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Am Echad weekly update for the week of May 8, 2022

Update summary: This week, with the Knesset back in session, an in-depth poll by Am Echad indicates that the target audience of the conversion reform – the non-Jewish Russian immigrants, are not interested in conversion; that Minister of Religions Matan Kahana has is not supported by US rabbis. In addition, a global study shows that one in seven Jews in the world is Haredi (strictly-Orthodox), and that this trend will intensify. Worldwide, manifestations of anti-Semitism are reaching an all-time high, in New York State the number of antisemitic attacks jumped by 325% in 2021, with the majority of those attacked being 'visible Jews' – i.e. Orthodox, and university students continuing to fight the BDS boycott, this time at Harvard University.

The Conversion Reform

· Am Echad Poll reveals: non-Jewish Russian immigrants are not interested in conversion

Am Echad survey of immigrants and children of immigrants shows: while Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana says the conversion reform aims to help the non-Jewish immigrants to convert, most of them are not interested in conversion. 21% of those surveyed were non-Jews or unsure of their status with the rabbinate. Only 13% were interested in converting under any process. Two thirds of the children of immigrants polled responded that they have no desire to convert. When asked why wouldn't like to convert, 20% of the immigrants and 36% of children of immigrants replied they are not interested. 37% of all respondents said they either felt no need or had no desire to convert. Of the respondents who said they would not convert, 56.8% said they saw no need or had no desire to convert. Only 5% of those disinterested in conversion cited the difficulty of the process as the reason for their lack of interest. (Israel Hayom)


· US Orthodox rabbis to Minister Kahana: We cannot support your conversion reform

Rabbis from several major Orthodox organizations in the United States notified Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana that they are rejecting his conversion reform. In a detailed letter, the rabbis stated that "we are concerned that Minister Kahana’s proposed reforms — including the decentralization of Israel’s conversion courts, as well as the resultant lack of transparent standards — will not solve these difficulties, and will instead create another equally severe set of problems. We are also concerned that his proposals sideline Israel’s chief rabbinate."


The letter went on to explain that the problems Kahana is trying to solve will be solved for just a few people, because even the most liberal Bet Din would require some level of commitment to Torah observance. They state that the reform would create multiple standards to a degree that communities couldn't marry each other. They warn from their own experience against decentralization of conversion, saying: "Our experience demonstrates that a return to decentralization and a lack of transparent standards would be a very negative development for the Israeli community as a whole, and most especially for the prospective converts."

The letter is signed by Rabbi Binyamin Blau, President, Rabbinical Council of America; Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President, Rabbinical Council of America; Rabbi Leonard Matanky, co-President, Religious Zionists of America; Rabbi Michael Taubes, RIETS-Yeshiva University; Moishe Bane, President, Orthodox Union; Rabbi Moshe Hauer, Executive Vice President, Orthodox Union. (Time of Israel)


Diaspora

· Research shows: One in seven Jews around the world is now strictly Orthodox

A global research conducted by the British Institute for Jewish Policy Research (JPR) estimated, for the first time in history, the size of the global strictly Orthodox (Haredi) population. The report estimated that there are 2,100,000 million Haredi Jews, 14% of the total Jewish population in the world. The report indicated that a large part of the growth of the global Jewish population as a whole is due to the Haredi population, perhaps as much as 70%-80% of the total growth worldwide, and projected that the Haredi population will double itself by year 2040. The report points out an interesting point: Haredi rates of growth are very high not simply due to high fertility, but rather to the combined effects of very high fertility and very low mortality. 92% of Haredi Jews live in the US and Israel, 5% in Europe, and the rest live mainly in Latin America, South Africa, Canada and Australia. (JPR)


Antisemitism and BDS

· Antisemitic incidents in New York surged to an all times high in 2021

The Anti-Defamation League has published its 2021 antisemitism report, which shows that antisemitism in the United States has risen sharply, with New York State leading the way. Visible Jews - namely, strictly-Orthodox Jews, who can be easily identified as Jews who were "attacked for the 'crime' of wearing a kippah", says ADL CEO Jonathan Greenblatt. The number of antisemitic cases increased by 24% in 2021, and the number of physical assault cases jumped by 325%! An all-time record. The report also shows an increase in cases of vandalism, antisemitic harassment and cases involving swastikas. In New Jersey, there was a 25% increase in antisemitic assault cases, and a national rise of 34% compared to the previous year. (CBS)


· The Harvard Crimson supported the BDS – and faces strong rejection

The Harvard Crimson published a statement in support of the BDS against Israel, claiming that it opposes antisemitism. The editorial supporting the 'Apartheid Week' and the Palestinian struggle along with endorsement of the BDS was unsigned, and caused a strong rejection. In a scathing response, 70 faculty at the world's top university signed a statement condemning the move by the Crimson. The rejection came from the within newspaper's board itself, when Natalie L. Kahn, Crimson editor and head of the Harvard's Hillel, wrote a condemnatory article in which she noted that the move was one-sided and anti-Jewish. While the article expressed support for the Palestinians' right to a state, Kahn wrote, it did not express similar support for the Jews' right for a state. (Times of Israel)