Conservative Rabbi Says Halacha Not Real Issue in Conversions

A leading American Conservative rabbi asserted today that the opposition of the Orthodox rabbinate, inside and outside of Israel, to conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis applied to such conversions even when performed fully in accordance with halacha, Jewish Religious Law.

Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Conservative rabbis, said he favored a change in Israel’s Law of Return, now being demanded by Israel’s National Religious Party and backed by Orthodox rabbis generally, in current negotiations for a new Israeli coalition government, but only if the change specified simply conversions had to be in accordance with halacha. The RA was one of six Conservative and Reform organizations which joined in a cable to Premier Golda Meir on Jan. 10 opposing the NRP demand for a change in the Law of Return.

Rabbi Kelman said that if a Conservative rabbi performed in Israel a conversion fully in accord with halachic requirements, it would not be recognized in Israel by the Orthodox rabbinate, which controls registration of Jews. He added “this is what we are fighting.” He said the joint statement to Mrs. Meir had been misinterpreted. “We are not against halacha,” he said.

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