Kristine L Ming

Netanyahu to hold meeting over conversion bill

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to meet with coalition members on Friday morning in the aim to find a solution to the conversion bill, according to Hebrew media.

The conversion bill was advanced by the haredi parties to grant the Chief Rabbinate a total monopoly over Jewish conversion in Israel was approved for passage to the Knesset by the government on Sunday, and caused great upheaval amongst diaspora Jewry.

The proposed law states explicitly that it is designed to reverse the new legal situation created by a ruling of the High Court of Justice in March 2016 which de facto granted the right to citizenship to Orthodox converts who were not citizens and who converted through independent Orthodox rabbinical courts and not through the State Conversion Authority.

This ruling was a blow to the Chief Rabbinate and the religious establishment and set a precedent whereby it was possible to envision a situation where the Chief Rabbinate would be forced to recognize non-state Orthodox converts for the purposes of marriage.

The new bill is also explicitly aimed at preemptively overcoming a possible High Court ruling on a similar, pending case, which could see Reform and Conservative converts given state recognition like non-state Orthodox converts were last year.

Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform Movement in Israel, said approval of the bill meant that the government had turned against “not only Reform and Conservative Jews, but also against anyone who believes in moderate and welcoming Judaism and the Zionist vision of an ingathering of exiles.”

MK Naftali Bennett reached out to Diaspora Jews requesting that ties not be severed because of the bill. “Mistakes have been made, but we cannot give up on one another. For Israel, American Jews are not just another community of our people, but are a strategic pillar for the State of Israel. The State of Israel would not be what it is today without the Diaspora, and the Diaspora would not be what it is without the State of Israel. This partnership needs to continue,” Bennett said.

Jeremy Sharon contributed to this report.

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