Chief Rabbinate reaffirms conversions policy

Controversial policy does not accept conversions made overseas by new rabbinic judges.

amar 298.88 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
amar 298.88
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])
The Chief Rabbinate's supreme ruling council issued a statement Tuesday reaffirming its new overseas conversion policy, which has come under attack by the Diaspora rabbinic establishment. The statement was released just one day before Rabbinic Council of America (RCA) representatives were slated to meet with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to "clarify" the new policy. Amar, who is the president of the rabbinic courts and is responsible for conversion policy, decided close to two years ago not to accept conversions made by new rabbinic judges. Only conversions performed by rabbinic judges already recognized and authorized by the Israeli rabbinate would be considered valid. All new rabbinic judges who wished to have their conversions recognized by the rabbinate were required to come to Jerusalem and pass a test before a panel of three senior Israeli rabbinate representatives. The move was seen by Diaspora rabbis as the undermining of a 2,000-year-old tradition in which senior rabbis all over the world had the power to ordain students they deemed qualified. Amar's resolution was an attempt to concentrate power in the hands of the Chief Rabbinate. One rabbi was quoted as saying that Amar was trying to turn himself into a pope-like figure. Rabbi Basil Herring, executive vice president of the RCA, while reserved and cautious ahead of Wednesday's meeting reacted positively to the statement. In a carefully worded response, Herring, speaking from New York, said that, "we are pleased the rabbinate is reaffirming the status quo of recognized rabbis. We are also pleased that those already converted will remain recognized. "As to the future, we are hopeful that all conversions properly done will be recognized by the rabbinate." Herring said that it was not completely clear from the rabbinate's statement what would be the status of new rabbis. "We are looking forward to working together with the rabbinate on the drafting of mutually acceptable procedures for the recognition of conversion judges," he said.