High Court praised for helping to stop Beit Din's 'inquisition' of converts to Judaism

Women's groups and those working with converts welcomed the ground-breaking decision of the country's secular High Court of Justice Monday, which called on the Beth Din (Rabbinic Court) to justify its annulment of several Jewish conversions made by the government-appointed National Conversion Authority, headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman. "This is a very positive and important step to stop the ongoing inquisition by the Beth Din of converts to Judaism," said attorney Susan Weiss, founder and executive director of the Center for Women's Justice, which brought together some 15 organizations and individuals in a High Court petition questioning the authority of the Rabbinic Courts to cancel conversions. "[The behavior of the Beth Din] means that converts are never quite sure if their status as a Jew is final," she said. Weiss said one of the individuals named in Monday's hearing - a Danish-born woman from Ashdod whose 15-year-old conversion was annulled in a 2007 Beth Din ruling - asked at the end of Monday's court proceedings, "Am I a Jew or not?" She has three children. "The current situation is unacceptable," Weiss said. "The Beth Din should not have the jurisdiction to question a person's Judaism once they have been converted." The three high court judges in Monday's hearing gave the Rabbinic Court 90 days to explain why these conversions had been revoked and addressed the case of the Ashdod woman, calling for her name to be removed immediately from a list banning her from marrying a Jew in the future. "We hope that this direction will eventually stop to the Rabbinic Courts from making irresponsible decisions that destroy people's lives," said Rabbi Seth Farber, founder and director of Itim, an organization that assists Jewish converts in navigating the immense bureaucracy. That 2007 Ashdod case had been followed by several more instances of conversions being revoked, Farber said. "We plan to call for a complete overhaul of how conversions can be annulled and demand that only the chief rabbi of Israel be able to make such a decision," he continued, adding that "at the moment, it is pure chaos and basically turning many people away from converting to Judaism."