A group of Israeli rabbis has established an independent Jewish conversion court, defying the Orthodox establishment's monopoly on religious affairs.

Israel's Orthodox rabbinate controls conversion, marriage and burials. The new court is meant to ease conversion for tens of thousands of people, mainly immigrants from the former Soviet Union who have Jewish ancestry but face difficulty marrying in Israel or receiving Jewish burials. The government scrapped a law this year that would have addressed the issue.

The conversions will not be officially recognized. But David Stav, one of the rabbis behind the move, told Israeli Army Radio Tuesday that he hoped they would be eventually.

Jews from the former Soviet Union have resisted Orthodox conversion because it is lengthy and would require adopting an Orthodox lifestyle.