Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

21 Shevat 5761 - Febuary 14, 2001 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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The Chief Rabbinate Says: Graduates of the Joint Conversion Ulpanim will be Recognized by Us
by Betzalel Kahn

The Jerusalem Report recently reported that the Chief Rabbis have written a letter to Attorney General Eliakim Rubinstein, confirming their promise that candidates who graduate the Joint Conversion Institutes (which are operated in conjunction with the Conservative and Reform) and who are converted in the courts of Rabbi Chaim Druckman in Or Etzion will be treated no differently than those converted in the courts of the Chief Rabbinate. Elements in the Rabbinate say that they will approve each conversion on an individual basis, according to its circumstances, and not in a sweeping manner.

Some religious elements are continuing to cooperate with the joint ulpanim where heretical streams play a role in the preparation of potential converts for their so-called conversions. The report states that Rabbi Druckman's court has adopted the joint ulpanim which were prohibited by maranan verabonon. At the time these ulpanim were prohibited, Rabbis Druckman and Avior publicly announced their readiness to adopt them, despite the prohibition of maranan verabonon.

The collaboration between the special courts and the joint ulpanim includes the opening of files, an initial interview and the scheduling of appointments in the court in coordination with the directors and heads of the ulpanim. This collaboration was formed due to the closing of some of the Orthodox ulpanim. As a result, many of the conversion candidates will now come from the joint ulpanim. Special conversion courts base their conversions only on the candidate's knowledge, and do not conduct any serious or in- depth investigations of the sincerity of the candidate's intentions to observe the mitzvos.

A number of weeks ago, a meeting of dayanim was held in Beersheva. It was attended by Professor Benny Ish-Shalom, the director of the joint ulpanim on behalf of the Jewish Agency. Eli ben Dahan, the general director of the rabbinical courts, who delivered lectures to the teachers of the ulpan, which include Reform and Conservative teachers, also spoke at the meeting.

In his speech, Professor Ish-Shalom said that at these joint ulpanim there are ten teachers from the Conservative and Reform streams. "Two of them are conspicuously Reform," he added. Later on, Ish-Shalom evaded the question of whether he requires the "conversion candidates" to receive religious education, and said that the inter-stream symposiums take place outside the study hours.

Yated Ne'eman learned that Chief Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau was irate over the meeting, which he said took place without his knowledge, and was not in his spirit, and to which he hadn't even been invited. A sharp exchange took place between Chief Rabbi Lau and the director general of the rabbinical courts, and as a result the relations between the two are very tense.

Officials of the Chief Rabbinate say that the Chief Rabbinate's letter to the Attorney General states that the Rabbinate is not involved in the study program prior to the conversion, but only in the examining of the conversions which take place in the courts. "Every convert who undergoes a conversion process will be examined separately, on an individual basis," says the Chief Rabbinate.

In its reaction, the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur headed by HaRav Kreiswirth, the ga'avad of Antwerp, said: "We must remain on the alert so that the Chief Rabbinate will fulfill is decision of Shevat 13, 5758 to sever all relationships with the joint ulpanim. It is inconceivable to convert graduates of those ulpanim according to the method of `each case individually' after they have been exposed to apikorsus and invalid methods in Judaism, which do not mandate full mitzvah observance -- how much more so in courts like Rabbi Druckman's where they `convert' them in conveyor belt fashion, after one deliberation, and based only a declaration."

The spokesman of the Vaad criticized the reaction of the Chief Rabbinate, which declared that every convert who undergoes conversion is investigated individually. The spokesman said that in truth, Rabbi Avior publicly proclaimed, in an interview in the Jerusalem Report that he relies solely on a declaration given by the convert that he will observe the mitzvos, and that Rabbi Avior doesn't examine if this is indeed the case.

The Jerusalem Report article confirms the serious shortcomings in the conversion process by Rabbis Druckman and Avior which Yated has already reported many times. The article even quotes Yated as saying: "Well over 90 percent of the converts have no intention of observing mitzvos." Not only does the writer accept this, but the article goes on to praise Rabbis Druckman and Avior for their "friendly and welcoming" approach.

The article, entitled "The Birth of Israel's New Jews," interviews a "convert" of Rabbi Druckman's court who says, "They didn't ask me whether I was prepared to be Orthodox, but whether I was ready to commit myself to this people and to this faith."

Rabbi Avior was asked, "What if a convert joins a Reform congregation?" and he answered, "I care only about one thing. That he fulfills the promise that he made before the court to become a practicing Jew, to keep Shabbos, kashrus and family purity."

In response to the question, "How can we guarantee that a convert will honor his commitment?" he answered, "If we show people respect, he'll respect us in return."

The article clearly confirms that Rabbis Druckman and Avior work hand-in-hand with the Joint Conversion Institutions and readily convert the graduates even though it is quite obvious that they have no real intention of properly observing mitzvos, which is me'akev the conversion even bedi'eved.


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