More on Conversions

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Conversion-controversy junkies will have an opportunity to participate in a live, interactive webcast on the topic this coming Tuesday evening, through some really cool technology. Those whose comments have been edited can get their revenge :-)

The Conversion Crisis:

Tuesday June 3, 9:30pm Eastern

In light of the recent ruling regarding thousands of converts Torah in Motion will be hosting an online discussion on the crisis with

Rabbi Yitzchak Adlerstein, member of the beit din l’giyur of the Rabbinical Council of California

Rabbi Seth Farber, Founder and Director, ITIM:The Jewish life information Center.

Rabbi Barry Freundel, Head of the Gerut Commission of the Rabbinic Council of America

Rabbi Benny Lau, Director Beit Morasha

This program will be broadcast via the e-TiM network which provides the unique experience of seeing, hearing, and participating in real time,

All you need to participate is a computer with a high speed internet connection and you will Experience Torah like Never Before

Register at www.torahinmotion.org

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18 Responses

  1. Itamar Ross says:

    Rabbi Alderstein, in your audio lecture you came down hard on the idea that this would all go to the Israeli Supreme Court. (“What is this, the Napoleonic Sanhedrin?”) Since that has now actually happened, I think the following comments are pertinent:

    Lest someone comment about how wrong it is for a secular Supreme Court to interfere in a halachic debate, remember the following: The rabbinic courts are state courts. All of them. The rabbinic appointments are political appointments. That means ALL of them, including Rav Sherman and his cohorts on the one hand (and the gaon Rav Daichovsky’s being kicked out) and Rav Druckman and the Conversion Courts on the other hand. ALL of them are part of the same government body, in which the right hand (Rav Sherman) has been shooting the left hand (Rav Druckman).

    The Israeli Supreme Court has every moral and legal right to examine whether this government body is acting fairly and correctly.

    The Supreme Court may very well order marriage registrars in Israeli cities (most of them charedi) to marry converts without giving them problems. Some will complain that this violates their religious and halachic freedom, but that claim too is bogus. They too are government functionaries, and most obey the law. If any city rabbi feels he needs to refuse such gerim on principle, then let him resign his position. (A position which is a political appointment to a government function.) On this point, at least, the Badatz is fully in the right.

    The next step, IYH, is for the dismantling of this terrible system and the introduction of civil marriage in Israel. Let people get converted and married however they want to. This is ultimately for the good of Torah in Israel, because only in this way can people choose their rabbis and Torah leaders freely and honestly, rather than through political wars like the current one.

    Let those who choose Rav Sherman and Rav Elyashiv go to their courts and be married by them. Let those who choose Tzohar and Rav Druckman go to their courts and be married by them.

    Let’s see who Am Yisrael in general, and the Torah world in particular, really want to go to for their Torah.

  2. ja says:

    “The very act of converting, of making a Gentile into a Jew, makes the declaration that Hashem has somehow erred in His creation and in mistakenly creating a person who should be a Jew as a Gentile. Can ANY earthly court perfect Creation?”

    I was quite suprised (and disturbed) by this. I circulate within MO and Yeshivish communities, and I’ve never heard of such a thing, wheter in conversation or in learning. It this a commonly held view in some frum circles?”

    I have never such a thing, The logic is ridiculous – I think blasphemous – since this statement secondguesses the torah itself! I would also recommend reading the rambam’s letter to r ovadiah hager on the relationship between ahavat hager and ahavat hashem.

  3. Raymond says:

    On a lighter note if for no other reason than to provide a balance to all this intensity, I laughed so hard when I saw that happy face left by Rabbi Alderstein. Just because he is a great Torah scholar, does not preclude the fact that he also has a really great sense of humor! :-)

  4. MYCROFT says:

    “Mark: I hope your optimistic prediction will prove to be correct. I am not sure. It’s very nice to say that in your community there are many geirei tzedek accepted as full members of the commmunity, and people don’t even remmber that they are gerim. But let’s see what will happen when their children try to get married say in Israel.

    Comment by lawrence kaplan — May 30, 2008 @ 6:26 pm

    Mark: I am happy to hear that. The question is whether it will be as problem free in the future as it has been in the past. I hope you are right.

    Comment by LAWRENCE KAPLAN — June 1, 2008”

    Prof Kaplan is correct-the problem is that gerim who converted according to procedures that the Chief Rabbinate had approved are now not being recognized in Israel. They were told by Rabbis that after a few decades they would have nothing to worry about because of chazaka. That was the practice that RCA Rabbis followed. BTW-I am aware of those who refused to even accept free will payments for their services. I recently spoke to a Rabbi who even told me that he and a few other Rabbis lost money on geirus -not only would they not accept payment-they would pay for mikvah fee and mohel for a male out of their own money. I am aware that some Rabbis are now discouraging the gerim that reach end of day school and would otherwise have gone to Israel to go their now because of what the gerim are facing. Even in America I have been told by gerim of decades lang deirus-who are clearly shomer shabbos, sent their kids to at least moderately RW Yeshivot and now find their Yahadus questioned. The problem is that this is being treated as a political football to score points-rather than concern of onaat hager.

