Extremist regardless of what head coverings they wear are still extremists! The Extremists in Israel are continuing their attack on all of Judaism! They continue to sell hate, fear and loathing. They are at the best bullies and the worst, only Hashem knows! They are a cancer in our mists wrapped in defiled holy cloth!
I AM A JEW!
THEY MUST BE STOPPED!
What’s Wrong With Israel’s Proposed Conversion Bill
by Seth Faber
Special To the Jewish Week
Only in Israel. On the day that the U.S. vice president arrived in Israel, reportedly to thwart Israel’s bombing of Iran, and following two days of intensive talks between Israel’s prime minister and President Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, the Israeli government almost fell ... because of a proposed bill about conversion to Judaism.
How could a conversion bill, which set out to marginally expand the list of rabbis who can perform conversions in Israel, set off a string of events that almost brought the government down? Though hard to imagine, the Israeli government coalition agreements include clauses that call for legislation to improve conversion in Israel. This week, such legislation was discussed in the Knesset law committee, and the proposed
bill, which would be a first for the Jewish state, brought on a coalition crisis between the ultra-Orthodox and immigrant parties.
The chaos created by the proposed conversion bill highlights the fact that conversion has become the “threshold” issue for the Jewish world today. Demographics, religious extremism and the politics of power have all played a role in this basic shift in the Jewish agenda. In the past 18 months, the leadership of The Jewish Federations of North America has written letters to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu asking him to engage the conversion issue. During the past year, the leadership of American Orthodoxy has engaged in seemingly endless negotiations with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to ensure that their conversions receive acceptance within the Israeli religious establishment. And when Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in Manhattan gave his annual assessment of the Jewish world and Modern Orthodoxy some weeks ago from his pulpit in Manhattan, he focused on conversion.
Just this week, the American Jewish Committee wrote a strong letter to the Knesset protesting the new conversion law (something once considerably outside its agenda), joining a number of political parties and religious groups in criticism of the proposed legislation, albeit for a variety of reasons.
Clearly the issue is burning.
In the version of the law brought to the Knesset law committee this past Sunday, three reforms were proposed. First, rabbis of cities in Israel who are appointed by the Chief Rabbinate would be allowed to engage in conversion (rather than allowing conversion to be the exclusive province of rabbinical court judges). That would be an improvement.
Second, rabbinical courts that seek to annul conversions would be able to do so only with the approval of the chief rabbi. And thirdly, and here is the eye-opener, individuals who converted in Israel would be ineligible for aliyah.
That third provision seemed to come out of nowhere.
The bill met with opposition on several fronts. The ultra-Orthodox parties in Israel are generally xenophobic, and they see conversion as a stick with which they can impose their ideologies. Since almost all the rabbinical court judges are ultra-Orthodox and since some of the city rabbis are Modern Orthodox, the ultra-Orthodox parties opposed the bill vociferously, as it seeks to increase the power of the city rabbis and limit the power of rabbinical court judges. And in fact, a vote on the bill was delayed because of the clout and influence of the ultra-Orthodox in the Knesset.
The bill also met with opposition because it alters one of the legislative untouchables of the Jewish Israeli ethos: the Law of Return. Since any Jew can immigrate to Israel and receive automatic citizenship, the authors of the proposed bill are genuinely concerned that illegal aliens and even terrorists could attempt to exploit conversion in order to achieve citizenship. However, by putting a blanket clause that precludes those who converted in Israel from making aliyah, the bill became preposterous. In principle, a convert to Judaism from overseas would be eligible for aliyah, while a convert who completed his conversion in Israel would be excluded from citizenship. Students, volunteers, or non-Jewish boyfriends and girlfriends of Israelis who completed conversion in Israel would not be granted immediate citizenship, even if they were fully Orthodox.
For now, the bill is in limbo, but the issues raised in the debate place the genuine issues of conversion — identity and the role of the land of Israel as a center for Jewish life — front and center, and for this I am thankful. The Jewish world has ducked these issues interminably, pretending that hakol yehihe b’seder (everything will be OK). As someone who has received more than a thousand phone calls and e-mails from converts and potential converts in the past year, asking for help in navigating the system, I assure you that everything is not OK.
Even if the conversion law passes with some modifications, there is serious need for conversion reform in Israel and around the world. There needs to be more consensus, greater access, and less politics, money and influence regarding this issue. In Israel, expanding the number and type of rabbis who can convert is an important first step in changing what has become a conversion process characterized by chaos. But serious improvements need to be made in the registration process, the courses of study, the rabbinical courts and the issuance of certificates. Greater accountability and transparency should be put in place in our conversion courts, and there ought to be increased responsiveness to the “needs of the hour,” particularly reaching out to couples who may otherwise intermarry.
Only in Israel can conversion bring down a government. But only in Israel can these issues be resolved for now, for the future, for ourselves and for our children.
Rabbi Seth Farber is the director of ITIM: The Jewish Life Information Center (www.itim.org.il) and rabbi of Kehilat Netivot in Raanana, Israel.
Why nobody's happy with conversion bill
By DAN IZENBERG
The Jerusalem Post
Bill threatening solidarity of coalition is actually 2 bills wrapped into one, and each has its own political foes.
