Amar launches battle against reform conversions
Chief rabbi convenes 'urgent meeting' of leading rabbis, politicians to discuss recent High Court ruling ordering State to fund Reform conversions. Participants demand handling of conversions be transferred to hands of Chief Rabbinate
Kobi Nahshoni, Ynet
Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar convened an urgent meeting of leading rabbis, ministers and Knesset members on Sunday to discuss a recent High Court of Justice ruling ordering the State to fund private Reform conversion institutions.
After lengthy deliberations the participants decided to demand that the government transfer responsibility for the entire conversion system from the government to the hands of the Chief Rabbinate.
At the beginning of Sunday's meeting Rabbi Amar warned that the court's ruling would eventually lead to a state recognition of Reform and Conservative conversions, until "part of the people will not be able to marry the other part."
Interior Minister Eli Yishai said during the meeting that a future recognition in Reform conversion could have far-reaching implications on non-halachic issues as well. He expressed concern that foreign workers and Palestinians could easily convert this way and become Israeli citizens.
Minister of Religious Services Yakov Margi added that by sanctioning non-Orthodox conversions the government would cause a national rift – "two people in the State of Israel that are separated from one another."
Other participants in the meeting were Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger, Minister Ariel Atias and several religious MKs.
Reform rabbi: Rabbinate failed shamefully
MK Uri Orbach, the only representative of religious Zionism in the meeting, told Ynet: "It’s obvious that the issue is not the funding but the High Court's interference, which is an opening for recognition in Reform conversions and for introducing Reform rabbinical judges into the state conversion system. We share in this concern.
"It's no secret that the religious-Orthodox world is divided on conversions – what is the Halacha and how should non-Jews be treated. It's complicated, but there's no argument that what the Reform Movement is doing is not Halacha."
Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said in response to the urgent meeting that, "The Chief Rabbinate has failed disgracefully in its handling of conversions, and allowed extremist and heartless elements to take over the conversion courts, marriage registries and rabbinical courts."
What has Amar and friends in such a tizzy? What is the High Court's "interference"?
[T]he court ruled that the State failed to uphold its obligation to equality, and that "the State does not have to support private conversion schools, but as long as it chooses to do so – it cannot give preference to one form of conversion, and must exercise equality."