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Saturday, February 09, 2013 

Israel's rabbinate and Haredi-run interior ministry refuses to recognize US convert

Another case of the ultra-Orthodox refusing to recognize the status of a convert to Judaism when she was a youngster, and thus trying to make it difficult for her to live in Israel:
About 20 years ago, an infant girl (“Nina,” a pseudonym) from an Orthodox family underwent a conversion in New York that, by Orthodox American standards, was and still is beyond reproach.

The three converting rabbis, whose names The Jewish Week has withheld so as not to harm their reputations, are highly respected figures in the mainstream Orthodox Jewish world, according to Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, president of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA).

But that hasn’t stopped Israel’s Chief Rabbinate or Israel’s Ministry of Interior from questioning the conversion, evidently because it took place in a synagogue-based beit din (rabbinical court) that did not meet on a regular basis, and not in an external beit din dedicated solely to conversions, The Jewish Week has learned.

This despite the fact that “historically, there were only isolated conversion courts in North America,” according to Rabbi Seth Farber, whose Jerusalem-based advocacy organization, ITIM, helps people navigate the Israeli government bureaucracy often related to personal-status issues.

North American conversions “almost always took place in the context of the local synagogue,” Farber said.

Farber, who with ITIM is fighting for Nina and several other converts to be recognized as Jewish by Israel’s Ministry of the Interior — which has sole authority to grant permanent residency status and citizenship — said she has been waiting almost a year, since she moved to Israel.

“The Rabbinate has not recognized her conversion,” wrote Sabine Hadad, an Interior Ministry spokesperson, in reply to a query from The Jewish Week. She would not elaborate.

Farber said the unwillingness by both the Interior Ministry and Chief Rabbinate to trust Nina’s three converting rabbis is a harbinger of worse things to come.

“It makes it clear that the Rabbinate,” which the ministry consulted in this case, “plans to review almost every Orthodox conversion ever performed in the U.S.” — should the convert wish to live or be married in Israel.

American Orthodox rabbis “ought to be up in arms over this latest development and formulating a strategy for how to address this latest round of disenfranchisement,” Farber said.

The agencies’ refusals are especially galling, Farber said, given that ITIM sued the Interior Ministry in Israel’s High Court in 2011 and ultimately extracted a written commitment from the ministry that it would not to consult the Rabbinate on issues relating to aliyah except in “rare circumstances.”

This isn’t one of those circumstances, Farber said.

“They committed to the courts and to the Knesset that the Rabbinate wouldn’t be involved, and now they’ve backed out of their agreement,” Farber noted.
Since they bring up the subject, I have a cousin who's mostly ultra-Orthodox whose wife is a convert to Judaism. Would the Haredi rabbinate in this country also refuse to recognize her conversion should she come to live in Israel? I sadly suspect they would, and seeing how atrociously the Haredis of the Shas party in charge are acting now, that's why I think the time has come to remove them from office.

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