Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Conversion Betrayal!

Today's Haaretz contained a bombshell that has me reeling. I am so angry, so disappointed that I don't know what to do with myself. Let me explain.

The Russian Aliyah, which has generally been a blessing, has one serious drawback. About 300,000 non-Jews have been admitted to Israel under the criteria of the '
Law of Return.' Many of these are the children of Jewish fathers who married non-Jewish women under communist rule, suffered as Jews and then came here. A minority are frauds, who forged papers to show allow them to fit the legal criteria and to get out of Russia. An even smaller minority are Provo-Slav anti-semites. Most of these non-Jews, however, are simply the tragic results of of seventy years of communist oppression.

Ever since their arrival, the rabbinical courts have done nothing but put up obstacles to prevent those who wish to regularize their Jewish status through conversion. The rabbis are all too often obnoxious, officious and pedantic. (I've experienced this in a different context.) Meanwhile, the lack of resolution has created an existential threat to the body politic of Israel. This is because, like it or not, the Jews of Israel are a family, a tribe. Keeping us together is the knowledge that at the end of the day, we're all brothers and sisters and can marry one another.

Over the past few years, there were very encouraging signs that legitimate Halakhic ways were under way to convert those Russians who wish to regularize their status. Things kept looking better and better. Recently, R. Haim Druckman was put in charge of the entire conversion apparatus. He's a first rate scholar and is well aware of what needs to be done, and his religious integrity is unquestioned.

Now comes the bomb! The Sephardic Chief Rabbi has issued directives changing all the rules. Not only has he made it harder to convert, for the first time he'sd authorized the nullification of conversions that he doesn't like. Now, there is plenty of precedent for being both stricter and lenient in conversion criteria. The issue is a very long, complex one. However, I am stunned at the nerve of R. Amar to call the work of other courts into question (which is a legally suspect action). I am enraged by his presumptuous dismissal of the efforts to keep the Israeli Jewish body politic whole. If he keeps this up, he will open the door wide to independent Conservative and Reform conversions.

R. Amar may be a Rav. He has shown that he is not a Hakham!

[Update: I penned this a long time ago. I have tightened the formulation to be clearer.]


At 3:20 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I disagree with you. I mean all right I think these new conditions are unnecessarily harsh. I think it's enough to only recognise orthodox convertions, but let me mention a few points here:

1. Reformed convertions are absolute nonsense, and conversative, well I don't have enough knowledge to say, but...

2. I have spoken to many, many people who have converted and told me how their time of converting was a "time of pretending". Becoming Jewish is also making a moral commitment. Is it really right to go to a mikva, become Jewish, and then go have pork chops on yom kippur? I mean think about it.

At the same time I realise that a devastating effect the mass immigrating of non jews to Israel if having on the your community. It might actually cause a "massacre" without people realising it (as if the fact that 60% of jews in the diaspora are already intermarrying weren't enough). But lets face it. A Russian man who has a jewish grandfather or parent, and a Russian wife, and decides to move to Israel for a better life, will probably not be interested in an orthodox convertion at all, whether it's a little easier or a little harder. So you're stuck with a problem. Shit happens..

I don't mean to offend your views by the way...


At 8:19 AM, Anonymous Dan said...

I am wondering if you are getting messages here.


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