Alana Newhouse has an interesting op-ed in the New York Times about a move in the Israeli Knesset that would give the Orthodox rabbinate control of all conversions in Israel. The authority (extending to matters of all Jewish births, marriages and deaths) would allow ultra-Orthodox (or Haredi rabbis) to define who is Jewish under standards that could exclude a significant portion of the population.
The legislation is the work of David Rotem, a member of the nationalist Yisrael Beiteinu party. Newhouse quotes Rivkah Lubitch, an Orthodox woman who is a lawyer in Israel’s rabbinic court system, as stating:
“Even if you didn’t go to register for marriage, and even if you didn’t go to a rabbinic court for any reason, and even if you didn’t pass by a rabbinic court when you walked down the street — the rabbinic court can summon you, conduct a hearing about your Jewishness and revoke it,” she wrote. “In effect, the entire nation of Israel is presumed to be Not-Jewish — until proven otherwise.”
This is another example of the perils of entanglement of temple and state. It would be a move likely to magnify tensions with the American Jewish community which has long had conflicts with narrow definitions of who is Jewish.
Source: New York Times