Skip To Content
Fast Forward

New Bill Would Entrench Orthodox Monopoly Over Jewish Conversion In Israel

(JTA) — The Knesset is considering a bill that would give an Orthodox body a monopoly over Jewish conversion in Israel, and American Jewish groups across the board are unhappy.

The bill, which advanced in Israel’s Ministerial Committee for Legislation on April 22, would create an independent Orthodox authority that would control all recognized conversions in Israel. The bill is  similar to one, put forth last year and then shelved following a backlash, that would have given Israel’s haredi Orthodox Chief Rabbinate control over all recognized conversions in Israel.

Under the bill currently being considered, the Chief Rabbinate would not control the conversion authority and would not have to sign off on its conversions, but would have a say in who gets appointed to its board, according to Haaretz. The bill would strip recognition from any conversions — Orthodox or not — that occurred outside of the authority’s auspices.

For the non-Orthodox denominations like Reform and Conservative Judaism, and rabbis from the more liberal wings of Orthodoxy, any move to consolidate conversions under haredi Orthodox authority in Israel threatens to sideline their influence and legitimacy.

Israel’s Supreme Court ruled in 2016 that the state must allow Jews who converted in private Orthodox courts in Israel to gain citizenship. Reform and Conservative groups have petitioned the court to extend that right to their converts in Israel as well.

None of the bills, or the court petitions, affects Jewish conversions outside Israel. Even so, American Jewish groups have objected to the current bill, as they did to last year’s, because it sends the message that only Orthodox conversions are legitimate.

The Jewish Religious Equality Coalition, an interdenominational group of Jewish leaders convened by the American Jewish Committee, said the bill “undermines American Jewish connections to, and identification with, Israel as nation-state of the Jewish people.”

I hope you appreciated this article. Before you go, I’d like to ask you to please support the Forward’s award-winning, nonprofit journalism during this critical time.

Now more than ever, American Jews need independent news they can trust, with reporting driven by truth, not ideology. We serve you, not any ideological agenda.

At a time when other newsrooms are closing or cutting back, the Forward has removed its paywall and invested additional resources to report on the ground from Israel and around the U.S. on the impact of the war, rising antisemitism and the protests on college campuses.

Readers like you make it all possible. Support our work by becoming a Forward Member and connect with our journalism and your community.

Make a gift of any size and become a Forward member today. You’ll support our mission to tell the American Jewish story fully and fairly. 

— Rachel Fishman Feddersen, Publisher and CEO

Join our mission to tell the Jewish story fully and fairly.

Republish This Story

Please read before republishing

We’re happy to make this story available to republish for free, unless it originated with JTA, Haaretz or another publication (as indicated on the article) and as long as you follow our guidelines. You must credit the Forward, retain our pixel and preserve our canonical link in Google search.  See our full guidelines for more information, and this guide for detail about canonical URLs.

To republish, copy the HTML by clicking on the yellow button to the right; it includes our tracking pixel, all paragraph styles and hyperlinks, the author byline and credit to the Forward. It does not include images; to avoid copyright violations, you must add them manually, following our guidelines. Please email us at [email protected], subject line “republish,” with any questions or to let us know what stories you’re picking up.

We don't support Internet Explorer

Please use Chrome, Safari, Firefox, or Edge to view this site.