High Court Rules in Favor of Reform Conversions

Supreme Court orders state to allocate funds to groups that perform non-Orthodox conversions.

In a historic ruling, the High Court of Justice on Thursday ordered the state to allocate resources to organs affiliated with non-Orthodox streams of Judaism who perform conversions.

"All streams of conversion have the same purpose - the cultural and spiritual incorporation of Israeli citizens and residents into the society and community in Israel," Supreme Court President Dorit Beinisch wrote in the ruling.

The panel of judges - which included Beinisch, Miriam Naor, and Edna Arbel - heard a petition which was filed by the Movement for Progressive Judaism, which specializes Reform conversions.

The MPJ argued that the Absorption Ministry has discriminated against it in its stringent criteria that it uses to determine who is entitled to monetary grants. The state's grant policy is more lax when dealing with private bodies that perform Orthodox conversions, the movement told the Court.

A committee formed in 1997 by the current justice minister, Ya'akov Ne'eman, recommended that an institution for the study of Judaism be established so as to prepare would-be converts for the necessary procedures in the rabbinical courts.

The state sought to accomodate the large number of new immigrants who arrived in the country during the 1990s. Despite holding Israeli citizenship, it is estimated that hundreds of thousands of olim are not considered Jewish by religious law.

The Ne'eman committee proposed that the new Judaism institute recognize the three main streams - Orthodox, Reform, and Conservative.