JERUSALEM (JTA) — A bill submitted to the Knesset would require the state to recognize only conversions completed under the auspices of the Orthodox-dominated Chief Rabbinate.
The measure, which was submitted by Interior Minister Aryeh Deri, former head of the Haredi Orthodox party Shas, appears to be an effort to circumvent a 2016 Supreme Court ruling that allowed those undergoing private Orthodox conversions in Israel to become citizens under the Law of Return. Haredi parties then vowed to submit legislation to neutralize the ruling.
In the wake of the 2016 decision, the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel asked the court for the same recognition of their private conversions in Israel. Only Reform and Conservative conversions conducted abroad are recognized for the purpose of Jewish immigration to Israel.
“This bill, which is promoted by the ultra-Orthodox members of the government, is in fact against halacha [Jewish law],” Rabbi Seth Farber, head of Itim, an organization that helps Israelis navigate religious bureaucracy, said in a statement. “For hundreds of years, various courts operated within the Jewish communities, with different halachic approaches — some of them more stringent and some less so. The common denominator was that everyone finally recognized everyone’s conversions, except for very unusual cases.”