Bill aims to stop conversion annulments

Kadima MKs present bill to stop rabbinical courts debating conversions.

By JONAH MANDEL
July 6, 2010 23:39
2 minute read.
MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima)

MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) 311. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)

 
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In yet another attempt to prevent certified conversions from being canceled in Israel, Kadima MKs Shlomo Molla and Orit Zuaretz will table a bill on Wednesday “to determine that a rabbinical court will not be permitted to debate the annulment of a person’s conversion.”

In the bill’s explanatory notes, the legislators point out the “intolerable ease of annulling conversions in Israel nowadays, where a rabbinical court can cancel a person’s conversion, even years after converting, thus creating a situation in which thousands of families live in constant fear of their conversion and Judaism being canceled on the grounds that they are not sufficiently observant.”

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Besides the stress and damage to those who already have converted, the legislators continue, “this situation hinders potential converts’ motivation to begin the conversion process, thus impairing the state’s ability to fully absorb hundreds of thousands of immigrants who want to share the destiny of the Jewish People, but are not defined as Jews according to the Halacha.”

The chances of the proposed bill passing the first parliamentary obstacle of the Ministerial Committee on Legislation are slim, due not only to coalition concerns, such as its provoking the ire of haredi parties, but also to the fact that the Chief Rabbinate itself is currently attempting to rectify the situation of stringent city rabbis who do not entirely abide by the rabbinate’s halachic line.

An outside force bending the rabbinate’s arm could solve immediate problems for those whose conversions have been annulled. However, it would create difficulties for them in their future encounters with religious authorities, as they would likely be marked as people whose conversion was accepted by a secular body and not the rabbinate.

This rationale led the High Court of Justice – in a recent hearing regarding a petition filed against the rabbinate after Rabbi Avraham Sherman, a member of the High Rabbinical Court, cancelled two conversions conducted and approved by Rabbi Haim Druckman’s State Conversion Authority – to allow the rabbinate more time to reapprove the conversions, “so that the larger issue at hand... does not come at the expense of the plaintiffs.”

Molla, the driving force behind Wednesday’s bill – which he has previously attempted to get passed – clarified to The Jerusalem Post that he did not seek to change the halachic workings of the conversion process, but to fortify the moderate forces within the rabbinate.



“We at the Knesset do not deal with halachic adjudication,” he said. “What we want to do is provide the Chief Rabbinate, and the State Conversion Authority that acts under its auspices, with the support obviously needed to counter the haredi attitude that does not recognize these state-appointed and -funded institutions.”

While it is unclear how many conversions have actually been nullified recently, “the phenomenon... is very worrisome, since it can create a precedent against Druckman’s authority that could be applicable to all echelons of the rabbinical courts in the same way Supreme Court rulings are,” Molla explained.

“It is the state that established the Conversion Authority, and we will provide the backing to those who undergo the process there,” he said.

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