Two Players: The Neeman Commission and the

Burg Proposal


Through the heat of the rhetoric around the current crisis over Conversion status in Israel, we would like to open up both sets of recommendations, using the following guidelines to assess potential outcomes of either or both processes.

Text of the Neeman Commission

  1. Sum up the main recommendations of each track.
  2. Name the main and the background actors who would have to agree to either proposal [excluding the Knesset] (see hint #1).
  3. What has made the issue more urgent today than, say, 10 years ago?
  4. List the pros and cons of each proposal (see hint #2).
  5. Are the proposals mutually exclusive, unconnected or complementary?
  6. How do you assess the impact of either proposal on the status quo if accepted (see hint #3)?
  7. Which idea seems more popular in the USA today and why?
  8. Which idea seems more popular in Israel today and why?
  9. Do either of the proposals offer a resolution of the problem of convert status?
  10. How would you yourself propose resolving the issues involved in a manner acceptable to the parties involved?
  11. What scenarios do you predict as consequences of either path - or of inaction - for young people in Israel not converting to Judaism when they reach marriageable age?



Main actors: The “Reform Movement”; the “Conservative Movement”; the Israel Chief Rabbinate.

Secondary actors: The Haredi Orthodox community in Israel; the Sephardi Orthodox community in Israel.

Interested parties: Olim from the CIS, Israel Religious Action Center, left-wing political parties, orthodox parties, rights’ groups, secularist groups.




Enables Israeli citizenship for all converts Labels converts with date of conversion Strives to resolve substance of crisis Current lack of Rabbinate cooperation
Pluralistic - treats all converts equally Labelling converts is against Halacha Unites 3 streams of Judaism in conversion process Non-orthodox movements uncertain about stringency of demands on their converts
Avoids substance of the issue, avoids conflict Avoids substance of the issue, avoids conflict Resolves marital status for all converts Could leave unsuccessful conversion candidates outside system
Technically acceptable to all actors Only technical stopgap, not a solution Resolves citizen - ship problems for all converts under Law of Return Could leave unsuccessful conversion candidates outside system
Resolves current political crisis Delays resolution of substance of problem - future crises expected Israeli Rabbinate established as sanctioning authority Israeli Rabbinate established as sanctioning authority
Other Other Other Other



The Law of Return does not specify that Conversion in Israel or elsewhere should be according to Halacha. Nevertheless, Supreme Court decisions have upheld this provision for Israeli conversions, while insisting on Ministry of the Interior registration for any foreign converts as Jews. In 1995, the Supreme Court implicitly recognized non-orthodox conversion in Israel for the first time, referring the matter to the Knesset.

The ultra-orthodox Knesset factions wish, therefore, to amend the Law of Return by explicitly inserting “in accordance with Halacha” into the Law as a requirement for converts or people wishing to register in the Population Registry as Jewish. They will bring this amendment to a Second Reading if the current crisis is not resolved to their satisfaction. Several orthodox members of different parties are encouraging the adoption of the Neeman Commission’s recommendations as a preferable alternative to schism.

Meanwhile, only 200 of the estimated 20,000 non-Jewish olim from the CIS are involved in any kind of conversion process. Many of the non-Jewish olim are spouses; most of them are children in two- or single-parent families.





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11 Jul 2007 / 25 Tamuz 5767 0