15 May, 2021

Conversion Controversy

A proposed bill to allow immigration only for ‘legitimate’ Jews has ruffled the Diaspora

Conversion Controversy

KAREN Rolfe, 27, a New York psychologist, hopes to join her Jewish fiance, Aaron Bockstein, in Israel soon. But as Karen is not Jewish, she plans to convert at a synagogue in the US belonging to the conservative stream of Judaism— one Karen identifies with for its modernist approach to religion.

Anatoly Khaikov, 36, immigrated to Israel three years ago from St Petersburg, because his grandmother was Jewish. But that was not enough for him to be counted as a ‘Jew’ in Israel’s population register. Anatoly wanted to convert and become a ‘proper’ Jew. But conversions in Israel are carried out only by the Orthodox rabbinate, which enjoins adherents to follow strictly the halakha, or Jewish law. This means, amongst other things, keeping kosher— dietary restrictions— and observing Saturday, the Sabbath, as a day of prayer and rest. Anatoly says he cannot change his secular lifestyle and has decided to convert at a synagogue abroad through the liberal Reform movement.

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