Advocacy group: Municipal conversion courts still awaiting Chief Rabbinate approval

Marcy Oster

JERUSALEM (JTA) — Municipal rabbis who submitted requests to Israel’s Chief Rabbinate to form conversion courts have not received an answer, a religious advocacy group told JTA.

The rabbis filed their requests in early December, a month after the Cabinet passed a government regulation to reform the conversion process, according to Rabbi Seth Farber, director of ITIM.

“As of today, none of the rabbis who submitted requests to create courts have received answers,“ said Farber, who petitioned the Conversion Authority on Wednesday to begin implementing the Cabinet decision. “The Cabinet decision was clear: Municipal rabbis can perform conversions. Unfortunately, the Religious Ministry is refusing to uphold the law.”

The Chief Rabbinate told Israel’s Channel 2 news on Wednesday that it would appoint a legal committee to look into the validity of the Cabinet’s decision.

Under the measure, as many as 30 courts made up of municipal rabbis would be allowed for the purpose of conversion. Currently there are 33 rabbis and four conversion courts that can perform conversions throughout Israel. Israel’s chief rabbis have said they would not recognize conversions performed by municipal chief rabbis.

Among the rabbis who requested to form courts was Rabbi Shlomo Riskin of Efrat and former Shas party lawmaker Haim Amsalem, according to Farber.