The Knesset Law Committee met on Monday to discuss the
implications of the regional court ruling requiring the
Interior Ministry to register Reform converts as Jews on the
Conversion Law (see separate story). This law invests the
Israeli Chief Rabbinate with authority in matters of personal
status and was designed to codify the traditional situation
in Israel that the official State rabbinical authority is
fully in charge of rabbinical matters. The law was since
modified to include the Ne'eman Committee recommendations,
and in that form it was rejected by the Law Committee.
Passage of the Conversion Law was part of the original
coalition agreement signed by all parties in the current
Israeli government at the insistence of United Torah Judaism.
However, it was postponed several times in the face of
extreme opposition on the part of the Reform and Conservative
movements, including threats to have the U.S. Congress
declare that Israel practices religious persecution against
Reform and Conservative, who constitute a tiny fraction --
less than one percent -- of the Jews in Israel.
In the face of the intense pressure brought to bear, the
Netanyahu government appointed a committee headed by former
Treasury Minister Yaakov Ne'eman to work out a compromise.
Since the committee included representatives of Reform and
Conservative, the chareidi community refused to join,
charging that the composition of the committee already begged
the issue it was supposed to deal with.
Maranan verabonon, led by Maran HaRav Eliashiv and
including leading rabbonim from all chareidi groups, clearly
opposed any and all elements of the Ne'eman Committee,
including participation in deliberations together with
representatives of heretic movements, and surely not to
recognize their decisions. They were joined in their
rejection of the Ne'eman recommendations by the Chief
Rabbinate Council and a broad array of rabbonim affiliated
with the National Religious movement.
The Ne'eman Committee recommended the establishment of joint
institutions (including representatives of "Orthodox,
Conservative and Reform") to prepare candidates for
In the committee discussion yesterday, Professor Ish Shalom,
who is head of those joint institutions in formation, said
that three are scheduled to open in the next month. Their
board includes five "Orthodox" members, and a Reform and a
Conservative member. Decisions are to be reached by
consensus. "I can say that with our efforts we have
definitely achieved a series of understandings and the
formation of some basic principles, including the syllabus,
who the teachers will be, how the teachers will be hired and
a long list of issues," said Ish Shalom.
MK Chanan Porat of the NRP, chairman of the Knesset Law
Committee, was hoping to implement the Ne'eman
Recommendations in order to avoid a decision expected shortly
by the High Court about recognizing Conservative & Reform
conversions. Porat tried push the law through his committee
despite the fact that the NRP rabbis clearly rejected the
Ne'eman conclusions. Due to the strong opposition of the
chareidi members of the committee no decision was reached.
Committee members of the Labor Party agreed that the decision
is best left to the next Knesset. The Committee still has to
consult with the High Court to ask them to delay their
decision to allow the next Knesset to deal with the issue.
The Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur headed by HaRav
Chaim Kreiswirth issued a strong statement against these
religious politicians, especially Porat and other NRP
leaders, who openly reject the rulings of their own rabbonim
and try to "save Yiddishkeit" with unwarranted compromises on
serious religious matters.
Rabbi Laizerson of UTJ said, "Conversion must be only
according to halacha. Therefore we will support only the
original Conversion Law.
"This has been brought to the Knesset only recently, but we
have a law that is thousands of years old. There are not two
entrances to Judaism. There is only one Torah, min
haShomayim, as well as one halacha and one Jewish
Rabbi Laizerson continued, "There is no authority in the
world, not the Knesset and not the court, that can decide
conversion matters. There are things that no power in the
world can change."