The Jewish people have been debating questions of Jewish identity and the definition of "who is a Jew" for thousands of years. While this debate has worn different faces and taken on different shapes at different times, it is a debate that has weighed on all sects and sectors of Jewish society. However, with the formation of the State of Israel, and especially over recent years, there is a palpable feeling that there are two nations caring out separate and different discussions. One lives and operates out of Israel; the other is overseas. This op-ed originally appeared in the Jewish Week.
The Supreme Court’s decision to recognize conversions performed by private Orthodox rabbinical courts in Israel is nothing less than a historic drama. The immediate significance is the loss of the Chief Rabbinate’s Orthodox monopoly over conversions, but it’s also a milestone in the privatization of religious services on the road to the Chief Rabbinate’s loss of relevance. Originally published by Haaretz.
The following op-ed by IDI Vice President of Research Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern was originally published in Hebrew in the <em>Yedioth Ahronoth</em> daily newspaper on December 8, 2010, just before the Knesset was scheduled to vote on a bill that would recognize the validity of all conversions performed within the context of the service in the Israel Defense Forces—a vote that Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu delayed by several days due to competing pressure within the political system. It urges the Israeli government to fend off political pressure, act morally, and assert that anyone who has converted to Judaism in the IDF is a Jew.
The relationship between religion and state in Israel is stormy. Lately, it seems the ultra-Orthodox have launched a new offensive on several fronts. This op-ed was originally published by JNS.org.
In this op-ed from Haaretz, IDI Research Fellow Yair Sheleg decries the ultra-Orthodox refusal to alter standards for conversion to Judaism in recognition of the fact that for many Israelis, Jewish identity is not only an expression of religious observance but also of identification with Zionism and Jewish culture. He warns that the ultra-Orthodox approach is causing serious injustice to thousands of people who wish to live as Jews and raise Jewish children in Israel.
On July 12, 2010, the Knesset’s Constitution, Law, and Justice Committee approved a controversial draft bill on conversion reform. Presented as an effort to make conversion more accessible to hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens who are not Jewish according to state and religious law, the proposed legislation sparked an outcry both in Israel and the Diaspora. In this article, IDI Researcher Netanel Fisher exposes the dangerous linkage between conversion and the status of Judaism's non-Orthodox movements and assesses the likelihood of the bill achieving its goals.
In this article, IDI Vice President Prof. Yedidia Z. Stern explains the current conversion crisis in Israel, reviews the evolution of attitudes towards conversion in halakhic literature over the ages, and concludes with a proposal that is compatible with Jewish law while responding to pressing contemporary needs.
On the practical side, religious conversion hasn’t ‘delivered the goods’ so far. Although it has been officially declared a national mission, less than 10 percent of non-Jewish immigrants and their offspring have completed the process. As a result, one in 20 non-Arab Israelis isn’t recognized as a Jew, despite having made aliyah under the Law of Return.
Recommendations for Policy Makers - Elections 2015