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Mrs. Helen Zeidmann Undergoes Second Conversion According to Orthodox Rites

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Israel’s Orthodox religious establishment scored an unexpected victory today when an American-born woman who was converted to Judaism by a Reform rabbi here, underwent a second conversion according to Orthodox rites. Mrs. Helen Zeidmann also signed papers withdrawing her petition to the Israel Supreme Court to be registered as Jewish, something the Ministry of Interior refused to allow because the Israeli rabbinate does not recognize non-Orthodox rabbis. The court was to have acted on her petition this Wednesday at which time the Orthodox National Religious Party threatened to quit the Cabinet unless the government initiated legislation banning non-Orthodox conversions. A Cabinet crisis was averted. But it was obvious that Mrs. Zeidmann acted under the most severe personal pressure from the highest echelons of government. President Zalman Shazar made two appeals to her to undergo Orthodox conversion, one by telephone call yesterday which she rejected and another conveyed to her at her home this morning by a delegation consisting of Labor Party Knesset member Itzhak Korn and other prominent personalities.

The foreign-born woman who married an Israeli in a civil ceremony abroad three years ago and is now an Israeli citizen, yielded and the second conversion was performed here this afternoon in the presence of three Orthodox rabbis, presided over by the Israeli chief military chaplain. Rabbi Shlomo Goren. The latter reportedly took charge of the matter at the request of Premier Golda Meir. The Zeidman case became a major issue here last month when the States Attorney refused to contest the plaintiff’s petition to the Supreme Court. Conversions to Judaism by Reform or Conservative rabbis are not specifically, ruled out by the Law of Return as amended by the Knesset last March. The Orthodox establishment, fearful that its exclusivity in these matters was threatened, demanded new legislation but the Labor Party refused to sponsor a new law. It was considered a foregone conclusion that the Supreme Court would render a decision in favor of Mrs. Zeidmann and under those circumstances the NRP politicians were under orders from the Chief Rabbinate to leave the cabinet.

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