Monday, August 13, 2007

Chief Rabbi Amar moves to resolve conversion issues

By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Jewish World Correspondent

Israeli chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar has decided to appoint a committee of rabbinical court judges (dayanim) to examine the array of religious issues that have been delaying the conversion of thousands of immigrants.

The committee of three dayanim will look into the requirements for religious observance  which have proved a stumbling block for many would-be converts  and try to formulate clear rules in the matter.

Amar's decision followed an agreement with the director general of the Immigrant Absorption Ministry, Erex Halfon, to accept the recommendations of an inter-ministerial committee established five months ago and headed by Halfon, which dealt with reorganizing the entire field of conversion.

Halfon's committee is scheduled to present its conclusions in a week. These are expected to include setting up a unified conversion authority that would operate under the auspices of either the Immigrant Absorption Ministry or the Prime Minister's Office.

The authority would likely encompass the special conversion courts, which would grow and employ more dayanim. The authority would also finance the various frameworks for preparing converts.

The prime minister will appoint the director of the authority, but in practice this will be a confidant of the chief rabbi. The latter is also supposed to set the standards for the new authority pertaining to halakha, or Jewish law.

The director will evidently be former Knesset member Rabbi Haim Druckman, who is currently head of the conversion courts.

According to government figures, there are some 300,000 immigrants who came to Israel under the Law of Return but are not recognized as Jews.

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