Action on conversion bill postponed

In addition to the conversion bill, Israel’s cabinet also suspended an agreement last week to bring egalitarian worship to the Western Wall. The conversion bill is now on hold.

In an apparent response to the outcry from Diaspora Jewry, the Israeli government has put on hold further action on a bill that would have vested authority for conversions in Israel with the Chief Rabbinate, the Union for Reform Judaism is reporting.

The action partially defuses a week-long crisis between the Reform and Conservative movements and the Israeli government of Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. Last Sunday, the government approved the conversion bill while suspending its historic agreement with progressive movements and the Jewish Agency for Israel to bring sanctioned pluralistic worship to the Western Wall.

The ultra-Orthodox parties in Netanyahu’s government had pushed for both actions.

In a statement Friday, June 30, Rabbi Gilad Kariv, president and CEO of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, and Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President of the Union for Reform Judaism, lauded the tabling of the bill.

“Today’s decision by the Israeli cabinet to postpone further action on the offensive ‘conversion bill’ is an important rebuke to the aggressive behavior of the ultra-Orthodox toward diaspora Jewry and the non-Orthodox streams. That is why we supported the temporary delay,” the statement said.

It continued: “We hope this decision marks a return to a process of dialogue on this issue. We will continue insisting that the Haredi establishment not have a monopoly over conversion and if necessary, we will not hesitate to go back to the courtroom.”

Referring to the separate action the Western Wall, the statement said, “We expect the prime minister to act in a similar way on the despicable decision made regarding the Kotel. We will not allow the unity of the Jewish people to be placed in the hands of parties and politicians who have hardened their hearts to compromise, mutual respect, and dialogue. We have no doubt that most coalition parties, just like most of Israeli society, believe in these values, and we expect them to act upon them immediately also regarding the Kotel resolution. As long as this one-sided government decision is not overturned, the crisis in the Jewish world will continue.”

Rabbi David Ariel-Joel of The Temple is in Israel and has met with the URJ’s Jacobs. In an email Thursday to local Jewish leaders, he said he briefed Jacobs on what Jewish Louisville is doing in response to both actions.

“Rabbi Jacobs was impressed by what we in Louisville are doing and thought that as a community we are doing all the right things,” Ariel-Joel said.

Ariel-Joel also will be at a rally Saturday night outside the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem and is expected to report to Community what he sees and hears there.

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