JERUSALEM (Feb. 2)
The Supreme Court gave the Interior Ministry seven days on Monday to register non-Orthodox convert Shoshana Miller as Jewish or show cause why it failed to comply with a court order to do so issued a year ago.
The high court acted a day after the ministry agreed reluctantly to register three other non-Orthodox converts within 14 days rather than answer their appeal, which had gained the support of Attorney General Yosef Harish.
Non-Orthodox circles here hailed both developments as significant progress in their efforts to prevent the Orthodox religious establishment from amending the Law of Return, allowing Israeli citizenship to all Jews who seek it. The amendment would recognize only halachic (Jewish legal) — in other words, Orthodox — conversions.
But the two chief rabbis, Mordechai Eliahu and Avraham Shapira, joined other rabbinic authorities in denouncing the Supreme Court’s decisions as unwarranted interference in halacha.
Miller’s case established a precedent for the registration of non-Orthodox converts as Jews. Miller, an American immigrant who was converted to Judaism by a Reform rabbi in the United States, won a lengthy court battle in 1986 for status as a Jew.
The Interior Ministry was forced to issue her an identification card, but it stamped the word “convert” next to the designation of Jewishness. This raised a storm of protest, even among some Orthodox scholars who found the qualification repugnant and a stigma prohibited by Jewish law.
The Supreme Court ordered a new ID card for Miller. In the interim, however, she returned to the United States to take care of her sick father, and the matter of the new card became moot. Nevertheless, Interior Minister Yitzhak Peretz, leader of the ultra-Orthodox Shas Party, resigned in protest against the court’s ruling.
MILLER NOT EVEN REGISTERED
The ministry has since been under the nominal stewardship of Premier Yitzhak Shamir. It was learned later that the ministry, relieved of its immediate obligation to issue a new ID card to Miller, also did not heed the court order to enter her in the population registry as Jewish.
That default led to Monday’s ultimatum by the high court. Miller, whose father died recently, told the Jerusalem Post in a telephone interview that she may return to Israel.
Attorney General Harish, citing the Miller case, said last Friday he could see no reason why three other non-Orthodox converts, Gail Moscowitch, an American, and Claudia and Julia Varella, both of Brazil, should not be registered as Jews.
Harish had been scheduled to defend the Interior Ministry against the trio’s appeals. But Ychoshua Kahana, director of the ministry’s population registry, announced Sunday that he would comply in view of the attorney general’s opinion.