Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has increased the bureaucratic difficulties facing converts in special conversion courts, Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of the Itim Institute, charged on Thursday.
According to the regulation, if a non-Jew seeks to convert in order to marry a Jew whose parents were married in Israel, the Jewish partner must prove to an authorized dayan, or religious court judge, of the special conversion court that he or she is Jewish.
Farber, an Orthodox rabbi, is the director of Machon Itim, which was established to provide information and help guide Jews through the major event in the Jewish life cycle.
The regulation was published in the government Gazette on May 14.
According to a section of it referring to the Jewish partner whose parents married in Israel, the regulation states, "If the parents of the [Jewish] partner were married in Israel by a rabbi authorized to register marriages, the candidate for conversion will provide documents as requested to a dayan of the special conversion court who has been especially authorized by the chief rabbi, to prove the Jewishness of the partner."
Farber was particularly concerned about the regulation calling for the provision of "documents" to prove the Jewishness of the convert's partner when the partner's parents were married in Israel. In the past, he said, it was enough for a Jewish Israeli to provide the parents' marriage certificate issued by the Chief Rabbinate as proof of his Jewishness.
"The fundamental assumption of the regulation is that the Jewishness of anyone involved in a serious relationship with a non-Jew who wants to convert is questionable," said Farber.
He added that by asking for additional documents, it appears that "a marriage certificate issued by the Chief Rabbinate is not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate itself."
Farber was also upset by the provision in the regulation whereby the chief rabbi would authorize only certain rabbis to examine the partner's documents. He charged that this was one more bureaucratic obstacle on the way to conversion.
But the legal adviser to the Chief Rabbinate, Shimon Ya'acobi, told The Jerusalem Post that the regulation was actually meant to decrease the bureaucracy involved in the conversion process.
According to Ya'acobi, until now, the Jewish partner had to appear before the rabbinical court to prove his Jewishness before getting married. Now, he will provide the proof to the special conversion court before which his non-Jewish partner will be appearing anyway.
Asked what the regulation meant when it stipulated that the Jewish partner would have to provide "documents" to prove his Jewishness, Ya'acobi said, "It is customary to provide the mother's marriage certificate, but it can't be ruled out that the dayan will ask for other documents."