Rabbonim Blast New Conversion Recommendations

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Rabbonim and chareidi MKs blasted recommendations to shakeup Israel’s conversion system. Presented by former justice minister Moshe Nissim to Prime Minister Netanyahu, the recommendations advise the inclusion of non-Orthodox Jews in a board set up to appoint dayonim.

Non-Orthodox bodies also lambasted the recommendations, as they would continue to invalidate non-Orthodox conversion conducted in Israel and disqualify Jews converted by non-Orthodox bodies overseas from marrying Jews in Israel.

Another disgruntled group is Israel’s Giyur K’halacha group, whose conversions would continue to be invalid under Israeli law, as would the conversions of private batei din like that of Rav Nissim Karelitz of Bnei Brak.

Opponents of the recommendations also noted that they would provide legal authorization to non-Orthodox conversions made abroad, which until now were only valid by power of the High Court.

Nissim’s recommendations entail stripping the Chief Rabbinate of its authority over conversion and transferring the power to a new Orthodox conversion authority under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office.

The new authority would be headed by “an eminent talmid chochom expert in conversion law” appointed by the prime minister in consultation with the President of the Beis Din Hagadol and the Jewish Agency chairman. Its dayonim would be selected by an 11-man panel including the prime minister or his representative, the chief rabbis, the justice minister and other secular authorities. Two others on the board would be public representatives who “will give expression to the various streams of Judaism, meaning that they will be representatives of the Masorti [Conservative] Movement and the [Reform] Movement for Progressive Judaism.”

This would leave the panel without an Orthodox majority, although dayonim chosen by it would need to be Orthodox and expert in conversion law.

In response to the recommendations, Israel’s Chief Rabbis convened an emergency meeting with 25 leading rabbonim and said that the new policy was tantamount to “acknowledging conversions not conducted according to halacha” and formally recognizing Reform conversions performed overseas.

“The mere fact that Reform representatives are included in the committee to appoint conversion judges is totally inappropriate and therefore this document must be rejected out of hand,” Rav Yosef said.

The rabbonim signed a letter calling on Netanyahu “to reject the report of the Nissim committee out of hand and to immediately advance legislation to stop the attempts of the High Court to recognize private and Reform conversions.”

A meeting of leading religious Zionist rabbonim at the home of Rav Chaim Drukman also lambasted the plan. Rav Drukman was one of at least three rabbonim who signed the recommendations but later reneged after realizing what it entailed.

Interior Minister Aryeh Deri promised to torpedo the recommendations, saying he would make sure they are not even raised for discussion.

“The sole person authorized by government regulations to submit a bill in regard to conversion is the interior minister and it is absolutely clear that I will not submit this proposal,” he said, demanding that the government use a bill he formulated which retains the Chief Rabbinate’s authority over conversion.

“The status quo must be preserved,” Moshe Gafni of UTJ agreed. “Conversion has been with us since we became a people. This is not a chareidi issue but something touching on the foundation of the nation and we will not allow any change in this matter.”

Gafni recalled that Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv once instructed his party to not join a government coalition until there was clear agreement that the conversion status quo would be preserved and that this lengthened negotiations by a week.

Moshe Nissim claimed that his recommendations were essential.

“On the day the High Court realizes the law [based on my recommendations] is not being passed, they will issue a verdict… and permit Reform conversions in Israel,” he said, arguing that it was essential to have more conversions.

Israel currently has 400,000 people unaffiliated with any religion, he said, most of them from the former Soviet Union. Only 2,000 people convert every year and 10,000 people unaffiliated to any religion are added to the population every year, he noted, warning that this will certainly accelerate Israel’s assimilation rate which has already reached 10%.

{Matzav.com Israel News Bureau}

4 COMMENTS

  1. Moshe Nissim is racist. Why should only non-Orthodox Jews be included in a board set up to appoint dayonim? What about Arabs and Xtians who live in Israel?

  2. When my son was in IDF basic training over a year ago, a Ukrainian recruit was also in his unit. He finally confided to the guys that he didn’t know whether he was Jewish or not. He didn’t know who he was or what he should do. They asked him if his mother was Jewish, he said no, just his father. When they asked him if he’d converted, he said HE WASN’T SURE.

    He’d gone through some kind of program, but wasn’t sure about the outcome.

    Can you imagine, what with all Jewish conversion entails, someone not being sure whether they converted?

    This is what happens when you have people who aren’t serious about halachah and who aren’t FULLY committed to halacha themselves managing conversions.

    I mean, really, he didn’t know his status. Poor kid. These people were just messing with his head only so that they can feel “progressive” and yafei nefesh.

    May Mashiach come soon and sort out all the mess.

    P.S. The other recruits told him very sensitively that according to halacha, he wasn’t Jewish at all. At least now he knows…

  3. 1) Netzach Yisroel lo Yishaker: it won’t pass.
    2) The State of Israel believes now, as it did at its conception and founding, that the future and continuity of the Jewish people depends of recruiting young, able-bodied people without regard to their commitment to or knowledge of Yiddiskeit.

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