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Court: Non-governmental conversions legitimate for Law of Return

The High Court of Justice held that conversions performed in ‘recognized Jewish neighborhoods’ outside of the state’s official rabbinate are appropriate as associates with the Law of Return; both primary rabbis demonstration, saying the court ‘will not choose who is a Jew.’The High Court of Justice ruled that the Law of Return requires that Israel recognize Jewish conversions performed in Orthodox neighborhoods that are not within the state conversion structure. The court wrote in its judgment, “We awaited the legislature’s say on this. Since it has failed to enact laws on this matter, we do not see any alternative but a judicial choice.”.

Numerous converts filed the petition after the state declined to recognize their conversion, and the Masorti (conservative) and Reform movements joined them.

In an expanded sitting of nine justices headed by Chief Justice Miriam Naor, the court offered its decision on Thursday. The court emphasized that its ruling was only concerning recognizing conversions for the Law of Return: “This is not a spiritual question, however rather a civil-public one. We are not figuring out anything in these procedures on the question of recognizing the conversion that the petitioners underwent in other contexts.”.

This precedent-setting judgment is groundbreaking, and the liberal Jewish movements seem intent to translate it as approving validity to their conversions. However, the High Court of Justice stressed that its judgment dealt with conversions that took place in an acknowledged Orthodox neighborhood.

In the 70-page judgment, the justices wrote, “The concept of conversion in the Law of Return has to be analyzed as a conversion that occurred in an acknowledged Jewish community in accordance with the standards consisted of therein. This community must have a shared, established and irreversible Jewish identity.

Naor composed in her judgment, “Notwithstanding the above, I do not see need to identify, for the circumstances prior to us, the details of those Jewish neighborhoods that must be seen as ‘recognized Jewish neighborhoods.'” The court’s Chief Justice addressed the details of the petitioners’ Orthodox communities, which are located in Jerusalem and Bnei Brak.

Justice Elyakim Rubinstein, the court’s Naor’s deputy, wrote in his dissenting viewpoint that it would be more effective to wait 18 months prior to carrying out the verdict to permit the state time to enact laws a law to set out ways to acknowledge converts and converters, but the bulk did not implement this recommendation.

Naor composed, “I do not see any reason to interpret the Law of Return in a manner that will cause discrimination between those who transformed in Israel and those who transformed abroad. For this reason, too, we should grant preference to the interpretation according to which conversion for the function of the Law of Return is a conversion conducted in an acknowledged Jewish community be it performed in Israel or abroad.”.

Both of the men at the head of the governmental company that lost its monopoly on conversions acknowledged for the Law of Return condemned the decision. Sephardic Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, considering the judgment “outrageous,” stated, “It is inconceivable that the ‘pirate’ conversion market that is not controlled by any governmental body will be recognized as authorities.”.

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau stated, “The Supreme Court and its justices will not choose who is a Jew; only the torah of Israel will.”.

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