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Chief Rabbinate Rejects Any Compromise on ‘who is a Jew’ Amendment to the Law of Return

The National Religious Party was thrown into a quandry today when the Chief Rabbinate issued a communique re-

jecting any compromise on the controversial “Who Is a Jew” amendment to the Law of Return. The communique said the law must be amended because “This is da’at Torah (a Torah opinion). Halachic conversion is a problem touching the core of Israel’s Torah.”

The issue is bound to effect the coalition negotiations between the NRP and Likud inasmuch as Premier Menachem Begin has stated flatly that he cannot commit himself to force his non-Orthodox colleagues in the Knesset to vote for the amendment which would disqualify conversions made by other than Orthodox rabbis “according to halacha.”

Were the NRP to join a Likud-led government on those terms it would be disobeying a ruling of Israel’s supreme rabbinical authority, a position it wants to avoid. On the other hand, some NRP circles maintain that the question is a political one since it requires amending a law and the Chief Rabbis should not be consulted on political matters.

HAMMER SUGGESTS A POSSIBLE SOLUTION

Zevulun Hammer, a NRP leader who serves as Education Minister in the outgoing government, suggested in a radio interview today that a Knesset vote on the “Who is a Jew” amendment could be avoided if the Chief Rabbinate was simply authorized to approve all conversions performed overseas, just as it has final authority on the validity of conversions performed in Israel. However, the Chief Rabbinate made it clear in its communique today that it insists on the amendment.

Hammer also indicated that he may not serve in the new government, assuming the NRP is a partner, because he wants to devote his time to rebuilding the party which sustained a major defeat in the June 30 elections.

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