Israeli cabinet approves law enabling local rabbis to perform conversions

Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni. Credit: Wikimedia Commons.

( The Israeli cabinet on Sunday approved a law that will allow municipal rabbis to convert people to Judaism. Prospective converts will no longer need to go through Israel’s central rabbinical authority.

The law—largely intended to facilitate the conversion of many immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union—was originally proposed by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett. Israel's haredi political parties opposed the law.

“These courts will bring a new spirit for the many conversion candidates, especially those who have despaired of converting,” said MK Elazar Stern (Hatnuah), the Jerusalem Post reported.

MK Moshe Gafni (United Torah Judaism), who opposed the law, said that the Israeli government “has turned the issue of the Jewish people into a political commodity for trade... We’re talking about the destruction of the Jewish people. A significant portion of the rabbis in Israel and around the world will not recognize the converts as Jewish, and these converts will be injured by this and will not forgive the government for this decision.”

Livni said that “there are Israeli citizens living with us whom we encouraged to come to Israel... who aren’t Jewish according to Jewish law, and the message we are giving to them today, those who have felt like second-class citizens from the moment they landed here in the airport, is that we are opening a new gate, not one of citizenship, but a gate to join the Jewish people.”

Posted on November 3, 2014 .