Central Conference of American Rabbis Statement on the Israeli Conversion Bill
Wednesday, July 12, 2017
The Central Conference of American Rabbis condemns the bill put forward in the Knesset by Israel’s ultra-Orthodox parties with support from Prime Minister Netanyahu’s Cabinet.
The bill would grant the ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate sole legal authority over conversion in Israel for the first time in the State’s history. If adopted, the bill would supersede a 2016 Supreme Court ruling, which permitted all gerei tzedek (righteous converts) to register as Jews with Israel’s Interior Ministry alongside those born into the Covenant. Proponents of the bill seek to erase Jews welcomed into our Covenant by our Israeli Reform and Conservative colleagues and also by the many Israeli Orthodox rabbis who receive converts outside the Chief Rabbinate’s purview.
The fact that the bill would not impact conversions outside Israel is of no comfort to Reform rabbis. Similarly, the threat to Jewish unity posed by the bill is not diminished by the Prime Minister’s action to delay vote on the bill for six months.
In the Babylonian Talmud (Bava Metzia 30b), we learn that the Temple was destroyed because of a refusal to see beyond the letter of the law. Rabbi Donniel Hartman teaches that such legal inflexibility causes societies to crumble, not just in 70 C.E., but in every age.
As ohavei Yisrael (lovers of Israel), Reform rabbis stand among the Israeli majority, calling upon the Netanyahu government to stop dividing the people of Israel, in Israel and worldwide. Reform rabbis are eager to collaborate with all who would build Jewish unity, in Israel and worldwide.
Rabbi David Stern Rabbi Steven A. Fox
President Chief Executive
Central Conference of American Rabbis