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Israeli Jews back non-Orthodox conversions, poll finds

By Marc Brodsky, JTA

September 28, 2010 | 12:25 pm

Nearly two-thirds of Israeli Jews believe that non-Orthodox converts to Judaism should be considered Jewish, a new Israeli government survey reveals.

The survey released Monday, which was commissioned by the Public Diplomacy and Diaspora Affairs Ministry to gauge Israelis’ perceptions of the Diaspora, found that 63 percent of Israeli Jews believe that those converted by non-Orthodox rabbis should be regarded as Jews. Some 30 percent believed they should not be seen as Jewish.

The findings put the general public at odds with religious authorities in Israel, which only partially recognizes conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis inside the country. Those converted by non-Orthodox rabbis outside Israel are automatically eligible for Israeli citizenship like other Jews.

Also, the survey found that 68 percent of Israeli Jews believe intermarried Jews should be considered part of the Jewish people, to 21 percent disagreeing.

Diaspora Affairs Minister Yuli Edelstein said he hoped the findings of the survey would bring the two communities closer together.

“Maybe following this in the political system, we can convince more people that whoever chose to go through a conversion in their community overseas in a Reform or Conservative manner and chose to join us here, we should choose to bring them closer and not push them away,” he told Israel Radio, according to Haaretz. “If we want to bring about unity ... we should not boycott or strong-arm anyone.”

The Reform and Conservative movements were among those fighting the Israeli parliament’s attempt this summer to pass a measure that would have tightened the Orthodox-run rabbinate’s control over conversions.

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