Chief rabbi agrees to new conversion c'tee

Amar caves in and approves appointment of 2 independent-minded members to 5-person team tasked with job of choosing new Conversion Authority head.

rabbi amar 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimsky)
rabbi amar 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimsky)
After fighting the move for over a month, Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar finally caved in Monday night and approved the appointment of two independent-minded members to a five-person committee tasked with the job of choosing a new head for the Conversion Authority. The two additional members will be law Prof. Yedidya Stern of Bar-Ilan University and Mirla Gal, former director-general of the Absorption Ministry. The other members of the committee include Amar, who is also the chairman, Cabinet Secretary Ovad Yehezkel and Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander. Amar had hoped to choose two people of his own liking, thus giving him the majority in the committee. In a telephone interview, Yehezkel told The Jerusalem Post that the five-man committee responsible for choosing someone to replace Rabbi Haim Druckman had been finalized. "This is going to be the committee. It's final," he said. On Monday night Amar and Yehezkel met to discuss their differences. Both sides said the meeting went well and also denied there had been any disputes over the appointment of Stern and Gal. "Rabbi Amar does not oppose the appointments of Stern and Gal," said Amar's spokesman Tuesday. "He just wants to be given the right as chairman to make the decisions." However, sources in the Conversion Authority told the Post that Amar had repeatedly postponed the convening of the committee in protest against the Stern and Gal appointments. Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of ITIM, a non-profit organization that helps prospective converts navigate the bureaucracy surrounding state-run conversion, said the delays in the appointment of a new conversion authority head have had very negative ramifications on the conversion campaign. "As long as no one is running the show millions of shekels earmarked to run the authority are being wasted," said Farber. "Thousands of potential converts are not being helped to join the Jewish people. It's a shame." Farber also said it was important that the new head of the conversion authority receive the full support of Amar. "Otherwise we risk the danger of having a conversion authority that has no rabbinic recognition whatsoever."