NEW YORK (JTA) — The head of the Conservative movement’s rabbinical organization sharply criticized Israel for reportedly deciding not to recognize Uganda’s Jewish community, whose members converted under Conservative auspices.
Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, who leads the Rabbinical Assembly, said the Conservative movement was “shocked and extremely outraged” at the decision, which she called “unlawful.”
“This is completely inconsistent with more than two decades of Israeli practice of Conservative converts — who are by the way halakhically converted to Judaism under our auspices — who had been recognized as Jewish for the purposes of the Law of Return,” she told JTA on Friday, using a phrase meaning that something was done in accordance with Jewish law, or halakhah.
The Law of Return gives anyone who has a Jewish grandparent, is married to a Jew or has converted to Judaism the right to move to Israel.
On Thursday Haaretz reported that Israel’s Interior Ministry had ruled not to recognize the conversions of Ugandan Jews for the purposes of immigrating to the country. The Uganda community, also called the Abayudaya, numbers approximately 2,000 and traces its roots to the early 20th century, when a former leader read the Bible and embraced Judaism.