Israel Slower To Welcome Converts

New Jews Find Legal Roadblocks on Road to Citizenship

Wedding Woes: Rabbi Seth Farber (right) presides over the wedding of a man who is a convert to Judaism. Some rabbis will not marry converts, who are also facing roadblocks on the path to Israeli citizenship.
courtesy of seth farber
Wedding Woes: Rabbi Seth Farber (right) presides over the wedding of a man who is a convert to Judaism. Some rabbis will not marry converts, who are also facing roadblocks on the path to Israeli citizenship.

By Nathan Jeffay

Published April 25, 2012, issue of May 04, 2012.
  • Print
  • Share Share
  • Single Page

(page 2 of 2)

Bikus lays claim to not one but two Orthodox conversions. She converted with a Haredi, or ultra-Orthodox, conversion panel, or beit din, several years ago, during a six-year stint living in the Israeli town of Bnei Brak on a temporary visa. Knowing that Israel does not accept this beit din,’s conversion, she converted again, through Kiev’s Orthodox rabbinate on her return home.

Soon afterward, Bikus applied for aliyah but was told that she had not fulfilled the relevant requirements — which is what prompted her request for details of those requirements. Toward the end of last year she filed a petition with the Israeli Supreme Court, asking for her aliyah application to be processed, and she now lives in Kishinev, waiting for a decision that would allow her to move back to the place she calls home, Bnei Brak.

“She’s very miserable,” her lawyer, Jana Rabinovich, told the Forward. “She has come to love Israel and lives as an Orthodox Jew. It’s very difficult for her that the community in Kishinev is not as religious as the one where she lived in Bnei Brak.” Rabinovich said that the Interior Ministry has “really put her through hell.”

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Sabine Hadad said the residency requirement was a legitimate way of checking that converts are genuine about wanting to become Jewish, and not just doing so to receive the benefits of Israeli citizenship. “The purpose of [the Interior Ministry’s conversion] criteria is to test the conversion and make sure that it was not made to get the status only,” she told the Forward. She did not respond to questions on how the residency requirement is justified in light of the Supreme Court ban.

Meanwhile, on a separate front in the conversion wars, thousands of Israeli converts are grappling with the collapse of a delicate compromise that has guaranteed them marriage rights despite controversy about their status.

Ever since Israel’s army started offering conversion courses a decade ago, some Haredi marriage registrars have claimed that its standards are too lax. They refuse to issue marriage certificates for any of the 4,500 graduates, even though their conversions are conducted under the supervision of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar — ostensibly their boss, since they are state-salaried clerics.

In May 2010, ITIM petitioned the Supreme Court for an order mandating renegade registrars to marry converts. But the case was put on hold in July 2011 when the Chief Rabbinate guaranteed the converts would get their marriage licenses.

ITIM has since received official complaints from converts who have found that several rabbinates will still not marry converts. On April 19, ITIM met with the Chief Rabbinate and demanded a solution. Both sides agreed that if converts are not receiving marriage licenses nationwide within four months, ITIM’s Supreme Court case, which demands that the Rabbinate censure the registrars in question, will be revived.

“If these rabbis were Sabbath desecraters the rabbinate would suspend them in a day,” Farber said. “So why are they allowed to keep their jobs if they continue to persecute converts?”

Contact Nathan Jeffay at jeffay@forward.com


The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.





Find us on Facebook!
  • That sound you hear? That's your childhood going up in smoke.
  • "My husband has been offered a terrific new job in a decent-sized Midwestern city. This is mostly great, except for the fact that we will have to leave our beloved NYC, where one can feel Jewish without trying very hard. He is half-Jewish and was raised with a fair amount of Judaism and respect for our tradition though ultimately he doesn’t feel Jewish in that Larry David sort of way like I do. So, he thinks I am nuts for hesitating to move to this new essentially Jew-less city. Oh, did I mention I am pregnant? Seesaw, this concern of mine is real, right? There is something to being surrounded by Jews, no? What should we do?"
  • "Orwell described the cliches of politics as 'packets of aspirin ready at the elbow.' Israel's 'right to defense' is a harder narcotic."
  • From Gene Simmons to Pink — Meet the Jews who rock:
  • The images, which have since been deleted, were captioned: “Israel is the last frontier of the free world."
  • As J Street backs Israel's operation in Gaza, does it risk losing grassroots support?
  • What Thomas Aquinas might say about #Hamas' tunnels:
  • The Jewish bachelorette has spoken.
  • "When it comes to Brenda Turtle, I ask you: What do you expect of a woman repressed all her life who suddenly finds herself free to explore? We can sit and pass judgment, especially when many of us just simply “got over” own sexual repression. But we are obliged to at least acknowledge that this problem is very, very real, and that complete gender segregation breeds sexual repression and unhealthy attitudes toward female sexuality."
  • "Everybody is proud of the resistance. No matter how many people, including myself, disapprove of or even hate Hamas and its ideology, every single person in Gaza is proud of the resistance." Part 2 of Walid Abuzaid's on-the-ground account of life in #Gaza:
  • After years in storage, Toronto’s iconic red-and-white "Sam the Record Man" sign, complete with spinning discs, will return to public view near its original downtown perch. The sign came to symbolize one of Canada’s most storied and successful Jewish family businesses.
  • Is $4,000 too much to ask for a non-member to be buried in a synagogue cemetery?
  • "Let’s not fall into the simplistic us/them dichotomy of 'we were just minding our business when they started firing rockets at us.' We were not just minding our business. We were building settlements, manning checkpoints, and filling jails." What do you think?
  • PHOTOS: 10,000 Israel supporters gathered for a solidarity rally near the United Nations in New York yesterday.
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.