Rabbi David Stav.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)
Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the national-religious Tzohar rabbinical association, has called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to protect the conversion reform law approved by the last government, and on Bayit Yehudi leader Naftali Bennett not to join a coalition that would repeal the measure.
During the last Knesset, Tzohar strongly advocated for changes to the conversion system, and a law was adopted by government order that would allow municipal chief rabbis to establish their own conversion courts.
The rabbinical association lobbied for this reform to allow rabbis such as Stav and others to expedite and make more accessible the process of conversion for immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not considered Jewish according to Jewish law.
The haredi political parties are fiercely opposed to the measure, however, and are understood to have demanded during coalition negotiations that the law be repealed, something that can be done simply by a new government order and does not require legislation.
“This is a national concern of the first order, and we are calling on the prime minister to do everything to prevent the repeal of this law,” Stav told The Jerusalem Post.
“If the prime minister is someone who wants to prevent intermarriage, who wants to prevent assimilation at the rate experienced in the US and other parts of the Diaspora, then he needs to do everything to allow conversion to be more accessible and more welcoming,” the rabbi continued.
Stav also criticized the haredi parties for their opposition to the bill.
“It defies understanding how those who... don’t serve in the army... should be the ones to dictate to the state how it should treat those children of the Jewish people who have returned to their home and refuse to allow them to complete their journey back to the Jewish people.”
Stav added that it is incumbent on Bennett to protect the law, and that it would be unthinkable for him to join a government that would repeal it.
Bayit Yehudi opposed the legislation that was advanced through the Knesset on the issue, but did agree to support the measure in the format of a government order.
Political sources have confirmed that United Torah Judaism and Shas are seeking to rescind the conversion law, although it is not yet clear how far Bayit Yehudi will go to protect the reform, especially in light of the fact that hardline elements within the party are strongly opposed to it.
Bennett’s office did not answer a request for comment by Post regarding Stav’s remarks.
Bayit Yehudi MK Bezalel Smotrich reacted sharply to Stav’s words, however, saying that the party “does not need the moral preachings of Rabbi Stav regarding the Jewish people,” and said that he should direct his comments to the Likud party and the prime minister.
“The ones who have capitulated to the demands of the haredim, who want to repeal the government order and take the Religious Services Ministry out of our hands and return it to the corrupt control of the haredim is the Likud and the prime minister,” Smotrich asserted.
A source on the Likud negotiating team told the Post that "the conversion [reform] is not a law but rather a government order. It will be changed but not repealed. The exact essence of the change is not yet clear."
Gil Hoffman contributed to this report.