Sephardic Chief Rabbi to Revoke Ruling Invalidating Thousands of Conversions

Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, acting in his capacity as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, will attempt to revoke a ruling from last week that invalidated thousands of conversions carried out in Israel over the last few years.

The judges, it emerges, went ahead with the ruling over the fierce objection of Amar, who is said to have been surprised by the decision.

Amar tried to halt the publication of the ruling, according to which conversions to Judaism that have been conducted by Rabbi Haim Druckman - a prominent figure in religious Zionism - are void and the converts cannot be recognized as Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate.

The ruling, which was drafted in February, questions Druckman's conversion arrangements. The ruling, by a panel headed by the staunchly conservative Rabbi Avraham Sherman, was based on the divorce case of a woman who had been converted by Druckman 15 years ago.

The Ashdod Regional Rabbinical Court ruled that the woman cannot be recognized as Jewish, since she has never practiced Judaism. The debate was subsequently extrapolated to a broader discussion of Druckman's conversion parameters.

Sherman's ruling said: "Conversion certificates from whichever rabbinical court, however big, reputable and qualified, do not enable the marriage registrar to allow a convert into the People of Israel, when there has not been a genuine acceptance of the religious duties, which is something that can be discerned by the appellant's appearance and demeanor."

Professor Michael Corinaldi, a conversion expert, said: "The decision ruling every conversion, and every convert, conditional; I've heard of the border police, but not of the mitzvah police."

Rabbinical Courts Director Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan said he is prevented from sharing his personal take on the ruling, but "with respect to the ruling, one must bear in mind that there are other groups in the rabbinical courts that think utterly differently of Rabbi Druckman's conversion methods."