Israel’s Interior Ministry, under Shas party leadership, may have exceeded the limits of tolerance, even among Orthodox rabbis, in its latest move that would in effect prohibit Orthodox converts from making aliyah.
More than 100 Orthodox rabbis from the U.S., many of them members of the Rabbinical Council of America, sent a letter to Interior minister Rabbi Eli Yishai urging him to “rectify an injustice” and “insure that those individuals … converted by Orthodox rabbinical courts will automatically be eligible for aliyah as they have been in the past.”
The rabbis said they are “concerned that conversions performed under some of our auspices are being questioned vis-à-vis aliyah eligibility.”
The Jewish Week last week reported that the Interior Ministry is accepting converts from only a handful of regional rabbinical courts in North American, and preventing those who convert with other Orthodox rabbis from making aliyah.
Until now aliyah has been governed by civil law, not religious law.
While converts from Conservative and Reform rabbis can continue to make aliyah, based on acceptance by their community rabbis, Orthodox converts cannot.
Rabbi Seth Farber, director of ITIM, an Israeli group that helps people navigate the religious bureaucracy regarding weddings, divorces and conversions, initiated the letter campaign, saying the newest policy is “bad for Israel and bad for Jewish unity.”
Now, a number of Orthodox rabbis here including Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side, Rabbi Yosef Blau of Yeshiva University, and Rabbi Adam Mintz of Congregation Rayim Ahuvim on the Upper West Side, agree. They and others representing the RCA, the Orthodox Union and Yeshiva University have signed the letter that states: “As rabbis and as Zionists, we call upon you to clarify the situation and rectify the injustice being done to our converts, ourselves and the Jewish people.”