This is a message from Rabbi Morris Allen of Beth Jacob Congregation in Mendota Heights, MN.
We are a community that is ever-vigilant about the security of the State of Israel. That vigilance is shared by most people inside this shul, even with the diversity of thought over what is the best path for Israel to take in insuring her security.
There is another issue around which we share common belief and that is in our desire to see Israel truly become a Jewishly pluralistic community. The negative involvement of a “state-proclaimed” definition of Jewishness is dangerous not only for the Jews of Israel, but also for world Jewry.
Religion works best in society when it is not part of any governing coalition, but rather serves as a moral voice unfettered by political considerations. When religion operates with the consent of a governing coalition, the loser happens to be the Jewish people.
I ask you to take some time to familiarize yourself with this issue and to write PM Netanyahu and Ambassador Oren with your concerns.
A Message From the Rabbinical Association
We need your help on a matter of urgency concerning a bill that will come before the Knesset. We have received word from our colleagues in Israel that a bill sponsored by MK David Rotem of Yisrael Beitenu may be put forward for passage as soon as today, Tuesday, March 9th, which affects conversion and we need as many of us and our congregants to forward the following letter to Prime Minister Netanyahu and to your Israeli Ambassador.
The Rotem Bill concerns three matters:
- It grants legal authority to the Chief Rabbinate for Conversions (while until now there was de facto recognition this gives legal recognition to the role of the Chief Rabbinate in this area) and would make it much more difficult for conversions to be performed by our Movement, by more “open-minded” Orthodox rabbis, and by Reform rabbis.
- It provides for the ability of local rabbis in Israel to establish conversion courts. This is a good part of the bill of which we are supportive because it will potentially permit the establishment of more forward looking conversion courts. However, the first part of the bill passes, the Chief Rabbinate may declare these courts null and void, which would obviate any cause for our support.
- Section 3 of this bill is highly problematic. Here is the summary of Section 3 by our colleague, Reuven Hammer:
“Section 3 of the proposed conversion bill that we strongly oppose states that anyone that who entered Israel as a non-Jew and then converted to Judaism-either in Israel or the Diaspora would not be eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return.
[T]he wording is so vague that it could mean that if such a person had visited Israel at anytime, no matter when, their conversion would not be recognized for citizenship in the future.
[T]his would be the first time that Israel is officially making a distinction between one who is born a Jew and a righteous convert, something that we find deplorable and unsupportable in Jewish Law. Since our movement is the movement that is most involved in conversion in America and elsewhere, we and our congregants are the primary target of the bill. We urge everyone to make their protest known immediately to the Israeli government.”
WE STRONGLY URGE THAT YOU FORWARD THE FOLLOWING LETTER OR ITS EQUIVALENT TO THE PRIME MINISTER AND YOUR AMBASSADOR.
The Honorable Benjamin Netanyahu
Prime Minister of Israel
Office of the Prime Minister
Dear Prime Minister Netanyahu,
I write to request your immediate intervention to prevent passage of the legislation being brought forward by MK David Rotem.
Passage of this bill in its present form especially section 3, will have the effect of providing for a path to alter the Law of Return or, at the least, cause undue hardship to anyone in Israel who has come from Diaspora communities and seeks conversion in Israel.
Sadly, this is reminiscent of those attempts in 1997 to enact similar legislation which ultimately led to the establishment of the Ne’eman Commission.
While I am supportive of your efforts to create greater accessibility to conversion courts in Israel and have done all I can to aid in this effort, the overall impact of the Rotem Bill will set back these efforts. Moreover this legislation will adversely impact the work of our Masorti movement and its members in Israel. This we cannot abide.
Even more regrettably, should this bill be enacted, it will exacerbate a widening gap between Diaspora and Israel communities, which we are all working very hard to avoid.
Therefore, I believe it is imperative that you, Israel’s leader, who cares so deeply about the well-being of our people, intervene and urge withdrawal of this bill.
Questions? Contact Stuart Weinblatt, the Rabbinical Association’s Israel Policy Chair.
(Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/kaptainkobold/ / CC BY-NC-SA 2.0)