Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

20 Sivan 5764 - June 9, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











High Court Postpones Decision on Recognizing Reform and Conservative Conversion
By Betzalel Kahn

A bench of 11 High Court judges held a hearing last Monday morning as part of an appeal by heretical `streams of Judaism' demanding that the so-called conversions they conduct be recognized by the State of Israel. A majority of seven judges decided that individuals who lived in Israel for several years and underwent conversion in Eretz Yisroel or abroad could receive new immigrant status based on the Law of Return. The judges postponed their decision on whether to recognize Reform and Conservative conversions in Israel and asked the Interior Minister to present his stance on the matter within six weeks.

Two appeals were filed, over five years ago, regarding the question whether the Law of Return should apply to people who went abroad to undergo conversion there. Performed by Reform or Conservative organizations, such conversions are evidently intended to sidestep the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

The High Court already ruled a few years ago that following Reform and Conservative conversions performed abroad, the convert would be listed as a Jew in the Population Registry, but they have yet to determine whether he would also be considered a Jew according to the Law of Return, which defines a Jew as someone born of a Jewish mother or converted.

At the time of the first part of the ruling in the case, the judges rejected the State's position that the Law of Return does not apply to those who convert while in Israel, if their status officially connects them to Israel and Israeli society, but only to those who convert abroad. "Conversion performed abroad will be recognized in Israel for Population Registry purposes," claimed the State. However, claimed the State Attorney, in order to circumvent the law the appellants traveled abroad and therefore they should be viewed like those who convert in Israel. Therefore the Law of Return would not apply and the conversions were not performed with the permission of the Chief Rabbinate.

In Monday's hearing, the seven judges rejected the State's position, saying that those living in Israel for several years who underwent conversion in Israel or abroad could be considered new immigrants according to the Law of Return as well.

On the question of whether to recognize Reform or Conservative conversions, the judges deferred their decision until after receiving the Interior Minister's opinion. Several months ago, Avrohom Poraz, the interior ministry from Shinui, announced that these goyim should be recognized as Jews according to the Law of Return.

Poraz' position was even presented to the High Court as "the Interior Minister's personal opinion," whereas now the judges are asking for the Interior Minister's official stance, raising concerns that the judges will accept it and order those who undergo Reform or Conservative conversion to be recognized under the Law of Return.

Degel HaTorah Chairman Rabbi Avrohom Ravitz says the judges have already accepted Poraz' position by asking for him to submit it officially, since his opinion has already been publicized in the past. "The High Court has done a disgraceful act, not written anywhere. It has asked to receive the position of the Interior Minister on a question of a legislative change or amendment only the Knesset is authorized to execute. Governments in Israel fell because of involvement in the significant question of conversion according to halacha, whether to permit or not to permit the heretical conversions. Therefore the judges are asking the Interior Minister to take a stance when it is not under his authority at all. The High Court decision proves once again that the judges are trying to take control over the Jewish identity of the State of Israel, which they should not touch, for they have not been authorized to do so."

Degel HaTorah Secretary Rabbi Moshe Gafni said the judges are essentially asking for the appellants' stance and to assist the heretical `streams,' and they hope the current political circumstances will help them make an extreme decision. "I hope the High Court does not accept the Interior Minister's recommendation," he said. "The government cannot present such a position, for it will bring about a deeper rift in the Jewish people."


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