The government on Sunday canceled a law passed earlier this year to reform the conversion system in Israel. Control of conversions will return to the central Rabbinical Court system, reversing the law that established new rabbinical courts for conversion, as well as allowing individuals seeking to convert to approach rabbis outside of their hometowns.
Instead of repealing the law, it will be amended – with changes that will no require Knesset action. The changes had been demanded by Shas as a condition for entering the government.
The changes were slammed by Yesh Atid, which claimed that it was another sign of the “abduction” of the government by the haredim, by Yisrael Beytenu chairman Avigdor Liberman, who called it a “betrayal of immigration and immigrants” – and also by Rabbi David Stav, head of the Tzohar Rabbis organization, which seeks to smooth out bureaucratic issues in Rabbinate-tendered services.
The decision “is 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,” he said. “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, the rabbi said. These people are not going anywhere, they will continue to live in Israel, and will get married and raise families here – further exacerbating the problem, said the rabbi. “No one will be stopped by this law from marrying,” 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.