Read this excellent opinion piece by Barbara Crook at JPost.
I’m a Jew by choice. It’s the most important choice I ever made in my life, and perhaps the most important choice I will ever make.
Almost eight years after my husband and I completed Orthodox conversions in Canada, every action in my life is defined by my Jewish identity and my desire to be on the front lines for Israel.
I’ve been on numerous Jewish boards, including that of an Orthodox outreach organization, was named woman of the year by my local chapter of Emunah and have lectured about Jewish leadership across Canada. And whom do my Jewish-born friends call when they have questions about Jewish laws or tradition? The convert, of course.
I’ve been to Israel 18 times since my first trip in May 2003, have led missions to Israel and taught Canadian and American university students how to defend Israel. I spend most of my vacations studying Hebrew in Jerusalem, and work for an Israeli organization that has defended Israel in parliaments and conferences around the world.
According to Jewish law, I have all the obligations and privileges of any Jew born of a Jewish mother. But if Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar gets his way, when the time comes to make aliya I will be denied the basic right of equality to other Jews under the Law of Return. Rabbi Amar wants to change Israeli law so that only Jews born to a Jewish mother would be entitled to automatic citizenship.
“[Converts] are able to come as citizens through other laws, and that is fine… of course they will be considered,” he told Israel Radio.
In other words, all Jews are equal, but some Jews are less equal than others.
Beyond my personal outrage, I find it hypocritical that a rabbi in his position would try to subvert Torah law for his own political purposes. He is angry that both the conversion process and the Law of Return have been abused by a minority of converts. And it appears that he is also trying to use this proposed change to delegitimize Conservative and Reform conversions.
These are certainly issues that need to be debated and resolved. But Judaism does not resolve a social and political problem by abandoning an intrinsic Torah directive, supported by extensive rabbinic law, that not only asserts the full rights and equality of converts, but actually demands extra caution regarding the feelings and sensitivities of Jews by choice.
RABBI AMAR is in blatant violation of both the letter and the spirit of Judaism when he discriminates against converts. In numerous places, the Torah stipulates the legal equality between born Jews and Jews by choice in all laws: “There shall be one law both for you and for the convert that lives with you. This is a law forever for all generations, as you are, so shall the convert be before God. One Torah and one law shall be both for you and for the convert (Numbers 15).
Of course, Barbara Crook can say these things to Amar precisely because she’d had an Orthodox conversion, but what she writes applies to converts to Judaism in other movements as well.