Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Regarding that Conversion Law

Israelis are used to the world media trumpeting stories about them which are the opposite of reality. That's the way it is.

We're less used to American Jewry doing the same. Unfortunately, as far as I can see that's what's happening right now. Important figures in American Jewry are in a major uproar over David Rotem's proposed conversion law, which, so far as I can see, doesn't say what they say it says. I'm not going to return to the subject right now, but I've collected some important links:

The bill is delayed until October at the earliest.

Alana Newhouse had an op-ed in the New York Times: The Diaspora Need Not Apply. Her magazine (she's the editor in chief of Tablet) added information here.

NPR weighs in here.

Jeffrey Goldberg says the bill is like telling American Jewry to drop dead. (Actually, he says the message is directed at all of diaspora Jewry, but that's part of the hype).

For a serious discussion of the issue from an Israeli perspective, here's a post from a blog I'd never heard of before - but in this case, they outweigh even the NYT in their understanding of the issue, so far as I can see. I suppose I could be wrong, of course, but nothing the critics are saying is informative - it's all slogans, and not very convincing ones, either.

Ah, yes: here's the law itself. I've got a feeling most of the participants in the discussion haven't read it.

10 comments:

Geoff said...

For those of us who can't read Hebrew, there's an English translation in the comment section at the Muqata blog that Yaacov has linked to.

After reading it, I admit, I don't see where the law applies to conversions done in the Diaspora. It seems to me that this law only applies to conversions done in Israel itself. Why am I wrong here?

RK said...

I'm surprised you don't read the Muqata... maybe it's just my background, but it's very popular in the national-religious community.

4infidels said...

I'm sure those in hysterics will get around to reading the law right after they read the Arizona immigration law.

4infidels said...

Slightly OT, but kinda fits here:

Just read Jeffrey Goldberg's book, "Prisoners." I thought it was outstanding, despite a few quarrels with his concluding thoughts. Given some of his blog posts, I also found the book remarkably clear-headed regarding Islam.

However, I am disturbed that Jeffrey has come out in favor of the mosque at Ground Zero, going so far as to vouch for its organizers as tolerant, moderate Muslims who deserve our support.

I wrote him the following letter in response:

Dear Jeffrey,

I can't believe someone with the knowledge and sophistication to write a book as brilliant and penetrating as "Prisoners" would fall for the Cordoba Initiative propaganda. Imam Rauf is dedicated to making the U.S. and other nations more Sharia compliant. There is nothing "moderate" about Sharia Law; it is a cruel, barbaric and discriminatory code that is antithetical to the values of the U.S. Constitution. His call for interfaith dialogue is in conflict with the message of his book published in Malaysia under the title "A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Da'wah from the Heart of America Post 9/11." Further betraying the Islamic supremacist intentions for this mosque is the brazen decision to set its grand opening for the 10th anniversary of Sept. 11, 2001. And if Imam Rauf really represents something different from the "stealth jihadists" of the Muslim Brotherhood, who differ with Al-Qaeda on tactics not ultimate goals, why the refusal to denounce Hezbollah and Hamas?

Given the title of his book and his statements about America being complicit in causing 9/11, Americans have every right to be suspicious of Imam Rauf's intentions. I know that former Muslims are concerned, since Mr. Rauf refused to sign a pledge rejecting the death penalty for Muslim apostates in America.

Putting this mosque and cultural center so close to Ground Zero is consistent with past decisions to build mosques on top of Jewish and Christian holy sites; all over the West there are new mosques of such large size as to obscure and dominate over the long-standing religious structures and secular landmarks of the host societies. Remember, Cordoba itself was the seat of the Islamic caliphate during Islam's most successful and sustained incursion into the West, which was hardly the benign period of equality of all faiths that some now claim. Religious freedom in America doesn’t mean you can build a house of worship or community center in any neighborhood you like, of any size you desire, without regard for the interests and aesthetics of the local community.

There is no need for those seeking interfaith dialogue or promoting a "moderate" version of Islam to build such a large structure, so close to Ground Zero, that opens on the 10th anniversary of the worst terrorist attack on American soil, funded from overseas by interests hostile to our values and supported loudly by those Muslims at home who have a long history of intolerance and anti-American activism. This is a monument to the ascendency of Islam as a replacement to the once towering symbols of this greatest of infidel nations.

Respectfully,

____

Fabián said...

Yaakov and Geoff,
As someone who has joined a Facebook group against the passing of the bill, your questions are very important to me. I respect Yaakov a lot, and if he says there is no problem with the bill, I will read the bill twice. Thanks to him, I have managed to read it for the first time. I have also read the post at the Muqata, but there were things I think they didn't say.

Apparently, the bill has these two negative consequences: it will make it impossible in the future for the state to recognize Conservative or Reform conversions done in Israel. Nowadays it is also the case, but this bill, as it will represent a new "status quo" doesn't address this problem, and will make it even harder to fight for the right of Conservative and Reform conversions done in Israel in the future, just because it will involve a fight to repeal the law again. That is one thing.

The second is that the bill, apparently, affects the Jewish status of converts from the Reform and Conservative streams who decide to make aliyah. They will not be recognized as Jews, since the ultimate authority will be in the hands of the Chief Rabbinate, who is Orthodox and considers Reform and Conservative streams as heretical. I have friends who have converted trough Conservative rabbis in Argentina, and they are completely serious in their Judaism, and probably are more religiously observant than me. Is it also possible that they will not receive Israeli citizenship through the Law of Return?

Please tell me if I am wrong. I would like to be clear on this subject because the positive aspects of the bill are also really close to my heart: I want all the thousand of Russians who want to be considered as Jews to be at last.

I will follow this thread and I hope we can discuss the subject further.

Best!
Fabian

Yaacov said...

Fabian -

At the moment the only conversions recognized in Israel are Haredi ones. The Rav Druckman's conversions aren't recognized, and you're worried about theoretical conversions by local Reform rabbis? It may indeed be that Rotem's law will make Reform conversions in Israel less likely, I suppose: so instead of there being one chance in a million, there will be one chance in ten million. So? In the meantime, 300,000 non-Jews might become Jews if only it wasn't so hard and they won't need to go thru the Haredi rigmarole.

As for the Law of Return: Rotem's law doesn't mention it, and it won't be effected. That's a different issue.

NormanF said...

The purpose of the bill sponsored by David Rotem is to make conversions WITHIN Israel easier. It says NOTHING about Diaspora Jews. They are not living in Israel and the proposed law would not affect their status. Its amazing a lot of people are spending time and energy fighting a bill that when all is said and done, will make no difference in their lives should it become law.

Empress Trudy said...

I don't see why American Jews are upset unless there's been a huge wave of Alyiah previously I'm not aware of. Are there really that many ex Catholic retired dentists from Florida clamoring to get in?

Not Orthodox said...

According to the Israeli government web site, the conversion process is simply bureaucracy, with the most onerous requirement being the ulpan course in (Orthodox) Judaism.

Considering that the USA requires a course of study and a test for citizenship, I don't see what's so wrong about requiring those converting to take a course in traditional, orthodox Judaism.

Anonymous said...

How could you not have heard of the Muquata?

You must have missed all of the Jewish Bloggers conventions in Jerusalem.

Does that mean you also don't know about the rest of the Jewish bloggers in Israel?