"Proponents of pluralism are sonei Yisroel," said MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni in an attack on Reform and Conservative conversion activists during a meeting of the Knesset Immigrant Absorption Committee held following a scandalous High Court ruling forcing the State to fund "conversion" preparation studies at Reform schools and institutes. "Even the Beer Drinkers' Club has certain acceptance criteria, while they have no criteria at all. Some Reform rabbi in New York can come along and decide somebody standing on some rooftop in Los Angeles is a Jew."
An Absorption Ministry representative told the committee meeting that the ministry plans to issue new criteria to implement the court ruling, saying the ministry currently budgets NIS 4.5 million ($1.2 million) for conversion study programs.
A representative from the Prime Minister's Office said that despite the remarks by the Absorption Ministry representative, a decision has been made to have the Prime Minister's Office assume control of issues related to conversion study programs. Once the Prime Minister's Office starts handling the matter, it will decide whether to implement the High Court's decision, and if so, how and at what budget level.
In response the Absorption Ministry representative said the ministry is working to change the decision and to prevent the matter from changing hands.
During the committee meeting, Rabbi Gafni also noted how throughout the generations Jews have made every effort to remain Jewish according to the halachic and religious requirements, therefore it would be unconscionable to come along and falsify Judaism. "Conversion guidelines are a religious matter, not a matter for the State to handle," he said.
He also lodged criticism against the hypocrisy underlying Reform activists' demand that the High Court recognize them on grounds of equality while they are in the process of petitioning the very same court to deny funding to children enrolled in the chareidi education system.
He warned against the clear danger in the High Court's stance toward Reform, saying the High Court has no real understanding of the conversion issue. "There is only one way to join the Jewish people," stressed Rabbi Gafni. "Having a love for Eretz Yisroel or living in the State of Israel is irrelevant. Jumbling together the issues of Jewishness and citizenship is liable to bring disaster. The Reform have malicious intent. They don't like us."