development projects. Despite sporadic evidence that non-governmental organisations take increasingly meaningful parts in diaspora strategy-formation processes, little attention has thus far been paid to their specific roles. This paper attends to the salient contribution of non-governmental organisations to Israel’s diaspora strategy. Focusing on two recent state-assisted return programs, it argues that a greater involvement of private and civic organisations should be seen as part of broader political-economic shifts, most notably economic neoliberalisation. Since the late 1980s, organisations have partnered with the state to create a tri-sectoral ‘web of repatriation’, which is effectively responsible for the creation and implementation of return programmes. Through a critical analysis of the discourse within, and practices deployed by, this new web, the paper illustrates the changing politics of return in Israel. Specifically, it shows how partners have advanced a greater professional segmentation of (potential) returnees, prioritised those best suited for the needs of a small number of ‘economic growth engines’, and institutionalised merit-based compensation schemes. Despite their different positions and situated knowledge, both state and non-state bodies have been using similar trajectories, calling for greater privatisation, harsher selectivity, and differential rewards in Israel’s diaspora strategy.

New Article: McGonigle & Herman, DNA Testing and the Israeli Law of Return

McGonigle, Ian V., and Lauren W. Herman. “Genetic Citizenship: DNA Testing and the Israeli Law of Return.” Journal of Law and the Biosciences (early view; online first).





The Israeli State recently announced that it may begin to use genetic tests to determine whether potential immigrants are Jewish or not. This development would demand a rethinking of Israeli law on the issue of the definition of Jewishness. In this article, we discuss the historical and legal context of secular and religious definitions of Jewishness and rights to immigration in the State of Israel. We give a brief overview of different ways in which genes have been regarded as Jewish, and we discuss the relationship between this new use of genetics and the society with which it is co-produced. In conclusion, we raise several questions about future potential impacts of Jewish genetics on Israeli law and society.

Lecture: Yehudai, Israel and Its Emigrants in the Early Years of the State (Taub NYU, Apr 6 2015)


4/6/15 – 5:30pm
14A Washington Mews, 1st Floor

Dr. Ori Yehudai

‘We Know Better Than You What is Good for You’
Israel and Its Emigrants in the Early Years of the State



Following the establishment of the State of Israel in 1948, masses of Jewish immigrants and refugees flooded into the country, and their absorption became a formidable challenge for the young Jewish state. But during the same years tens of thousands of Jews also left the country, some returning to their countries of origin and others heading to new destinations. Who were these people and why did they leave? How did Israeli government and society react to the troubling phenomenon of Jewish out-migration? Based on new archival material, the lecture will shed light on a little-known yet significant chapter in Israel’s history, which has not lost its relevance even today.


Dr. Ori Yehudai is currently a Schusterman-Taub Postdoctoral Fellow at the Taub Center for Israel Studies at NYU. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago and has received fellowships from the National Endowment for the Humanities, the American Council of Learned societies, the YIVO Institute for Jewish Research and the Israel Institute in Washington, DC, among other sources. Ori’s dissertation on Jewish emigration from Palestine and Israel between 1945 and 1960 was commended for the Fraenkel Prize in contemporary history. He is currently writing a book based on his dissertation.

RSVP here.

New Article: Kalir, Moral Obligation and Fearism in the Treatment of African Asylum Seekers in Israel

Kalir, Barak. “The Jewish State of Anxiety: Between Moral Obligation and Fearism in the Treatment of African Asylum Seekers in Israel.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies [early view online, prior to printed version]





