New conversion bill a recipe for continued chaos
The new "conversion law" - which passed a first reading in the Knesset this past week - is essentially a political tool which will in no way bring order to the chaos that characterizes conversion in Israel. With 310,000 immigrants from the Former Soviet Union eligible for conversion, it is unpalatable that conversion has become a subject of Pyrrhic political victories.
The original law, presented to the Knesset in two variations by Rabbi Michael Melchior and David Rotem, was meant to allow community rabbis to perform conversions. Essentially, this would have allowed for less public scrutiny of conversion judges, and theoretically for those moderate city rabbis to perform conversions and register their converts for marriage. The authors of the bill were clever enough to include a clause that would allow converts the benefit of registering in any region, and not necessarily their own locale.
The strength of the bill was that it ensured that conversions would be performed under Orthodox auspices, but understood that within Orthodoxy, there are multiple voices, and converts could choose their approach while still falling within the consensus of the halachic community.
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