Following Monday’s news that the Israeli Supreme Court has issued a landmark ruling allowing converts through the Reform and Conservative streams to apply for Israeli citizenship, president of the Conference of European Rabbis and Chief Rabbi of Moscow, Pinchas Goldschmidt, issued the following statement:
“Israel today is a country of the first world to which millions of citizens of third world nations aspire to emigrate. The liberalization of the conversion process to non-official rabbinical courts, whether Orthodox or others, might bring millions of people from different countries to Israel as tourists, go through a pro-forma conversion and dilute the character of the only Jewish state in the world."
More than a month ago, the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) released a statement warning against changes to the conversions process.
"The Conference of European Rabbis, which unites all prominent Jewish communities across Europe and proudly and unreservedly supports Israel, is expressing great concern at the alarming attempts of various factions in Israel trying to make changes to the current legislation regarding conversions and make a reform to the current status quo by granting legitimacy to certain factions to issue so-called conversion certificates. The ramifications of legitimizing this process have already been known to wreak havoc and destruction in Jewish communities in the Diaspora," read the letter.
"Conversion is the process by which non-Jews adopt the Jewish religion and become members of the Jewish nation. It is inconceivable that this process will be taken lightly and contravenes our Jewish tradition. There are also tangible risks that if conversions are treated in an irresponsible manner, this will give rise to a situation where millions of gentiles come knocking at the doorsteps of Israel, make some sort of loyalty pledge, and in a flash turn into Jews with equal rights and flood the country."
"A change to the current status quo will hold great danger for Jewish communities across Europe, as it gives any random individual the opportunity to easily obtain an alleged conversion certificate from Israel. They can then return to Europe and join a community as Jews - without us knowing how their conversion took place," the CER warned.
"Furthermore, conversions have direct ramifications on the Law of Return - a constitutional law of the State of Israel giving Jews the right to live in and gain Israeli citizenship. Therefore Jewish conversions should be dealt solely under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate of [the country]."
"We urgently request from anyone who can exert influence on this matter to act speedily and unreservedly in order to maintain the current status quo in order to prevent catastrophic consequences on the Jewish nation," concluded the statement at the time.