Sources in Shas and United Torah Jewry said Sunday that they had reached an agreement with the Likud on rolling back recently approved rules on conversion. The changes had been designed to remove some of the power over the conversion process from the Chief Rabbinate and install it in the local authorities, where some jurisdictions would presumably be more liberal in their acceptance of converts.
With Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu counting on them to join his new government, MKs from Shas and UTJ are insisting on rolling back the laws on conversion to what they were before Netanyahu's last government – with the Chief Rabbinate solely responsible for the conversion process, overseeing the entire process without government interference.
In the November change, the government voted to allow municipal rabbis to establish conversion courts, which were to receive administrative and budgetary backing from the state. A rabbinical committee whose makeup is specified in the decision was to oversee the courts, which would exercise their own judgment regarding each conversion.
With several cities already appointing very liberal rabbis as the heads of their committees, the government''s intent was to provide venues for converts to receive approval from authorities more easily than they would have from the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem, which until then had sole jurisdiction over conversion. The newest deal restores that situation.
At the time, Chief Sephardic Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef said that the Rabbinate would not accept the November reform. Such rules, he said, were tantamount to “cheating” the convert, who would not be accepted by the majority of Jews as Jewish, thus causing the converts no end of problems and complications.