Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has extended a moratorium on a civil conversion bill for another six months. The bill proposed last year by Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu Party allows municipal rabbis to handle conversions -- few may do so now -- and permits only the president of the High Rabbinic Court to annul a conversion. It passed a preliminary reading in the Knesset last summer. The second moratorium will expire on July 10. The first had expired on Dec. 31.
A bill that would validate conversions to Judaism through Israel's military rabbinate moved one step closer to approval.
For years, army conversions were seen by many as a convenient solution for resolving at least part of the "Who is a Jew?" question that hangs like a cloud over the lives of tens of thousands of Israelis.
Nearly two-thirds of Israeli Jews believe that non-Orthodox converts to Judaism should be considered Jewish, a new Israeli government survey reveals.
Only in Israel. On the day that the U.S. vice president arrived in Israel, reportedly to thwart Israel’s bombing of Iran, and following two days of intensive talks
between Israel’s prime minister and President Obama’s special envoy to the Middle East, the Israeli government almost fell ... because of a proposed bill about conversion to Judaism.
Binyamin Netanyahu's crises never come singly. One, of prime interest to American Jewry, was put on hold this week. Another, which hogged the headlines for Israelis, ended with blood on the saddle.
As Israel nears its 50th birthday, events have shifted attentionaway from the stalled peace talks. What dominates the headlines nowis the warlike rhetoric among Jewish factions -- both within Israeland in the Diaspora -- as they clash over the issue of religiouspluralism.
Several months ago, I happened to be present when Yoram Ben Ze'ev, Israel's ConsulGeneral in Los Angeles, addressed a local group at the Jewish Federation offices on Wilshire Boulevard. The talk, of course, was about politics: the conversion bill, the peace process, Israel andAmerica -- the standard fare.
What can American-style liberalJudaism offer Israel? After the battle over the proposed conversionbill is settled, that question will remain. We can puff up our chestsand demand equality with Orthodoxy over who is a Jew. But,inevitably, every political victory in the Knesset will beshort-lived unless we find a way to talk to Israeli Jews about theirown lives.
The reluctance of the popular comedian and others to lend their talents to the event reflect the growing strains between large segments of the American Jewish community and Israel, centered on the legitimacy and treatment of non-Orthodox Jews in Israel.