dohlan - Archive - February 15 2011
Thomas and Ortal Dohlan with their four children. Photo by Archive
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Several dozen U.S. and Canadian rabbis wrote to Interior Minister Eli Yishai yesterday, asking him to clarify his ministry’s regulations on conversions to Judaism done outside Israel, and to ensure these conversions will be recognized by the state.

The move follows the case of Thomas Dohlan, a Canadian national who had undergone Orthodox conversion to Judaism in Canada, but whose request to immigrate under the Law of Return was rejected by the Interior Ministry.

“We are concerned by recent reports that the Interior Ministry is consulting the chief rabbinate on whether or not to declare a particular Orthodox conversion valid for the purposes of immigration,” the rabbis wrote. “The North American Orthodox rabbis concerned with the current arrangement represent only a small share of the North American Orthodox community. As rabbis and as Zionists, we call on you to clarify the situation and amend the wrong being done to our converts, to ourselves and to the entire Jewish people.”

The ministry told Haaretz the decision to bar Dohlan was made in consultation with Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, which does not recognize the particular rabbi that converted Dohlan. The rabbi belongs to the modern-orthodox stream and is not a member of Rabbinical Council of America, recognized by the chief rabbinate.

The Supreme Court had ruled previously that the Interior Ministry must recognize the conversion of Reform or Conservative converts from abroad, but left Orthodox converts out of the ruling.

Dohlan’s case demonstrated for the first time that the actual decision is being made by the rabbinate. Yishai told Haaretz the practice was inappropriate, but the instructions of the ministry on the matter remain unchanged.

Meanwhile, the Lithuanian Hasidic community is continuing to oppose the validity of converts who undergo conversion during their Israel Defense Forces service. The mouthpiece of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv contained a front page decree yesterday with the command for marriage registrars here and abroad to not register the military converts.