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Statement of the International Rabbinic Fellowship on Proposed Conversion Law in Israel

In the past two weeks, the Jewish community in Israel and the Diaspora has witnessed a fierce debate over legislation proposed by MK David Rotem of Yisrael Beiteinu.

The bill intends to ease the process for conversion for more than 300,000 Russians living in Israel but who are not halachically Jewish, but also includes other provisions that deeply offend the non-Orthodox denominations in the Diaspora, who have rallied to defeat the bill.

Voting on the bill has now been postponed for six months allowing the sides to reach a compromise.

We, in the International Rabbinic Fellowship (IRF), an organization of nearly 150 Modern Orthodox Rabbis, believe first and foremost that in the coming months a solution must be found for this population of over 300,000 Russians living in Israel but who are not halachically Jewish. The status quo is simply untenable.

Specifically, we are supportive of the work of the Tzohar Rabbinic organization to bring about a conversion process that would work through municipal Rabbis. We believe this is a positive step toward alleviating the problem, even as we recognize that it is only a partial and limited solution. We are of course also supportive of all the other good work that Tzohar does to engage the non-observant population of Israel and working to preserve and strengthen the unity of the Jewish people.

We are also strongly supportive of the work of Itim and Beit Morasha to find and establish a more permanent solution to the conversion issues in Israel.

The IRF further believes that any solution, temporary or permanent, must be brought about in a way that doesn’t damage the unity of Klal Yisrael.

We further urge all sides to work together in as spirit of cooperation and compromise to develop a positive solution.

The IRF stands ready to assist all parties in reaching an agreement and lending a supportive Orthodox voice to a practical and unifying result.

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