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Saturday, 26 January 2008

PM aide: We'll fire rabbis who refuse to,recognize legitimate converts

PM aide: We'll fire rabbis who refuse to
recognize legitimate converts
By Anshel Pfeffer
Municipal rabbis who refuse to recognize state-sanctioned conversions to
Judaism will be fired, Cabinet Secretary Oved Yehezkel has told Haaretz.

Yehezkel, whom Prime Minister Ehud Olmert appointed three weeks ago to
oversee the issue of conversions and streamline the current process, is
hoping to put an end to the phenomenon of local rabbinates that refuse
to recognize as Jews converts who have come through the special
conversion seminar set up for the purpose, despite the policy of the
state, though the Chief Rabbinate, to accept those conversions as kosher.

Some of the registrars in the local rabbinical councils refuse to accept
the authority of the special rabbinical courts for conversion, because
they believe they operate according to lax standards, and by performing
"wholesale" conversions are acting in violation of halakha, Jewish law.
Such cases have occurred in municipal rabbinates in Jerusalem, Tel Aviv,
Rehovot, Petah Tikva, Ashdod and Herzliya.

The registrars in those cities were acting with the backing of their
chief rabbis, who are increasingly identified with ultra-Orthodox
streams of Judaism. As a consequence, some conversion seminars have
begun advise their students not to apply for marriage certificates in
those cities, anticipating that they will not be recognized as Jews and
therefore be unable to marry.

The cabinet secretary said that he had learned of this issue through
meetings with Reform and Conservative leaders. "It is unthinkable that
rabbis who receive their salaries and draw authority from the state
should refuse to recognize that same state's formal conversion
certificate. They will not be allowed to carry on in this manner,"
Yehezkel said.

A senior official from the Prime Minister's Office described Yehezkel as
"determined to put an end to this phenomenon." The official added that
Yehezkel was "looking for a way to depose intransigent registrars and
rabbis."

Rabbi Gilad Kariv of the Progressive (Reform) movement said he believed
that Yehezkel was acting with the best of intentions. "The problem is
that he is hoping for the assistance of Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo
Amar. But Amar has had five years to take care of matters, and so to
date, matters have only gotten worse," Kariv said.

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