This is War!!! (or at least a strenuous disagreement)

letter-447577_1280

Below I share with you (with very minor changes) the e-mail letter I sent today to Dina Kraft, a JTA reporter, responding to her article on the JTA website regarding the controversy over the ruling of an Israeli beis din revoking a conversion performed many years ago. I hope to share with you any further correspondence between us in this matter as well.

Please note that I am entirely unfamiliar with the facts and opposing positions in this case. But, then, my letter isn’t really about this case, but about how journalists striving for objectivity, balance and moderation ought to go about their tasks.

Dear Ms. Kraft,

I read with interest your 5/6/08 article on the JTA website regarding the controversy over a rabbinic court ruling revoking a convert’s 15 year old conversion, and I have several questions and comments to which I would appreciate your response:

1) You write that the ruling is “prompting thousands of converts in the country to worry if their conversions to Judaism are at risk of being revoked.” How do you know this?

And, since the ruling at issue was based, as you write, on the convert’s acknowledgement “that she is not religiously observant today,” does your reference to “thousands of converts” being worried mean that you are aware of thousands of converts in Israel who made a religious commitment at their conversion but are no longer observant?

2) Could you elaborate on what you were referring to in writing that the ruling prompted, in addition to an emergency Knesset hearing, “public outrage and confusion both in Israel and the Diaspora”?

The only reactions you cite are a “stinging rebuke” by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and statements by Ms. Rouaux, a convert, Rabbi Seth Farber of ITIM and Rabbi Feuerstein of Tzohar. That doesn’t seem to add up to evidence of “public outrage and confusion both in Israel and the Diaspora.” Such may, of course, have taken place, but can you kindly provide more detail about such reactions?

3) You use the term “tolerant” several times to describe the views of those against the ruling. You refer to Rabbi Druckman as one who has “been charged with overseeing a more tolerant, open conversion process in Israel.” Similarly, you describe Tzohar as a group of Zionist rabbis that “seeks to present to Israelis a more tolerant face of Orthodox Judaism.”

As I understand it, the issue at hand is one of Jewish legal interpretation, with the court that issued the ruling presumably having found that the relevant texts, decisors and precedents of the Jewish legal system requiring them to find as they did. Thus, the word “tolerance” seems irrelevant. The notion of tolerance is one with emotional and psychological relevance, but seems quite out-of-place as applied to what I believe the court, and, I assume, its opponents as well, regard as a legal dispute.

As someone schooled in both American and Jewish law, I can tell you that a serious legal scholar would not invoke the notion of “tolerance” in a discussion of legal issues unless the relevant legal code specifically validated its relevance.

Indeed, to use a rather commonplace example, even a layperson would not refer to a traffic court judge who applied the law as written and refused to dismiss a speeding ticket as having acted with “intolerance.” I should note that the term “moderate” which you also use several times, is indeed appropriate for the context in a way that “tolerant” is not.

Perhaps even more importantly, due to its emotive connotation, your use of the term “tolerance” seems to imply a value judgement on your part as to which side you’d like the reader to take in this particular controversy, as well as regarding an overall approach to Orthodox Judaism. Whatever your personal views in these regards may be, I trust that, as an ethical journalist, you wish this article, which is news reportage rather than an editorial, to remain resolutely objective, presenting a full and fair account of the facts and views at hand to allow readers to reach their own conclusions. Is that, in fact, your aim?

4) A final observation: You quote the statement of the RCA which accuses the rabbinical court ruling of being “beyond the pale” of halacha, violating “numerous Torah laws,” creating a “massive desecration of G-d’s name,” insulting “outstanding rabbinic leaders,” and being a “reprehensible cause of widespread conflict and animosity with the Jewish people in Israel and beyond.” You quote Rabbi Farber as saying the that the “ultra-Orthodox . . . are willing to sacrifice on the altar of Jewish history” legitimate converts, and are engaging in an “anti-halachic battle.”

These speakers are, of course, fully entitled to their opinions, but their verbiage does come across as very angry and overheated, or as they put it nowadays, “over the top.” Intolerant, or at a minimum, immoderate, shall we say? Yet, ironically, according to your article those making these statements are the “more moderate” Orthodox opposing the “more zealous” Orthodox. Within the context of this article, at least, these terms begin to seem rather slippery.

I must add that you, as well, employ a bit of overheated language in describing the controversy as a “war” between the two sides. A war consisting of what, one press release? Besides, at least from what you’ve cited in your article, this would appear to be a “war” being waged by only one side. Shouldn’t we at least wait until the opposing army has issued a press release of its own beforing declaring war? Then again, that’s quite a strident press release, so perhaps . . .

Speaking as one writer to another, beware of verbal and written inflation; once one applies such literary hyperthermia to a disagreement like this one, what is left for circumstances truly deserving of such description?

