(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
The number of Israelis from the former Soviet Union converting to Judaism has
dropped by 23 percent, it was revealed on Monday during a Knesset
Figures presented to the Knesset Committee on the Status of
Women showed a significant drop in the number of Israelis of Jewish descent –
and who are not Jewish under Jewish law – successfully
Attorney Elad Kaplan, a representative of the religious
services and advocacy organization ITIM, presented the findings.
are 318,000 Israelis from the former Soviet Union who fall into this category
and groups such as ITIM have advocated a strong conversion campaign to prevent
intermarriage, which such organizations fear will lead to an irrevocable split
of the Jewish people inside Israel.
According to ITIM’s annual report on
conversion in Israel, and based on the figures of the Conversion Authority, 2012
saw a 23% decrease from the year before of conversions of Jews of Jewish descent
from the former Soviet Union.
And 2011 itself witnessed a 10% decline of
such conversions from the year before.
In 2010, 2,159 such people
converted, in 2011 the figure was down to 1,936, and in 2012 it fell further to
just 1,492 converts.
ITIM’s report is released every year before Shavuot
because of the festival’s association with the biblical figure of Ruth, who
converted to Judaism.
Along with the decrease in conversions, the
organizations findings demonstrated that the number of non-Jewish Israelis from
the Soviet Union and their descendants would rise by another 100,000 people by
Speaking during the hearing, committee chairwoman Aliza Lavie (Yesh
Atid) said that the state was obligated to ensure that the number of converts
would begin to rise and not continue to decrease.
The State Comptroller’s
Report published last week revealed several significant administrative problems
with the Conversion Authority, including a high dropout rate of candidates from
the conversion programs.
In 2008, 20% of candidates left the course,
followed by 22% in 2009, 32% in 2010 and 26% in 2011 – representing on average a
quarter of all candidates.
Speaking at the hearing, Prof. Yedidya Stern
of the Israel Democracy Institute said that “a small group is dictating
conversion policy and the relationship between different Jewish
Stern called on the Knesset to formulate legislation that
would demonstrate that “Israel embraces converts,” and said that “75% of Jewish
Israelis believe assimilation to be a tragedy.”
ITIM’s report also found
other bureaucratic problems, pointing to the fact that the Conversion
Authority’s telephone hotline only operates between the hours of 9 a.m and 1
The hotline is supposed to provide conversion candidates with
information on the process, programs, contacting and liaising with rabbinical
courts and the issuance of conversion certificates.