«Jewish Observer»
January 2002
5762 Tevet

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When a female American immigrant applied to the Chief Rabbinate for the permission to contract a marriage with an Israeli, the orthodox establishment of the Jewish state refused to do that.

To contract a marriage according to the Jewish Law she, born from the mother who had converted to Judaism before her daughter's birth, should pass through the procedure of conversion into Judaism (giyur). Why so? The reason is that her mother became a Jew outside the orthodox Rabbinate.

Naturally her daughter could have registered the marriage abroad. But she decided to obey the demands of the Rabbinate and is now passing through another giyur.

- People are reluctant to contract a civil marriage beyond Israel, - affirms the reformist rabbi Uri Regev. - They took into their heads that in this case the Jewish state would treat their children as mamzers (illegitimates). The country needs alternative marriages: civil ones or contracted by reformers and conservatives. There are no such possibilities so far...

The Knesset financial committee refused to finance the United Institute for Conversion into Judaism. Those willing to go through the giyur at the Institute are trained simultaneously by the rabbis of different Judaism trends. The commission composed of four orthodox, one reformer and one conservative rabbis conduct the giyur proper. Two orthodox deputies "voted" in favor of the request to finance this Institute. Nearly two thousand immigrants from the former USSR converted into Judaism in 2000. Other 300 thousand repatriates are not Jews by Galakha and need to pass the giyur. 2,5 thousand people take their studies at 140 Institute classes active in different towns of the country. Some classes will have to be closed - until there is money.

- Still, the Chief Rabbinate doesn't recognize the majority of giyurs, - confirms Regev, - for only few of those who received the Institute certificates intend to become religious Jews. The orthodox writer Jonathan Rosenblum sees namely such flaw in the very idea of the Institute.

- Giyur is not an exam in Judaism knowledge. Those who passed the giyur should not only know but also strictly follow the Jewish way of life. Ekhud Bandel, the conservative movement president, considers that if the Supreme Court officially recognizes the Israeli reformist and conservative movements, rabbis of all directions will be able to "offer people a complete set of services - like their colleagues from Northern America do".

But even if the court takes such a decision, Bandel himself will advise repatriates to apply to the government orthodox establishments. "We shall accept only those, - he said, - who come to us by conviction".

The sociological poll showed that 63% of respondents advocate equal rights for the reformist, conservative and orthodox movements. 65% of the polled adhere to a free choice of a wedding ceremony: reformist, conservative or civil. 62% want the Supreme Court to be the arbiter in the questions of religion and state. But Rosenblum rejected these results.

- I don't know how many Israelis realize what reformist or conservative Judaism is like. If the representatives of these movements showed mixed couples under hupa in the presence of a Christian priest, a ktuba (a wedding contract) with the crucifix depiction, a rabbi assistant marrying homosexual partner, - I think these movements would have much less adherents.

"Inostranets", Moscow

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