Thursday, February 21, 2008

Who is behind Eternal Jewish Family?

Recipients and Publicity wrote:

Dear anonymous and "badatz needs to relax":

The EJF would agree 100% that "Non Halachic conversions to permit intermarriage is the one issue that threatens world Jewry more than anything in our generation" - but it is just that they have a very radical NON-HALACHIC (and perhaps even anti-halachic) plan of how to solve the problem.

Here are some central problems with EJF:

It is the brainchild of and supported by Dr. Thomas (Tom) Kaplan one of Rabbi Leib Tropper's talmidim. Described by the New York Times as a "rare-minerals magnate" he is the one who controls Rabbi Tropper and the EJF (altho Rabbi Tropper probably thinks otherwise) as they say in Yiddish: "der vos hot dem matbe'ah hot di de'ah" which in English would be "who who pays the piper calls the tune"!

See this short bio to understand who is the power that controls EJF and Rabbi Tropper, from
http://www.leorenergy.com/t_kaplan_management.php

"LEOR ENERGY: MANAGEMENT TEAM:

Tom Kaplan Chairman of the Board

Thomas S. Kaplan, Co-Founder, has served as Leor’s Chairman of the Board since the company’s inception. After obtaining a doctorate in History, Mr. Kaplan began his career as an advisor to hedge funds in the field of strategic forecasting, applying long-term historical analysis to financial markets. In 1993, he and his wife Daphne founded Apex Silver Mines as a venture capital start-up with a view to capitalizing on the improving supply/demand fundamentals of the metal. In 1996, the company’s geologists discovered San Cristobal, the world’s largest open-pit silver deposit. As Chief Executive Officer and then Chairman, Mr. Kaplan and his colleagues at Apex guided the company through its public offering in 1997 and the subsequent financings required to finance and develop San Cristobal, enabling Apex to emerge as one of the industry’s premier silver/zinc/lead development companies. He retired from Apex Silver at the end of 2004, leaving the company with an enterprise value in excess of $1 billion. Having founded and financed a number of companies focused on natural resources, including Leor, Mr. Kaplan’s family has extensive interests in public and private companies involved with silver and base metals in Latin America, platinum and gold throughout the United States, Africa and Asia, water rights in Europe, as well as energy production in the United States. Mr. Kaplan is actively involved in numerous philanthropic activities in the United States and the developing world.

Educated in Switzerland and England, Mr. Kaplan holds a B.A., M.A. and Ph.D degrees in History from Oxford University."

See also the Wikipedia article at

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Leor_Energy

That describes more of Kaplan's business and very importantly that:

"Thomas S. Kaplan and Guma L. Aguiar co-founded the company jointly in 2003. Kaplan, Aguiar's uncle, took the role of Chairman, a position he had previously held at Apex Silver Mines Inc. before resigning in 2003. Aguiar serves as the CEO and Vice Chairman of Leor and manages most of the day-to day activities of the business."

Who is this "Guma L. Aguiar" nephew of Mr. Kaplan? and since he is so involved with Mr Kaplan and runs his business how do we know that he is also not running the show at EJF? while Dr. Kaplan runs around looking for more business, giving awards and trying to change the world of Orthodox Judaism to make it more receptive and streamlined to accepting converts in the name of "kiruv" and "stricter halachic guidelines" for batei din.

Indeed, is "Guma L. Aguiar" even Jewish? because it is well known that one of the main reasons that Kaplan is behind the EJF push is because Rabbi Tropper helped him get a geirus for one of his close relatives. All this needs explanation, because now EJF, funded by the Lillian Jean Kpalan Foundation, which is basically the money that is set aside from the businesses of Dr. Tom Kaplan and his "CEO and Vice Chairman" nephew Guma L. Aguiar to act as if they are "Bais Hillel" taking on the tough "Bais Shammai" of the BADATZ.

Since when is a corporation and a philanthropy in any way a halachic body like a beis din?

Now Dr. Thomas (Tom) Kaplan (Ph.D)is obviously a vey brilliant and innovative man who has demonstrated his ability to think way "out of the box" and he does not just make billions of dollars he also gives much away to various causes that have nothing to do with Torah mostly through the "Lillian Jean Kaplan Foundation" which basically the only source of funding for the EJF.

It must be VERY CLEARLY understood that the Lillian Jean Kaplan Foundation is NOT a religious institution. It is devoted to supporting all sorts of causes, as a simple search on the web for "Thomas S. Kaplan" and "Lillian Jean Kaplan Foundation" will show, such as huge prizes and endowments for important medical research and achievements, discoveries, wild life preservation.

Dr. Kaplan naturally spends on art, see this quote from the New York Times (October 19, 2006)

http://www.nytimes.com/2006/10/19/garden/19auction.html

" 'It’s Miami — what can I tell you?' said Cristina Grajales, a dealer and consultant who exhibited there last year. 'People are writing million-dollar checks in their flipflops.' She was thrilled with the crowd — contemporary art collectors picking up fashionable collectible modern furniture — and she will be back this year. Ms. Grajales is also the person who bought the Carlo Mollino table at Christie’s last year for a client for $3.824 million — a record many times over for a piece of modern furniture. She advises Thomas S. Kaplan, a 43-year-old rare-minerals magnate for whom she bought the table, on design purchases. Mr. Kaplan also picked up a pair of Jean Prouvé doors at Sotheby’s in 2004, for $680,000, which held the record at auction for postwar 20th century design until he broke it in 2005."

