Reform, Conservative Leaders Denounce Stamp on Id Cards of Jewish Converts in Israel

Leaders of Reform and Conservative Judaism in the U.S. spoke out strongly Wednesday to denounce the practice by the Orthodox-controlled Ministry of Interior in Israel of printing the word “converted” next to the designation “Jewish” on the identity cards of Jewish converts in Israel.

Rabbi Alexander Schindler, president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, the congregational organization of Reform Jews, charged that “Now the Orthodox establishment in Israel wants to stamp the equivalent of the yellow star on the identity cards of immigrants to Israel who have been converted to Judaism.”

A statement adopted by the executive council of the Rabbinical Assembly, the association of Conservative rabbis, urged Premier Shimon Peres and his Cabinet “to immediately rescind this unconscionable ruling.”

The new regulation of the Interior Ministry which is headed by Rabbi Yitzhak Peretz of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, was disclosed Tuesday at a Supreme Court hearing on a complaint by a recent immigrant from the U.S., Shoshana Miller, who was converted to Judaism by a Reform rabbi. The Interior Ministry refused to register her as Jewish.

FLOUTS TRADITION

The Ministry told the court that the designation “converted” was intended as a guideline to rabbis who register marriages. Schindler declared, “This ugly and humiliating requirement flies in the face of 3,000 years of Jewish tradition. From the earliest days of our history as a people, those who converted to our faith were regarded as fully equal. All were children of Father Abraham; never was there a stigma attached to the status of a convert.”

Schindler added, “I have every confidence that this latest insult heaped upon the Jewish community by a small Khomeini-like minority will be rejected by Israel’s Cabinet and repudiated by Israel’s people.” His reference was to the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini who established a theocratic Islamic state in Iran.

The statement by the Rabbinical Assembly said: “The unilateral decision of Interior Minister Yitzhak Peretz to stamp the word ‘convert’ on the passports of converted Jews in Israel represents a reprehensible action defying both Jewish tradition and the decision of the Israeli Supreme Court. We urge Prime Minister Shimon Peres and the Israeli Cabinet to immediately rescind this unconscionable ruling and to continue to abide by the existing Law of Return accepting the converts of recognized rabbis, including Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.”

The statement noted that “Under Jewish law, converts are Jews and in no way should be distinguished from other Jews.”

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