Ashkenazi haredim are continuing to oppose the validity of converts who undergo conversion during their Israel Defense Forces service. The newspaper that serves as a mouthpiece for haredi head Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv contained a front page decree yesterday ordering marriage registrars here and abroad to not register military converts.
Rabbis lobby Yishai on behalf of Candanian Orthodox convert denied aliyah
The move follows the case of Thomas Dohlan, a Canadian national who had undergone Orthodox conversion to Judaism in Canada.
By Yair Ettinger • Ha’aretz
Several dozen U.S. and Canadian rabbis wrote to Interior Minister Eli Yishai yesterday, asking him to clarify his ministry’s regulations on conversions to Judaism done outside Israel, and to ensure these conversions will be recognized by the state.
The move follows the case of Thomas Dohlan, a Canadian national who had undergone Orthodox conversion to Judaism in Canada, but whose request to immigrate under the Law of Return was rejected by the Interior Ministry.
“We are concerned by recent reports that the Interior Ministry is consulting the chief rabbinate on whether or not to declare a particular Orthodox conversion valid for the purposes of immigration,” the rabbis wrote. “The North American Orthodox rabbis concerned with the current arrangement represent only a small share of the North American Orthodox community. As rabbis and as Zionists, we call on you to clarify the situation and amend the wrong being done to our converts, to ourselves and to the entire Jewish people.”
The ministry told Haaretz the decision to bar Dohlan was made in consultation with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, which does not recognize the particular rabbi that converted Dohlan. The rabbi belongs to the modern-orthodox stream and is not a member of Rabbinical Council of America, recognized by the chief rabbinate.
The Supreme Court had ruled previously that the Interior Ministry must recognize the conversion of Reform or Conservative converts from abroad, but left Orthodox converts out of the ruling.
Dohlan’s case demonstrated for the first time that the actual decision is being made by the rabbinate. Yishai told Haaretz the practice was inappropriate, but the instructions of the ministry on the matter remain unchanged.
Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Hasidic community is continuing to oppose the validity of converts who undergo conversion during their Israel Defense Forces service. The mouthpiece of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv contained a front page decree yesterday with the command for marriage registrars here and abroad to not register the military converts.
Ynet has a similar report:
US rabbis: Recognize our conversions
Dozens of Orthodox rabbis send letter to Interior Minister Yishai, demanding that converts be allowed to make aliyah under Law of Return. ITIM institute: Current reality a slap in Orthodox communities' face
Kobi Nahshoni • Ynet
New front against Chief Rabbinate over conversions: Dozens of Orthodox rabbis from the United States sent a letter to Interior Minister Eli Yishai on Monday, demanding that he recognize the conversions performed by them and allow the converts to immigrate to Israel.
According to the rabbis, the Interior Ministry consults with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate when determining which conversions performed abroad would be recognized under the Law of Return, and usually disqualifies those whose Jewishness is not recognized for the purpose of marriage.
The rabbis who signed the letter are affiliated with the modern Orthodox stream. They accuse the Chief Rabbinate of only approving conversions of several rabbis from North American Orthodox communities, while ignoring many other rabbinical courts converting people according to Jewish Law as well.
"Those Orthodox rabbinical leaders in the United States who are content with such an arrangement represent only one slice of the North American Orthodox Jewish community, and do not represent us or our constituencies,” they wrote.
“As rabbis and as Zionists, we call upon you to clarify the situation and rectify the injustice being done to our converts, ourselves and the Jewish people."
In the letter – copies of which were also sent to Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky – the rabbis wrote that they represent well-established communities, synagogues and Hillel centers.
They said they had no doubt that the conversions performed by their courts and communities meet all the criteria required by the Interior Ministry to make a convert eligible for aliyah under the Law of Return.
“We are concerned that some of the conversions performed under our auspices are being questioned vis-à-vis aliyah eligibility. We find this unacceptable, and turn to you in an effort to insure that those individuals whom we convert will automatically be eligible for aliyah as they have been in the past.”
The letter was signed by rabbis belonging to the Rabbinical Council of America, the International Rabbinic Fellowship, Orthodox Union and Yeshiva University, who have all been authorized as rabbis from the official Orthodox institutions in North America.
Change in status-quo
ITIM –The Jewish Life Information Center, which is leading the battle, says Interior Ministry regulations state that the conversion must be examined according to criteria defining a "recognized community", but that the ministry would rather have the Chief Rabbinate look into the matter.
ITIM Director Rabbi Dr. Shaul Farber warned of a rift among the Jewish people, saying: "In the situation created people who have undergone a conversion process in Reform or Conservative communities are eligible for aliyah, while those who underwent an Orthodox conversion – their conversion is not recognized."
He said this was a dramatic change in the status-quo, which is like "a slap in the face of Orthodox communities in the US."
Farber, who expressed his amazement over the fact that the Interior Ministry was consulting the Rabbinate on issues related to immigration, called for an urgent discussion at the Knesset's Immigration and Absorption Committee.
"The Law of Return is meant to provide an answer to all those entering the Jewish people, but today the Interior Ministry rules that most Orthodox rabbis in the world are not authorized to bring people beneath the wings of the Divine Presence. This policy is injustice being done to our converts, and it's ironic that the interior minister, a religious person, is letting this happen."