I appreciate your efforts to cover events of import to our people, and I look forward to hearing back from you.

Sincerely,

Eytan Kobre

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38 Responses

  1. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    I think it is proper to point out that not only gerim, safek gerim, their families, in-laws and relatives are affected by the psak of Rav Sherman. ANY dayan who served on such a beit din who also served in a beit din in any other forum regarding any of the other areas of Shulchan Aruch, having been disqualified by Rav Sherman’s psak, is now casting doubt on the kashrut of all sorts of other halachic subjects. Now, you thought the Monsey chicken scandal was bad. This will make problems for all sorts of Jews with family trees of yichus back to King David. You will have to kasher your kitchens and do your own schechitah, check who you owe money, are you really married to your wife, the whole nine yards.

  2. Shalem says:

    GArnel writes:
    “One must assume that Rav Druckman, by presenting himself publicly as a Torah authority, must have sources upon which he can rely. He must have halachic justification of some kind for conversions he’s done. Yet no one seems to have reported on that”.

    WADR WHy does *he* or his camp cite the sources upon which he relies upon! What are theHalachik justifications for converting masses of people with a shitah without Kabbalat Hamitzvot?

    “His side of the story has not been heard, only allegations raised by his political/religious opponents. ”

    Why has his side of the camp not responded to the points made in the pssak din by the BEt Din. There are many points in Halacha that are raised.

    “Anyone with a passing knowledge of halachah knows the power of terms like “b’dieved” and “sha’as hadchak” amongst others. There are many approachs, not one, to any given situation. Is it conceivable, might it be possible, that from Rav Druckman’s perspective, based on his considerable knowledge of halachah, that he was able to perform conversions within a justfiable halachic framework even thought looking in the from the outside questions might be asked? And shouldn’t those questions have been asked, discretely and respectfully before the public condemnation and dismissmal happened?”

    These questions should addressed to *him* since the BD posed many serious questions. Even “bedieved” and “shaat hadchak” have parameters. In matters and issu of Deorayta and especially in matters of Khal Hashem and epscially in the clear division between Jews and non Jews it there may be many situations where there is no “shaat hadchak” and “bedieved” to defend and save the day.

    MOreoveR: WE are dealing here with a *court of JEwish law*; not with a Rabbi giving a sermon in his synagogue. He has an obligation to do his job and preserve the law especially as this is the law of Hashem. I would concede that in matters that are not so clear cut they should have avoided determining theproblm in incendiary terms; but the core of the issue had and has to be said (from their pov) with the utmost certainty.

    It is said in Talmud that the Torah goes out of the way to use a phrase that is “megunah” (“eynoh tehora” as opposed to tmeah); yet we find numerous places where the term “tmeeoh” is written clearly: The answer is, when there is need to rule a Halacha there needs to be done with clear and unambigous terms and clarity where it leaves no room for mistake.

    I will rather present your side with a question: RAv Aron Lichtenstein who excoriates the BD of RAv Sherman acknowledges that RAv Druckman has performed the conversions according to the mniority opinion agsinst the majority opinion. So here you have it: The defener of the RAbbi who excoriates the BD with the utmost of harsh words has to (in order to be honest) acknowledge this huge problem. You have a person who converts thousands of people using a standards that goes against the majority opinion. And you ask: why the majority is not entitled to rule out that position in the strongest of terms?

    I would hope though that we find a way to reconcile the job of sticking with Halacha to it’s minutest details and at the same time find ways to bridge between all of us (who probably have good intentions as stated before by others).

    Shabbat Shalom

  3. Garnel Ironheart says:

    > A person might think that this means that you are not allowed to hate for no reason at all, but if you have a reason, it is ok. It seems to me that the ‘chinam’ or ‘needless’ or ‘baseless’ is not based on what the person thinks, but it objective;

    Kudos to YM for noting this important point. The Chofetz Chayim, basing himself on sources from Chazal notes that it’s okay to hate certain people in VERY LIMITED circumstances. Certainly most Jews today, even extremely non-religious ones, don’t fit those stringent criteria.

    Yet looking at the back and forth in this thread, it’s easy to see the sinas chinam coming out. Especially from comments like “Well,the RCA is upset because..”

    There is an assumption by a certain part of the Torah world, sometimes a conscious one and sometimes not, that their approach, their “hashkafah”, their psaks are the only ones that matter and that anything else is a deviation from the true path.

    One must assume that Rav Druckman, by presenting himself publicly as a Torah authority, must have sources upon which he can rely. He must have halachic justification of some kind for conversions he’s done. Yet no one seems to have reported on that. His side of the story has not been heard, only allegations raised by his political/religious opponents. His intentions and competency have been judged and found wanting. If that isn’t sinas chinam, what is?

