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Feb 18, 2014

Proposed Law: Open conversions

remember the discussions about opening the marriage registration for the public, so they can register for marriage in any city they prefer, rather than just in the area in which they live?

Yesterday a similar law was passed, but for conversions.

The proposed law, which passed its first vote with 28 in favor against 16 opposed, will allow all city rabbis, meeting set criteria, to establish a beit din for conversions. And, anybody wishing to convert will be able to select what beit din to convert through, rather than being limited to the beit din in his area.

The criteria for conversion - what the potential convert has to study, the details of the circumcision, mikva and marriage, will be set by the establishment that will be set up for this (rather than each rabbi deciding his own rules). The head of the conversion authority will have to be someone with qualifications of either a dayan or a city or regional rabbi (and will have to have been tested on the laws of conversions). Any city rabbi wishing to establish a beit din for conversions, will have to get permission from the conversion authority.

The law was proposed by MK Elazar Stern (Hatnua), and it was opposed largely by the Haredi MKs.
source: Ladaat

They say it is bad and will make it too easy to convert, meaning people who shouldn't be converted will be, and their Jewishness will always be in doubt.

I do not understand why this will be a problem, just like I did not understand it when they wanted to open the marriage registration system. The people in charge of conversions will still be the rabbonim, with a system of standards in place. True, some rabbis will be more machmir and some more meikil, but at the end of the day all of them will have to follow a specific set of guidelines, and even those meikilim will have minimum standards set for them as acceptable. They won't be making up their own rules.

Also, the way it is now where they can only convert in their own areas, is not really an impediment. Anybody can move to a different area, even just temporarily, to get to the conversion rabbi he prefers, if that beit din is not in his own area. So now he wont have to move.

The opposition based on it not being coordinated with the chief rabbinate, I understand. Something like this should have been coordinated through the chief rabbinate. The rest of it I don't get.

Best comment on the bill? This award goes to MK Yitzchak Cohen (Shas) who said "when Rav Ovadia said about Habayit Hayehudi that they are a house of goyim, it wasn't Habayit Hayehudi that should have been insulted, but it was the goyim who should have been insulted"..

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1 comment:

  1. On the surface the law sounds like a good idea - but Elazar Stern has a record of proposing legislation on religious matters without consulting the Rabbanut, deliberately to try and show the Rabbanut "who's boss".

    The marriage law was a good idea, however there were technical issues which he didn't think of which would have been obvious if he had coordinated the law with the Rabbanut - in particular because there is no system linking the different city Rabbaniot, if someone registers for marriage in once city, and they discover that there is a problem (e.g., not Jewish, or a Cohen marrying someone forbidden), there is nothing stopping the person going straight to a different city and changing his story to register the marriage.

    For the system to work, there needs to be a secure database set up so that different city Rabbis can coordinate with each other to make sure that someone hasn't simultaneously registered in multiple cities. Such a system could be set up, but needs a budget and at least 6 month development time. The Rabbanut are aware of these issues, but Elazar Stern ignored them, or was unaware of them, when he proposed and passed the marriage law.

    I'm sure that there are details of this conversion law as well which could probably be resolved if MK Stern would coordinate with the office of the Chief Rabbis, but that seems to go against his ideology.


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