The Israeli Supreme Court now has ruled that a Reform or Conservative (i.e., Judaically meaningless) “conversion to Judaism” conducted in Israel is all that is needed for a person to be accepted as “Jewish” for permanent Israeli citizenship under Israel’s Chok haShvut (“Law of Return”).
Until now, such Judaically meaningless “conversions to Judaism” were accepted only if performed by Reform and Conservative rabbis outside of Israel.
*(That ruling itself was profoundly wrong.)
What a wonderful solution for those who enter Israel surreptitiously, if not outright illegally, as asylum seekers from Sudan and Eritrea and for the country’s many home-cleaning personnel and other household helpers who enter from India, Thailand, and the Philippines! Until now, at some point their stay in Israel would end legally, and they either would have to leave or face deportation. But no more. Now they can get a “Reform conversion” or a “Conservative conversion” and, once meaninglessly “converted,” they may stay in Israel, secure forever in Tel Aviv’s Neve Shaanan neighborhood or elsewhere, safe from deportation. Mazal Tov new Citizens of Israel!
A Reform conversion is Judaically meaningless.
Let us be clear: People who are born to Jewish mothers or who convert according to the laws of halakhic Judaism are Jews — period. End of story.
It does not matter whether they are Spanish-Portuguese Sephardic, Edot Mizrach (from North African Arab countries) Sephardic, Ashkenazic Yekkish (deriving from Germany), Ungarrish (deriving from Hungary), Galitzianer (southern Poland), other Ostjude (Ashkenazic deriving from east of Germany — like Russia, Ukraine, Polish, Rumania, Czechoslovakia/ Czech Republic, etc.), Chasidic (following one or other local East European shtetl rabbinic tradition, whether Ger, Satmar / Satu Mare (Saint Mary), Karlin-Stolin, Lubavitch, Bobov, Sossov, etc.), Litvish (following a Lithuanian-based broader approach to Judaism, rabbinic authorities, and holy texts that does not adopt the more localized shtetl Chasidic-rabbi adherence). It does not matter whether they are Charedi, Charda”l (Zionist Haredi), Centrist Orthodox, Modern Orthodox, Reconstructionist, Conservative, so-called “Open Orthodox,” Humanist, Reform, Socialist, Marxist, or Neturei Karta anti-Israel.
If a person is born to a Jewish mother or converts according to the laws of halakhic Judaism, that person is a Jew — period.
Even if the person later marries a non-Jew and leads Jew-haters in their attacks against Israel. Thus, even a Bernie Sanders. A George Soros. Even a Leon Trotsky.
But someone who is not born to a Jewish mother and not converted according to the laws of halakhic Judaism is not Jewish. Period.
It does not matter for a non-Jew that the father is Jewish if the mother is not. The “patrilineal” non-Jew remains a non-Jew unless he or she ultimately converts according to halakhic standards.
But what about his “Jewish blood”?
As a refresher: It was Adolph Hitler who defined Jews by blood — not we. For a person born of a non-Jewish mother, patrilineal descent — having a Jewish father — means absolutely nothing Judaically.
A left-handed father does not make someone left-handed.
It does not matter what “23 and Me” and genetic testing say. If a person gets back a report that shows overwhelming East European Ashkenazic DNA, but the mother was not Jewish — end of story.
Reform and Conservative “conversions to Judaism” have absolutely no Judaic meaning. Not even a little bit.
We do not count such males in a minyan, not even if they hold a Torah in their arms, not even if they hold the entire Ark. We do not allow such people to marry into a Jewish family unless they first undergo a complete halakhic conversion.
Not a “second conversion” — because in truth they never yet have converted. They simply have undergone a process that an ordained Reform or Conservative rabbi outside the halakhic universe has told them is a “conversion.”
If a Guatemalan person sneaks illegally across the southern border of the United States, desperately wanting American citizenship, they need to go through the secular naturalization process — or hope that Congress will re-write its laws and grant them some kind of citizenship. Let’s say a United States Immigration Judge says: “Y’know what? I don’t agree with the settled law. So just attend a few (or many) classes I will conduct, and I will confer upon you a certificate of citizenship. Just come every Tuesday night to my courthouse. I will teach you a few American laws — and, by the way, you won’t have to follow or observe them, just learn them for the test. And then I will give you a Certificate of Citizenship.”
Even in the contemporary chaotic world of American naturalization and porous southern borders, that would not work. No other court would recognize that wildcat “citizenship.” Certainly no state would.
