Ron Breiman argues Make conversion easier. He’s got a point.
The latest conversion bill again placed on the public agenda an important and fateful problem, which for some reason encounters the shallowness of inter-party considerations, while having momentous implications for the face of the Jewish people in Israel and abroad, as well as for Israel’s demographic problem.
Entrusting the conversion of these hundreds of thousands of people, who express their wish to join the Jewish people through their actions, in the hands of a Chief Rabbinate that increasingly shuns Zionism and moves closer to the haredi world, as well as the latter’s demand that converts adopt an Orthodox lifestyle, conveys a message to these people of being second-class citizens and third-class Jews.
Our guideline should be to make the conversion process more lenient, simpler, and quicker, rather than introducing obstacles and forcing converts of all people to adopt a lifestyle that is undesirable by most of Israel’s citizens. Such harsh policy pushes them away instead of bringing them closer, outrages them instead of appeasing them, and conveys a sense of distortion: What we see is growing haredi takeover of the conversion apparatus – while haredim dodge IDF service – thereby harming a large population group that contributes to the IDF and to society despite the alienating attitude towards it.
I fully support this view. The orthodox can be as restrictive as they want. If they choose to not acknowledge the Jewish credentials of converts by Reform or Conservative standards that is their business and most of us couldn’t care less.
We embrace anyone who has met the lower standards and recognize what a big step conversion is in this time of great antisemitism. We don’t saY THEY ARE halachicly Jewish but we do accept them into the clan. They become part of the Jewish people even if the orthodox reject them. If one pof these people want to become an orthodox Jews they can always convert again according to halacha.
Dr. Ron Breiman is the former chairman of Professors for a Strong Israel