Court's conversion decision could cost state NIS 7m.

Changes to the process of preparing potential converts to Judaism could cost the state an additional NIS 7 million and will require a complete overhaul of the current system's stringent criteria, according to Avigdor Levitan, who heads the Immigrant Absorption Ministry's Conversion Division. The division oversees and funds the work of 13 non-profit schools and institutions involved in teaching the basics of Orthodox Judaism. "At the moment each school meets a clear criteria laid out by us and the Justice Ministry that ensures converts are adequately prepared to meet the conversion requirements laid out by the Beth Din (Rabbinic Courts)," Levitan told The Jerusalem Post Wednesday. "If the state determines that we must also allow for schools to teach Reform and Conservative Judaism then, of course, we will comply with that decision." However, such a change would cost the state an additional NIS 7m. on top of the current NIS 27m. it already spends on the process, he said. "If that is what is decided then I will have to approach the treasury for an increase in budget," he said, adding the current criterion that governs the schools and institutions providing conversion preparation will also have to be modified. Asked what would happen when a person eventually completed a Reform or Conservative Jewish conversion track and the Beth Din refused to recognize their studies, Levitan said he had no answer. "I'm not sure the court took that into account," he observed, adding that currently Israel does not officially recognize Reform or Conservative conversions. "Perhaps a conversion authority for Reform and Conservative Judaism will have to be established, but that is not up to me, the ministry will do whatever it is asked to do by law." Some 6,000 people, most of whom made aliya under the Law of Return, are currently undergoing conversions under the auspices of the ministry. Most of them are from Russian-speaking countries but there are also English, Spanish and French speakers among them.