Tuesday, March 02, 2021

Israel's Top Court Rules That State Must Recognize Non-Orthodox Conversions Under Law of Return

Yesterday, Israel's Supreme Court ruled that those who convert to Judaism in Israel under auspices of the Reform or Conservative (Masorti) movements must be granted Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return.  As reported by JTA:

Israel’s Law of Return offers automatic citizenship to anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent. The state also generally recognizes those who converted to Judaism under Orthodox standards.

Past Supreme Court decisions have mandated that the state also recognize Jews who converted outside of Israel under non-Orthodox authority, provided they live in a recognized Jewish community....

Monday’s decision extends the right to citizenship to those who converted to Judaism under non-Orthodox auspices in Israel itself. The petition that spurred the court ruling was filed in 2005 but was postponed for more than a decade because the court wanted to give the government time to resolve the matter through legislation.

According to the New York Times:

The decision was mainly symbolic because typically, only 30 or 40 foreigners convert to Reform or Masorti Judaism in Israel every year.... 

But the ruling chips away some of the monopoly Orthodox rabbis have held over questions of religious identity that are central to frictions within Israeli society. It also inflames a long-running debate about the relationship between Israel’s civil and religious authorities — and particularly the role of the Supreme Court.