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22 Adar 5766 - March 22, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Eternal Jewish Family Program Tries to Formulate Universal Standards for Conversions at Conference in Florida

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

Rabbonim from 25 states and more than a dozen countries participated in the second conference on Universally Accepted Conversions in Intermarriage on March 5-7 in Hollywood, Florida. The conference, organized by the Eternal Jewish Family program, took a major step towards formulating universal standards for conversions in intermarriage.

The Florida conclave was a follow-up to the successful inaugural conference last September in Newark. Future conferences are already being planned for Israel and Europe in an effort to "streamline the conversion process in intermarriage by rabbis throughout the world," said Tom Kaplan, co-chairman of the Lillian Jean Kaplan Jewish Pride Through Education Project of Horizons, which sponsors the Eternal Jewish Family program. Horizons is an internationally recognized institute of Jewish education and outreach based in Monsey, New York.

Among the topics that were discussed were, "Kabbolas Mitzvos: Accepting all Commandments — Are There Any Exceptions?" "Preparing a Non-Jew for Conversion: Learning Torah and Keeping Shabbos," and "Havchonoh — Dealing with a Couple's Post-Conversion Separation."

Major presentations were delivered by Rabbi Reuven Feinstein, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva of Staten Island; Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel; Rabbi Herschel Schachter, rosh yeshiva of Yeshiva University; Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu; Av Beis Din in London; Rabbi Nachum Eisenstein, Av Beis Din of the Beis Din Tzedek LeGiyur of Jerusalem and rov of Maalot Dafna; Rabbi Simcha HaKohen Kook, Chief Rabbi of Rechovot; Rabbi Leib Tropper, rosh hayeshiva of Yeshiva Kol Yaakov; and Rabbi Yoel Adelman, rabbi of the Young Israel of Smithtown in New York. The Conference chairmen were Marvin Jacob Esq. a partner in Weil, Gotshal & Manges LLP, and Nachman Auerbach, managing director of Goldman Sachs. The master of ceremonies was David Rosengard Esq. of Boston.

More than 260 rabbonim and spouses (who are often involved in the conversion process of women) shared their experiences. The presence of so many rabbonim from overseas gave the conference an international flavor. In addition to the US and Israel, rabbonim came from Australia, South Africa, Canada, Nova Scotia, France, Switzerland, Holland, Poland, Brazil, and the United Kingdom.

Mr. Kaplan and his nephew Yehuda Dovid Kaplan, co-chairmen of the Lillian Jean Kaplan Jewish Pride Through Education Project, said that the conference was an extraordinary tribute to the rabbonim, "for their interest in creating Jewish unity through the adoption of universal standards in conversion. The sincerity and genuine commitment to help the Jewish people is a huge Kiddush Hashem."

Rabbi Dovid Jacobs, executive director of the Eternal Jewish Family, said, "The conference went a long way in putting this issue on the international Jewish agenda."

More than 1000 rabbis applied to attend the conference, which is why the Eternal Jewish Family is planning additional events in other major US cities. The next major conference in the US is planned for Boston in the Fall.

Rabbi Leib Tropper, dean of Yeshiva Kol Yaakov, called the conference "a monumental achievement by daas Torah throughout the world." He added: "We are well on the way towards adopting universal standards for conversions in intermarriage. We will be sending a strong message that when it comes to geirus in intermarriage, there is only one halochoh."

So far there are botei dinim kevu'im vechashuvim that are associated with the Eternal Jewish Family program in Monsey, Lakewood, Cleveland, Chicago, Philadelphia and Los Angeles. Five more are in stages of formation and others are planned.

Founded in 1995, Horizons provides comprehensive programming aimed at people of all ages who may be searching for answers to life's most difficult questions. The programs offered through Horizons provide meaningful and rich ways of responding to these issues based on Torah values and leading to fuller more active Jewish lives.


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