Israel - 20 Rabbis Finish Intensive Training Course for Conversion Authority
Israel - A possible harbinger of a new Orthodox conversion body in Israel emerged on Thursday evening, at an event marking the end of a training course for rabbis to specialize in Jewish conversion law.
Twenty neighborhood rabbis and heads of yeshivot marked the completion of a year of intensive studies under the Harry O. Triguboff Israel Institute for Conversion Policy at Beit Morasha in the capital, designed to provide them with the tools to work as voluntary rabbis in the State Conversion Authority.
The idea is that the rabbis will boost these conversion courtsβ ability to function, thus increasing the numbers of converts from the estimated 300,000 FSU immigrants who are not Jewish by Halacha, in the same way that rabbis are recognized by the state to voluntarily perform weddings.
But for them to join the existing conversion courts would take a cabinet decision and, more important, the acquiescence of Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar. Should he refuse this addition to the system, these 20 rabbis β and many more who will undergo similar training β could pose a clear alternative to Israelβs Orthodox conversion system, which is failing to draw non-Jewish Israelis to its conversion courts.
It is possible that this subtle, implicit threat to the Chief Rabbinate of an alternative system could galvanize the rabbinate into accepting these volunteers.
Speaking at the event, Justice Minister Yaakov Neeman slammed the Chief Rabbinate for its conduct β or lack thereof β on conversions, but stressed the need for these newly trained rabbis to act from within the system, as the law allows them to.
βWe have all forgotten the Torahβs command to love the convert; it is terrible what is happening here,β he said. βThe obstacles Israel places to conversions are a national disaster.β
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