Yesh Atid MK Rabbi Dov Lipman spoke out against the cancellation of a Law Committee vote for a contentious bill for changing the conversion process on Monday, and called on conversion candidates to approach independent rabbinical courts in order to convert.
The conversion bill was proposed by MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua), and seeks to empower municipal rabbis to establish their own conversion courts, but is opposed by Bayit Yehudi in its current format.
A hearing in the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee was scheduled to hold a final vote on the bill last week in the expectation that negotiations between Stern and Bayit Yehudi’s Deputy Religious Services Minister Eli Ben-Dahan on the legislation would be completed.
No compromise was reached, but Stern and other supporters of the bill attempted to push ahead with the vote, but which was canceled at the last moment.
The main points of contention remain the standing of the Chief Rabbinate within the new framework the law would create, as well as the status of non-Orthodox conversions.
Ben-Dahan argues that the bill would reduce the influence of the Chief Rabbinate over conversions and allow too much leeway for the new conversion courts over conversion policy.
Ben-Dahan wants to remove a clause from the bill that says that the status of conversions performed by non-Orthodox movements will not be harmed. Currently non-Orthodox movements can perform conversions in Israel, and those converts are registered by the Interior Ministry as Jewish in the population registry.
Stern is loathe to do this as it would lead to intense opposition from the Reform and Conservative movements and would most likely kill the legislation.
Lipman, who is a co-sponsor of the bill, spoke out strongly against the ongoing delays following the cancellation of the vote.
“We’ve had enough. I’m calling on rabbis, public figures and NGOs to work together with organizations such as ITIM to advance non-governmental conversion,” Lipman said following the cancellation of the vote.
“Converts through these frameworks will convert according to Jewish law, but the state should be extremely concerned if it doesn’t recognize these converts as Jews. I intend to work with colleagues and to help these converts as much as I can. If the Knesset does not take responsibility then we will.”
There are several independent Orthodox rabbinical courts for conversion around the country, but the Interior Ministry refuses to register such converts as Jewish in the population registry, even though converts through the non-Orthodox denominations are registered as Jewish.
In response to Lipman’s comments, a Bayit Yehudi source said that “now is the time for coalition partners to work toward a joint solution, not to try and score points with the public.”
The source acknowledged, however, that political squabbling among influential national-religious rabbis over the bill had impaired progress on the bill, but also pointed to political in-fighting within the coalition as another road-block to the passage of the legislation.