Why you should care about Conversion Bill (even if you aren’t a convert)
Op-ed: The moment Israel doesn’t accept the converts of any stream of Judaism, it isn’t accepting its community as a whole. It’s shutting the doors on people who your communities welcomed with open arms and are an integral part in the building of your Jewish communal life.
Most Jews around the world have heard about Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu suspending the 2016 policy allowing egalitarian prayer at the Western Wall. It has already caused the deepening of a rift between Israel and the Jewish Diaspora that has been growing during the past decade.
However, there is another bill that is quietly making its way through the Knesset that will administer another blow, if not be an outright assault, on Jews around the world. It is the Conversion Bill that will strip the recognition of Jews who underwent private conversions in Israel independent of the state and would make them ineligible to make aliyah under the Law of Return.
This bill will directly affect past, present and future converts. It also indirectly affects all Jews from any type of progressive stream of Judaism, even if you aren't a convert or a descendant of a convert. The moment that the government of Israel does not recognize your converts, then they are not recognizing you.
This Conversion Bill is a direct affront on Jews around the world, on their belief systems and the authority of their rabbis. The moment that Israel does not accept the converts of any stream of Judaism, then it is not accepting its community as a whole. They are shutting the doors on people who your communities welcomed with open arms and are integral in building your Jewish communal life.
It won’t stop there. Converts are only the canary in the coal mine of the ultra-Orthodox’s monopoly of Judaism in Israel. They may be coming after your converts first, but ultra-Orthodox leaders’ hatred towards Reform, Conservative, and egalitarian streams of Judaism runs deep. It stretches from convincing much of the Israeli public that Reform or Conservative rabbis and Reform and Conservative Jews are not real rabbis or real Jews, by using derogatory and inflammatory statements to limiting financial funding for m progressive streams of Judaism in the state. There was even a law calling for jailing for two years any rabbi not approved by the Rabbinate if he or she performed a marriage ceremony in Israel, including jailing the bride and groom.
Just as in the United States, the religious extremists are trying to chip away at minority, women’s and LGBTQ rights, the religious extremists are attempting to implement discriminatory religious policy in Israel.
I know it is overwhelming with news stories about anti-progressive legislation coming from all directions, but as an American Jew, who grew up in a Conservative synagogue, who is the daughter of a Reform convert, who made aliyah to Israel and served in the IDF, I am asking you to get involved. To not only stand up for my Jewish identity, but to also stand up for yours.
Jessica Fishman is the author of ‘Chutzpah and High Heels: The Search for Love and Identity in the Holy Land.’ She speaks and writes about her experience with the ultra-Orthodox monopoly in Israel in order to inspire social change.