Now the Chief Rabbinate probes army conversions

By Anshel Pfeffer, October 28, 2010

The decision of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel to investigate the validity of conversions performed in the IDF has raised concerns that 5000 converts may find their Jewishness questioned.

For over eight years, the Israeli army's Nativ Project has allowed soldiers of mixed marriages who are not recognised as Jews by the Rabbinate to undergo a programme of Jewish studies, leading to conversion in a special military rabbinical court.

The programme has been hailed by senior officers and liberal rabbis as a much better way for some of the 300,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union, not recognised as Jews, to convert. Until recently, the Chief Rabbis of Israel co-operated with the project and allowed the army converts to marry as Jews, but increasing pressure from hardline rabbis who control the civil conversion courts has caused them to waver in their support.

Last week, the council of the Chief Rabbinate announced that it was forming a committee to investigate the entire process of army conversions.

The IDF Chief Rabbi, Brigadier General Rafi Peretz, said he was "ashamed that the Jewishness of a soldier who has converted could be questioned".

A number of Knesset members are planning to propose a law granting inviolable validity to all conversions performed in the IDF.

Last updated: 4:16pm, October 28 2010