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Labor Party Will Not Surrender to Orthodox Demands on Conversion Issue

The Labor Party will not give in to Orthodox demands on the conversion issue, even if it means the departure of the National Religious Party from the government coalition. Minister of Justice Yaacov Shimshon Shapiro declared today. His position was approved last night by the Labor Alignment’s Knesset faction. The NRP has voted to quit the cabinet unless the Labor Party pushes through legislation that will declare conversions to Judaism invalid if performed by other than Orthodox rabbis in Israel. The Orthodox would also like Israel to refuse to recognize conversions performed by Reform or Conservative rabbis abroad. The NRP so far has rejected a compromise offered by the Labor Party, suggested by Mr. Shapiro, which calls for an informal agreement under which future conversions in Israel would be recognized as legally valid only if approved by the Chief Rabbinate. The NRP insists that this principal be frozen into a law. Mr. Shapiro said he was not prepared to sponsor a law making such an arrangement retroactive or extending it to conversions performed abroad. Meanwhile women of the Lubavitcher Hassidic sect have petitioned Premier Golda Meir to act on the issue of conversions so that it is settled to the satisfaction of the Orthodox rabbinate and “Israel can have peace.” The five Lubavitcher women identified themselves as the mothers or wives of soldiers in the Israel Army reserve. Similar cables were sent by Lubavitcher women from the U.S. to Mrs. Meir.

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