Chief Rabbis reiterate opposition to conversion law

Chief Rabbi David Lau says conversion must be conducted “in accordance with Jewish law under the authority of the chief rabbinate of Israel."

David Lau
Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau once again protested the conversion law the government approved on Sunday, although he stopped short of saying the Chief Rabbinate would not recognize such conversions.
Lau made his comments during a meeting of the Council of the Chief Rabbinate on Monday. The new law, enshrined in a government order, allows municipal chief rabbis to establish their own conversion courts to supplement the four existing national courts.
“We protest the government’s decision to approve this law. It is unthinkable that a doctor would receive instructions from the Israeli government and that the government would dictate to him which medicine to give to a patient,” said Lau.
“We respect the city rabbis, and we have nothing against any rabbi, but there is no reason that the conversion system should not be under the full auspices of the Conversion Authority as has been the case until now which works in a respectable and appropriate manner.”
Lau said that conversion must be conducted “in accordance with Jewish law under the authority of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, directed by the president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court [Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef] and within the framework of the Conversion Authority. We don’t see any reason that things should be conducted differently.”
The chief rabbi said that the Chief Rabbinate was establishing a committee to be headed by Yosef that will “decide how to act in accordance with the change in the law.” He did not say whether the Chief Rabbinate would recognize conversions performed according to the new law.
A request for clarification by The Jerusalem Post was unanswered.
Efrat Chief Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, in response to the chief rabbis’ comments, sought to refute suggestions that municipal rabbis would not work within the parameters of Jewish law.
“I sincerely hope that the Chief Rabbinate will understand that we, municipal chief rabbis, are totally dedicated to Jewish law, and throughout the generations there have been students of the House of Hillel and students of the House of Shammai with differing opinions,” the rabbi said referring to the more lenient and more stringent schools of thought in the Talmudic era.
“We will united and not divide, speak and not boycott.
We are talking about the future of our people,” added Riskin, who also serves as the head of the modern-Orthodox Ohr Torah Stone network of educational institutions.
Speaking on a related issue, Lau told Ynet on Monday that he favored a change to the Law of Return, which stipulates that a person with one Jewish grandparent can immigrate to Israel and gain automatic citizenship.
“We must change the Law of Return immediately so it will include only those who are Jewish according to the Halacha,” the chief rabbi said.
“Israel can decide to be the third world’s welfare state, but as long as that decision has not been taken – it needs to stop allowing non-Jews to make aliya.”
The director of the Conservative Movement in Israel, attorney Yizhar Hess, criticized Lau’s comments, noting that the discriminatory Nuremberg laws enacted by the Third Reich defined a Jew as someone with one Jewish grandparent, as does the Law of Return.
“Those whom the Nazis persecuted and murdered for being Jewish, the State of Israel accepts and embraces... Rabbi Lau is not a bad man, he is simply captive to a corrupt paradigm,” Hess said.