2010-07-28 / Editorial

Conversion bill threatened unity of Israel and Diaspora Jewry

The conversion bill recently submitted to Israel’s Knesset contained elements that could have caused damage to both the Jewish people and the State of Israel. Although those in favor of the bill and those opposed to it have agreed to delay further consideration of the bill for six months, this is one piece of legislation that should never have been submitted in the first place. We applaud both Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Jewish Agency for Israel (JAFI) Chair Natan Sharansky for opposing it.

The bill sponsored by MK David Rotem was initially designed to ease the path to conversion by immigrants from the Former Soviet Union. While this is clearly a worthy goal, the proposed legislation would for the first time have established a religious standard of conversion in Israeli civil law. This is a direct attack on the religious beliefs and identity of a vast majority of Diaspora Jews.

The legislation would also have denied automatic Israeli citizenship for non-Jews who convert to Judaism in Israel. This means that some of those who convert to Judaism in Israel under Orthodox auspices might be denied citizenship.

At a time when Israel is under assault on issues ranging from its handling of the Gaza flotilla to its stance on negotiations with the Palestinians, the last thing Israel needs is to alienate Jews throughout the world. Diaspora Jews have stood shoulder to shoulder with Israel during recent crises. Israel’s Knesset needs to respect the diversity of Jewish opinion both at home and abroad. .

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