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Israeli military marks 2,000th conversion

Two thousand Israeli soldiers not considered Jewish-born by Orthodox standards have converted.

Defense Minister Ehud Barak officiated Sunday at celebrations for the military’s Nativ conversion program, which has successfully shepherded 2,000 conscripts, most of them from the former Soviet Union, through the training and rabbinical approval needed to be designated as Jewish by Israeli authorities.

“I salute your decision and willpower, and praise the Israel Defense Forces for taking the initiative in providing a friendly path into Judaism for non-Jewish servicemen and women,” Barak told a group of recent converts.

According to Nativ, which is run jointly with the Immigration Ministry and Jewish Agency for Israel, 84 percent of soldiers who begin the conversion course finish it successfully.

Nativ offers three months of training, after which a candidate is tested by a panel of Military Rabbinate judges. By contrast, civilian Orthodox conversions in Israel can take up to a year.

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