The wholesale conversion industry in Israel has reached new
dimensions with the transfer of responsibility for the
Special Conversion Courts to the Prime Minister's Office.
Rabbi Chaim Druckman, head of the Conversion Administration
at the Prime Minister's Office, reported to Prime Minister
Ariel Sharon that since taking over conversion matters
several months ago he has signed 727 conversion
Rabbi Druckman claimed the authorities heap up bureaucratic
obstacles that hinder "converts who converted in recognized
botei din abroad and want to move to Eretz Yisroel."
According to inquiries by Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei
Giyur, these botei din were set up to perform
conversions and are headed by unrecognized rabbis
unauthorized to perform conversions. The conversion process
is often very brief, sometimes as little as one day.
Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur, founded by late Antwerp
gavad HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth, warned that the State of
Israel is liable to recognize conversions performed abroad in
the guise of "Orthodox botei din" not recognized by
the rabbinical establishment in Eretz Yisroel.
A recent in-depth report in Ha'aretz attacked the
Interior Ministry for refusing to recognize certain
conversions performed abroad by rabbis "whose conversions are
recognized by the Orthodox establishment." The Vaad wrote to
Ha'aretz pointing out that their article was full of
inaccuracies that undermined the basic thrust of their
article which was an attack on the Interior Ministry for not
recognizing some conversions from abroad. Ha'aretz has
so far not responded to the Vaad.
In support of its assertion, the newspaper cited the specific
case of a German woman who underwent "an Orthodox conversion"
at a special conversion court in Switzerland. However the
head of that court was in fact a rabbi whose conversions are
not accepted by leading botei din in Israel.
When she arrived in Israel, the convert presented the
Interior Ministry's Population Administration with the
conversion certificate from Switzerland and along with a
letter from Rabbi Y. R. of Jerusalem certifying that she
"underwent a conversion process in Germany by authorized,
recognized rabbis." Really, the conversion was performed in
Switzerland, and orchestrated by a rabbi from Germany.
Yet according to an investigation by the Vaad over six months
ago, the Israel Chief Rabbinate—like the Conference of
European Rabbis one year earlier—explicitly refused to
recognize both the conversion and the rabbi who performed it.
Furthermore, the Vaad found that Rabbi R. was not a
disinterested party since his former secretary's brother is
the rabbi from Germany who performed the conversion.
Furthermore at the time of her conversion, the woman left
Germany for Switzerland for just 24 hours to undergo the
conversion, which casts great doubts on the procedures
followed by the rabbis who performed the conversion.
The Vaad says that it is true that the Interior Ministry has
taken an overly firm stance against recognizing conversions
performed abroad, but this stance is the result of the
increase in false conversions being performed both in Eretz
Yisroel and elsewhere by figures who define themselves as
Orthodox, making the problems difficult to uncover.
Rabbi Druckman complained to Sharon that mounds of red tape
are piled up in front of "converts" converted by "recognized"
botei din abroad. Vaad Chairman Rabbi Nochum
Eisenstein says these cases involve unrecognized botei
din whose conversions should not be recognized despite
Rabbi Druckman's pressure and attempts to bring these non-
Jews into the fold.
The new Conversion Administration that Rabbi Druckman heads
is unwilling to renew the work of a Special Conversion Court
that was composed of dayonim talmidei chachomim
endorsed by gedolei Yisroel. That beis din,
which operated under strict guidelines, was set up five years
ago by then Chief Rabbi Lau at the request of gedolei
haposkim and the chareidi public, but operations were
ceased several years ago following outside intervention.