On August 5, 2013, Hadassah Foundation grantee, The Center for Women’s Justice (CWJ) filed a petition with the Israeli Supreme Court to render judgment on a question of prime importance: Do Israel’s “Special Conversion Courts” have jurisdiction to repeal the conversion of persons converted by them?  Or to render decisions that the conversions of such person are “questionable”? Do such decisions violate the human rights of the convert?

In 2000, S. a European citizen married to an Israeli in a civil ceremony in 1997, completed the process of conversion before the Special Israeli Conversion Courts. A year later, in 2001, her marriage was in shambles. S’s husband, desperate, angry ,  and vengeful, sued in rabbinic court for a reconciliation and, at the same time , informed the Conversion Court that S was “living an open, secular life.” He claimed S participated in Christmas celebrations, wore immodest clothing, and engaged in erotic conversations.

In January 2002, S received a get (a Jewish religious divorce) from her husband in exchange for payment of monies that he demanded. In June 2002, the Special Conversion Court held that S was a “questionable convert,” without the capacity under the halakha (traditional Jewish law) to marry a Jew or a gentile. S appealed the decision to the High Rabbinic Court. More than ten years later, a decision has not yet been rendered.

The Center for Women’s Justice claims that there is no law in Israel which gives an Israeli court the jurisdiction to repeal conversions, or to declare that a person is a “questionable convert.”  Moreover, the state, CWJ claims, should not be allowed to infringe on the dignity and freedom of conscience of converts by subjecting them to interrogations regarding their lifestyle and activities.

Susan Weiss, the director of the Center states:  “This is another incidence of the unholy marriage of Religion and State in Israel. Religion is a matter of personal conscience and the State should not be involved at all in it. Once it is involved, it must take care to protect the dignity and freedom of all its citizens, including converts. It cannot allow an Inquisition to take form. The lives and souls of converts are dear to us.”