Jewish, African American Basketball Player Denied Right to Immigrate to Israel
An African American basketball player who says he was born Jewish and grew up observant but also underwent a conversion by a Conservative rabbi after his mother had been converted in a nondenominational synagogue was denied permission to immigrate to Israel over questions about his Jewishness and motivation. Jared Armstrong says he was raised by his Jewish mother and planned to play professionally for Hapoel Haifa, a team in the Israeli Basketball Premier League. He is a member of Congregation Beth Shalom, a Conservative synagogue in Wilmington, Delaware, led by Rabbi Michael Beals, a long-time friend of US President Joe Biden. Armstrong wrote this week in an op-ed that by refusing his application for aliyah, Israel’s Interior Ministry signaled that it did not believe he was sincere in his desire to immigrate. Armstrong first visited Israel on Birthright, a free 10-day heritage trip for Jewish young people, and then began playing for Hapoel while applying for citizenship. His appeal of the Interior Ministry’s decision was denied last week. Without citizenship, he can no longer play basketball in Israel. “It is simply wrong, discriminatory, inhumane, and ignorant. Instead of treating me like a Jew wanting to come home, they regard me as an infiltrator trying to take part in something that I have no right to. And nothing I have done has changed their mind. But I am fighting this. And I will continue to fight this,” Armstrong wrote.