A proposal calling on the government to recognize non-Orthodox conversions conducted in Israel was prevented from reaching the Jewish Agency Assembly's plenum for a vote in Jerusalem on Tuesday following complaints by delegates from several organizations that the resolution's timing violated procedure. "You can't give a resolution from one day to the next," one Jewish Agency official told The Jerusalem Post. "The resolution was submitted after the [May 15] deadline. It could only have been considered by the Assembly if [it] decided to suspend the rules." The resolution's sponsors are considering resubmitting it ahead of the Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting in October, but much depends on what they hear on Thursday at a panel on the "Unity of the Jewish People" at the capital's Inbal Hotel.
Jewish Agency to vote on conversions
Editorial: Politics hurts religion
There, former justice minister Yaakov Ne'eman will report on his meetings with Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar regarding the appointment of more lenient dayanim (religious judges) to deal with conversion.
According to the Assembly resolution, the courts have failed to deal with converts appropriately and do not understand the gravity of the situation. Citing the lack of a civil alternative to Orthodox rabbinical control of personal status issues, it urged the government to recognize conversions from all streams of Judaism.
Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielsky recently called on the government to recognize non-Orthodox conversions in order to encourage North America aliya.
Ne'eman "is a serious man, and he really wants to accomplish something," said one of the resolution's sponsors. "In the short run, we expect that Rabbi Amar and the prime minister will appoint some dayanim and that real, substantial conversions will take place between now and October."
Rabbi Yosef Blau, the head of Religious Zionists of America, the American branch of the Orthodox-Zionist Mizrachi movement, spoke against allowing the proposed resolution to reach the plenum.
"We're deeply concerned with conversion problems," he told the Post after the committee meeting that rejected bringing the resolution to the plenum, "but before making a radical suggestion that will have many unforeseen consequences," there should be an appropriate period of discussion.
Blau said that mere official recognition was not going to solve the problem. "Even in the US, where we have free religious expression, it's not as though Reform and Conservative conversions are accepted by the Orthodox.
"Groups that want change should work through the process," he said.