Israeli Rabbis for Intermarriage

Moshe Nissim, the former Israeli Justice Minister, presented a new conversion law draft on June 3. He leveled accusations against chief rabbis David Lau and Yitzhak Yosef along with a few others for encouraging intermarriage within the state of Israel. He said the religious authorities refuse to tackle the huge influx of immigrants from erstwhile Soviet countries. The list of immigrants, he pointed out, included people who cannot be termed Jewish as per Jewish law. Incidentally, both the chief rabbis have publicly denounced the bill.

Losing power

Nissim insisted that his proposal was in accordance with relevant Orthodox Jewish laws. He admitted that the present conversion authority has implemented a lax attitude that what was needed in the first place. Both chief rabbis, Lau and Yosef, had a meeting in Chief Rabbinate on June 3. A number of rabbis were in attendance. The list of those attending included conservative rabbis from the national-religious community. The latter oppose such a bill as this will make this new conversion authority distinct and completely independent of Chief Rabbinate. This would be the case even though the authority will be under the command of Orthodox rabbinical judges. The Chief Rabbinate will coordinate the proceedings.

Nissim, in his press conference, started by highlighting that an increasingly bigger number of former Soviet citizens or their descendants have made Israel their home. He said that these people cannot be considered halachically Jewish. These, he complained, had led to intermarriage in Israel. This, in his opinion, would lead the Jewish people fading away from the population. The former Justice Minister said that the number of people falling into this category now comes to about 400,000 individuals. These numbers will jump to 500,000 in 2030. He, however, said that these people are fully integrated with Jewish society.

Early faults

Nissim alleged that the Israeli Government has sinned from the start of aliya. He told those in attendance that this problem should have been thought of before and said the issue only came to the fore in 1998 when Tel Aviv formed state conversion authority. He expressed anger that the activities of this state conversion authority can only be described as a disappointment. The reason for this, he opined, is it did not mirror the probable crisis due to Jewish intermarriage posed by the huge number of citizens- all non-Jewish- from ex-Soviet states. He later submitted his recommendations to Benjamin Netanyahu, the Israeli Prime Minister. The latter assured him he will review the submitted document.

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