    Anyone with a passing knowledge of halachah knows the power of terms like “b’dieved” and “sha’as hadchak” amongst others. There are many approachs, not one, to any given situation. Is it conceivable, might it be possible, that from Rav Druckman’s perspective, based on his considerable knowledge of halachah, that he was able to perform conversions within a justfiable halachic framework even thought looking in the from the outside questions might be asked? And shouldn’t those questions have been asked, discretely and respectfully before the public condemnation and dismissmal happened?

  4. LOberstein says:

    The issue of who determines who is a Jew is an existential question. There are many secular Israelis who are ignorant of Jewish practice and belief, not “non believers” like some of their parents but unaware and hostile. There is tension in Israel between those who want to allow chametz on Pesach, pork to be sold and stores to be open on Shabbat and those who feel that a “Jewish” state should have some Jewish content. The introduction of a half million questionable Jews (some maybe Jewish and many absolutely not Jewish except by ancestry on one side) exacerbates the status quo and contributes to the secularization and distancing from Jewish heritage of much of the culture and values of the new generation. Now, the situation exists, what do we do about it?
    Can we expell the nonJewish Russians? . It won’t happen.They will assimilate into secular Israeli society and intermarry with Jews they meet in the Army,etc. This problem has been simmering for a long time and Rabbi Sherman and his allies did not come to their conclusions now. What happened was that a rabbinic lower court made a ruling and it gave an opportunity for the higher court to rule on this issue. Let’s not be simplistic, platitudes won’t change the facts. Israel has many existential problems and the Jewish character of the State is high on the list. I don’t know how this problem will be solved, it is a real conumdrum. This isn’t a two sided argument, there is a continuum and I hope that cooler heads can find a way to deal effectively with the problem.

  5. Dr. E says:

    LOberstein wrote:

    —There are great people on all sides of this issue and the future of Klal Yisroel is at stake. Both sides feel they are saving the Jewish People.—

    Quoting from Maxwell Smart: “Would you believe that it is within the realm of possibility that before the edict, Rav Sherman sat down with Rav Druckman to get his side of the story and to discuss the Halachic issues? Would you believe a phone call? Would you believe via a secret communication through some Egyptian envoy wearing a disguise? I didn’t think so…”

    Isn’t another significant part of saving the Jewish people (especially during these days of Sefira) through the exercise of mutual respect and the civil dialogue which reflects that? I think that is what Rav A. Lichtenstein might have been hinting at in his sharp response.

  6. Noam says:

    Rebbetzin Katz states :
    “The RCA is upset because so many RCA rabbis have done conversions that they never should have done — converting women who had no intention of ever keeping mitzvos, just so they could marry Jewish men who also had no intention of keeping mitzvos, but wanted to make their mothers happy ”

    I hate to quibble, but is there proof for this statement? Any numbers? percentages? Is there data that the women had no intention of keeping mitzvos? How does Rebbitzin Katz know what the women intended to do or not? are there any studies? I know of only one Entity that knows a persons intentions(bochen klaiot v’lev) and it isn’t Mrs. Katz.

  7. Melanie says:

    Ori: If Israel had secular marriages and burials, nobody would try to convert except for people who want to observe Halacha.

    Could it really be? The very reason that Rabbanim have tried to control who is Israeli – so there aren’t lists of non-halachic Jews – has backfired, creating more confusion for who is a Jew than if they had kept a division between state and religion?

  8. YM says:

    The torah teaches us that the second beis hamikdash was destroyed because of ‘sinas chinam’, baseless or needless hatred. A person might think that this means that you are not allowed to hate for no reason at all, but if you have a reason, it is ok. It seems to me that the ‘chinam’ or ‘needless’ or ‘baseless’ is not based on what the person thinks, but it objective; does the hatred support the long term goals and aspirations of Hashem for this world? My opinion is that in almost all cases, words and actions that wound and hurt other Jews are sinas chinam and don’t support our ultimate goals and aspirations.

  9. Anonymous says:

    You ask why thousands of converts who claim to be sincere should be worried if they are, indeed, as sincere as they say? Simple: they fear that they will be forced to undergo a rigorous, humiliating background check which could pose such a harsh stigma so as to cause shidduch problems with the children, even in the event that the convert in question is vindicated. We like to think that once someone is vindicated, then all doubt is removed, but we all know full well that the shadow of doubt forever does remain, and does continue to taint the person in question, even if only subconsciously. Think about it- when was the last time you ate in an establishment whose kashrus was questioned, but after investigation, the rumors were found to be baseless? More often than not, the restaurant’s business is ruined forever…
    I do not understand the issues fully, nor do I purport to favor one side over the other, but we have to be very careful here- it is a big deal to revoke a conversion that was not an outright and obvious sham. We also need to be careful about how we go about raising questions about a person or a family- if it must be done, do it with sensitivity, so that the entire family is not brought to ruin. If anything, the whole controversy underscores the real need to make a single standard, beneath which nothing is acceptable, and above which all is well. This standard must be halachically acceptable, should not be so lenient as to invite further questions, but should not be so strict as to impose unnecessary burdens and grief.

