Yad L’Achim helps hundreds of people in similar situations learn about Judaism; they also rescue Jewish women married to Arabs who want to return to their faith.
By Batya Jerenberg, World Israel News
A young Jordanian recently discovered by accident that he is Jewish, and an Israeli organization is helping him secretly learn more about his roots, Ma’ariv reported on Wednesday.
“Ahmed” knew that his mother and maternal grandmother were both Iraqi Jews, he told the Israeli daily, but always considered himself a Muslim because faith goes according to the father in Islam.
He also lost contact with his mother from an early age, so there was no one to tell him that according to Jewish law he was actually a Jew.
What changed his life was a video of ultra-Orthodox lyricist and singer Ziv Yechezkel, who performs and remixes classical Arabic music and is very popular in the Arab world. Yechezkel mentioned in the video that Jewishness is matrilineal. Ahmed was stunned.
He said that he had never been a religious Muslim, so he was determined to find out about his “true Jewish roots.” He found out about the Israeli Yad L’Achim organization, which began sending him books in Arabic on Judaism via European contacts.
Yad L’Achim (“Hand for Brothers”) is almost as old as the State of Israel, having been founded in 1950. The ultra-Orthodox organization’s initial goal to help new immigrants find a suitable religious framework still exists, especially for those coming from the former Soviet Union with little Jewish knowledge.
But over the years the group added to its mission the rescue of battered Jewish women, (together with their children when possible) who married non-Jews, mostly Arabs.
The group also helps people like Ahmed, who learn that they are actually Jews according to Jewish law. According to the organization, Ahmed is not alone. In the last 18 months, they have received requests for help from 150 others in the Muslim world who have discovered that they have Jewish ancestors.
“These are lost Jews who are thirsting to know and understand their real identity,” said a Yad L’Achim director. “The vast majority doesn’t just want to hear about the subject, they want to take real steps on their way ‘home,’ to Judaism.”
For now, Ahmed is keeping his newfound knowledge to himself, as he fears the consequences of being discovered.
“They must not know that I am talking to Israelis,” Ahmed explained in the Ma’ariv interview. “If anyone finds out, I will be thrown out of the community. No one will talk to me and I won’t get work,” adding that hatred of Jews is taught in Islam.
“They teach us in school and in sermons in the mosque that Jews are real sinners and they need to be dealt with,” he said.