Press Statement on Israel Supreme Court's acceptance of Reform and Conservative conversions
Israel Supreme Court explosive decision on "Who is a Jew?"
February 20, 2002
Today’s Israeli Supreme Court ruling requires the population registrar to list anyone bearing a conversion certificate issued anywhere in the world, effectively removing the nationality line from the Israeli identity card by rendering the term "Jew" standardless and thereby meaningless.
While this decision deals only with petitions of the Reform and Conservative movements, the logic of the decision dictates that any group anywhere will be free to issue its own conversion certificates, including Humanistic Judaism, which denies G-d’s existence, those advocating "secular" conversion like Yossi Beilin, and even Jews for Jesus.
Even under explicit terms of the Court’s decision, there are no standards to determine who is a Jew. The Reform movement itself has no uniform critieria for conversion and recognizes the individual autonomy of each rabbi to set his own standards. There is no one who cannot find some rabbi somewhere to convert him – if the price is right.
Rabbis who openly advertise their conversion services for a fee, rabbis who officiate with priests and ministers at mixed marriages, rabbis who officate at same-sex "marriages" or who are partners to such "marriages" will all be able to issues conversion certificates.
The principal impact of today’s decision will be felt by the traditional and secular community in Israel that still prides itself in the name "Jew". Jews have always disagreed about many things, by until recently they agreed about who was party to the argument.
For nearly 3,500 years, all Jews have understood a Jew to be someone descended through his mother from those who stood at Mount Sinai. Non-Jews could become Jews only through reenacting the giving of the Torah at Sinai and accepting the yoke of the Torah’s commandments, followed by ritual immersion and circumcision for men before competent witnesses. Today’s ruling flies in the face of that 3, 500 year understanding.
With today’s decision, the dream of David Ben-Gurion, Israel’s first prime minister, that Jewish identity would provide the glue to bind together Jews from over 100 countries and locate Israel in the historical continuum of the Jewish people comes to an end. So too does the myth that Israel would somehow provide protection against all the ills of the Diaspora, whether they be assimilation or intermarriage.
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