  10. LOberstein says:

    I see that many people have written and proably others have written who didn’t make the “cut” to be published. What one sees is that we have to avoid making light of the other side’s arguments. I fully understand why the Chareidi rabbinate feels these conversions are questionable. I attended a conference on this topic in Yerushalaym and met Rabbi Sgerman, who is a very nice person. He is writing as a dayan.
    Those who have the opposite view , and it really is opposite, feel that one has to find leniencies ,even if it means strethching a bit. Neither side has bad motives and only time will tell if Israel can absorb the Russians and if America can deal with intermarriage rates above 50%.
    There are great people on all sides of this issue and the future of Klal Yisroel is at stake. Both sides feel they are saving the Jewish People.

  11. ES says:

    shalem writes: Why does your analysis of the RCA’s proclamation differ from the analysis of haredim in Gedolim’s kol koreh justifying anything written there simply because of the harsh tone used by the signers of the kol koreh

    If every kol koreh from the Charedi sector has that tone, it doesn’t mean anything. If one such statement from the RCA out of three years (no idea just making up a number) has that tone, it’s significant.

    You know, just like kids learn what to tune out from their parents’ diatribes…..

  12. Mark says:

    Toby Katz,

    “(including many in the RCA, which is internally more divided than its press release would indicate)”

    Would you be able to share with us how you know this to be true? Have any members of the RCA shared this with you or written about it in a public forum that you could point us to?

    Thanks

  13. angry says:

    You don’t have the slightest idea of what’s at stake since many of the families haven’t “come out” yet in fear of being exposed.

    Any convert through the dati leumi world went to R. Druckman and Avi-Or, and now all our kids are being threatened, kids who went to yeshiva their whole lives. In our case we were sent to R. Druckman and Avi-Or by our roshei yeshivot in Israel. Any conversion case (including children adopted by childless parents from the USSR, etc) of the dati leumi world went to R. Druckman.

    So instead of being such a smarmy reflexive defender of the radicalized rabbinate (who did this for obvious political reasons) you should have a heart and a bit of neshama. You have NO IDEA how much suffering this is causing a very large number of dedicated dati people, and you should do a major act of teshuva after posting this.

  14. Ori says:

    Would you rather have insincere converts (Chilonim who are going to stay Chilonim but want to be registered as Jewish), or secular marriages and burials in Israel? If Israel had secular marriages and burials, nobody would try to convert except for people who want to observe Halacha.

  15. yikes says:

    context is necessary. there are thousands upon thousands of geirim walking around Eretz Yisroel with wonderful certificates but who never kept Shabbat in their lives. If you are unaware of this phenomenon your head is in the sand. And the office of the PM, Jewish Agency, Knesset, media, etc are doing a full court press to make more of these “geirim.” Many are not willing to accept this.

    this doesn’t justify or not justify anyone or any declaration but it does outline part of what is going on.

  16. Toby Katz says:

    The RCA is upset because so many RCA rabbis have done conversions that they never should have done — converting women who had no intention of ever keeping mitzvos, just so they could marry Jewish men who also had no intention of keeping mitzvos, but wanted to make their mothers happy (which they could have done more easily by marrying Jewish women to start with, but never mind)

    But in truth this has long been a serious halachic question, and we are now dealing with the fallout of hundreds or thousands such dubious “Orthodox” conversions over a period of many years. If a convert never had any intention of accepting mitzvos and never lived a religious life, then according to most poskim (including many in the RCA, which is internally more divided than its press release would indicate), there never was a conversion in the first place.

    When personal tragedies now result, the pain and heartache must be laid at the feet of the rabbis who bowed to the pressure of their congregants and performed these illegitimate conversions, with the full knowledge that these people never intended to be sincere halachic converts.

  17. LAWRENCE KAPLAN says:

    Shalem: As I pointed out, the public statements of the RCA, UNLIKE most Kol Korehs of the Haredi community, are generally very cautiously worded and avoid strong language. The fact that this public statement of the RCA was an EXCEPTION is what lends it credibility. When most of the public statements of the RCA will be as extreme as those issued by the Charedi community, I will dimiss them as well. Have you ever heard of the boy who cried wolf once too often?

    As for Rabbi Druckman, I explicitly said that I was NOT taking issue with a strong halakhic critique of his views and/or procedures. But this is very different from the very personal and intemperate language about him found in the pesak.

