Israel’s new conversion statute strikes controversy

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By Maya Pottiger


Israel passed a law Nov. 2 that makes it easier for non-Jewish Israeli citizens to convert to Judaism.

The original statute only recognized conversions made by the Chief Rabbinate. This slowed the conversion process, and it caused some Israeli immigrants whose Jewish religion came into question after immigrating to Israel to feel like second-class citizens because the state didn’t recognize them as Jews under Halacha, or Jewish law, according to The Jerusalem Post.

Under the new law, municipal rabbis outside the Chief Rabbinate can establish their own conversion courts.

“I think [this law] is a lot more logical,” said Shira Gold, an Israeli exchange student at this university studying computer science. “I prefer the power of converting people being in the hands of the less powerful.”

The main controversy surrounding the law is that people might get Reform or Conservative conversions instead of Orthodox conversions. Some Orthodox Jews, like the members of the Chief Rabbinate, do not view Reform or Conservative conversions as legitimate, according to The Jerusalem Post. They do not believe these people are really Jewish under Jewish law.

“I don’t think conversion should be limited,” said Shachar Luny, a freshman mechanical engineering major. “I think this will allow the Jewish community to grow.”

Rabbi Ari Neuman, the JLIC Orthodox rabbi on campus, said he did not think the law is entirely beneficial. But mostly, he said, he wished there was more clarity behind the changes.

“I’ll be honest — I still don’t understand the ultimate change to the law,” Neuman said. “I know that this is taking conversion out of the hands of the Chief Rabbinate. I have mixed feelings about that. Also, making it easier to convert sounds like loosening the standards, but I haven’t really had clarity if that is true.”

Gold said she hopes immigrants will feel more accepted under the new law.

“I hope it makes them feel more welcome,” she said. “Hopefully, they will feel more like a part of the community.”

Luny said this change could help modernize society.

“There should be one global scale of Judaism,” he said. “The only way for there to be true peace is for everyone to be seen the same under Jewish law. Everyone should get the same amount of respect. People should be allowed to live their life as they see fit instead of being forced into practicing religion a certain way.”


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