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Later, he says term 'inappropriate' but stands by critique

Ultra-Orthodox MK: Women who convert to Judaism through IDF are ‘shiksas’

Yitzhak Pindrus of UTJ party sparks outcry after declaring soldiers who convert during service aren’t Jewish and families of those who marry them should go into mourning

Rabbi Yitzhak Pindrus arrives for a court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem about his disqualification from running for mayor in Elad in the upcoming elections, October 22, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)
Rabbi Yitzhak Pindrus arrives for a court hearing at the Supreme Court in Jerusalem about his disqualification from running for mayor in Elad in the upcoming elections, October 22, 2018 (Yonatan Sindel/Flash90)

An ultra-Orthodox lawmaker said women who convert to Judaism through the Israel Defense Forces’ conversion program are considered shiksas, using a pejorative term for non-Jewish women.

United Torah Judaism Yitzhak Pindrus, speaking Monday on a panel at a conference organized by the ITIM organization and Kipa website, discussed the case of the daughter of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother who converts under the military’s auspices.

She is a “shiksa, a non-Jew,” he said in a video clip aired by Army Radio on Tuesday.

“If she underwent an army conversion, she is not a Jew under halachic [Jewish legal] definitions.”

On Tuesday afternoon, Pindrus apologized on Channel 12 for his use of the term “shiksa,” admitting that it had not been appropriate.

“I apologize to those who were converted according to Halacha and were offended by what I said,” he told Channel 12.

However, Pindrus stood by his statements that the IDF’s conversion hierarchy was not religiously legitimate.

“If someone marries her, their father needs to sit shiva [the traditional mourning period], rend his garments, and say Kaddish [the mourner’s prayer]” over their lost son, he said.

Pindrus said he was unwilling to bend on the issue in order to be “pluralistic and nice.”

The army’s Nativ program, founded in 2001, is the only state-recognized conversion system in the country not controlled by the Chief Rabbinate. Hundreds of soldiers, most of them non-Jewish immigrants or descendants of immigrants from the former Soviet Union, enter the army’s conversion system each year.

Thousands have successfully finished the program and converted to Judaism through the IDF’s rabbinic court, which is Orthodox.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu (center), along with the IDF’s then-chief education officer Brig. Gen. Eli Schermeister (right), and several participants in the army’s Nativ conversion course on December 15, 2010. (Amos Ben-Gershom/GPO, File/Courtesy)

Pindrus’s comments were condemned by secularist and some religious politicians.

Opposition leader Yair Lapid called the statement “ignorant and sad.”

“These wonderful young women that you call shiksas are saving your life,” he tweeted.

Yisrael Beytenu leader Avigdor Liberman, in a tweet, said: “Pindrus and United Torah Judaism members, not enlisting in the army and living at the expense of taxpayers — that’s a shiksa.”

“Those who need to sit shiva are those who buried the values of the Jewish people. Any soldier who serves in the IDF and underwent an army conversion is more Jewish than all the Mir Yeshiva students combined,” added Liberman referring to a flagship Haredi institution.

Yamina leader Naftali Bennett, who was formerly a Diaspora affairs minister, called the description “shameful” and vowed that converts through the military would not have their Jewishness questioned.

Pindrus’s comments came on the same day the High Court of Justice ruled that Reform and Conservative conversions to Judaism conducted in Israel would be recognized for citizenship purposes. The decision, which dents the Orthodox monopoly on religion in Israel, was widely condemned by Haredi lawmakers, who vowed to pass a law to overturn it.

Pindrus said Tuesday that the panel conversation had been recorded before the High Court ruling.

In a follow-up interview with Army Radio, Pindrus did not withdraw his remarks. But he said he would reconsider his views if the Chief Rabbinate oversaw the Nativ conversions. Pindrus said that neither he nor the High Court had the authority to decide which conversions were legitimate — an assessment he left to rabbis.

“Fake conversions are a religious issue, not a national or civilian one. The High Court does not have the authority to decide if a Reform convert is Jewish or not,” he said.

The UTJ Knesset member also brushed off the criticism against him leveled by other politicians.

“There can be a citizen who contributes to the state and isn’t Jewish, or a Jew who doesn’t contribute to the state,” said Pindrus.

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