  18. Shalem says:

    To Harry (and Lawrence)

    While your scenario (of daugher of convert) requires real input for koach deheteroh and i find the need for an alarm; I fail to hear your indignation on the other side of the coin: Being that Rav Druckman’s position is at best dubious and in the eyes of MOST contemporary leading posskim many of his conversion (whjere there was no kabbalat hamitzvot even at the outset) are not valid even bedieved, in a way that *halachikally* (not politically) they may not be jewish, why don’t we hear your alarm and outrage that perhaps many jews are marrying NON JEWS? That is also a CHILUL HASHEM!

  19. Shalem says:

    “There were Frum Orthodox Rabbanim in America who for decades converted both sincere and insincere converts. In many cases the sincere converts (daughters) married and then had children who were born Jewish (or so they thought)”

    Harry,1) Rav Sherman is talking (not about someone who mistakenly converted people whom he thought to sincere when they were not, but) about converting beshittah people without being concerned at all about their level of committment to accept mitzvot.

    2) on your hypothteical tragic nighmare (when those who married kohanim are told that their mother’s conversion was not valid): What if their mother went to a non kosher mikva at the time of the conversion and the rest followed there would be the same nightmare. Yet unfortunately one would have to deal with the halachik reality and deal with it accordingly.

    On the other side: maybe there would be room for a big Rav to find koach deheteroh in these cases and bedieved rely on opinions that state “mi loy tovloh lenidossoh” helps for mikveh maybe a big rov could find a mechanism within the confines of halacha to make the same claim that the living as jews after their perception of being converted is equal to kabbalat hamizvot “ANAN SAHADI” (and the daughter could stay bedieved married to her husband kohen). of course this is academic only.

    Lawrence: Why does your analysis of the RCA’s proclamation differ from the analysis of haredim in Gedolim’s kol koreh justifying anything written there simply because of the harsh tone used by the signers of the kol koreh (btw: Are there signatures to the Kol Koreh of the RCA?).

    One more point to you and others: Can you point out clearly where the pssak states that: 1) they invalidated with utmost unequivocal certainty that person conversion (when it states at the end of the ruling to the contrary)? 2) And certainly where does it state the same regarding *all* converts performed by Rav Druckman? I know that this is the implication of the ruling but the ruling itself states in the very end that they are clearly not invalidating with certainty jewishness of that convert and she is entitled to request another diyun speficially for that purpose, so likewise regarding all converts they have not *ruled* that all converts are invalidated completely.

  20. LAWRENCE KAPLAN says:

    I find Eytan Kobre’s rather casual dismisal of the uncharacteristically harsh criticism that the RCA, the mainline, centrist Modern Orthodox rabbinic organization, leveled against the pesak of Rabbi Sherman, after having “reviewed it in detail,” to be breathtaking. Further, why did Mr. Kobre ask Dina Kraft for more details, and why did he rely on her quotes from the RCA’s statement? Why didn’t he just read the RCA’s statement himself?

    Since the RCA generally issues very carefully and cautiously worded public statments, the fact that this time they spoke out so strongly and referred to the pesak as a “Hillul ha-Shem” ought to signal that they may have had good reason for doing so. Since Mr. Koybre admits that he, unlike the RCA, hasn’t read the pesak how can he so categoricaly declare their reaction to be “over the top”? It is evidently fine for the Bet Din of Rabbi Sherman to invalidate in a wholesale manner conversions performed by Rabbi Druckman’s Bet Din (see the excerpt provided in the post of Mordecai Torczyner), to declare him to be an unfit Dayyan, and to further accuse him, without providing him an opportunity to defend himself, of violating a host of Biblical prohibitons, but for the RCA to refer to this unprecedented attack on a distinguished Rav and Talmid Hakham as a Hillul Ha-Shem — well that is “over the top.” This, of course, is not to say that one may not legitimately and even strongly criticize some of Rav Druckman’s halakhic positions. But the wholesale and intemperate character assasination found in the pesak is, to speak frankly, a disgrace and deserves to be called such. (Note that I am carefully avoiding discussing the substantive halakhic issues involved here.)

  21. Micha says:

    R’ Eytan,

    If the ruling was that every convert who went through this beis din had to be reassessed on a case-by-case basis, what you said would be appropriate. However, the ruling was that they are all overturned. Even those of converts who were sincere, and intended to keep every halakhah to the best of their abilities.

    I first heard of the ruling on an adoption email list. Now, there is no reason to believe that this question applies to a newborn, brought to beis din for conversion on the weight of his adoptive parents’ commitment to raise him an an observant Jew. And yet, that baby’s conversion is also to be annulled?!

    There is a huge novellum in saying that someone who didn’t check one case to the level of certainty such that one couldn’t find any doubt in which to free her children from being declared mamzeirim to saying the people are sinners to the point of not even counting toward a court of “3 commoners”.

    -Micha

  22. Harry Maryles says:

    I think your bias is showing. Clearly what happened here is unacceptable. It affects not only R’ Druckman’s converts. It affects all converts who had as one of their Daynim a member whose circumstances are the same as R’ Druckman’s – many conversions of non obervant Gerim.

