Bintel Blog

Ha’aretz: Stop Blocking Conversion of FSU Immigrants

By Daniel Treiman

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An impassioned editorial in Ha’aretz rails against the Orthodox rabbinate for erecting barriers to the conversion of hundreds of thousands of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who were brought to Israel under the Law of Return:

Bitter infighting, saturated with political power plays, deal-making of the lowest form, and strong-arm tactics driven by personal animosity have brought division to the national religious camp. In matters of conversion, just like in matters of matrimony, liberals in that camp side with the view that as many immigrants as possible must be helped to attain that desirable entry ticket into Israeli society with relative ease. On the other hand, all roads to conversion are blocked by pedants and purists, who succumb to ultra-Orthodox rabbis on all issues. They transform conversion into an ongoing nightmare, which may repel the new immigrants from the entire process and alienate them from Israeli society and Judaism.

Conversions are being carried out by the most stringent guardians of the halakha, who are essentially a minority group among world Jewry. They pose halakhic requirements for the converts and their families that are very strict. At the gate to the national home established by Zionists now stand representatives of the anti-Zionist ultra-Orthodoxy.

What’s noteworthy here is that a liberal Israeli daily wants so badly for immigrants to have access to Orthodox-recognized conversion. If the Orthodox establishment, however, continues its intransigence, don’t be surprised when Israeli liberals simply throw up their hands and cease to care about conversion. Instead, secular and liberal Israelis will simply become resigned to the idea that Israeli Jewry is divided into two peoples. If this comes to pass, the Orthodox establishment will deserve much of the blame.

Indeed, there is also an implicit threat within the editorial: “[for] those who do not wish to convert and those who are unable to do so — the government must find an appropriate solution outside the parameters dictated by religion.”

The editorial concludes on the following note:

The State of Israel encouraged and brought to the country hundreds of thousands of immigrants on the basis of their connection to the Jewish people. It thus has a historic and Jewish responsibility to complete the process of fully accepting them into Israeli society.

Read the full article.


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