Conversion controversy: Haredi MK labels female IDF converts 'shiksas'

“She is not Jewish and if someone marries her the father needs to sit shiva, rip his clothes and recite kaddish,” Pindrus said.

MK Yitzhak Pindrus (photo credit: COURTESY/OFFICE OF MK YITZHAK PINDRUS)
MK Yitzhak Pindrus
A female soldier who converts through the IDF’s conversion system is a “shiksa” and a “goya,” United Torah Judaism MK Yitzhak Pindrus said Tuesday. He later apologized for his comments and said that they were “out of place.” 
“Had I wanted to offend anyone,” the MK said, “it would not have been a female IDF soldier.” 
Originally, Pindrus argued that such a woman “is not Jewish, and if someone marries her, the father [of the groom] needs to sit shiva [the mourning period], rip his clothes and recite kaddish.”
Pindrus made his remarks at a conference organized by the ITIM religious services organization and the Kipa news website.
Such a convert could light a fire (or use electricity) in his house on Shabbat because she is not Jewish, he said.
He later publically regretted his words and explained in a television interview that "Religion is not something I own, [nor do I have] a personal bias against the soldier." 
"It's not up to me," he said. "The definition of who is a Jew is a religious one, not to be decided by the IDF chief of staff." 
He said he was speaking out of "pain, the pain over the fact that there are children in the IDF who meet a nice girl and think she is Jewish and do not know what sort of a national disaster they bring on their families and themselves."
The High Court of Justice on Monday ruled that the state needs to recognize conversions performed by the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) movements in Israel for the purpose of obtaining citizenship under the Law of Return.
Until now, Reform and Conservative conversions were only recognized for citizenship purposes if they were performed overseas.
“Pindrus’s comment demonstrates how little Halacha has to do with conversion in Israel today,” said Seth Farber, founder and director of ITIM: The Jewish-Life Information Center, which helps Israelis with the legal intricacies of personal status.
“Rather than relying on the majority of halachic decisions, including the leadership of his community, Rabbi Vozner and Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, who both stood completely behind the conversions in the army, Pindrus has chosen to make a political mockery of conversion [and is] engaging in anti-halachic behavior,” he said.
“Jewish tradition is very sensitive to the status of converts and prohibits under all circumstances making converts feel vulnerable or pain,” Farber said. “Pindrus’s comment has caused immeasurable pain to thousands of people who have converted in the army, and I imagine that one day he will have to answer for it.”
Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern, who as the former head of IDF Manpower Division established the military conversion system, said more than 14,000 soldiers have converted under the auspices of the IDF.
“Many of them have children, and some have grandchildren,” he said. “Pindrus should be ashamed for what he said. I have yet to meet someone who returned from a meeting with God and was told that studying in the yeshiva where Pindrus studied gets you more points than serving in a combat unit and risking your life on behalf of the Jewish people.”
Yesh Atid chairman Yair Lapid also criticized Pindrus.
 “What female soldier who served in the IDF is he talking about,” he asked on Twitter. “The combat soldier in the Karkal Battalion? The border police at checkpoints? The soldiers keeping watch on the Gaza Strip? These wonderful young women you call ‘shiksa’ are saving your life.”
IDF soldier Darina Shkolnik, who converted to Judaism during her service, refused to accept his apology. 
"The attitude, the tone of voice, the manner in which things were presented as if we are not like other people, all these things are offensive and hurtful," she said, according to N12.
"I do not feel the apology makes the situation better."  
She said the MK hurt her sense of belonging to the country and the people of Israel and added that those who convert do it willingly, not because they are ordered to.