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Israeli Supreme Court Ruling
OU/RCA Statement Regarding Israeli Supreme Court Ruling on Non-Halachic Conversions
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Feb 21, 2002 -- The Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America and the Rabbinical Council of America are deeply concerned by the ruling of the Israeli Supreme Court, which allows persons converted in Reform and Conservative ceremonies in Israel to register as Jews. We support the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in condemning this decision, which ignores the historical realities of the State of Israel. Prime Minister David Ben Gurion, at the time of the establishment of the State of Israel, recognized the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and its designees to be the sole decisors in matters of Jewish identity.

We are concerned that in issuing its decision, the Supreme Court has transcended its jurisdiction and has trespassed into the domain of the religious authority of the Chief Rabbinate. Whereas the Court maintains that its decision is limited to statistical procedures pertaining to citizens’ identity cards, we agree with the dissenting opinion of Supreme Court Justice Yitzchak Englard that “this is not merely a matter of statistics but rather a sharp ideological dispute. Conversion is a matter of Torah law as formulated in the Jewish Halachah throughout the generations.”

The decision of the Court may eventually lead to the division of the People of Israel into two camps. There will be a group of halachically valid Jews and a group of people who are Jewish only by the ruling of the Supreme Court. Inevitably this myopic decision will be tragic for all of Israel, but especially for those who have been misled by the Court to think that they are Jewish.

Today, when the State of Israel is at war with its enemies, our greatest need is for unity. Now is not the time for divisive actions by the Israeli judiciary. Rather, it is a time for all of us to maintain profound reverence for our common sacred heritage.

The Orthodox Union, now in its second century of service to the Jewish community of America and beyond, is a world leader in youth work, advocacy for persons with disabilities, synagogue services, adult education and political action. Its kosher supervision label, the OU, is the world’s most recognized kosher symbol and can be found on over 250,000 products in 68 countries around the globe.

With headquarters in New York and Jerusalem, the Rabbinical Council of America is the world’s largest body of Orthodox rabbis serving communities around the globe.

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