Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight


A Window into the Charedi World | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Against the Decisions of Gedolei Yisroel
Knesset Committee To Discuss Ne'eman Committee Decisions

by Betzalel Kahn

"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 extension.

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 their views.

"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.


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