    Can you imgine the fallout?! There were Frum Orthodox Rabbanim in America who for decades converted both sincere and insincere converts. In many cases the sincere converts (daughters) married and then had children who were born Jewish (or so they thought).

    Some of them married Kohanim. Now they are told that their mother’s converison was invalid. That means that they are as non Jewish as Billy Graham. The solution of this court: The mother has to re-convert and the now married children (to Kohanim) must convert too. That doesn’t help them. They must divorce o even if they have many chidren and exemplary marriages!!! This ‘Psak’ is an outrage!

    Here is what Rav Aharon Lichtenstein said (via Rabbi Dr. Jefferey Woolf’s blog:

    R. Aharon Lichtenstein… inveighed heavily, and passionately, against this act of sacrilege, this desecration of the Torah’s honor. He stated clearly that it is the Dayyanim who dared to disqualify R. Druckman… are, themselves, disqualified. Hatred and prejudice disqualify one from sitting in judgment.

  23. Garnel Ironheart says:

    > Please note that I am entirely unfamiliar with the facts and opposing positions in this case

    I’m pleased to see that unfamiliarity with something does not preclude having strong opinions about it.

    > You write that the ruling is “prompting thousands of converts in the country to worry if their conversions to Judaism are at risk of being revoked.” How do you know this?

    Well, maybe she reads the major papers that all carried this story in exhaustive detail.

    > The only reactions you cite are a “stinging rebuke” by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) and statements by Ms. Rouaux, a convert, Rabbi Seth Farber of ITIM and Rabbi Feuerstein of Tzohar. That doesn’t seem to add up to evidence of “public outrage and confusion both in Israel and the Diaspora.”

    So three organizations, which between them represent thousands of rabbonim and even more laypeople is something one can dismiss so easily? The only reason a person could miss the outrage over this ruling is by purposefully ignoring it.

    > Thus, the word “tolerance” seems irrelevant. The notion of tolerance is one with emotional and psychological relevance, but seems quite out-of-place as applied to what I believe the court, and, I assume, its opponents as well, regard as a legal dispute.

    In this case, “tolerance” means that in issues of conversion, like in every other aspect of halachah, there are multiple approaches and systems of thought regarding essential parts of the process. Tolerance means that if a different rav reaches a different psak using the accepted halachic approach, one should be tolerant and accept that his psak has validity, even if one disagree with it. By delegitimizing Rav Druckman, what the Beis Din appears to be saying is that their approach is, ab inition, the only approach acceptable and that Rav Druckman knowingly violated halachah through his conduct. Surely one can see why that would be construed as offensive.

    >Speaking as one writer to another, beware of verbal and written inflation; once one applies such literary hyperthermia to a disagreement like this one, what is left for circumstances truly deserving of such description?

    Perhaps Ms. Kraft was simply imitating the style of writing in the Yated’s editorials and many other Chareidi papers.

  24. Gary Shulman says:

    The glue that binds Isreli society keeping most secular Jews fasting on Yom Kippur and making kiddush on Friday nights is the National Religious the Dati Leumi. If you throw them out of the rabbinate you throw out the religiosity of the masorati, traditional yet not fully observant secular Jews. Rabbi Druckman is Rosh Yeshiva of Bnei Akiva, the youth movement of the Dati Leumi.Pirkiei Avos alludes to this.
    Avos chapter 1 #11 Avtalyon said . Ye sages be heedful in your words, lest ye incur the penalty of galus, exile and be exiled to a place of evil waters and the disciples who come after you drink thereof and die and then there is a chilul Hashem. The fruit of this maclokis will be a
    reaction from the masorati Jews who will become less observant and G-d’s name will be desecrated.
    Following the beautiful ways of Torah Rabbi Druckman is trying to avoid galus exile Avos chapter 5 verse 11 Galus comes to the world from idolatry immorality and bloodshed. By converting Goyim living in Eretz Yisrael we are getting rid of idolatry & immorality let them live with a Jew in heter after coversion approved, than for the Jew to live with a Goy b’issur. We are getting rid of bloodshed: Let these people join with us as geiri tzedek to fight our enemies rater than chas vshalom. All this is done by the Conversion Authority under the auspices of Rav Druckman Shlita

  25. Mordechai Torczyner says:

    Naftali Zvi-
    “If” poster #8 is correct? The decision by R’ Shirman is publicly available; why not just read it for yourself?
    I am disappointed by the number of writers – including Mr. Kobre – who are writing about this topic without actually reading the psak din.

