Friday, June 17, 2011

Israel Interior Ministry Changes Procedures On Recognition of Conversions From Abroad

In the convoluted politics of religious identity in Israel, the Israeli Interior Ministry has declared that the Jewish Agency will decide on whether particular Orthodox Jewish conversions abroad will be recognized for purposes of permitting an individual to immigrate under the Law of Return.  The Jerusalem Post reported this week that under the new arrangement the country's Chief Rabbinate will be consulted only in "isolated cases" where questions arise.  The problem arises from a decision by the Chief Rabbinate several years ago to limit which Orthodox Jewish conversions from the United States it would recognize.  Under a High Court decision, anyone converted by a recognized Jewish community abroad qualifies for entry under the Law of Return. However the Interior Ministry never formulated a policy on how to define a recognized community, and instead deferred to the Chief Rabbinate. This has led to a growing number of applications by U.S. and Canadian converts for immigration under the Law of Return being rejected. The change in policy, which will lead to recognition of a broader group of conversions, presumably moots a lawsuit filed in May on behalf of a Canadian who was refused citizenship under the Law of Return. [Thanks to Joel Katz (Relig. & State in Israel) for the lead.]