Representatives from Orthodox Institutions in America Protest Conversion-Reform Efforts in Israel

This week, representatives from several prominent Orthodox and Zionist organizations—including Rabbi Binyamin Blau, the president of the Rabbinical Assembly of America—met with Israel’s minister of religious affairs, Matan Kahana, to discuss his proposed reforms to Israel’s conversion process. Ultimately, as they explain in an open letter, they were unable to support Kahana’s legislation in its current form.

Like Minister Kahana, we recognize a real and serious problem facing Israeli society. Hundreds of thousands of non-Jews have come to Israel from the former Soviet Union and become citizens, serve in the IDF, attend schools, and integrate into Israeli society. Yet despite their contributions to Israel’s security and economy, they cannot benefit from certain rights available to Jews. Their children are growing up Israeli and intermarrying with Jews.

These are serious challenges, but we are concerned that Minister Kahana’s proposed reforms—including the decentralization of Israel’s conversion courts, as well as the resultant lack of transparent standards—will not solve these difficulties. They will instead create another, equally severe, set of problems. We are also concerned that his proposals sideline Israel’s chief rabbinate.

The costs are potentially very significant. The proposal to decentralize conversion authority to local rabbinical courts will result in different—and perhaps contradictory—standards of conversion being used in different locales. Those converted by more lenient standards will not be accepted as Jewish by others, creating two communities that cannot marry each other, thus dividing Israelis even more.

Israel should learn from our experience in the U.S. Less than twenty years ago, any rabbi in America who so wished would perform conversions according to his own standards. The result was a complete lack of trust and transparency regarding the halakhic quality of those conversions, necessitating individual investigation. . . . The [Israeli] rabbinate’s imposition of a minimum standard contributed greatly to the successful establishment of the Rabbinical Council of America’s “GPS network” of Orthodox conversion courts, . . . maintaining a specific standard for conversion that has significantly improved the trust and transparency of American conversions.

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Read more at Times of Israel

More about: Conversion, Halakhah, Israeli Chief Rabbinate, Judaism in Israel

 

The New Iran Deal Will Reward Terrorism, Help Russia, and Get Nothing in Return

After many months of negotiations, Washington and Tehran—thanks to Russian mediation—appear close to renewing the 2015 agreement concerning the Iranian nuclear program. Richard Goldberg comments:

Under a new deal, Iran would receive $275 billion of sanctions relief in the first year and $1 trillion by 2030. [Moreover], Tehran would face no changes in the old deal’s sunset clauses—that is, expiration dates on key restrictions—and would be allowed to keep its newly deployed arsenal of advanced uranium centrifuges in storage, guaranteeing the regime the ability to cross the nuclear threshold at any time of its choosing. . . . And worst of all, Iran would win all these concessions while actively plotting to assassinate former U.S. officials like John Bolton, Mike Pompeo, and [his] adviser Brian Hook, and trying to kidnap and kill the Iranian-American journalist Masih Alinejad on U.S. soil.

Moscow, meanwhile, would receive billions of dollars to construct additional nuclear power plants in Iran, and potentially more for storage of nuclear material. . . . Following a visit by the Russian president Vladimir Putin to Tehran last month, Iran reportedly started transferring armed drones for Russian use against Ukraine. On Tuesday, Putin launched an Iranian satellite into orbit reportedly on the condition that Moscow can task it to support Russian operations in Ukraine.

With American and European sanctions on Russia escalating, particularly with respect to Russian energy sales, Putin may finally see net value in the U.S. lifting of sanctions on Iran’s financial and commercial sectors. While the return of Iranian crude to the global market could lead to a modest reduction in oil prices, thereby reducing Putin’s revenue, Russia may be able to head off U.S. secondary sanctions by routing key transactions through Tehran. After all, what would the Biden administration do if Iran allowed Russia to use its major banks and companies to bypass Western sanctions?

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Read more at Dispatch

More about: Iran nuclear deal, Russia, U.S. Foreign policy