Jewish Agency to enter conversion fray

Jewish Agency Assembly to discuss call for Israel to officially recognize non-Orthodox.

conversion class 248.88 (photo credit: Hilary Leila Krieger [file])
conversion class 248.88
(photo credit: Hilary Leila Krieger [file])
A resolution calling for Israel's official recognition of non-Orthodox conversions is expected to pass at the Jewish Agency Assembly in Jerusalem this week. For many at the Assembly meetings, the lack of government recognition for the non-Orthodox streams has become a barrier to Israel-Diaspora relations.
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  • Conversion Authority employees threaten to strike "The Israeli Orthodox establishment is probably the major religious obstacle to building a world Jewish community today," one Reform activist told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "It attacks the credibility of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, especially when the vast majority of Jews are not Orthodox." This sentiment is felt most acutely for those who've received conversions, where non-Orthodox conversions are recognized for the purpose of aliya, but not recognized by the official Israeli rabbinate for matters such as marriage, divorce and burial. "We will be calling for the [Jewish Agency] Assembly Board of Governors and Executives to take comprehensive action regarding the untenable conversion situation in Israel," said one Assembly member who will be working for the resolution's passage in at least one of the resolution committee meetings Monday. If the resolution passes at least one of these meetings - it will be presented in more than one - it will proceed to the general Assembly plenum on Tuesday morning, where it will be voted on by the Assembly, the Agency's 518-member representative body. According to the representative, the resolution will "urge that conversions conducted by rabbinic courts of the [non-Orthodox] streams be recognized." The current system, according to which the official conversion study program, the Joint Institute under the direction of Prof. Benjamin Ish-Shalom, represents different streams while the conversion itself is conducted in an Orthodox rabbinic court, has broken down, the representative said. "We found the rabbinate just doesn't do [the conversion] in the end," he said. The move comes in the wake of a call last week by Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski that Israel recognize the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism. "The time has come for the government and the rabbinate to show the millions of people from the Reform and Conservative movements that they are a part of us," he said. Ruth Eglash contributed to this report.