    Here is one salient passage, from section ט of the psak din (I hope the Hebrew comes out right-to-left):
    יש לציין, כפי שנתבאר לעיל, עצם מעשה הזיוף והמרמה של תעודות הגיור ומעשה בי”ד
    לכשיתברר הדבר בדרישת וחקירת בי”ד מהוים עילה לפסול את הרבנים דרוקמן ואביאור להיות
    דיינים בבי”ד וממלא מעשה הגיור בטל משום שחסר בי”ד כשר שלוה את הליך הגיור וקבלת
    המצות. פסול זה הוא משעת מעשה העבירה והאסור והפסול הוא מכאן ולהבא. על כן, ודאי
    שמשעה שנתקבל הזיוף ומעשה המרמה ע”י הרב רוזן ואילך, כל מעשה הגיורים שעשו הרבנים
    דרוקמן ואביאור כולל גיור הקטנים שנעשו ע”ד בי”ד שישב בו הרב אביאור פסולים ובטלים
    משום שבהעדר בי”ד כשר הגיור לא תקף.

  26. Bob Miller says:

    There are several issues involved in this discussion of Orthodox halachic conversions, such as:

    1. What recognized halachic guidelines govern a rabbinic court’s re-examination of a conversion after the fact? That is, what specific requirements pertain to the initial decision to re-examine and the process of re-examination including the verdict?

    2. When a re-examination takes place, which of these are primary considerations, which are secondary, and which don’t matter?—
    (NOTE: “convert” here means someone who thinks he/she is a convert)

    a. The name(s) of the rabbi(s) involved in the conversion itself
    b. The convert’s attitudes, associations and knowledge base at the time of the conversion
    c. The convert’s activities from the time of conversion until the time of the re-examination
    d. The convert’s attitudes, associations and knowledge base at the time of the re-examination
    e. The convert’s current family situation as regards spouse and children.

    3. Does a rabbinic court (including an appeals court, whether independent or government-controlled) re-examining one conversion have any standing to include in its decision the invalidation of other conversions or a demand for their re-examination, or must each conversion be a totally separate case?

    4. Does a rabbinic court controlled by one Orthodox faction have any standing to pass judgment on a conversion done by another Orthodox faction? Are these affiliations not germane at all?

    5. If a government for reasons of state attempts to innovate some practice in halacha, do independent or government-controlled rabbinic courts need to accept that as valid?

    6. If a person’s objective status is non-Jewish, does any consideration allow us to hold that person to be Jewish? Is objectivity possible, or does each faction have its own reality?

  27. Naftali Zvi says:

    I really wish the numbering of these posts would not constantly shift. I was referring to Mr. Torczyner’s post as post #8.

  28. Naftali Zvi says:

    If poster #8 is correct (that R’ Shirman invalidated all of Rabbi Druckman’s conversions), then I stand corrected on that point. Still, this character assassination aspect must be construed as an issue between the subjects of the affair (Rabbis Shirman, Attiyas, and Druckman) and needn’t be misconstrued to apply to Mr. Kobre’s complaints (or, should I say: attack) against Ms. Kraft.

  29. David N. Friedman says:

    I suppose the worst thing about this whole question is the fact that we do not know whose conversion is ultimately going to be held in question after the dust clears. It seems to me that the only important question concerns the quality of the conversion process–not the personal reputation of any one Rav. As much as one might dislike inquests, it seems that some after the fact investigating to determine if this group of converts are in fact living halachically is in order.

    It is truly disheartening to read some anecdotes that the process for some of those involved is a “joke”–that is, the process is not enacted with the kind of care we would imagine. If this is a full scale scandal and many Russians are being pushed through a cheapened process, this would validate revoking the conversion standing of thousands of people.

    But if the facts demonstrate that only a few are not living according to expectations, this need to invalidate anyone’s Jewish standing.

    Which is the reality?

    As for Eytan Kobre’s discussion concerning the language used in the article, I find his arguments by and large very valid and I hope he gets a response from his e-mailed letter.

  30. Mordechai Torczyner says:

    Mr. Kobre’s first point – that converts who observe Torah need not be concerned regarding R’ Shirman’s decision – is incorrect.

    R’ Shirman wrote explicitly, upholding the position of R’ Attiyeh, that the conversion is invalid even if the convert accepted mitzvot in their entirety.

    R’ Shirman’s basis is his contention that R’ Druckman and the courts under his administration are entirely invalid. Therefore, sincerely accepting mitzvot in front of those courts would be the equivalent of sincerely accepting mitzvot in front of a mirror – entirely ineffective.

    Note that I am not supporting the psak, only pointing out that yes, R’ Shirman’s decision _should_ be of major concern not only for insincere converts, but even for converts who, like the cited Rabbi Wade, accepted Torah entirely.

