Tuesday, August 21, 2007

Its not easy to convert

Statistics show that it is difficult to convert!!

The latest recommendation from the Imigration Ministry to the Israeli government is speed up the conversion process.

Look at these facts:
300,000 non-Jews living in Israel:
I thought it was twice that number - 1 million people made Aliya from the former Soviet Union, of whom 60% were not Jewish. Where are the other 300,000? (perhaps they left the country already?)
Why did the government not think about this when it encouraged so many non Jews to move to Israel? Did they not think that Israel was a Jewish country fifteen years ago? The truth is that the Aliya from FSU was designed to counter the demographic imbalance with both the Arabs and the religious Jews. The government was terrified of having either an Arab majority or a religious majority in the country. The cunning plan was to bring in non Jews (the vast majority of whom had no intention or desire to become Jewish). A little bit like the Old Lady who swallowed the fly! The plan worked. Now what?

6000 begin a conversion process each year, but only a third complete it
Should we blame red tape and bureaucracy? Or perhaps the vast majority (98%) don't want to be Jewish?
Perhaps two thirds don't complete the process because they are not yet ready to become Jewish, or because they were only converting for ulterior motives, and didn't follow through with the conversion?

Some are forced to wait 3 months for their certificate! Three months! It takes longer than that to get a drivers' license or a tax rebate. Doesn't seem like a long tme to me.

The statistics don't say how many of those converts continue to lead a Jewish life after conversion. Apparently that should not be an important factor in decisions about conversion.

And why does the government care that more people should convert? “The conversion of non-Jews is both a national and strategic mission, and is vital for the future of the State of Israel." Which word is missing from this sentence? 'religious/Jewish'. Conversion is national and strategic, but not about Judaism any more.

Why don't they make a new kind of conversion where people have to learn and practice 'national and strategic' topics, and we'll call them 'Israeli' instead of Jewish?

I am very much in favour of helping people who sincerely wish to become Jewish, and who are planning on remaining Jewish and observant after they receive their conversion certificate. I have tremendous respect for people who change their lives and their futures by becoming Jewish. And there are systems in place for such people. They are the 2000 who convert each year.

But the State of Israel cannot make people 'national and strategic' Jews by creating a new department. That won't maintain the Jewish character of the country.

And why can't they just remain as non Jews and be good B'nei Noach? Since biblical times Israel has had a large non Jewish segment of society who supported the Israelites and helped them economically. Why should we force people to become Jewish?

Converting non-Jews vital for Israel’s future

Immigration and Absorption Ministry recommends establishment of a new conversion authority was recommended by the Immigration and Absorption Ministry as the solution to help thousands of immigrants convert to Judaism each year.

The ministry made its recommendation in a report sent to Prime Minister Ehud Olmert Monday.

The recommendations included adding more rabbinical judges to conversion courts, removing bureaucratic obstructions, and introducing a special committee headed by the Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, to deal with halachic issues.

Presently, Israel is home to about 300,000 immigrants who arrived in the country under the Law of Return, but are not defined as Jews according to the halacha. Each year, about 6,000 of these immigrants undergo the conversion process, but only a third of them succeed in completing it.

The ministry’s report revealed that applicants are forced to deal with many different bodies in the conversion process, all of whom have different administrative policies. Also, applicants who eventually make it to the end of the conversion process (30%-50% drop out during the preparation stage) are forced to wait over three months before receiving their conversion certificate.

According to a poll by the Immigration and Absorption Ministry, the majority of immigrants said an easy conversion, along with openness and acceptance towards applicants, could encourage an increase in conversion.

“The conversion of non-Jews is both a national and strategic mission, and is vital for the future of the State of Israel. We have to enable citizens who are interested in converting, to fully integrate with the nation and Israeli society,” said Immigration Absorption Minister Jacob Edery.

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