Rabbinical High Court Expected to Reverse Decision to Void Conversion of Mother and Daughter

Israel-born Sarit Azoulay was not allowed to register for marriage after her mother's conversion was rejected after nearly 30 years.

Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger
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File photo: Chief Rabbinate-run conversion court in Jerusalem, May 23, 2004.
File photo: Chief Rabbinate-run conversion court in Jerusalem, May 23, 2004.Credit: Eyal Warshavsky
Yair Ettinger
Yair Ettinger

The Rabbinical High Court is expected to reverse a 2012 court ruling which found that the conversion to Judaism of a Christian woman nearly three decades earlier was invalid, religious court officials said. The effect of the ruling was to bar the woman’s daughter, Sarit Azoulay, now 28, from registering to marry as a Jew, because while she was born following her mother’s conversion, the conversion itself has been deemed invalid.

In its ruling in 2012, as reported by Haaretz on Sunday, the lower religious court took the unusual step of voiding Azoulay’s mother’s conversion even though it was performed under the auspices of Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. The court retroactively voided the conversion because it found that Azoulay’s mother had not followed Jewish religious practices as she had committed to at the time of the conversion.

A panel of Rabbinical High Court judges headed by Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau is expected to convene on Tuesday of next week to reconsider the 2012 decision, which had been handed down by a Jerusalem panel of religious court judges headed by Rabbi Chaim Yehuda Rabinovich. The matter is also due to be taken up shortly by the Knesset following the filing of an urgent motion submitted by Yesh Atid MK Elazar Stern for urgent parliamentary consideration of the case.

A religious court source told Haaretz the religious courts have followed interpretation of halakha (Jewish religious law) laid out by the late Sephardi Chief Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, along with most other interpreters of religious law, which holds that conversions should not be invalidated retroactively. This was the approach taken regarding the conversion of members of the Israel Defense Forces and it is possible that the Rabbinical High Court will take the same approach in the Azoulay case, the source said. For his part, the acting administrative head of the rabbinical courts, Rabbi Shimon Yaakobi, acknowledged to Haaretz that the original ruling in the case was “very rare.”

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