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Who Is A Jew?
The Lubavitcher Rebbe's campaign to have the halachic Orthodox definition of who is a Jew become Israeli law

Beleagured Shas MK: R. Ovadia’s OK on IDF Converts Vindicates Me "says he knew he was right all along in supporting IDF conversions to Judaism"

(Read Full article)Israel National News Jan 20, 2011 - by Hillel Fendel

MK Rabbi Chaim Amsalem of the hareidi-Sephardic Shas party and the author of a book detailing Halakhic [Jewish legal] leniencies regarding conversion, who is widely felt to be a party renegade, says he knew he was "right all along in supporting IDF conversions to Judaism". The latest ruling by Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, spiritual leader of Shas and of most of Sephardic Jewry in Israel, states that the soldiers who converted to Judaism in the framework of the IDF Rabbinate are “kosher.” He added, though, that future conversions should be done according to more stringent rules.

The issue of such conversions had been a controversial one of late, with many rabbis claiming that the soldiers were not planning to be religiously observant and that therefore their conversions were not valid. Rabbi Amsalem had been among the minority that stated that once a kosher Rabbinical court converts a non-Jew to Judaism, the deed cannot be undone. The Shas party is now continuing its efforts to stymie a proposed bill by MK David Rotem – a religious member of Israel Our Home – to have such conversions recognized once and for all. Shas says that the latest ruling by Rabbi Yosef obviates the need for such legislation.

Speaking with Arutz-7, MK Rabbi Amsalem – the author of a book detailing Halakhic [Jewish legal] leniencies regarding conversion – said that many in the religious world have apologized to him over the past few days. He says he forgives all except the political leadership of Shas.“All along,” he told Arutz-7 on Wednesday, “my position was based on Rabbi Yosef's rulings regarding conversion, which I quoted precisely. They attacked me and said I was a heretic, etc., but now everything has been overturned. Because of their attempt to stop Rotem’s bill, Rabbi Yosef came out with his letter recognizing the conversions that have been done until now. All the attacks in the Ashkenazi yeshiva world are now against Maran [Rabbi Yosef – ed.] instead of against me. I am happy to be in good company with Maran.” “On the one hand, it’s hard for me to see how they now attack and insult Rabbi Yosef, but on the other hand, I am happy that I have been vindicated.” “What kept me going throughout this time was the knowledge that I was speaking the truth. I said the whole time that conversions cannot be retroactively nullified, even if it turns out in the end that the convert is not observant. This is the straightforward Halakhah.”

Goes One Step Further

Amsalem has apparently gone one step further than Rabbi Yosef, however, in stating that non-Jews who have made Aliyah to Israel because of family connections and who serve in the IDF can convert to Judaism

, even if they only wish to be “traditional just like most Jews in Israel.”

סערת הגיור: הצביעות הליטאית לשפל חסר תקדים

(Read Full article)(Shturem News) Jan 17, 2011 מערכת שטורעם -

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(article is in Hebrew) - Eng Encapsulation (not literal with notes by the editor): Lithuanian Haredi Newspaper "Yated Ne'eman"s Hebrew edition published a scathing attack on Rav Yosef Ovadia's decision to back the idea of IDF (Israel's Army) Rabbis determining "who is a Jew" and doing their own conversions. This controversial move by the IDF takes the power of deciding who is a Jew out of the Rabbinates’ hands and puts it in the hands of an organization that should not be making these decisions, the IDF itself who hires its Rabbis who in turn answer to the IDF, meaning that there are other interests involved.

This strange turn of events (that the Lithuanian media organ of the Lithuanian Haredi community is blasting those against "Ger KeHalacha") is quite odd as it was not too long ago that Rav Shach z"l, the former late rosh yeshiva of Ponevich Yeshiva in Bnei Brak was the one who came out attacking the Lubavitcher Rebbe's campaign to have "Mi Yehudi" (who is Jew) appended into Israeli state law as the final definition of who is a Jew. In the article (right) the esteemed late Rav of Ponevich pokes fun at the "latest ludicrous idea" that the Lubavitcher Rebbe is "innovating".

