MK Bezalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) said that although he was disappointed at the government decision Sunday to transfer control of the Rabbinical Courts from the Justice Ministry to the Chief Rabbinate, he was satisfied with the decision to reform the conversion system.
“The decision ensures that the local rabbinical courts that were set up last year to handle conversion will remain in place, so that conversion will be more 'user-friendly,' more welcoming and more polite. With that, the decision on conversion eligibility has now been restored to the Chief Rabbinate, the official institution that is eligible to approve conversion issues.”
Smotrich called the decision “a positive and necessary one for the Jewish people. When take away from the Rabbinate responsibility for the standards of conversion and allow various organizations and institutes to determine their own standards as they see fit, this will eventually lead to a situation where we can no longer be united. Such differentiation will only lead to tribalism, in which each group will manage its own affairs, where eventually each Jew will have to prove his or her Jewishness before getting married.
“Even worse, those whose conversions are not approved by the Rabbinate will not be accepted by large numbers of Jews, who would suspect the veracity of their conversion,” he added, pointing out another reason for his approval of the decision.
Earlier, Rabbi David Stav, head of the Tzohar organization, which seeks to smooth out bureaucratic issues in Rabbinate-tendered services for Jews who generally eschew them, slammed the decision, calling it “a very painful one that will further distance hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters, who, although born to Jewish fathers, are not halachically Jewish, although they are Jewish by tradition and lifestyle. Now it will be even harder for them to join the Jewish people.”
Among them are many Jews whose parents and grandparents emigrated from the countries of the former Soviet Union, and were themselves born and raised in Israel, and served in the IDF. These people are not going anywhere, said Rabbi Stav; they will continue to live in Israel, and will get married and raise families here – further exacerbating the problem. “No one will be stopped from marrying by this law,” he said. “As a result the levels of intermarriage and assimilation will just increase.”
While preferring not to point out any specific individuals or groups, Rabbi Stav said that “anyone who could have prevented this decision from being made and did not will have to take responsibility for its results, for the price we will pay in the coming years, as we see more intermarriages in Israel. We will do everything we can to prevent them,” he added.