New adoption rules resolve piece of conversion flap

JERUSALEM — A piece of the controversy over conversions performed in Israel has likely been resolved.

The Israeli government this week approved the recommendations of a committee dealing with the conversions of children adopted abroad.

The committee, headed by Rabbi Haim Druckman, a former National Religious Party Knesset member, had called for the creation of special rabbinical courts to deal with such conversions.

It also said that the families of the adopted children would not be required to be religiously observant after the conversions and that there would be no rabbinic follow-up to ensure the religious observance of the children or the families.

Adoptive parents had complained that the Chief Rabbinate required them, in effect, to undertake a change in their own lifestyles before the religious courts would consent to convert the adopted children to Judaism.

Nearly a dozen of these parents sought help from Conservative rabbis in Israel, who converted the children in 1995 at the Conservative movement's Kibbutz Hannaton.

After the Interior Ministry refused to recognize the children as Jewish, several families took their dilemma to Israel's High Court of Justice in 1995.

Given the Cabinet's approval of the Druckman Committee's recommendations, it appears unlikely that the court will now rule on the issue.

In a related matter, a separate committee dealing with conversions and other issues associated with the religious pluralism debate in Israel discussed the efforts by the Women of the Wall group to pray at the Western Wall.

No members of the Orthodox religious establishment who sit on the Ne'eman Committee took part in the discussion, the Israeli daily Ha'aretz reported.

The paper added that members of the committee, headed by Finance Minister Ya'acov Ne'eman, took up the matter after it was referred to them by the High Court of Justice.

For the past nine years, the group has been trying to hold services, including Torah readings, at the Western Wall plaza. Fervently religious groups have protested their presence at the site.

Earlier this month, Attorney General Elyakim Rubinstein told the Cabinet that he is looking into the possibility of setting up an alternative site in the plaza for the group, as well as for other non-Orthodox Jewish groups that have encountered difficulties in holding prayers at the site from fervently religious protesters.