Today, almost 20 years later, we see this great mistake in ignoring the prophetic vision that the Lubavitcher Rebbe had at seeking to ensure the purity of the Jewish nation.

Explanatory Note To The Above By The Editor

The present government in Israel is at war with the Office of the Chief Rabbanut, slowly stripping it of its powers to determine legal decisions and to promote furtherance of Jewish life in the Holy Land. This is something that has been going on since the founding of the present government under Mr. Ben Gurion, as is documented. (Mr. Ben Gurion was fanatically afraid of a “religious takeover” and took steps to build into his new government the mechanisms to counter that move, when it would come in the future.)

As such, Israel’s government has been trying to make the basis of “who is a Jew” to be a secularly legally determined decision. A decision that would be determined by Israel's non-religious supreme court which many feel (and not unjustly so) is an antiquated, unresponsive and anti-religious legal system. A system which many see as "despotic" and whch takes a dim view to any advent of a future Jewish religious determination in Israel as a clear challenge to its 63 year old monopoly.

The Orthodox community’s exponential growth of an average of 7 children per family has not helped to allay its fears. Nor have statistical studies showing that the Orthodox Jew is about half of Israel’s Jewish population, if not more. While over the years, Israel’s secular government has slowly adjusted to the idea of a new Orthodox majority, but on this point of who will hold legal sway over Israel’s legal rule, the Supreme Court is unyielding. Unyielding to the point of reversing decisions made in religious courts on minor matters despite both parties pre-agreement to abide by the religious court exclusively. Israel’s secular court however allows religious disputants to ignore religious arbitration and rulings and to seek a secular legal appeal. Something unheard of in any legal system in countries outside of Israel! What government of the world would dare interfere with any religion and its guiding principles of the peoples and powers in its domain? Certainly not to make a mockery of its own legal system by allowing an unhappy disputant to overturn his ruling and seek the opposite of justice elsewhere? Or the High Court’s demand that religious councils of each city and town have a reformed and conservative rabbi sitting on their boards, when these two groups have nothing to do with Mikva, Kosher or Burial. The very things that each board oversees in its area. This is despite that fact that Reformed and Conservative are a miniscule minority of the Jewish population in Israel.

Hence the latest foray of Israeli government fears calling for a need to stem a “religious takeover”, when in truth, most religious people in Israel today could care less who runs the government as long as it is done fairly and efficiently. It seems to be the observation of many that that the Jewish G-d will not let the Jewish nation to sit still and asks of them to face this new challenge and ensure the writing of “Ger KeHalacha” (Jewish Orthodox Conversion) into Jewish law. A conclusion that many see will halt a clear threat to Israel’s Jewish future. Raanan Isseroff – Chabad4Israel (Click Here To Read Full article From Sturem News)

HaAretz Blasts Religious Newspaper "Yated Neeman" For Calling Rabbi Yosef's Approval Of Contraversial IDF Conversions 'A Desecration'

(Read Full article)(HaAretz) Jan 16, 2011 - The Ashkenazi ultra-Orthodox journal Yated Neeman launched a direct attack on Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, an adjudicator of religious law and spiritual leader of the political party Shas, over his decision to confirm that conversions to Judaism performed by military rabbis are legal from a religious standpoint.

