Beliefs Culture Institutions

Critics decry Israeli cabinet vote rejecting measure to ease Jewish conversion

Jewish Agency chairman and ex-Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky gestures as he speaks during an interview in Jerusalem on February 9, 2011. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Ammar Awad *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CONVERSION-ISRAEL, originally transmitted on July 6, 2015.
Jewish Agency chairman and ex-Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky gestures as he speaks during an interview in Jerusalem on February 9, 2011. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Ammar Awad *Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CONVERSION-ISRAEL, originally transmitted on July 6, 2015.

Jewish Agency chairman and ex-Soviet dissident Natan Sharansky gestures as he speaks during an interview in Jerusalem on February 9, 2011. Photo courtesy of REUTERS/Ammar Awad
*Editors: This photo may only be republished with RNS-CONVERSION-ISRAEL, originally transmitted on July 6, 2015.

JERUSALEM (RNS) Israeli rights activists say the decision by Israel’s cabinet Sunday to nix the establishment of local conversion courts is a blow to religious freedom.

Sunday’s vote overturned a November 2014 vote by the previous cabinet, approved but never passed into law, to provide prospective converts with an alternative to the ultra-strict courts of the Chief Rabbinate.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for new elections before the November decision was passed into law, paving the way for Sunday’s vote.

This week’s cabinet vote was the first of what promises to be a string of attempts by ultra-Orthodox lawmakers to reverse progressive legislation introduced by the last government, whose cabinet included no ultra-Orthodox parties.

These parties joined Netanyahu’s coalition after the March 2015 election on condition that he support their efforts to roll back the recent reforms.

Ultra-Orthodox lawmakers have also vowed to overturn a groundbreaking draft law that stripped adult yeshiva students of their automatic military exemptions and hope to reinstate lost funding for their institutions.

Natan Sharansky, chairman of the Jewish Agency and a longtime advocate for a more moderate Orthodox conversion process, said the agency “deeply regrets” the cabinet’s decision.

“The establishment of the local courts sought to address the needs of tens of thousands of immigrants and their children who require conversion due to their desire to join the Jewish people in a more complete and recognized manner,” he said.

The Jewish Agency has facilitated the immigration of Russian immigrants eligible for Israeli citizenship but whose Jewish status is not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate.

Sharansky said the agency “cannot accept the fact that a matter so vital to the future of the Jewish people and to Israel’s existence as a Jewish state is subject entirely to the configuration of the coalition at any given time and to government decisions adopted and then canceled after each election cycle.”

LM/AMB END CHABIN

About the author

Michele Chabin

6 Comments

Click here to post a comment

  • I hope and pray that the entire nation of Israel will not allow itself to be represented by the so-called “Ultra Orthodox” rabbinate (who have stated that Israel in its present state is not even a nation!) This being said, I don’t mean that just any type of behavior should be allowed as authentically Jewish, but only those who respect the tenets of mainstream Judaism, the “basics”, in other words.
    Ultra Orthodox Judaism is not true Judaism–they are fanatics whom should have no say in the government that they say should not exist because the Messiah hasn’t come.

  • How ironic that the very terms “Judaism and Rabbinate” find no place in the Tanakh except perhaps through diaspora. But be that as it may, allow Israeli’s to decide the matter. It’s not difficult to see why some “Jewish” people that take “the Bible” seriously, even very seriously, would want the nature of conversion not be subjected to political correctness.

  • Call it politically correct if you wish, but the chief rabbinate got too big for its britches some time ago. It is fast on its way, with the help of the ultra-religious parties, to turning Israel into the Taliban, something opposed by the vast majority of Israelis. They were never meant to have the stranglehold on Judaism they ended up with. This would have been a step in reining them in.

  • The Hebrew bible is based on animal sacrifices and the priesthood. After the destruction of the temple,Judaism became a rabbinic religion.

    Prayer, good deeds and Torah study replaced the sacrifices.

2019 NewsMatch Campaign: This Story Can't Wait! Donate.

ADVERTISEMENTs