Photo Credit: Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90
Bezalel Smotrich traveling, May 11, 2020.

Religious Zionism Chairman, MK Bezalel Smotrich, took off Wednesday morning on an urgent visit to the Jewish communities in Europe, to alert them about what he calls the dramatic changes the Israeli government is promoting regarding the Jewish identity of the state, with an emphasis on the conversion reform and its impact on the entire Jewish world.

Smotrich will meet in the coming days with senior rabbis and leaders in the Jewish communities across Europe to discuss the challenges they are facing during the Corona, the Jewish identity of their congregations, and their connection with the State of Israel.

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Last November, the Conference of European Rabbis (CER), the primary Orthodox rabbinical alliance in Europe with a membership of more than 700 religious leaders of the mainstream synagogue communities on the continent, issued a public objection to Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana’s conversion reform, although at the time the actual scope of the reform was not yet known. The CER’s statement mentioned “rumors” about the proposed legislation, and suggested it would “upend conversion practices in which responsibility for conversions will be taken away from the authority of the Chief Rabbinate and given to private elements who will supposedly conduct more friendly conversions.”

Perhaps the good rabbis have by now educated themselves on the legislation and many of them have likely realized that it is probably more loyal to the authority of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel than their own conversion panels.

MK Smotrich is traveling to Europe to share his own perception of the Matan Kahana conversion reform, and to help make sure that their voices are also heard. He noted: “Having been exposed to the intensity of the fear of the changes in the issues of conversion, I changed my habit to leave Israel as little as possible, and decided to pay a lightning visit to the European communities.”

For the record, the conversion reform bill allows city rabbis to establish conversion tribunals under the state conversion system, in a singular system of rules of procedure, supervision, and control, with uniform certificates given to all the converts. The Chief Rabbis and the Chief Rabbinical Council would have the authority to revoke the appointment of a conversion dayan in the event of a violation of the rules of procedure.

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David writes news at JewishPress.com.