Magazine article The Christian Century

Netanyahu Action Favors Orthodox

Magazine article The Christian Century

Netanyahu Action Favors Orthodox

Article excerpt

Reversing his previous stand, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has decided to press for legislation to bar state recognition of non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism performed in Israel. The decision has aroused fierce opposition from Conservative and Reform movement leaders, as well as from moderate Israeli leaders who had said earlier they believed the controversial bill, introduced in Israel's parliament more than a year ago, was effectively dead.

"We'll oppose the attempts to pass the present bill, even if there is a debate in committee. I believe that there will be no majority to bring it to the floor in this Knesset session," said Motti Zandberg, a member of the secular-nationalist Tsommet Party, which is part of Netanyahu's political coalition. The bill seeks to bar the state from recognizing as Jewish those who undergo conversions performed by Reform and Conservative rabbis rather than Orthodox rabbis.

A government-appointed commission of Conservative, Reform and Orthodox leaders headed by Finance Minister Yaacov Neeman earlier this year had authored a compromise solution, whereby preparation for conversion would be performed jointly by rabbis from the three main Jewish religious streams. But Israel's chief rabbis, who are Orthodox, vetoed the idea.

The deadlock over the compromise prompted Conservative and Reform leaders to press ahead with Supreme Court appeals designed to challenge the state's refusal to recognize the non-Orthodox conversions in the judicial system. …

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