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Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor

Israeli Supreme Court Chief Justice Miriam Naor on Wednesday issued a temporary injunction against the Interior Ministry ordering it to explain within two months why 11 petitioners who underwent Reform or Conservative conversion in Israel should be refused a Certificate of Oleh (immigrant) based on the Law of Return, and why they should not be registered as Jews in the Population Registry.

The Law of Return (Hok Ha-Shvut) was passed in 1950, giving Jews the right of return and the right to live in Israel and to gain Israeli citizenship. In 1970, the right of entry and settlement was extended to people with one Jewish grandparent or people married to a Jew, although they were not considered Jewish under Jewish halakha. Those who immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return are immediately entitled to gain citizenship in Israel.

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According to the halakhic definition, a person is Jewish if his or her mother is Jewish, or if he or she converts to Judaism. However, Orthodox Jews do not recognize conversions performed by Reform or Conservative authorities. But the Law of Return states that any Jew, regardless of affiliation, may immigrate to Israel and claim his or her citizenship.

In 2005, the Supreme Court ruled that all conversions performed outside of Israel would be recognized by the authorities under the Law of Return. The court had already ruled in 1989 that conversions performed outside of Israel were valid for the Law of Return, regardless of whether they were Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform. The 2005 ruling extended that decision, finding that overseas conversions were still valid even if the individuals did the preparatory work for the conversions while residing in Israel.

Now it appears that the Supreme Court is prepared to bring down the last vestige of halakhic Judaism regarding conversion, in an attempt to authorize Reform and Conservative religious courts in Israel to covert, forcing the state to accept their converts as Jews.

The current Interior Minister, Aryeh Deri, is an ultra-Orthodox Jew, and will most likely fight the court’s obvious plan tooth and nail. But in the end, he will have one of three choices: obey the court (not going to happen), resign (not likely), or change the law, which is, in fact, anchored in the Haredi parties’ coalition agreement.

Can the Law of Return be changed today? Can the 1970 dreaded ruling allowing non-Jews to be accepted as Jews also be revoked, while the Knesset is at it? The fate of Netanyahu’s government may depend on it.

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30 COMMENTS

  1. this is an ongoing problem. important to separate the law from the personal .halachah is jewish law . it is not about the individual. it covers all jews and is the law by which non jews can become legally jewish. more understanding is necessary so those who wish to convert can understand that the law is non discriminatory. it is the law.

  2. there is going to be alot of worry now that the haredi may get thier wish they have been waiting for to deny converts to be known to be jewish legally and to live in israel it may just happen soon. i have not heard of any converts living in israel many have been denied even if they converted and are jewish they are still denied.and wont allow them into israel the only people i have seen are actual jews making aliyah to israel but converts are still at home in thier countries who have waitied too far to long years already and still get no word back from NBN and jewish agency for israel…. its just terrible there is no program in thier country to help them with the situation there. i hope someone comes along soon and helps out those who are converts and to legally show that they are jewish is by having a copy of thier certificate which is valid of course. or they can request another one to be send to them by mail if possible the original certificate they can get if one is lost or something….

  3. They are recognized by the State, as far as I know. Reform converts can freely immigrate to Israel under “The Law of Return”, for example. They are just not recognized by the Torah Law (Halacha) followed by Orthodox Jewry.

  4. There are many people who are Jewish according to Jewish law outside of Israel. Many of these people are totally unaffiliated, who'swgrandparents and even great grandparents lost touch with traditional Judaism due hardships of the pioneers going West. Yet there are parts of these families who are still Jewish according to halacha. These people who are truly Jewish have neither Rabbis, community or recent Jewish records that will suit the misrad hapanim. Some of these Jews resort to reform and conservative for lack of orthodox availability due to their remote locations. So we are just to throw these Jews away? Not every jew had the good luck, no fault of their own, to be raised in Brooklyn. Also many of the converts are as well isolated and in many cases more stringent than a vast amount of orthodox Jews raised in large Jewish communities. Making it impossible by blocking the door by the haves to the have nots is a grave error and huge sin. Beware HaShem doesn't take this litely

  5. People are not equal. This madness over the ridiculous fantasy that everyone is the same and everyone is equal is what is destroying the world. I am not equal to you and you are not equal to me. As to the reformim, they deny the Divine origins of the Torah, they do not follow the oral Law at all, they intermarry, mothers are not Jewish, but they have bar mitzvahs for the nonJewish boy, after they stop at mcdonald's for a cheese burger. I am not making this up. There are halachot that define who is a Jew. Reform conversions are a joke. They convert and go on living like a goy??? This is a conversion?? Bottom line, the supreme court (sic) has no say in religious matters. They are not the Sanhedrin, g-d forbid, havdil. If people do not want to live here in the HOLY LAND, the Land of the Jewish People, and follow the laws the Creator of the World gave to the JEWISH People, then they should leave. There are many other countries in the world, most of which are much larger than this one.

