Israel | Religion & Jewish Life

52% of Israelis want it to be easier to convert to Judaism, survey finds

(JTA) — A slight majority of Jewish Israelis want it to be easier for people to convert to Judaism, according to a new survey.

Respondents were asked about whether they want conversions to be performed as leniently as possible according to Jewish law.

Fifty-two percent of Jewish Israelis want that to happen, while 35 percent want conversions to be more stringent and 13 percent don’t know. Among secular Jews, 68 percent want conversions to be easier; that number is only two percent among the haredi Orthodox.

The survey, performed by the Guttman Center for Public Opinion and Policy Research of the Israel Democracy Institute, comes amid a debate about conversions in Israel.

The Chief Rabbinate, which controls Jewish marriage, divorce, conversion and burial in the Jewish state, is largely run by haredi Orthodox leaders who have stringent rules for those wishing to become Jewish. The rabbinate does not recognize any conversions performed abroad by non-Orthodox rabbis and has also rejected some performed by Orthodox rabbis. People whose conversions are not recognized cannot marry in Israel or be buried in a Jewish cemetery there.

Respondents were asked about who should have the authority to perform conversions in the country.

A plurality of 31 percent want a new conversion system to be set up, while 27 percent of respondents are happy with the current system. Fifteen percent of respondents want the authority to rest with private conversion courts in Israel (the chief Rabbinate is state-sanctioned), while 7.5 percent want private courts in Israel and abroad to be in charge.

Five hundred eighty six men and women were interviewed on the Internet and by phone last month as part of the survey, which has a margin of error of 3.7 percent.