JERUSALEM (Aug. 21)
Four American Conservative and Reform rabbinical leaders were assured today by two leaders of the Liberal Party, Finance Minister Simcha Ehrlich and Jewish Agency treasurer Leon Dulzin, that an amendment to the Law of Return which would nullify non-Orthodox conversions had little chance of being adopted in the Knesset.
Ehrlich told the rabbinical leaders that his party, which together with Herut comprise the major components of Likud, would allow its Knesset representatives to vote their conscience on the issue. He added that since most of the Liberal Party Knesseters would vote against such an amendment, it was unlikely to pass.
The four rabbis–Stanley Rabinowitz, president of the (Conservative) Rabbinical Assembly; Rabbi Wolfe Kelman, RA executive vice-president; Rabbi Ely Pilchik, president of the (Reform) Central Conference of American Rabbis; and Joseph Glaser, CCAR executive vice president-were part of a delegation which met in New York with Premier Menachem Begin during the Premier’s visit to the U.S. last month to discuss Begin’s pledge to the National Religious Party and the Agudath Israel bloc that he would introduce an amendment which would change the Law of Return to require conversions “according to halacha.”
After the discussion in New York, Begin invited the delegation to visit him in Jerusalem for further talks on the issue. The four rabbis arrived in Israel last Sunday for a 10-day visit but have not yet had their meeting with Begin. Meanwhile they have had meetings with former Defense Minister Shimon Peres, former Justice-Minister Chaim Zadok and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef.
ALIGNMENT TO OPPOSE AMENDMENT
Peres, now the leader of the opposition Labor-Alignment, told the four rabbis his party would vigorously oppose an amendment to the Law of Return, asserting it would “amount to a split in the Jewish people.” Peres and Zadok, who met with the four rabbis last Thursday, told them they welcomed cooperation between the various denominations in Judaism but that the Labor Party would insist on retaining the status quo in the Law of Return on conversions.
The four rabbis met last Tuesday with Yosef. Despite the pleasant atmosphere of the talks, it was clear that Yosef and his guests did not have a common language. Yosef said conversions had been done according to halacha from the days of Moses and that this could not be changed. Declaring that “we are all brethren and there is one Torah for all of us,” he urged his guests to work in other areas of concern in the Jewish community.