Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Nissan 5765 - May 4, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Interior Minister Reports 4,000 Conversions in Progress

By Eliezer Rauchberger

Some 4,000 people are currently undergoing conversion proceedings, including Reform and Conservative "conversions" and the Falashmura, said Interior Minister Ophir Pines during a meeting of the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee on Monday to discuss the Interior Ministry's preparations to implement the High Court's recent decision.

Chareidi representatives lodged harsh criticism against the ruling to recognize "jaunt conversions" performed outside of Israel by Reform and Conservative rabbis, saying it would do great harm to the Jewish people and it threatened to bring non-Jews into Kerem Beis Yisroel in the guise of Jews.

At Monday's committee meeting MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni again denounced the ruling, calling it a political move lacking any legal content or value. He said not just anyone who wants to convert can convert, and certainly not just anyone who wants to perform conversions is authorized to do so. Only individuals who genuinely want to join the Jewish people and accept the yoke of Torah and mitzvos can convert and only an authorized beis din can perform conversions.

Minister Pines said that his ministry's arrangements would prevent opportunists from taking advantage of the High Court decision, but announcing that the requirement to spend at least one year abroad as a member of a kehilloh during the conversion process would be dropped. "An individual who wants to tie his fate with the State of Israel and has earnest intentions should be welcome and this serves the collective interest of all of us," said Pines. "The amount [i.e. number] of converts today is small and we must encourage the converts." He also said his ministry would begin to formulate a plan for an orderly immigration policy.

In response Rabbi Gafni dismissed the need to encourage converts, saying those who are genuine in their desire to become Jews would not be dissuaded by bureaucratic obstacles and arguing that not everyone who wants Israeli citizenship for some reason should be allowed to take advantage of the laughable Reform and Conservative conversion practices. "Even the smallest clubs have more stringent entry requirements than what the Reform and Conservative [rabbis] require for entry into the Jewish people, and in every Western nation it is now harder to obtain citizenship than in Israel."

MK Nisan Dahan (Shas) demanded an amendment to the Law of Return. "A distinction must be made between who is a Jew and who is an Israeli," said Dahan. A similar demand was voiced by Deputy Education Minister MK Michael Melchior (Labor).

Attorney Kobi Shapira of the Justice Ministry said that in conjunction with the Interior Ministry the Justice Ministry has begun formulating criteria regarding conversion outside of Israel. MK Dahan asked to receive a copy of the criteria.

Moshe Klein, head of the conversion apparatus at the Prime Minister's office, noted that 919 conversions took place in 2003 and 1,730 in 2004.


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