Israeli Prime Minister Bibi Netanyahu has approached former head of the Conversion Authority Rabbi Chaim Drukman in an effort to advance new conversion legislation, in light of opposition from Sephardi Chief Rabbi Rav Yitzchok Yosef to a bill recently introduced to the Knesset, which is pending further review.
Netanyahu reportedly spoke with Rabbi Drukman about the conversion reform bill introduced by Hatnuah MK Elazar Stern, which would see the conversion process in Israel carried out in local rabbinical courts, as opposed to the current system in which only four courts across Israel are authorized to perform conversions to Judaism.
Rav Yosef strongly opposes the bill, claiming that Stern wants to pass a law that would allow for massive conversion, accepting anyone interested in becoming Jewish. “If Stern’s law passes, every macher [important or influential person] around the country will provide conversions just for profit. Stern wants to create a conversion market,” an associate of the rav said.
So far, Rabbi Drukman has opposed the bill, but with different reasoning: He would like to find a solution that is also acceptable to the chief rabbis.
Meanwhile, Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan (Habayit Hayehudi) is working on a government-sponsored bill on the issue. Ben-Dahan has said in the past that Stern’s bill could be the basis for conversion reform, but that because it is such a significant issue, working with the chief rabbis is important.
The government bill would allow those who wish to convert to register with local rabbis, but they will still be under the authority of the Chief Rabbinate and the president of the High Rabbinical Court.