Debating Israel’s Conversion Crisis

One of the most persistent problems faced by the Jewish state has revolved around conversion to Judaism, which is governed by the Orthodox chief rabbinate. While many criticize this institution for making the bar to conversion too high, others have argued that conversions sanctioned by the chief rabbinate are frequently shams, where the prospective converts pretend to pledge themselves to a life of unfailing commitment to the laws of the Torah, and the rabbinic court pretends to believe them. In an in-depth discussion of these issues, Mosheh Lichtenstein and David Stav—both prominent Orthodox Zionist rabbis—find themselves exploring the very meaning of Jewishness in the modern state of Israel. (Moderated by Shlomo Brody. Video, 81 minutes.)

 

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More about: Conversion, Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Judaism

Reforms to Israel’s Judiciary Must Be Carefully Calibrated

The central topic of debate in Israel now is the new coalition government’s proposed reforms of the nation’s judiciary and unwritten constitution. Peter Berkowitz agrees that reform is necessary, but that “the proper scope and pace of reform, however, are open to debate and must be carefully calibrated.”

In particular, Berkowitz argues,

to preserve political cohesiveness, substantial changes to the structure of the Israeli regime must earn support that extends beyond these partisan divisions.

In a deft analysis of the conservative spirit in Israel, bestselling author Micah Goodman warns in the Hebrew language newspaper Makor Rishon that unintended consequences flowing from the constitutional counterrevolution are likely to intensify political instability. When a center-left coalition returns to power, Goodman points out, it may well repeal through a simple majority vote the major changes Netanyahu’s right-wing coalition seeks to enact. Or it may use the legislature’s expanded powers, say, to ram through laws that impair the religious liberty of the ultra-Orthodox. Either way, in a torn nation, constitutional counterrevolution amplifies division.

Conservatives make a compelling case that balance must be restored to the separation of powers in Israel. A prudent concern for the need to harmonize Israel’s free, democratic, and Jewish character counsels deliberation in the pursuit of necessary constitutional reform.

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Read more at RealClearPolitics

More about: Israel & Zionism, Israeli Judicial Reform