Shas and United Torah Judaism on Thursday night announced the establishment of a joint headquarters to fight against the government’s decisions on matters of religion and state, “In order to create a determined Jewish front against the destructive moves of the malicious government.”
The new joint campaign issued a statement proclaiming: “In light of the government’s continued rampage taking measures to harm Judaism and Tradition in every area that constitutes a grave danger to the values of the Jewish State, through encouraging public transportation on Shabbat, an outline for the desecration of the Kotel, reforms to harm the kashrut certification system, deteriorating the status of the Chief Rabbinate, and bringing on the danger of Reform conversions, the Haredi parties Shas and United Torah Judaism have announced the establishment of a joint struggle headquarters, in coordination with the Religious Zionist faction.”
The statement continues: “It was agreed that this coming Monday a joint factions meeting will be convened by Shas chairman MK Rabbi Aryeh Deri together with the heads of United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni and MK Rabbi Yaakov Litzman, and all our MKs, aiming to produce a determined Jewish front, while deciding on the activities of the joint headquarters that would lead to an extensive public struggle for the defense of the Jewish state, as well as the preservation of the values of Jewish Tradition against the hands of the malicious Reform coalition, led by Bennett-Lapid-Liberman, together with the perpetrators of the destructive measures, Kahana-Kariv-Elkin.”
On Wednesday, we reported that Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana (Yamina) who succeeded in passing the kashrut reform, raising the ire of the Haredim in the process (even though only a few of them rely on the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut certifications—the service Kahana sought to correct), has turned to his next major project – conversion, and, predictably, the Haredim aren’t happy at all (Haredim Slam Religious Services Minister Kahana for Allowing Local Conversions). The Haredi parties’ announcement on Thursday upped the ante significantly.
Minister Kahana, Rabbi Drukman, and the Chief Rabbinate
Minister Kahana is also under fire from the Chief Rabbinate, which sees his proposed legislation on extending the right to conduct conversions to the city rabbis – thus breaking the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly in this area.
According to Makor Rishon, Kahana met several times with Chief Rabbi David Lau, in an attempt to harness him to his conversions reform, but the attempt to gain his support has failed. On Tuesday, Rabbi Lau declared that the proposed outline was “a spiritual catastrophe and a serious injury to the Jewish character of the State of Israel.” He also said the conversion outline “deletes the powers of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and its authority on the subject of conversions,” and would cause rabbis in Israel and around the world not to recognize conversions based on the new outline.
Rabbi Lau met with Rabbis Haim Drukman and Yaakov Ariel and tried to persuade them to oppose Kahana’s move. The two rabbis are yet to respond publicly for or against the outline, but Makor Rishon cites sources saying they believe now is the time to take action to improve the conversions system in Israel.
In 1997, Rabbi Drukman became chair of the committee on the conversion of minors which submitted its recommendations to the Prime Minister. At the beginning of 2004, he began serving as head of the conversion system in the Prime Minister’s Office, until February 2012. During his tenure, Rabbi Drukman signed about 50,000 conversion certificates. In 2008, Rabbi Drukman and his conversions were sharply criticized by a panel the Great Rabbinical Court headed by Rabbi Avraham Sherman. In 2012, the High Court of Justice accepted the Attorney General’s appeal against the 2008 disqualification of Rabbi Drukan’s conversions. The High Court annulled the decisions of the Rabbinical Court in Ashdod and the Grand Rabbinical Court and recognized Rabbi Drukman’s conversions.
Kahana’s people argue that the alternative to his conversion outline is an outline proposed by Israel Beiteinu, which grants the authority to conduct conversions to every rosh yeshiva, in addition to the city rabbis. The ministry’s proposed outline adds to the Chief rabbinate’s conversion system’s districts one more “district” for city rabbis. Every city rabbi would be allowed to establish a conversions court but would have to comply with the standards and procedures set by a Supreme Rabbinical Committee.
This Supreme Rabbinical Committee will have five members: two appointed by the Chief Rabbis, two by the Prime Minister, and one “accepted” member, who is expected to be Rabbi Drukman. The Chief Rabbis and the Chief Rabbinical Council will have the authority to revoke the credentials of any Conversions Dayan through a controlled process.
Meanwhile, as the campaign against his reforms is consolidated by the Haredim and Religious Zionism, Minister of Religious Services Matan Kahana has been negotiating behind the scenes with several senior Religious Zionist rabbis in addition to Drukman and Ariel. Makor Rishon reported that these include Rabbis Eliezer Melamed, Eitan Eisman, Re’em Ha’Cohen, and Yaaqov Medan.