Israel Supreme Court Accepts Reformed and Conservative Conversions

  • The decision is of the most controversial issues in Israel.
  • Orthodox World Jewry are vehement against this decision.
  • Netanyahu aligned with the Ultra-Orthodox is against the decision.

After more than 15 years of petitioning and just three weeks ahead of elections, the High Court of Israel ruled that those that had converted to Judaism through reformed and conservative conversions in Israel will be recognized as Jewish by the State. The court also ruled that converts will be allowed to become full Israeli citizens under the law of return.

The court had delayed its decision for five years because of the necessity of the State to legislate this decision to settle the issue while the state was suffering instability already three elections.  The court could not remain patient on this issue and ruling while people’s rights were in the balance with no viable legislation on the way. People had come to Israel and had went through a conversion process through conservative and reformed Rabbinical and had petitioned for civil rights.

Israel chief Rabbis against legislation of this decision.

The State of Israel is a conglomerate of various factions of Jews who have survived the sufferings of the diaspora. In the government are various factions of Jews from completely secular, traditional, modern orthodox, and ultra-orthodox. The nation when it was formed gave power to the Orthodox Rabbinate to supervise over marriage, divorce and conversions. This decision is considered by the Orthodox Rabbinate as uprooting the status quo.

The next step in the process of accepting the decision of the high court is to initiate new legislation. The two chief Rabbis have criticized the decision and urged the Knesset to cancel it. Arye Deri the head of the Shas Sephardic Orthodox party emphasized that conversion to Judaism has to be according to Jewish law and any legislation in the Knesset must emphasize this point. He pledged to amend the ruling in the Knesset because this ruling would create a greater rift among the people.

Yair Lapid of the Yesh Atid opposition party praised the decision saying, we all need to live in mutual tolerance and respect. Avigdor Lieberman representing Russian Jewry in Israel has long been known to be against strict Orthodox conversions which have denied Russian Jewish immigrant full rights as citizens in Israel. Yesh Atid may be the second largest party in Israel in the coming elections.

This decision comes three weeks ahead of elections and will influence Israelis to which side of the government they will support in the next elections. Netanyahu is aligned with the religious parties. Netanyahu has not been able to make a government in the last two elections. Likud the strongest party in Israel has been split up by Gidyon Saar of New Hope Party who was part of Likud in previous elections. Already polls show that Netanyahu does not have enough mandates to take the Prime Minister position. New Hope and right Zionist Yamina party claim that they will not support a new government with Netanyahu as Prime Minister. The opposition parties according to polls have the majority but they will have to join Yair Lapid to make the government which will mean to agree to put this Supreme Court decision in Israeli law. Many Israelis following traditional Judaism are not happy with the court’s decision and may go with Netanyahu for this reason.

David Wexelman

Author of 5 books on the internet on topics of Jewish mysticism, managing two websites.

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