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‘secular Conversions’ Proposed

Labor Knesset member Yossi Beilin has touched off a fresh storm in the religious-secular debate with a controversial proposal for “secular conversions.”

Beilin details the idea in his latest book, “The Death of the American Uncle,” an examination of Israeli-Diaspora relations on the eve of the 21st century.

Beilin, who raised a storm several years ago when he declared that Israel was no longer dependent on financial contributions from world Jewry, outlines in his book a new structure for Israeli-Diaspora relations.

In addition to calling for civil marriage in Israel, he proposes “secular conversions” to help guarantee Jewish continuity.

In an interview with the Israeli daily Ha’aretz, Beilin expressed concern over the shrinking size of the Jewish population in the Diaspora amid continuing intermarriage and assimilation. He said secular conversions would attract some non-Jewish mates of Jews who want to join the Jewish people but are unwilling to undergo a religious conversion.

Deputy Housing Minister Meir Porush, of the United Torah Judaism bloc, denounced Beilin’s proposal as “dangerous and irresponsible.”

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