Some folks around here may recall our lengthy discussion after Bronfman told the world that Jews need to be more inclusive of other Jews.

Today, the Supreme Court of Israel, in a breathtaking ruling that turns the status quo on its head, essentially agreed, by ruling that it is possible for non-Orthodox converts living in Israel to take steps that allow them to entirely avoid the conversion system controlled by Israel’s (Orthodox controlled) Chief Rabbinate, and yet still be considered Jewish under Israeli law and particularly for the purpose of meeting the requirements of Israel’s Law of Return.

The Court’s decision was not well received by certain parties in Israel:

Shas Party leader Eli Yishai described it as an “explosives belt that has blown up, causing an identity terrorist attack against the Jewish people.”

And in an odd twist reminiscent of the way a certain guest here on Jewlicious has been speaking to me recently,

MK Uri Ariel (National Union) said the court had undermined its legitimacy to rule in matters of state and religion. “The judges proved that they don’t understand the first thing about the Jewish religion and gave the stamp of approval to strange cults.”

The original petitioners were individuals living in Israel for a while who had been converted in Israel by Conservative and Reform rabbis. Since the state of Israel and Chief Rabbinate as the representative of the state in matters of conversion reject conversions by these movements, Israeli residents and citizens who have converted within non-Orthodox movements were unable to be considered Jewish for the purposes of meeting the requirements of the Law of Return. These individuals then traveled abroad and received conversion by these movements in foreign countries and immediately returned to Israel as Jews applying for citizenship status under the Law of Return. They thought they would be able to do this because Conservative and Reform conversions conducted abroad are recognized in Israel so as not to anger and alienate the majority of non-Israeli Jewry.

Israel’s Interior Ministry rejected their requests. The petitioners along with a couple of Jewish organizations went to the courts and today signifies their victory over the government of Israel. It means that you can be converted in Israel by a Conservative or Reform rabbi and under the auspices of those movements, travel to Canada or another country, have a rabbi there sign off on the conversion, and return to Israel and be recognized as a Jew among Jews.

Needless to say, the Orthodox are about to use their leverage in the government to establish some new law that undermines this ruling. It also means, sadly, that we will be hearing more about how Israel’s excellent judiciary and Supreme Court are somehow removed from the Jewish people and have no real authority. For the Conservative and Reform movements, this is a day of celebration and they are about to launch petitions for the court to consider allowing all conversions in Israel to apply equally regardless of the movement which conducts them.

“It isn’t at all clear why recognition of conversions conducted abroad must be restricted to those converts who want to join the community that converted them,” wrote Barak. “Why isn’t it enough to guarantee that the conversion procedures applied to those who want to bind themselves to the Jewish nation but don’t want to join the community, be exactly the same as it is for those who want to convert and join the community? What is so special about the act of joining the community? Why isn’t it enough that the convert wants to join some other recognized Jewish community abroad and then come to Israel? And why should we withhold recognition of a conversion conducted in a recognized Jewish community abroad, when the convert wants to join the Jewish people in Israel?”

“The Jewish nation is one…It is dispersed around the world, in communities. Whoever converted to Judaism in one of these communities overseas has joined the Jewish nation by so doing, and is to be seen as a ‘Jew’ under the Law of Return. This can encourage immigration to Israel and maintain the unity of the Jewish nation in the Diaspora and in Israel.”

Supreme Court President Aharon Barak

Edit: …On the other hand, the very same rabbinate angry about this Supreme Court decision, is happy to send emissries to India to convert the “Bnei Menashe” community and then bring them to Israel.

The Bnei Menashe community consists of close to 7,000 members of the Kuki-Chin-Mizo tribe, which lives in northeast India near the border of Myanmar (formally Burma). For generations they kept Jewish traditions, claiming to be descended from the tribe of Menashe, one of the ten lost Israeli tribes that were exiled by the Assyrians in the eighth century B.C.E. and have since disappeared.

At the beginning of the 20th century, the tribe’s members converted to Christianity, but about 30 years ago, some of the community began moving back to Judaism and set themselves apart from the rest of the tribe.

A number of researchers who visited the group over the years got the impression that their traditions are authentically Israelite in origin. Two genetic studies carried out over the past year have attempted to examine the issue.

The DNA on the male side does not match, and the DNA on the female side apparently had some matches with descendants of “Middle East descent.”

In other words, these are the first Palestinians to enjoy the fruits of conversion. 😉

About the author



  • I think this is great news. The more monotheists in the world the better, as far as I am concerned, so therefore let’s promote Judaism, since we’re one of the smallest monotheist religions (which I define as Judaism, Islam, Sikhism, and Unitarianism).
    Why not have a joint outreach program to promote Judaism in the 3rd world, not just in Israel or in western countries.

