JERUSALEM (VINnews) — The political environment in Israel, never calm before elections, reached a stormy crescendo after MK Yitzchak Pindrus (UTJ) said at a conference Tuesday that “whoever converted under the auspices of the IDF is a ‘shiksa.’ If somebody marries her – his father should sit shiva.”
Rabbi Chaim Amsalem, a Sephardic rabbi who has written a number of books advocating a more lenient approach to conversion for those who have a Jewish parent or grandparent, said that “Pindrus exhibited total ignorance. The IDF conversions are performed by rabbis from the entire rabbinic spectrum, including chareidim and nationalist chareidi rabbis. The same judges sometimes even sit in the rabbinical courts and all is under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate. Pindrus turned them all into reform converts in one statement.”
Yemina leader Naftali Bennett also condemned Pindrus’s statement: “What a disgrace. Pindrus belittles and insults thousands of IDF soldiers who completed the process of halachic conversion. These soldiers decided to undergo full conversion while serving in the army. I will not let anyone harm them.
MK Zvi Hauser, the chairman of the Foreign Affairs and Defence, said that “it is irritating to see how MK Pindrus forgot that Derech Eretz (ethics) precedes the Torah and wilfully insults thousands of soldiers. Our security and Pindrus’s security is in the hands of those fighting for the eternity of Israel. We cannot humiliate them and exclude them from our camp.”
MK Tehila Friedman said that “Reform conversion doesn’t disturb chareidim but rather any conversion which isn’t chareidi, especially that of the IDF. A soldier who is a Ger Tzedek could be called a shiksa. It’s not the reform but rather the Religious Zionists who are the issue.
In the wake of the criticism, Pindrus’s office issued a clarification, stating that shiksa is meant in the religious sense, “meaning that conversion is only according to halacha and halacha cannot be decided by law or by the court. A conversion which is not according to halacha is invalid and these women are not Jewish.
“Any attempt to take these words out of context and claim that there is contempt for their contribution to the defense of Israel is a distortion, since there are wonderful people protecting us including Druze and Arab soldiers but nobody mistakenly thinks they are Jewish.”
However it should be noted that Pindrus’s clarification does not assuage the criticism against him, as he still claims that the IDF conversions, which take place over an extended period of time and in accordance with halacha, are invalid.