(May 21, 2009) On May 19, 2009, the Supreme Court, sitting as a High Court of Justice, held that although the State is under no obligation to provide financial support to private organizations that deal with religious conversion, if it chooses to do so, it cannot discriminate in favor of those that prepare for Orthodox conversions as compared with Reform ones.
The Court held that the support derives from the budget of the Ministry of Immigration Absorption and is designed to assist persons who have immigrated to Israel under the Law of Return, but who are not Jewish in accordance with Halacha (Jewish law), to integrate into the Israeli society. The petitioner, the Movement for Progressive Judaism, declares that the objective of its institutions for Reform conversions is to integrate new immigrants who wish to do so into the life of the Jewish people by a course of study to familiarize themselves with the Jewish religion, its principles, and customs. This objective, the Court stated, coincides with the goal declared by the Ministry of Immigration Absorption as a basis for its financial support. The disqualification of the petitioners' institutions in favor of those preparing students for Orthodox conversion not only does not fit the declared objective of the allocation of funding by the State, the Court ruled, but also violates additional principles that bind the State, including the guarantees of pluralism and of freedom of religion. (H.C. 11585/05, The Movement for Progressive Judaism v. The Ministry of Immigration Absorption et al. State of Israel [in Hebrew], website of the Judicial Authority, May 19, 2009, available at http://elyon1.court.gov.il/files/05/850/115/n12/05115850.n12.pdf.)