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Saturday, 30 June 2007

Jewish Agency to enter conversion fray

Jewish Agency to enter conversion fray
By HAVIV RETTIG

A resolution calling for Israel's official recognition of non-Orthodox
conversions is expected to pass at the Jewish Agency Assembly in
Jerusalem this week.
For many at the Assembly meetings, the lack of government recognition
for the non-Orthodox streams has become a barrier to Israel-Diaspora
relations.

"The Israeli Orthodox establishment is probably the major religious
obstacle to building a world Jewish community today," one Reform
activist told The Jerusalem Post on Sunday. "It attacks the credibility
of Israel as the state of the Jewish people, especially when the vast
majority of Jews are not Orthodox."
This sentiment is felt most acutely for those who've received
conversions, where non-Orthodox conversions are recognized for the
purpose of aliya, but not recognized by the official Israeli rabbinate
for matters such as marriage, divorce and burial.
"We will be calling for the [Jewish Agency] Assembly Board of Governors
and Executives to take comprehensive action regarding the untenable
conversion situation in Israel," said one Assembly member who will be
working for the resolution's passage in at least one of the resolution
committee meetings Monday.
If the resolution passes at least one of these meetings - it will be
presented in more than one - it will proceed to the general Assembly
plenum on Tuesday morning, where it will be voted on by the Assembly,
the Agency's 518-member representative body.
According to the representative, the resolution will "urge that
conversions conducted by rabbinic courts of the [non-Orthodox] streams
be recognized."
The current system, according to which the official conversion study
program, the Joint Institute under the direction of Prof. Benjamin
Ish-Shalom, represents different streams while the conversion itself is
conducted in an Orthodox rabbinic court, has broken down, the
representative said. "We found the rabbinate just doesn't do [the
conversion] in the end," he said

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