Friday, April 01, 2016

Israel's High Court Recognizes Conversions Performed Outside of the Chief Rabbinate's Jurisdiction

Israel's High Court of Justice yesterday dealt another blow to the monopoly power of the country's Chief Rabbinate.  The Jerusalem Post reports that the Court, in an 8-1 decision, held that non-Israeli nationals who convert to Judaism through private Orthodox rabbinical courts-- rather than through the Chief Rabbinate's State Conversion Authority-- are eligible for citizenship under Israel's Law of Return.  Last year, a group of senior Orthodox rabbis gave up on trying to make the State Conversion Authority more accessible-- particularly to the many Soviet immigrants who are not recognized as Jewish under religious law-- and instead created their own non-state Orthodox conversion system known as Giyur Kahalacha.  It has converted some 150 people so far.  In Israel's complicated religious-political system, recognition under the Law of Return will likely require the Interior Ministry to register these converts as Jewish in the Population Registry. Then the question will be whether the Chief Rabbinate will recognize them as Jewish for purposes of marriage. Two leaders of the United Torah Judaism Party said that they would demand legislation to overturn the Court's decision.