When the State Winks: The Performance of Jewish Conversion in Israel 0231544812, 9780231544818

Religious conversion is often associated with ideals of religious sincerity. But in a society in which religious belongi

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When the State Winks: The Performance of Jewish Conversion in Israel
 0231544812, 9780231544818

Table of contents :
Contents
Acknowledgments
Prologue. The Naked Truth on Tel Aviv’s Beaches
Introduction. Taking Winking Seriously
PART 1. THE CONVERSION MISSION
ONE. National Mission
TWO. State Workers
PART 2. THE CONVERSION PERFORMANCE
THREE. Legible Signs
FOUR. Dramaturgical Entanglements
FIVE. Biographical Scripts
Epilogue. Winking Like a State
Glossary
Notes
References
Index

Citation preview

When the State Winks

R E L IG IO N, C U LT U R E , A N D PU BL IC L I F E

R EL IG IO N, CULTUR E, A ND PUB LIC LIFE

Series Editor: Katherine Pratt Ewing

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:+(17+( 67$7(¬:,1.6 The Performance of Jewish Conversion in Israel

MICHAL KRAVEL-TOVI

&2/80%,$81,9(56,[email protected]VHUYHVWKHFROOHFWLYH GHVLUH RI DOO³UHOLJLRXV DQG VHFXODU 2UWKRGR[ DQG QRQ2UWKRGR[³WR SUHVHUYHDQGVWUHQJWKHQWKH-HZLVKPDMRULW\LQWKH6WDWHRI,VUDHO¬¬¬8OWLmately, the rationale of this state is to be a Jewish and democratic state, and it is our most legitimate right to try and preserve Jewish hegemony and the Jewish majority in this state.” 7KHVH SHUYDVLYH QXPHULFDO GLVFRXUVHV UHJDUGLQJ FRQYHUVLRQ GLG QRW HVFDSHWKHFULWLFDODWWHQWLRQRI+DUHGLFRPPXQLWLHV)RUH[DPSOHLQYated Ne’eman D GDLO\ QHZVSDSHU LGHQWLϮHG ZLWK D QXPEHU RI XOWUD2UWKRGR[ communities, columnist Jonathan Rosenblum equated the state’s attempt

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ቨ႐ዧᇹኂቨ႐ቈበᇹዘዘᇹኂቨ to convert “as many as possible” with cutting corners in rabbinic proceGXUHV+HZURWH´7KHYHU\LGHDRIVHWWLQJQXPHULFDOJRDOVIRUFRQYHUVLRQDV Sharon did, and as his successor Ehud Olmert has indicated he will continue to do, represents an inherent contradiction to geirus [giyyur]. Each fullhearted commitment by a non-Jew to attach him or herself to the Jewish people and to accept upon him or herself the yoke of mitzvos [[email protected]UHSUHVHQWVDQDPD]LQJH[HUFLVHRILQGLYLGXDOIUHHZLOO)UHHZLOOE\ its very nature, cannot be subjected to numerical quotas or some bureaucrat’s time table” (Rosenblum 2006; italics mine). %HFDXVHFRQYHUWLQJDVPDQ\DVSRVVLEOHGHϮQHVWKHDLPVRI,VUDHO·VSURFRQYHUVLRQSROLF\PRVWFRQYHUVLRQDJHQWV,PHWGXULQJP\ϮHOGZRUNXQGHUstood this policy as a resounding failure, a grave shame. Indeed, over the past decade the public, bureaucratic, and academic engagements with state conversion have focused intensely on the troubling gap between the poliF\·VQXPHULFDOJRDOVDQGLWVUHVXOWV+RZFDQRQHH[SODLQWKHVHSRRUUHVXOWV" How can one account for the fact that only a small fraction—some 23,000 people (1996–2013), comprising only 7 percent of the non-Jewish FSU immigrant population—have converted, and around half of those who began the SURFHVV VRPH GURSSHGRXW )LVKHU "(YHQLIZHIRFXVRQWKRVH cohorts understood as highly predisposed toward conversion (i.e., women, youth, and those with some Jewish background), as opposed to the entire non-Jewish FSU population, this percentage remains low. ,VUDHOKDVGHYRWHGDJUHDWGHDORIHϸRUWDQGPDQ\LQVWLWXWLRQDOUHVRXUFHV to determine the root of the problem. Are non-Jewish immigrants simply XQLQWHUHVWHGLQFRQYHUVLRQ"3HUKDSVWKHVHSRRURXWFRPHVDUHWKHUHVXOW RIWKH&RQYHUVLRQ$GPLQLVWUDWLRQ·VLQHϲFLHQF\RUPD\EHWKHXQUHDOLVWLF GHPDQGVRIWKHUDEELQDWH 0)LQNHOVWHLQ² ,IQRQ-HZLVKLPPLgrants are simply uninterested, is this due to the sociological conversion WKDWSURYLGHVWKHPDVXϲFLHQWVHQVHRIEHORQJLQJWKXVUHQGHULQJFRQYHUVLRQXQQHFHVVDU\ VHHDOVRWKH6HFRQG/HEDQRQ:[email protected],WRJHWKHUZLWKWKHFKDLURIQRQ-HZLVK[email protected]E\WKHZD\VLGH" 7KHLGHDLVQRWWRGHVSDLU(YHQLIRQO\RQHJRRGFRQYHUWFRPHVRXWRIDFODVV ZHWHDFKZH·YHSHUIRUPHGRXUMRE7KHUHDUHRQHWKRXVDQGUHDVRQVWRJRDKHDG ZLWKFRQYHUVLRQHYHQLI\RXNQRZWKDWLQUHDOLW\WKH\ZRQ·WEHH[DFWO\OLNH\RX ZDQWHG