Skip To Content

Support the Forward

Funded by readers like you DonateSubscribe
Israel News

Israel’s Top Rabbinical Court Upholds Rejection of Rabbi Who Sponsored Ivanka Trump’s Conversion

Israel’s supreme rabbinical court rejected Wednesday a conversion by a prominent American rabbi who sponsored Ivanka Trump’s conversion to Judaism, reaffirming a widely criticized ruling by a lower court.

The American woman whose conversion was rejected had to testify about her commitment to Jewish law in the court, as part of an expedited procedure prescribed by the court to redo the invalidated conversion. The woman reportedly already completed the new conversion, allowing her to marry her Israeli fiancé.

Initially, a local religious court in Petah Tikvah, a suburb east of Tel Aviv, rejected the conversion by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, a well-respected modern Orthodox spiritual leader — drawing broad condemnation, including from Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau.

Israel’s top religious court heard the woman’s appeal Wednesday but was not convinced, recognizing her commitment to Judaism but not the validity of Lookstein’s conversion, the Times of Israel reported.

“I feel degraded. Essentially, they are saying they don’t recognize my Judaism,” the woman, identified only by her first name, Nicole, said according to the Times of Israel. “I love Rabbi Lookstein, he’s my rabbi, he brought me into the world as a Jew, and I don’t want his conversions not to be recognized.”

ITIM, a religious freedom group that represented Nicole in court, slammed the decision.

“The rabbinical court has humiliated Nicole, cast a shadow over tens of thousands of conversions around the world, and has created a crisis of confidence between diaspora Jewry and Israel’s government,” said the group’s director, Rabbi Seth Farber, in a statement provided to the Forward.

The ruling has far-reaching implications.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein Image by YouTube

It represents an emerging gap between Israel’s Orthodox religious authority, which controls religious matters in the country, including marriages and funerals, and Jews in the Diaspora of all denominations.

The rabbinate has traditionally not accepted conversions carried out by liberal streams of Judaism, and in recent years the religious authority has also targeted conversions by Orthodox rabbis not on its list of approved authorities, which has not completely been made public.

Contact Josefin Dolsten at [email protected] or on Twitter, @JosefinDolsten

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.