Professor Benjamin Ish-Shalom is head of the Joint Conversion Institute, a network of study centers aimed at helping immigrants, including the estimated 300,000 people from the former Soviet Union, convert to Judaism. The Institute, which represents Orthodox, Conservative and Reform Jews, was established by the Israeli government and the Jewish agency following the Ne’eman Commission’s recommendations in April 1998.
A long-awaited agreement between America’s centrist Orthodox rabbinical group and Israel’s chief rabbinate on standards for conversion to Judaism remains fragile and may still be scuttled. Even the leading players involved contradict each other as they dispute the exclusive right to certify rabbis as fit to perform conversions in the U.S.
Israel’s Chief Rabbinate this week announced details of an unprecedented power-sharing agreement with the main association of Orthodox rabbis in the U.S., in a deal that will determine how Orthodox conversions to Judaism here take place.
In the long-running and often bitter battle over "Who is a Jew," the case expected to soon land in the lap of Israel’s chief rabbi is the most, well, messianic.
The question Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar will be asked to decide is simple yet fraught with symbolism: Can you believe that the late Lubavitcher rebbe, Menachem Mendel Schneerson, is the messiah and still be converted to Judaism?
Tova Hartman, a professor of education at Hebrew University specializing in gender studies, seemed to capture the mood of the large audience at the opening plenary of the 10th annual conference of JOFA, the Jewish Orthodox Feminist Alliance, on Sunday morning when she proclaimed: “We don’t have to prove anything to anyone anymore.”