(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The rabbinic committee appointed by Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar recommended
that he terminate the Nativ course held for potential IDF converts, since Reform
and Conservative teachers are part of its staff, Israel Radio reported on
“In this [Nativ] course about 10 of the staff of 170 teachers
are Reform or Conservative. We perceive this as a severe problem, that casts a
heavy shadow on all of the military conversions, and every effort should be made
to cancel this course and/or to not have it as a precondition to the IDF
process,” the report quoted from a letter the three-man advisory committee
It was in the middle of January that senior Sephardi adjudicator
Rabbi Ovadia Yosef ruled that the military conversions were kosher, a stance
Amar endorsed. Over 4,500 such conversions from past years thus received a stamp
of approval, after a tense few months since it was discovered during a High
Court of Justice hearing in September that this chief rabbi and his predecessors
had inadvertently not been signing the conversion certificates for
While the immediate remedy would have been to have Amar sign the
certificates, the chief rabbi issued a letter endorsing the IDF conversions, but
declared his right to consult on the topic before granting his
To that end, Amar formed a committee of rabbis from within the
Chief Rabbinic Council, which fell apart after a few days. The chief rabbi then
appointed senior Rabbis Nissim Ben-Shimon, Shimon Elituv and Aharon Dershowitz
to scrutinize the military conversion process.
The three men presented
Amar and Yosef with their findings, following which Yosef wrote that “by
Halacha, the IDF conversions are valid, according to our holy Torah.
the good recommendations of the rabbis, members of the committee, should be
Those “good recommendations” were never made public,
neither by the chief rabbinate nor by MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu), who
received them after demanding of Amar’s representative to see them during a
hearing on the military conversion bill in the Knesset Law Committee he heads a
few weeks ago.
Rotem is still continuing to advance a bill he penned with
MK Robert Ilatov (Israel Beiteinu) which would grant conversions conducted in
the IDF independent status from the Chief Rabbinate. The bill was submitted to
the Knesset in the period between September and January, when it was still
unclear how Amar would decree on the military conversions.
of non-Orthodox teachers in the Nativ course is no secret, and Amar undoubtedly
was aware of it even before his advisory committee noted it. The three rabbis
also recommended that the rabbinic judges in the military conversion courts, who
they described as “Godfearing men who do their task with loyalty and
dedication,” should not decide to convert after only one meeting with a soldier,
but should hold at least two.
They also suggested eight months as a
minimal time period from when the conversion request is submitted to the actual
moment of conversion, and to add a third seminar of two weeks to the
A rally planned by the Ashkenaziharedi Eda Haredit and senior
Ashkenazi adjudicator Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv last month protesting the
conversions’ approval by Yosef and Amar was called off after dialogue between
the sides enhanced the understanding of what they actually approved.
Chief Rabbinate and Religious Services Ministry also probably helped gain the
attention of the Eda Haredit when they heightened their supervision over the Eda
Haredit’s prestigious kashrut certificates and marriage licenses after word of
the rally began spreading.
The decision to call off the protest, however,
was made by the Eda Haredit leadership, and was not to the liking of Elyashiv.
The Lithuanian camp’s newspaper Yated Ne’eman declared two days after the
protest was called off that “our rabbis have ordered to continue protesting the
None of those involved in the military conversion
process, the pending legislation or the non-Orthodox movements wished to comment
on Israel Radio’s exposure, which was widely seen as part of the Lithuanian
struggle against the IDF conversions and those who endorsed them.