Conversion: More than a Jewish-Star Stamp
Conversion: More than a Jewish-Star StampIsrael News Photo: (illustrative)

The Supreme Court has ruled that the State illegally discriminates against conversion-to-Judaism institutes of the Reform movement, and that the government’s refusal to fund them violates the concepts of pluralism and freedom of religion.

The ruling, handed down Tuesday morning by a three-woman panel headed by Chief Justice Dorit Beinisch, says the government’s criteria for funding conversion institutes discriminate against the Reform movement. The criteria “do not jibe with the principle of freedom of religion and pluralism,” the judges write.

The other two justices signed on the ruling are Edna Arbel and Miriam Naor. The petitioner, The Center for Jewish Pluralism, was represented by two female attorneys, Einat Horowitz and Nicole Maor.

The Ministry of Absorption must therefore be ordered to grant the Reform movement, and others like it, support “proportionate with its relative share of its institutes in the conversion network for the years 2006-9,” and to do so in the future as well. So reports Ruthy Avraham of News1.

The judges come out strongly against giving traditional, Orthodox Judaism preference over other streams of Judaism: “The Reform movement, and others like it, see their conversion classes as a challenge of national-Zionist importance. They wish to help new immigrants who seek to integrate into the Jewish people, in accordance with their religious perceptions.”

State's Position: Orthodox Nationallly Accepted

The State had claimed that it has a right to fund only Orthodox conversion classes, because such conversions are preferred by most of the nation and are recognized by the entire nation. In addition, an Orthodox conversion process helps the State meets its objective of avoiding a situation in which a convert's status is open to question, and of helping the convert receive religious services accorded to Jews without delay. The State further explained that it does not fund hareidi-religious conversion institutes because they are not under State-sponsored auspices.

“In reality,” the ruling states, “the State does not see fit to support the Reform movement because its religious perception is different than that which the State wishes to promote. This is, on the face of it, a not-pertinent consideration for the purposes of granting support.  Beyond this, by doing this, the State gives an advantage to one religious conception over another, causing harm that has no place in the ‘free market’ that should be maintained for various religious conceptions.”

The judges write that the State has no obligation to support conversion institutes, but that if it chooses to do so, “the principle of pluralism requires that it support the institutes of other streams of Judaism as well.”

The judges elaborate on their view of the State’s obligation to the principle of pluralism: “The State’s obligation to pluralism is not merely a passive one. It has an active aspect to it as well, obligating the State, wherever it decides to support one stream, to support the other as well.”

Rabbi Druckman's Conversions

In other conversion news, the Supreme Court on Monday ordered the High Rabbinical Court to explain, within 90 days, why it retroactively nullified hundreds of conversions, or more, performed by Rabbi Chaim Druckman’s rabbinical conversion court.