Peres asks leading rabbi to compromise on conversion bill (JPOST 3/11/10)
'Don't open front against Diaspora Jews' (JPOST 3/10/10)
Gafni to Peres: UTJ told to resign due to conversion bill (YNET 3/10/10)
Why nobody's happy with conversion bill (JPOST 3/9/10)
A precedent for discrimination' (JPOST 3/9/10)
JEWISH FEDERATIONS URGE GOVERNMENT OF ISRAEL TO DIALOGUE WITH DIASPORA JEWRY ON PROPOSED LAW OF RETURN CHANGES
March 10, 2010
Committees in Israel’s Knesset have begun debating a proposal to allow local municipal rabbis in Israel to perform conversions to Judaism. The proposed bill also includes a provision that could prevent a non-Jew who converts to Judaism, in Israel or in the Diaspora, from receiving Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return. Although we commend the Knesset for its initial rejection of the proposed bill today, this issue remains unresolved and is of urgent importance to our communities.
We implore the Israeli government to seriously consider the concerns and sensitivities of Diaspora Jews before acting on such proposals. Changes to the Law of Return could adversely affect many members of our community by preventing them from making aliyah and becoming Israeli citizens. Any action of this type would be an affront to world Jewry.
Leaders of the Jewish Federations movement today hand-delivered a letter to the Office of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to express our concerns. Representatives in JFNA’s Washington and Jerusalem offices have additionally communicated our concerns to Israeli officials in Washington, New York and Jerusalem.
Members of The Jewish Federations of North America’s Large City Executive Committee also convened today to discuss these developments. Natan Sharansky, Chair of the Executive of the Jewish Agency for Israel, briefed the committee on the issue. Sharansky and the Jewish Agency stand in solidarity with The Jewish Federations of North America on this important issue.
Urgent Action Regarding Rotem Conversion Bill
We need your help on a matter of urgency concerning a bill that will come before the Knesset.
The bill sponsored by MK David Rotem of Yisrael Beitenu, deals with both the authority of the Chief Rabbinate and matters of Conversion. The Rotem Bill concerns three matters:
1. It grants legal authority to the Chief Rabbinate for Conversions (while until now there was de facto recognition this gives legal recognition to the role of the Chief Rabbinate in this area) and would make it much more difficult for conversions to be performed by our Movement, by more “open-minded” Orthodox rabbis, and by Reform rabbis.
2. It provides for the ability of local rabbis in Israel to establish conversion courts. This is a good part of the bill of which we are supportive because it will potentially permit the establishment of more forward looking conversion courts. However, the first part of the bill passes, the Chief Rabbinate may declare these courts null and void, which would obviate any cause for our support.
3. Section 3 of this bill is highly problematic. Here is the summary of Section 3 by Reuven Hammer:
“Section 3 of the proposed conversion bill that we strongly oppose states that anyone that who entered Israel as a non-Jew and then converted to Judaism-either in Israel or the Diaspora would not be eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return. First of all this is exactly the case that we now have before the Supreme Court, asking that our conversions in Israel be recognized and citizenship rights granted to our converts. This is an attempt to go around the Supreme Court. Secondly, the wording is so vague that it could mean that if such a person had visited Israel at any time, no matter when, their conversion would not be recognized for citizenship in the future. Thirdly this would be the first time that Israel is officially making a distinction between one who is born a Jew and a righteous convert, something that we find deplorable and unsupportable in Jewish Law. Since our movement is the movement that is most involved in conversion in America and elsewhere, we and our congregants are the primary target of the bill. We urge everyone to make their protest known immediately to the Israeli government.”
WE STRONGLY URGE THAT YOU FORWARD THE FOLLOWING LETTER OR ITS EQUIVALENT TO THE PRIME MINISTER AND YOUR AMBASSADOR.
Sadly, this is reminiscent of those attempts in 1997 to enact similar legislation which ultimately led to the establishment of the Ne'eman Commission.
While we are supportive of your efforts to create greater accessibility to conversion courts in Israel and have done all we can to aid in this effort, the overall impact of the Rotem Bill will set back these efforts. Moreover this legislation will adversely impact the work of our Masorti movement and its members in Israel. This we cannot abide.
Even more regrettably, should this bill be enacted, it will exacerbate a widening gap between Diaspora and Israel communities, which we are all working very hard to avoid.
Therefore, we believe it is imperative that you, Israel’s leader, who cares so deeply about the well-being of our people, intervene and urge withdrawal of this bill.