New Easier Jewish Conversion Amid Battle Over Who is Jewish


Disputes over the definition of who is Jewish in Israel.

What makes a person Jewish?

In Israel, this question has been traditionally answered by the Chief Rabbinate, ever since the country was officially founded in 1948. However, with the numbers of those formally converting to Judaism increasing, the new situation raises the matter of whether one is really Jewish or not. Only Orthodox conversions which are in compliance with Halakha, or Jewish law, are recognized by the Chief Rabbinate, leaving scores of other Jews out of the process – and left wondering as to their status.

Amit and Regina Goldstein adopted Lihi from an orphanage in Ukraine, but putting her through the Chief Rabbinate's official conversion process would have meant young Lihi would have to attend religious classes and conform to Jewish dietary laws, something that doesn't strike a chord with the Goldstein’s, who lead a secular lifestyle. If the Chief Rabbinate holds that Lihi is not Jewish, she would have to leave the country to get married – only Jews are allowed to marry in Israel – even to a Jew (marriages to Jews outside the country are recognized by the government), but her own children wouldn't be seen as Jewish. The Goldstein’s have legal standing as Jews because of their heritage.