  5. Joseph says:

    Anonymous,

    At most a Beis Din would declare that young woman’s purported geirus as having never been effective due to her lack of intent at the time of her supposed conversion (depending on the particular circumstances of her case.) It would not declare ALL conversions by that Beis Din invalid. Rabbi Druckman’s court on the other hand systematically “converted” unqualified candidates. In her case she may have bamboozled the Beis Din. In Rabbi Druckman’s case, the Beis Din was the one doing the bamboozling.

  6. LAWRENCE KAPLAN says:

    Mark: I am happy to hear that. The question is whether it will be as problem free in the future as it has been in the past. I hope you are right.

  7. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    “The very act of converting, of making a Gentile into a Jew, makes the declaration that Hashem has somehow erred in His creation and in mistakenly creating a person who should be a Jew as a Gentile. Can ANY earthly court perfect Creation?”

    If it is commonly held, it is only held so by people writing Purim Torah that is not very funny. The person responsible for that statement was either drunk, a satirist, or both. The Gemara (Yevamos 47B)calls the procedure of bringing a ger into the covenant a “mitzvah.” Doesn’t sound like we are second-guessing the Lord so much as following His express wishes.

  8. Mark says:

    Lawrence,

    “But let’s see what will happen when their children try to get married say in Israel.”

    Many have married off their children without problems that I’m aware of and some already have done so in EY. I don’t believe they suffered undue hardship there either. They produced certificates from reputable batei din who were contacted to verify the info and that was the sum total of their experience in the limited number of cases I’m privy to. Not much different than anyone else.

  9. Anonymous says:

    Dear Mark and Shalem,

    Thank you for your kind words, but my comment still stands.

    Do we know that ALL of the conversions done by Rav Druckman and his beis din were not done al pi halacha (according to Jewish Law). Do you really believe that none of the people who came to them were not telling the truth and that they converted for ulterior motives?

    So, when another rabbi (or rabbinical figures) says all conversions done by Rav Ploni are now invalidated, what makes me think that for one reason or another, a rabbi from my beis din won’t be invalidated as well?

    Many years ago, I worked with a young woman who wanted to convert to Judaism. She wasn’t doing it for a guy or anything. She went to classes, came for Shabbos and Yom Tov, and did all the right things. She converted (with me as her shomeres) and literally the next week stopped being involved in the community. After a long time of trying to talk to her, she gave lots of reasons and excuses for not coming back. She said she still kept kosher and Shabbos, albeit in her parents home 30 miles from the nearest community. She got in contact with me after 7-8 years, and told me that considered herself Jewish, but had gone on to marry a non-Jew but wanted to raise any children in a Jewish manner. Now what would you say to her? What would you say to her beis din? Would you invalidate all conversions done by them? She bamboozled all of us for almost two years! It isn’t so easy — which is why I wonder which beis din or rabbi can call themselves perfect in this regard?

  10. lawrence kaplan says:

    Mark: I hope your optimistic prediction will prove to be correct. I am not sure. It’s very nice to say that in your community there are many geirei tzedek accepted as full members of the commmunity, and people don’t even remmber that they are gerim. But let’s see what will happen when their children try to get married say in Israel.

  11. Mark says:

    Dear Anonymous,

    When I read your comment, it makes me all the more aware of why discussions about such a sensitive topic don’t belong in the blogosphere where they’re treated with undue respect. It must be very hard for you to read opinions from people whom you know are not properly educated on the subject of which they speak so forcefully. I feel similarly when they speak of my line of work.
    If this is any comfort for you, know that responsible people ultimately will be the ones who make the decisions and that “todays frontpage news will be tomorrows fish wrap”. What is considered a burning issue today will fade and the truth will emerge whatever that may be.
    You might also want to consider that since your geirus was apparently done completely k’halacha, this whole brouhaha may be to your advantage since there is much suspicion of geirim precisely because of the lack of a uniform standard. Once the dust settles, your commitment to Halachah will stand out from among those who converted improperly and you’ll be accepted without reservation. In the community in which I reside, there are many geirei tzedek and they’re full members of our community and most don’t even remember that they’re geirim. Their commitment to halachah is equal to or greater than most and they’re very important members of our community which is heavily represented by all sides of the Orthodox Jewish spectrum.

  12. a concerned Ger says:

    R. Adlerstein,

    I recently came across this statement from someone who is very supportive of R’ Sherman’s psak (as well as the decision of various Sephardic communities to not do/accept geirim at all).

