Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

26 Shevat 5760 - February 2, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








Sponsored by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network

Produced and housed by

Gafni: Chess Clubs Have Entrance Criteria, Why not Judaism?

by Eliezer Rauchberger

Speaking in a Knesset debate about price controls, which come under the supervision of Justice Minister Yossi Beilin, MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni tried to show the demand of Beilin for an unrestricted approach to conversions, an approach Beilin called "pluralistic," is completely unreasonable.

"Just imagine," said Rabbi Gafni, "if every business would decide on its own how much interest it will pay the bank. . . . If someone wants to sue another, he will set up his own court. Each person will be able to use the court he prefers. That is absolute pluralism. Everything is liberal, free. . . . The Minister of Justice has taken the most fundamental area, that of personal status and proposed pluralism in it. Everyone will be able to marry as he wishes, according to any law that he cares to adopt. One will be able to convert in the same way. . . . [Even] a chess club has membership requirements that will admit some and bar others, according to the rules. The Minister of Justice comes and proposes that on conversion, everyone can do as he pleases. I think this is a failure of the first order [of the Minister of Justice to uphold the rule of law]. The government has failed in this area and the Minister of Justice has done something very serious.

Earlier in the week at a meeting of the Knesset Committee for Aliya and Absorption, Justice Minister Yossi Beilin said that he supports both "secular and non-Orthodox conversion." In his opinion, the Orthodox should be deprived of its "monopoly" on conversion issues.

Beilin made these disconcerting remarks in a committee discussion on the Law of Return and the conversion issue. He expressed support for changing the Law of Return, and said: "I would like the law to contain a more liberal definition of `who is a Jew' as well as a more conservative approach to the definition of relatives and accompanying people. We must deprive the Orthodox of their monopoly over the definition of `who is a Jew.' It is inconceivable that the definition of an immigrant should be dependent solely on the Rabbinate's decision. . . . As far as I am concerned, every stream can establish its own genealogical records and abide by its own rules without dictating to others what to do."

Beilin noted that he is aware that he is speaking about a dream with no chance of materializing. However, he hopes that even if it doesn't come to fruition immediately, it might do so twenty years from now.

Absorption Minister Yuli Tamir made menacing remarks in support of non-halachic conversions, although she believes that the Law of Return should not be amended. She suggested: "An open conversion system should be developed: a humane, pluralistic one that will recognize the immigrants' Judaism according to their awareness, not according to halocho."

Chairman of the Aliya Committee, MK Naomi Blumenthal (Likud) did not express support of non-Orthodox "conversions." However, she supported a change in the Law of Return which would, as she said, "introduce a declarative element to express the will of the applicant to join the Jewish nation and its legacy and to link his fate to the fate of the State."

Former Absorption Minister Yuli Edelstein of Yisrael B'Aliya, warned against the fact that the Jewish Agency is encouraging the immigration of non-Jews. Within its programs, they are eligible for immigration by the Law of Return. According to Edelstein, if the Jewish Agency would stop these activities, the immigration of non-Jews would decrease sharply.

Rabbi Shmuel Halpert warned against the vast non-Jewish immigration, noting that the Law of Return is a poor law which should be amended in order to prevent the immigration of so many non-Jews. He said that the percentage of non-Jews in today's waves of immigration is 70-80%, and that if the situation is not rectified, Israel will soon become a multi- national (and non-Jewish) state.

Rabbi Moshe Gafni left the committee meeting room in a demonstrative manner when the floor was given to a Reform representative. He said that he is not willing to participate in a discussion with people who constitute a danger to the existence of the Jewish Nation.

All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.