Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

28 Sivan 5767 - June 14, 2007 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











City Rabbi and Chief Rabbinate Council Member Calls for Conversion Without Insisting on Convert's Intentions to Keep Mitzvas

By Betzalel Kahn

Rabbonim, dayonim and heads of Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur, founded by the late Antwerp Gavad HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth, issued strident protests against Rabbi Shear-Yeshuv Cohen, the rov of Haifa and a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council, for grave remarks he made against dayanim who stand firm against accepting prospective converts who fail to persuade them of their genuine intentions to keep Torah and mitzvas in full.

Speaking at a national-religious conference on conversion, Rabbi Cohen said he heard that there are dayanim at the special conversion courts who are careful not to approve the conversion of such candidates. "We have halachic authorities that can be relied on when it comes to accepting [a convert] even when we are not sure that the convert we converted will keep mitzvas," he said. "The conversion court system was created to accept converts and not to defer them, therefore the conversion courts are not carrying out their designated task."

Rabbi Cohen also cited a spurious ruling by former Chief Rabbi Goren, who stirred a tremendous controversy 30 years ago when he said, "In Eretz Yisroel there is no need to insist on accepting [the yoke of] mitzvas."

Rabbi Cohen claimed, "We have halachic authorities who can be relied on when it comes to accepting [a convert] even when we are not sure that the convert we convert will keep mitzvas in the case of someone who wants to live in Eretz Yisroel and even more so regarding someone who has already intermarried and has a mixed family. We try to teach them how to run a Jewish home, which is incumbent on all of us. And I'm not saying chas vecholiloh that one should be lenient in this regard, but neither should they be rejected."

Rabbi Cohen's remarks stand in stark contradiction to a halachic ruling in 5744 (1984) signed by HaRav Yaakov Yisroel Kanievsky, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach, HaRav Menachem Man Shach and ylct"a HaRav Yosef Sholom Eliashiv, which reads, "It is a very serious prohibition to accept converts without being convinced they have genuine intentions of accepting the yoke of Torah and mitzvas."

The Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur also raised strong objections, telling the Chief Rabbinate Counsel to convene an emergency meeting to issue a decision condemning the departure from the ruling by all gedolei Yisroel.

A short time ago MK David Rotem (Yisrael Beiteinu) proposed a bill that would give chief rabbis of cities the power to perform conversions. But such legislation would be very problematic. "The fact that the rabbi of one city openly says that one need not be convinced of the convert's intentions to keep mitzvas in full, and a conversion candidate cannot be rejected, is the best proof of all that the new law could result in bringing thousands of non-Jews into Kerem Beis Yisroel," reads a Vaad HaRabbonim statement. "Therefore the authority to perform conversions must be vested only in established, well-known botei din."


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