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19 Iyar 5766 - May 17, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Conference of European Rabbis Holds Jubilee Convention in London
HaRav Sitruk: Rabbonim Who Deviate from Halachic Conversion to be Ousted from CER

by Yated Ne'eman Staff

At the biannual convention of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) in London last week Chief Rabbi of France and CER President HaRav Yosef Sitruk told a Yated Ne'eman reporter that the Standing Committee had decided any rov kehiloh who does not adhere to performing conversion only according to halochoh would be dismissed from the organization.

Despite his fragile state of health, HaRav Sitruk traveled to England to deliver a charged address about the heavy responsibility placed on the rabbonim, stressing that a Jewish community cannot be run without daas Torah. "I always asked gedolei Torah every step of the way. Not just questions of issur veheter, but every facet of community life must be handled by constantly consulting with gedolei Torah."

On the first evening of the convention a delegation of notable participants met with British Prime Minister Tony Blair at Number 10 Downing Street to thank him for his support for the Jewish people, especially the Jews of England. "All my life I have been a friend to the Jewish people and to the State of Israel and I am proud of that," he said. "I am pleased the rabbis of Europe chose to hold the jubilee convention in London to mark the formation of the Conference in Britain after the Holocaust and to mark the return of the Jews to Britain 350 years ago. Britain will continue to assist Israel maintain its security and combat terror. The war in Iraq also assists Israel, which suffers from terror not only from its Palestinian neighbors but also from the wider circle such as Iran and Iraq."

Blair condemned antisemitism in Europe, particularly the recent spate of incidents in his own country. The rabbis then thanked the Prime Minister for his support of religious matters such as halting a bill to ban shechitoh, as well as expanding Jewish education and building new Jewish schools. Blair said he greatly admires Jewish education and the traditional Jewish way of life, saying it has much to contribute to moral and family values in England and all of Europe.

Hundreds of rabbonim, dayonim, heads of Jewish organizations and guests from 30 countries participated in the 25th CER convention, held at the Riverbank Park Plaza Hotel, located on the Thames River. The theme of this year's convention was Medicine - Ethics and Halacha.

In his opening speech the host, British Chief Rabbi and CER Associate President Sir Jonathan Sacks said that the convention was sure to strengthen Jewish communities throughout Europe and reinforce the influence and status of the rabbonim.

HaRav Sitruk said during these times of terror and uncertainty around the world Jewish leaders have an obligation to bolster Torah life and mitzvah observance and engage in outreach. Guest of Honor HaRav Yisroel Lau surveyed the 50-year history of the CER and extended blessings to the participants.

The opening session was led by HaRav Pinchos Goldschmidt of Moscow, who debated whether today's challenges in Europe are harder or easier than in the past. "We face the difficult problem of assimilation and other problems," he said. "The only advice is the following foundations: strengthening ties with gedolei Yisroel poskei hador shlita and with Hamelamed Torah Le'amo Yisroel."

The events schedule included shiurim given by HaRav Yehoshua Neuwirth, HaRav Moshe Mordechai Farbstein, Rabbi Dr. Mordechai Halperin, Prof. Avraham Avraham, Prof. Avraham Steinberg and HaRav Lau.

Dozens of international diplomats took part in a special dinner on the final evening sponsored by the World Jewish Congress and hosted by Israel Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar. The guest list included ranking European Commission officials and ambassadors from the European Union, Israel, North African countries and other countries.

In the closing speech the next day, Secretary General Rabbi Abba Dunner said that the organization would assist any Jewish community forming in Eastern Europe set up a mikveh that meets high halachic standards. Rabbi Dunner explained that the CER was prepared to make this pledge — provided the community has a rabbinical authority and an available building — because a kehilloh based on the tenets of the Jewish religion cannot survive without a local mikveh.

HaRav Dunner said the CER's vision for the coming years includes the formation of kollelim in every Jewish community, especially in Germany and Hungary, saying that the local rov cannot run educational and Torah programs without such infrastructures. He said every rov should be chosen by the local kehilloh, which has the authority to make the appointment. He added that the CER would work toward the setup of an umbrella organization of all the organizations and individuals operating in Jewish outreach in Europe.

CER Issues Decisions

The three-day conference ended last Thursday in London with a series of decisions read aloud by HaRav Moshe Lebel, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Toras Chaim in Moscow. "The CER is shocked by the rising wave of antisemitism and calls on the heads of state to condemn in every way manifestations of hatred among men and nations and to halt the manifestations of anti-Israel hostility and antisemitism, which is rearing its head."

The decisions also called for all Jewish communities "to unite around the Jewish tradition handed down to us from generation to generation, which is the only guarantee of the continued existence of the Jewish people. The Conference expresses its satisfaction with the European Union's stance regarding the understanding of the security of the inhabitants of the Holy Land and the condemnation of terror, and joins the recognition of Israel's desire for a true, viable peace with its neighbors.

"The Standing Committee has taken note of the deep-seated abhorrence for every act of conversion not in accordance with halochoh and demands its members, particularly all of the rabbis of Europe, not take part in such wayward acts.

"The Conference sees Jewish education and heightening Jewish identity as cornerstones of preserving the integrity and unity of the Jewish people and issues a call to refrain from every act that could increase assimilation and division in the Jewish people.

"The CER calls for increasing traditional Jewish education, the preparation of programs in the area of Jewish identity and Jewish tradition and strengthening the framework of the Jewish family."


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