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Conversion Rights

Problem

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has a monopoly on State-recognized conversions in Israel. Only those citizens who convert through the Rabbinate’s conversion program can be assured that their Jewish identities will be recognized by the State. Yet those who convert through the Rabbinate’s conversion program consistently report that it is inefficient, discouraging, and, in some cases, discriminatory. Israeli citizens who convert through non-recognized conversion courts—like all citizens whose Jewish identities the Rabbinate rejects—are unable to marry as Jews, to be buried as Jews, and to exercise other basic rights of Jewish citizenship. In recent years, the Rabbinate has increasingly refused to recognize the Jewish identities of people who converted outside of Israel. As a result, people who are considered and consider themselves Jews in other places, find themselves rejected as Jews when they move to Israel or seek to marry in Israel.

ITIM Achievements

  • Established and operates the Giyur K’Halacha Conversion Court Network
  • Led a coalition that blocked passage of a Knesset bill that would have cemented the State’s monopoly over conversions
  • Won a Supreme Court case that paved the way for independent Orthodox conversion courts to be recognized by the State for purposes of establishing Jewish identity for citizenship under the Law of Return
  • Won a Supreme Court case that required local rabbis to recognize the Jewish identity of individuals who converted through the State conversion program when they apply for marriage licenses
  • Won a case that required the Interior Ministry to recognize an individual who converted through the Giyur K’Halacha Conversion Court Network as Jewish

Current Activities

The ITIM Public Policy Center monitors proposed public policy changes affecting the rights of those who have already converted to Judaism, and those seeking to convert to Judaism. On an ongoing basis, the ITIM Legal Center files cases on behalf of Giyur K’Halacha converts to require municipal courts to recognize their Jewish identities.

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