Photo: Gil Yohanan
Rabbi Shlomo Amar
Photo: Gil Yohanan
Sephardic rabbi wants tougher conversions
Rabbi Shlomo Amar presents draft bill to Prime Minister Olmert aimed at toughening conversions to Judaism, tightening immigration laws

Ynet has learned that Sephardic Chief Rbbi Shlomo Amar presented Prime Minister Ehud Olmert with a draft bill aimed at rendering reformist conversions invalid for immigration to Israel and granting citizenship.


The Chief Rabbinate said the bill is "a move aimed at preventing a situation where there are two peoples in the State of Israel."


As a first step Amar wants the clause "or we’ll convert" to be omitted from the Law of Return. Amar wants the law to stop being applied on all conversions: Reformist, conservative or Orthodox.


Under the current law rabbinical courts are unauthorized to deal with conversion.


"There is a need to fix in a principle law the Chief Rabbinate's authority with regards to conversions," read the draft.


The Chief Rabbinate is pressing for the law as the High Court has been asked by the reform movement to make reform conversions in Israel valid under law, as much as reform conversions abroad are.


"Over the last 10 years the concept of 'conversion' lost its religious meaning and became an 'immigration' term, through which non-Jews automatically seek Israeli nationality under the Law of Return, with intentions to join the Jewish people," Amar wrote.


Amar also complained about foreign workers whose work permits expired and who fail to find an Israeli partner, therefore seeking to convert as a means to stay in Israel.


Amar said the High Court is currently dealing with 12 petitions submitted by the Reform Movement seeking approval for reform converts to stay in Israel under the Law of Return.


'If High Court recognizes conversions, convert can't marry' 

Amar suggests that converts be allowed to become Israeli citizens under the Citizenship Law and that the Law of Return be limited to foreign nationals whose mothers are Jewish.


"According to past experiences, the is a high chance that the High Court accepts the petitions and grants these converts rights according to the Law of Return. It is clear that even if this were to happen, these will not be recognized by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel as the religions of Moses and Israel," he wrote.


He said that reform converts, who are allowed to stay in Israel under a High Court decree, won't be able to get married in Israel because the Chief Rabbinate won't recognize their conversions, and therefore they will seek to marry non-Jews – a phenomenon he said would polarize Israeli society.


Shimon Yaackovi, an attorney for the Chief Rabbinate in Israel suggested that foreign workers and other foreign nationals seeking to stay in Israel be allowed to do so under purely civilian legislations, as is the case with the Green Card in the United States. This he said will prevent them from using reform conversions for economic and other gains.


Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the reform movement said in response: "That's a baseless and anti-Jewish bill, it is a foolish attempt to revive the conversion law and to incite anew its controversy in the Jewish world. It is sad to see that in the name of protecting the orthodox monopole the Chief Rabbinate is ready to harm basic Jewish values, such as the forbiddance to differentiate between a convert and a Jew at birth."


He said he hopes the prime minister will reject the bill.


Amar however said he is confident the bill is just and will be adopted by the prime minister.


פרסום ראשון: 11.20.06, 13:50
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