As The Jewish Press’ Hana Julian reported Sunday, the Israeli Supreme Court has ended both the practice of automatically requiring Orthodox conversions for the adoption of non-Jewish children in Israel and that the children only be raised by Orthodox parents. This was a function of the 1981 Child Adoption Law which required religious compatibility between the child and the adoptive parents.
Non-Orthodox conversions are not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate, and the requirements for Orthodox conversions include commitments to the rules of kashrut and Shabbos and providing children with a religious education. As such, adoptions of non-Jewish children were generally limited to Orthodox adoptive parents. Orthodox conversions were the only means by which the non-Jewish children could become universally accepted as Jewish.
The Supreme Court has now said that requiring an Orthodox conversion will no longer be the default position but will only be required when it would be in the best interests of the child – something which is to be determined on a case by case basis. Given the difficulties a child could face later in life in the absence of a universally recognized conversion – especially with respect to the Chief Rabbinate – would seem like the best thing for the child in every case.
It is not clear whether the ruling will cause much of an uproar, despite the fact it is certainly part of the continuing “Who is a Jew?” debate and whether the Knesset or the courts have final say over these sorts of things.
But we will soon see.