MK Yulia Malinovsky (Israel Beitenu, chaired by Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman) on Monday night tweeted an insulting message to Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau: “The citizens of Israel should not be held hostage to Rabbi Lau’s personal whims. Nowhere in the sources (presumably religious sources – DI) is it written that the chief rabbi is the one who should sign the conversion certificates. To the attention of Rabbi Lau – you are a public servant and the government gave you your authority, and just as it gave it to you, it can also take it away.”
אזרחי ישראל לא צריכים להיות בני ערובה לגחמותיו האישיות של הרב לאו. בשום מקום במקורות לא כתוב שהרב הראשי הוא זה שצריך להיות חתום על תעודות הגיור. לתשומת ליבו של הרב לאו- אתה עובד ציבור ומי שנתן לך את הסמכות זו הממשלה וכמו שהיא נתנה לך אותה היא גם יכולה לקחת אותה ממך. pic.twitter.com/bLSGrNyzZg
— Yulia Malinovsky יוליה מלינובסקי (@YuliaMalinovsky) April 4, 2022
Shockingly insolent? Of course, it’s a message from a former Ukrainian police officer whose hostility to Jewish values puts to shame the attitude of many in Meretz. She’s the product of a mixed marriage (her father was a Greek-Armenia Christian), and her agenda is to legitimize the Jewish status of her voters who, presumably, have come to Israel under the revised Law of Return that recognizes the non-Jewish grandchild of a Jewish man as eligible for Israeli citizenship.
Lending legitimacy to non-Jews though hastened, government-run conversion reform may not have been Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana’s intent with his streamlining of a calcified Chief rabbinate system, but elements such as Malinovsky demand just those results: make them Jewish, now.
In this, she ran up against a formidable foe: after Minister Kahana ousted the previous head of the conversion system, Rabbi Lau threatened not to sign the certificates––which is still required by law. He then announced that he would be checking each individual request, creating a traffic jam at the expense of hundreds of people who had undergone full conversion through the state conversion system. It’s been dubbed an “Italian strike” (sciopero bianco in Italian, slowdown to you and me).
The chief rabbi’s office insists he doesn’t trust the new head of the conversion system, Rabbi Benayahu Brunner from Tzohar, never mind the repercussions.
The converts on Monday sent Rabbi Lau a letter begging him to sign their conversion certificates as soon as possible: “As you know, we have endured a long and arduous process with enormous social, mental and economic significance, although the conversion process we went through was done in the court of the state conversion system in which all conduct is subject only to you and the judges who serve in it are appointed by you or have served for many years under you and with your consent.
“We feel that we have been turned into pawns in a political game due to no fault of our own. Because our certificates have not been signed, we are denied important basic rights. Some of us are not entitled to receive citizenship, to work in Israel, to sign a mortgage (since marriage certificates are not issued now either), and other basic actions.”
The converts added: “We implore you in every possible way, do not hold us hostage in this battle. Our conversion process has long since ended and we are looking forward to receiving the official approval so that we can conduct ourselves as equal citizens in the State of Israel. Please, Honorable Rabbi, sign our conversion certificates and allow us to complete the acceptance process into the bosom of the Jewish people. Our grief keeps growing from one day to the next.”
OK, so now you understand why MK Malinovsky was so upset. And now, I expect, you would be as well. The response of Rabbi Lau’s office to the converts’ pleas was: “The claim that cases are being delayed by the president of the rabbinical tribunal (the chief rabbi – DI) is incorrect. Every week, conversion files are approved by the president of the tribunal. In normal times, the conversions were approved by the head of the conversion system, whom the chief rabbi trusted. But after the minister had ousted the head of the conversion system, only some three months ago, the Chief Rabbi instructed the conversion staff to conduct an in-depth examination of each and every case to verify that the process was carried out according to the instructions of the Chief Rabbi, without changes.”
They also conceded that “performing the additional checks does indeed take extra time and delays the issuance of the final certificate to the converts. We are sorry about this situation, which we encountered due to the insistence on appointing a director of the organization who is not acceptable to the chief rabbi, who doesn’t trust him.”
And so it goes.