Only Orthodox conversions
Photo: Ata Uwisat

Time has come for secular conversion

Entrance keys into Jewish faith held solely by Orthodox hands; Yair Rotkovich says Jewish secularism should not stand on conversion sidelines

Religious ruling pertaining to conversion annulments has drastically changed over the years.


In 1972, Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, one of the greatest ultra-Orthodox rabbinical authorities, abandoned the high rabbinical court after Rabbi Shlomo Goren, the religious-Zionist retroactively annulled a conversion.


Rabbi Elyashiv explained why conversions cannot be annulled, saying that he believed that in this day and age, Jewish customs determining one’s proselytism are slightly different.


However, today the ultra-Orthodox and Elyashiv himself take the opposite approach to Rabbi Haim Drukman, the religious-Zionist who supported a less-rigorous religious conversion process and said that there will be no retroactive annulments of conversion.


Despite the fact that the religious Halacha is multi-faceted, the ordinates’ interests changed. When they want to make a situation easier or stricter, they find the fitting reference.


The secular public must be aware that the mutual interest between the ultra-Orthodox and the national religious is to prevent Jewish secularism from increasing in Israel and to render Judaism only through a religious, Orthodox definition.


The ultra-Orthodox are with their backs to the Jewish nation. Conversion policies conflicting with their truth are considered ignorantly wicked (secular) or dangerously slacking (Rabbi Drukman). Today, entrance keys into the Jewish nation are found solely in the hands of this group.


On the other hand, the national religious are “discovering” that the rabbinate is denying human rights. This time, it is deceiving converts. Regarding the crops of the fallow year they managed to force the growingly ultra-Orthodox rabbinate to act sanely regarding a secular land owner only because this would have harmed the economic interests of many.


However, in a country that functions like a business, there was no chance that this law would pass.


The absurd part of the conversion annulment by the ultra-Orthodox is not less severe than the absurd conversion process that the national religious set in motion. This process compelled secular converts to dress up as Orthodox Jews in order for the country to permit their Judaism.


Just who is a Jew?

Moreover, the objection to this is late and peculiar. Why was there utter silence for dozens of years when the rabbinical courts deprived women of their rights?


However, while in their daily existence and in practice religious-Zionists face the nation and try to take general responsibility, they also suffer from Hubris.


Israeli-Jewish Orthodoxy in all its hues has a stronghold on the country’s Jewish identity and is causing the Jewish nation to view itself narrowly, disallowing a wide-ranged identity for the masses. The claim that only Orthodox conversions can retain the nation’s unity causes a narrow, low, shameful common denominator pushing any other Jewish interpretation to ludicrousness, crushing Jewish identity and distancing Jews from their Judaism. We cannot agree to this.


Only the creation of a wide-ranged national movement, supporting a free Judaism can subdue the fears of “national segmentation.” For this reason, all educational institutions dealing with Jewish secular culture should not cooperate with strict or lenient orthodoxy, because the situation is very similar to an abused woman who stands before a decision of either being hit obtrusively or lightly.


We cannot wait for the political system with its hollow calculations. As of now, long-lasting public information activities are needed presenting secular Judaism as an essential, alive and relevant form of Judaism.


We must call upon secular converts and new immigrants considering conversion, making sure they don’t voluntarily cooperate with the rabbinic institution which is liable to cheat them and disqualify their secular lifestyles. We must proclaim that a Jew is also someone whose father is Jewish, a logical and fair definition.


We need to fulfill the obligation and the right to establish secular, Jewish conversion houses. They should be non-institutional and should be led by women and men alike; including converts into the Jewish nation according to Jewish, secular criteria.


Converts should be committed to and cooperative in the fate of the Jewish nation and state, to societal contribution and to military and civil service. They should be committed to passing on the traditions of the Jewish nation and the state. They should be part and parcel to the fate of the Jewish communities worldwide.


Yair Rotkovich is a secular-Jewish educator conducts secular-Jewish wedding ceremonies


פרסום ראשון: 06.19.08, 15:17
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