November 3, 2014
The Israeli cabinet approved a new law Sunday that would enable easier conversions to Judaism, a move advocates hope will encourage hundreds of thousands of “religionless” Israelis to become Jewish. The new law, a ministerial compromise following a bill initiated by Elazar Stern of Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s HaTnuah movement, stipulates that the chief rabbi of each Israeli city would be able to form and head a conversion court, pending conditions to be set by the chief rabbinate.
This would potentially greatly increase the number of conversion courts from the four current state-recognised Orthodox bodies. Israel has some 364,000 citizens defined as “religionless,” the bulk of whom immigrated from the former Soviet Union. They are not considered Jewish under the strict definition of Jewish law, despite most having lineage of the religion, but they are still considered Israeli by the state.
Stern pledged to act swiftly to implement the decision and form new courts for conversion candidates, “especially those who had already given up on conversion.” Livni called the new law “great news for hundreds of thousands of citizens who live with us, whom we encouraged to immigrate as part of the Law of Return but until now were second-rate citizens.”…..