ASK THE RABBI: Converting minors to solve Israel’s conversion crisis

Israeli society is rapidly growing two types of ‘Jewish Israeli’ populations.

By SHLOMO BRODY
June 1, 2018 11:40
4 minute read.
NAOMI ENTREATING [famous convert] Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab, by William Blake, 17

NAOMI ENTREATING [famous convert] Ruth and Orpah to return to the land of Moab, by William Blake, 1795. (photo credit: Wikimedia Commons)

There are currently 6.6 million Israelis who identify as Jewish. Within that group, somewhere between 375,000 to 400,000 are not recognized as Jewish under Orthodox Jewish law because they were not born to a Jewish mother (according to Orthodox standards) or did not undergo conversion through an Orthodox rabbinic court. This means that roughly 1/20th of the country’s “Jewish” citizens may not marry a bona fide Jew through the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, even though these citizens are fully integrated culturally into the school system, army and workforce.

This group of “culturally Jewish Israelis,” if you will, comes from a variety of backgrounds. They include children of Israeli men who met non-Jewish women abroad; babies born to Israelis through surrogacy in foreign countries; and some Ethiopian immigrants, whose individual status as Jews may be unclear for a variety of reasons. Most prominently, this includes immigrants from the former Soviet Union and their descendants, who arrived under the Law of Return, which only requires one Jewish grandparent.

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