Since 2005 around 60,000 asylum seekers, mostly from Eritrea and Sudan, have entered Israel by crossing the border from Egypt. Notwithstanding the Jewish history of persecution, and Israel being a signatory to the UN Convention for the protection of refugees, modern Israel systematically refuses to grant a refugee status to asylum seekers. Since 2012, the tenacious hostile approach of Israeli policy-makers and state-agents towards asylum seekers has resulted in an outburst of racist verbal and physical attacks against them. This article analyses the socio-legal location of asylum seekers in Israel by examining how their position is articulated by different parties, deploying competing discourses of human rights, citizenship, security and sovereignty. The article advances that appeals—mostly made by critical non-governmental organisations (NGOs), journalists and academics—to human rights, Jewish morals and historic sensitivities are beguiling; while they arouse hopes for compassion and moral obligation, they are also used by mainstream Israeli politicians to justify the exclusion and deportation of so-called ‘African infiltrators’. A hegemonic ideology of ‘fearism’—which brands the Israeli national narrative and informs the notion of citizenship among Jewish Israelis—leads to the construction of asylum seekers as abject Others, who pose a threat to the Jewish state and to Jews’ own right for secured citizenship.

New Article: Lentin and Moreo, Migrant Deportability: Israel and Ireland as Case Studies

Lentin, Ronit and Elena Moreo. “Migrant Deportability: Israel and Ireland as Case Studies.” Ethnic and Racial Studies (ahead of print).





This article critiques policies of deportation and deportability – a technology emanating from three seemingly conflicting rationalities: states’ obligations under international human rights regimes, capitalism’s need to facilitate the movement of labour, and the need to reaffirm state sovereignty. After outlining the concept of deportability, we argue that although justified by state actors as an integral part of asylum and immigration policies, deportability epitomizes the paradox of immigration regimes at a point of crisis. We use Israel and Ireland as case studies to illustrate that migrant deportability circumvents human rights and domestic legislation that hinder the power of the state to deport unwanted migrants. Paradoxically, in both, policies that engender the deportability of asylum seekers are a response to their undeportability. Despite their differences, Israel and Ireland are unusual immigration destinations and quintessential diaspora nations, whose histories of dispersal configure Jewishness and Irishness in ethno-racially rigid yet spatially fluid terms, as illustrated by their citizenship regimes.

New Article: Cohen & Kranz, State-assisted Highly Skilled Return Programmes: Israel and Germany Compared

Cohen, Nir and Dani Kranz. “State-assisted Highly Skilled Return Programmes, National Identity and the Risk(s) of Homecoming: Israel and Germany Compared.” Journal of Ethnic and Migration Studies (ahead of print)







State-assisted return programmes (SARPs) have emerged as key components of diaspora mobilisation strategies in countries of origin. Especially in countries where the principle of jus sanguinis underpins citizenship regimes, these programmes have often been drawn from ostensibly national(istic) discourses in order to encourage the repatriation of (mostly highly skilled) citizens residing abroad. Drawing on interviews with public officials and migrants as well as content analysis of primary and secondary materials, this paper examines SARPs deployed by Israel and Germany. It argues that while the discourse and practice within which state programmes are embedded (re-)construct the nation in certain ways that are commensurate with perceived determinants of return, migrants have often rejected these formulations, underscoring instead a range of neglected personal and professional return-oriented risks. The paper’s main contribution lies in better clarifying the links between highly skilled return migration policy, national identity and migration determinants and uncovers the diverging articulations of return used by state and migrants alike.

New Article: Gerver, Testing Repatriation Contracts for Unconscionability: The Case of Refugees in Israel

Gerver, Mollie. “Testing Repatriation Contracts for Unconscionability: The Case of Refugees in Israel.” International Journal of Refugee Law 26.2 (2014): 198-222.





When an individual signs a contract for voluntary repatriation through a private or public body, there may be a need to draw upon principles of contract law and to test contracts for unconscionability. In the case of asylum seekers and refugees, there may be procedural unconscionability when consent is only the result of fear of deportation or imprisonment, and substantive unconscionability when conditions after return include no access to basic necessities or persecution. At the same time, many asylum seekers and refugees do wish to return, despite conditions in the country of origin or because of conditions in the host country. Ethical issues regarding consent are therefore central. Yet, it is unclear how one would ensure consent under such conditions. While it may be possible to apply principles of paternalism and hypothetical consent in such cases, this may undermine the rights of those who wish to repatriate, and remove an option they otherwise would not have.

