Rabbi MK Chaim Amsallem
Rabbi MK Chaim Amsallem Israel news photo: (Flash 90)

Knesset Member and Rabbi Chaim Amsallem (Shas) will present a book he wrote on the subject of conversion to the Knesset Speaker on Tuesday. In the book, Rabbi Amsallem puts forth an encompassing solution to the conversion of non-Jewish descendants of Jewish forebears, specifically designed for implementation in the State of Israel.

Entitled Zera Yisrael ("The Seed of Israel"), Rabbi Amsalllem's book offers a carefully researched halachic (Jewish law) position that he believes should serve the needs of most of Israel's non-Jewish immigrant population.  The largest group of non-Jewish Israeli immigrants hail from the states of the former Soviet Union, and are estimated to number 300,000.

According to the rabbi MK, his proposal is for "a conversion that would be carried out from a perspective of drawing in, not pushing away, those who truly want to convert. This approach sees those who are descended from Jews, in the context of their halachic status as 'of the seed of Israel', as substantially different from regular non-Jews seeking to convert. It follows, therefore, that the approach to their conversion has to be different from the approach to conversion of a non-Jew who is not 'of the seed of Israel'," he explained.

Rabbi Amsallem added that the approach laid out in his 500-page book would see service in the IDF as a sign of the potential convert's dedication to join the people of Israel and his sharing in their pain. Accordingly, Rabbi Amsalllem quotes classic halachic decisors, "this shows that his heart is true and that he is very desirous of Judaism."

The state of Israel can no longer allow the status quo in matters of conversion to continue, warns MK Amsallem. The lack of a solution, in his opinion, may lead to the passing of legislation that would divide the nation in two. Recent rabbinical court decisions overturning prior conversions after years of the individual being considered Jewish were, in Rabbi Amsallem's view, inhumane and halachically unjustified.

Rabbi Amsallem's book includes letters of praise and approbation from leading rabbis and rabbinical court judges. Prior to publication, he sent a draft of the book to 1,000 rabbis from all Orthodox streams in Israel, in the hope of receiving their support for, and comments on, his ideas. At the same time, the author has been subject to pressures from within the Orthodox world and vigorous resistance against his views ever since he announced his intention to publish his findings.

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