Most Israeli Jews want more lenient, welcoming state conversions

Israel Democracy Institute survey finds plurality want to see private conversion courts for each Jewish stream; 71% back IDF’s conversion program

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau (L) and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef convene an emergency meeting against a new proposal to overhaul the conversion to Judaism system in the country on June 3, 2018 (Courtesy of the Chief Rabbinate spokesperson)

Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau (L) and Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef convene an emergency meeting against a new proposal to overhaul the conversion to Judaism system in the country on June 3, 2018 (Courtesy of the Chief Rabbinate spokesperson)

 

A slim majority of Jewish Israelis, 52 percent, say in a poll they believe the state conversion process for non-Jews should be “more welcoming and lenient in order to enable more potential converts to join the Jewish people.”

A large majority, 71%, say they back the IDF’s conversion process for soldiers who wish to convert to Judaism. Nearly half, 45%, support the program’s expansion, according to the latest Israel Democracy Institute Israeli Voice Index survey, released today.

Israel’s state conversion system has been a politically divisive issue since as many as 300,000 non-Jewish family members of Jews moved to Israel during the great wave of immigration from the former Soviet Union in the 1990s.

Many of these Russian-speaking Israelis have lived their lives as Jews and have no other identity, but encountered difficulties converting to Judaism in Haredi-controlled state rabbinic courts that have demanded stringent Jewish observance as a precondition for conversion.

Asked who they believed should determine a person’s Jewish status for the state, 36% said it should be a “yet-to-be established new government conversion agency,” 32% sided with the Chief Rabbinate, and 17% backed “private conversion courts for each of the religious streams – ultra-Orthodox, Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.”