'Crisis if conversion bill doesn't pass'

Chief Sepharadi rabbi says call to leave coalition was misconstrued.

July 19, 2010 07:53
2 minute read.
Chief Sephardic rabbi Shlomo Amar.

rabbi amar torah 311. (photo credit: AP)


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Chief Sepharadi rabbi Shlomo Amar insisted that his words have been misconstrued, saying in Monday morning interviews that he did not intend to get involved in politics by announcing his opinion on the conversion bill.

In an interview with Israel Radio, Amar said that he did not tell the parties what to do, he simply answered a question, in which he expressed support for the proposed law from a rabbinical perspective.

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"If the conversion law doesn't pass, there will be a serious crisis in the Jewish people," the rabbi said.

"This isn't politics or policy - conversions are halacha [Jewish ritual law]. A man that fears God and loves his fellow man," would support the conversion law, Amar said in another interview with Army Radio.

"The storm comes from the realities, and not from me. This is a manufactured crisis - we're not changing anything," in Israel Beiteinu's bill, the Rabbi added.

In a controversial interview with the Kol Barama radio station on Sunday, Amar accused the Reform Movement of exploiting Israel’s sensitive political standing to pressure the prime minister, who desperately needs the support of US Jewry, into opposing the bill.

“If they listened to me,” the chief rabbi said of Shas and United Torah Judaism, “they’d stand up to Netanyahu as one and say, ‘Either pass the conversion law, or we’re leaving.’” Amar’s remarks reflected the fear within the Chief Rabbinate and haredi factions that the High Court of Justice will rule that the state must recognize those who undergo non-Orthodox conversions in Israel as eligible for benefits under the Law of Return – as a petition from 2005 demands. In accordance with earlier High Court rulings, the Interior Ministry already registers Reform and Conservative converts from abroad as Jews.

“I told the prime minister that if, God forbid, the High Court of Justice will allow Reform conversions, we are dividing the people into two... We are being consumed by the High Court piece by piece... there is a limit. The court gave a deadline, and now that it has arrived, the prime minister is afraid,” the normally statesmanlike Amar said.

Jonah Mandel contributed to this report.

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