'Fire rabbis who don't recognize military conversion'
Immigration and Absorption Committee discusses municipal rabbis' refusal to marry graduates of IDF conversion program, calls for their dismissal and trial. Rabbinate representative: We will ordain more lenient marriage registrars in their stead. Reform movement: We will file civil suit against rabbis
Local rabbis who do not recognize military conversions must immediately step down from their posts, and the Chief Rabbinate must fire them or take them to court for disciplinary offenses, according to the Knesset Committee for Immigration, Absorption and Diaspora Affairs that discussed Wednesday municipal rabbis' refusal to marry individuals who underwent the IDF conversion course.
The committee demanded that the Chief Rabbinate issue a response within thirty days with an outline of the actions it has taken to rectify the current situation, which prevents citizens who have converted according to the law from obtaining marriage licenses.
At the end of a heated debate, a decision was reached in which the committee protested the fact that "many citizens find themselves abandoned and humiliated."
Members of Knesset called upon the Chief Rabbinate to ordain additional marriage registrars in every local council that has a stringent rabbi who does not recognize State conversions. The MKs also asked that the Justice Ministry issue a complaint against every such rabbi.
Haredi MKs who support the stringent approach as well as the rabbis themselves were not present at the debate, though they were invited to participate.
Founder and Director of the Jewish Life Information Center Rabbi Seth Farber tried to show how absurd the current situation is. "It is as if a police officer in Tel Aviv would not recognize a drivers' license issued in Jerusalem," he said.
Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism's Associate Director Rabbi Gilad Kariv said that he intends to file a damages suit against the said municipal rabbis and called upon all those affected by their strict policies to do the same.
'Final nail in the coffin'The Chief Rabbinate's legal advisor, Attorney Shimon Ullman, joined in the cause, and said that additional marriage registrars need to be ordained as a solution. Justice Ministry representative, Attorney Harel Goldberg, said that he will recommend to Justice Minister Yaakov Ne'eman that the stringent municipal rabbis be put on trial for disciplinary offences.
Rabbi Chaim Iram, who runs a conversion preparatory course at the Jewish Agency's Institute for Jewish Studies, said to Ynet that his staff mentors converts even after their conversion was completed. He said that those who have difficulties obtaining a marriage license are handled individually on a case-by-case even though this is not the responsibility of the institute.
Rabbi Iram said that now they are trying to raise the issue and treat it at its root.
Rabbi Moshe Klein, a former chief of the Prime Minister's Office's conversion authority, said to Ynet: "The debate on this issue in the Immigration Committee is entirely misplaced. There is no conversion in the State of Israel today, and the decision of municipal rabbis not to recognize State conversions is the last nail in its coffin.
"The steep decline in the number of people applying for conversion in 2009 prove that even the immigrant public understands that there is no sense in starting a process that has no chance of being finished, and, even if they would overcome all the hurdles and would obtain the sought-after conversion certificate, municipal rabbis acting on behalf of the State will not recognize it."