(JTA) – Israel’s Sephardic chief rabbi said he will ignore a government directive recognizing conversions performed by municipal rabbis.
Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef vowed to block the conversions in remarks that were captured on tape and published Wednesday by Kikar.co.il. Yosef said he would withhold his signature, which is required to complete the conversion process.
“They went ahead and made a law that municipal rabbis can perform conversions and then went over my head,” Yosef said.
“The chief rabbi of Jerusalem can perform conversions, the chief rabbi of Shoham can perform conversions – they already converted a few people in Arad,” he said. “The chief rabbi has the authority to stop this. I gave an order to the head of the [Chief Rabbinate’s] Conversions Department that all the conversions they are now performing, I won’t sign them, I won’t approve, I won’t sign something that is contrary to halachah,” Jewish religious law.
Last November, the government adopted legislation that ended the monopoly on conversions held by the Chief Rabbinate’s Conversions Department.
The chief rabbis, as well as municipal rabbis, are public servants in Israel.
Following the recording’s release, Elazar Stern, an Orthodox member of the Knesset who has led attempts to reform the conversion process, called on Yosef to resign.
“The chief rabbi is forgetting that decisions made by the Israeli Knesset are his sole source of authority,” Stern, a lawmaker for the Yesh Atid party, was quoted as saying on the news site Srugim.co.il. “If he is unwilling or unable for some reason to follow the state’s laws and the resolutions of its government, than he has only one choice: Resign.”