  6. The reformim deny the Divine origins of the Torah, they do not follow the oral Law at all, they intermarry, mothers are not Jewish, but they have bar mitzvahs for the nonJewish boy, after they stop at mcdonald's for a cheese burger. I am not making this up. There are halachot that define who is a Jew. Reform conversions are a joke. They convert and go on living like a goy??? This is a conversion?? Bottom line, the supreme court (sic) has no say in religious matters. They are not the Sanhedrin, g-d forbid, havdil. If people do not want to live here in the HOLY LAND, the Land of the Jewish People, and follow the laws the Creator of the World gave to the JEWISH People, then they should leave. There are many other countries in the world, most of which are much larger than this one.

  7. You're mixing things here. The criteria for deciding who is a Jew in order to become an Israeli citizen is NOT Halacha. If it were, children of a Jewish father or grandchildren of a Jewish grandparent wouldn't be able to make aliyah. And they are.

    With that in mind, it's clear that the Supreme Court's rulings are not halachic and they don't claim to be. The Rabbinate will decide, as always, the halachic stuff in order to decide the things concerning marriages and burials, their jurisdiction.

    Citizenship of Israel is NOT a halachic issue. Therefore, if Reform and Conservative conversions performed abroad are enough to immigrate to Israel (and they are), why not the ones performed within Israel?

  8. You can't allow Reform/Conservative converts from outside Israel to make aliyah but deny those who converted Reform or Conservative in Israel those same rights.

    More fundamentally, Reform and Conservatives are Jews or they are not Jews. Really has little to do with wheather or not they are converts or born into it.

    PS – and of Israel is only for JEWS. Why allow those who are clearly NON-Jews (paternal lineage)?

    If the state is so concerned about Israel being for Jews only…. the current policy makes NO SENSE at all.

  9. So glad that you speak only of what you know to be absolute truth and take great care not to slander anyone. We must all be supremely grateful that there are experts like yourself who can decide the knotty question of 'who is not a Jew' and who should be allowed to live in the Holy Land.

  10. So glad that you speak only of what you know to be absolute truth and take great care not to slander anyone. We must all be supremely grateful that there are experts like yourself who can decide the knotty question of 'who is not a Jew' and who should be allowed to live in the Holy Land.

  11. Are Haredim really Jewish? I have some strong doubts. A truly basic principle of Yahadut is Ahavat Yisrael which they seem to totally ignore. Maybe some strange Jew-like sect. I don't think they need to be given recognition and certainly not authority.

  12. Actually, there are many many converts here who made aliyah after converting, both of reform and orthodox conversions. There is no one description of a reform Jew or any other kind. Nothing says one can't move up in observance after receiving a reform conversion. In Israel, it is much easier to be observant, since there are so many kosher restaurants, and grocery stores which carry only kosher items. Also, everyone has neighbors who can answer questions of observance when one is in a quandery. And any time one socializes, the conversation may touch on halachah. I find Israel to be a place where continuous progression in observance almost seems natural. No this doesn't happen for everyone, but I also find spiritual strength among those who claim to be secular. Stats show almost all Israelis have seders and most observe some kind of Shabbat. We need all kinds of Jews in Israel and we need to encourage every type of spiritual growth. There is no place that will be more encouraging of Jewish growth than Israel. For this reason, we are doing a mitzvah to encourage Jews of all walks to make aliyah.

  13. Yoykhenen Groy Velvel No non-Jew was granted an Israeli citizenship according to The Law of Return. That includes non-Jews who got a worthless certificate from some whoevers.
    This law is only for those who are Jews according to the Halacha. Hence, were born to a Jewish mother or PROPERLY converted.

  14. Michal Dar-El Eh, no.

    "The rights of a Jew under this Law and the rights of an oleh under the Nationality Law, 5712-1952***, as well as the rights of an oleh under any other enactment, are also vested in a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion. "

    The law since 1970 applies to those born Jews (having a Jewish mother or maternal grandmother), those with Jewish ancestry (having a Jewish father or grandfather) and converts to Judaism (Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative denominations, though Reform and Conservative conversions must take place outside the state, similar to civil marriages).

    Read the Law and you will see that it's got nothing to do with Halacha

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