THE JERUSALEM conversion office of the Chief Rabbinate.
(photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
The two chief rabbis along with Shas leader and Interior Minister Arye Deri and United Torah Judaism leader MK Moshe Gafni all lined up on Sunday to utterly denounce the new conversion reform proposals by Moshe Nissim, and vowed to prevent them from becoming law.
Their opposition, together with that of senior rabbis from the conservative wing of the National Religious community, means that Nissim’s proposals will be buried and have effectively no chance of ever being implemented – at least by the current government.
Deri said he was “unambiguously opposed” to Nissim’s recommendations adding that “I will ensure they are not even brought up for discussion in the government.
Deri also gave notice of a potential coalition crisis, as he said he would “demand to return” to the bill that was approved by the government for passage to the Knesset last June, which hoped to give the Chief Rabbinate a monopoly on conversion, thereby revoking the rights of non-Orthodox converts and delegitimizing conversions by independent Orthodox courts.
The bill caused consternation amongst the Diaspora Jewish leadership and was opposed by Yisrael Beytenu, who vetoed the bill.
Gafni said it should be difficult to enter the Jewish people and that “the attempt to dismantle this framework through laws, committees and regulations won’t happen. We won’t agree to it under any circumstances.” Haredi parties “will not allow any change in the status quo.”
Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau called on Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to reject Nissim’s recommendations, objecting specifically to the proposal to remove the Chief Rabbinate’s authority over the conversion body.
Yosef also objected to the formal recognition that would be granted to non-Orthodox converts who converted abroad, describing it as “a very severe breach,” and said that the presence of non-Orthodox representatives on the committee to appoint rabbinical judges for the conversion courts alone required the recommendations to be rejected out of hand.
Lau described the proposals as “an injury to... the Jewish people,” saying that it was “an opening for intermarriage and will bring the destruction that exists in the world [abroad] to the holy land.”
Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern, who has long worked for conversion reform, said he “appreciated the sincere efforts” made by Nissim and “support his efforts to unify the Jewish people and fix the damage of many years which has been done, and continues to be done, by the Chief Rabbinate and the religious parties.”
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, the director of the Reform Movement in Israel, said that the proposals had “both worrisome and encouraging aspects” and that a dialogue over them should have been possible.
“However it is already clear that the haredi political parties and the rabbinic establishment are already planning to bury the recommendations permanently,” he said, arguing that such debate was therefore pointless. In this way the outcome would be the same as what happened with the now-permanently frozen Western Wall deal, he said.
Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel director Dr. Yizhar Hess described Nissim’s proposals as “revolutionary, to a not-insignificant extent,” but said that it still perpetuated the Orthodox monopoly.
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