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Liberman issues warning to chief rabbi amid spat over conversion reform

Finance Minister and Yisrael Beytenu party chair Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)
Finance Minister and Yisrael Beytenu party chair Avigdor Liberman speaks during a faction meeting at the Knesset, October 4, 2021. (Olivier Fitoussi/Flash90)

Finance Minister Avigdor Liberman sends a warning letter to Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau as disagreements over a government plan to reform conversion to Judaism reach new heights.

Yesterday, Lau informed Prime Minister Naftali Bennett that he will not approve any future conversions to Judaism as long as the government continues to advance a plan to ease the process and dilute the Chief Rabbinate’s control over it.

In a letter a day later, Liberman tells Lau that he is a public employee who must carry out his public duties as inscribed by law.

“The head of the conversion system is not elected by the public, but by a senior official in the civil and public service, and the decision to extend or terminate his tenure is in the hands of the competent state authorities,” Liberman writes, calling Lau’s earlier statement “an implicit threat, not to mention blackmail.”

Liberman says that if Lau follows through on his threat to freeze all conversions, such behavior “is not appropriate to the status of the chief rabbi, and may lead to proceedings being taken to end his term.”

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