Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

9 Shevat 5765 - January 19, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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452 Soldiers Converted in 2004 by IDF Rabbinate

By Eliezer Rauchberger

Four hundred and fifty-two soldiers were converted by the IDF Chief Rabbinate in 2004 and 2,092 soldiers completed the conversion course according to figures presented to the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee.

The Vaad Horabbonim Haolami Leinyonei Giyur founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l said that this new number is a major increase since in the past only about 100 conversions a year were done. In a radio interview last week with the chairman of the Vaad and the IDF Chaplain, the latter clearly admitted that the course which prepares the soldiers for conversion is run in conjunction with the Institute for Jewish Studies which is jointly administered by Conservative and Reform. Some of the male teachers, according to the chaplain, do not wear kippot, and the students are exposed to Conservative and Reform ideologies.

The Chairman of the Vaad asked the chaplain how it is that this Institute could be involved in preparing Orthodox conversions if the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in a decision in 5758 strictly prohibited any sort of cooperation with the Conservative and Reform movement, and specifically this Institute.

It further mystifies the Vaad how a true convert can graduate from a course which exposes him to Conservative and Reform heresy.

Committee Chairman MK Avital (Labor) praised the IDF for its work in the area of conversion and expressed hopes that similar numbers would be achieved among civilians.

According to Brigadier General Ron Kenzi, head of the regular army personnel division, 7,500 non-Jewish soldiers currently serve in the IDF. "In 2004 we made arrangements to hold conversion courses for 400 soldiers at a time," he reported. "By the beginning of 2005, 3,258 soldiers had completed the course, of whom 2,092 are not Jewish." Apparently the remaining 1,166 are also not Jewish according to halochoh but are listed as Jews in the Population Registry.

Prof. Benny Ish Shalom, head of the Joint Conversion Programs, said that of the 2,092 non-Jewish soldiers 90 percent expressed an interest in continuing with conversion proceedings and 1,600 are enrolled in a follow-up course. He says that the IDF Chief Rabbi has a positive policy and approach that assists the conversion of non-Jewish soldiers.

In reaction to the alarming figures, MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni said, "The conversion system in Israel must only be run in accordance with halochoh and at established botei din. Wholesale, assembly-line conversions cannot be allowed to take place as if one could enter a machine on one side as a goy and come out on the other side as a Jew. This kind of conversion cannot be considered conversion. This is a joke, and there is no room for jokes when speaking of an issue that affects the very heart and soul of Judaism."


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