  31. Dr. E says:

    –As I understand it, the issue at hand is one of Jewish legal interpretation, with the court that issued the ruling presumably having found that the relevant texts, decisors and precedents of the Jewish legal system requiring them to find as they did. Thus, the word “tolerance” seems irrelevant. The notion of tolerance is one with emotional and psychological relevance, but seems quite out-of-place as applied to what I believe the court, and, I assume, its opponents as well, regard as a legal dispute.–

    Reb Eytan

    On one hand, you seem to be limiting your issue to one with regard to the sensationalist language of the journalist. Yet above, you appear to be stipulating that what is at stake is a reasonable debate of Jewish jurisprudence. These cases happened years ago! The temporal proximity of the ruling and the recent shift in power on the Rabbinical courts in favor of the Chareidim, and the fact that the “perpetrating” Rabbi is from outside of that camp smells like old-fashioned petty politics to me. Consequently, I am not sure if it’s naivite or the knee-jerk activism of a card-carrying Chareidi defender.

  32. Naftali Zvi says:

    To Talmudic Attorney Gary Shulman,

    As a technical writer with a Talmudic mind, I wonder why you addressed your post to Mr Kobre. I reread the post and cannot find anywhere that Mr. Kobre attacks Rabbi Druckman. Allegedly, the dayyan in Ashdod ruled based on the subject’s admission that she is not observant NOT based on the fact that Rabbi Druckman performed the conversion, so he wasn’t attacking Rabbi Druckman, either. It is highly unlikely that the Chief Rabbinate upheld the ruling merely because the conversion was performed by Rabbi Druckman so they were not attacking Rabbi Druckman. It looks to me that if anyone is being attacked it is the B”D in Ashdod and the Chief Rabbinate. Is that not equally disgraceful?

    There is no purpose in tainting an Halachic debate with issues of Kavod.

    Lo taguru mipnei ish, ki hamishpat l’e-lokim hu.

  33. Gary Shulman says:

    Dear Mr. Kobre,
    As an attorney with a talmudic mind you have a great ability of parsing words.Your argument is valid. However what about the the bigger picture?
    Our observance of mourning during sefirah is because of the tragedy of the deaths of 12000 pair of chavrusos who were talmidim of Rabbi Akiva. They died because shlo nitnew kavod zeh lazeh,they did not give respect
    to one another.
    The disgrace of attacking Rav Druckman a gadol shebaTorah is a reverbiation of that heinous crime of shelo nitnew kavod zeh la zeh. Let us pray that Hashem,Oseh shalom bmromav who yaseh shalom alieno vall kal Yisrael. He who makes peace in the heavens will make peace on us and all of Israel

  34. dr. william gewirtz says:

    I am happy to see that there is no defense of the “psak,” only an attack on a journalist. I assume that pattern will continue as some of your colleagues continue working on climbing down the tree; I pray that I am right.

    you asked two questions – 1 and 2, and expressed your views – 3 and 4. As to your questions: 1) I have no doubt that thousands of the geirim impacted know that they are not “religious” by some standards. 2) Read Rav Aharon Lichtenstein’s (reported) response.

    If I were the journalist, given that half your quesitons were not, I would not respond.

    I think Shaul Robinson followed Rav Lichtenstein’s advice (perhaps unknowingly) in being rather temperate and also not engaging in a discussion of of the “psak.”

  35. Naftali Zvi says:

    “Last time I checked, oppressing a Ger was a serious Torah prohibition.”

    Last time I checked, the Ashdod Dayyan paskened that she wasn’t a Ger. So, l’shitaso, this statement is irrelevant. Incidentally, I don’t belive this Halacha applies at all to a “Ger shechazar l’suro”.

    “I can say that there are many, many people , sincere Geirim , who are frantic with worry about their personal status…”

    Again ,it is obvious that this entire issue revolves around the meaning of “sincere”. If they sincerely observe Torah and mitzvot, why are they frantic with worry? If they do not, what makes them sincere?

    I very much doubt that Rabbi Asher Wade is frantic with worry about his personal status.

  36. Joe Socher says:

    >Please note that I am entirely unfamiliar with the facts and opposing positions in this case

    Well that makes the post rather pointless.

  37. AaronfromWG says:

    I heard the court just nullified Ruth’s conversion and therefore David and his ancestor’s are no longer Jewish.

  38. Shaul Robinson says:

    I am mystified by this post. Why on earth is Cross currents trying to defend this utterly repellent episode? The Chief Rabbi of Israel himself has strongly remonstrated with Rav Sherman over his actions. I know that Crosscurrents sees itself as bring balance and perspective to the coverage of isses affecting Charedim. A laudable goal, in the main. But not everything can or needs to be defended.

    Is Mr Kobre really trying to say there is not public confusion and consternation over what has happened? Last time I checked, oppressing a Ger was a serious Torah prohibition. As a Rabbi of a synagogue I can say that there are many, many people , sincere Geirim, who are frantic with worry about their personal status, and deeply concerned that at some point in the future a beis din with an agenda will in a presumptive manner declare them all to be gentiles. Its a scandal. And this post is also close to scandalous, in my humble opinion.