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Conversion certificate Photo: Gali Tibbon
Conversion certificate Photo: Gali Tibbon

Sharp drop in conversions recorded in 2008

New report reveals 27% decrease in conversions compared to year before. Authors say lack of consistent policy undermines motivation to convert

Kobi Nahshoni
Published: 05.28.09, 08:34 / Israel Jewish Scene

The number of conversions conducted in Israel dropped by 27% in 2008, compared to the previous year, a new report published by ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center revealed this week.


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According to the data, less than fifth of the converts come from the former Soviet republics – although their conversion are considered the most pressing, and the majority of converts are Falash Mura from Ethiopia.


The ITIM report is published annually on Shavuot. It found that 5,321 people converted to Judaism in Israel in 2008, compared to 7,280 in 2007.


The report's authors harshly criticize the way conversion annulments are carried out by the rabbinical courts, saying that a lack of consistent policy on the matter is the main problem and makes life very difficult for converts.


It also pointed to deficiencies in the treatment of "exceptional" cases (i.e. conversion candidates who are not eligible for an Israeli citizenship according to the Law of Return); in the process of appointing conversion court rabbinical judges; and in the authorization of conversions carried out abroad.


ITIM director, Rabbi Dr. Shaul Farber, presented in the report his proposed solutions for the conversion problems revealed in the document, including: Establishing one authority responsible for converts from Israel and abroad; granting the authority to revoke conversion only to the chief rabbi; publishing a list of conversion courts abroad that are recognized by the Chief Rabbinate, and more.


In a conversation with Ynet, Farber said: "I'm certain that the people who are part of the system are doing their best to address the problem, but the bureaucratic obstacles and the lack of a clear, consistent conversion policy gravely affect the motivation to convert."


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