At least 60% of immigrants who immigrated to Israel and began the process of conversion did not complete that process, according to a poll published Tuesday – just after a group of Religious Zionist rabbis announced the establishment of an independent conversion committee.
According to the Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) study conducted over a twenty-year period, 80,000 people have converted to Judaism since 1995, including 45,000 Ethiopian immigrants and 24,000 immigrants from the FSU. They constitute just 7% of non-Jews who immigrated to Israel.
Since 2000, the average annual conversion rate stands at about 1,800 people each year, from 10,000 annual conversion requests from immigrants and their children of Jewish descent who are not recognized as Jews.
60% of people who begin the conversion process do not complete it – whether due to non-acceptance by the rabbinical establishment, or because of an unwillingness to complete the process, which is lengthier in Israel than in most other countries with rabbinical bodies.
The study particularly focused on the conversion process for immigrants from the FSU – which it concluded has been a "great failure."
The IDI study was finished earlier this month, and was published just after group of rabbis from Tzohar and other moderate Orthodox organizations declared an independent conversion body to address the long bureaucracy hindering the conversion process.
The group expects the majority of those it converts to be the children and grandchildren of families of immigrants from the FSU, it noted in its announcement. Although they are Israeli citizens, many of these children are the products of “mixed marriages,” with their parents marrying in the Soviet Union and immigrating to Israel. Most of the children speak Hebrew fluently and serve in the IDF.