The Chief Rabbinate bill (Amendment – Powers in Matters of Conversion) that threatens the solidarity of the coalition is actually two bills wrapped into one, and each has its own political foes who, taken together, add up to an overwhelming majority of the Knesset.
In other words, if Israel Beiteinu decides to submit the bill to the plenum for first reading according to the wording presented on Monday to the Knesset Law Committee, it does not stand a chance of passing.
The bill was initiated by the chairman of the law committee, MK David Rotem (Israel Beiteinu) in the hope that it would make it easier for the hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish Israeli citizens to convert to Judaism.
The first part of the bill empowers local authority rabbis or those who served as local authority rabbis in the past, to establish a special conversion court together with two other local authority rabbis to hear and approve requests for conversion.
In doing so, Rotem hoped to break the bottleneck in the conversion process by adding a large number of new authorized courts and rabbis to grant conversions. He also hoped that local rabbis, who officiated at the grassroots level and knew their communities, would be more flexible in granting conversions. Today, only the government-administered conversion courts, headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman, and the district rabbinical courts may do so.
According to Paragraph 24b of the amendment, “A special court is authorized to consider the conversion of an Israeli citizen or a person who has permanent residency status according to the Entry to Israel Law and to grant a conversion document.”
Another sub-paragraph deals with the controversial question of whether the conversion courts may repeal a conversion that has already been granted. Rabbinical court dayanim have nullified thousands of conversion certificates granted by Druckman’s courts on the grounds that the rabbis in these courts were of too low a caliber to approve the conversion.
According to the bill, the court that converted the non-Jewish applicant may nullify the conversion if it discovers that the applicant provided false information or concealed information from it. If some other question arises about the Jewishness of the convert, the court that converted him or her will examine the matter, or the president of the High Rabbinical Court may refer it to a district rabbinical court.
This provision is meant to address the common phenomenon of local authority rabbis who refuse to marry a convert because they do not accept the legitimacy of the court that converted him.
The provisions of the bill presented to the Law Committee on Monday were dramatically different from the original bill that was approved by the Knesset in preliminary reading several months ago.
The changes came as a result of intensive negotiations between Rotem and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar. The final draft of the bill for first reading was signed by Amar last week, with the blessings of Shas Party mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
But Shas has backed down from its approval, apparently because of the strong opposition of the United Torah Judaism (UTJ) Party.
The provisions of the current bill and the fact that negotiations were conducted between Rotem and Shas without including the UTJ infuriated the Ashkenazi haredi party. At Monday’s Law Committee meeting, UTJ MKs Uri Maklef and Moshe Gafni complained bitterly about the alleged betrayal of its coalition partner Shas, as well as about the contents of the bill itself. The MKs warned that the legislation would pave the way for conversions that were not in accordance with Halacha.
But while the first two paragraphs of the bill kept to the spirit, if not the exact letter, of the original draft, the third paragraph appeared to come out of the blue. In fact, no one seems to know exactly where it did come from.
According to Paragraph 3 of the draft, which is an amendment to the Citizenship Law rather than the Chief Rabbinate Law, “the right to citizenship according to the Law of Return will not apply to anyone who, before entering Israel, was not eligible to receive an immigrant’s permit or an immigrant’s document” according to the terms of the Law of Return.
In other words, if a non-Jew enters Israel and is not eligible for citizenship according to the Law of Return, even if he converts to Judaism after legally settling in Israel and receiving residential status, the Law of Return will not apply to him. Even though he is Jewish, the convert will have to go through the naturalization procedure stipulated by the Citizenship Law and reapply for his residential status each year, like all non-Jews.
Representatives of the Reform and Conservative movements and Hiddush, an organization campaigning for freedom of religion and equality, charged that this paragraph was aimed at them and was meant, among other things, to prevent foreign workers or refugees who obtained formal status, from becoming citizens even if they were to convert.
“It is clear that the Ministry of Interior wants to forestall any possibility of foreign workers or asylum-seekers from settling in Israel,” said Shahar Ilan, director-general of Hiddush. “They are just using the amendment to the Chief Rabbinate Law to achieve their aim through the back door.”
He also charged that it was unacceptable that there be first-class and second-class Jews.
Nicole Ma’or, an attorney for the Israel Religious Action Center, which belongs to the Progressive (Reform) Movement, warned that the provision could be used to prevent non-Jews who converted abroad from immigrating to Israel according to the Law of Return. She charged that the bill was worded so loosely that it could open up possibilities in the future that Rotem had not intended.
Today, in accordance with a High Court ruling, a person who converts to Judaism abroad and moves to Israel will be granted automatic citizenship according to the Law of Return. But what if such a convert had visited Israel before his conversion? Would he retroactively lose his status as an Israeli citizen if the law were passed? And, looking toward the future, what if a non-Jew visited Israel as a tourist, returned to his home country and then decided to convert and return to Israel after his conversion? Would he still be eligible for citizenship according to the Law of Return? Who was responsible for this addition to the bill, which is not even mentioned in the words of explanation that accompany it because it was tacked on at the last minute?
Rotem would not say. However, he made it clear that without it, Shas would not support the legislation and that without Shas’s votes, he would not be able to pass the part of the bill that he cared about – that is, allowing local authority rabbis to convert.
Neither the communications adviser of Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman or Justice Ministry official Yochi Gnessin, whose names have been linked to the provision, were prepared to comment on the matter to The Jerusalem Post.