Israel News | Zionism Israel Center | Zionism History | Zionism Definitions | ZioNation | Forum | Zionism FAQ | Maps| Edit

Thursday, October 18, 2007

Zionist rabbis agree to serve on independent conversion courts

At last, perhaps something will begin to be done about one of the most important, and least discussed, issues in Israeli society.
Last update - 10:46 18/10/2007    
By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent

45 rabbis from the national-religious movement have agreed to serve in proposed independent conversion courts that would operate without the recognition of the Chief Rabbinate.
This challenge from within the Orthodox establishment to the Rabbinate's control of the process of converting to Judaism in Israel is a response to a long-standing perception that the rabbinical establishment is in thrall to the ultra-Orthodox tradition of making conversion difficult.
That position ignores the plight of the more than 300,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not Jewish according to halakha. If the recommendations of the interministerial committee on conversion to expedite the process are not implemented soon, the rabbis are expected to establish the proposed conversion courts. That would represent another stage in the undermining of religious-Zionist rabbis of the Rabbinate, following struggles over marriage, kashrut and shmita in the past several months.  
The latest steps began about six months ago with a conference of the Joint Conversion Institute, which prepares most prospective converts in civilian and military frameworks. After the head of the institute, Prof. Benjamin Ish-Shalom, announced that the requirements of the religious courts kept many graduates from completing their conversion, 45 rabbis agreed to officiate in religious courts that would convert the graduates, even without recognition from the Rabbinate. Most of the rabbis, the majority of whom who prefer not to be identified, are associated with with Religious Kibbutz Movement and the Tzohar rabbis' organization.
The main obstacle to the initiative will be the Rabbinate's refusal to recognize their conversions, which will prevent the converts from registering for marriage later on. Among the 45 is at least one municipal rabbi who has promised to enable converts in his jurisdiction to register at his city's Religious Council.
The existence of non-Rabbinate Orthodox converts is likely to ignite a struggle on the part of the national-religious public, much of which has already severed its connections to the Rabbinate, and could end up in the High Court of Justice.
One of the rabbis involved in the new initiative is Rabbi Benjamin Lau of Jerusalem's Ramban Synagogue. "I said that not only am I willing to take part in it, but also that I would house a rabbinical court in our synagogue," Lau said. He said that some members of his congregation served as rabbis and rabbinical judges in the United States and have experience with conversion.
"I think there will be no alternative, the Rabbinate is undergoing a process of dissolution. We saw it with the issues of marriage, kashrut and shmita, and conversion is the core of the matter. One of our roles as rabbis is to serve the public and I see this issue as fulfilling our function," Lau said.
Despite several cabinet rulings calling for the institution of an accelerated conversion process to expedite the integration into Israeli society of non-Jewish immigrants, only 2,000 people are converted each year on average. The Joint Conversion Institute was created about 10 years ago, in the wake of a government committee's recommendations, as a combined Orthodox, Conservative and Reform institution for teaching prospective converts. Conversion itself remained in the hands of special conversion courts, whose judges were appointed by the Rabbinate, which also set the conditions for conversion. Most of the judges are under the influence of the Haredi Council of Torah Sages, which opposes large-scale conversion and requires converts, as well as their children and families, to adopt an observant lifestyle.
In many cases these demands delay conversion, even for candidates who have studied for years in preparation for conversion. The strict image of these courts has scared away many would-be converts. According to studies carried out by the army's conversion program, Nativ, about 40 percent of non-Jewish immigrants expressed an interest before they immigrated in converting, while after a one year in Israel the number dropped by at least 20 percent.
Three and a half years ago, Prime Minister Ariel Sharon ordered the creation of a state conversion program that would facilitate the process, but the new arrangement did not change the basic stance of the religious judges. In many communities, the local religious councils and the local rabbis refuse to recognize the conversion certificates presented by immigrants when they come to register for marriage.
Two months ago an interministerial committee headed by Absorption Ministry Director General Erez Halfon submitted a comprehensive report on the issue. It recommended, among other things, appointing to the conversion courts 40 volunteer judges who would not be beholden to the Haredi rabbis and would introduce a willingness to help the converts in their desire to join the Jewish people instead of finding reasons to prevent their conversion. It also called for giving Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar full authority over conversion issues. Amar opposes the idea of the volunteer judges, on the grounds that they will not be rabbis vetted by him and operating in accordance with his directives. Justice Ministry officials, meanwhile, argue that volunteers cannot hold official judicial positions.
Olmert has not yet approved the committee?s recommendations. The heads of the Joint Conversion Institute believe the volunteer initiative will not be implemented. Ish-Shalom refused to comment on the issue, but sources in his institute said that if the problem is not solved during a meeting scheduled for next Tuesday in the Prime Minister's Office, the plan for independent conversion courts will go ahead.

