Question: Israel's Acceptance of Reform Conversions
Dear Rabbi Goldwasswer,
Does a convert to Reform Judaism qualify as a "Jew" in Israel? I have Orthodox family in Israel and was considering making aliyah. Do I have to also convert to Orthodox Judaism to be considered a Jewish Israeli?
Thank you, Dani
Answer: You ask whether conversion under Reform rabbinic authority will be accepted in the state of Israel. You also want to know if you have to "convert to Orthodoxy" to be considered Jewish in Israel.
Conversions to Judaism by Reform and Conservative rabbis, conducted outside the state of Israel, generally are accepted for purposes of immigration to Israel and for purposes of religious registration upon making aliyah. You should check with an Israeli consulate office near you.
However, conversions conducted in the state of Israel must be accepted by the orthodox rabbinate for purposes of registration. To date, the orthodox rabbinate in Israel has refused to recognize conversions conducted by Reform and Conservative rabbis, although there have been many efforts to arrive at a compromise that would allow for this.
"Orthodoxy" is not a separate religion from Judaism. If you have converted to Judaism, under the authority of any legitimate rabbinic authority, you are a Jew. Jewish law does not recognize a distinction between different branches, despite the refusal of orthodox authorities to accept non-orthodox conversions.
Rabbi Jeffrey Goldwasser