The Ministerial Committee for Legislation on Sunday postponed its vote on a private member’s bill to decentralize Jewish conversion in Israel while Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana formulates his own draft legislation on the issue.
MK Yulia Malinovsky of Yisrael Beytenu submitted her proposal to the committee which would allow municipal chief rabbis and deans of Hesder yeshivas to establish their own conversion courts, a bill which has been put forward several times by various members of her party in the last two years.
Kahana is currently consulting with senior religious-Zionist rabbis on his legislation to garner as much support as possible for what will be a highly contentious bill, and he is expected to advance it as a government bill in the next few weeks.
Malinovsky heads the Knesset’s Jewish Religious Services Committee and has presided over several tempestuous hearings recently, first regarding the government’s kashrut reforms, and last week over rabbinical court Jewish status investigations, where she has been outspoken in her criticism of the Chief Rabbinate and of rabbinical courts.
Malinovsky says that the state conversion authority is not adequately equipped to deal with the societal challenge facing Israel in which between 400,000 to 450,000 citizens from the former Soviet Union, or their children, are integrated into Israeli and Jewish culture but are not Jewish according to Jewish law.
Kahana’s legislation would be very similar to Malinovsky’s and both of them would allow moderate religious-Zionist rabbis to establish their own conversion courts to utilize leniencies in Jewish law to make conversion easier, especially for converting minors.
The Jerusalem Post understands that several senior religious-Zionist rabbis will back Kahana’s legislation, and will do so after he presents the bill.
Religious-Zionist rabbis with a more conservative outlook appear likely to vehemently oppose the bill for its proposal to take away authority from the Chief Rabbinate, which itself opposes such a law. They will also argue that the law would reduce the legitimacy of state conversions, since many rabbis would call into question conversions done by municipal chief rabbis.
Senior ultra-Orthodox rabbis have already criticized Kahana’s plans.