Rabbinical Court to Rule on Conversion Appeal

A rabbinical court in Jerusalem will hear an appeal Wednesday by an American whose conversion to Judaism by a New York-based Orthodox rabbi was ruled invalid.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Efrat Rabbi Shlomo Riskin demonstrated against the decision invalidating conversions by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, 87, who gained notoriety after converting Ivanka Trump, daughter of presumptive Republican candidate Donald Trump.

Earlier this spring, a rabbinical court rejected another conversion by the same rabbi. The court decided a 31-year-old American woman, engaged to an Israeli, would have to go through the conversion process again in Israel before she could be married in an approved ceremony and their children considered Jewish.

The young woman, named Nicole, and her fiancé, will present their appeal Wednesday at the Supreme Religious Court in Jerusalem, where the Chief Rabbinate is expected to present its position.

The rabbinate, she told The Times of Israel, is putting her whole life on hold.

“I just want to get married. I want to start my life,” she said. “My fiancé is religious; I am religious. I want my children to be considered Jewish. That’s the whole point of the conversion.”

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate consists of an Ashkenazi and a Sephardic rabbi. Ashkenazi Jews are primarily from Eastern Europe, while Sephardic Jews are mostly from Spain and the Middle East.

Meanwhile, Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau said the Chief Rabbinate informed the rabbinic court in April of their acceptance of Rabbi Lookstein’s credentials.

Rabbi Lau relayed the information in response to a letter co-signed by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein and Labor Party chairman Isaac Herzog, strongly criticizing the court’s ruling.

In his letter, Rabbi Lau said the Chief Rabbinate and the rabbinical courts are two distinct entities.

Despite that claim, Edelstein and Herzog called on the rabbinate to reverse the court’s decision, which they called “a serious injustice.”

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate controls many of life’s essentials, such as conversion, marriage, divorce and burial, which can make life difficult for Conservative or Reform Jewish families.

Judaism teaches that only children born to a Jewish mother are ritually Jewish, a tradition that affects all Israelis, religious and otherwise. Couples who do not qualify to be married in a Jewish ceremony often go abroad for their weddings, which can be both expensive and inconvenient.

A report by Hiddush, an Israeli NGO addressing religious freedom and equality, indicated in January that an estimated 660,000 Israelis are ineligible to marry legally in Israel, Algemeiner reported.

This article originally appeared on CBN News, July 6, 2016, and reposted with permission.