JERUSALEM (JTA) -- A Knesset committee approved a bill to protect Israeli soldiers who have converted to Judaism through military conversion courts from having their conversions annulled.
The Ministerial Committee on Legislative Affairs on Sunday approved the bill, initiated by lawmaker David Rotem of the Yisrael Beiteinu Party. The bill, if passed, would force all state agencies, including rabbinic courts and the chief city rabbis and other Orthodox marriage registrars, to accept the converts as Jews.
As I write this article, furious negotiations are underway in Jerusalem regarding the so-called “Rotem Bill,” which might possibly be introduced to the plenum of the Knesset as early as next week. In a Jewish world that often hyperbolizes potential disasters, this bill, if passed, has the capacity to drive a major wedge between the State of Israel and the non-Orthodox Jewish community here in North America. I suspect that certain sectors of the Orthodox community are not anxious to see it passed, either.
The leadership of organized Jewry, from the Jewish Federations of North America to the Jewish Agency for Israel, is expressing frustration, anger and a sense of betrayal — understandably — with the Netanyahu government for allowing a controversial conversion bill to go forward in the Knesset, even though it would alienate the vast majority of diaspora Jewry.