(JNS.org) Religious Zionist and progressive rabbis in Israel announced a plan to form a network of courts that will convert non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union to Judaism, despite the fact that Israel's Chief Rabbinate will not recognize such conversions.
The rabbis hope that the move will spur public pressure on the Chief Rabbinate to simplify the conversion process.
The new conversion movement is being called "Giyur Kahalacha" (meaning "proper conversion" or "conversion under Jewish Law" in Hebrew). The rabbis are partnering with the ITIM association, the Triguboff Institute, and Beit Morasha, and the initiative is being supported by the Jewish Agency for Israel.
"The ingathering of the exiles and the great immigration from the former Soviet Union pose considerable challenges to the State of Israel, which require responsible and brave decisions from the people's leaders, both on the halachic-rabbinical level and on the national level," the Giyur Kahalacha rabbis said in a statement. "Our moral responsibility is to ensure the absorption and full integration of the immigrants, for their sake and for the continuation of the Jewish people.”
The move comes in the wake of the Israeli governing coalition's cancellation of a proposed conversion law that would have made the process of legal conversion to Judaism in Israel easier.
"We all wish to continue the process of ingathering the exiles from throughout the world in an era of lost identities and growing assimilation,” said Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky. "In order to keep the gates of Israel open to all who wish to join our people in accordance with halacha, it is important that rabbis who have been authorized by the Chief Rabbinate to conduct conversions participate in this process, and this new initiative will enable them to do so."