New York, NY, November 3, 2014 … The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) today welcomed the decision by the cabinet of the government of Israel to adopt a law reforming the process for Jewish conversion in Israel. The new law is designed to ease the Jewish conversion process for tens of thousands of Israeli citizens.
ADL called the reform “an important step forward for Israeli society and Jewish inclusivity,” but noted that additional steps are still needed to more fully address challenges relating to Israel’s conversion laws which do not recognize conversions in a large segment of the Jewish people.
“The decision by Israel’s cabinet to ease the conversion process throughout the country is an important step forward for Israeli society and Jewish inclusivity,” said Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director. “Tens of thousands of Israeli citizens, many of whom hail from the former Soviet Union and have been born or lived in Israel for many years, including some who served in the Israel Defense Forces, will now encounter a Jewish conversion process that is hopefully less cumbersome and obstructionist.”
The law, which was approved on Sunday, expands the number and geographic location of conversion courts and allows them to be convened by state-employed municipal Orthodox rabbis. This could effectively increase the number of total conversion courts in Israel from the current four to as many as 34.
“While this decision by the cabinet is an important step forward, more work still remains, including properly addressing the legal standing in Israel of conversions performed by rabbis from the Reform and Conservative streams of Judaism,” said Mr. Foxman. “The long-standing refusal of Israel's Orthodox Chief Rabbinate to recognize conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis does not take account of the diversity of mainstream Jewish religious practice and is of particular concern to the largest segment of American Jewry, which is not Orthodox. We hope the Israeli government will continue pursuing efforts towards addressing this and other challenges relating to Israel’s conversion laws.”