Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

12 Cheshvan 5765 - October 27, 2004 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly









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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Rabbi Druckman's Conversion Court Issued 499 Conversion Certificates Last Month
By E. Rauchberger

Four hundred and ninety-nine conversion certificates signed by Rabbi Chaim Druckman were issued in the month of Tishrei alone, according to a report presented during a meeting of the Knesset Constitutional Committee to discuss the issue of conversion.

Moshe Klein, deputy chairman of the new conversion apparatus, said, "The task of the conversion setup is to provide an optimal avenue for the 300,000 immigrants living in Israel who are not defined as Jews according to halacha and to allow them to convert if they want to. Rabbi Druckman has signed 499 conversion certificates since Rosh Hashana. Our primary duty is to bring thousands of immigrants to the doors of the batei din with the cooperation of the Ministry of Immigrant Absorption."

Eliyahu Maimon, director of the conversion courts, said that the Rabbinate botei din denied them the authority to sign conversion certificates four months ago, causing a delay. "From the moment Rabbi Druckman was granted permission to sign them," said Maimon, "he worked day and night and he signed 499 conversion certificates."

According to Prof. Benny Ish Shalom, head of the Institute for the Study of Judaism set up by the Jewish Agency and the government that includes Reform and Conservative representatives, "The founding of the conversion system has allowed us to reach files of beit din representatives that have not been attended to for years. Hundreds of files of converts who completed their studies at the Institute never reached the Conversion Court due to the fact that a representative of the beit din hindered them. Thanks to the new conversion setup many converts have managed to reach the beit din and convert, against the recommendation of the beit din representatives."

MK Rabbi Moshe Gafni warned against fictitious conversions, saying wholesale conversion is a scandal aimed at flooding the State of Israel with goyim. The first scandal was transferring the Rabbinate botei din to the Justice Minister, he explained, which then led to the founding of a conversion apparatus headed by Rabbi Druckman, thereby taking the matter of conversions out of the hands of the established Rabbinate botei din. "They changed things that were [practiced] here for 50 years, ever since the State was founded, and now they are voicing claims," he said. "What is happening in the area of conversion is unconscionable. A [non- Jew] may convert only if he converts according to halochoh, and all other methods are one big sham."

Several MKs, including Committee Chairman MK Avital (Labor), lodged criticism during the course of the meeting over the new guidelines Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar recently published, which seek to strengthen adherence to halochoh in conversion. They charge that the publication of these guidelines was unauthorized.

Assistant Attorney General Atty. Kobi Shapira claimed that the guidelines should have passed through accepted channels yet the Justice Ministry, which is responsible for the publication of such announcements, was wholly unaware of them. "As a rule, from the moment guidelines are published in the official State Registry they become binding. But since the conversion apparatus was transferred to the Prime Minister's Office and the hands of Rabbi Chaim Druckman, the Chief Rabbi does not have the authority to intervene in conversion proceedings and does not have the authority to decide for the conversion apparatus personnel which regulations to follow," claimed Shapira.

Chief Rabbinate Legal Advisor Shimon Ulman said that the Chief Rabbinate has always dealt with the issue of conversion and a legal inquiry must be conducted to determine whether the removal of the conversion system from the hands of the Chief Rabbinate alters the Chief Rabbi's jurisdiction in practical terms. "In his post Chief Rabbi Amar is responsible for the Rabbinate botei din, which were always the body that handled conversion. Does this mean today the Chief Rabbi no longer has the authority to make decisions on the matter?" Ulman asked.


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