The Yated Neeman article said that Rav Ovadia Yosef's decision was "shocking", a "desecration of God's name," and an inversion of clear decisions of religious law which will likely lead to "increased danger of major assimilation among the people of Israel." The Lithuanian Haredi journal called Yosef a 'rabbi,' and not 'Maran' – master teacher – or 'Harav HaGaon' – genius rabbi – as it generally refers to Haredi rabbis, even those of other lesser status. The Yated Neeman article quotes anonymous senior judges and rabbis that attack Yosef's decision, saying that IDF conversions are the very opposite of what is required according to religious law. Yated Neeman is considered to be the personal mouthpiece of the Lithuanian Haredi Rabbi Yosef Shalom Eliashiv. Shas Religious Services Minister Yaakov Margi commented to the attack on Sunday morning, saying that it is a waste of time to respond to Yated Neeman, calling the newspaper "five grams of filth." Rabbi Ovadia Yosef had issued a ruling on Friday approving conversions officiated by the Israel Defense Forces, following the inability of a specially appointed rabbinic panel to reach an agreement concerning the 4,000 or so controversial conversions. Yosef said following his ruling that his decision was informed by his own knowledge and experience with the military rabbinate. (Read Full article)

Israel Beiteinu & Shas both agree to temporary deal: Non-Orthodox streams essentially pleased, with no word from Chief Rabbinate. Conversion bill moratorium extended another 6 months

(Jerusalem Post) By JONAH MANDEL 1/10/2011 - The overall freeze on legal actions that could change the status quo of conversions in Israel has been extended by another six months in a deal brokered by Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Cabinet Secretary Zvi Hauser, it was revealed on Monday.

The government – specifically the Israel Beiteinu party, whose Conversion Bill before the Kenesset caused the hubbub that prompted the initial moratorium in July, and Shas, which supported the bill – agreed to refrain from advancing legislation on the matter until July 10. At the same time, the Reform and Masorti (Conservative) movements will hold off with petitions to the High Court of Justice demanding a more egalitarian stance toward non-Orthodox conversions. In the interim, Sharansky and Hauser will chair a forum to include representatives of the Interior Ministry, Justice Ministry, the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism, and the Jewish Agency. This panel will attempt to address bureaucratic issues that converts and potential converts might encounter with the Chief Rabbinate and with other Israeli authorities, and to streamline the "bureaucracy". At this stage, the forum does not include a representative of the Chief Rabbinate or the state’s Conversion Authority raising fears that it is a ploy to stall the bill. It is also not clear whether the moratorium includes Israel Beiteinu’s recently proposed military conversion legislation, which is a private member’s bill. (Read Full article)

המחדל: "גיורי" צה"ל יאושרו על ידי ועדת הרבנים

(Click Here For Full Story עברית) תפנית בפרשיית ה"גיורים" בצה"ל יממה אחרי שאב"ד חיפה לשעבר, הרב גדליה אקסלרוד, שיגר מכתב חריף בו תקף את פעילותה של "ועדת הרבנים" לענייני הגיורים בצה"ל, שבוחנת את "גיורי הבזק" שנעשו למאות חיילי מילואים וסדיר גויים שעלו לארץ. הבוקר (יום ב') מדווח כי הועדה החליטה לאשר את ה"גיורים" הזריזים שנעשו על ידי אנשי הרבנות הראשית. אישור ה"גיורים" נועד כדי למנוע את חוק "הגיור הצבאי" שאמור להקנות לרבנות צה"ל סמכות לגייר על דעת עצמה, ללא כל אישור של גורם אחר. מדובר על "גיורים" מזורזים שנעשים לחיילים מתגייסים, במטרה לרשום אותם כיהודים.מערכת חב"ד אינפו ה שבט ה'תשע"א (10.01.2011)

Chief Sephardic Rabbi to Orthodox Parties: Leave Coalition if Conversion Law Fails

Arutz7 July 19, 2010 (www.Israelnationalnews.com) Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi, said Sunday that in his opinion, the religious parties in the coalition should leave it if a proposed law regulating conversion to Judaism (giyur) is not passed.

