Rabbonim, dayonim and public figures expressed shock and firm
opposition following a further decline in the conversion
system in Eretz Yisroel with the setup of a government
conversion authority designed to speed up and push through
the conversions of hundreds of thousands of immigrants.
Last week Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Ministerial
Committee for Immigrant Affairs approved recommendations
submitted five months ago by the Chalfon Committee, which was
commissioned to assess conversion. The goal of these
recommendations is to remove so-called bureaucratic obstacles
and accelerate the "conversion" of hundreds of thousands of
non-Jews who received citizenship under the Law of Return and
whose apparent but false conversion is liable to cause
assimilation and grave breaches in Kerem Beis Yisroel.
The setup of the new government authority means the
dismantling of the current conversion system within a matter
of months and the transfer of authority over conversion to a
secular government body.
The committee behind the recommendations was headed by
Immigrant Absorption Ministry Director-General Erez Chalfon.
Minister Yaakov Edri has gone on record saying that the
conversion of non-Jews is a national priority and an
important strategy in safeguarding the future of the State of
The plan calls for ample funding and appointing new dayonim
in order to inject a more "open" and "welcoming" spirit
— designed to increase the number of conversion
The mainstream secular media hailed the approval of the
recommendations, which are bound to introduce leniencies.
"The approval of the recommendations was delayed because of
opposition by chareidim and a portion of the rabbis in the
conversion system," noted one report.
When the Chalfon Committee was set up six months ago, the
Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur, founded by HaRav Chaim
Kreiswirth zt"l, warned against the danger underlying
ties with various government ministries, which are driven
solely by a desire to increase the conversion rate. According
to the Vaad, one of the committee members, who wears a
knitted kippah, tried in the past to set up a conversion
system together with Reform and Conservative entities,
claiming it was in accordance with halochoh, though
gedolei Yisroel shlita have unanimously opposed it in
With the recent government decision, the Vaad reiterates that
conversion cannot be used as a solution to deal with problems
caused by bringing in hundreds of thousands of non-Jews in
the last wave of immigration.
"People severed from any trace of Judaism cannot be expected
to change their way of life and observe mitzvas fully, which
is an unequivocal prerequisite for conversion and the lack of
which invalidates conversions under all circumstances," says
the Vaad Spokesman. "The Chief Rabbinate must make this clear
to government officials once and for all. No rabbi may agree
to sit with any government official to discuss the issue of
conversion, which is a purely halachic matter, with no room
for outside interference."
Merely participating in committees whose sole intention is to
introduce conversion leniencies is liable to create major
stumbling blocks in the present and future, inundating Eretz
Yisroel with hundreds of thousands of non-Jews possessing
conversion certificates that are not worth the paper they're
printed on, notes the Vaad.
At most there are only a few hundred non-Jews genuinely
prepared to undergo conversions that are valid according to
halochoh, i.e. by accepting all mitzvas in full. Therefore,
says the Vaad, not only should the conversion system not be
expanded, but it should even by reduced to a handful of
fixed, reputable botei din. The Vaad is calling on the
Chief Rabbinate to openly sever all ties with various
officials whose declared intent is solely to increase the
number of highly questionable converts in Israel.