Analysis / Secular Conversions Begin Cautiously

The founding document of the pluralistic conversion forum contains two main innovations. 1. It marks the beginning of secular conversions to Judaism. 2. Moderate Orthodox organization are willing to try to break the Chief Rabbinate's monopoly on conversion. In addition, converts who choose this path are not expected to encounter problems with the recognition of their Judaism by the state: In 2002 the High Court of Justice ordered the Interior Ministry to register as Jewish anyone who converts in the framework of a Jewish community that is recognized in Israel.

Despite the revolutionary nature of these ideas, they are only the beginning. The idea behind the secular conversion initiative is that most of those classified as being without-religion in Israel are secular, and thus there is no reason for someone in this category to be obligated to join a religious stream in order to become a secular Jew. It must be noted that while both Reform and Conservative Judaism are open and liberal they are still religious streams. In order for secular conversions to become a mass movement, one of two things must occur: Either a powerful secular organization with deep pockets, such as the kibbutz movement, must take on the project, or the Reform movement must win its High Court of Justice case demanding state funding for pluralistic conversions, too.

At first glance, the road to Orthodox conversion seems much easier. All the Ne'emanei Torah Ve'Avodah movement needs is to have three rabbis to convert those who have completed their training. The challenge of this moderate Orthodox organization is to get over the psychological barrier of rebelling against the Chief Rabbinate. Everyone knows the Chief Rabbinate has become Haredi and not Zionist. But it is very difficult for the national-religious to get used to this idea, and to take action.