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Israeli Supreme Court Says Citizenship Must Be Granted To Non-Orthodox Converts; Chief Rabbi Compares Them To Dogs

Allan C. Brownfeld, Editor
Special Interest Report
April 2021

The Israeli Supreme Court ruled on March 1 that Israel must grant  
citizenship to those who converted to Judaism in Israel under non-Orthodox  
auspices. The Jewish Telegraphic Agency (March 4, 2021) notes that, “Past  
Supreme Court decisions have mandated that the state also recognize Jews who  
converted outside of Israel under non-Orthodox authority, provided they live  
in a recognized Jewish community. Non-Orthodox converts, however, still  
often face hurdles in obtaining Israeli citizenship and are sometimes  
In Israel, there is no separation of religion and state. The state finances  
ultra-Orthodox chief rabbis and non-Orthodox rabbis do not have the right to  
perform weddings and funerals or fulfill other religious functions. The  
International Jerusalem Post (March 5-11, 2021) reported that, “The decision  
set off a firestorm of criticism from Orthodox political parties that vowed  
to pass legislation to overturn the ruling.”  
Prime Minister Netanyahu’s ultra-Orthodox coalition partners compared Reform  
Jews to dogs and produced xenophobic ads warning that African asylum seekers  
would convert to Judaism. The ultra-Orthodox United Torah Judaism party  
depicted dogs wearing ritual items like kippot, tallit, tefillin, along with  
side locks and glasses. Another ad featured a picture of African asylum  
seekers with the caption, “Jews certified by the Supreme Court. Danger!  
Thousands of infiltrators and foreign workers will become Jewish through  
Reform conversion.”  
One Israeli lawmaker, Moshe Aboutboul, said of the court ruling: “They’re  
trying, essentially, to kill the Jewish people.” He told the Israeli news  
site Ynet that the ruling “would benefit every clown in America who calls  
himself Reform or a Reform rabbi.”  
Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef said: “What is Reform  
conversion? It isn’t Jewish... If a Reform convert comes to me after  
marrying a Jewish woman, I’ll send her away without a divorce. She doesn’t  
need a divorce. The marriage is invalid. Her husband is not a convert.”  
Yosef said that Reform Judaism “falsified” the Torah and said that  
immigrants to Israel from the former Soviet Union are “communist, religion-  
hating gentiles.”  
Editorially, Washington Jewish Week (March 11, 2021) declared: “... even  
though the ruling is significant... it did nothing to loosen the haredi  
Rabbinate’s stranglehold on personal status issues... Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi  
David Lau said those who undergo Reform or Conservative conversions ‘are not  
Jews.’ Interior Minister Ariyeh Deri... pledged to overturn the decision  
through legislation since it constitutes ‘a mortal blow to the Jewish  
character of the state’ and the ‘complete demolition of the status quo’...  
Non-Orthodox streams of Judaism account for the vast majority of the world’s  
Jewish population... that is an issue Israel will have to address as it  
works to sustain its foundational commitment to being both Jewish and  
democratic.” **

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