Copyright - Original materials copyright (c) by the authors. Originally posted at Please do link to these articles, quote from them and forward them by email to friends with this notice. Other uses require written permission of the author.


Post a Comment

<< Home

Subscribe to
email newsletter for this site and others

Powered by

Feedblitz subcription
To this Blog only

You can receive our articles by e-mail. For a free subscription, please enter your e-mail address:

Preview | Powered by FeedBlitz

Web Logs & Sites

This Site

Zionism & Israel
Zionation Web Log
IMO Web Log (Dutch)

ZI Group
Zionism-Israel Pages
Israël-Palestina.Info (Dutch & English)
Israƫl in de Media
MidEastWeb Middle East News and Views
MidEastWeb Middle East Web Log

Brave Zionism
Israel: Like this, as if
Israel & Palestijnen Nieuws Blog

Friends and Partners
EinNews Israel
Israel Facts
Israel Proud Adam Holland
Middle East Analysis
Irene Lancaster's Diary
Middle East Analysis
Israeli-Palestinian Conflict
Israel Facts (NL)
Cynthia's Israel Adventure
Jeff Weintraub Commentaries and controversies
Meretz USA Weblog
Pro-Israel Bay Bloggers
Simply Jews
Fresno Zionism
Anti-Racist Blog
Sharona's Week
Z-Word Blog
Jewish State
Take A Pen - Israel Advocacy
Zionism on the Web
ZOTW's Zionism and Israel News
Zionism On The Web News
ZOTW's Blogs
Christian Attitudes
Dr Ginosar Recalls
Questions: Zionism anti-Zionism Israel & Palestine
Southern Wolf
Peace With Realism
Sanda's Place
Liberal for Israel
Realistic Dove
Blue Truth
Point of no Return
Christians Standing With Israel
Christians Standing With Israel - Blog

Encylopedic Dictionary of Zionism and Israel
Middle East Encyclopedia
Zionism and its Impact
Zionism & the creation of Israel
Zionism - Issues & answers
Maps of Israel
Christian Zionism Resources
Christian Zionism
Albert Einstein
Gaza & the Qassam Victims of Sderot
Zionist Quotes
Six Day War
Jew Hatred
Learn Hebrew
Arab-Israeli Conflict
International Zionism

Palestinian Campaign for the Academic and Cultural Boycott of Israel
Israel Boycott
Boycott Israel?
Amnesty International Report on Gaza War
Boycott Israel?
Dutch Newspaper Reporting: A Study of NRC Handelsblad
Hamas (Dutch)
Dries van Agt (Dutch)
Isfake lobby

At Zionism On the Web
Articles on Zionism
Anti-Zionism Information Center
Academic boycott of Israel Resource Center
The anti-Israel Hackers
Antisemitism Information Center
Zionism Israel and Apartheid
Middle East, Peace and War
The Palestine state
ZOTW Expert Search
ZOTW Forum

Judaica & Israel Gifts
Jewish Gifts: Judaica:
Ahava Products

Powered by Blogger

Subscribe to
Posts [Atom]

RSS V 1.0

International Affairs Blogs - BlogCatalog Blog Directory