Attorney Simcha Rotman: Conversion ruling 'very grave danger' to State of Israel

'Court wasn't demanding legislation on the issue, it was demanding legislation in line with its judges' view,' attorney Simcha Rotman says.

Yoni Kempinski ,

Simcha Rotman
Simcha Rotman
Arutz Sheva

The Supreme Court's recent ruling that Reform and Conservative conversions must be recognized by the State of Israel poses "a very grave danger" to Israel, attorney Simcha Rotman said.

In an interview with Arutz Sheva, Rotman, who is also running on the Religious Zionism party list, spoke about the Supreme Court's interference and its implications, emphasizing that there are solutions to be had.

"In Israel, of course, we know that the Chief Rabbinate is supposed to be in charge of conversion," he said, adding that the Supreme Court's decision is part of a "a series of rulings" which has "step by step basically canceled the monopoly of conversion."

Previously, Rotman explained, "if you are converting in a Reform community or Conservative community abroad, and then you come to Israel - and you are recognized by a community in the US for example - then you can come and you are considered an oleh (immigrant); you are considered a Jew according to the Law of Return, and you can come here and get all the rights."

He added that this system "makes sense if you want the connection with the community," but "of course the halakha (Jewish Law) and the Rabbinate in Israel would not recognize you as a Jew - you will still not be able to get married in Israel."

Regarding the court's statement that the case has waited for 15 years, Rotman said, "That's a little bit of fake news on the part of the court - not from you, of course."

What makes this week's ruling so different, he said, is "saying you can do it now in Israel. Now in the US or abroad the incentive is different. In Israel people have a choice. If someone is a foreign worker coming and living in Israel for five years and then he wants to stay here, if he wants to do it the regular way it will take him 5, 6, years, now he can just join a congregation - an ad hoc congregation in Israel, Reform, and in a few months get an oleh's rights in Israel."

"That's a very big danger, a very grave danger, and it's not my words, it's the words of one of the judges," he emphasized. "Judge [David] Mintz says what we are doing here is a grave danger to the State of Israel. That's what he said. His words. But that's the issue."

Explaining his previous statement that the court's mention of a 15-year wait is "a little bit of fake news," Rotman explained: "They did not wait for 15 years. When the court does not want to intervene in issues of religion and state, it knows not to do it."

One example, Rotman said, is the Temple Mount. On this issue, "every time it reaches the court, it never waits for 15 years, more like 15 seconds. The court says, 'I'm not intervening, it's a very delicate issue, I don't want to interfere."

Conversion, on the other hand, is a "much more delicate issue," yet "the court interfered and it kept - for 15 years - demanding that the Knesset legislate the way the court wants."

The court was "not demanding legislation" in general, he emphasized, "but specific legislation that is the view of the judges of the court."

When asked if there is a solution to the Supreme Court overreach, Rotman answered in the affirmative.

"There is a way to deal with the power of the court, there is a way to deal with the conversion issue specifically. You need to have the override mechanism so the court will not tell you for 15 years, 'Legislate the way I want, or I will cancel the legislation.' The court will not be able to cancel the legislation."

The Override Clause, he stressed, "will give the ability to the majority in Israel to legislate the way the majority thinks that this law should pass."

On the issue of conversion specifically, Rotman noted, "we have to legislate the law."

"It's in our platform already to legislate the law that in Israel only a state-recognized conversion can be done," he concluded.