"The decisions of the Ne'eman committee on the topic of
conversion contradict the opinion of gedolei Yisroel.
As a result, we oppose their incorporation into law. We will
continue to battle against the Constitution Committee with
all our strength, and to oppose the acceptance of the
proposed law in its current format."
These remarks were made last week by Rabbi Avrohom Yosef
Laizerson at a debate in the Knesset Committee regarding the
demand to include the conclusions of the Ne'eman Committee in
the Conversion Law.
About six months ago, the demand to include the
recommendations of the Ne'eman Committee -- that grant
recognition to the Reform and Conservative within the
framework of the Conversion Law -- was raised at the
Knesset's Constitution Committee. Former MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni
and additional Knesset members claimed that this was a "new
topic," and therefore the matter was transferred to the
Knesset Committee for its decision
The Knesset Committee convened last week to discuss the
issue. Despite the opposition of Rabbi Laizerson, UTJ's
representative, as well as that of additional Knesset
members, the claim of a "new topic" was rejected, and the
Constitution Committee was authorized to include the
recommendations of the Ne'eman Committee within the framework
of the proposed Conversion Law.
This means that those recommendations may be brought to the
Knesset plenum directly for a second and third reading along
with the Conversion Law, and will thus bypass the hurdle of
the first reading, since the Conversion Law has already been
approved at a first reading, and the conclusions of the
Ne'eman Committee will be included as part of it.
At a deliberation in the committee, Chanan Porat (Mafdal)
claimed that this proposal is a compromise made after
deliberations with the Reform, and that only conversions
which will be conducted by the rabbinical courts will be
approved. In any event, this isn't a new topic, and it should
be approved in the Constitution Committee, says Porat. He
stressed that the High Court had extended the time for
completing the Knesset deliberations, and that in two weeks,
a renewed discussion on this issue is due to take place in
the High Court, which will have to render a decision. Those
who oppose the law, Porat said, will be responsible for a
situation in which the High Court will be the deciding
factor. However, if the issue remains in the hands of the
Constitution Committee, it can receive an additional
MK Tzvi Hendel (Mafdal) supported the view that this does not
constitute a new issue, and said that the conclusions of the
Ne'eman Committee are part of the law which has already
passed the first reading. He frankly admitted that the rabbis
of the Mafdal oppose the conclusions of the Ne'eman
Committee. However, he added that in his opinion there are
moments when politicians must rise above their personal
feelings and worry about the unity of the Nation, and that
for this reason the law should be transferred to the
Constitution Committee which will complete the work.
MK Yehuda Harel (3rd Way) said that there is no reason to
deepen the rift in the Nation, and that if the law is brought
to a vote without the Reform compromise, the Third Way party
will vote against it and it will not pass, and then everyone
knows how the High Court would rule following such a
scenario. Harel told Rabbi Laizerson that his opposition he
is creating a rift in the Nation.
Rabbi Laizerson said that it is clear that this topic is a
new one since the law contains two contradicting aspects. In
the first part, Reform conversion is not recognized, but only
the conversion of a rabbinical court. However the second
part, which deals with the joint conversion ulpanim of
the Reform and the Conservatives, recognizes these heretical
streams, in total contradiction of the halocho. He
turned to Mafdal's representative, Hendel, and expressed his
astonishment over Hendel's remarks regarding rabbonim and
"Now we see the essential difference between you and Torah
Jewry. In our circles, the gedolei haTorah determine
what to do and we act in accordance with their guidelines.
Hendel, on the other hand, has admitted that the Mafdal
rabbis oppose Ne'eman's conclusions, while at the same time
the Mafdal's Knesset members approve them." Later, Rabbi
Laizerson spoke in a general manner about the destructiveness
of the Reform and warned that there is no place for any sort
of collaboration with them, in any area whatsoever.
Reuven Rivlin (Likud) said that the Conversion Law was forced
upon the Knesset by the Reform as a result of their appeal to
the High Court. "The Reform," he said "want to impose a new
religion upon us. They don't believe in anything. They
desecrate Yom Kippur, and suddenly they want to direct
religious life here. I don't agree with the conclusions of
the Ne'eman Committee. What determines is the `status quo'
which has safeguarded us until now. Orthodoxy determines who
is a Jew, and not the Reform."
In fact, the Conversion Law was originally introduced by the
religious parties, especially UTJ, as a means of keeping the
Reform and Conservative out of official Judaism within
Israel, after the High Court seemingly supported their claim
to participation. With these latest additions, the Conversion
Law will have precisely the opposite effect that its
originators wanted: it will grant Reform and Conservative
official recognition through their participation in the
Conversion preparation course.