Rabbonim from 25 states and more than a dozen countries
participated in the second conference on Universally Accepted
Conversions in Intermarriage on March 5-7 in Hollywood,
Florida. The conference, organized by the Eternal Jewish
Family program, took a major step towards formulating
universal standards for conversions in intermarriage.
The Florida conclave was a follow-up to the successful
inaugural conference last September in Newark. Future
conferences are already being planned for Israel and Europe
in an effort to "streamline the conversion process in
intermarriage by rabbis throughout the world," said Tom
Kaplan, co-chairman of the Lillian Jean Kaplan Jewish Pride
Through Education Project of Horizons, which sponsors the
Eternal Jewish Family program. Horizons is an internationally
recognized institute of Jewish education and outreach based
in Monsey, New York.
Among the topics that were discussed were, "Kabbolas Mitzvos:
Accepting all Commandments — Are There Any Exceptions?"
"Preparing a Non-Jew for Conversion: Learning Torah and
Keeping Shabbos," and "Havchonoh — Dealing with a
Couple's Post-Conversion Separation."
Major presentations were delivered by Rabbi Reuven Feinstein,
rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva of Staten Island; Rabbi Shlomo Amar,
Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel; Rabbi Herschel Schachter,
rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva University; Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu;
Av Beis Din in London; Rabbi Nachum Eisenstein, Av Beis Din
of the Beis Din Tzedek LeGiyur of Jerusalem and rov of Maalot
Dafna; Rabbi Simcha HaKohen Kook, Chief Rabbi of Rechovot;
Rabbi Leib Tropper, rosh hayeshiva of Yeshiva Kol Yaakov; and
Rabbi Yoel Adelman, rabbi of the Young Israel of Smithtown in
New York. The Conference chairmen were Marvin Jacob Esq. a
partner in Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and Nachman Auerbach,
managing director of Goldman Sachs. The master of ceremonies
was David Rosengard Esq. of Boston.
More than 260 rabbonim and spouses (who are often involved in
the conversion process of women) shared their experiences.
The presence of so many rabbonim from overseas gave the
conference an international flavor. In addition to the US and
Israel, rabbonim came from Australia, South Africa, Canada,
Nova Scotia, France, Switzerland, Holland, Poland, Brazil,
and the United Kingdom.
Mr. Kaplan and his nephew Yehuda Dovid Kaplan, co-chairmen of
the Lillian Jean Kaplan Jewish Pride Through Education
Project, said that the conference was an extraordinary
tribute to the rabbonim, "for their interest in creating
Jewish unity through the adoption of universal standards in
conversion. The sincerity and genuine commitment to help the
Jewish people is a huge Kiddush Hashem."
Rabbi Dovid Jacobs, executive director of the Eternal Jewish
Family, said, "The conference went a long way in putting this
issue on the international Jewish agenda."
More than 1000 rabbis applied to attend the conference, which
is why the Eternal Jewish Family is planning additional
events in other major US cities. The next major conference in
the US is planned for Boston in the Fall.
Rabbi Leib Tropper, dean of Yeshiva Kol Yaakov, called the
conference "a monumental achievement by daas Torah
throughout the world." He added: "We are well on the way
towards adopting universal standards for conversions in
intermarriage. We will be sending a strong message that when
it comes to geirus in intermarriage, there is only one
So far there are botei dinim kevu'im vechashuvim that
are associated with the Eternal Jewish Family program in
Monsey, Lakewood, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los
Angeles. Five more are in stages of formation and others are
Founded in 1995, Horizons provides comprehensive programming
aimed at people of all ages who may be searching for answers
to life's most difficult questions. The programs offered
through Horizons provide meaningful and rich ways of
responding to these issues based on Torah values and leading
to fuller more active Jewish lives.