Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

25 Kislev 5765 - December 8, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Population Administration Pressured to Recognize Conversion Performed Abroad by Unrecognized Rabbis

By Betzalel Kahn

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 certificates.

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.


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