Today’s New York Times carries an Op-Ed condemning the conversion spill drafted by Israeli Knesset Member David Rotem. There’s plenty of additional condemnation in English-language reports, but very little of it cites the actual bill.
To facilitate a more-informed discussion, the actual text of the bill in Hebrew can be found here, and the following is our translation of the bill into English:
A Bill Regarding the Chief Rabbinate of Israel (2010)
1. Correction to Paragraph 2 – In the laws of the Israeli Rabbinate from 1980 (hereafter, “The Established Law”), in paragraph two, passage 6, there will be the following:
“(6A) Responsibility regarding conversions in Israel; this will not affect the authority for the process of conversion in Israel that was given to the special Conversion Courts by the power of the government or with the authority of the Rabbinical courts that operate according to the law.”
2. Addendum to Paragraphs 24a until 24e – After Paragraph 24 for The Established Law, there will be:
• Qualification of the members of a special Beit Din, 24A:
A. The rav of a city or a rav of a local council, or whoever serves as a rav of a city or the rav of a local council in accordance with law of religious Jewish administration of 1971, and whose leadership has not been terminated based on paragraph 12a for the law under discussion (in this paragraph and in paragraph 24b, “rav of a city”), is permitted to arrange a conversion together with two other city rabbis, or with two members of the special Beit Din for conversions that were established by orders of the government, as is stated in paragraph 2(6a) (the three of them together, “beit din meyuchad”), as long as the conversion is arranged by the special court in accordance with Jewish law, after the convert accepts the yoke of Torah and Mitzvot in accordance with Halacha.
B. If the Chief Rabbinate discovers that a member of a special Beit Din has acted in a manner unbecoming of his status, or if he fails to arrange a conversion based on the statements in susbsection A, they are permitted to establish that this member of the special beit din may not arrange conversions according to this law.
C. The procedure for the hearings and the laws for the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, in the process of subsection B, will be established based on the statutes of paragraph 24e.
• Authority of the special Beit Din, 24B:
A. The special Beit Din is vested with the authority to judge on the conversions of Israeli citizens or those who have a permit to settle permanently in Israel, in accordance with the laws of entry to Israel from 1952, the place of conversion of the applicant, and to provide certification of it.
B. Despite subsection A, the special Beit Din has the authority to handle a conversion of a person who is not an Israeli citizen or a person who has the permission to permanently settle in Israel, if they give that person a permit in accordance with the law established by the Chief Rabbinate.
C. The halachic decision of the special Beit Din that will authorize a conversion will serve as proof of the Jewishness of the bearer of its certificate. However, the conversion will not take place in a manner against the laws established subsection B regarding granting visas, immigration permits, and Israeli citizenship.
D. (1) There will be no authority to annul a conversion arranged by a special Beit Din, unless the Beit Din that issued the conversion decides that the conversion was done based on false pretenses, or that the convert had hid information from them during the process. (2) If a question should arise regarding the standing of the conversion for any other reason, before Beit Din rabbis or a different civil court in Israel or before the marriage registrar, the case will be passed on to the Beit Din that issued the conversion or to the Beit Din of that area appointed by the High Rabbinical Court.
E. If the special Beit Din that issued the conversion is disbanded or at least two of its members cease being members of the Beit Din, the decision will be transferred based on subsection D, to a special committee appointed by the president of the High Rabbinical Court.
F. The decision to annul the conversion requires the certification of the president of the High Rabbinical Court, and it will not be under the authority of any other to provide that certification.
• 24c – On the decision to annul a conversion based on paragraph 24B(d), one must present a complaint to the Chief Rabbinate, to appoint a special leadership of the head of the Chief Rabbinate and the High Rabbinical Court, whose judges are appointed by the hands of the head of the Chief Rabbinate.
• 24d – (A) A member of the special Beit Din will be appointed as the head of the marriage registry and vested with the authority regarding the marriage of a couple, in which one of them will convert through a special Beit Din, for the place in which the couple will convert. (B) No member of the special Beit Din serving as the head of a marriage registry, or appointed to the council, based on the suggestion of the President of the High Rabbinical Court, the member of the special court for conversion, one or more, will be allowed to certify as the rav of the marriage registry to invalidate the marriage registration of a couple as is stated in subsection A.
• 24e – Based on the directions of Paragraph 31, the laws and statutes of paragraphs 24a to 24d will be established by the Minister of Justice, with the approval of the President of the Rabbinical court and with the approval of the legal committee of the Knesset alone.
3. The statutes of judgment regarding conversion requests, from 2006, will be seen as though they were established as law by this bill.
With reporting assistance by Avishai Don.