yaakov neeman 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman on Thursday lashed out at US Jewry for focusing on the conversion issue in Israel, while the true problem facing the diaspora is assimilation. Conversion in Israel, he said, is unique since it entails legal rights – citizenship – and therefore “clear, legal norms” on the process must be agreed upon.
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“The question is not which stream in Judaism is good,” the minister said as part of a panel on conversion in the President's Conference. “In Israel, we have a problem. We have hundreds of thousands of illegal emigrants, especially from Africa, who came illegally and want to stay here. No country in the world, including the enlightened United States, would allow them through an easy, religious procedure to become citizens of the state. This is an Israeli problem.”
The problem facing diaspora Jewry is not conversion,” Neeman continued. “The major issue there are the high percentages disappearing from the world of Judaism. What Hitler didn't succeed in doing is happening now, there is terrible assimilation.”
Neeman stressed that he recognizes and respects every stream in Judaism –
Lithuanians, hassidim, Reform, Conservative - “they are all Jews, that
is not the problem. The problem is baseless hatred,” he said, using the
title of the forthcoming book by Rene Levy on that issue.
“Thirteen or fourteen years ago I sat down with all the streams in
Judaism, and we reached understandings,” he said of the committee he
“Conversion has legal ramifications, unlike the US where it doesn't. You
can't let anyone who wants to convert to do so, since that enables them
to enter the country and receive citizenship, or change the status of
an alien to legal. You must reach clear, legal norms. The body that
torpedoed the issue was the Chief Rabbinate, who decided to not accept
the committee's findings. Today they are penitent,” he said wryly. “The
committee said that conversion should be according to Jewish law. You
must understand what the problem is, and what the solution is. The
solution is to sit at a round table, talk respectfully, and refrain from