Most people in Israel have absolutely no idea what an utter mess Reform Judaism has devolved into Judaically.
Today more than half of all Reform Jews in America are married to Christians. This is a fact spoken publicly by the head of the Union for Reform Judaism: “Interfaith families are now the majority of the movement.”
Look it up for yourself (on page 9, left column, four paragraphs from the bottom).
Even Conservative rabbis do not recognize Reform conversions.
When I spoke at a Reconstructionist temple’s public panel alongside a Reform rabbi and a Conservative rabbi on the subject of conversion, everyone in the audience expected that a major onslaught would be directed universally at me once I spoke simple truths. But that never happened. Instead, when the Reform rabbi said that he does not require immersion into a mikveh for conversion — or even into a swimming pool or home bath tub (not that either of those last two would have any halakhic consequence at all) — it was the Conservative rabbi who interjected: “My movement would not recognize such a conversion!”
The Reform rabbi looked at him and said: “No?” The Conservative rabbi shot back: “Never!”
Soon the Reform rabbi and the Conservative rabbi were arguing with each other in front of the Reconstructionist temple audience, and I just sat back, sipping my water and munching on the cookies I had brought with me. (I had inquired in advance whether the snacks would be certified kosher. When the response was that “all the baked goods will be certified glatt,” I knew to bring my own cookies.)
Reform has made such a mess of Judaism in America that, nowadays, no Modern Orthodox rabbi — and certainly no Agudist, Hasidic, or Centrist rabbi — will agree to conduct a wedding when approached by two prospective newlyweds he does not know until he has assured himself, often needing to undertake a time-intensive private inquiry, that both the hopeful bride and groom actually are authentically Jewish.
We have to ask for proof — because so many American non-Jews in the Reform world have been convinced erroneously this past half century that they really are Jewish, even though they were “converted” in Judaically meaningless ceremonies or descend from a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother.
Consequently, they and their children — and theirs — all wrongly think they are Jewish. So we now have to check — not bloodlines, not general lineage, not DNA — but whether they meet the authentic Jewish definition of a Jew.
We have to ask them to connect us with rabbonim (Orthodox rabbis) who know their families. Often they cannot name a single one.
So we ask them for proof that they or their mothers or maternal grandmothers were admitted into an Orthodox day school at some point. Or that they were accepted for a bar or bat mitzvah at an Orthodox shul. Often they cannot provide that either. So we ask perhaps for a copy of a mother’s or maternal grandmother’s ketubah to look at. Often they don’t have that either. We get increasingly creative: perhaps they have matrilineal grandparents buried at an Orthodox cemetery?
My colleagues and I often have had to step aside apologetically because, upon careful inquiry, we see that the aspiring groom and bride, though they honestly think they are Jewish, were misled. They are as non-Jewish as an Oscar Myer weiner.
Is that the hope of 2,000 years that Israel wants? A “Jewish State” for a “Jewish People” where no one knows who legitimately is Jewish?
And who will decide Judaism’s identity: a Knesset coalition that could rely on an Arab-Muslim Joint List for its majority? A secular supreme court? There is a very clear reason that American courts follow the “Ecclesiastical Abstention Doctrine” that forbids them to rule on matters impinging on religion.
Israel has no other social problems dividing the society?
In California, when two drunk people after a “night on the town” suddenly decide amid their inebriation to get married, they drive (or, if more prudent, get someone else to drive them) to Las Vegas. In no time flat, in a matter of minutes, they then get married in an Elvis chapel. For a few extra bucks, they even can get a pastor, a priest, a Conservative or Reform rabbi — or all of them or maybe even a hound dog— to add their religious branding to the quickie marriage. The next morning, when the couple wake up with splitting headaches and wonder who that other person in bed is, they can get divorced just as quickly.
It is a meme: “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.”
And now an Israeli citizenship under the Law of Return can be just as attainable: Sneak across the border or just intend to remain beyond a visa’s expiration. Immediately sign up for Reform conversion. And — Mazal Tov!
Yes, it would be interesting to have an Israel populated by all those famously non-Jewish celebrities converted by Reform rabbis: Elizabeth Taylor, Marilyn Monroe, May Britt, Sammy Davis, Jr. For extra confusion, throw in some others like Rod Carew who never even went to a rabbi but just married a Jew for a few years.
But Israel is not an Adam Sandler Hanukkah song or a Las Vegas Elvis chapel.
Or is it?