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Shas pulls campaign ad denigrating conversions

JERUSALEM (JTA) — The haredi Orthodox Shas party said it would pull an election campaign ad that stereotypes immigrants from the former Soviet Union and the conversion process following requests for its ban.

Shas said Wednesday that it would shelve the ad at the recommendation of Elyakim Rubinstein, chairman of the Central Election Committee. Earlier in the day, Rubinstein had received requests to ban the ad from the Jerusalem-based ITIM, which helps Israelis seek conversions, because of its racist overtones and the Labor Party.

The ad will air for the last time in the Wednesday night bloc of political commercials.

In the ad, a couple is about to get married. The bride is a blonde, stereotypical-looking and -sounding Russian woman, and the groom is a meek, Sephardi-looking man. A fax machine is set up under the chuppah, which the bride says is a gift from Beiteinu, a reference to the Yisrael Beiteinu party led by Avigdor Liberman. The groom is surprised to realize that the bride is not Jewish, but then a conversion certificate is faxed to her under the chuppah from what it says is a Yisrael Beiteinu dial-in conversion service.

"Political wars should not be fought as religious wars," Rabbi Seth Farber, director of ITIM, told JTA on Wednesday, a day after the ad aired on national television for the first time.

"This is racism of the first order," he added.

Yisrael Beiteinu has called for putting fewer obstacles in front of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who want to convert.

 

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