Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) President Yohanan Plesner today responded to last week's Supreme Court decision that the state must recognize private Orthodox conversions, calling it inevitable, due to the continued failure of the state conversion institutes.
Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) President Yohanan Plesner today responded to last week's Supreme Court decision that the state must recognize private Orthodox conversions, calling it inevitable, due to the continued failure of the state conversion institutes. IDI research found that since the formation of the state conversion institutes in 1995, only 7 percent of non-Jewish immigrants from the Former Soviet Union were converted through these institutes. Moreover, only half of those individuals who started their conversion process through a state institute completed it. These statistics indicate that the Chief Rabbinate, with its strict approach that sometimes borders on cruelty, brought upon itself the Supreme Court decision.
Plesner said, "While the Supreme Court verdict relates directly to registering converts, it is in its essence intended to enable the implementation of the original goal of the Law of Return, an integral law of the state, and one that enhances its Jewish-Zionist character. The verdict provides an answer to what has become an absurd situation in which a small group of rabbis who define themselves as non-Zionist prevents the opening of the gates to the Zionist project for many who are interested in entering them. The basis of Zionism is that Israel is for all Jewish people. Therefore, it is unreasonable that a small group of rabbis, with a very strict approach to Jewish law, should prevent many who are interested in joining the state and connecting their fate with that of the Jewish people."
Regarding the impact of the verdict, Plesner added: "It is reasonable to assume that the verdict, which enables recognition of private Orthodox conversions for the Law of Return, would likewise enable similar recognition of those converted through other streams of Judaism."
In response to the rabbis who have claimed the court decision destroys the Israeli conversion process, Plesner noted, "It was only a matter of time. The strict policies on how to follow Jewish law, adhered to by the Chief Rabbinate, have for years silenced more lenient voices. It is this that has led many to search for alternatives, including those within the confines of Jewish law but outside the framework of the Chief Rabbinate. Now it appears that the Rabbinate is attempting to grasp on to the historical arrangement that has caused many in the Jewish Diaspora to feel disconnected from Israel – it is trying to patch a hole in a crumbling dam."