February 27, 2013
Israeli group files lawsuit asking Interior Ministry to recognize converts
An Israeli advocacy group filed a lawsuit seeking the recognition of all Orthodox conversions performed in Israel.
The Jewish Advocacy Center for ITIM: the Jewish Life Information Center petitioned the Supreme Court last week calling on the Interior Ministry to recognize the conversions, specifically those performed in private Orthodox rabbinical courts.
The petition urges the government to create a conversion process that is fair and accessible.
“Interior Ministry officials are now determining ‘who is a Jew’ against the decisions of Israel’s rabbinical courts,” Rabbi Seth Farber, founder and director of ITIM, said in a statement.
Since 2004, Israel’s conversion programs have been under the auspices of the Prime Minister’s Office, but according to some estimates, nearly 10 percent of Orthodox conversions take place independent of the state system, ITIM said in a statement. The center claimed that in the past four years, Israel has implemented policies that reject converts because of their status as tourists, students or spouses of Israelis.
The petition was filed on behalf of converts to Judaism who completed the conversion process headed by two Orthodox rabbis, Nissim Karelitz and Adin Even-Israel Steinsaltz. Though the conversions were certified by the rabbinical court, the Interior Ministry did not recognize them.
In May 2011, Israel’s Chief Rabbinate agreed to recognize all official Jewish conversions undertaken in the country, which are all Orthodox.