Monday, May 18, 2009

Rabbinate Never Acts, Conversions Linger in the Air, Now the Secular Supreme Court Takes Up the Fight. G-d Forbid.


I'm not sure this is good. I wish the rabbinate would have dealt with this issue in a timely manner, I wish Amar would not have stopped with just words and had moved to action, I wish the whole thing hadn't gone as far as it has gone . . . but, as my dear mother would say, "If wishes were fishes, we would have them to fry; If wishes were horses, then beggars would ride!"

Now the Israeli "High Court of Justice" has the case, and they are rearing to go! It doesn't matter that they have no standing religiously. It doesn't matter that the court has not only failed to recognize Jewish Law in its rulings, it has AVOIDED using Jewish law in its rulings--especially the "chief justice" Dorit Beinisch (BTW, why is she still serving on the court?? The FIRST thing Bibi should have done was get rid of this less-than-stellar example of a judge).

But, we are in a weird situation. Israel is not a nation run by Halacha, but Halacha is intimately involved in the fabric of the nation, as the Rabbinate is responsible for granting marriages, divorces, and approving conversions.

This whole situation can be traced to the dispute between the the Rabbinate and the Israeli government regarding thousands of immigrants from the Former Soviet Union (FSU):

The government says the Rabbinate was dragging its heels in determining the Jewish status of those individuals, moving too slowly on conversions, and taking way too long to grant approval for marriage--creating a permanent problem for Israel.

The Rabbinate says the Israeli government was refusing to properly fund the Rabbinate in the monumental task of checking the Jewish identity of the immigrants from the FSU, educating those immigrants for conversion, or establishing proper living conditions for those immigrants and their children while they were going through the process.

Instead, with the Rabbinate and the government locked into this looping argument, the new State Conversion Authority, that provides services to candidates for conversion to Judaism, was established in 1990 and Rabbi Haim Meir Druckman was appointed as the director in 1990. This was a very controversial position for Rabbi Druckman because he was heading a government organization specifically designed to go around the Rabbinate's roadblocks to conversion.

Rabbi Druckman was the perfect candidate for this position, however, and he took great pains to try to heal the impasse between the Rabbinate and the State Conversion Authority during his tenure. He also had a very impressive resume of achievements, and was highly regarded by most religious authorities.

There was a period where the conversion authority was mostly accepted by most rabbis, and the Rabbinate had said little, publicly, about the State Conversion Authority. It's true that the Rabbinate still bristled a bit about how the state had taken part of their authority, but, then again, the state had taken part of their workload too--and as long as Rabbi Druckman was in charge, most believed the process was Halachically sound.

However, as the Rabbinate swung further and further to the right, and as the Haredim moved from the fringe of the Jewish world to occupation of the center of the Jewish world, Rabbi Druckman, a Religious Zionist, an Orthodox Rabbi, but by no means a member of any ultra-orthodox movement, began to have more and more difficulty with the more and more extreme elements of the Dayanim (Religious Judges) in the Rabbinate.

The whole thing came to a head when Rabbi Avraham Sherman, Head of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, ruled that a conversion done by Rabbi Druckman over a decade ago was invalid. Rabbi Sherman didn't stop there, however. He issued a P'sk that ALL of Rabbi Druckman's conversions were invalid--thousands of conversions.

Thousands of people are waiting to know their fate, and Rabbi Amar did nothing.

Now, we face the final showdown--between the Supreme Court of Israel and the Supreme Rabbinical Court.

May G-d Show Us Mercy.

May 18, 2009 12:31 | Updated May 18, 2009 13:18
Rabbinic Court given 90 days to justify conversion annulments

The High Court of Justice on Monday issued a suspended injunction to the Rabbinic Court ordering it to explain within 90 days why it nullified the conversions made by special courts headed by former National Conversion Authority chief Rabbi Haim Druckman and how it the authority to do so.

The ruling came in response to a petition filed jointly by the Center for Justice for Women, other organizations and two women whose conversions were invalidated.

In addition, the High Court extended the temporary injunction so that the appellants - whose Judaism was cast into doubt by the Rabbinic Court - could be removed from its list of people forbidden from marrying until a ruling is made on the matter.

The petitioners asked the High Court to obligate the country's rabbinic courts to recognize every conversion registered by the National Conversion Authority and by the Interior Ministry, and to instruct the rabbinic registry office to marry all converts who appear before them without raising doubts about their conversions or declaring them as forbidden for marriage.

The call to cancel the conversions was made by Dayan (religious court judge) Avraham Attia, a member of the Ashdod District Rabbinical Court, and was upheld in a ruling by Dayan Avraham Sherman of the Supreme Rabbinical Court in February 2008.

The ruling stemmed from a specific case in which the Ashdod court retroactively annulled a woman's conversion that was performed by Druckman 17 years ago.

The decision to annul the conversion was made after it became known that she never adhered to Orthodox Jewish practice after her conversion. As a result, the Jewish status of the woman's four children was annulled.

The woman and her children are still registered as Jews by the Interior Ministry and the Rabbinic Court has no authority to change this, but its refusal to marry them or recognize them as Jews has rendered their conversions almost meaningless, as it has for thousands of other converts.


  1. You state that: "Israel is not a nation run by Halacha, but Halacha is intimately involved in the fabric of the nation, as the Rabbinate is responsible for granting marriages, divorces, and approving immigration status under the Law of Return in Israel."

    The last part of this statement regarding immigrant status is legally not correct. Perhaps you could clarify this for the benefit of your readers.

    thank you,
    Joel Katz
    Editor, Religion and State in Israel

  2. B"H

    Thanks so much for writing!! I fixed the error. You are wonderful for pointing it out.



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