Eleven justices of the Israeli Supreme Court recently
heard arguments on the question of recognizing "non- Orthodox
The session lasted three hours, and dealt with the
ruling of Jerusalem District Court judge, Vardi Zeiler, who
has recognized scores of Reform "conversions" performed in
Israel and abroad. The bogus recognition allows the
"converts" to register as Jews with the Interior Ministry and
be categorized as such on their identity cards.
By the same token, four petitions were filed with the
High Court by the Reform, Conservative and Naamat
organizations, asking for recognition of non-Orthodox
conversions in Israel and abroad, mainly of adopted
Throughout the session the judges made a number of
astonishing questions. They asked about the very implication
of converting an infant or child who still has no mind of its
own, and wondered why the battei din "force" adoptive
parents to live a religious lifestyle when they seek to
convert an adopted child.
The judges claimed that ensuring that the parents
lived according to halacha was "exploiting of the situation,"
and accused the Rabbis of "imposing" religion on the parents.
Justice Eliyahu Matza asked: "Don't you think that conversion
has no meaning except a technical one with respect to day-old
infants which childless couples have brought from abroad?
Does the infant know if it wants to be Jewish or
The petitioners claim that the Rabbinate wants to
"convert" the parents at the same time, and to make them
Orthodox. The Rabbinate tests the parents in Judaism. Is that
legitimate?" Justice Matza asked.
The comments of judges that the dayanim
supposedly want to "convert" the parents and "exploit" their
request to convert an adopted child for "religious coercion"
testifies to the judges' own shocking ignorance.
No one wants to force parents to accept the
mitzvos or to do teshuva. In such cases, it is
necessary to know the extent of the religious observance of
the adopting parents, for the purpose of the validity of the
conversion of the adopted child.
The acceptance of the mitzvos is an
inseparable part of the entire conversion process. In the
case of a ger koton, a minor, it is also necessary for
an additional reason. The willingness of a beis din to
handle the conversion of a minor who lacks a mind of his own,
stems from the halocha of zachin l'odom shelo
be'fonav. For this purpose, one must know in advance,
that the conversion process will be a zechus for him
and not a factor which will be detrimental for him. Will the
koton grow up as a Jew who will observe the
mitzvos, or will he grow up outside the pale of
halacha and accrue punishments for transgressions? For this
reason, the beis din must examine the sincerity of the
conversion and the extent of the merit that will emerge from
it. The vantage point of the beis din is whether
parents intend to give the adopted child a religious
education and raise him according to a religious
During the court session, the state representative,
Attorney Gansin, claimed that conversion must be uniform, and
under governmental aegis.
Today, this power rests in the hands of the Chief
Rabbinate. According to British Mandatory Law, which remains
in effect until today, the Jews in Israel belong to what is
called "the Jewish community," which is headed by the
According to Gansin, the Conservative and Reform
petitioners want a similar status for their institutions,
even though the law doesn't recognize them.
Regarding this, Justice Mishael Cheshin commented
that the Rabbinate and the rabbonim have, by dint of a
Knesset law, become in 1980s, secular state institutions. He
noted that not one law enacted since the establishment of the
State, mentions the term "a Jewish community."
"Don't you think that it is anachronistic to say that
if in 1939, they spoke about the Jewish community, that it is
possible to speak about it now, in the year 2000 too?"
It has become clear, that precisely that very same
"state" authority which was vested in the Chief Rabbinate, is
now a stumbling-block in its path. A Supreme Court Justice
can argue that the Rabbinate is considered "a secular
institution of the government," and as a result cannot claim
authority in matters of religion as the heads of the Jewish
No less interesting is a remark made at that very
same session, when a number of judges agreed with the opinion
that the Jews in Israel are no longer a community.
Justice Dalia Dorner said: "There are things which
due to the very founding of the State have been discontinued.
Prior to the establishment of the State, we were a community.
But afterward, we became the nation of the land (am
Yes, as simple as that.
To a certain extent, it is difficult for us to
dispute that determination. Secular judges, who don't know a
thing about Judaism and halacha, and who openly support
casting off the yoke of Torah, have the pretensions to decide
on issues that bear on the purity of the genealogy of the
Indeed, "Prior to the founding of the State we were a
community, and now we have become am
ho'oretz." Just like that.