LONDON (Mar. 18)
The standing committee of the Conference of European Rabbis sharply criticized the Knesset today for passing an amendment to the Law of Return that will accept as Jewish those persons converted by other than Orthodox rabbis. The committee, which is Orthodox, met under the chairmanship of Sir Israel Brodie. Chief Rabbi Emeritus of Britain. It identified itself with the March 6 declaration of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, which asserted that a Jew can be only a person born of a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism “in the proper way prescribed by halacha,” religious law. The amended Law of Return embodies the religious definition of a Jew but does not specify that conversion must be according to the Orthodox interpretation of halacha.
The rabbi’s statement expressed “profound regrets” that the Knesset “should have given formal recognition to those whom neither Jewish law or sentiment can regard or designate as a Jew.” It also denounced “the libellous charge which equates the halachic definition of a Jew with any form of racism.” In another statement, the standing committee referred to “the deep divide which separates us from our brothers and sisters in the Soviet Union.” It appealed to Soviet authorities to grant Jewish citizens “the elementary human right to settle in the Holy Land” and praised Russian Jews “who asserted their identification with the Jewish faith and people in the present circumstances.” It further called on young Jews to rally to the Jewish cause.