Conversion Changes Rolled Back

YERUSHALAYIM (Hamodia Staff) -

The Israeli government on Sunday canceled the conversion law passed seven months ago, which had paved the way for easy conversions of doubtful validity.

The last government led by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu pushed through a law that wrested control of the reform process from the Chief Rabbinate and authorized rabbis around the country to form their own conversion courts. It would have permitted conversion candidates to select a rabbi anywhere in the country, whether or not in the area of their own residence.

Sunday’s decision implemented a specific clause in the coalition agreement between Likud and United Torah Judaism which called for nullifying the law, which they and the Shas party representatives had fought from the outset, along with Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef.

Technically, the law will not be repealed but amended, allowing local rabbis to establish their own conversion courts, but only with the approval of the Chief Rabbinate.

Unsurprisingly, the decision was attacked by supporters of the reform. Yisrael Beitenu chairman Avigdor Lieberman, whose constituents from the former Soviet Union heavily favor relaxations in the conversion process, condemned it, blaming the chareidim for “making the lives of Israeli citizens more difficult.”

The Jewish Home party was split on the issue. Education Minister Naftali Bennett and Justice Minister Ayelet Shaked voted against the measure.

But Agriculture Minister Uri Ariel, leader of the Tekuma faction with Jewish Home, was absent for the vote.

MK Bezalel Smotrich, the other Tekuma MK, said that “canceling the conversion reform is good and will contribute to the status and trustworthiness of conversions.”