Mahanayim rosh yeshiva expresses support for Kahana's conversion reform

The rosh yeshiva of Mahanayim expressed support for Matan Kahana's plan to reform the conversion system in Israel.

 Rabbi Shlomo Wilk (left) and Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana (right) (photo credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90, Mahanayim Hesder Yeshiva)
Rabbi Shlomo Wilk (left) and Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana (right)
(photo credit: GERSHON ELINSON/FLASH90, Mahanayim Hesder Yeshiva)

The rosh yeshiva of the Mahanayim hesder yeshiva, Rabbi Shlomo Wilk, expressed support for Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana’s plan to reform the system for Jewish conversion on Thursday, calling it the "best and most appropriate solution."

"Your work in the ministry is a great correction for heaven's sake and for the good of the people of Israel," wrote Wilk. "As someone who has sat in the halachic conversion courts founded by the late Rabbi Nahum Rabinovitch for many years, I am well aware of the importance of the Chief Rabbinate and the existing conversion system, and yet also the need to correct and strengthen and find paths for those who want to join the people of Israel and need a personal and halachic answer that will give a space for their desire to join the people of Israel and their Torah."

In 2015, Rabinovitch, together with a number of other national-religious rabbis, formed a network of conversion courts to work independently from the Rabbinate's conversion system. The network was formed to help convert Israeli citizens from the former Soviet Union who are not considered Jewish according to Jewish law. Rabinovitch had ruled that a more lenient approach could be adopted for people of Jewish descent that has been demonstrated by the Rabbinate's system.

The reform plan being pushed forward by Kahana aims to make conversion more accessible and welcome will allow the municipal chief rabbis to establish conversion courts and use leniencies in Jewish law to convert citizens who are of Jewish descent but not Jewish according to Jewish law.

Kahana’s proposals include forming a rabbinical committee after legislation is passed that will determine the parameters under which the conversion courts established by municipal chief rabbis will operate.

PROTESTERS GATHER outside the Chief Rabbinate offices in Jerusalem, against the Rabbinate’s 2016 disqualification of American rabbis’ conversions (credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)PROTESTERS GATHER outside the Chief Rabbinate offices in Jerusalem, against the Rabbinate’s 2016 disqualification of American rabbis’ conversions (credit: HADAS PARUSH/FLASH90)

Kahana’s legislation also grants the chief rabbis and the Council of the Chief Rabbinate the power, under certain circumstances, to revoke the appointment of a rabbinical judge on the new conversion courts.

Wilk wrote that he thinks that the outline proposed by Kahana is "the best and most appropriate solution."

"Unfortunately, large forces are standing in front of you that oppose these important moves, and as always, this is not a matter of halacha or the good of the people of Israel, but a desire to maintain 'order,'" added Wilk. "However, as important as order is, the truth and the request of God is more important than it. And at just such a moment you came to power, to please God and man."

The reform plan has faced opposition from some rabbis, including the Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel Rabbi David Lau who has called the plan a "spiritual disaster and a serious injury to the Judaism of the State of Israel."

"Apart from the fact that the outline empties the powers of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel and its authority regarding conversion, the outline will result in a lack of recognition of the conversion system by Israeli rabbis in Israel and around the world," added Lau.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.