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Documents confirming Jewish roots

March 28, 2022 1067 Time to read: 14 min.

Those who seek Israeli citizenship usually want to prove their Jewish origin. Moreover, according to the “Law of Return”, adopted in 1950, not only Jews, but also grandchildren and children of Jews are entitled to repatriate.

Documents for confirming nationality

If a person declares that he is a Jew and claims Israeli citizenship, then he is obliged to provide evidence of Jewish roots. His opinion in this matter will not be considered objective. Therefore, when confirming Jewishness, only documents are accepted as arguments.

The information provided to the embassy must prove:

  • Jewishness of relatives;
  • Family relationship of potential repatriates with relatives.

The main evidence of a relative’s Jewishness is Soviet-style documents that contained the “nationality” column:

  • a birth certificate;
  • a passport;
  • a death certificate;
  • a military ID;
  • documents from the place of work or study;
  • extract from the house book;
  • party or Komsomol card;

  • a metrical extract from the synagogue (usually records of births, marriages, deaths, and rituals are kept);
  • criminal case of the repressed;
  • award sheet of the participant of the Great Patriotic War;
  • certificates of evacuation or death in the Holocaust.

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    It is also possible to prove Jewish nationality thanks to circumstantial evidence. They cannot be considered evidence in and of themselves, but will serve to your advantage if the underlying documents are missing. These include:

    • letters containing evidence of participation in Jewish holidays and rituals, visits to the synagogue;
    • family photographs with Jewish attributes on which a relative can be identified;
    • personal diaries with relevant entries;
    • a certificate of burial in a Jewish cemetery;
    • information about close relatives who have already repatriated (you only need to provide evidence of your family ties with them,
    • indicate their document numbers, telephone numbers, addresses and the exact date of repatriation);
    • ketuba (Jewish marriage certificate) – if the ancestors married according to the Jewish religious rite, then they were Jews.

    You will also need documents confirming your relationship with the ancestors of the Jews:

    • birth certificates of you and all relatives in the Jewish line, proving that you are a direct descendant of your mother, father,
    • grandparents, whom you refer to as Jews;
    • marriage certificates confirming the relationship and change of surname by you, your mother, grandmother, and great-grandmother;
    • certificates of all other marriages that were in the family through the repatriation line;
    • as well as divorce certificates;
    • certificates of paternity;
    • certificates of change of surname, name, or patronymic;
    • passports of all relatives of the Jewish line;
    • certificates of adoption (adoption);
    • metrics from the synagogue may be used, which recorded kinship at birth and marriage.

    When collecting documents, the main rule applies: it is better to attach more evidence than less. Moreover, each case is individual, and the above is only a general list of documents that can be found.

    Documents for consular verification

    archival search

    When documents on kinship and confirmation of Jewish roots are collected, a consular check will have to be passed. It is necessary to provide not only the listed papers, but also numerous others.

    In addition to the documents of the ancestors, the consul will need internal passports and birth certificates for the entire family of repatriates, including spouses who do not have Jewish roots. And also them:

    • foreign passports valid for at least 6 months from the date of the consular check and having at least 2 blank pages (1 spread);
    • passports of other states whose citizens are repatriates;
    • Marriage certificate;
    • workbooks;
    • military tickets;
    • a photo of all family members, including children from 6 months;
    • certificates of no criminal record with an apostille for all repatriates over 14 years old;
    • a repatriate questionnaire filled out in accordance with all the rules.

    Where to seek evidence

    Repatriates are obliged to seek evidence of their Jewish origin themselves. The Israeli consulate is only responsible for verifying the authenticity of the submitted documents.

    Before starting the collection of documents, it is worth speaking with the following kin and studying family archives. If they do not have the necessary papers, you should contact specialized storage facilities. Archives containing information about a Jewish ancestor can be federal, regional, city, and special. There are also cases when it is necessary to apply to the archives of other countries. Information about births and deaths is stored in the registry offices, in the parish registers of synagogues, and about passports –  in the passport offices at the regional registration center (usually the registry office).

    Occasionally, the archives are in a bad state, and it is quite difficult to find anything there. In many places, the documents are not translated into electronic form.

    The person who starts the search must have a firm conviction that the search is justified. Based on family histories, stories of relatives, a family tree is recreated, in which Jews are present, information is found out where they lived, worked and served in the military, so that you can contact the local archives. Frequently, people find out that their ancestors had other names and surnames at birth, and the search starts from scratch, according to new data.

    If the applicant knows the exact details of the relative and his intended place of birth, then he can try to find information in such institutions:

    • Regional and city archives at the place of residence of relatives.
    • Archives of the registry office. It is worth considering that papers are stored here only for 75 years, then they are transferred to the state archives.
    • Jewish communities and synagogues. It is possible that metrics were preserved here, where data on the civil status of the Jewish community were recorded – information on marriage, birth, death, circumcision and other rites.
    • Military commissariats and archives of the Ministry of Defense and other organizations where data on Jews who served in the Soviet
    • Army, census lists, insignia, award lists could be preserved. Including the Central Archive of the Ministry of Defense in Podolsk.
    • Archives of the FSB, where you can find information about criminal cases and the cases of the repressed and their rehabilitation.
    • Places of work and study and archives at their location. Perhaps some information remained in personal files.
    • Jewish cemeteries where relatives were buried.
    • ChGK PROV Foundation, where you can get execution certificates.
    • Archives of the Red Cross containing information about the evacuation and death as a result of the Holocaust.
    • Sites “Memory of the people” and “Feat of the people”, where you can find information about the participants in the Second World War.

