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'Conversion Bill' to be Discussed in Knesset Today

Controversial bill proposes the decentralization of the conversion process, allowance of local municipal Rabbinates to perform conversions
By Tova Dvorin
First Publish: 11/3/2013, 9:47 AM

The Knesset
The Knesset
Flash 90

The Ministerial Committee for Legislation will convene today (Sunday) to discuss the so-called "Conversion Bill", a proposal to allow local Rabbinate courts to conduct conversion procedures in lieu of the national Rabbinate. 

The bill, which has been moving through parliamentary procedure since before the formation of the current Knesset, was originally proposed by Yisrael Beitenu (now Likud-Beitenu), in efforts spearheaded by MK David Rotem. The bill decentralizes the conversion process, which currently can only be conducted by a central Rabbinate court, to allow local Rabbinates - which may be more lenient than the national body - to establish their own conversion courts based on municipal Rabbinate policies. 

The move echoes similar efforts by Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) to enact last week's 'Tzohar bill', which would allow couples to be legally married by the Rabbi, or Rabbinate, of their choice. Israeli marriage procedures until now have focused on the primacy of local connections to confirm the legality of a couple's marriage, and was confined to the authority of local municipal Rabbinates. That bill - like this one - has already garnered significant controversy

The conversion bill is rumored to have been initiated by embattled HaTnua MK Eliezer Stern, and to be signed both by Education Minister Rabbi Shai Piron and Social Affairs Minister Meir Cohen, both of Yesh Atid. Yisrael Beitenu, now a faction with Likud, is also expected to support the bill, as during the last Knesset term. 

Despite high hopes for the bill, the proposal is not expected to become law. While the bill effectively only changes the location for conversion - the switch simply being made from a national Rabbinate court to a local Rabbinate court - the bill already faces opposition.  Bayit Yehudi reportedly opposes the bill's wording; further opposition is reportedly stemming from the (national) Rabbinate of the State of Israel, the leaders of whom have opposed changes to the current system as a matter of principle.