Skip To Content
JEWISH. INDEPENDENT. NONPROFIT.
Fast Forward

Israeli chief rabbi threatens to freeze conversions amid proposed reforms

(JTA) — Israel’s Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said he would not approve future conversions to Judaism in protest of proposed reforms that would challenge his authority over the process, the Times of Israel reported.

Lau’s statement comes as Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana is pushing controversial new reforms to Israel’s conversion system that would allow municipal rabbis to supervise the process rather than leaving sole responsibility to the chief rabbinate. The legislation would also end the tenure of the current head of the conversion authority, Moshe Veller.

In a letter to Prime Minister Naftali Bennet, Lau wrote that if the reforms move forward and Veller’s tenure is not extended, “​​I will be forced to declare myself no longer responsible for anything to do with conversions.”

He added that the reforms have the potential to cause an “irreparable” split among the Jewish people: “two states for two peoples, divided Judaism instead of united Judaism.” 

On Tuesday, Kahana wrote on Twitter that Lau’s move could harm Ethiopian immigrants and soldiers seeking conversion. Some sources have reported that Lau has already halted the conversion processes of 100 Ethiopian immigrants awaiting his signature.

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman warned Lau Wednesday that his threat to freeze conversions “is not appropriate to the status of the chief rabbi, and may lead to proceedings being taken to end his term.”

A vote on the legislation has been delayed until further notice, as not enough support was garnered to support it, the Times of Israel reported Wednesday.

Haredi Orthodox politicians and leaders have dominated religious affairs in Israel for decades. The government coalition that ousted Benjamin Netanyahu earlier this year, made up of a wide range of parties that does not include haredi ones, is pushing to reform how religion is intertwined with public life on multiple fronts.

RELATED: Israeli restaurants are changing their kosher certification — and signaling a religious revolution


The post Israeli chief rabbi threatens to freeze conversions amid proposed reforms appeared first on Jewish Telegraphic Agency.

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.