Something Important About Israel You Can Do Right Now

The Israeli Knesset will vote in the next day or so on a bill that would fundamentally change the Law of Conversion and further concentrate power with the Chief Rabbinate.

As explained in Ha’aretz,

Under current practice, Israel recognizes only conversions performed by Orthodox rabbis inside Israel, but people converted by non-Orthodox rabbis outside the country are automatically eligible for Israeli citizenship like other Jews. The proposed legislation would give Israel’s chief rabbinate the legal power to decide whether any conversion is legitimate. The group most likely to suffer would be immigrants who converted to Judaism abroad and could now be denied Israeli citizenship.

Alana Newhouse, editor of Tablet magazine, had a particularly good op-ed in the New York Times:

If this bill passes, future historians will inevitably wonder why, at a critical moment in its history, Israel chose to tell 85 percent of the Jewish diaspora that their rabbis weren’t rabbis and their religious practices were a sham, the conversions of their parents and spouses were invalid, their marriages weren’t legal under Jewish law, and their progeny were a tribe of bastards unfit to marry other Jews.

This legislation is important to Interfaith couples even if they aren’t presently contemplating conversion. Israel’s chief rabbinate is totally hostile to any acknowledgment whatsoever of interfaith relationships or any welcoming whatsoever of interfaith families. Extending the chief rabbinate’s power is not in the interest of any interfaith couple that has any interest in Israel. I urge you to go to the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center website and send an email to Prime Minister Netanyahu asking him to intervene and urge withdrawal of the proposed legislation.

The proposed legislation has engendered a storm of protest from the Jewish community outside of Israel, including the Reform and rabbi-julie-schonfeld/israel-conversion-bill-an_b_649513.html:2k7fts1c">Conservative movements, the Jewish Federations of North America, the Boston federation, and others.

To learn more, check the coverage in JTA, including the Fundermentalist blog, the Associated Press, and the New York Jewish Week.

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3 thoughts on “Something Important About Israel You Can Do Right Now

  1. I don’t understand your criticism of Israel here. It seems fairly clear. If you want to be Jewish – fine. But there are rules. Just as there are rule to become an American citizen there are rules to becoming a “citizen”  of Israel. You don’t want to follow the rules, don’t become Jewish. So lighten up and realize that there are “rules” and they come from HaShem.

  2. It also matters, even if you think that the idea of automatic aliyah & citizenship for all Jews is bad policy and that both Israel and diaspora Jews would be better served by Israel having a strong and secular refugee & asylum law.

    Why?

    Because there are plenty of Jews in the EU and in other countries which don’t have as firm a separation of church & state as the United States does. In many such places, local governments look towards Israel for defining who is a Jew locally, which has an absolute impact on the religious freedom of local communities.

    Questions of intermarriage, conversion, and religious pluralism don’t just affect Jews in the United States and Israel, but our decisions here and there have an outsized effect in countries with numerically smaller Jewish communities.

  3. @Tzvi, yes there are rules, and we as religious Jews choose to believe they come from Hashem.  Can’t really disagree with you there, although it sounds like excrement when you say it.  Judaism does have a whole bunch to say about conversion, but this is not immutable; it has been driven by the Halachic process, which is something that people do, not something that was revealed at Sinai.  Right now, tightening up on conversion has more to do with party politics, xenophobia and a whole bunch of lousy attitudes towards other people than it has to do with Judaism (of any denomination).

    As for belonging to a club, your analogy is faulty.  Judaism is not one single club.  It is a whole lot of related clubs that choose to belong to a single league.  Each club should be able to determine its own rules (including membership), and there’s no reason why one single club should be the only club officially recognised by the State of Israel.  Israel should be completely neutral in this regard.

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