Jewish Court in Britain Takes Stand in the “who is a Jew” Controversy

British Jewry’s highest religious body, the London Beth Din, described today the Israel Government proposal to permit self-identification of Israel residents as Jews for registration purposes" a tragic menace to the home and family life of Jewish communities throughout the world."

The Beth Din, acting in the absence of British Commonwealth Chief Rabbi Israel Brodie, replied to a letter from Prime Minister David Ben Gurion inviting opinions on the issues in the "Who is a Jew" controversy. The Prime Minister sent the letter to a variegated group of Jewish leaders in many countries. Rabbi Brodie is in South Africa for health reasons.

The Beth Din appealed to the Prime Minister with an "earnest prayer that the Government of Israel over which you preside will withdraw its proposal, the implementation of which could not but violate the sanctity of the Jewish people, affect its family life and undermine the unity of the nation."

The Beth Din said that the question should not have been put to persons unqualified to deal with matters of Jewish religious law, a reference to the fact that the Prime Minister included in his list a number of Jews who are experts in civil law but not in Jewish law.

The religious court also declared that Jewish law was clear on the issue–that no non-Jew could be regarded as a Jew unless converted in accordance with Jewish law by a recognized rabbinate. The Beth Din added that any departure of the laws of the State of Israel from the fundamental principles of Jewish religious law would "cause an irretrievable split in the nation."

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