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Syllabus Conversion and Jewish Identity - 62430
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Last update 25-07-2016
HU Credits: 2

Degree/Cycle: 1st degree (Bachelor)

Responsible Department: law

Semester: 1st Semester

Teaching Languages: Hebrew

Campus: Mt. Scopus

Course/Module Coordinator: Dr. Yaacov Shapira

Coordinator Email:

Coordinator Office Hours: by appointment

Teaching Staff:
Dr. Yaacov Shapira

Course/Module description:
We will study the Jewish Law sources dealing with the issue of conversion. Our initial focus will be a comparison between the Babylon sources and the Eretz Yizrael sources. This focus will serve as the background for a historical survey and analysis of the halakhic decisions given during the medieval and the modern period. The historical survey will be followed by consideration of the influence of the Enlightenment and secularist trends on the Halachic decisions, and subsequently, how the Zionist movement and the establishment of the State of Israel influenced Halakhic decisions on conversion. Another focus will be the institutional aspect of the conversion issue in the state of Israel and the tension between the rabbinical courts and the special courts for conversion now operating in the wake of the recommendations of Neeman Committee. This examination leads to a consideration of the Supreme Court verdict concerning the rabbinical court’s competence to cancel a conversion performed by a special court for conversion. We will also address the status of conversions performed by Reform and the Conservative rabbis. In this context we will examine Gavizon-Medan covenant.

Course/Module aims:
1. To expose the students to critical analysis of the Jewish Law sources.
2. To clarifying the Halachic development of the conversion issue.
3. To demonstrate the influence of historical circumstances and events on the development and crystallization of the Halacha.
4. To present the connection between the ideological worldview of the rabbinical authority and halakhic decisions.
5. To present the dispute in the Supreme Court over the conversion issue, focusing the approach of the Chief Justice Barak and his methodology.

Learning outcomes - On successful completion of this module, students should be able to:
1. Compare between different sources of Jewish Law.
2. Be aware of the role of policy considerations in decisions in Jewish Law.
3. Identify the process of development of Jewish Law and offer an explanation of this process.
4. Establish the connection between Jewish Law decision and the ideological perspective of the rabbinical authority who gave the decision, and to place it within the context of his time.
5. Distinguish between the different approaches to the research of the Jewish Law sources.
6. Understand the roots of the dispute among the religious authorities about the conversion issue.
7. Recognize the different considerations operating in the Jewish Law decisions and to contrast them with the considerations of the Supreme Court in the conversion issue.
8. Analyze the judge’s goal when ruling on a case and identifying the methodology used in reaching a decision.

Attendance requirements(%):

Teaching arrangement and method of instruction: Teaching method in course: Frontal teaching with emphasis of joint study of the sources. In this context there is an expectation of active participation on the students’ part.

Course/Module Content:
List of subjects/ program of the course:
1. The motivation of the converts in Talmudic and post-Talmudic sources.
2. Practical requirements: circumcision and immersion – Israel versus Babylon.
3. The mental and cognitive transformation of the converts.
4. The Maimonidean conception of conversion.
5. The positions of Rabbi Yaacov (Baal-HaTurim) the son of the Rosh and Rabbi Yosef Karo (Shulchan Aruch) about the requirement of accepting the Mizvot.
6. The position of the rabbinical authorities in modern times regarding the requirement of accepting the Mizvot.
7. The special courts versus the rabbinical courts.
8. Canceling conversion – the rabbinical courts and the Supreme Courts.
9. The status of the Reform and Conservative movements' conversion – the verdicts of the Supreme Court and Gavizon's and Medan's covenant

Required Reading:
בג"צ 264/87 התאחדות הספרדים שומרי תורה – תנועת ש"ס ואח' נגד הממונה על מרשם האוכלוסין, פ"ד מג (2) 732.
בג"צ 1031/93 אליאן (חוה) פסרו (גולדשטיין) ואח' נ' שר הפנים ואח', פ"ד מט (4), 661.
בג"ץ 5070 נעמת - תנועת נשים עובדות ומתנדבות נ' שר הפנים, תק-על 2002(1), 634.
בג"צ 2597/99 תאיס רודריגז טושביים נ' שר הפנים, פ"ד נט (6), 721.
בית הדין הרבני הגדול, תיק 1-12-9363
בית הדין הרבני הגדול, תיק 057845489-64-1
בג"צ 5079/08 ובג"צ 2448/09 פלונית נ' הדיין אברהם שרמן ואח'
אריה אדרעי, "ואין אחריותם עלינו? – עוד לפולמוס הגיור", אקדמות כד (תשע"א), עמ' 209-178,
אריה אדרעי, "פולמוס הגיור בישראל בהקשרו האידאולוגי וההיסטורי", שנתון המשפט העברי כז (תשע"ב-תשע"ג), עמ' 60-1
שמואל בילובלוצקי, "יחס היהדות לגרים ולגיור", בר אילן ב (תשכ"ד), עמ' 60-44.
דוד בס, "גיור וקבלת מצוות הלכה ומעשה", צהר (תשס"ז), עמ' 40-29.
דוד בס, "תוקפו של גיור בדיעבד אם הגר אינו שומר כל המצוות", תחומין כג (תשס"ג), עמ' 186-202.
משה סמט, הגיור במאות הראשונות לספירה", יהודים ויהדות בימי בית שני, המשנה והתלמוד, בעריכת אהרן אופנהיימר ואחרים, ירושלים תשנ"ג, עמ' 343-316
שחר ליפשיץ וגדעון ספיר, "מיהו המחליט בשאלה מיהו יהודי? – על פרשת שליט ותפקידו הראוי של בית המשפט בחברה דמוקרטית", מחקרי משפט כב (תשס"ו), עמ' 309-269
לואיס פלדמן, "גיור וסינקרטיזם", היסטוריה של עם ישראל, בעריכת מנחם שטרן, יא, תל אביב תשמ"ג, עמ' 207-188
יעקב שפירא, "הגיור בין ארץ ישראל ובין בבל", שנתון המשפט העברי כז (תשע"ב-תשע"ג), עמ' 301-267
מנחם פינקלשטיין, הגיור, רמת-גן תשנ"ד
צבי זוהר ואבי שגיא, גיור וזהות יהודית, ירושלים תשנ"ה

Additional Reading Material:

Course/Module evaluation:
End of year written/oral examination 100 %
Presentation 0 %
Participation in Tutorials 0 %
Project work 0 %
Assignments 0 %
Reports 0 %
Research project 0 %
Quizzes 0 %
Other 0 %

Additional information:
Students needing academic accommodations based on a disability should contact the Center for Diagnosis and Support of Students with Learning Disabilities, or the Office for Students with Disabilities, as early as possible, to discuss and coordinate accommodations, based on relevant documentation.
For further information, please visit the site of the Dean of Students Office.