Israel’s Supreme Court Recognizes Reform, Conservative Giyur In Israel

Leaders of the Reform and Conservative movements at the Western Wall in Jerusalem, November 2, 2016. (Courtesy Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism)

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)


  1. “How is the state of Israel a Jewish state when every foreigner can become a citizen?’” Response:- It is not!! It is an “Athlete state” where Athletes are welcome with open arms, but Jewish people have been turned away from Israel, already for an entire year.

  2. You’ve (I dont know if it’s you in particular, since I’m not sure you’re Israeli) elected conservative governments for 15 years. Why didn’t they deal with the problem?

    There seems to be alot of wilfull ignorance on the part of my Charedi brethren. It has always been the case that a foreign citizen can become an Israeli citizen with a not-orthodox conversion. The Ministry of Absorption makes the decision, not the Rabbinate. When we made aliyah we just had to show a letter from a rabbi on shul letterhead stating that he knows us to be Jewish. He doesn’t attest to whether we keep Shabbat or believe in Torah m’Sinai. Marriage is something else for immigrants, but not citizenship.

    The question here was whether a person who is already in Israel can gain citizenship through an Israeli, not orthodox conversion. This applies to very few people. Most through the Nativ program in the IDF, who may have a not-orthodox Jewish education, but are converted by a Rabbinate Beit Din.

    This is not a political issue, but a religious one. So if you’re not sure about your own conversion or the conversion of a potential spouse then consult your Rav, not a secular government minister.

  3. Rashi this week parsha Shmois32:

    שחת העם’ לא נאמר , אלא שחת עמך – ‘ערב רב’ שקבלת מעצמך וגיירתם ולא נמלכת בי , ואמרת: טוב שידבקו גרים בשכינה , הם שיחתו והשחיתו

  4. The bigger issue is not that the Zionists have chosen to recognize these reform/conservative conversions as “giyur”. The bigger issue is that the Zionist (not Jewish) State involves itself in a matter of Judaism.

    The Zionists may accept any “conversions”, real or fake, as a criterion for becoming a citizen of the Zionist State. But they may not claim that any of that has to do with Judaism, because it does not.

    Conversion, like any religious matter, is purely in the domain of halachic authorities, and obviously not in that of the Zionist destroyers of Torah.

  5. תורה תורה חגרי שק הלוויתו של יהדות אמיתית בארץ הקדש תצא כשעת הזאת. וכל בית שראל יבכו את השריפה אשר שרף ה

  6. It wasn’t for nothing that the Zionists included “Liyote chafshi b’artzeinu” in their national anthem, “Hatikvah”. They wanted, and are getting, a state of “chufshim”, Rachmana litzlon.

  7. The Chief Rabbinate only has themselves to blame for this. This is what happens when you refuse to respect other Jews and provide alternatives, pushing Jews away from Judaism. The Rabbinate has alienated the majority of the country and Jews of the diaspora. It is unlikely this ruling will enlighten them, and so the dismantling of the Rabbinate power over religious life in Israel will continue.

  8. american_yerushalmi – yes, the redemption is still blooming.

    Let’s get this straight – the Supreme Court did everything possible NOT to hand down this ruling. It gave the government countless opportunities to correct the wording of the Law of Return, under which it has no choice but to recognize reform and conservative conversions for the purposes of the Law of Return. The court did everything but get on its knees and beg the government to act. After delaying for fifteen years (!) the court gave up and handed down the ruling. Now for the really egregious part. The reason that the government did not act all those years was because none other than MKs Gafni and Deri blocked every attempt to correct the wording of the law so that it would once again (as it originally did) only recognize halachic conversions. That’s right, the very same two (charedi!) MKs who are quoted in the article decrying the decision are the very people who are responsible for it being made. Why did Gafni and Deri block the correction of the law? I don’t know, but I have heard and read speculation that it was done to spite the DL and Chabad, which are the two groups that fought to have the language of the law corrected.

    Having said that, let’s put this sad decision in perspective: it only pertains to a tiny number of people and only with regard to citizenship. The Rabbanut can still, and surely will, continue to treat them as goyim.

    Hopefully, this decision will finally force the government to correct the wording of the Law of Return, which should have been done decades ago.

  9. I’m very far from observance, but I will NEVER recognize a non-orthodox conversion!
    Jews MUST NOT be used as a mode of transportation!

  10. the Lubavitcher rebbe spoke out strongly about this issue for many many years, it deeply pained him, sadly almost no one listened to him then, we could have avoided this whole problem, if only…
    everyone ignored him cuz chabad…. you know…. the religious zionist, the aguda… degel… & even a large part of shas…. the only ones that tied a little were the sfardishe Rav haroshi….

  11. Could it be that the court did this so that the chareidi parties will make this a priority in the coming coalition, thus weakening their hold on other issues?

  12. A secular court has made a legal decision under secular law. They are NOT purporting to make a determination under halacha as to who is a “legitimate” convert. They are saying that these individuals qualify for citizenship under their interpretation of the Law of Return. Sort of like the U.S. courts saying same gender “marriage” qualifies a couple for certain economic benefits conferred under secular law. No court, however has suggested that same-gender couples must be acknowledged as married for conferral of benefits under religious law (when operating in a religious versus commercial context).