(Read Full article) Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Chief Sephardic Rabbi, said Sunday that in his opinion, the religious parties in the coalition should leave it if a proposed law regulating conversion to Judaism (giyur) is not passed. Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu said Sunday morning that he opposes the proposed law formulated by MK David Rotem (Israel Our Home). Rotem had obtained the agreement of key religious authorities from different Orthodox streams for the bill. The bill would determine, for the first time, that the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is the sole body authorized to deal with conversions, so that all recognized Israeli rabbis could perform conversions, they could not be nullified, but that conversions would be Orthodox i.e. will be carried out after the convert “accepts the burden of Torah and commandments according to Jewish Law. If they were to listen to my advice,” Rabbi Amar told Hareidi-religious radio station Kol BaRama, “they would all stand as one person with one mouth and one heart and tell [Netanyahu]: it's either the Conversion Law or we leave.” "The Reform Jews are using the diplomatic situation to threaten the Prime Minister,” the Chief Rabbi said. “They sit there [abroad] and they want to dictate our lives [in Israel]. I told the Prime Minister, Binyamin Netanyahu, that if G-d forbid the High Court allows a Reform conversion, we will be splitting the nation into two parts. The result would be that one part of the nation would not marry the second part,” Rabbi Amar explained. “This is not a game... this is not a social crisis. This is a tearing apart of the nation into two nations, and the ones who will lose by it are the ones who do not abide by the Torah and commandments. We will not be able to marry them. Such things have happened in the past. ”(Read Full article)
YNet July 18, 2010 -

Rotem: PM will vote for conversion bill

(Read the original article on Ynet)This new bill will give full power for conversions into the hands of the Rabbanut if passed. Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clarified Sunday morning that he is against the controversial conversion bill initiated by Avigdor Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu faction

On the backdrop of recent tensions with Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu clarified Sunday morning that he is against the controversial conversion bill initiated by Mr. Lieberman's Yisrael Beiteinu faction, which he said would "create a rift among the Jewish people." However, surprising everyone, the Shas party reiterated its support for the conversion bill, saying that the absence of such a law would create "a great spiritual danger." Parroting Mr. Netanyahu's words, Shas Chairman & Interior Minister Eli Yishai told Ynet that "not having a conversion law will lead to a rift among the people." The absence of a conversion is the greatest spiritual danger for the Jewish people at this time." In fact he insisted: "the lack of such a law would require an examination of historical familial ties – leading to a situation in which people will be disqualified to marry because their parents belonged to different factions". Shas officials told Ynet that the party planned to "go all the way" with the bill and that "all political scenarios are possible."

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar in support of the bill, which would give the power to convert soley to the Rabbanut and avoid more questionable conversions, called on the ultra-Orthodox parties to quit the coalition. Amar, who took part in the wording of the bill, said Reform Jews took advantage of the political situation to pressure Netanyahu until he gave in. He also slammed the High Court of Justice, which he said was trying to destroy Orthodoxy from the top as he put it: "They are eating into us, piece after piece." Minister for Minority Affairs Avishay Braverman (Labor) asked to make a personal announcement on the matter and announced that he is opposing the conversion bill. Despite being scolded by the prime minister, Mr. Braverman persisted saying: "This thing must not be allowed to pass!" Further he said "It must be terminated by the government. The Knesset must not be allowed to discuss it. The bill must be pulled and the vote must be prevented." Later, the prime minister changed gears (as usual) telling cabinet members that he will now oppose this proposed conversion legislation, which he said: "would create a rift among the Jewish people". (the phrase seems to have many meanings) During the meeting, the PM discussed the problem of unregulated immigration regulations on foreign workers in Israel taking jobs from Jews saying:"This is a national issue of top priority, which carries demographic and humanitarian aspects. We are the only Western country without an immigration policy," he said. MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) said in response: "The Prime Minister is afraid. He has been pressured by all Reform and Conservative Jews, without even reading the law.

According to Mr. Rotem, "The prime minister operates according to pressure. One day this person presses him, and the other day someone else does it. It's not that he thinks deeply about an issue… It is just that he is too busy putting out fires."(Read the original article on Ynet)
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