Amar forms c'tee to advise him on IDF conversions

If chief Sephardi rabbi declares military conversions kosher, Israel Beiteinu bill may be deemed superfluous.

By JONAH MANDEL
December 16, 2010 22:35
2 minute read.
Chief Sephardic rabbi Shlomo Amar.

rabbi amar torah 311. (photo credit: AP)

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar announced on Thursday the formation of a committee to advise him on military conversions, in hopes of preventing the passing of Israel Beiteinu's bill providing an autonomous status to the IDF conversions. Heading the committee is Rabbi Nissim Ben -Shimon, head of the Tel Aviv Rabbinic Courts, who is joined by member of the Chief Rabbinate Council Rabbi Shimon Elitov and Rabbi Aharon Dershowitz, a rabbinic judge from Beersheba. The committee's work will be overseen by Rabbi Raffi Dayan, who is in charge of certificates in the Chief Rabbinate.

A spokesman for Amar said the committee hoped to complete its work within a month, and was to focus on the technical aspects of the military process, as well as the interface between the IDF and civil conversion mechanisms.

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Amar had already formed a similar committee months ago, but its members resigned before it actually began its work. This time around, sources in the know said, Amar selected members who are respected rabbis and no less importantly not likely to be susceptible to pressure from the Ashkenazi haredi Lithuanian rabbis, who are opposed to the military conversions which they consider lax.

Ben-Shimon is also the rabbi who recently re-approved a conversion that was nullified by a member of the High Rabbinical Court Judge Rabbi Avraham Sherman, who epitomizes the Lithuanian stringency in the Chief Rabbinate.

As head of the country’s rabbinic courts, Amar’s signature is needed on military conversion certificates, a technicality that was overlooked for years and surfaced during a court hearing a few months ago. When asked to provide his name for the documents, Amar said he needed to examine the IDF conversion process before doing so. If Amar declares the technical and other aspects of the military conversions kosher, there is room to believe that the Israel Beiteinu bill, seeking to protect the army conversions from the Chief Rabbinate, would be superfluous.

The current bill, sponsored by Israel Beiteinu’s faction chairman Robert Ilatov and MK David Rotem, passed its preliminary reading by a vote of 74-18 on Wednesday, after both coalition and opposition lawmakers streamed into the plenum to vote on the legislation. Rotem had in recent days expressed his bewilderment why Amar did not solve the problem in the months that passed since it arose, and stressed that the military conversions are fully kosher, and need no examination committee.

Shas is against the bill, which they say is a breach of the coalition agreement, but according to party head Interior Minister Eli Yishai, Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu told him the bill would not become law without his consent.

Also objecting to the notion of separating the military conversions from civilian ones are IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz and head of the State Conversion Authority Rabbi Haim Druckman, both of whom believe it is not in the best interest of the converts to create “two classes” of conversions.


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