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Orthodox conversions in Israel down dramatically, study shows

JTA

May 21, 2012 | 2:54 pm

Orthodox conversions in Israel are down by 31 percent over the past two years, according to a new report.

“Both demographic changes and bureaucratic hurdles have contributed to this change,” said Rabbi Seth Farber, director of ITIM: Resources and Advocacy for Jewish Life.

The ITIM study, released on the eve of Shavuot, in which Jewish tradition celebrates the conversion to Judaism of Ruth, shows that the total number of Orthodox conversions performed in Israel in 2011, including Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopians, has been cut nearly in half since 2007.

There were 4,293 Orthodox conversions in 2011, compared with 8,008 in 2007. From 2008 to 2010, the number of Orthodox conversions fell from 6,221 to 4,645.

ITIM’s report also discussed other developments in conversion in Israel during the past year, including Israel’s inability to develop clear criteria for recognizing conversions from abroad.

“Despite the 2005 Supreme Court ruling which calls upon the Ministry of Interior to recognize the autonomy of local Jewish communities on issues relating to conversion, the State of Israel continues to make it difficult for converts to make aliyah,” according to the report.

“This is against the spirit of Jewish tradition,” Farber said.

The report will be placed on the table of the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee this week.

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