Majority of Israeli public believes conversion process needs a change

A survey was published that showed the opinions of the Israeli public regarding conversions.

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

A majority of the Israeli public believes that the existing conversion system needs to be changed, according to a survey conducted by the Institute for Jewish and Zionist Research that was published on Wednesday.

Some 60% of people believe that conversion authority should be shifted to the hands of individual city rabbis while 33% believe that the authority should remain in its current position. The conversion most opposed by the Israeli public is reform conversion, with 30% of people against it.

According to 64% of the Israeli public, conversion reforms are important because they will help hundreds of thousands of Israelis who are currently officially considered without a religion, while just over a quarter disagree that the matter is important.

The survey's participants were all religious with traditional people calling for the most extreme reforms. Older participants considered the matter to be more important than younger people.

In terms of solutions for religionless people, just over half of those surveyed said that civil marriage should be made possible for them, while 30% felt the problem would be solved by encouraging them to convert. Politically, the party with the largest percentage of voters supporting civil marriage (89%) is Yesh Atid.

In response to the difficulties faced by people who convert, more than half (54%) of Israelis, including mostly secular and traditional people, said that the process should be made easier so that as many potential converts as possible can finish the process, while more than a third (36%) believed that the process should stay as it is even if it means fewer converts.

Chief rabbis gathered to discuss reforms to the conversion and kashrut system  (credit: CHIEF RABBINATE)Chief rabbis gathered to discuss reforms to the conversion and kashrut system (credit: CHIEF RABBINATE)

"Strengthening the Jewish identity is a first-degree Zionist mission and is very important to Israeli society," said institute founder Daniel Goldman.

"The survey we conducted proves that a majority of the public believes that the current conversion system harms these goals and that it's time to create a new system that will make the conversion process accessible and will include populations and people who have been prevented from converting to go through the process and become a part of the Jewish people," he said.

The poll was published on the same day that Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana submitted a draft of his conversion reform plan to the Knesset, which aims to give conversion authority to municipal rabbis.