  • Dave wrote:
    The more monotheists in the world, the better, as far as I am concerned
    – – – – – – – – – – –
    … but several prominent Reform rabbis have asserted that one need not believe in G-d to be a good Jew. So these converts may not be monotheists at all… and petitioners are expanding to include Recon and other G-d-optional sects…


  • Ben-David, Where do you draw the line on G-d-optionality? While Reform are more likely to be more skeptical about G-d’s existence, there is still skepticism among orthodox, particularly Modern Orthodox, Jews. Admittedly, I have heard a few Reform Rabbis reject G-d’s existence outright, which is very troubling. But, that said, it is hard for most Jews to not question, or even reject G-d at times in their lives. Regarding, “one need not believe in G-d to be a good Jew,” what if one honors G-d’s mitzvot, but is unsure of his existence. Is that person not a good Jew?

  • I think the reason why some Reform rabbis say that one need
    not believe in G-d is because of a faulty concept of G-d, in which they have been conditioned from childhood through faulty conception of the Torah that G-d is a male deity, mainly or only manifested through history, which is total nonsense. If one explains to them that G-d is the Unknowable Allmighty Indivisible Creator of the Universe, then maybe they might change their mind. As far as I am concerned the existence of G-d is self evident from the miracles of nature. And I am not even Orthodox.
    G-d doesn’t need us, we need G-d. Furthermore G-d blesses even atheists, provided they act ethically.

  • btw if you can my friend is offering £1000 to me. And if i get it id be happy to donate to it to a worthy cause 😉

  • I think the daily functioning of the human body, the sea, the sky, the fact that all these things function 99.9 percent of the time in perfect harmony are miracles and are proofs of a Beneficient Creator. I guess it’s just belief. If one believes, then one cannot help but constantly seeing the Creator’s action in the universe. If one doesn’t believe, then one will deny it. I personally believe that the existence of the Creator is self-evident.

  • So basically theirs no real proof? I didnt thing their could be, esp if u dont believe in gd but im still curious, Okay anybooody else???

  • Jessi, you need to define your terms. I do not believe things happen that are in violation of the rules G-d established in nature. But, when I consider the beauty of the universe, the awe I have for its creation, these are not things that can be understood from a descriptive point of view. They require a normative world-view of what is good, beautiful, awe-inspiring, etc. Those things cannot be explained in empirically descriptive terms, but there must be a reason that we can use these words and have mutual understanding. When I see beauty in the world, that is a miracle. Nothing about the appearance, smell, taste, feel or sound of a thing makes it beautiful from a rational/scientific perspective. We may be able to describe things that are beautiful, but we cannot describe beauty itself. But yet, that I can say that something is beautiful and you understand what that means is a miracle. That miracle points to a G-d that has created us with the ability to understand such things as beauty, goodness, righteousness … The next time you see beauty in the world, think about why such a thing is beautiful, and how you know it is beautiful. You may be able to shed some light on why and how, but ultimately a complete undertstanding of why and how is beyond the reach of humans. That is because beauty emanates from G-d and while we se reflections of G-d everywhere, G-d is unseen.

  • BTW, I live further west, so I guess I can post later than some of you. Does it violate shabbat to do work where work is permitted if one causes work to be done (via internet) where work is not permitted? I don’t think so, but I wonder if anyone has really examined the issue.

  • Anyone else besides me remember a Palestinian poll about two years ago where they went to all hte surrounding countries and other ‘Palestinian’ polpulation ‘centres’ and asked them about ‘right of return’ issues?

    Anyway, the conclusive outcome is that most don’t want to go to ‘Palestine/’West Bank’, most would want to return to ‘Israel’, BUT, only that they don’t want to live next to us Jews at the same time.

    Ixnay on the ewjay.

  • Thanks Yisrael. Great comment, it was really beautiful-i had to say it 😉 but im being serious.

  • ” think the daily functioning of the human body, the sea, the sky, the fact that all these things function 99.9 percent of the time in perfect harmony are miracles and are proofs of a Beneficient Creator. I guess it’s just belief. If one believes, then one cannot help but constantly seeing the Creator’s action in the universe. If one doesn’t believe, then one will deny it. I personally believe that the existence of the Creator is self-evident. ” AMEN
    Jesse, I am currently in Graduate school, and themore I learn about science and physics, bio, etc. THe more you realize the hand of G-D in it all… IF you want Scientific proof read “The Science of G-D”, MIT Nuclear physicist explains it all in scientific terms

  • Furthermore, read the history of the Jewish people, and the state of Israel. THe mere fact that Israel still exists today is an act of Divine intervention

  • I agree with Yisrael, and with Digital’s first post (nr.14), you guys said it very well. Excellent !

    I do believe that G-d is
    continually sustaining the universe, but I think that if we are weak militarily we will suffer the consequences. But I believe everything is part of G-d’s plan, even though there is free will.
    People have a choice to do good or evil.
    G-d is constantly in control of the universe, but as it is written,
    “My ways are not thy ways” ie. we cannot understand G-d’s ways. That is why I do not believe that G-d intervenes directly in history, but indirectly- all the time.

  • By the way, the Rambam talks a lot about the above topic,
    and believe he articulates a 100 times better than me !
    So, if you read what the Rambam says about it, I agree with him!

  • what can I say!!!

    we have hebs who run there, so they have palestinians who run here.

    Good luck to the whole fershtinkeneh lot of them.

    Iggy Pop lives and breathes in the hearts of all men.