Netanyahu temporarily shelves conversion bill
JERUSALEM (WJC, ADL)–The Israeli government has decided to postpone the adoption of a controversial law on conversion to Judaism that drew sharp criticism from Jews in the Diaspora. In a statement, a government spokesman Nir Hefetz said an agreement had been reached with liberal Jewish denominations that were opposed to the bill. The bill will be withdrawn for six months as the sides try to work out an alternative. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu had approved the compromise to “preserve the unity of the Jewish people,” according to the statement.
The bill would have strengthened the control of Israel’s Orthodox Chief Rabbinate over the process of Jewish conversions. Liberal Jewish denominations make up the majority of Jews in countries such as the United States and Britain, where it was feared that the bill could undermine their legitimacy and connection to the Jewish state.
In New York, Robert G. Sugarman, ADL National Chair, and Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director issued the following statement:
“We applaud the Prime Minister’s efforts to prevent this bill from reaching the Knesset at this time to enable the engagement of Diaspora Jewry, and specifically the Reform and Conservative movements, in a process to work out a more acceptable solution to this decades-old issue.
“We fully appreciate that Israel must find a way to accommodate the 400,000 immigrants from the Former Soviet Union who are not Jewish according to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate and who seek a path to be recognized as Jews for the purpose of marriage, burial and other rituals. However, we assert that any decisions regarding the process of Jewish conversion in Israel do not just affect citizens of Israel, but Jews worldwide. The Prime Minister’s intervention in this matter was clearly to the benefit of am yisrael – the Jewish people, and in the interest of Jewish unity.”
Preceding provided by World Jewish Congress and the Anti-Defamation League