JERUSALEM (JTA) – A bill submitted to the Knesset would require the state to recognize only conversions completed under the auspices of the haredi Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate.
The measure, which was submitted by the Interior Ministry led by Aryeh Deri, former head of the haredi Orthodox Shas party, appears to be an effort to circumvent a March 2016 Supreme Court ruling that allowed those undergoing private Orthodox conversions in Israel to become citizens under the Law of Return. The haredi parties at the time vowed to submit legislation to neutralize the ruling.
In the wake of the 2016 decision, the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel asked the court for the same recognition of their private conversions in Israel. Only those who have been converted by the Reform and Conservative movement abroad are recognized now as Jewish for the purpose of immigration to Israel.
“This bill, which is promoted by the ultra-Orthodox members of the government, is in fact against Halacha [Jewish law],” Rabbi Seth Farber, head of Itim, an organization that helps Israelis navigate religious bureaucracy, said in a statement. “For hundreds of years, various courts operated within the Jewish communities, with different halachic approaches – some of them more stringent and some less so. The common denominator was that everyone finally recognized everyone’s conversions, except for very unusual cases.”
“This bill is intended to deepen the existing situation of first-degree Jews and second-class Jews – those recognized by state institutions and those that are not recognized – even though halachic rulings are equal in Judaism. This is absurd from a religious point of view and from a human standpoint.”
Farber was among the rabbis who established the Giyur Ka’halacha private Orthodox conversion court two years ago.