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Israeli conversion conference celebrations Photo: Eli Elgarat
Israeli conversion conference celebrations Photo: Eli Elgarat
 
Gesher's Shoshi Becker Photo: Motti Hakshur
Gesher's Shoshi Becker Photo: Motti Hakshur
 
 

Conversion survey: IDF over religion

Study conducted for Ynet, Gesher shows serving in IDF more important criterion than keeping commandments regarding who to convert to Judaism

Kobi Nahshoni
Published: 06.11.08, 08:45 / Israel Jewish Scene

The Israeli conversion system is in a crisis, but “sociological conversion” is already present.

 

A special survey conducted for Ynet Judaism and the Gesher organization revealed that the Israeli public believes that serving in the IDF is considered a more important criterion than keeping the commandments when deciding upon whether or not someone is conversion-worthy.

 

Rabbi Chaim Drukman and the religious-Zionist rabbis are the preferred religious judges and in second place there is almost a tie between the ultra-Orthodox, reform and conservative institutions.

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The Ynet-Gesher survey was conducted by the Mutagim Institute within a national model representative of the Jewish, adult, Hebrew-speaking population of Israel.

 

In the first part of the survey, participants were asked, “In your opinion, what is the most important criterion when deciding whether or not to convert someone to Judaism?”

 

Thirty-one percent said that they or their children need to serve in the army, 29% said that the commitment to abide by the commandments is more important and 28% said that the main criterion is if the applicant is offspring to an assimilated Jewish family. Twelve percent refused to answer the question.

 

The results of the analysis show that keeping the commandments is most important for men, young people between the ages of 18-44 and people who did not complete their high school education. However, women, people 45 and older and academics placed this condition in third place, preferring service in the IDF.

 

Parenthood also affected the results. Respondents who are not yet parents (single, married, divorced of widowed without children) stated that keeping the commandments is more important while parents (married, widowed or divorced with children), preferred army service as the main criterion in choosing a conversion candidate.

 

Ultra-orthodox or reform? 

The second question in the survey was, “If you had a non-Jewish friend interested in conversion, who would you want to convert them?”

 

Thirty-six percent chose a national religious rabbi who follows in the footsteps of the exiting conversion system’s leader, Chaim Drukman. Twenty-six percent prefer an ultra-Orthodox rabbi and 25% would send their friend to a reform or conservative rabbi. Thirteen percent of the participants did not respond to the question.

 

Analysis of the results show that women and respondents 45 years-of-age and older prefer a reform or conservative rabbi over an ultra-Orthodox religious judge as opposed to men and people aged 25-34 who place ultra-Orthodox rabbis in second place below religious-Zionist rabbis.

 

People aged 35-44 were split between the ultra-Orthodox and reform/conservative in second place and the youngest respondents in the age group of 18-24 were the only ones who placed the ultra-Orthodox religious judges at the top of the list with 38%, placing the religious-Zionists in second place.

 

An additional analysis revealed that as the respondent’s age increased so did their desire to allow for a less grueling conversion. Academics with at least a Bachelor’s degree were the only ones who chose reform or conservative rabbis and placed the ultra-Orthodox in third place.

 

Those with an intermediate education, part of high school, high school or post high school education chose the religious-Zionists and then the ultra-Orthodox. Moreover, those who completed elementary school or less voted equally for religious-Zionists and ultra-Orthodox.

 

Gesher Director Shoshi Becker said that “trust in Rabbi Drukman is much larger amongst the religious-Zionists in the public. On the other hand, a significant split between the respondents choosing between conservative and reform and those preferring an ultra-Orthodox conversion proves that there is a fundamental division that the nation has not yet decided upon.”

 

“The different approaches to the conversion criteria, as expressed through the survey indicate that there is not only a division amongst the religious leadership but also in the gaps prevalent in the Jewish nation in its entirety in essential questions regarding its future. There is a significant fragmentation that will demand attention in the years to come,” added Becker. 

 

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