Religious Zionist rabbis form private conversion court


JERUSALEM (JTA) — Prominent Israeli rabbis connected to the religious Zionist movement have established a private conversion court.

The formation of the court comes a month after the Israeli government canceled landmark conversion reform passed in the previous government.

Six minors born to immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union were converted in a private ceremony Monday, several Israeli news outlets reported. The reports did not say where the ceremony took place. The conversion was conducted by Rabbi Nahum Rabinowitz, the head of a West Bank yeshiva in Maale Adumim.

Among the other rabbis involved in the conversion court are Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, the chief rabbi of Efrat, and Rabbi David Stav, chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization.

Currently there are 33 rabbis and four conversion courts that can perform conversions throughout Israel.

The reform enacted by government order in November would have allowed some 30 Orthodox city rabbis to perform state-recognized conversions in Israel. The law aimed to create more flexible standards within the bounds of Orthodox conversion.

Repealing conversion reform reportedly was part of the coalition deal struck between Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s Likud party and the haredi Orthodox United Torah Judaism party, which did not sit in the last government.

The chairman of the Executive of The Jewish Agency for Israel, Natan Sharansky, welcomed the establishment of independent rabbinical courts to conduct conversions in Israel.

“In order to keep the gates of Israel open to all who wish to join our people in accordance with halacha (Jewish law), it is important that rabbis who have been authorized by the Chief Rabbinate to conduct conversions participate in this process, and this new initiative will enable them to do so,” he said in a statement.

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