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Lookstein convert summoned again by Supreme Rabbinical Court

American immigrant called in for second hearing in appeal of rejection of her conversion, performed by prominent US Orthodox rabbi

American immigrant Nicole and her Israeli fiancé Zohar. Engaged in April 2016, their marriage was put on hold until the Israeli rabbinate accepted Nicole's US Orthodox conversion. (courtesy)
American immigrant Nicole and her Israeli fiancé Zohar. Engaged in April 2016, their marriage was put on hold until the Israeli rabbinate accepted Nicole's US Orthodox conversion. (courtesy)

The Supreme Rabbinical Court in Israel wants to hear for the second time in a week from a woman whose conversion by a prominent US rabbi was rejected by a local rabbinate.

The court delivered a summons to the woman on Monday for a hearing Wednesday in her appeal of the rejection by the Petah Tikvah Rabbinical Court.

The American woman, named Nicole, who had an Orthodox conversion in New York with the NY-based rabbi and was engaged to an Israeli man, had her status as a Jew rejected by the local rabbinical court in her fiance’s hometown of Petah Tikva in Israel after the two tried to register for marriage.

The rabbinical court at the time insisted it “did not find the rabbi in question as authorized to perform conversions,” ruling that the woman needed to go through the conversion process in Israel.

Rabbi Haskel Lookstein (screen capture: YouTube/CelebrateIsrael)
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein (screen capture: YouTube/CelebrateIsrael)

In the first hearing, on July 6, the Supreme Rabbinical Court appeared to side with the Petah Tikvah court that the US rabbi, Haskel Lookstein, is not recognized by the State of Israel to perform conversions.

Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said prior to the appeal that he recognizes conversions performed by Lookstein, the former rabbi of Kehilath Jeshurun, a modern Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side that counts Ivanka Trump and her husband, Jared Kushner, as members. Trump, a daughter of the Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump, converted under Lookstein’s auspices in 2009.

Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New York, September 21, 2015. (Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images via JTA)
Jared Kushner and his wife Ivanka Trump at the Trump National Golf Club in Bedminster, New York, September 21, 2015. (Bobby Bank/WireImage/Getty Images via JTA)

Rabbi Seth Farber, the head of ITIM, an organization that helps Israelis navigate Israeli religious bureaucracy and is assisting the woman in her appeal, said in response: “It’s time to stop torturing the convert.”

“We stand behind our opinion that there was not even a pinch of reasoning behind the verdict given by the Petah Tikvah Rabbinical Court to not recognize Rabbi Lookstein’s conversions,” the statement said, “and we call upon the Supreme Rabbinate Court not to take in this war of attrition and allow this convert, and many other who converted by halacha with Orthodox rabbis in the Diaspora, to marry and lead a full Jewish life in Israel.”

About 200 demonstrators protested next to the offices of the Chief Rabbinate during the July 6 hearing.

Nicole told The Times of Israel last week that the entire affair had turned into “a nightmare.”

“I just want to get married, I want to start my life. They [the Petah Tikva rabbinate] are putting my whole life on hold,” Nicole, 31, said in her first interview since the media storm erupted. “My fiancé is religious, I am religious. I want my children to be considered Jewish… That’s the whole point of the conversion,” said Nicole. “I am Jewish, it’s not fair that I would be considered otherwise. It’s very frustrating, I want to cry. All I want to do is have a Jewish family.”

Times of Israel staff contributed to this report.

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