Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Av 5763 - August 5, 2003 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Indignation Over Sharon's Hostile Remarks on Conversion
by Betzalel Kahn

A public furor has erupted over Prime Minister Ariel Sharon's unprecedented criticism of halachic conversion as practiced in the State of Israel. At a government meeting last week Sharon said the State should "stop getting involved in the converts' personal lives" and announced he intends to initiate reform in every area of conversion, including "not forcing converts to keep mitzvos and a Jewish way of life."

His remarks show Sharon wants to continue pursuing the aims of the secular coalition he formed and to erase all traces of Judaism from the State. Now, after surrendering to innumerable demands made by the Shinui Party in various areas, Sharon seeks to implement the Shinui platform designed to wreak destruction on Yiddishkeit in Eretz Hakodesh.

At Sunday's meeting Sharon claimed the beis din system "heaps difficulties on converts. The botei din demand they demonstrate a Jewish way of life." Sharon also said, "There is no need to come to the converts with demands none of us could meet, such as visiting holy sites." Ministers Avigdor Lieberman and Tzipi Livni joined the Prime Minister in his attack on the beis din system.

The Chief Rabbinate rejected Sharon's unfounded claims, saying his remarks on the requirement to visit holy sites are incorrect and are the result of libel intended to generate public pressure against the beis din system.

Spokesmen at the Prime Minister's Office say Sharon is concerned over the decrease in the number of immigrants from the former Soviet Union. Since the beginning of the year only 11,000 new immigrants have arrived, a rate that falls short of Sharon's stated goal of bringing one million immigrants during the next ten years. Sharon backers say the decrease is due to the difficulties the beis din system imposes on conversion candidates.

To promote his detailed plan to reform conversion, on two recent occasions the Prime Minister sent the director-general of his office, Avigdor Yitzchaki, to meet with Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. Top-ranking Rabbinate officials say that the fact Yitzchaki found the time to hold two meetings on the issue despite pressing political and economic matters demonstrates Sharon intends to push his reform idea as much as possible.

Sharon's plans to alter conversion practices include accelerated assembly- line conversions--which are invalid even bedi'eved if the candidate does not accept the yoke of Torah and mitzvos--and appointing former Mafdal MK Rabbi Chaim Druckman as head of the Conversion Administration to execute the lenient changes.

One member of the Prime Minister's staff said, "Conversion will remain conversion based on halacha, but the idea is not to carry out more checks on the converts to verify they are keeping mitzvos."

According to figures close to Sharon, he said, "It is inconceivable that conversion candidates be required to go to adoptive families to learn."

The Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur, founded by the late Rav Chaim Kreiswirth, ztz"l, explained that having a close relationship with an adoptive family is an essential part of exposing conversion candidates to as many aspects of Judaism as possible. "It seems the Prime Minister wants to lend a hand to a non-halachic conversion system in which the conversion candidates are not required to sincerely undertake to keep Torah and mitzvos. Conversions performed even by so- called Orthodox rabbis, where it is quite obvious that the conversion candidate never sincerely undertook to observe Torah and mitzvos, will not be recognized by any beis din choshuv in Israel or abroad. The Vaad reiterates that conversion is not a viable solution for the problem of the nearly half a million non-Jews living in Israel," said the Vaad spokesman.

Rabbonim and dayanim say Sharon wants to pressure the Chief Rabbis to carry out his reform by threatening to advance the date of elections for the Chief Rabbinate, an initiative hatched by Shinui. According to law, only the Chief Rabbi and the President of the Beis Din Hagodol are authorized to approve changes in conversion procedures. Current Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar said he does not intend to execute any changes that will cause the dayanim to deviate from the path of halocho.


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