Court: Ethiopian's Conversion Invalid Because Ex Not Jewish

A rabbinical court took the rare step several weeks ago of annulling the conversion to Judaism of an immigrant from Ethiopia, after discovering that during her conversion six years ago she had been married to a non-Jew.

An Interior Ministry letter informed the woman of the court's ruling, which she described as "racism." The couple has long since separated, and has no children.

MK Shlomo Molla (Kadima) said the court's decision "arouses constant fear among all the converts living in Israel. This is an inappropriate action, and it must not be carried out for any reason."

In 2006, the same woman appeared in court after being struck by a vehicle driven by a yeshiva student. Jerusalem District Court judge Moshe Yair Drori ruled in favor of the defendant, who was a candidate to be a judge on a rabbinical court.

Following a petition by the State Prosecutor's Office, the case will be brought before the Supreme Court. The affair has received significant media attention due to Drori's candidacy for the Supreme Court.

In his decision to acquit the defendant, Drori wrote that the victim's standing in Israeli society was actually improved by the collision. "The formative event in her life, in which she was finally accepted into Israeli society as an equal among equals, was her hearing before me," he wrote.

Drori also wrote of the defendant's apology before the woman, as well as the judge's impressions that defense attorneys had "behaved toward her politely," and of "the tremendous improvement in her social status from the beginning of the hearing to its end."

The defendant even received character testimony by Shas chairman and current interior minister Eli Yishai.

In a Channel 10 interview Sunday, the woman accused Drori of "condescension."

Annulment of conversion is a highly rare step which has almost no basis in halakha (Jewish religious law). Nonetheless, it is becoming a more common occurrence in Israel, and last year judge Avraham Sherman of the High Rabbinical Court wrote a ruling invalidating thousands of conversions approved by the state's special conversion courts, claiming the applicants were acting out of "self-interest."