This article argues that Parfit’s Principle of Consent (CP) and Rights Principle (RP) may address these concerns and applies these principles to test for the unconscionability of two policies of repatriation of refugees and failed asylum seekers in Israel back to countries in Africa between 2009 and 2013. One policy was implemented by an NGO that repatriated failed asylum seekers to countries deemed safe, although returnees had no legal status to stay in Israel and were therefore at risk of deportation. A second NGO returned individuals to South Sudan, even though this was considered dangerous, but only returned South Sudanese who had the legal status to stay in Israel, as this was considered criteria for true voluntariness in the decision to return. By attempting to apply CP and RP in a test for unconscionability, this article addresses both the ethical dilemmas of repatriation of failed asylum seekers and refugees, as well as possible ways in which contracts, more generally, can be tested for unconscionability.


Cite: Yonah, Reclaiming Diaspora: Ethnonationalism in the Global Era

Yonah, Yossi. “Reclaiming Diaspora: The Israeli State, Migration, and Ethnonationalism in the Global Era.” Diaspora 16.1-2 (2012): 190-228.





This article offers an analysis of Israel’s migration policies toward Soviet Jews and argues, based on patterns it reveals, that “the compression of relations of time and space” characterizing the global era do not necessarily render the nation-state weaker, let alone idle or irrelevant. It discusses Israel’s attempts to construct these potential Jewish migrants, while they were still in the Soviet Union, as its conationals, and to facilitate their arrival in Israel. Israel’s migration policies and practices vis-à-vis this particular population provide a case study of the nexus connecting the nation-state, globalization, diaspora, migration, and ethnic belonging. The article shows that while during the 1970s and 1980s the patterns of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union were less rigid and considerably defied the wishes of the Jewish nation-state, from the end of the 1980s through the 1990s, at a time of accelerating globalization, the patterns of Jewish emigration from the Soviet Union heeded the dictates of the nation-state more rigidly. The changing patterns of emigration from the USSR and immigration to Israel provide a compelling case showing that the nation-state may exert more power under global conditions than it was supposed to exert before the ascendance of hyper-globalization that is alleged to dominate the world today. This article contributes to accumulating research on “the state of the state” under global conditions, and argues that the state does not necessarily become weaker in this era—as many contend—but may even grow stronger, at least with respect to some important affairs within its sphere of governance.

Conference: “The Stranger at Our Gates”, Transdisciplinary Conference at JTS

In our Community 2010

Please Join Us for

“The Stranger at Our Gates” 
A Transdisciplinary Conference on Political and Religious Issues of Identity

Nancy Berlinger, The Hastings Center
Michael Gottsegen, Brown University
Jenny Labendz, Barnard College
Oliver Leaman, University of Kentucky
Ranen Omer-Sherman, University of Miami
Maeera Schreiber, University of Utah

Monday, April 23, 2012
9:00 a.m.–7:30 p.m.
The Jewish Theological Seminary
3080 Broadway (at 122nd Street), New York City

Registration for the all-day conference is $25 (free for graduate students); this includes breakfast, lunch, and coffee. The conference concludes with the Jack and Lewis Rudin Lecture, a public panel entitled “‘The Stranger at Our Gates’: Jewish Perspectives on Exclusion and Inclusion in Contemporary America,” at 6:00 p.m. Registration for the conference automatically includes the evening panel.

To register or for further information, please contact Ute Steyer at Space is limited.
Please note: If you are interested in attending the Jack and Lewis Rudin Lecture only, it is free, but reservations are required. RSVP online at or call (212) 280-6093 (this does not include registration for the all-day conference).

Please arrive at least 15 minutes early to allow sufficient time for check-in, and have photo ID available.
This event is cosponsored by the Center for Pastoral Education at JTS, and the Louis Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies of The Jewish Theological Seminary. The Center for Pastoral Education is generously funded by the Charles H. Revson Foundation and the Booth Ferris Foundation.

