Yisrael Beiteinu Draft Bill Would Fast-track Jewish Conversion

Yisrael Beitenu is proposing a reform to the current system of conversion that would allow several hundred rabbis to become involved in the process, thus expediting the bottleneck that is experienced by those wishing to become Jewish.

Yisrael Beiteinu MK David Rotem will submit his proposal today to the Ministerial Committee on Legislation. Unless Shas, the main religious party in the coalition, supports the bill it will be shelved.

Rotem says the Chief Rabbinate once permitted all municipal rabbis to conduct conversions, but it withdrew that authority. Rotem wants to restore it and to expand it to rabbis in moshavim and kibbutzim.

The Yisrael Beitenu MK argues that, "If we do not resolve the conversion problem, the Jewish state is done for. The nation of Israel will be divided into two and they will start keeping books of yuhasin [family trees]. I want to preserve the unity of the nation of Israel."

Nearly 300,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union are classified as non-Jews or as having no religion. For years Israeli governments have considered their incorporation into the Jewish community as a national goal, investing large sums in programs to encourage conversion. But these efforts have been stymied by rabbinical courts.