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Israel Court Approves Thousands of Conversions

The High Court of Justice has affirmed the validity of thousands of conversions called into question by the Rabbinical Court of Appeals in 2008, but refused to discuss the rabbinical courts’ authority to annul conversions in general. Nevertheless, the justices leveled harsh criticism at the rabbinical courts’ conduct.

“The Rabbinical Court of Appeals rode roughshod over basic procedural rules and the principles of natural justice,” wrote former Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch in Tuesday’s verdict. “It demonstrated contempt for the special conversion courts, and above all, it hurt and did a shocking injustice to the petitioners and their children.”

The petition was filed by two Israeli women whose conversions were retroactively overturned by the rabbinical courts in 2007 and 2008, 15 years after the conversions had been recognized by the state. As a result, they and their children were retroactively declared non-Jewish.

In both cases, the rabbinical courts annulled the conversions while discussing the women’s divorce proceedings, and their decisions were later upheld by the Rabbinical Court of Appeals.

But the court of appeals did not make do with upholding the lower court verdicts: In its 2008 ruling on the first woman’s case, a panel headed by Rabbi Avraham Sherman said that thousands of other conversions authorized by a network of special conversion courts then headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman should also be overturned. While Sherman’s statement was not legally binding, it caused many converts to worry that their conversions, too, would be retroactively annulled.

“You read it and don’t believe it,” wrote Justice Miriam Naor in her concurring opinion.

For more, go to Haaretz.com

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