UJC presses Olmert on conversion


The United Jewish Communities is asking Israel’s prime minister to intervene in a controversy over conversions.

Israel’s Rabbinical High Court suggested recently that it might annul the conversions of immigrants from the former Soviet Union performed by Rabbi Haim Drukman, the head of the conversion administration established to simplify the process in Israel, rendering up to 15,000 conversions invalid.

“As leaders of the American Jewish community, we are writing to you to express our deep concern regarding the untenable instability that has characterized the conversion system in Israel over the past few months and ask for your personal involvement,” said a July 9 letter sent to Ehud Olmert by the North American Jewish federation umbrella organization and signed by UJC’s chairman and president.

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has been angling for more control over what conversions Israel recognizes as valid and suggested the possibility of invalidating conversions performed by rabbis – foreign and domestic – that the Chief Rabbinate has not officially sanctioned.

The move has rankled Modern Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements.

“On behalf of United Jewish Communities and the Federations of North America, we ask that you take an active role in the future of the conversion authority and move conversion in Israel to a high place on your agenda,” the UJC letter said. “For the Diaspora leadership and the Diaspora Jewish communities, this is central to our work of building Jewish peoplehood.”

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