Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

22 Adar II 5760 - March 29, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Welcome the True Geirim

To The Editor:

I often enjoy your publication, but after a short time, I always find myself too discouraged to go on reading it, and I do not return for several months. I converted to Judaism (Orthodox, halachic, kosher - - however you want to term it) nearly 17 years ago, and I must say I find your relentlessly negative viewpoint on giyur dispiriting to say the least. Not everyone who finds within himself a yearning for Yiddishkeit is a shyster or a missionary in disguise. Not everyone who undergoes a non-Orthodox conversion does so for nefarious motives -- many of them do not know better, and are continually misinformed by "rabbis" protecting their own vested interest at the expense of the would-be convert. Many are the victims of the slander and bad press from which the religious community suffers, and which you so accurately depict. I have met more than a few honest, searching souls who partake of the non-halachic movements because they seem so much less threatening than Orthodoxy.

It would be good if you would balance your relentlessly negative, suspicious picture of geirim and prospective geirim with something a little more positive. Let your readers know that not all of us are seditious infiltrators, that honest, sincere converts and candidates for conversion deserve their respect, not always their suspicion.

Judaism is not a racist club; with all our divisions, the one thing we all have in common is the Torah. It ought to be stated, again and again, that the Jewish people accept and welcome sincere individuals who desire to join them, although this choice isn't and doesn't have to be, for everybody. Let's try a little less xenophobia "lishma". Let's be frank but friendly about the differences between the duties of Jews and of non- Jews, but let us be clear that Hashem made non-Jews as well as Jews, and that he loves them also, and cares about them doing His will too. We need not missionize -- that's not the Jewish way -- but we ought to realize that the Ribono shel Olam has a purpose for the goyim as well as for the Jews, and that He is the G-d of ALL of us.

Obviously, we need to maintain halachic standards for giyur, but this can be done without being nasty. One can be firm in one's stance, but friendly as well. Bear in mind that geirim, like baalei teshuva, need time to grow and mature, both before and after giyur.


(Name Withheld)

The Editor Replies:

We received your letter and appreciate the points that you mentioned. You are definitely correct that there are many wonderful, sincere geirim and we must welcome and support them. This is an important principle that we must never lose sight of.

We have stressed on many occasions that taking shortcuts in the conversion process is a recipe for tragedy later on. The period of conversion is certainly a sensitive one, but if the proper standards are not adhered to then, it can cause terrible problems for the convert and his or her children later on. Those unscrupulous clergy (whether Orthodox or non- Orthodox) who do not make it clear that their "easy" standards are not accepted by all parts of the Jewish people are responsible for the tragedies that happen later on.

As a newspaper which was established to give over daas Torah, it is our obligation to write about subjects even though they are not popular and therefore would probably be rejected by a newspaper that is driven by commercial interests. In no way to we have any intent to hurt or cast any aspersions on true converts who live a full Torah life and in fact we have received encouraging comments from some who feel that it is important to make clear the distinction between them and the bogus converts.

As a general rule, the Jewish nation does not missionize and therefore does not solicit converts. It is therefore not really appropriate for our paper to publicize real, valid conversions, which should be handled discreetly. Unfortunately, mass conversions have become a goal in Israel as a "solution" for the influx of hundreds of thousands of non-Jews. It is the purpose of our paper to present the true Torah position that conversions in which the candidate does not sincerely accept a full-fledged Torah lifestyle are invalid. Since we do not solicit conversions, we do not have many opportunities to praise those botei din which deal properly with conversion matters. We try to mention as often as possible, the position of maranan verabonon that conversion matters should only be handled by botei din kevu'im vechashuvim.

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