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High Court Hears Appeals for Registering Non-orthodox Conversions

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The cases of converts to Judaism, whose status is challenged by the Orthodox religious establishment, were discussed by the High Court of Justice Thursday.

The court’s ultimate decision is awaited with considerable interest here.

But it might become moot if the ultra-Orthodox political parties succeed in forcing the Knesset to adopt the controversial “Who is a Jew” amendment, which would nullify conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis.

The matter under judicial review started with the case of Shoshana Miller, an immigrant from the United States who was converted to Judaism by a Reform rabbi in Colorado.

The Orthodox-controlled Interior Ministry refused to register her as Jewish, and when the High Court ordered the ministry to issue Miller a Jewish ID card, Interior Minister Yitzhak Peretz of the Shas party resigned rather than comply with the court’s ruling.

In discussions Thursday before the High Court, Willi Arad of the State Attorney’s Office argued that the ruling in the Miller case was based on an assumption:

“If a person declares that he is Jewish by law, he should be registered as such unless there is evidence to the contrary,” Arad said.

Arad noted further that the official in charge of the Interior Ministry is not empowered to decide on the validity of a conversion process.

The trial will continue at a later date, but this could change if the new Knesset pulls the rug out from under the state prosecution and passes a new law — disqualifying any conversion not done according to halacha — before the High Court rules.

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