The Israeli High Court ruled on Thursday that private Orthodox conversions will be recognized for the right of return, a decision swiftly denounced by Chief Sephardic Harav Yitzhak Yosef as an unwarranted interference in the conversion process.
Harav Yosef termed it “a scandal, it is unthinkable that the private conversion industry which is unsupervised by any state body will be recognized as official.
“The state of Israel runs a state conversion branch under the Prime Minister’s Office which works under appropriate and pleasant standards meant to give a response to the entire public in the state of Israel,” he added. “This sort of recognition (by the court) effectively causes the elimination of the state conversion branch.”
“The Court will not determine who is a Jew, only the Torah will do that. That is how it has always been, and b’ezras Hashem, that is how it will continue to be,” declared Rav Yosef.
United Torah Judaism MK Rabbi Yisrael Eichler said that “the High Court has demonstrated once again that it is an agency of the Reform movement.
“According to the [logic of their] position, if you must privatize conversion, then you must privatize the courts, and establish special courts for transportation and taxation,” something that they are, of course, not petitioning for. “Conversion is no less important than transportation and taxation,” said Rabbi Eichler.
In response to the Court’s announcement, MK Betzalel Smotrich (Jewish Home) said that he intends to submit a bill to bypass the decision, determining that only conversions through the already existing state conversion branch will entitle individuals to receive Israeli citizenship and the accompanying benefits under the Law of Return.