What the Israeli Supreme Court’s Conversion Ruling Means, and Why It Matters

After letting the question remain unsettled for some time—apparently in the hope that the Knesset would take action—Israel’s high court yesterday ordered the government to recognize conversions to Judaism conducted by Reform and Conservative rabbis inside the country. Haviv Rettig Gur explains what’s at stake, beginning with what the decision doesn’t do:

[The ruling] does not require the ḥaredi-controlled state rabbinate to recognize Reform and Conservative conversions. Only the Interior Ministry must do so. And . . . the Interior Ministry has for two decades formally accepted Reform and Conservative conversions conducted overseas as conferring the right to citizenship under the Law of Return.

Monday’s ruling is, in a sense, very narrow. It instructs the Interior Ministry (but not the rabbinate) to recognize as Jewish for the purposes of immigration (but for no other purposes, such as marriage or burial) only those few Reform and Conservative conversions conducted each year inside Israel. That’s the change.

While the number of people affected by the ruling is very small, Gur explains that its repercussions are likely to be great, for two reasons:

First, in recognizing, for the first time, [non-Orthodox] conversions done inside Israel, the state of Israel will necessarily be recognizing in a formal way the Reform and Conservative movements themselves, the institutions that are doing or have done the converting. Second, coming just 22 days before the election, the ruling promises to become a rallying cry for religious conservatives and liberals alike.

Very little is likely to change in the life of Reform and Conservative converts because of Monday’s ruling. But Israel itself will change. If the ruling stands, it will mark a watershed in state recognition for Jewish religious options long rejected by Orthodox political parties and the state rabbinic apparatus.

Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Conservative Judaism, Conversion, Israeli Election 2021, Israeli Supreme Court, Judaism in Israel, Reform Judaism


While Israel Is Distracted on Two Fronts, Iran Is on the Verge of Building Nuclear Weapons

Iran recently announced its plans to install over 1,000 new advanced centrifuges at its Fordow nuclear facility. Once they are up and running, the Institute for Science and International Security assesses, Fordow will be able to produce enough highly enriched uranium for three nuclear bombs in a mere ten days. The U.S. has remained indifferent. Jacob Nagel writes:

For more than two decades, Iran has continued its efforts to enhance its nuclear-weapons capability—mainly by enriching uranium—causing Israel and the world to concentrate on the fissile material. The International Atomic Energy Agency recently confirmed that Iran has a huge stockpile of uranium enriched to 60 percent, as well as more enriched to 20 percent, and the IAEA board of governors adopted the E3 (France, Germany, UK) proposed resolution to censure Iran for the violations and lack of cooperation with the agency. The Biden administration tried to block it, but joined the resolution when it understood its efforts to block it had failed.

To clarify, enrichment of uranium above 20 percent is unnecessary for most civilian purposes, and transforming 20-percent-enriched uranium to the 90-percent-enriched product necessary for producing weapons is a relatively small step. Washington’s reluctance even to express concern about this development appears to stem from an unwillingness to acknowledge the failures of President Obama’s nuclear policy. Worse, writes Nagel, it is turning a blind eye to efforts at weaponization. But Israel has no such luxury:

Israel must adopt a totally new approach, concentrating mainly on two main efforts: [halting] Iran’s weaponization actions and weakening the regime hoping it will lead to its replacement. Israel should continue the fight against Iran’s enrichment facilities (especially against the new deep underground facility being built near Natanz) and uranium stockpiles, but it should not be the only goal, and for sure not the priority.

The biggest danger threatening Israel’s existence remains the nuclear program. It would be better to confront this threat with Washington, but Israel also must be fully prepared to do it alone.

Read more at Ynet

More about: Iran nuclear program, Israeli Security, Joseph Biden, U.S. Foreign policy