Israeli Court Says Converts to Non-Orthodox Judaism Can Claim Citizenship


“It’s a tremendous sense of relief and gratitude and gratification,” said Anat Hoffman, the executive director of the Israel Religious Action Center. “This verdict really opens the gates for Israel to have more than one way to be Jewish.”

One of Israel’s two chief rabbis, Yitzhak Yosef, called it a “a deeply regrettable decision,” and said that conversions to the Reform and Conservative communities were “nothing but counterfeit Judaism.”

“Public representatives are to be expected to work quickly to correct this legislation,” he said, “and the sooner they do so the better.’‘

The news is particularly sensitive ahead of next month’s general election, Israel’s fourth in two years. The battle between Israel’s secular and religious communities has been a major feature of the pandemic and a source of debate in the election campaign, as has the role of the Supreme Court.

“It is a big deal because for 15 years there has been an impasse over this issue,” said Ofer Zalzberg, director of the Middle East program at the Herbert C. Kelman Institute, a Jerusalem-based research group. “And it comes just a month before an election, so it becomes dramatically more politicized, and it touches people in visceral places: Who are we? What is our identity? And what are our freedoms?”

Mr. Zalzberg said, “This has already triggered a backlash among a large constituency who reject the court’s right to take decisions about what Jewish collective identity is all about.”

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