Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight


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







A Judge in Jerusalem Orders That Non-Jews with Reform and Conservative "Conversions" be Registered as Jews

by B. Kahn

A very serious ruling of Justice Vardi Zeiler of the Jerusalem Regional Court, regarding 23 non-Jews who were "converted" by a Reform clergyman a number of years ago, was published last week. Justice Zeiler ordered the Interior Ministry to register these non-Jews in the population ledgers as Jews. This case is the result of an appeal filed by the Israeli Reform movement after Interior Minister, Eli Suissa refused to register them as Jews in the official population registry.

This ruling is very serious for a number of reasons. The first is that Zeiler's verdict was published even after the High Court, sitting in its maximum forum of 11 judges, gave the Knesset a number of months in which to pass a law governing conversions, and is scheduled to again consider in two months.

Degel HaTorah's general secretary, Rabbi Moshe Gafni, claimed that there are additional, grave aspects to this ruling, which not only pertain to the ruling itself, but also to the fact that the content of the ruling was leaked by Zeiler's close colleagues to chareidi and religious factors in order to test their reaction to it.

In his verdict, Justice Zeiler writes that during the filing of the appeal in 1996, a legal arrangement for the issue was discussed, and for that reason he had decided to postpone his verdict, despite the opposition of the Reform petitioners. He postponed issuing a verdict for many months in the hope that the deliberations in the Knesset on the topic would end quickly. However when he saw that such wasn't the case, he published his verdict, even though the issue is still pending in the High Court.

"The Reform," writes Justice Zeiler, "constitute a very large Jewish community, which includes a significant sector of the Jewish Nation, which also has considerable weight in Israel." According to the judge, the ruling does not decide a religious question nor a matter of conscience, nor does it grant power or an authoritative position. "All that is involved is a secular law that grants registration authority to a registration clerk," writes Zeiler at the end of his ruling. With that, he instructed the Interior Ministry to register the 23 Reform "converts" as full-fledged Jews in the population records.

The ruling drew very sharp reactions. The chairman of the Knesset's Constitution Committee, Chanan Porat, convened a press conference, in which he expressed his reaction. He described the decision as "judicial hijacking." Porat's response was to push for the revamped Conversion Law that is now opposed by maranan verabonon because it incorporates the recommendation of the Ne'eman Committee, however his committee rejected the law for now, probably leaving the matter for the next Knesset (see separate story).

The Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur headed by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth said that this court ruling to register Conservative and Reform converts in the population registry s Jews will be dealt with by rabbonim according to the instructions of maranan, namely rabbonim will not recognize the government registration. In every case they will carefully check everyone to determine whether he or she is Jewish, without relying on the government registry at all.

The Chairman of the Finance Committee, Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz said that the decision is liable to undermine the ongoing existence of the Jewish Nation. "Since the Reform, by definition, are not a religious movement, they may not be considered a religious movement within the Jewish faith. I don't see any difference between Reform `conversions' and `conversions' which were made by a lawyer's office or a psychiatrist's office or the Garage Association. None of them, as organizations, obligate the fulfillment of the mitzvos. There is no link between the Jewish Nation and a movement which does not mandate the belief in the existence of the Creator and Torah miSinai, which are the foundations of the Jewish religion.

"How can a judge in Israel grant `converts' who were `converted' by the Reform, a hechsher to join the Jewish Nation, when the Reform themselves ridicule the Jewish religion and for generations have been perpetrating assimilation? The Reform recognize intermarriages, and as a result, I see no link between them and the Jewish faith.

"Only an ugly atmosphere of hatred for Jews and the Jewish religion could result in so scandalous a ruling," Rabbi Ravitz said.

Rabbi Moshe Gafni said: "This is an unprecedented and brazen ruling. How does a judge in a regional court rule on an issue which is under deliberation in the High Court, in a forum of 11 judges. He is like the fool who rushes in and makes a snatch decision on a topic about which all know that the High Court is supposed to deliberate.

"It's not that I rely on the ruling of the High Court. But I think that in ideological issues, when the question is how one gains entry into the Jewish Nation, the court has become the most extreme factor in the causing of a rift in the Nation. According to this ruling, whose immediate meaning is the separation of the Nation, non-Jews can enter the Jewish Nation through scores of gates.

"During the fifty years of the state, all of the courts and governments of Israel have professed that conversion may take place only according to the halocho, and that the gentiles who seek to convert may enter only through one gate. Now the court has become the catalyst for dividing the nation in an extreme manner. The ruling must cause the immediate passage of the Conversion Law, in accordance with the coalition agreement and the line of the government. Everything must proceed according to the Jewish halocho which states that only halachic conversions are valid.

"Even before the ruling was officially published, various people knew about it. I suspect an attempt to send out feelers, in order to check out the reactions of the chareidim and religious sectors of Israel, and this is very serious."

MK Avrohom Yosef Laizerson said: "The ruling was published a short time before the High Court has to decide on the Conversion Law. This constitutes a direct continuation and undermines the crass, serious and insufferable intervention of the courts from the High Court, down to the Labor Court and finally to the regional court. The judicial system interferes in sacred ideological issues, which are entrusted to the exclusive authority of the halocho and the rabbinate.

"This proves again the justice of our claim that the judges grant judicial backing to their personal opinions and private world view, and this strengthens our demand to hold elections for judges, who will be chosen by the public, and not by a nomination committee. Today in the Knesset, we saw that large parts of the Knesset want to expand the circle of the High Court judges to include those who display consideration for Jewish tradition in order to grant representation to additional sectors in the Nation."

"This is a `test' of the Reform lie in advance of the decision of the High Court and its 11 judges about the Conversion Law. The Reform are attempting to insert their fingernails into religious life in Israel, and to receive legitimacy, and we will battle this. In light of this serious degeneration, we will, of course, operate according to the decisions of gedolei Yisroel, and this ruling proves the justice of the battle and of the staunch insistence of gedolei Yisroel that no dialogues at all be held with the Reform," Rabbi Laizerson said.

Deputy Housing Minister, Rabbi Meir Porush said: "We have once more been forced to register fictitious converts. This is unbearable, and we will continue to struggle with this issue on all levels. Every serious and responsible society has entrance regulations. In the opinion of the Jerusalem Regional Court, only the Jewish Nation has no right to such rules, and every clown is permitted to tack on additions to the Jewish Nation, people who haven't taken upon themselves even the most minimal obligations and who don't agree to observe any of the laws mandated by any normal society. Through this decision, the Justice of the regional court is ridiculing all that is sacred and dear to the Jewish Nation: the sanctity of the generations, and the sanctity of the People."


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