    It is important to remember that only the original documents on paper will be convincing for the consul, so you will have to make requests to the archives for the issuance of documents in your hands.

    Not sure where to start looking for Jewish roots and confirming origins? Contact the WRAI, and our specialists will advise on all necessary issues, as well as check the documents for their authenticity and make requests to all the necessary archives.

    Difficulties in searching

    Many people have problems collecting documents. We list the main ones so that you are prepared in advance for everything.

    Full family details unknown

    Some people know about the Jewishness of their ancestors from the stories of their parents, who also could have already died. Often these stories were not complete, and people, for example, did not remember the patronymic or the date of birth of their ancestors. Such cases are considered more difficult, but the family line can still be restored if this works is entrusted to experienced archivists. Independent search in this situation may take several years.

    If the exact date of birth is unknown, then an approximate period of time is requested for searching in the archive at the registry office. Accordingly, the more accurate this interval, the easier it will be to find the document.

    Jew relative changed name in documents

    If your ancestors were among those who changed their last names, first names and patronymics to avoid persecution and discrimination, this adds to the difficulties. If this information is known, then you should immediately start looking for documents by old names. You will also need papers on the change of name or surname (they can be found in the registry office at the place of residence). If this was discovered during the search, it is necessary to request documents in the archives again, by newly recognized names.
    Archive refuses to provide original documents

    This does not happen often, but there are some harmful employees who, for some internal reasons or “just in case”, refuse to give the original documents into the hands of their relatives. Most situations are resolved by assertiveness and appeal to superiors, but in some cases it can go to court. There are also legal grounds—papers are usually issued only to direct heirs (children). If your parents are alive, then your grandmother’s documents will be given only to them, and not to you. It is important to obtain a paper original by any means, as the embassy does not accept copies.
    The papers were once lost and now only a duplicate can be obtained

    This problem typically concerns birth certificates. In case of loss, the registry office can only issue a duplicate of the certificate. This is not welcome at the embassy, and they are wary of duplicates, but if there is no other way out, you can provide it.
    It's not clear if the papers we already have are enough to prove the papers we already have

    All cases are considered individually, and the consul decides for each family separately whether there is enough evidence or not. There is no perfect list that can be provided. The main thing is to find the maximum possible amount of evidence, direct and indirect, and bring them to the embassy. If you are in doubt and do not want to wait another six months until the next check, if the consul asks you to bring other papers, contact the WRAI. Our specialists have many years of experience in preparing for consular checks and will tell you exactly whether the evidence is sufficient or not, and what papers are still needed.
    Certificates of no criminal record received were expired pending consular review

    The certificate of no criminal record is valid for 6 months. Often, repatriates collect the entire list of documents, receive police clearance certificates, affix apostilles on them, and only then sign up for a meeting with the consul. And this is where the problems begin. The fact is that the wait can be from 6 to 11 months, and the certificates expire. We recommend thinking about this in advance. You can sign up at the embassy, ​​collect all the documents during the waiting time and order a certificate of no criminal record a couple of months before the check.

    Our company provides professional assistance in obtaining Israeli citizenship. Among other things, we will inform you what documents are needed to confirm Jewishness in your particular case, and we will also help you collect them. Our specialists successfully cope with even the most difficult situations.

    We will do everything quickly and with a positive result, and this is confirmed by the fact that 99% of our clients pass the consular check the first time.

    You can try to verify the presence of Jewish roots yourself, but this will slow down rather than speed up the process. The procedure is time-consuming and will require you to be fully involved in the process. Therefore, it is better to immediately contact the professionals at the Consulting Center WRAI.

    The specialist will draw up a plan of action depending on the situation:

    • No documents are confirming the presence of Jewish relatives. The search will be conducted based on the applicant’s confidence. In some families, there are stories that there are Jews in the family, but there is no evidence of this. In this case, the search for documents will be carried out by experienced archivists.
    • There are confirmations, so it will be easier to prove kinship. The specialists of our agency will give a full consultation and help to draw up a plan for proving Jewish roots.

    If the applicant knows that he has relatives in Israel who got there under the repatriation program, this increases the chances of passing a consular check to obtain a passport. To speed up the process, you need to find relatives and provide us with information about them, along with papers confirming family ties.

    If you do not have the necessary documents, and you do not know at what stage in the development of your family tree there was a change in Jewish nationality to another, then please contact us, and we will assist in finding the missing documents.

    Over 8 years of work, WRAI specialists have already helped thousands of families to find a new life in the Holy Land of Israel. Contact us, we will be happy to assist you! In addition, you can always leave a request on our website.

    What to do after collecting documents about Jewishness?

    After collecting all the necessary evidence base, the applicant and his family members applying for repatriation send scans of documents and completed questionnaires “Request for a repatriate visa” to the Embassy’s e-mail. Thereafter, an employee of the Consular Department should call back and offer possible dates for the passage of a consular check that determines the right to repatriation, they may also be asked to convey some papers or correct inaccuracies.

    It is important to come to the interview with a full package of documents in the original, including completed questionnaires. At the reception itself, each family member planning to move to Israel must be present in person. At the meeting, all documentation and a similar story about the biography of a relative are provided.

    The consul may ask additional questions or send for the missing documents for a second interview. If the verification is successful, the applicant and his family members receive a repatriation visa for a period of six months and can prepare for a flight to Israel.

    Despite the apparent simplicity of repatriation, this process is not easy and not everyone succeeds. Every year, hundreds of thousands of people cannot find the relevant documents, confirm the trueness of the information, or do not know enough about working with archives and about passing a consular check.

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