(photo credit: )
Hundreds of converts who have been waiting for months to receive an official state document proving they are members of the Jewish people can breath a sigh of relief after warring camps in the Conversions Authority temporarily put aside their differences and went back to work.
An estimated 500 conversion certificates waiting to be signed by Rabbi Haim Druckman, head of the Conversions Authority in the Prime Minister's Office, have piled up at the authority's offices on Rehov Kanfei Nesharim in Jerusalem over the past two-and-a-half months. Since the sides reached a truce two weeks ago, about 350 certificates have already been signed.
Sources close to Druckman said his refusal to sign the documents was an attempt to cause an "internal catharsis" in the system that would result in more efficiency in the future. They said that an administrative change that would increase effiency enabled Druckman to resume signing.
However, other sources said Druckman was attempting to put pressure on Rabbi Eliyahu Maimon, administrative head of the authority, to quit. A letter from the Civil Services Commission rejecting outright the firing of Maimon forced Druckman to resume signing the certificates.
Druckman's people claimed that Maimon was uncooperative with his superiors, overly stringent and bureaucratically inefficient.
In contrast, sources close to Maimon claimed Druckman and his deputy, Rabbi Moshe Klein, had tried unsuccessfully to force Maimon to "cut corners" and "turn a blind eye" to their mismanagement.
For example, in recent weeks, Maimon complained to the Prime Minister's Office's legal advisor Yoel Cohen that Druckman was not hand-signing conversion certificates. Druckman, he claimed, or Druckman's proxy, was using a rubber stamp.
Cohen censured Druckman for what he a called a breach in administrative directives and ordered him to personally sign every certificate.
According to Jewish law, a convert does not need a conversion certificate. Approval by a rabbinic court, circumcision (if he is a man) and immersion in a mikve [ritual bath] is all that is needed. But without a conversion certificate, the convert faces a bureaucratic gauntlet. Although they can marry, converts without a conversion certificate cannot receive a marriage certificate from the Interior Ministry.
A marriage certificate is essential for anything from signing an insurance policy to qualifying for a bank loan or mortgage.
Rabbi Seth Farber, head of ITIM, a non-profit organization that navigates rabbinic bureaucracies, said he was personally in contact with dozens of converts directly effected by the delay.
"Hundreds of converts need the certificate to receive citizenship," said Farber. "I know of one convert woman who needs state-funded fertility treatment. But she can't get it without a marriage certificate. And she can't get a marriage certificate without a conversion certificate. So she's stuck."