J Street welcomes and celebrates a historic, long-awaited ruling by the Israeli High Court of Justice that people who convert to Judaism in Israel through the Reform and Conservative movements must be recognized as Jewish by the state and are entitled to Israeli citizenship.
The landmark ruling is the culmination of an appeals process and advocacy effort that has taken over 15 years, as tireless advocates for Jewish pluralism have taken on the entrenched power of the Orthodox rabbinate — until now the sole Israeli body allowed to legally recognize conversions. It is a deeply emotional and important moment for the many Israelis and diaspora Jews who have long fought to be recognized as fully and equally Jewish, and to practice their religion as they see fit, in the state that is meant to be a democratic homeland for the Jewish people.
The near-unanimous 8-1 decision by the Court shows the critical importance of an independent judiciary to a functioning democracy. In the face of repeated attacks on its legitimacy and attempts to undermine and circumvent its authority, the Court’s action upholds its role as an ultimate arbiter of the law and a defender of the rights of Israelis to live in an equitable, just and pluralistic society, as envisioned by the state’s founders in the Declaration of Independence.
This ruling is also critical in helping to maintain and repair the relationship between Israel and American Jews, and helps to ensure that some of the most popular and populous Jewish denominations in this country will be treated by the State of Israel with the respect, tolerance and legal legitimacy that they deserve.