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The Israel Religious Action Center petitioned the High Court of Justice Tuesday morning on behalf of seven petitioners requesting that the state recognize non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism. Recognition of Reform or Conservative conversions would allow the petitioners to be accepted as Israeli citizens according to the Law of Return.
The HCJ had previously accepted non-Orthodox conversions performed abroad for the purpose of population registry, but would not recognize the process if it took place in Israel. The failure to recognize Israeli conversions created a situation in which prospective Israeli converts would travel abroad in order to convert, and only then return to Israel in order to register as citizens under the Law of Return.
The High Court has already ruled that people who convert to Judaism in Israel are eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return, even if physically they are not returning; they are considered new immigrants by virtue of their spiritual transformation from gentile to Jew. However, the only conversions recognized by the state were Orthodox ones.
Many of the petitioners have married Israelis, and all of them reside in the country legally. In this case, the IRAC represented two of the petitioners underwent divorce, and now fear they may be expelled from the country due to their uncertain status. One of them was even registered as a Jew in the Interior Ministry, but could not be accepted as a citizen. The case also includes two professionals who came from Austria and from the United States and have converted in Israel.
The movement expressed the hope that the case submitted Tuesday morning would culminate 14 years of requests. Attorney Nicole Maor, who took the case on behalf of the IRAC stated, "Despite the repeated decisions of the [HCJ], the State refuses to recognize that the Orthodox monopoly in the area of conversion must come to an end! It is time that the State of Israel respects the freedom of religion and conscience of its citizens and residents and recognizes the pluralist reality of today's Jewish People."
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