Rabbis meeting 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The Chief Rabbinical Council on Thursday formed a committee to examine the
conversion processes not only in the IDF but also in the State Conversion
C'tee gives state deadline to clarify IDF conversion stance‘Yated Ne’eman’ slams Amar for accepting IDF conversions
Five senior rabbis will present their findings to Chief
Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar and IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.- Gen. Rafi Peretz within
The council’s decision came after questions regarding the
validity of IDF conversions arose during a September court hearing on a petition
by Itim – The Jewish Life Information Center – against the Chief Rabbinate and
four city rabbis who in their capacity as marriage registrars do not recognize
the validity of the conversions.
During the hearing, state representative
Yochi Gnessin told the High Court of Justice that there was “a problem” with the
army conversions. Gnessin was not referring to a halachic problem, rather
a procedural one, but the statement brought the Knesset’s State Control
Committee to call on the rabbinate to issue an announcement to “clear the mist”
over the military conversions.
Amar accordingly wrote in mid-September
that “For years... the chief military rabbis acted in full cooperation with the
chief rabbis of Israel, in all matters pertaining to religion and state.
Soldiers who converted in these conversion courts, were also wed in keeping with
the Halacha for many years by marriage registrars, in accordance with all
The chief rabbi would “even raise the issue before
the Chief Rabbinical Council,” the letter said.
In the time between Amar
statement and Thursday’s council meeting, the Ashkenazi haredi press produced
many statements and articles attacking the validity of the military conversions,
with Yated Ne’eman spearheading the claims against the IDF’s “fake” conversion
Thursday’s decision was taken because the “problem” with army
conversions lies in the fact that despite the law requiring the signature of the
chief rabbi in charge of the rabbinic courts (currently Amar) on every
conversion certificate, such a signature was never provided for the military
conversions. To fix this would demand Amar’s retroactive approval, but the chief
rabbi cannot do that without conducting an examination of the system he is asked
Sources in the rabbinate who attended the closed council meeting
said Peretz agreed with the claims that have surfaced in haredi papers in the
past few weeks, according to which the content of some of the military
conversion classes contained “heretic material,” and welcomed a inspection into
The signature issue, however, does not explain why the
rabbinical council committee would also examine the State Conversion Authority,
where the chief rabbi’s signature is provided at the end of the conversion
The Reform and Masorti movements slammed the rabbinate for
Thursday’s decision, and Kadima called on the rabbinate to find any possible way
to ease the path of those seeking to join the Jewish nation.
Farber, the head of ITIM, expressed disappointment over the decision, and his
expectation of “the Chief Rabbinical Council to act in a statesmanlike manner,
and not to succumb to pressure applied by wheelers and dealers who misinform the
senior haredi rabbis.
“All of the IDF conversions are conducted with full
acceptance of mitzvot, and adhere to all of the necessary halachic criteria,”
Farber said. “These wheelers and dealers consider themselves stringent,
but in fact are transgressing the explicit halachas regarding tormenting
converts. The Chief Rabbinate, which is responsible for the fate of the
converts, must come out with a clear and irrevocable statement that removes any
shadows of doubt from the military conversions, and not form committees that
will continue the torment of converts.”
MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu),
whose efforts to pass a law aimed at making the Orthodox conversion process more
accessible failed in the last Knesset session, was furious at the council’s
“The very existence of a Rabbinical Council hearing on the
topic is a scandal that proves there are rabbis who do not understand the
importance of conversion. The IDF conversions are in full accordance with
Halacha, and have been going on for years. The fact that there are people
pressuring rabbis raises the notion that it would be a good idea to dissolve the
Chief Rabbinical Council,” Rotem said, adding that he would promote legislation
to that end.
In an address later Thursday evening, at an event in honor
of outgoing director of the rabbinical courts Rabbi Eliyahu Ben-Dahan, Rotem
distinguished between the chief Sephardi rabbi and the Chief Rabbinical Council
regarding the decision.
“Whoever dares to doubt the validity of the
conversions that that took place for 20 years in the IDF does not understand his
position and should resign,” Rotem said. “Amar is in a difficult battle, but he
is alone, surrounded by people who are not helping him.”
reiterated that in his opinion, the decision was reached against Amar’s
In response to Rotem’s claim, a source within the Rabbinical
Council said that in Thursday’s meeting, Amar claimed that in his letter he was
not taking a stance, merely trying to calm the situation down.