Accessibility links

Israel Shelves Controversial Conversion Bill

The Israeli government has shelved a controversial bill aimed at making Jewish conversions easier for immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu's office said late Thursday the bill will be withdrawn for six months to devise an alternative. In return, the liberal Jewish groups opposing the bill withdrew the legal action they had initiated in an Israeli court.

The government says Mr. Netanyahu approved the compromise to "preserve the unity of the Jewish people."

Many former immigrants from the Soviet Union are not Jewish under Jewish law. The bill would have liberalized the conversion process inside Israel to some extent, while at the same time strengthening the control of Orthodox rabbis.

The decision drew praise on Friday from liberal Jewish groups in Israel and the U.S. that opposed the legislation and waged a vocal campaign to get it thrown out.

Conversions are a highly sensitive issue for the three main denominations among the world's 13 million Jews: Orthodox, Conservative and Reform.

Some information for this report was provided by AP.