Israeli Conversion Impasse Broken–Sort of

The (New York) Jewish Week broke the news last week that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has agreed to recognize all conversions by the Rabbinical Council of America, the largest Orthodox rabbinical association in North America. In exchange, the RCA will set up regional conversion courts that will follow the strict standards requested by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

I’ve written about the sorry state of affairs for would-be converts in Israel before, and this is welcome news. Would-be converts from the U.S. who are looking to undergo an Orthodox conversion can now be confident that their conversion will be recognized in Israel. At the same time, there are numerous groups that this decision doesn’t help, including: those who converted before the official network of regional courts were established; those who went through the state-funded conversion academy in Israel; those who converted under Conservative or Reform auspices; and those who converted under Orthodox auspices outside of North America.

While potential converts still face numerous obstacles in Israel, the Orthodox in America, to their credit, are beginning to open up toward non-Jewish spouses looking to convert. Traditionally, Orthodox rabbis did not accept intermarriage as a legitimate reason to convert, but Eternal Jewish Family, a non-profit based out of New York, is looking to change that.

The group is holding a seminar in Phoenix May 13-15 on “Universally Accepted Conversion in Interfaith Marriage.”

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