Daily Israel Report

Chief Rabbi Seeks to Ban Converts from Law of Return

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar has come up with a revolutionary method of preventing non-Jews from flooding the Jewish people: removing the "converts" clause from the Law of Return.
By Hillel Fendel
First Publish: 11/30/2006, 11:33 AM / Last Update: 11/30/2006, 1:26 PM

In the face of the Supreme Court's gradual willingness to recognize Reform conversions - which are not performed in accordance with traditional Jewish Law - the Rishon Letzion, Chief Rabbi Amar, has proposed that the Law of Return recognize no conversions at all.

The Law of Return is a fundamental tenet of the State of Israel, granting automatic citizenship to any Jew - and his family members - who asks for it. In its current format, it recognizes as a Jew anyone whose mother was Jewish or "who converted to Judaism." For decades, Orthodox groups have lobbied for a change in the wording, such that only Halakhically-acceptable conversions would be recognized, but to no avail. Trying a new tactic, Rabbi Amar now seeks to remove the "convert" clause altogether.

The legislation that Rabbi Amar is proposing would not preclude non-Jews from converting to Judaism, his spokesman emphasizes.

"We are talking only about the Law of Return," spokesman Shani Parver told Arutz-7, "by which foreign workers, Arabs and others who wish to enjoy the benefits of Israeli citizenship 'grab' a quick conversion and 'become' Jewish. This is something that must stop. But if someone truly wants to become Jewish, the way will still be open to him or her, via the Chief Rabbinate and its courts, or other Orthodox institutions around the world, to become a full-fledged Jew."

As expected, Reform and Conservative groups in Israel and abroad, as well as left-wing politicians in Israel, object to the new proposal. MK Yossi Beilin (Meretz) termed the idea "anti-Jewish."

Rabbi Amar has submitted his idea to Prime Minister Olmert for his approval. "We are awaiting his reply," Parver said. "No timetable has been set - though the matter is crucial."

MK Zevulun Orlev (National Religious Party) supports the proposed law. "It maintains the unity of the Jewish People, and will prevent the split that will be caused by the recognition of Reform conversions." Orthodox Jews do not recognize the validity of the latter conversions. "It blocks the way for people who are merely seeking warm refuge in Israel."

Orlev said the proposal is a political test for the religious Shas Party, which is a member of the present government coalition. "We will see if Shas truly has an influence on the Jewish character of the State of Israel, if this proposal is approved," opposition MK Orlev said.