Photo Credit: Flash 90
Chief Rabbis David Lau (L) and Yitzhak Yosef opposed the bill on giving local rabbis power for conversion.

A Knesset committee has for the second time approved a bill allowing local rabbis to oversee conversions to Judaism in Israel, and the bill is now slated to be returned to the full Knesset for its second and third readings.

The Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee on Monday approved the conversion bill by a vote of 6 to 5. It had previously been approved in March, but the committee was required to vote a second time following the addition of 38 amendments proposed by the opposition, all of which were voted down by the committee.

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Despite the fact that the bill is now officially out of committee, it is unknown when it will move to the Knesset floor. Israeli media reported last week that Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had withdrawn his support for the bill in order to shore up his coalition base and not upset the Haredi Shas and United Torah Judaism parties, whom he might need to form an alliance in future governments.

The bill was sponsored by Elazar Stern of Tzipi Livni’s HaTnua party and is opposed by the Likud and Jewish Home parties as well as the Haredi parties and chief Rabbi David Lau and his Sephardi counterpart, Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.

Under the measure, as many as 30 courts made up of municipal rabbis would be allowed for the purpose of conversion. Currently there are 33 rabbis and four conversion courts that can perform conversions throughout Israel.

“We are pleased that, in the end, the lawmakers were able to see beyond the politics and reach out to potential converts in a positive way,” Rabbi Seth Farber, director of the ITIM Jewish Advocacy Center, who was involved in the drafting of the bill and participated in the hearing told JTA. “Each day, hundreds of individuals who made aliyah as Jews but aren’t recognized as Jews by the rabbinate are being alienated by the Jewish State. This bill provides them a small glimmer of light.”

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3 COMMENTS

  1. Really? So, you go against the Gemara's take on conversion, which was a local beit din, snip, dunk and voila. People weren't required to pay thousands, spend years and cow tow to the conversion rabbi and then face the possibility that the Ger's status as a Jew and that of his or her off spring will be threatened because of political attacks on various religious leaders.

    Modern Orthodoxy is robust. Many who call themselves MO may not be, likewise, many who call themselves Heredi also shame all of us through misbehavior toward boys, girls, women, gentiles, and other Jewish men.

  2. Nathaniel James Warshay , Nathaniel, would this mean that the new converts now under reform and conservative conversions won't be recognize as converts and won't be able to do aliyah to Israel and become legitimate israelis citizen? and what about the marranos jews, legitimate descendant of Spanish Inquisition and can prove their descendancy and on top of that some rabbis won't accept that prove and make them go through conversion process, what will be with them, would they instead travel to israel as visitors and do aliyah in israel, and study in israel, to become then accepted there?

  3. Chesed Yocheved Avraham , I think you raise some good questions, but there are several there. The return of conversion to local communities is something that might deal with some of the discontent. Traditionally, local batei din have been recognized for their decisions; as it should be.
    I believe that conversions from the liberal streams of Judaism raise issues of the status of who is conducting the conversion and how it is done (i.e. the mechanics). Both the Reform and Conservative movements have changed their rules for things, some by majority and others by minority. And then there are the Reconstructionist and Humanistic movements. Who is to say that there should be any rules or any self-defined movement and should not be added?
    The Gemara’s rules for conversions have been added to tremendously. As I understand it, one was not required to be practicing all 613 mitzvot at the time of conversion. In fact, one never can, as one would have to be both male and female, Cohen, Levi and Israel, as well as alive during the Temple period and before, etc. It appears that the machmer crowd has added to the requriements and possibly to the mitzvoth, contrary to the Torah’s warning to neither add to nor detract from the Torah – that is, don’t create new or eliminate mitzvoth (a likewise concern for liberal Jewish movements that have taken away from the Torah).
    Issues of the Moronos really should be the concern of the Batei Din, which would nneed to consider the Law as it approaches those who are descendants of people who were forced to convert (can the force be proven? Or is it considered de jure?), and that they and they ancestors have practiced other religions since. The batei din should deal with these issues fairly.
    An example of the machmer approach creating trouble now and down the road is the refusal to allow the non-Jewish olim from the former Soviet Union in the early 90s to convert. As long as they would be willing to undertake the basic requirements (brit, submersion, desire to be Jewish), they should have been converted. In the past, population were converted en masse. However, they weren’t and now marriage has become an issue for their children and every Israel’s child.

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