High Court poised to rule on explosive non-Orthodox conversion

A ruling granting citizenship to individuals who converted through non-Orthodox movements in Israel would generate fierce opposition from the ultra-Orthodox parties and rabbinic leadership

High Court of Justice prepares for hearing on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can form the next government, May 3, 2020 (photo credit: COURTESY HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE)
High Court of Justice prepares for hearing on whether Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu can form the next government, May 3, 2020
(photo credit: COURTESY HIGH COURT OF JUSTICE)
The High Court of Justice has indicated it will shortly issue a decision on a critical case regarding the recognition of non-Orthodox conversions performed in Israel, with the likely outcome being that it will rule to grant state recognition for such conversions.
The case was first filed in 2005, and the High Court ruled on Monday that it will not grant any further requests to delay a ruling on the explosive issue of who is a Jew in the Jewish state.
Reform and Masorti (Conservative) conversions performed in Israel are currently not recognized for the purposes of obtaining citizenship under the Law of Return, as are Orthodox conversions and non-Orthodox conversions conducted abroad.
In 2005, the two non-Orthodox Jewish denominations filed a petition to the court demanding that citizenship be granted to several converts who converted through their conversion systems in Israel.
In a decision issued on Monday, the High Court noted the extremely lengthy period of time since the petition was first filed and the numerous requests by the state to delay a ruling while it seeks to find a legislative solution.
It said, therefore, that there was no reason to further delay a ruling, although it asked the petitioning organizations to give an update on the current status of the petitioners seeking Israeli citizenship by December 21.
In a similar case in 2016, the High Court ruled that an individual who converted through a non-state, independent Orthodox rabbinical court must be granted citizenship under the Law of Return.
The non-Orthodox movements believe the court is likely to rule in their favor due to the similarities of the case.
The ultra-Orthodox political parties and their rabbinic leadership are fiercely opposed to any such recognition, and in a statement made just this week the Council of Torah Sages of the Degel Hatorah Party denounced any such recognition, against the background of the looming decision.
Shas chairman and Interior Minister Arye Deri has introduced legislation that would circumvent any High Court ruling granting non-Orthodox converts citizenship, although it has not been advanced beyond the preliminary stages.
“This is good news, and hopefully justice will be done for the people who want citizenship,” said Rabbi Andy Sacks, director of the Masorti Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly in Israel.
“Too many people have waited for too long, been left in limbo and denied the rights. We hope the court’s decision will recognize that the conversion process is not the monopoly of the few.”
A spokesman for Deri did not respond to a request for comment.