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February 02, 2013

An End-Run Around The State Of Israel’s Conversion To Judaism Bureaucracy

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin 2An increasing number of residents of Israel are turning to private bet dins, religious courts, to convert to Judaism – even though doing so is viewed by the state's official haredi controlled rabbinate and several government ministries as illegal, and doing so could permanently bar these converts from becoming Israeli citizens. In fact, if discovered, they could be deported.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin 2
Rabbi Shlomo Riskin

An End-Around The State Of Israel’s Conversion To Judaism Bureaucracy
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com

An increasing number of residents of Israel are turning to private bet dins, religious courts, to convert to Judaism, Ha'aretz reports – even though doing so is viewed by the state's official haredi controlled rabbinate and several government ministries as illegal, and doing so could permanently bar these converts from becoming Israeli citizens. In fact, if discovered, they could be deported.

There are reportedly four private beit dins doing these conversions.

Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, who used to run Israel's state conversions, has his own private beit din for conversions because the state bureaucracy is so mind-numbingly slow and obtuse that he feels there is no other choice but to circumvent it completely.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, former rabbi of the Lincoln Square Synagogue in Manhattan who has been the chief rabbi of Efrat for many years.

Rabbi Nissim Kareletz, the haredi chief rabbi of Bnei Brak, whose conversion beit din is used primarily by haredi groups that want to avoid contact with the state – and by potential converts who have no interest in being haredi but who are sincere in wanting to be Jewish and Orthodox.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz has also started a conversion beit din. Steinsaltz is an Israel Prize winner, a Chabad hasid, and the noted translator of the Talmud into Modern Hebrew.

The conversion beit dins of Rosen and Riskin are about a month old, Steinsaltz's much older. Karelitz's has been in business for many years. In 2006 it did between 10 to 15 conversions; last year it did about 250.

"I was interested in making the conversion system more lenient and welcoming. This was my goal as a rabbinic court dayan," Rosen told Ha'aretz. "It's absurd. The state tries to court immigrants through the Jewish Agency, it invests millions in bringing the children and grandchildren of Jews to Israel, and now we have a not very large but very high quality group flocking to the doors and becoming citizens, yet the state is distancing them. Our rabbinic court does not seek to be contrarian. We are there to help in cases where the rabbinate should have been helping [but wasn't]."

Comments

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Private enterprise can accomplish things with better efficiency than can a government bureaucracy.

A government bureaucracy dedicated to its stated mission with transparency and no profit motive is cleaner and more accountable.

everyone can breathe easily now that the pimp tropper is out of that business.

("Who Are You", The Who)

Who is a Jew? Who who who who?
Who is a Jew? Who who who who?
Who is a Jew? Who who who who?
Who is a Jew? Who who who who?

I decide to make aliyah
The rabbis said not so fast
We first have to make very sure
That you’re not in a lower caste

I took El Al to Ben Gurion
Back to the Promised Land
I flew all the way here from Brooklyn
But now I don’t understand

Well, who’s a Jew? Who who who who?
I really wanna know
Who’s a Jew? Who who who who?
Tell me who’s a Jew? Who who who who?
Cause I really wanna know
Who’s a Jew? Who who who who?

Now they say I have to convert
Cause I’m not Jewish enough
I have to become a Torah expert
Or my aliyah they will rebuff

I have to become their kind
A devout kind of Jew
Dip myself in the mikvah
I must be made brand-new

Well, who’s a Jew? Who who who who?
I really wanna know
Who’s a Jew? Who who who who?
Tell me who’s a Jew? Who who who who?
Cause I really wanna know
Who’s a Jew? Who who who who?

Good one, Sarek

This is a very interesting article and scenario to read about. I was under the impression that the strict rules about conversion to Judaism in Israel had more to do with the question of who is a Jew and what qualifies as a real Jewish conversion from a religious standpoint and less to do with the government in a classic sense. I'm converting to Reform Judaism in the United States, and while I will be accepted in Israel as a Jew, I'd have to convert within Orthodox Judaism if I were in Israel. You can read about my process converting to Judaism on my blog: www.convertconfidential.com

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