Religious schism in Israel grows as independent rabbis perform marriages


The split between Israel's Chief Rabbinate and the rebel rabbis who last week announced they had performed six independent conversions of minors is widening.

This week it emerged that the rebel rabbinical courts had carried out around 50 conversions in recent months - including those of grown-ups - and that some of the rabbis involved had also performed marriages for the converts.

The independent conversions were carried out following the government's decision last month to cancel a plan to liberalise the process. The move to decentralise conversion had been approved by the previous coalition in which there were no Charedi parties.

The main difference between the independent courts - which claim to adhere completely to Orthodox Jewish law - and those sanctioned by the Chief Rabbinate is the extent to which they require the prospective converts to commit to an observant lifestyle. The rebel rabbis maintain that it is enough for the new Jews to lead a "traditional Jewish life" and believe that the stricter requirements should not be a barrier.

Neither side are going to back down at this stage. The Chief Rabbinate has made it clear that it will not recognise the conversions carried out by the independent court. The strictly-Orthodox media has attacked the rebel rabbis fiercely, in many cases mentioning them by name, without their rabbinical titles. Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef accused them of acting "against the Torah, interpreting the Torah against halachah", adding darkly that "you know the punishment for that".

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