Dr. Netanel Fisher Discusses Conversion Challenges
Over the past twenty years since the renewal of the conversion system in 1995, 80,000 people have been converted in Israel – 45,000 of whom are Ethiopian immigrants and 24,000 of whom are immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Since 2000, on average only 1,800 people per year have been converted – 1,000 through the standard conversion process and 800 through the conversion process available to IDF enlistees.
Dr. Netanel Fisher commented, "While the conversion of Ethiopian Jews was successful, among Jews from the former Soviet Union the conversion process is a failure."
"Promoting the conversion of the immigrants from the former Soviet Union has failed thus far, because the public discourse focused largely on the politicization of the issue – while the road to success in this work lies in a bottom up approach. Civil society must be mobilized to support the converts, educational bodies need to be encouraged to open classes and recruit students, and community leaders ought to be making the issue a priority," Fisher noted.
According to research, the successful integration of immigrants from the former Soviet Union reduced the motivation to convert. Others find the process complex and give up and drop out. Thus, the number of drop outs from the conversion process outnumber those completing the process.
"Conversion is a challenge of historic proportions, and the way forward is fraught with obstacles. A combination of renewed vision, leadership, resource allocation, and a renewed role for civil society can bring change in conversion, which would ensure the unity of Jewish society in Israel and the continuation of Israel as a Jewish and democratic state," added Fisher.