Wednesday, April 06, 2005

On Conversion and the Law of Return

The argument about last week's ruling by the Supreme Court regarding conversions carried out overseas after undergoing a conversion process within Israel seems to me to have reached hysterical proportions.

That "Former, current chief rabbis dismiss conversion ruling" was surely only to be expected. The Orthodox dismiss any conversion that is not carried out under Orthodox auspices, either in Israel or overseas - so the fact that a process can be carried out partly in Israel and partly overseas is certainly not going to win them over.

The significance of the ruling relates, purely and simply to the application of the Law of Return, section 4B of which defines a Jew as being "a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion." (my emphasis)

The Interior Ministry has, until the ruling was made, considered this definition to apply to people who have converted outside of Israel via any stream of Judaism. Due to the Orthodox stream's control of the religious lifecycle inside of Israel however, only conversions performed according to Orthodox rules in Israel have been accepted. Thus the odd situation was that the Law of Return was applied to non-orthodox converts on the basis of where they converted.

Further to this, the Interior Ministry made the demand that a person who converted overseas must live within a community there for a year before being eligible for Aliyah. This meant that people could not go overseas for a short period of time to convert so as to be eligible for the Law of Return. It is this restriction that has been removed.

Non-othodox converts who converted overseas have always been allowed to make Aliyah; so too have huge numbers of non-Jews who have Jewish ancestory or who are married to Jews. The Law of Return has case the net wide in providing an answer to the question "Who is a Jew?" and has never claimed that it is a Halachic definition. A person for whom the matter is important will generally be aware that they have to check the credentials of a potential spouse before becoming involved; the High Court ruling doesn't really change this but rather provides a way around an irregularity in the system.

It is surely a matter of time before the Supreme Court levels the playing field and rules that a conversion performed in Israel via any stream is acceptable for the Law of Return, thus obviating the need for people to look for some way of circumventing the law. There will doubtless be a hysterical outcry, when that happens too.



Chai18 said...

It has always been that way, the government and the rabbinate have always had different views on who was Jewish, so legally in Israel a person can be a Jew, but according to the rabbinate he is not

Rabbi Ariel Sokolovsky said...

By the grace of G-d
Shalom uBrocha!
To allow people improperly converted no matter where the conversion is performed to be registered as Jews creates confusion increases intermariage increases infiltration by missionaries and even presents security threat to Israel (see Mubarak Awad Scandal .
Also check out
brocha ve'hatzlocha
Ariel Sokolovsky
PS:The Rebbe once pointed out that according to the law of return Goliath would get citizenship.:-)
PPS:As long as the law of return and the law of personal status are not amended to read converted according to halocha it's especialy important to publicize that conversions not according to halocha are not valid.When Chabad first made much noise about it there were many calls from people who have undergone improper conversion asking how can they convert Orthodox.

Long Live our Master our Teacher and our Rebbe King Moshiach Forever and Ever!