Bill calls for more rabbis to perform conversions

Shas and Kadima MKs currently against bill, which they feel will empower rabbis who are not qualified to perform conversions up to the current rabbinate's standard.

chabad rabbis 298 88 (photo credit: Chabad)
chabad rabbis 298 88
(photo credit: Chabad)
Several hundred rabbis would be authorized to perform conversions according to a bill proposed by MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) Sunday. The bill seeks to alleviate the current bottleneck of immigrants awaiting to begin their conversion process, said Rotem. On Sunday, the Ministerial Committee for Legislation said it they would need an additional 30 days to review the bill. If its members voted in favor of the bill, the legislation would receive the coalition's support and likely become law. Shas and Kadima MKs are currently against the bill, which they feel would empower rabbis who are not qualified to perform conversions up to the current rabbinate's standard. Rotem said that the Chief Rabbinate had once permitted all municipal rabbis to conduct conversions. "They are trying to increase their power by keeping in a few hands," said Rotem. "There are too many people who are waiting for conversions. It's not fair to keep them waiting in this way." Rotem added that the majority of those affected were immigrants from the former Soviet Union (FSU). Almost 300,000 immigrants from FSC countries are currently classified either as non-Jews, or as not having any religion by the state of Israel. The process of their conversion has long been a subject of debate, with several leading organizations accusing the Conversion Authority's process of excessive red tape. Last month, the Knesset State Comptroller Committee asked State Comptroller Micha Lindenstrauss to investigate the Conversion Authority. They presented figures which showed that prospective converts were delayed by months, and on occasion, years, by the Exceptional Cases Committee. All individuals residing in Israel who wish to convert to Judaism but who do not have Israeli citizenship must receive the approval of the Exceptional Cases Committee to embark on the preparatory studies that precede conversion. Since conversion to Judaism automatically grants Israeli citizenship, the decision to permit a prospective convert to begin the conversion process is not just a religious issue, it is also one of naturalization.