AJC Urges Israel Interior Ministry, Chief Rabbinate to Reconsider Status of Orthodox Convert

December 28, 2011 – New York – AJC is urging Israel’s Interior Ministry to reconsider a decision to deport an Orthodox Jewish woman because her conversion in the U.S. was not recognized by the Chief Rabbinate.

“This decision, rolling up the welcome mat to an American Jew who wants to live in Israel, is deeply dismaying,” said AJC Executive Director David Harris. “The Israel Interior Ministry’s decision, together with the Chief Rabbinate’s rash verdict, undermines Jewish peoplehood, and threatens the vital link between Israel and American Jewry.”

The case involves an American woman who converted to Judaism under the auspices of an Orthodox rabbi in New York in 2005, moved to Israel and applied for permanent residency. The Interior Ministry rejected the application after consulting with the Chief Rabbinate, which did not recognize her conversion. She was informed on Monday to leave Israel within two weeks.

Ironically, Reform and Conservative converts are accepted for permanent residency and aliyah because these movements have organized, unified rabbinical bodies in the U.S. to certify their conversions. The absence of a single authoritative certifying body for Orthodoxy, however, is sometimes used by the Chief Rabbinate as grounds to nullify Orthodox conversions.

“This unfortunate episode is yet another sign of the harm rendered by the Chief  Rabbinate’s continuing influence over recognizing conversions of Jews, even those done by Orthodox rabbis, in the United States,” said Harris.

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