Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg
Chief Rabbi David Lau. 'There is no reason to change the conversion system'
Photo: Ohad Zwigenberg

Chief rabbi: Conversion law will be exploited by African infiltrators

Israel's Chief Rabbinate appoints committee to decide on new policy in light of government's approval of controversial bill for Knesset vote.

The Chief Rabbinate Council has announced the appointment of a committee to decide on a new policy in light of the government's approval of a controversial bill on Jewish conversion for a second and third reading in the Knesset.



The committee, which will be led by Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, will discuss the news situation in which local rabbis will be authorized to convert people to Judaism on behalf of the State of Israel and will decide whether these conversions should be recognized.


If the religious establishment rejects the conversions, will likely reach the High Court of Justice.


"It's unthinkable that a doctor would receive instructions from the Israeli government, and that the government would dictate which medicine he should prescribe for pneumonia," said the Council's president, Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau, at the start of Monday's meeting.


According to the rabbi's allegory, the Orthodox rabbis are the "professionals" on halachic issues and so their opinion should be considered when it comes to conversions.


Those opposing the government's decision are mainly concerned about the conversion of minors, which is halachically disputable. A precondition for joining the Jewish people is committing to observe the Torah's mitzvot (on one level or another), but babies are unable to make this commitment, and the limited discretion of children and teenagers does not allow it either.


Conservative rabbis, therefore, avoid the conversion of minors, while liberal rabbis recognize religious education as a guarantee that the children will be raised to observe mitzvoth.


Chief rabbi says illegal residents 'will do everything to enjoy what the state has to offer' (Archive photo: Motti Kimchi)
Chief rabbi says illegal residents 'will do everything to enjoy what the state has to offer' (Archive photo: Motti Kimchi)


"We respect the rabbis. We have nothing against any (city) rabbi," Rabbi Lau said Monday. But in order to illustrate the danger they believe the government decision contains, the chief rabbis went as far as presenting the infiltrators from Africa as an example.


"The law says that Jews are entitled to acquire citizenship in Israel. In other words, anyone who has undergone conversion is entitled to acquire citizenship," said Rabbi Lau. "The State of Israel is dealing with a significant number of illegal residents, and they will do everything to enjoy what the state has to offer.


"We don't see any reason for the conversion system in Israel not to be subject to the Conversion Administration, as it has been until today, in the suitable, respectable and proper way," he concluded. "There is no reason to change this."


In a statement released Sunday upon the government's approval of the conversion reform, the chief rabbis said that the Chief Rabbinate found the decision unacceptable. "It deceives the proselyte in a way, and will cause injustice to the converts."


The bill, initiated by Knesset Member Elazar Stern of Hatnua faction, seeks to expand the possibilities of conversion. According to proposal, 30 additional conversion panels will be appointed, each consisting of three religious judges. Currently, only 30 religious judges are authorized to convert people to Judaism.


In addition, each citizen will be able to choose where the conversion will be performed. Today, one can only convert in one's residential zone. According to the proposal, city rabbis' authorities will be expanded, allowing them to covert people. Currently, this procedure is only performed by the Chief Rabbinate's court.


פרסום ראשון: 11.06.14, 00:36
 new comment
This will delete your current comment