Minors throughout Israel converting without their parents (for example, adopted children or children born through surrogacy) should contact the Conversion Department to open a file for the conversion of minors in the Rabbinical Court specializing in the conversion of minors, located in Jerusalem. For more information, contact Mrs. Tova Getta, coordinator for the Rabbinical Court’s Conversion Department, at Tel: 02-545-0108.
Minors are defined as children under the age of Bar and Bat Mitzvah, age thirteen for boys and age twelve for girls.
Opening a File
To open a file, parents must present the following documents: a conversion request form, photocopies of both parents’ Identification Cards, and both parents’ resumes. A married couple must provide their marriage certificate as well. A single requesting to convert his/her child should provide his/her own parents’ Ketubah (Jewish writ of marriage) or marriage certificate. Alternatively, a single can present a document from the Rabbinical Court proving his/her Jewishness.
To open a file in the Rabbinical Court for the Conversion of Minors, parents must fax the following documents to Mrs. Tova Getta (Fax: 02-545-0124), coordinator for the Rabbinical Court’s conversion department:
• Photocopies of both parents’ identity cards and document appendixes (printed paper that comes with the identity card) which include the name of the child they wish to convert.
• Detailed resumes for both parents. This document should include clear contact information and an explanation of the parents’ decision to choose adoption or surrogacy.
• A letter explaining the parents’ motivations for converting their child.
After the documents have been examined by the Conversion Department, the parents will be invited to a meeting with the Rabbinical Court.
In rare cases in which a minor residing with his/her biological parents requests to convert without his/her parents, the minor must provide written consent from both parents. If the minor is over the age of 10, he/she must submit a request in his/her own writing. Parental consent can be granted by personal appearance in the Rabbinical Court to sign the necessary documents, or by a signed declaration stamped by a notary. If the parent resides outside of Israel, he/she can declare consent in front of the Israeli Consul in the parent’s place of residence. In a case where one parent cannot be located or will not grant consent, a petition can be made to the Family Court (part of the local Civil Court) and a court ruling approving the conversion will substitute for parental consent.
Appointment at the Rabbinical Court
At the meeting with the Rabbinical Court, the parents will need to complete a conversion request form. Likewise, they will need to present the following documents:
• Married couples must provide their marriage certificate or Ketuba.
• A single requesting to convert his/her child should provide his/her own parents’ Ketubah or marriage certificate. Alternatively, a single can present a document from the Rabbinical Court proving his/her Jewishness.
• Adoption or surrogacy documentation.
• Two passport pictures of each parent.
In cases of young children, the conversion is done according to the decision of the Rabbinical Court, based on the court’s impression of the parents. Therefore, after the conversion file is opened, a meeting will be set for the parents with the Rabbinical Court. The Rabbinical Court will want to confirm that the converting minor will be brought up in a traditional-religious environment. Minimal requirements will include Sabbath observance, Kashrut (Jewish dietary law) observance, active participation in a synagogue, and education in the religious education system. Depending on the Rabbinical Court’s impression of the parents, an additional meeting will be arranged during which the court will make its final decision regarding the minor’s conversion.
Brit Mila (Ritual Circumcision)
As part of the conversion process, boys are required to undergo ritual circumcision. Circumcision for converts is free of charge and is generally performed in coordination with the Rabbinical Court for the Conversion of Minors. One can approach the Rabbinical Court for the Conversion of Minors for a circumcision referral even while the conversion is still being deliberated. The Brit Mila combines within it a ritual ceremony along with a surgical procedure. The ceremony is very similar to a standard Brit Mila, but there is a minor difference in the blessings. Brit Mila for babies and children over the age of 6 months is performed by a Mohel (ritual circumciser)-doctor specializing in the field. In certain cases, the procedure may involve anesthesia.
In cases where circumcision has already been performed, it may be necessary to perform “Hatafat Dam,” a ritual which includes a light pricking of the penis. One can read more about this procedure here. More information on Brit Mila, as well as a list of accredited circumcisers, can be found here. Generally, someone referred for circumcision by the Rabbinical Court will not need to perform “Hatafat Dam”
After circumcision and recovery, boys will undergo immersion in a ritual bath.
Immersion in a Mikveh
After the Rabbinical Court decides in favor of the minor’s conversion, the parents will be referred to the Immersion Unit of the Conversion Department to set a date for ritual immersion. If the child is young and cannot immerse alone, the father or mother (according the family’s decision) will accompany the child in the ritual bath in order to hold him/her. If the child is old enough, he/she will say a short blessing upon immersion. If the child is too young, a blessing will not be said.