New conversion legislation to be shown to PM in two weeks

The state asked that it be given until the middle of May to provide the court with a further update as to its intentions.

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April 9, 2018 21:11
2 minute read.
ACTIVISTS TAKE part in a demonstration in Jerusalem in July against legislation that would have stre

ACTIVISTS TAKE part in a demonstration in Jerusalem in July against legislation that would have strengthened the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over conversion in Israel. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

The state told the High Court of Justice on Monday that draft legislation regulating Jewish conversion in Israel will be presented to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu within two weeks.

The court has a case before it filed by the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) movements demanding citizenship for its converts who converted in Israel.

With a ruling in favor of the petition thought to be imminent last summer, draft legislation was approved by the government at the behest of the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) political parties for passage to the Knesset.

That bill would have given the Chief Rabbinate a total monopoly over conversion in Israel and preemptively circumvented the court decision. As well as angering the Reform and Conservative movements, the legislation also threatened to revoke the recognition and citizenship rights afforded to Orthodox converts who convert in independent, Orthodox rabbinical courts – rights that were granted by the High Court in a 2016 decision.

The legislation caused outrage however among many Diaspora leaders and communities, and in an agreement worked out by the prime minister, it was put on hold while the court also agreed to delay a decision on the case.

Netanyahu appointed former justice minister Moshe Nissim to make recommendations for solving the issue and to formulate draft legislation, which he now appears close to doing.

The state’s submission to the High Court on Monday said that Nissim had finished writing his recommendations and drafting the bill and that they would be shown to the prime minister in two weeks.

The state also asked that it be given until the middle of May to provide the court with a further update as to its intentions.

Masorti director Dr. Yizhar Hess said that Nissim had met with him while formulating the recommendations and legislation, and that the former justice minister had been “attentive” and understood the importance and complexity of the issue.

“Having said that, I greatly doubt that this document will succeed in squaring the circle,” he said, adding that the haredi parties will likely succeed in halting any true effort to loosen their control over the conversion system.

Rabbi Seth Farber, director of the ITIM organization, which brought the case of Orthodox converts to the High Court, said the issue of conversion was critically important.

“What is at stake is nothing less than the future integrity of the Jewish people,” said Farber. “We hope that the government will realize the significance of this moment and choose a path that connects Jews to Israel.”


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