Israel’s Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry has tried a new approach to healing the Israel-Diaspora rift left by the recent attempt to pass the so-called Conversion Bill: polling. It commissioned a poll on attitudes towards intermarried Jews and non-Orthodox conversions, and released the results to the Jerusalem Post with a whole lot of spin.
Here’s the big news, according to the article — 68% of Israeli Jews “believe intermarried Diaspora Jews should be considered part of the Jewish people.” The Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein is using the poll figures to argue that “we in the political and media sphere perceive a more cynical and pessimistic picture than is reflected in the public” — i.e. that Israeli and Diaspora Jews are actually on the same page. But what, exactly, does the figure prove? Judaism has never taken the view that intermarriage means one ceases to be “part of the Jewish people,” yet only 68% of Israeli Jews affirm that intermarried couples still belong to the tribe. How, exactly, does that prove your point, Mr. Edelstein?
The other important question was whether people who converted to Judaism outside of the Orthodox system should be considered part of the Jewish people. 82% of secular Jews, 42% of traditional Jews and 12% of religious Jews answered “yes.” The fact that there were 18% of secular Jews and 58% of traditional Jews who didn’t seems to indicate the opposite of what Mr. Edelstein wants it to prove: that even outside the Orthodox community there’s a reticence in accepting non-Orthodox conversions.