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Thursday July 15, 2010 11:25 AM (EST+7)
Conversion bill causes consternation in Israel and US

Read more: Judaism, citizenship, reform, orthodox, ultra-orthodox, religion, faith, Knesset, US-Israel relations, conversion

RAMALLAH, July 15 (JMCC) - A bill moving through parliament that would put Israel's chief rabbi in charge of conversions has raised concerns both domestically and from close Israel ally, the United States' Congress.

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu is reported to oppose the bill, and a US senator has written to Israel's ambassador to Washington, expressing opposition to the legislation, reports the Jerusalem Post.

“Netanyahu doesn’t want the bill in its present form, because he wants to maintain the international unity of the Jewish people,” said sources close to the prime minister. “There is no concern for the state of the coalition. Lieberman says he wants to keep the coalition and so does Netanyahu, so they will find a way to work it out.”

If the bill becomes law, the full authority and responsibility for conversions in Israel would be in the hands of the Chief Rabbinate. The ramifications of this for conversions, and accordingly for the Law of Return, has raised concerns among leaders of liberal Jewish movements in the US and Israel.

To attempt to settle the issue, Netanyahu has enlisted his top advisers and is expected to meet privately with Lieberman on Thursday amid the debates over the state budget at the Prime Minister’s Office in Jerusalem.

Read the story at the Jerusalem Post...

The letter from Sen. Ron Wyden (D-Oregon), understood to be addressed to Israeli Ambassador to the US Michael Oren, outlines apprehensions over the bill’s language, according to sources familiar with the text. It is circulating for signatures from additional Jewish senators before being delivered to the embassy.

Caley Gray, communications director for Sen. Frank Lautenberg (D-New Jersey), one of the senators signing the letter, explained that “Senator Lautenberg hopes the Knesset does not pass this legislation, which he views as divisive.”

Sen. Carl Levin (D- Michigan), who met with concerned American Jewish officials Tuesday, said, I am troubled by a proposal which I believe would make it more difficult for many people who want to convert to Judaism to do so.

Oren is also expected to receive an earful on the subject when he talks with several Jewish members of Congress Thursday at a meeting originally scheduled to follow up on Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s recent visit.

Read the story at the Jerusalem Post....







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