Rabbis refuse to recognize conversion to Judaism of hundreds of people who conducted the procedure in Israel, according to new findings revealed Monday.
According to the Conversion Authority documents seen by Ynet's sister publication Yedioth Ahronoth, at least 228 people who completed their conversions in full in the past few years had not received their certificate confirming they were considered Jewish by the state. Without the certificate, those people do not have rights given to Jews by law.
The information was released after a motion under The Freedom of Information Law was filed by the Itim organization, a non-profit assisting the public in their dealings with religious authorities.
Itim filed the motion after receiving a large number of requests from people who had not been granted the necessary documentation, having completed their conversion process.
The non-profit said that hundreds of cases they found were from conversions performed in the years 2017-2021, with Chief Rabbi Israel David Lau refusing to issue their conversion letters. The organization estimated there were hundreds more who had converted since 2021 and were facing similar troubles.
Lau's position was believed to be a vote of no-confidence in the government's conversion policies and in opposition to the rabbis appointed to the conversion task.
One such convert is "A" who arrived in Israel from the former Soviet Union with her family in 1992. The rabbinate retroactively rejected documents confirming her mother's Jewish heritage twice, prompting the woman to undergo a conversion which lasted three years and was completed in full.
However, her conversion certificate had not been issued.
"After my wedding, we were summoned to show that we were living a religious life in a religious community," she said.
"After we were able to provide the proof, the COVID pandemic began and we were again made to wait for their decision. Six months ago, we were told that our certificate was on its way, but it had not arrived," she said.
"We were told there is a problem of 'policy.' We did everything we were asked to do and presented all the requested documents. But still received no certificate. This is a real problem, a catastrophe," she added.
In another case monitored by Itime, a woman who converted in 2016, only now received her certificate.
Some of the problems appear to stem from the rabbinates' insistence that converts live their lives under religious laws, in contradiction to Halakha that states that a person is a Jew after the rabbinical panel is convinced that the person before them willingly joins the Jewish faith and has completed a full conversion. The Halakha does not allow for a conversion to be retracted.
But as A has said, the Chief Rabbi Lau refuses to issue the certificate even when their own demands are met.
Itim founder Rabbi Seth Farber, the Chief Rabbinates behavior is unacceptable. "We are seeing many people asking to be converted through alternative conversion panels after being disappointed by the Rabbinate.
"Holding people hostage in such a manner is uncalled for, especially for converts that our faith compounds us to love and accept," he said.
Israel's conversion authorities say in response that there conversion process is being digitized and some delays are a result of names being transferred from the old system to the new one.
"After our investigation, we found that 85 conversions made in 2021 have not been issued the certificate and we will work to rectify the situation quickly."