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2014 Resolution: Conversion to Judaism in Israel  
 
Policies Headlines
Jul 16, 2014 -- The Rabbinical Council of America – representing over 1000 Orthodox rabbis throughout the United States, Canada, Israel, and beyond – adopted its Geirut (Conversion) Policies and Standards in 2007, in an attempt to strike a crucially important balance between standardization and personal discretion. In light of ongoing debate and proposed legislation about this issue in Israel, the RCA urges the Knesset and Chief Rabbinate of Israel to “to implement a conversion process that includes personal relationships between prospective converts and community-based rabbinic mentors while upholding halakhic standards” and “offer[s] assistance in formulating and implementing this process.”

Formally adopted by a direct vote of the RCA membership, the full text of “2014 Resolution: Conversion to Judaism in Israel” states:

WHEREAS The Jewish laws of conversion exhibits a degree of tension between formal standards of acceptance and discretion on the part of individual rabbinical courts; and

WHEREAS Said tension is a crucial component of a sound and responsible conversion policy, as uniform standards that leave no room for the rabbis’ judgment of individual circumstances place conversion at risk of becoming an alienating, bureaucratic process, while complete reliance on the discretion of individual rabbis can undermine the commitment to Torah and the commandments that lies at the heart of the conversion process and generate heartache when it becomes apparent that a particular conversion relied on marginal opinions; and

WHEREAS The Rabbinical Council of America’s Geirut (Conversion) Policies and Standards (GPS), adopted in 2007, reflect its attempt to strike the proper balance between these extremes; and

WHEREAS Conversion in Israel is presently subject to government control and Knesset legislation in addition to the authority of the Chief Rabbinate; and

WHEREAS The question of how to address the hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens, mainly immigrants from the Former Soviet Union, who are not considered Jews in the eyes of halakha but who have Jewish lineage and whose integration into Israeli­Jewish society proceeds apace has been the subject of much public debate and several proposed laws;

Therefore, the Rabbinical Council of America, speaking humbly as an association with a mainly Diaspora­based membership:

  • Urges the Knesset and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, without prejudicing any specific solution to this dilemma or advocating any particular halakhic position, and while respecting the democratic legislative processes of the state, to implement a conversion process that includes personal relationships between prospective converts and community­based rabbinic mentors while upholding halakhic standards; and
  • Extends its hand to the Knesset and to the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to offer assistance in formulating and implementing this process, based on the experience it accumulated when envisioning and implementing its GPS network in the United States.

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