Globalization has increased mobility and international collaboration, and facilitated the creation of transnational entities such as the European Union. However, national identities have become more impenetrable at the same time. In the United States, there has been steadily increasing concern with questions of identity and citizenship. The dichotomy between “citizens” and “aliens” (whether “documented” or not) is ever apparent in debates about immigration policy, especially in arguments about access to public services such as education and health care.
There are two basic questions: What normative principles define the rights of entry and access? What principles inform (or should inform) the criteria for membership and group identity? Since policy decisions in these areas often are moral decisions rooted in religious or quasi-religious arguments, it is important to examine how the public debate is informed by underlying religious premises: Judaism, Christianity, and Islam have much to say about the politics of inclusion and exclusion.
This transdisciplinary conference devoted to issues of identity will focus on the contribution of the Jewish experience to the debate about those issues. Jews have played the roles of both “self” and “other” in various times and places from the biblical period to the present. While Jewish law is protective of the rights of “strangers,” these nevertheless may be met with suspicion, and regarded as a threat to ethnic/religious identity and group solidarity.
The papers presented will explore questions of identity and otherness from various fields of Jewish studies, including Contemporary Israeli Literature, Philosophy, and Talmud and Rabbinics:

9:00 a.m. Breakfast and Opening Remarks by Professor Arnold M. Eisen, chancellor, JTS
9:15 a.m. “Recognizing the Other as Us: Undocumented Immigrants and Access to Health Care”—Dr. Nancy Berlinger, deputy director and research scholar, The Hastings Center
10:15 a.m. “How Comparable Are Jews and Muslims as ‘the Other’?: Is the Jewish Experience a Paradigm of Integration and Persecution of the Other?”—Dr. Oliver Leaman, professor of Philosophy and Zantker Professor of Judaic Studies, University of Kentucky
11:15 a.m. “Levinas and the Stranger at the Gates: The Ethics of Asylum in Israel and the United States. Balancing Ethical Responsibilities between the Other and the ‘Third’ Part”—Dr. Michael Gottsegen, visiting assistant professor of Judaic Studies and Hirschfeld Presidential Fellow in Comparative Studies, Brown University

12:15 p.m. Lunch

1:15 p.m. “Ancient Rabbinic Models of Learning with Non-Jews: The Role of the Gentile in the Rabbinic Discourse”—Dr. Jenny Labendz, term assistant professor of Religion, Barnard College
2:15 p.m. “Addressing Others, Acquiring Selves: The Buberian Poetics of Admiel Kosman and Liberation from Confines of Identity in Modern Israeli Literature”—Dr. Maeera Shreiber, associate professor of English and affiliated associate professor at the Middle East Center, University of Utah
3:15 p.m. “Mr. Mani and The Liberated Bride: Jews as ‘Other’ and Arabs in A. B. Yehoshua”—Dr. Ranen Omer-Sherman, professor of English and Jewish Studies, University of Miami
4:15 p.m. Concluding Remarks by Ute Steyer, research and program manager, Center for Pastoral Education, JTS
6:00 p.m. The Jack and Lewis Rudin Lecture
“‘The Stranger at Our Gates’: Jewish Perspectives on Exclusion and Inclusion in Contemporary America”


SaulSaul J. Berman, JD, associate professor of Jewish Studies, Stern College for Women, Yeshiva University;
                           adjunct professor of Law, Columbia Law School

SuzanneSuzanne Last Stone, JD, University Professor of Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization, professor of Law,
                            and director of the Center for Jewish Law and Contemporary Civilization, Benjamin N. Cardozo School of Law,
                            Yeshiva University

Burt 2Burton L. Visotzky, Appleman Professor of Midrash and Interreligious Studies, Louis Stein Director of the Louis
                           Finkelstein Institute for Religious and Social Studies, and director of the Milstein Center for Interreligious
                           Dialogue, JTS


justus bairdJustus Baird, director of the Center for Multifaith Education,  Auburn Theological Seminary

The Jack and Lewis Rudin Lectures provide the opportunity for eminent academics, religious leaders, intellectuals, and public figures to discuss topics of interest with the JTS community and the public at large.

[object Object]