U.S. Jewish leaders to Netanyahu: Withdraw conversion bill


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Jewish leaders sent a letter to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu urging the withdrawal of a proposed conversion bill it called "disastrous to the unity of the Jewish people."

The letter, signed by the leader of the Jewish Federations of North America and the heads of the Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist movements and their rabbinical arms, says the proposed conversion bill will fail to ease the bottleneck in the conversion process that affects thousands of olim from the former Soviet Union and "will dangerously alter the Law of Return by consolidating conversion power in the hands of the Chief Rabbinate in ways that would be disastrous to the unity of the Jewish people."

The letter follows a visit to the United States by bill sponsor David Rotem and Deputy Foreign Minister Danny Ayalon to meet with leaders of U.S. Jewry to garner support for the bill. 

Delivered to Netanyahu’s office on Monday, the letter says that the bill’s granting the power of conversion solely to the Chief Rabbinate, which is Orthodox, disregards the conversions of 85 percent of Diaspora Jewry.

"It will undoubtedly alienate many North American Jews from Israel widening an already precarious and growing rift that should concern us all," read the letter.

"We are fully committed to a secure Israel, safe from the threats she courageously faces each day. Yet, the proposed conversion law offends with its disregard for any religious authority outside the Chief Rabbinate. As strongly as we support Israel, we oppose this law," the letter said.

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