The Rabbinical Alliance of America — Igud HaRabbonim, representing over 950 American rabbis — decries the recent decision by Israel’s Supreme Court accepting Reform and Conservative conversions performed in Israel as a polarizing decision that serves to further divide the Jewish people. Israel’s Supreme Court has no religious standing and therefore no right to make a religious decision. When Israel’s court system makes Jewish status decisions that will be recognized by only a portion of the Jewish people, it contradicts sacred tradition and divides the Jewish people. This is bad for Israel, bad for the Jewish people, and bad for the would-be-converts confused about their religious status.

On March 1, Israel’s Supreme Court changed the already problematic status quo regarding Jewish conversions by ruling that Reform and Conservative conversions performed in Israel are valid with regard to the Law of Return. Previously, only Orthodox conversions in Israel and all conversions outside of Israel were recognized for purposes of the Law of Return. The acceptance of non-Orthodox conversions for any purposes offends Jewish tradition that only recognizes halachic conversions. This legal acceptance also causes division within the Jewish people by creating a situation in which some segments recognize certain people as Jewish while others do not recognize them as Jewish. This also seeds confusion that further leads to intermarriage and other religious violations.

This recent judicial overreach serves as a legislative opportunity. The Rabbinical Alliance of America calls on the Knesset to step away from defining religious categories and place this responsibility with the Chief Rabbinate, where it belongs. Israeli law must recognize the Chief Rabbinate, and not the Supreme Court nor the Knesset, as the sole authority to make complex religious decisions for the State of Israel. Halacha already contains a definition of Jewish status. No legal body has the authority to contradict that definition. Rather than legislate on matters outside of its expertise, the Knesset must legally and formally pass that responsibility to the Chief Rabbinate, whose leadership is capable of making these decisions.

Rabbi Mendy Mirocznik, executive vice-president of the Rabbinical Alliance of America stated, “this is not merely a technical, bureaucratic issue but one with repercussions for generations to come. The State of Israel must recognize that religious leadership comes from its rabbis, not its judges and lawyers. The Chief Rabbis are brilliant scholars who must be given authority of Jewish status issues. Only Judaism, meaning Halacha, can answer the question, ‘Who Is a Jew?’ No judge has the authority to overrule Halacha. We call on the government of Israel to stay within its domain and respect the religious domain of the Chief Rabbinate.”

The Rabbinical Alliance of America calls on the Israeli government to recognize the importance of this moment. Only Halacha can properly define Jewish status. May the Holy One bless the State of Israel and bring peace within its borders.