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Ruling Eases Way for Non-Orthodox Conversions

From Religion News Service

Israel’s highest court has struck down a requirement that conversions to Judaism in Israel must be authorized by an Orthodox rabbi. That eases the way for Conservative and Reform conversions to receive official sanction.

The Supreme Court stopped short of ordering the government to place non-Orthodox conversions on an equal par with Orthodox ones. But it left the door open to legislative action or further legal maneuvering that could achieve that end.

In the United States, the Assn. of Reform Zionists of America hailed the court action, calling it “a powerful step forward” toward “the continued goal of bringing equal rights to Jews in Israel.”

The Reform movement has led the fight in Israel to end Orthodox control over conversions and other aspects of Israeli Jewish life, such as marriage and divorce. Ironically, non-Orthodox conversions performed outside Israel are generally recognized in Israel.

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Israel does not have the sort of legal separation of state and religion that exists in the United States.

In response to the court decision, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, one of two chief rabbis of Israel, said the Orthodox establishment would continue to resist non-Orthodox attempts to gain equal status under the law.

“We will not be able to recognize a conversion that is a fiction,” he said. “We will not be able to recognize as a member of the Jewish people one whose entrance has not been acceptable for generations under Jewish law.”


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