Boy wearing a kippa.
(photo credit: INGIMAGE)
Newly obtained figures from the state conversion authority show that while the budget for the conversion program has risen dramatically in recent years, the number of people actually converting to Judaism has declined by an even greater extent.
At the same time, the number of conversion candidates who begin a conversion course and eventually complete it is barely 30%.
The data, obtained by the ITIM religious services advocacy group and seen by The Jerusalem Post, demonstrates that the budget for the state conversion authority grew by 21% from 2016 to 2018, while the number of converts in 2018 dropped to 27%.
Meanwhile, the number of Israeli citizens of Jewish descent who are not Jewish according to Halacha (Jewish law) is increasing rapidly. It currently stands at approximately 400,000 people, and could reach 500,000 in the next 12 years.
According to the figures obtained by ITIM following a freedom of information request, the number of converts in 2014 was 3,718, but in 2018 there were just 2,588 converts.
Although the number of candidates increased between 2014 and 2018, the percentage who completed the conversion process declined precipitously from 60% in 2014 to just 29% in 2018.
Compounding these problems is that the budget for the conversion authority has increased significantly, from NIS 44,255,000 in 2016 to NIS 53,589,000 in 2018, an increase of 21%.
An official in the Prime Minister’s Office said that 2014 witnessed a high number of conversions among immigrants from the Ethiopian Falash Mura community, who are obligated to convert.
She said that this factor accounted for the sharp decrease in conversions when comparing 2014 to 2018.
Despite this, previous statistics show a heavy decline in the number of converts of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, or their children over the last decade.
Whereas the average number of such converts from 2008 to 2012 was 1,846, the average from 2014 to 2018 was 698.
The PMO official noted that from 2017 to 2018 there was a budgetary boost to the state conversion authority of NIS 12,000,000 and pointed out that this period saw a rise in conversion by almost 8%.
ITIM director Rabbi Seth Farber said that the new figures demonstrated the state’s conversion programs have “remained deficient and inefficient” over the last five years.
“The lesson to be drawn is clear: the state’s monopoly over conversion is unjustified,” said the rabbi.
Farber was instrumental in establishing the Orthodox Giyur K’Halacha Conversion Court Network, which includes 55 Orthodox rabbis and presided over by Rabbi Nachum Rabinovitch, a highly respected arbiter of Jewish law in the National-Religious community.
Since it was established in 2015, Giyur K’Halacha has conducted more than 700 conversions, most of whom are minors, and its conversions are recognized for the purposes of registration as Jewish in the Interior Ministry’s Population and Immigration Authority.
The Chief Rabbinate does not, however, accept Giyur K’Halacha’s converts for the purposes of marriage.
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