Friday, July 16, 2010


In his daily report of anti-Rotem conversion legislation on July 14, Jerry Silverman reported on a burst of important actions to his "Colleagues." It was an important day -- one during which Jerry reported on meetings with 20 Knesset members and leaders of the Reform and Conservative Movements. These were face-to-face meetings and, while many were "preaching to the choir" meetings, they reflected what appeared to me to be a change in strategy from the "correspondence model" to the "direct face-to-face" model. And, while Jerry also reported on a "constructive meeting" with MK Rotem, these were but baby steps albeit critical ones for which Silverman and JFNA staff in Israel deserve a kal ha'kavod.

JFNA I assume understands that there is across the board Diaspora opposition to this Bill. A paid professional mouthpiece no matter how articulate cannot have the impact that a large group (or small but constant groupings) of lay leaders (you remember them, volunteers?) visiting the members of the Knesset would have. Where is that mobilization?

Yesterday, in his daily secret report to his "colleagues" on the Conversion Bill, Jerry evidenced signs pointing to the need for him to return home and plan Missions so that lay leaders can begin to confront the Knesset and Israeli administration on this matter. In that July 15 "Important Follow-up on Conversion Issue," all that the JFNA CEO had to offer was a Statement by a "prominent Orthodox figure," a long time JAFI Board member going "on record opposig the...legislation." This was framed as "breaking news that impacts this important debate." Well, not so much, unfortunately.

The statement itself supports "...promoting the genuine effort to bring immigrants desirous of conversion into the ranks of halacha recognized Judaism." (Emphasis added) I will leave it to my friends in the Conservative and Reform Rabbinate to explain just what that italicized phrase means even as the writer looks "to replace the proposed legislation (with) language which will unify rather than divide our World Jewish community." This correspondent reflected on the position that he and "...other Orthodox members of the (JAFI) Unity of the Jewish People Committee" support the work of the Conversion Institute of Rabbi Ish Shalom and the Beth Din of Rabbi Druckman..."

I have known the author well since he and I traveled to a Canadian federation on behalf of CJF to analyze issues that community was facing and offer remedies from our respective experiences. He is a person of great integrity; a man of dignity and very articulate.Just when I had hoped that JFNA had turned from letters to face to face, I guess for JFNA success is still to be judged by the number and quality of letters.



Anonymous said...

Nothing short of civil marraige legislation, a reinforcement of the original who is a Jew criteria and absolute Israeli recognition of all diaspora conversions by all streams will make this issue go away. We can't dictate to the knesset but being family means giving loving advice even when its not all that welcome. And the knesset must understand that actions have consequences.

paul jeser said...

At the same time we support JFNA's (and others) efforts to stop this bill, we also need to get groups like JStreet to stop its continual public criticism of Israel -
- this JStreet effort is exacttly what I've written about; it will do nothing but further dilute any influence the non-traditional community has in Israel.