Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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27 Ellul 5760 - September 27, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Home and Family
Rabbinical Courts Transfer Funds to Reform-Conservative Ulpanim
by B. Rabinowitz

Yated Ne'eman recently learned that the administration of the rabbinical courts, headed by Rabbi Eli Ben Dehan, is transferring funds to the joint "Orthodox"-Reform- Conservative conversion ulpan network. At the same time, the Education Ministry has stopped their support of the other, established Orthodox ulpanim in order to force conversion candidates to register in the Joint ulpanim for their study programs for conversion.

These joint ulpanim operate in complete violation of the instructions of maranan verabonon, who have forbidden every form of collaboration with Reform and Conservative. The Chief Rabbinate of Israel issued a decision on February 9, 1998 that it is inconceivable to establish a joint conversion institute with the Reform and Conservative after gedolei Yisroel prohibited all cooperation with them or with their ideology.

Reliable sources told Yated Ne'eman that in the wake of this new financial situation, nearly all the activities of the Orthodox ulpanim have come to a halt.

The joint ulpanim are supported directly by the Jewish Agency, but in turn it receives the funds from the rabbinical courts administration, which is part of the Chief Rabbinate. As a result of this funding, their activity has been significantly expanded recently, especially following an agreement concluded with neighborhood community centers (matnasim) throughout the country to run these joint ulpanim.

Yated Ne'eman has learned that the Education Ministry has dismissed many of the teachers in the Orthodox ulpanim. Also, teachers in the joint ulpanim are paid three times as much as teachers in the older ulpanim. Some of the teachers in these ulpanim freely admit to their students that they desecrate Shabbos, according to reliable sources.

The Special Conversion Court in Or Etzion, headed by Rabbis Chaim Druckman and Yosef Avior, works closely with the joint ulpanim and has even announced that it is "adopting" them. Rabbis Druckman and Avior have conducted "conversion ceremonies" for graduates of the joint ulpanim. A second group of graduates will also be "converted" soon by them.

Yated has also learned that by the winter, all the special conversion courts will cooperate with the administration of the joint conversion institutes by their conducting an initial interview, opening files and arranging for an appointment to meet the beis din.

In the wake of refusals of mikvehs in the north of the country to permit graduates of the joint ulpanim to immerse on their premises for their dubious conversions, Rabbis Avior and Druckman conducted the immersions in Or Etzion.

This summer, the rabbonim of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur headed by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth the Gaavad of Antwerp, interviewed thirty people who had been "converted" in the special conversion court, including the court in Or Etzion and other courts located elsewhere in Israel. None could present the slightest evidence that he or she does, indeed, now observe Torah and mitzvos.

Chairman of the joint ulpanim, Professor Benny Ish Shalom, recently declared that he hopes to open 100 ulpanim and within two or three years to convert 20,000 people annually. He also said that the courts conducting the "conversion" ceremonies will be under the auspices of the rabbinical courts, which will conduct "conversions" for graduates of his ulpanim.

After undergoing their "conversion" ceremonies, graduates of these ulpanim received the approval of the director of the rabbinical courts, Rabbi Eli Ben Dehan, who even instructed those in charge of mikvo'os and other involved parties to let graduates of the ulpanim use their premises. Professor Ish Shalom has confirmed that the network of joint ulpanim functions in full collaboration with the administration of the rabbinical courts.

The Vaad rejected claims of the special conversion courts that the curriculum of the joint institutes is similar to that of the old conversion courses. The Vaad spokesman said that the courts convert relying basically on knowledge without properly ascertaining the true sincerity of the candidate to fully accept all the mitzvos. Candidates who studied with teachers who say publicly that they do not observe Shabbos cannot be expected to observe Shabbos themselves.

"The current situation is appalling. It is clear beyond a doubt that granting legitimacy to graduates of the joint ulpanim will cause a further deterioration in the sincerity of conversion candidates," said a Vaad spokesman.

The spokesman for the Vaad wishes to encourage those who staunchly refuse to collaborate with these special conversion courts. He noted that maranan verabonon the gedolei haTorah have forbidden any collaboration whatsoever with these people, whom they call, ". . .destroyers of religion who falsify the Torah and have brought about the assimilation which prevails in the Diaspora and the destruction of Judaism."

Rabbi Eli Ben Dehan admitted to Yated that funds for the joint ulpanim do, indeed, pass through his office. However, he claimed that he serves only as a conduit. With respect to the instructions he gave to those in charge of mikvo'os, he said that it is his opinion that the clerks should not have expressed any opinion on the issue (by refusing to allow the use of the mikvo'os), since an authorized beis din of the Chief Rabbinate had signed the conversion certificates.

The spokesman of the Vaad Haolami LeInyonei Giyur was very surprised by these remarks, because Rabbi Ben Dehan was appointed by the Chief Rabbinate to ensure that the activities of the botei din comply with the guidelines of the Chief Rabbinate. They were also surprised to hear that he is, indeed, aware of the fact that they do not function according to these guidelines, as is clear from the admitted facts mentioned above.

A senior official in the Chief Rabbinate told the Vaad that the Chief Rabbinate said previously that the special conversion courts should sever their relationship with the joint conversion institutes, and the Chief Rabbinate is not responsible for those who violate these instructions.

Still, Rabbi Ben Dehan approves conversions done in cooperation with the joint institutes. A Yated reporter met with Rabbi Ben Dehan who refused to give any substantive reply and just attacked Yated for its strong position that was taken under the direct guidance of maranan verabonon.


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