Israel Religious Action Center
of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism
Legal Aid Centers For Olim

LACO Staff (from left to right): Sarah Lewis, Yana Beilin, Nicole MaorThe Israel Religious Action Center opened the first Legal Aid Center for Olim (Immigrants) in 1992, with the recognition that many new immigrants do not have the necessary tools for handling the problems they face during their absorption process. Since then the LACO Hotline and attorneys have assisted over 75,000 immigrants. LACO is the only program in Israel that provides free, comprehensive legal and counseling services for new immigrants.  

Many new immigrants who qualify for the Law of Return still have difficulty proving their Jewish status. Some government-sanctioned rabbis actually refuse to provide services, such as marriage, to Ethiopian and Russian olim without an Orthodox "conversion." Poor documentation in an immigrant’s country of origin, complex family situations such as remarriage or adoption, and the general inefficiency of governmental bureaucracy can create problems with the Ministry of Interior. LACO is the expert in helping protect the rights of new immigrants and their families.

 LACO's cases fall within the following categories:

Ministry of Interior Status Issues
Family Re-unification and other humanitarian exceptions




Ministry of Interior Status Issues
Sasha, an immigrant from the Ukraine, arrived in Israel first at the age of 12 in a program with Chabad, stayed in Israel for two years, and then returned at the age of 16 with the NAALE program (“Jewish Youth before Parents”). Despite all this, when at the age of 18 he asked for oleh status he was refused, and was told that he must bring a valid Ukrainian passport before his claim could be processed. Sasha was unable to bring a valid passport, as that would mean his returning to the Ukraine and serving in the Ukrainian army. Without knowing what to do, Sasha stayed in the country illegally until he was arrested. After we took the case, we immediately petitioned the Supreme Court and Sasha’s Judaism was recognized--and then all of the bureaucracy evaporated.  

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 Family Re-unification 

David and his wife moved from Ethiopia to Israel ten years ago. While David is not Jewish, his wife is and therefore, he was granted Israeli citizenship along with his wife. Shortly after moving to Israel, David was notified that his first wife in Ethiopia had died, orphaning their son, Ben. David did all that he could to bring Ben to Israel, however little Ben was denied entry by the State because he did not qualify for citizenship under the Law of Return. David turned to LACO for help, not wanting to have to choose between staying with his current wife and family in Israel or returning back to Ethiopia to be with his son from his first marriage. LACO attorneys went to court on David's behalf so he would not have to make such a choice; LACO won and David was able to bring his son to live with his family here in Israel.

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 Status for widows of Israelis
In response to IRAC's petition regarding the rights of widows of Israelis who had not yet received citizenship when their Israeli spouses died, the Interior Ministry finally changed its policy and drafted a special regulation allowing for status for spouses after the Israeli partner passed away, under certain conditions.

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