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Am Echad weekly update for the week of February 6, 2022

The conversion reform

  • Am Echad at the Knesset: Conversion reform will open the door to 10 million non-Jews

"They tell us we need to undermine the Jewish Identity in order to maintain our ties with the Diaspora Jews, but this is not true," said Am Echad Israel Director Leah Aharoni at the inaugural session of the Knesset Caucus for Strengthening Jewish Identity. During the Monday session Aharoni said that "Diaspora Jews want a strong Jewish identity for Israel because that is the only glue that holds us together.”


Aharoni revealed that last week Am Echad presented Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana with a position paper from rabbis and congregations from around the world, unanimously opposing the suggested conversion reform. "Diaspora Jews unanimously oppose the law because it would destroy the conversion system not just in Israel, but in the Diaspora as well. There are 10 million non-Jewish people, who are eligible under the Law of Return, and are just waiting for this gate to be opened. No government is allowed to perform a power grab and harm the heart and soul of the Jewish people, namely the Jewish identity, and we must strengthen it."


  • In an Am Echad position paper presents the dangers of the conversion reform

A position paper on the conversion reform was sent by Am Echad to the Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana. The paper written in consultation with rabbis and dayanim from all over the world, pointed out the dangers the conversion reform to the future of the Jewish people and potential damage to sincere converts. Rabbis and directors of batei din from Australia and Argentina, South Africa and the United States, Russia and France, Germany and the United Kingdom, explained the problems inherent in the reform from their experience.


The rabbis warned that lenient conversion standards for "Zera Israel" would lead to a wave of intermarriage throughout the Diaspora. They noted that from the American experience decentralized conversion systems do not work and that converts are harmed by such systems. They warned that the Conversion Reform will open a floodgate to subpar conversion throughout the Diaspora. Additionally, the reforms to the conversion system would jeopardize the status of Israeli converts abroad.


  • Kahana plans to terminate city rabbis by changing in the voting system

Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana published a draft of regulations, revealing plans to change the process of electing city rabbis. This would lead to immediate termination of rabbis who were appointed for a lifetime term. Kahana plans to replace city synagogue representatives with city council members and public representatives, appointed by Kahana himself. According to the new regulations, rabbis who were appointed for life but reached the age of 80 would be terminated within a year. In the past, rabbis were appointed for life, and changed regulations did not apply to rabbis who were appointed before 1974. Among rabbis targeted by the new regulations are Rabbi Zefania Drori of Kiriat Shmone, Rabbi Yitzchak Peretz of Ra'anana, Rabbi Simcha Hacohen Kook of Rehovot, and Rabbi Moshe Hadaya of Eilat. (Behadrei Charedim)


  • Kahana plans to close the Kashrut Fraud Division

Minister Matan Khana said in a closed conversation with Kashrut supervisors that he plans to close the Kashrut Fraud Division. The division is in charge of preventing cases of forgery in the kashrut system. Currently the division is very small, but kashrut supervisors are concerned that any body replacing the division would not have real power to prevent fraud. (Israel Hayom)


Meanwhile, Kahana is actively meeting Kashrut organizations from abroad in an effort to engage them in the Kosher market in Israel and present an alternative to the Rabbinate system. This week he met with Kof-K, in order to interest them in getting into the Israeli Kashrut market. (Matzav IL)

Antisemitism

  • Campus antisemitism is on the rise, mostly in-person attacks

The Campus Antisemitism Annual Report for 2021 was released by Jewish On Campus, showing a rise in antisemitic incidents during the year, especially in May, during the last round of hostilities between Israel and Gaza. The report shows that while most classes moved online, 72.4% of antisemitism still happen in person. 93% of the cases happened among undergraduate students. The University of Vermont made the top of the list. While more than a half of the incidents reported involved only one assailant, 18.7% involved more than 5 assailants. (Jerusalem Post)

BDS and Anti-Israel Bias

  • Texas court: applying the anti-BDS law is a violation of free speech

A federal judge ruled last Friday that the City of Houston could not include a clause in a contract saying that a company working with city must refrain from boycotting Israel. The judge ruled that such a clause would violate the company's free speech rights. The company asked the city of Houston to remove the clause from the contract, but city officials refused, citing state law. The judge added that the State of Texas could not enforce this law against the company or the city. (Texas Tribune)

  • Austin DSA remove support from a congress candidate over his opposition to BDS

Austin chapter of the DSA (Democratic Socialists of America) announced they would remove their support from Greg Cazar's congressional campaign, after he expressed opposition to BDS and support of American military assistance to Israel. Cazar, who runs for Texas's 35th congressional district also expressed his desire to visit Israel, including Judea and Samaria (the West Bank). The DSA chapter, which supports the BDS and opposes military aid to and visits in Israel, announced they would no longer work with Cazar's campaign. (Jewish Insider)