Non-Orthodox groups were guardedly optimistic about a proposal by former Shas MK Moshe Nissim Sunday to create a to create a national conversion authority that would aim to streamline conversion to Judaism by taking the subject out of the hands of the Chief Rabbinate. But supporters of the rabbinate said they would fight the plan.
Yizhar Hess, the Executive Director of the Masorti (Conservative) Movement in Israel said Nissim’s proposal, which would take conversation out of the hands of the chief rabbinate by creating a National Conversion Authority, to be headed by a political appointment and to be overseen by a committee including the prime minister (or a representative), the sitting justice minister, the heads of the Knesset Committee and the Jewish Agency and the two chief rabbis, is “more than a little revolutionary.”
“Taking conversion out of the hands of the Chief Rabbinate and giving it to a separate, independent conversion body would be excellent. The fact that the heads (of this authority) would be appointed by the prime minister, and that the chief rabbis would be members of the steering committee (but without a veto) is very brave and significant.”
On the other hand, Reform leader Gilad Kariv said the proposal did little to dilute the fact that haredi political parties will always oppose plans that stand to create a national consensus or compromise on conversion.
“It is clear from the outset that the haredi parties and the rabbinic establishment will doom this proposal to failure. This is another proof that they are not interested in any roadmap to national consensus or compromise,” Kariv said.
Rabbi Uri Regev, a former president of the World Union for Progressive Judaism and founder of the Hiddush organization for religious freedom and equality, said the choice of Moshe Nissim to head a committee to propose a solution to the conversion issue meant little more than solidifying the Orthodox monopoly over conversion in Israel.
“But the encouraging news is that this proposal has no chance of moving past the embryonic phase. For the haredim recognizing liberal Orthodoxy is something offensive that must be excised… We can only hope that the non-Orthodox movements around the world will make it clear that adopting this proposal is a red line that would worsen the split between Israel and the Diaspora,” Regev said.
Supporters of the Rabbinate were quick to confirm Kariv’s and Regev’s suspicion. Chief Rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef, Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, the chairman of the Shas Party, the United Torah Judaism Party and the National Union faction of the Jewish Home Party all came out in opposition to the proposal, which opponents say would constitute a “risk to the future of the Jewish people” by opening the door to a relaxing of conversation standards.
“I am absolutely opposed to these recommendations and I will make sure they are not even tabled for discussion,” said Deri in a statement. “The only person authorized to propose bills on conversion is the interior minister, and it is absolutely clear that I will not table this bill.”
Rabbi David Stav, the head of the Tzohar rabbinic organization and the founder of the Giyur K’Halacha (conversion according to Jewish Law) program, added that “mixing politics with Jewish law (halacha) is a disaster for Jewish law and very bad for the state. Conversion is an halachic concept, and Jewish tradition has placed the issue in the hands of Torah scholars… we must not have a situation in which politicians decide who is a convert and what Jewish law is.”
By: TPS Staff
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