web analytics
January 26, 2015 / 6 Shevat, 5775
 
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


Home » InDepth » Op-Eds »

Opposition To Conversion Bill Is Hypocritical – And Hurts Israel


I find quite puzzling the vehement opposition of the American Conservative and Reform movements and Jewish Federations of North America to the conversion bill proposed by Knesset member David Rotem.

Within the framework of halacha, or Jewish law, the Rotem bill expands the scope of conversion, prevents application of stringencies unjustified by halacha, and provides greater convenience, leniency and flexibility in the administration of Israeli conversion courts. It addresses many issues raised by Orthodox rabbis considered liberal by the Israeli media and has their strong support. It is strongly supported by Yisrael Beiteinu, the secular party that represents Russian Israelis.

Nevertheless, a segment of the leadership of Jewish Federations of North American and the American Conservative and Reform movements unleashed an artificial firestorm of opposition, soliciting e-mails from members and letters from the U.S. Congress, and successfully delaying passage of the bill.

Opponents of the Rotem bill claim it radically changes the status quo, placing power for state-recognized conversion in Israel in the hands of the Chief Rabbinate. This is untrue. Government-recognized conversions to Judaism performed in Israel have been under the control of the Chief Rabbinate since the founding of the state in 1948. The bill merely confirms longstanding practice in response to court cases seeking to challenge the status quo. Advertisement

Why did leaders of these American Jewish groups take action they knew would hurt many Russian Israelis?

They hoped to leverage their political power in the United States to force Israel to accede to their parochial agenda – namely, granting Reform and Conservative conversions the official recognition accorded to Orthodox conversions.

This request might appear to be reasonable to an American Jew. It is not. The context of Jewish life in the United States is very different from Jewish life in Israel. Rampant intermarriage in the U.S. explains in large part, though in no way justifies, the push for relaxed conversion standards and the Reform movement’s acceptance of patrilineal descent.

Intermarriage is thankfully far less of a problem in the Jewish state. Moreover, despite strenuous efforts, the Reform and Conservative movements themselves have not taken root in Israel. They arose in reaction to post-Enlightenment pressure on Diaspora Jews. These pressures do not exist in Israel.

Non-Orthodox Israeli Jews may be more or less observant (“masorti“) or even totally secular (“chiloni“), but they do not need the crutch of identification with non-halachic movements to sustain their Jewish national identities. They speak Hebrew, the language of the Jewish people, celebrate Jewish holidays and are closely bound to the collective fate of the Jewish people, courageously serving in Israel’s army.

Very few non-Jewish Russian Israelis are interested in a Reform or Conservative conversion, regarding them as inauthentic. They are Diaspora transplants that have withered in Israel’s Jewish soil and failed in Israel’s free marketplace of ideas.

Principles are not a suit of clothes to be donned and shed at convenience. It is inconsistent for Conservative leaders to insist that Israel recognize Reform conversions performed without immersion in a mikveh or circumcision when they do not recognize such conversions performed in the United States. The Reform movement, which argues for the absolute separation of religion and state in the United States, inconsistently insists upon official recognition of their spiritual leaders by the government of Israel.

Even more puzzling is the position of the Jewish Federations of North America. How can its leaders justify spending funds raised for charitable purposes on an ideological issue, particularly when it is so controversial? Moreover, when they have not significantly consulted the American Orthodox movements or their own Orthodox contributors, how can they purport to be representing the entire spectrum of American Jewry?

A Reform Jewish leader was quoted as bemoaning the fact that the controversy has “even reached the U.S. Congress, causing dismay to all who love the Jewish state.”

What an extraordinary statement! The bill did not simply drift into the Capitol like a feather borne by a random breeze. The Rotem bill came to the attention of Congress because of the determined lobbying efforts of its opponents – the same people who now claim they are distressed by the damage to U.S.-Israeli relations. U.S. congressmen do not spontaneously take an interest in internal Israeli religious issues that do not affect their constituents.

About the Author:


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

No Responses to “Opposition To Conversion Bill Is Hypocritical – And Hurts Israel”

Comments are closed.

SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Current Top Story
Ilana Medar, 18, of Paris, made Aliyah last year.
Jewish Agency Planning for Massive Aliyah of 120,000 French Jews
Latest Indepth Stories
Golan map

Obama’s Syrian policy failures created the current situation in the Golan Heights.

Social Media pic

Our journey begins by attempting to see things differently, only then can we be open to change.

Middle-East-map

Despite Western ‘Conventional Wisdom&PC,’ the Arab/Israeli conflict was never about the Palestinians

Salamon-012315

Confrontation & accountability, proven techniques, might also help dealing with religious terrorists

In fact, wherever you see soldiers in Paris today, you pretty much know you’re near Jewish site

Inspired by the Perek Shira pasuk for “small non-kosher animals” we named the bunny “Rebbetzin Tova”

The abuse following publication proved a cautionary tale: no one followed in Peters’s footsteps

Plainly, there is no guiding hand dictating choices across the board.

How many sites that tell you to check your politics at the door have 10,000 likes?

In this particular case, the issue was whether the Arkansas prison system could prohibit, for security reasons, a devout Muslim’s maintaining a beard of a certain length as a matter of religious practice.

While we recognize the Republican Jewish Coalition is hardly a non-partisan outfit, a snippet from a statement the group released is worthy of note:

“These are good matzah balls,” my aunt Robertine would say, but her sister Irma would counter “No, not compared to Mama’s. They were always so light yet they never fell apart.”

Despite the 2005 Koby Mandell Act no Palestinian implicated in harming an American has been charged

The NY Times suggestion that HaMavesar cropping women from a photo is Israeli censorship is absurd.

More Articles from Rabbi Shlomo Amar

I find quite puzzling the vehement opposition of the American Conservative and Reform movements and Jewish Federations of North America to the conversion bill proposed by Knesset member David Rotem.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/opinions/opposition-to-conversion-bill-is-hypocritical-and-hurts-israel/2010/09/15/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: