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Conversion Legislation Update

January 10, 2011

Dear Friends:

We are all pleased to share with you the news that the government of Israel has agreed to a further moratorium on the Rotem bill, the controversial bill that would increase the ultra-Orthodox establishment’s hold on conversion, to extend until July 1, 2011. During that time no further action on this legislation, which we so strongly oppose, will take place. During this period, Masorti and the Reform movement also will suspend efforts related to certain pending litigation concerning the registration of those converted by the Masorti and Reform movements.

During this moratorium, Natan Sharansky, chair of the Jewish Agency, will continue efforts to develop a broad consensus. Israel ’s cabinet secretary, Tzvi Hauzer, who has represented the prime minister in our deliberations, also will continue to be involved on behalf of Prime Minister Netanyahu.

There are two more significant points worth noting. One is that our representatives were told that Avigdor Lieberman, head of the Yisrael Beitenu party, agreed with this moratorium, and that it was the clear position of the government. The second is that the agreement includes the creation of an official professional working group that will address bureaucratic delays and obstacles encountered by converts whom the non-Orthodox movements believe already are clearly entitled to full status under existing Israeli law. This working group will be headed by the chair of the Jewish Agency and the cabinet secretary and will include representatives of various government ministries. It also will include representatives of the Masorti and Reform movements. The creation of this working group, and its official inclusion of representatives of non-Orthodox movements, is a positive development.

In reporting on these developments, we must say thank you and especially note the leadership of Natan Sharansky in Israel and of Jerry Silverman, president and CEO of the Jewish Federations of North America, on this continent.

Also, thanks to all of you whose efforts helped demonstrate to the government of Israel the critical importance of these issues.

B’shalom,

Rabbi Steven Wernick                                    
Executive Vice President and CEO
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
 
Richard Skolnik
International President
United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism
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