    “The very act of converting, of making a Gentile into a Jew, makes the declaration that Hashem has somehow erred in His creation and in mistakenly creating a person who should be a Jew as a Gentile. Can ANY earthly court perfect Creation?”

    I was quite suprised (and disturbed) by this. I circulate within MO and Yeshivish communities, and I’ve never heard of such a thing, wheter in conversation or in learning. It this a commonly held view in some frum circles?

  13. Amram says:

    In terms of “askew” you can also look at it another way. Remember that the current issue is really an Israeli one (Religious Zionist) and not an American (RCA) one. Here you have only one Israeli whose entire life has been in the Israeli Torah world and is fully a part of it (Rabbi Lau). Two Americans (Rabbis Alderstein & Freundel) who may be somewhat familiar with that world but certainly not deeply so. And one American/Israeli (Rabbi Farber) who knows the Israeli Torah world pretty well but is not part-and-parcel of it.

    So for understanding the Israeli Torah world: 2.5 (not) versus 1.5 (yes).

    For those, like Rabbi Alderstein, who feel that this is primarily a halakhic issue and not a political one, this makes less of a difference. But for those who think it is mostly a political issue and not a halakhic one, it makes a huge difference.

    Regardless, I’m sure it will be a wonderful, informative discussion!

    Shabbat Shalom

  14. Eric says:

    “So that Bwis Din probably would not be placed in question and neither would you.”

    That’s right… “probably”. Not definitely.

    You can feel comfortable saying “It probably won’t happen (…and if it does happen, then so what).” “Anonymous” cannot.

    I have seen many people who are not converts who oppose this ruling. I have yet to see a single convert who supports it. Perhaps this indicates that anyone who understands the ruling’s implications will realize that it’s indefensible, and that its supporters just don’t realize, or maybe care, that they are violating the issur deoraita of onaat hager.

  15. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    3 and a half against Rabbi Sherman and one half for.
    That was EXACTLY what I told the organizers when they approached me. I even offered them a few names of people who would far more forcefully argue the charedi side. It all didn’t work. Your objection is valid; I hope I will be able to point it out myself. I also hope that I can focus primarily on the halachic issues involved.

  16. Shalem says:

    Dear anonymous,

    Since your conversion was done with the sincerity and passion to yiddishkeyt and to live jewish by that Beis Din, so it probably did the same towards other converts. So that Bwis Din probably would not be placed in question and neither would you.

    What is being discussed is about batei din that do not seek to verify that the propsective converts would have the potential to end up the journey that you took. Those Batey Dinim may pose a halachik problem.

    Yes, there needs to be greater sensitiity towards people like you. But please understand that there are also other people from the other side who may be affected by the lack of qualifications of certain batey dinim and there needs to be found a solution so that all are not hurt.

    Shabbat Shalom,

    Shalem

  17. Anonymous says:

    I have been reading all the news about this current conversion crisis with a deepening pit of despair and fear in my stomach. Why? I am a giyores (female convert). My giyur (conversion) was done by a small Orthodox “out of town” beis din (Jewish legal court) some 12 years ago. It was done with all good intention and I sincerely wanted to enter into the Coventant to join the Jewish people for all time. At that time, I was Shomeres Shabbos (Sabbath observant), and shomeres all the mitzvos I had learned of by that point (kashrus, tznius, etc) Since that day, I have married a fine Jewish man (who recently received smicha in Israel), have had three beautiful children (bli ayin harah), learned for almost two years in a BT seminary in Israel, been asked to become a kiruv professional for small communities by Torah u’Mesorah, Ohr Someach, and Me’or Maimonides and many other things that any person who grows in their Yiddishkeit does throughout their lives. I always cover my hair, wear only skirts without slits, wear socks/stockings, encourage my husband and children’s learning and encourage Jewish people to become more religious as well encouraged many non-Jews who went on to Orthodox conversions.

    When everyone bats the mekoros and pskei din of the great rabbis around this time ans also in the recent past with the RCA “deal” with the Chief Rabbinate of Israel, it’s no big deal by them as their and their children’s lives aren’t affected in the least. For some of us, this is life and death. I haven’t been doing this for over a decade (so long I honestly can’t remember my life before Judaism), in order to be told by someone possibly less educated and certainly with less middos that I might not be Jewish. I have recently realized I and my family won’t make aliyah due to this issue alone.

    You say, why not get a good conversion — dunk again! It’s not so easy. You can’t waltz in and get dunked again, especially living out of town. I have children to worry about and quite honestly, I did it right the first time.

    The more I read about this, I worry for all of Yiddishkeit if this is the way we treat our gerim.

  18. Menachem Petrushka says:

    Your panel is somewaht askew

    3 and a half against Rabbi Sherman and one half for.

    I will let the blogsphere guess who the split personality is.