Chief Rabbi Issues New Rules on Conversion on the Sly

The Prime Minister’s Office is investigating how new rules governing state-sanctioned conversions in Israel came to be published without the prime minister’s knowledge. The rules were published on September 13 in Reshumot, the official government gazette, but the PMO learned of it only last week. The rules impose a series of draconian demands on conversion candidates and grant the chief rabbis total control over the conversion courts, which are supposed to be under PMO jurisdiction.

Prime Minister Ariel Sharon established a conversion taskforce last July in the PMO and appointed Rabbi Haim Druckman to head it. In a meeting on September 6, Sharon tasked Druckman to draft the new conversion regulations together with president of the rabbinic high court, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, but the new regulations appeared a week later in the official state record under Amar’s signature, without Druckman’s knowledge. The rules make Amar the authority for appointing all officials in the conversion establishment, including Druckman. They also give the courts extensive new powers, including the prerogative of retroactively annuling conversions they deem “mistaken.”

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