A group of leading rabbis declared Tuesday that they will not recognize conversions made by the newly self-declared conversion court that seeks to flank the Rabbinate's courts.
“We, the undersigned, wish to strengthen the hands of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, the sole source of halakhic decisions that affect the State of Israel on a national level and the central authority on matters of conversion to Judaism,” wrote the rabbis.
“We are the generation that merited the establishment of a Jewish State. The Chief Rabbinate, established by our mentor Rabbi Avraham HaCohen Kook, zts"l, is the nucleus of this state's Jewish identity.
“Private conversions deal a severe blow to our national unity in this country and shake the very foundations of our definition as a Jewish state. This is a de facto separation of religion and state, in total contradiction to our holy Torah, the sole wellspring of our Religious Zionist ethos.
“And above all, the mass conversion of minors goes against the halakhic opinions of the vast majority of Torah Sages of recent generations, first and foremost Rabbi Kook – it is an act that is not accepted by the halakhic decisors of the People of Israel.
“Therefore, we declare that we will recognize only conversions that have been certified by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and those who stand at its head. We call on all rabbis from every sector to stand as one behind the Chief Rabbinate, to strengthen and support it, to raise the level of Judaism in our land and to guard the principles of halacha.
“With the blessings of Torah, signed:
Rabbi Dov Lior, Chief Rabbi of Hevron
Rabbi Chaim Shteiner, Merkaz Harav Yeshiva
Rabbi Tzvi Yisrael Tau, Har Hamor Yeshiva
Rabbi Eitan Eisman, Pres. Noam Educational Institutions
Rabbi Eliyahu Zini, Pres. Haifa Hesder Yeshiva
Rabbi Elyakim Levanon, Chief Rabbi of the Shomron
Rabbi Yehoshua Shapira, Rosh Yeshiva (Dean,) Ramat Gan Hesder Yeshiva
Rabbi Michael Hershkowitz, Merkaz Harav Yeshiva
Rav Micha Halevi, Chief Rabbi of Petach Tikva
Rabbi Mordechai Sternberg, Rosh Yeshiva, Har Hamor
Rabbi Amiel Sternberg, Rosh Yeshiva, Har Hamor
Rabbi Shlomo Levi, Kollel Head, Har Etzion Hesder Yeshiva
Rabbi Shimon Cohen, Chairman, Beit Moriah Institutions
Rabbi Baruch Efrati, Head of the Rabbanei Emunah Organization.”
Thirty additional rabbis of towns, neighborhoods, yeshivas, the IDF Rabbinate, Hadassah Hospital, Ulpanas, Judaic Institutes as well as Rabbinic Judges have already signed the document, with more expected.
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat explained Tuesday to Arutz Sheva that the decision by a group of leading rabbis to establish independent conversion courts is “completely within Halakha” and should not be seen as a rebellion against the Chief Rabbinate.
He elucidated why there was a need for the courts, in the face of the strict conversion policies that the Rabbinate has adopted since coming under haredi control in the present government. After lifting of the Iron Curtain, he said, about 1.15 million people from the former Soviet Union immigrated into Israel under the Law of Return, but about 350,000 of these "are only Jewish paternally." They have since had about 100,000 children who, like their parents, are not considered Jewish by Halakha, unless they are converted.