Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight


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







Conversion Law with Ne'eman Recommendations Rejected by Knesset Law Committee

by E. Rauchberger and M. Plaut

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 conversion.

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 People."

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."


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.