Photo Credit: Gershon Elinson/Flash90
Young Chinese men studying Torah in Yeshivat Mivtar in Gush Etzion, preparing for their Orthodox conversion, August 05 2010.

The Reform and Conservative movements in Israel petitioned the High Court of Justice demanding that it compel the government to extend equal financing to non-orthodox adult circumcisions which are part of their giyur-conversion process. The state refuses to fund Reform and Conservative adult circumcisions because they are not part of Israel’s state conversion system which is run by the Chief Rabbinate and recognizes only Orthodox conversions.

The state’s response which was submitted with the AG’s approval (surprisingly) notes that although the High Court had ordered the state to recognize non-Orthodox conversions, “the state is not obligated to finance circumcision as part of a conversion which is performed in Israel by a private entity, be it Orthodox, Reform, or Conservative. The state only finances circumcisions that are conducted as part of the state conversion system.”


Needless to say, the judges were not pleased and suggested during the hearing that the state find a way to pay for non-Orthodox circumcisions through the Health Ministry.

Judge Uzi Vogelman told the state representatives at the hearing: “You have created a monopoly on the issue of state and religion,” as if this was the first time this “monopoly” had come up.

Judge Daphne Barak-Erez suggested the state “create a funding framework within the state framework,” and Judge Ofer Grosskopf suggested including non-Orthodox adult circumcisions as part of the budget.

The representative for the state argued that such a move would open up the floodgates and force the state to fund all aspects of private religious endeavors in Israel, including non-Orthodox weddings and burials. According to her, over the past five years, the state paid NIS 2.4 million ($620,000) for adult circumcisions which cost about NIS 3,000 ($520) each.

On February 20, 2002, the High Court of Justice ruled that converts who went through the Reform and Conservative movements would be recognized for registration in the population registry as Jews. On March 1, 2021, the court ruled that these would include converts who went through the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel.

And now, someone has to pay for it.


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