What the Conversion Bill means for thousands
If the bill passes in the Knesset following a ministerial decision on Sunday, thousands of people in Israel and abroad who underwent private conversions according to halacha would be stripped of their recognition as Jews, and would not be eligible to move to Israel under the Law of Return; 'I converted, did the army, and now I have no religion.'
The Conversion Bill that the government approved on Sunday in the Ministerial Committee on Legislation has sparked outrage, not only because it keeps the monopoly on all conversions firmly in the hands of Israel’s ultra-Orthodox establishment, but also because of its ramifications for people who have already converted to Judaism.
The aim of the bill is to bypass a 2016 ruling by Israel’s High Court of Justice (HCJ) which said that private conversions independent of the state must be recognized if they were conducted according to halacha (Jewish Law).
If the proposed bill does manage to pass in the Knesset, people both within and outside Israel who have undergone such conversations will no longer be recognized as Jews by the state.
Significantly, those who have undergone the process abroad will not be able to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return.
The bill therefore has left many in a state of confusion and disappointment, and many more feel disheartened about where they fit within Jewish society.
The number of people who would be affected by the bill if ratified is estimated to be in the thousands, despite many of them having graduated their conversions in private orthodox courts in Israel.
According to the HCJ ruling, they were recognized as Jews and therefore eligible to receive citizenship under the Law of Return. As a result of that ruling, the number of applicants to the private conversion enterprises leaped significantly, with a current growth rate of around 500 per year.
“The reason that I am doing this interview anonymously is because I am single and I am scared that I won’t be able to marry someone if they know that at the moment I am not recognized as a Jew,” one man, ‘N’, said in an interview with Ynet. “I am a traditional person.
“We immigrated to Israel from the Caucasus and there my grandfather and grandmother got married inside the house with just a few close friends because everyone in the area were Muslims. I had my brit milah (circumcision) in the same way,” N explained.
“I did the conversion according to halacha in the private Jewish court that conducts completely orthodox conversions and I finished the process a year ago. Now they are telling me they are nullifying it,” he lamented. “I served in the IDF proudly, I do reserve duty, I am a traditional person and now they are saying I have no religion.”