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Orthodox Jews Move to Diminish Israeli Ruling

From Religious News Service

Orthodox officials have taken steps to diminish the significance of an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that non-Orthodox converts to Judaism must be registered as Jews in official documents.

Interior Minister Arye Deri, an Orthodox rabbi, said that neither he nor his chief clerk will sign the mandatory national identity cards, which state the bearer’s name, address, marital status and “nationality,” or religion.

Under Deri’s announcement, each new identity card would read, “The registration on this identity card regarding personal status is not even apparent proof of accuracy.” Stamps containing this addition already arrived at Interior Ministry offices.

‘Good Custom Until Now’

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Deri made the decision after a late-night meeting with spiritual leaders of his Shas Party. He said they decided that the law did not oblige him or the ministry’s registration clerk to sign the identity cards.

“It was a good custom until now, assuming that I was signing that the details on the identity cards are true,” Deri said. “But if the court says I have no authority to decide, then there will be no signature.”

On Monday, the Supreme Court ruled that immigrants converted by Reform or Conservative rabbis must be registered as Jews. In a separate ruling, the court said that Reform rabbis could not officiate at weddings in Israel. Israel’s official rabbinate is Orthodox and maintains authority over marriage and divorce.

Jewish leaders in the United States, where Jews are predominantly affiliated with Reform and Conservative synagogues, were generally pleased with the ruling that would allow Jewish converts to immigrate to Israel and be listed as citizens. But the countermoves by Orthodox leaders in Israel appeared to maintain the status quo on marriages.

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Would Require Investigation

Deri sent a message to Religious Affairs Minister Zevulun Hammer to ask the rabbinate to disregard the information on religion contained in the identity cards when couples register for marriage. This would, in effect, require the rabbis to investigate the religious identity of every couple wishing to obtain a marriage license.

Interior Ministry officials said once the rabbinate discovers that an applicant had been converted by a non-Orthodox rabbi, he would be asked to undergo an Orthodox ceremony.


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