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Israeli minister promotes controversial reform on conversion into Judaism

Minister of Religious Affairs Matan Kahana is determined to break the monopoly of ultra-Orthodox Chief Rabbinate over conversions into Judaism.
Israeli Religious Services Minister Matan Kahana arrives for a photo at the president's residence during a ceremony for the new coalition government, Jerusalem, June 14, 2021.

The issue of conversion into Judaism, and the relations between religion and state in general, is one of the realms in which the Bennett-Lapid government is making maximum efforts to show real change. After many years of an ultra-Orthodox minister of religion, Matan Kahana was appointed to the role. The new minister is a member of Knesset from Prime Minister Naftali Bennett’s party, most of whose members are National Religious - Kahana among them.

Kahana had served in the army as a combatant in an elite commando unit and later transferred to the air force, where he served as an F16 pilot and a commander of a squadron at the rank of colonel. When he entered politics, the issue of conversion was one of the most important to him, as he told Al-Monitor a year ago, when then-Religion Minister Aryeh Deri tried to pass a severe conversion law. “The State of Israel needs an official conversion law but one that brings relief to hundreds of thousands of Israeli citizens and doesn’t block the entry gate to Judaism to those who wish to enter. One who is strict regarding conversion — will make assimilation easier.”

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