Bill legislating all IDF conversions could undermine rabbis

Chief Rabbinate panel’s validity challenged by bill submitted by MK Rotem that would make all military conversions valid and irrevocable.

Rotem 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
Rotem 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski/The Jerusalem Post))
The committee of rabbis appointed last week by the Chief Rabbinical Council to examine military and civilian conversions faces two obstacles that could seriously undermine its validity.
MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu), chairman of the Knesset Law Committee, submitted a bill to the Knesset secretariat on Sunday that would make all military conversions valid and irrevocable. Rotem’s bill, cosponsored by MK Robert Ilatov, also from Israel Beiteinu, came after the Chief Rabbinical Council on Thursday formed a committee to examine the conversion processes, not only in the IDF, but also in the State Conversion Authority. Its recommendations will be handed to Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar within four months.
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Amar will then announce his endorsement – or non-endorsement – of military conversions.
For many months, an angry Rotem has tried to pass a law that he hoped would make Orthodox conversions in Israel more accessible and welcoming.
While his drive has aroused tumultuous debate on the topic, there have been no legislative changes as of yet.
Rotem declared on Thursday he intended to both cement the status of military conversions and dissolve the Chief Rabbinical Council by law, though Sunday’s bill does not deal with the latter.
In the bill’s explanatory notes, the legislators wrote that “to erase all doubt regarding the validity of the IDF conversions, which have been unnecessarily questioned, and to remove the mist of uncertainty enveloping those who underwent the process and are undergoing it now, this bill proposes to clearly and unequivocally determine that the conversions... are halachically valid. All the state’s institutions should recognize them and cast no doubt on them.”
Rotem said “all [military] conversions are ‘kosher lemehadrin’ and ‘impeccable.’ I am sorry that due to pressure, there are those who cast doubt on the Judaism of hundreds of thousands of individuals who served in the IDF and risked their lives for the state.
“Nobody will want to convert in the army anymore, and we will face a huge problem.
We will be facing the need to apologize to those whose conversions we doubted,” he added.
A further blow to the newly formed five-man council came from within, when one of the appointed members tendered his resignation.
“After considering [taking part in the council] and consulting with a leading rabbi, I have decided that since the committee has no authority beyond submitting recommendations [which will not necessarily be implemented], I cannot accept the appointment.”
So wrote Chief Beersheba Rabbi Yehuda Dery to the head of the Chief Rabbinical Council Rabbi Haim Hemdinger on Friday.
There was no indication from the Chief Rabbinate on whether a new member would be appointed.