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Orthodox Rabbi Warns Tampering with Halacha Can Undermine Unity of Jewish People

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The newly elected president of the Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America has urged Premier Golda Meir of Israel not to yield to “pressure” from non-Orthodox Jewish groups here and in Israel who, he complained, are seeking recognition of conversions to Judaism not in accordance with Jewish rabbinical law. Rabbi Bernard L. Berzon’s appeal was issued at the annual convention of the Rabbinical Council attended by 500 Orthodox rabbis. The Council is the largest Orthodox body in the Western hemisphere. Rabbi Berzon declared that “such diluted conversions distort Jewish law and undermine the unity of the Jewish people” throughout the world. Warning against tampering with or changing the meaning of Jewish religious laws concerning conversions, he asserted: “To sanction such tenuous conversion is to accelerate the assimilationist process which has already reached alarming proportions.” Rabbi Berzon expressed dissatisfaction with an amendment to Israel’s Law of Return, passed by the Knesset last March, which defined a Jew as a person born of a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism. He said that while the definition was in accordance with halacha, religious law, the amendment was faulty because it did not limit conversions to Orthodox practitioners of halacha. He contended that conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis were “invalid.”

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