Matan Kahana
Matan Kahana Arutz Sheva

The wording of Religious Affairs Minister Matan Kahana's proposed conversion reforms would not allow for the recognition of Reform conversions carried out in Israel, putting to rest fears over the expanded authority of municipal rabbis in the area of conversions.

As part of the conversion reform, the city rabbis will be able to establish a conversion tribunal, and add judges to it who they will appoint. To avoid the fear that rabbis will convert not in accordance with the rules of Orthodox law, a steering committee will be established consisting of five rabbis who have the power to make decisions regarding the legitimacy of the local court.

The steering committee will consist of five members. However, the fear remained that a Reform majority could take over the steering committee.

A solution was also found to this concern over the conversion reform. In the draft bill that will be submitted as part of the conversion reform and published here for the first time, there is an explicit reference to members of the steering committee.

According to the updated draft which was obtained by Arutz Sheva, the steering committee will be headed by Rabbi Chaim Druckman, and next to him two other members will be appointed by the Chief Rabbi of Israel and two more representatives will be appointed by the Prime Minister. Thus, even if the prime minister appoints two representatives of the rabbis who are considered unacceptable to the rabbinic establishment, with the help of Rabbi Chaim Druckman and the rabbis appointed by the chief rabbi, they will not have a majority in the steering committee that oversees the local conversion system.

In section 6 of the updated draft of the bill it is written: "A steering committee on the subject of conversion will be established, headed by Rabbi Chaim Druckman and four other members. Two representatives will be appointed by the prime minister and two by the chief rabbi serving as the president of the Chief Rabbinical Court. The committee will adjust the rules of discussion of applications for conversion to the work of the local conversion centers and will also deal with an appeal against the status of the local court."

Old drafts written prior to the current proposed conversion reform did include the possibility of a Reform takeover of the steering committee, but after consultations Minister Kahana decided to rephrase the draft bill so that it would block this possibility.