Israel's High Court says non-orthodox Converts are Jews
The Israeli Supreme Court struck a significant blow to the country's strong Orthodox establishment on Monday, ruling that people who convert to Judaism through Israel's Reform and Conservative movements are also Jewish and qualified to become citizens. The seminal decision, which took 15 years to reach, dealt with the thorny issue of who is Jewish and was a significant win for both the Reform and Conservative movements. In Israel, these liberal Judaism sources, which account for the overwhelming majority of affiliated American Jews, have long been marginalised.
The ultra-Orthodox establishment in Israel has had a virtual monopoly on religious affairs for Israeli Jews, managing life-cycle ceremonies such as weddings and burials and wielding political clout to control issues such as immigration. The state must allow Jews who convert to the liberal movements in Israel to gain citizenship under Monday's decision, which took away some of that influence. Conversions by the liberal streams that took place outside of Israel were historically accepted by Israel. This ruling now extends to conversions that take place within Israel. The decision does not address the problems that people who meet the requirements for citizenship under the so-called Law of Return but are not considered Jews under religious law face. Anyone with at least one Jewish grandparent is eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return, while religious law requires a Jewish mother. Thousands of citizens, many from the Soviet Union, have been able to immigrate to Israel thanks to these differing concepts, only to face discrimination when requesting religious services from the state.