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Israel high court eases conversion laws in ruling that shakes Orthodox control

[JURIST] Israel's Supreme Court [official website] ruled Thursday that the country can recognize non-Orthodox conversions to Judaism not performed in Israel, a decision which challenges the Orthodox monopoly over Israili religious affairs. Up to this time, converts who sought Israeli citizenship needed an Orthodox rabbi to perform the conversion in Israel. Now, however, people who are converted by non-Orthodox rabbis outside the country can gain Israeli citizenship under Israel's "Law of Return" which grants automatic citizenship to anyone who is Jewish. The Reform [official website] and Conservative Jewish movements have called the ruling important but said it was only a partial victory. The case was brought by 17 foreigners who had studied the Reform conversion in Israel but had the actual ceremonies performed outside Israel. Israeli authorities protested saying the Law of Return [text] only applies to those who do not already live in Israel. The ruling, although accepting conversions abroad, does not reach those conversions completed in Israel under Reform or Conservative supervision. Interior Minister Ophir Pines-Paz will implement the decision and will review it to determine its confines. The Israeli Knesset has been called back into session next week to consider the implications of the ruling. The Jerusalem Post has local coverage. AP has more.

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