Natan Sharansky 311.
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
In an effort to curb the trend of Orthodox converts from abroad not being
recognized by Israel for citizenship, the Jewish Agency on Tuesday appealed the
Interior Ministry for a more dominant role in identifying established Diaspora
communities as such.
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A resolution passed on Tuesday by the agency’s board
of governors called on the government “to confirm the role of the Jewish Agency
as a body directed to ascertain, through inquiry with appropriate parties in the
relevant country, that the party confirming the Jewish eligibility of a
prospective oleh for the purposes of aliya is qualified to do so.”
Agency chairman Natan Sharansky said the resolution does not seek to establish
the Jewish Agency as the judge of who is a rabbi, nor to sway the rabbinate’s
positions on the halachic validity of conversions being conducted abroad. The
resolution only aims to address the fact that the Interior Ministry, which
according to the Law of Return must give citizenship to converts coming from
established Diaspora communities, was basing its civilian policy on the
recommendations of the halachic stances of the Chief Rabbinate, in cases of
While the Chief Rabbinate does not recognize Orthodox
conversions from North American rabbinic courts that are not part of the
regional network established by the Rabbinic Council of America, it never
contested the general legitimacy of Orthodox communities at large.
ask the Israeli government to consult with us on deciding which communities are
normative communities,” Sharansky said, emphasizing the organization’s intimacy
with the Jewish world around the globe.
“One must differentiate between
Halacha and the Law of Return,” Sharansky reiterated.
Despite a High
Court decision from several years ago, the Interior Ministry has yet to
formulate an official policy on the matter. It currently operates on the basis
of an internal memo drafted by its legal department in 2008. The memo refers the
ministry to the head of the relevant religious community in Israel, when
determining if a convert should be eligible for citizenship.
spokeswoman for the Interior Ministry said on Tuesday that they were not aware
of the agency’s new resolution, but stressed that there were ongoing talks
between the relevant bodies, at the ministry’s initiative, “to put this issue
into order once and for all.”
The Chief Rabbinate would not comment on
the topic, but said that a meeting on Wednesday would clarify the rabbinate’s
stance on the issue.
Sources close to the rabbinate said that they were
inclined to accept the direction suggested by the Jewish Agency.
current situation leads to non-Orthodox conversions being more easily accepted
for citizenship, than the Orthodox ones, need the Chief Rabbinate’s approval.