Conversion court packed with new haredi judges

Source in rabbinate claims many hand-picked by Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar.

shlomo amar 88 (photo credit: )
shlomo amar 88
(photo credit: )
A group of 22 new rabbinic conversion judges were chosen Monday by a special committee, nearly doubling the number of judges at a time when there are not enough prospective converts to go around. Rabbi Moshe Klein, deputy head of the Conversion Authority, said that while it is true that there is not a workload problem in the conversion courats, the new judges could foster a process of "brainstorming" that could improve the way conversions are performed. Klein also pointed out that four of the 22 newly appointed judges were protégés of Rabbi Nissim Karelitz, a highly respected halachic authority from Bnei Brak. "The fact that for the first time, haredim are being incorporated in the Conversion Authority, will lend credence and legitimacy to our conversions," said Klein. Haredi rabbis have been harshly critical of the Conversion Authority, claiming that the court panels, which are made up almost entirely of modern Orthodox rabbis, cannot be trusted. Haredi marriage registrars employed by the Chief Rabbinate routinely demand that those converted via the authority repeat the conversion process in a haredi rabbinic court. Last year, a haredi rabbi from Ashdod retroactively annulled a marriage performed two decades ago, in part because he said that he did not trust the rabbinic court that had performed the conversion. Rabbi Shaul Farber, head of ITIM, a non-profit organization that helps potential converts navigate rabbinic bureaucracy, said in response that the appointment of the judges would probably not do much to improve the way conversions are performed in Israel. "I don't believe that the main pitfall is the ineffectiveness of the judges," said Farber. "There are so many problems that potential converts encounter the second they begin the conversion and long before they ever make it to the conversion court." Farber also rejected the idea that the authority needed to appoint haredi judges to give itself legitimacy. "The judges that serve on the conversion courts are the cream of the religious Zionist community. They don't need the approbation of the haredi Right." A source in the rabbinate known to be hostile to Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar claimed that many of the new conversion judges were Amar's personal appointments. However, Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz said that the group of judges represented diverse backgrounds. "We have judges from all the yeshivot and from all the streams of Orthodoxy," said Peretz. The five-member committee chose all 22 of the candidates from a total of 64 who competed for the Civil Service tender. The committee is made up of Civil Service Commissioner Shmuel Hollander, Lipshitz College head Dr. Yaakov Hadani, Conversion Authority head Rabbi Haim Druckman, and Prof. Yaakov Ne'eman.