10 new conversion judges await A-G's OK

Mazuz needs to decide if civil service appointments can be made ahead of upcoming national elections.

shlomo amar 88 (photo credit: )
shlomo amar 88
(photo credit: )
A committee headed by Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar appointed 10 new conversion court judges during a meeting on Sunday in the chief rabbi's office. The appointees await the approval of the attorney general, who will decide whether civil service appointments can be made ahead of national elections. Others who attended the meeting included Rabbi Haim Druckman, head of the state's Conversion Authority; Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander; and Prof. Ya'acov Ne'eman, who headed the Ne'eman Commission on Conversions. According to Amar's spokesman, the appointments were part of a previous request by the chief rabbi to appoint 21 new conversion court judges. "Of the 21, the 10 most qualified judges were chosen," said the spokesman. "All of them are qualified to serve as rabbinical judges or as chief rabbis of cities." Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of ITIM, a non-profit organization that helps Israelis navigate the bureaucracies of the Chief Rabbinate, said the appointments were the wrong move at the wrong time. "A new head for the Conversion Authority still has not been chosen," Farber said. "The conversion authority needs someone with vision who can map out a new direction, not more judges." Since the Civil Service Commission and Prime Minister's Office decided half a year ago that Druckman, the present head of the Conversion Authority, would be replaced, no new candidates have been proposed. Amar and Ovad Yehezkel, director-general of the Prime Minister's Office, are at loggerheads over the composition of the committee that is supposed to choose the new head. The Prime Minister's Office is responsible for the Conversion Authority, and Yehezkel has appointed liberal-minded public figures against Amar's will. When Amar first proposed the appointment of new judges a few months ago, several of the approximately 20 judges already serving on conversion courts said there was not enough work to go around. The judges are paid according to the number of conversions they perform. Sources in the Conversion Authority said that the new appointments, if approved by the attorney general, would increase tensions between the existing judges and Amar. Sources close to Amar said the appointments would strengthen the Conversion Authority by adding a cadre of highly qualified judges.