Jewish Agency Set to Battle Chief Rabbinate

The Chief Rabbinate has recently decided to investigate the validity of conversions performed by the IDF (Israel Defense Forces); this could produce negative effect on as many as 4000 Israeli’s who have undergone a program of Jewish studies – through the Nativ program – that lead to conversion in a special military rabbinical court. Until recently, Israel’s Chief Rabbis have cooperated, thereby allowing these army converts to marry as Jews. Pressure from ultra-right rabbis who control the non-military conversion courts has now caused them to waver.

Many olim from the Former Soviet Union have participated in the Nativ program, and as a result this latest conversion battle has sparked the following resolution to be passed at the recent Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting:

The Jewish Agency for Israel

The Board of Governors

Unity of the Jewish People Committee

October 25, 2010 / 17 Heshvan 5771


Whereas the Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) has been committed throughout its history to advancing the unity of the Jewish People; and

Whereas JAFI has primary responsibility on behalf of the Jewish People to promote aliyah and ease the absorption of olim; and

Whereas many olim brought to Israel pursuant to the Law of Return and their offspring are not Jewish under halacha; and

Whereas JAFI, through its Committee for the Unity of the Jewish People and the Institute for Jewish Studies which JAFI sponsors, has worked to make the process of conversion more accommodative to applicants; and

Whereas the Nativ program, which facilitates Jewish instruction and conversion for applicants serving in the Israel Defense Forces, is sponsored by JAFI in collaboration with the Israel Defense Forces; and

Whereas on October 21, 2010 the Chief Rabbinate Council decided to establish a commission to examine the conversion carried out through the Nativ program; and

Whereas JAFI is extremely concerned that the establishment of the commission will cast unwarranted doubts on the validity of conversions accomplished through the Nativ program and discourage those who look to the program an appropriate and valid method by which to embrace a halachic Jewish identity.

Now Therefore the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel hereby:

Calls upon the Chairman of the Executive to convene an emergency meeting of roundtable and other relevant parties to reverse the establishment of the commission authorized by the Chief Rabbinate Council to examine conversions in the Israel Defense Forces;

Supports the taking of any and all appropriate measures necessary to reverse the establishment of the committee created by the Chief Rabbinate Council, including, if necessary, legal measures to seek the invalidation of the decision.