This isn’t precisely new, so I’m posting at least in part because I’m surprised no else has seen fit to mention it first:
The Joint Conversion Institute in Israel, a network of multi-denominational study centers for those seeking to convert to Judaism, will no longer refer candidates to Israeli conversion courts until the conversion process is reformed. JCI was created “in the wake of the Ne’eman Commission findings on religion and state,” but the rabbinic conversion courts are rejecting about half of the people they graduate -despite the fact that they are jontly staffed by the Orthodox, Conservative and Reform movements.
According to Ha’aretz:
[The Institute] is demanding the conversion courts adopt an approach that is both halakhic and Zionist, and exempt the prospective converts from demands like placing their children in religious schools.
[Professor Benjamin] Ish-Shalom [head of the Institute] said such demands deter many potential converts and do not take into account the “national need” to convert some 350,000 people from the former Soviet Union who now live in Israel and are not recognized as Jews.
“If there is no change in the conversion policy and the gates of halakha remain closed, there will be several Jewish nations here that won’t recognize each other,” said Ish-Shalom. “We won’t be able to continue taking responsibility for that.”
Conversion Institute representatives met recently with leading rabbinic judges from the conversion courts to ask them to adopt the more lenient approach of Rabbi Ben-Zion Meir Hai Uziel, who was chief rabbi of Israel in the 1940s.
According to that approach, converts must prove their sincere desire to live as Jews, but are not obligated to live a religious lifestyle, as required today.