Israel’s Supreme Court ruled on Monday that people converted by the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel will be recognized as Jewish and can become Israeli citizens through the Law of Return.
The ruling comes after a 15-year legal battle following petitions to the Supreme Court in 2005 demanding that Israeli citizenship be granted to 12 residents who converted through the Reform and Conservative movements in Israel.
The Supreme Court ruled in 1988 that non-Orthodox conversions performed outside of Israel are recognized but did not recognize non-Orthodox conversions performed in Israel.
Israel’s Chief Rabbis and religous politicians slammed the court’s decision and promised that the ruling will be overturned. The Likud party also condemned the ruling.
“The decision of the Supreme Court is very unfortunate and seriously harms the shleimus of Am Yisrael,” said Chief Rabbi of Israel HaRav Yitzchak Yosef. “What the Reform and Conservative call ‘giyur’ is nothing but a falsification of Judaism and means bringing thousands of goyim into Am Yisrael.”
Chief Rabbi HaRav Dovid Lau said: “Whoever converted through Reform and similar movements are not Jews and no decision of the Supreme Court will change this fact.”
“It is unfortunate that through its decision, the Supreme Court approves flooding Israel with immigrants who have nothing to do with Judaism. Every Israeli citizen needs to ask himself on this sad evening: ‘How is the state of Israel a Jewish state when every foreigner can become a citizen?'”
UTJ MKs Moshe Gafni and Yaakov Litzman said: “The Supreme Court’s decision to recognize Reform and Conservative giyur for the first time is disastrous for the meaning of the term ‘Jewish state.’ Throughout all the generations, Am Yisrael knew how to recognize its religion and beliefs without forgeries and imitations, and this will continue into the future.”
“Yahadus HaTorah will demand an override clause [to allow the Knesset to overturn Supreme Court rulings] in order to fight judicial activism, which harms Jews in Israel and the world and threatens to tear us apart from within, and we won’t enter any coalition without this [clause].”
Shas chairman Aryeh Deri said: “The decision of the Supreme Court to recognize Reform and Conservative giyur is wrong, very unfortunate and will cause machlokes and a severe rift in the nation. I promise to amend the law so that only giyur according to halacha will be recognized in the state of Israel.”
Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman hailed the decision as “historic” and promised that his party will “continue to fight religious coercion and preserve the state of Israel’s character as a Jewish, Zionist and liberal state.”
Statement By Agudath Israel of America on Israeli High Court Ruling on Non-Orthodox Conversion:
The Israeli High Court’s ruling yesterday recognizing non-halachic conversions performed in the country is not only a radical departure from the Jewish religious tradition bequeathed to all Jews but a body blow to true Jewish unity.
The court’s decision is both misleading and dangerous.
Misleading, because conversion is not a secular change of status; it is, inherently, a religious one. And dangerous, because bestowing legal status of any sort to “conversions” that lack the essential elements that have defined geirus for millennia can only confuse the Jewish public and increase disunity.
We in the United States have watched in anguish how non-halachic “conversions” have created a plurality of “Jewish peoples” here, with predictable and lamentable impacts on the ability of halacha-faithful Jews to marry many who were raised in non-Orthodox Jewish communities. We fear the specter of any similar bifurcation taking place in Israel.
And so we call on members of the Knesset to recognize that the High Court’s ruling threatens to further exacerbate similar societal disunity in Israel. The Knesset should craft and pass legislation clarifying that conversion is an inherently religious procedure, and that defining it is the role of the Rabbinate, not any secular body.
(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)