Text size

Seventeen Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox rabbis, including prominent religious leader Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, signed an open letter protesting rabbinic approval for conversions to Judaism undergone by soldiers in the Israel Defense Forces.

The letter, published in three ultra-Orthdox dailies yesterday, called the ruling a "terrible desecration of God's name."

The approval was given earlier this month by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the Shas party's spiritual leader and a former Sephardi chief rabbi.

The letter expresses outrage that "conversions that don't conform to religious law [halakha] should be made 'kosher,'" and that non-Jews - or "goyim," as the letter repeatedly refers to the converts - should be allowed entry into the Jewish community.

"Everyone knows that these goyim did not intend to take upon themselves any religious principles - not Shabbat and not kashrut and not family purity - and everyone knows... that these goyim have no intention of accepting Judaism," the rabbis state.

'No intention of accepting Judaism'

Although the letter was published in response to Yosef's ruling, it doesn't explicitly state that it is referring to the conversions carried out in the army or mention Yosef by name, possibly indicating that the signatories also object to other conversions carried out by state representatives.

Even as the Ashkenazi Haredim came out against Yosef, he won support from other quarters yesterday.

During a condolence call to President Shimon Peres, whose wife Sonya died Thursday, Peres told Yosef that his great Torah knowledge "is what allowed for this important ruling, which strengthens and unifies the people of Israel," according to the spokeswoman for the President's Residence.