The Israeli Supreme Court has severely rebuked Israel’s High Rabbinic Court and the Ashdod District Rabbinic Court for revoking the conversions of two women and their children and attempting to invalidate all the conversions carried out by Rabbi Chaim Druckman from 1999 onward. The women and children were represented by the Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ).
In a ruling issued on April 25, 2012, the eve of Israeli Independence Day, Justice Amnon Rubenstein, who reviewed the case, stated, “We must express our distress at the conduct of the rabbinic courts in this case – conduct which caused much mental anguish to the plaintiffs and did not bring any honor to the rabbinic courts.”
Retired Supreme Court head Dorit Beinisch added, “The rabbinic court ruling included every defect and wrongdoing possible.”
CWJ filed the petition with the Supreme Court in 2008. Following the filing and at the Court’s prodding, the rabbinic court reheard the women’s cases and reversed the nullification of their conversions.* Since the women were now Jewish again, the Supreme Court has decided to refrain from rendering a decision on the theoretical question of whether rabbinic courts have any authority to revoke conversions. In addition, the Court noted that a special rabbinic court panel will be set up to handle these types of cases in the future.
Despite the Court’s clear disdain for the rabbinic courts’ activities in these cases, attorney Susan Weiss, executive director and founder of CWJ, is concerned that converts remain at risk. “The decision of the Supreme Court leaves open difficult questions about the power of the rabbinic courts to question the legitimacy of conversions,” she emphasized.
Weiss stated that CWJ will monitor the handling of future cases of this type in the rabbinic courts. “We will continue to actively oppose any rabbinic practices that challenge the validity of conversions, in particular those sponsored by the state itself, and allows for the interrogation of converts regarding their level of observance subsequent to their conversion. We must cherish those who have chosen to join the Jewish people and not subject them to degrading procedures and humiliation. We share the Supreme Court’s expressed hope that such instances are never repeated.”
Organizations which participated with CWJ in bringing the suit include Naamat, Wizo, Ne’emanei Torah V’Avoda, Mavoi Satum, Emunah, Kolech, the Rackman Center for the Advancement of Women’s Status, Granit, Shvut Am and the Ohr Torah Stone Institutions.
For further information, please read here.
Photo by israeltourism, Flickr.