Rabbi, historian, and social activist, Seth Farber, PhD, founded ITIM in 2002 to strengthen Israelis’ connections to Jewish rituals at the most significant milestones in their lives: marriage, the birth of children, and bar and bat mitzvahs. Within a short time, Rabbi Farber realized that many Israelis felt alienated from Judaism, because government authorities that administer matters of Jewish life like marriage and conversion were disrespectful, unresponsive, or exclusionary.
ITIM redefined its mission to increase participation in Jewish life by helping people navigate Israel’s religious bureaucracy. In 2005, ITIM established an Assistance Center to provide free information, individualized guidance, and problem-solving on every State-administered issue of Jewish life—from birth to burial. In the following years, the Assistance Center developed renowned expertise, particularly in issues of Jewish marriage and conversion, and earned a reputation as the address for solving practical issues of religion-and-State.
As it worked closely with government authorities, ITIM recognized the need to create systemic change. In 2012, it established the Advocacy Center, a legal and public policy center to operate in coordination with the Assistance Center. The Center monitored State policies, regulations, and practices, improved government transparency, accountability, and service, and, when necessary, legally challenged government authorities to meet the needs of the broad Jewish public. Over time, the Advocacy Center grew into one of the country’s preeminent government watchdog and legal action centers.
By 2015, the issue of conversion to Judaism was reaching a point of crisis in Israel, due to the government’s insufficient and exclusionary approach to potential converts—especially immigrants from the former Soviet Union. In 2015, ITIM established the Giyur K’Halacha Conversion Court Network to provide Israeli citizens who wish to join the Jewish people with a meaningful, supportive, and inclusive way to do so. Giyur K’Halacha has quickly become the leading, Orthodox, non-governmental conversion program in the country.
In order to more strategically advocate for change, ITIM divided its Advocacy Center into Public Policy and Legal Centers in 2019. The Public Policy Center serves as a government watchdog, issues policy papers, and participates in Knesset hearings to reform key religion-and-State policies. The Legal Center takes legal action on religion-and-State issues to protect citizens’ civil rights, promote Jewish pluralism, improve government transparency, and ensure equality under the law.
Public Policy & Legal Centers
Giyur K’Halacha Conversion Court Network