US Jews rally against conversion bill

Leaders claim measure would harm ties with non-Orthodox Jewry.

Conversion 311 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Conversion 311
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski)
Angry reactions continued to pour in from North American Jewry over the passing of a controversial conversion bill by the Knesset's Law Committee on Monday.
Officials from a broad spectrum of Jewish organizations joined in condemning the passing of the bill which they said would put the haredi-controlled chief rabbinate in charge of conversions and harm ties with the predominantly non-Orthodox Jewish community in the US.
RELATED:Analysis: PM under pressure on conversionSharansky expresses disappointment over conversion billEditorial: Alienating the DiasporaAnalysis: Banal but trueRabbi Steven Wernick, executive vice president of the Conservative Movement, said his organization would not allow the bill to become a law.
“I think that [MK David] Rotem’s goal of easing the process of conversion in Israel is something we all support but this bill does more harm than good,” Wernick, who is currently on a visit to Israel, said. “It puts into the hands of the rabbinate, which we don’t have great confidence in, the authority for conversions and it’s a big issue for us.
He added: “If Israel wants to continue to be the land of the Jews it needs to become the land of all the Jews and I say that as someone who is wholly committed to the land of Israel.”
 Meanwhile, the Union for Reform Judaism (URJ) sent a letter to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu expressing its “dismay” regarding the legislation.
In the letter, URJ President Eric H. Yoffie questioned both the bill’s substance and its timing saying it could cause a rift in ties between Israel and U.S. Jewry when a joint effort is needed to face outside threats.
 “[The bill comes] at precisely the time when we are all working so hard to strengthen these ties and to deal with other concerns – such as Israel’s security and the nuclear threat from Iran,” he wrote.
Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said yesterday that the bill would not be allowed to become a law. A Prime Minister’s Office spokesperson told the Jerusalem Post yesterday that it was in the process of drafting a response to the URJ letter.