Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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6 Tammuz 5761 - June 27, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Vaad HaRabbonim Concerned that Beis Din for Conversion Appeals Could be Undermined
by Betzalel Kahn

Mevaker approved. No comments from R Nochum

The new beis din recently established by Chief Rabbi Lau for conversion appeals could be torpedoed by top officials in the existing beis din system says the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur headed by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth.

In a recent article published in Yated Ne'eman, Rav Nochum Eisenstein, chairman of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur, called on marriage registrars to ensure that Russian immigrants who come to register are indeed Jewish, and to check the authenticity of all geirim planning to marry. After its publication, Ha'aretz published a series of articles against the article in Yated Ne'eman.

Chief Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau recently set up that special beis din which is authorized to investigate, when necessary, whether a convert has fully accepted the ol mitzvos. If not, the conversion is considered invalid, even bedi'eved. Rav Shlomo Dichovsky, a member of the Beis Din Hagodol, has been named av beis din.

Despite skepticism expressed by Rav Eisenstein in Yated Ne'eman about the supposedly unique composition of the beis din--since the task can really be given to any regular beis din--hope was expressed that the new beis din will invalidate any conversion where it was absolutely determined that there was not a proper kabolas mitzvos, or freeze any conversion where there remains reasonable doubt that proper kabolas mitzvos was lacking. The new beis din will thus provide marriage registrars with a suitable means of handling the questionable geirim who arrive in their offices daily.

Ha'aretz attacked the idea of setting up the special beis din, which it says will make marriage registration difficult for converts, and referred to the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur as "an extreme chareidi organization" that would exploit the beis din and would be able to prevent marriages between insincere, so- called "converts." Based on the articles published in Ha'aretz, grave concerns have been raised that top beis din officials would in fact try to undermine the new beis din.

The head of this new appeals beis din, Rav Shlomo Dichovsky, was quoted in Ha'aretz as saying, "If the beis din that approved a given conversion claims that the convert accepted ol mitzvos, these claims cannot be challenged." This article also quoted a psak din he wrote several months ago in which he says, "A conversion cannot be annulled after the fact."

Rav Dichovsky told Yated Ne'eman that he had explained to the reporter about setting up the beis din to handle appeals of conversions in other botei din for conversions. "This was decided following a remark in a psak din I wrote several months ago in which I commented that botei din legiyur have a structural flaw, namely that they lack an appeals process, which would sometimes provide guidelines as well. Based on this remark Rav Lau decided that Beis Hadin Hagodol would handle appeals, and appointed three of its dayanim with experience in conversions to do this."

When asked about the chances of a convert who actually did intend to observe all of the mitzvos having his conversion frozen--meaning he would be considered a sofeik ger-- Rav Dichovsky replied, "This is still unclear. This is a more fundamental question. In a case where a convert deceived the dayanim and when he entered the mikveh he clearly had no intention of observing the mitzvos, the conversion is definitely invalid. The question is how can anyone know what the convert's intentions were at the time. This is one of the most difficult problems. There are some cases where an individual has good intentions and later changes his mind. Should we consider him a goy in all respects? This is not an easy determination to make.

"In most cases the beis din that handles the conversion has to determine whether the convert was fully prepared to accept ol mitzvos or whether it was done as a ploy. In cases of doubt, suspension is problematic from a legal standpoint, but from a halachic standpoint the problem is with that individual."

The spokesman for the Vaad expressed grave concerns, even after this clarification, that the beis din might avoid halting questionable conversions and might act only as a barrier preventing other botei din from being given the authority to handle appeals of conversions.

Responding to Ha'aretz, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, director general of the rabbinical courts, said the new beis din for conversion appeals would only accept applications "by involved parties and only under special circumstances." The Vaad spokesman criticized Rabbi Ben- Dahan's comment and said that it could undermine the effective functioning of the beis din by preventing cases from being referred by marriage registrars and other rabbonim who deal with these matters.

Chief Rabbi Lau said that it is proper that the entire beis din system should have an appeals process, including conversion matters. He also said that marriage registrars should be able to question the status of converts. The Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur has been informed that Chief Rabbi Lau plans to set up a beis din with the full authority to prevent any possibility of goyim entering kerem Beis Yisroel through unreliable conversions.

The Vaad called on the Chief Rabbi to appoint highly qualified dayanim who would do whatever is necessary to prevent goyim from entering kerem Beis Yisroel. The Vaad is also asking Chief Rabbi Lau to issue clear directives explaining how to refer people to the beis din for conversions in order to prevent Rabbi Eli Ben- Dahan from issuing directives to undermine the beis din.

The Vaad spokesman claims that several years ago, when suspicions were raised regarding conversion procedures of a certain beis din, the director general of the rabbinical botei din, who was in charge of the supervisory apparatus, blocked all inquiries into the matter.

The Vaad called on all marriage registrars and dayanim to maintain vigilance, as per instructions issued by gedolei haposkim in 5744 (1984), according to which it is a "very severe prohibition to accept converts without first being convinced that they truly do intend to accept Torah and mitzvos, and that halacha requires that they investigate every time someone shows a certificate of conversion to verify whether the conversion met the halachic requirements."

According to directives recently stated by Chief Rabbi Lau, marriage registrars can have questionable converts checked and are not required to register them before the beis din finalizes its decision. The Vaad says that the Chief Rabbinate should issue clear instructions, in writing, to provide the dayanim and rabbonim with guidelines for proper procedure in cases where doubts arise regarding the status of a particular convert.

The rabbinate should also ensure that marriage registrars act according to existing guidelines regarding the registration of new immigrants, i.e. that they avoid registering new immigrants without a certificate of Judaism from the local rabbinical court. Despite these guidelines thousands of immigrants are registered every year by the Chief Rabbinate without proper certification, thus causing goyim to enter the Jewish nation.


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