So if Tom Kaplan can drop $3.824 MILLION to buy a table and $680,000 for doors (yes, yes, they are works of art, but a table is a table, and a door is a door) therefore it's bubkes mit mandlen for him to drop a couple of million dollars every year for impoverished yungeleit in kiruv and rabbonim looking for nedovas to come hear the EJF ideas about how to solve Klal Yisroel's woes.

That is why it must be clearly understood by all and known to all that the EJF is not an independently created organization but it part of something larger and its funding and direction is guided by a very talented young billionare, who also happens to be a talmid of Rav Tropper shlita (not bad kiruv!)

The EJF has many rabbis who have come to its conventions and meetings and they obviously have seen that it has a potential to help spouses of Jews who wish to become geirei tzedek, but it is because EJF wishes to function more like a corporate entity bullying and gobbling up the powers of smaller entities (meaning ALL batei din) that it has met so much resistance.

The Modern Orthodox rabbinate was at first intrigued by EJF, but after it became clear that EJF was setting up a "my or the highway" standard based on only one kind of rules coming from Charedi rabbis and batei din handpicked and approved by Rabbi Tropper alone that they balked, and especially after Rav Nochum Eisenstein of the Beis Din LeInyanei Giur in Israel told them that they would be posul to be dayanim in any case.

It is hard to see how any rov can come to America, insult all the RCA rabbis and then expect them to be mekabel his da'as. So forget about the Modern Orthodox joining in anyhting the EJF does, as if there was even a chance!

So rather than help matters, the EJF has actually made matters worse by pushing the Modern Orthodox rabbinate against the wall by questioning their emunah, which will now only encourgae them to continue with the conversions thorough their own RCA systems. To their credit they are trying to clean up their act as well, but only internally, they will have nothing to do with EJF, Rabbi Tropper or Rav Eisenstein.

And now, the BADATZ has taken a good strong look at the situation, and come down like a ton of bricks on the EJF for good reasons, that no entity can suddenly sit down out of the blue and say "ich bin du" and wave flags, make conventions, print colorful ads and pay millions to promote itself, and now claiming to do "kiruv" as well when it is just a hare-brained scheme to start with.

Dr. Tom needs to learn that you cannot manipulate halachic policy and direction like one manipulates financial markets or corporations and that in essenec is what the BADATZ is saying, please leave these inyonim to the relevant batei din, and while the system may be in need of improvement, the solution of sheperding and ENCOURAGING potential geirim is very dangerous and essentially anti-halachic because Judaism does not seek nor encourage geirim no matter what the situation.

If there are Jews in the world who have these problems they must take it up with their "local Orthodox rabbis" who will then decide what to do and if it is worthy of being "referred to a local reliable beis din".

Now one may ask how does anyone know if a beis din is reliable or if their conversions will be accepted? The answer is very simple: It is no different to any situation in Yiddishkeit. How does one know if the meat we eat on Shabbos is not treif? How do we know if the marriages and kiddushin rabbis perform are valid? How does anyone know if a get from any beis din is kosher and acceptable to another beis din? How does one check the yichus of a Jew? etc etc and the answers are that it's not done by setting up one organization.

In American Kashrus there is the OU, but Chasidim do not accept it and have their own multiple shechitas and hechsherim. There is no one single beis din in America that automatically accepts the authority of other batei din. This is also based on ideology. Chabad has its own derech and thus has its own batei din and hechshrim that would not be accepted by some Chasidim and Litvaks. Satmar will not accept a get done by even the most reliable RCA beis din.

So does that mean that if some well-meaning philanthropist wishes to "solve" these seeming "contradictions" and problems and is willing to throw millions into the pot to do so, that the whole world of different batei din have to stop, salute him, and do just as his rabbi says simply because he has gotten some rosh yeshivas (who by the way never sit on batei din) and many rabbonim more noted as darshonim and some local poskim who are not full time dayanim on batei din, to come for a free weekend of speeches and food?

As Eretz Yisroel now holds almost half the world's Jews and is probably now the center of frum life, its power increases inside Eretz Yisroel and that is why the Beis Din LeInyonei Giur is good if any problems with giur come up inside Israel, but they still cannot control what batei din do in chutz la'aretz, just as the Israeli chief rabbinate cannot control any of the RCA or Mizrachi rabbis. We have still have not reached the Acharis HaYomim for that to happen!

5 comments :

  1. My husband and I are in business for the past twenty years as consultants advising entrepreneurs who wish to make their businesses attractive for acquisition by major corporations. Most of our clients are Jewish as well as people who find themselves suddenly very wealthy and ALL of whom want to do something meaningful to "give back" in gratitude for that which Hashem has bestowed upon them.

    The business of "giving" is very emotional and most of the newly wealthy make mistakes in choosing causes for emotional rather than practical reasons only to discover later that their money has been wasted.

    The Birthright program in the opinion of its founder is one example of this. Birthright has spent over $200 million dollars since 2000 and has failed to make even a dent in the intermarriage crisis. Recently I had an opportunity to dialogue with Birthright's founder, Michael Steinhardt who remains committed to funding programs that "will reverse the trend of assimilation and intermarriage" but which are appealing to the majority of American Jews because they are not confined to the strict bounds of the Orthodox interpretation of Jewish law.

    In an attempt to explain the failure of non halachic approaches to solving the intermarriage crisis I wrote:

    "I believe that throwing funds at any non Halachically based cause will fail to achieve the ultimate goal of reuniting the Jewish people with their culture. We live in a world with fewer and fewer distinctions, where it is seen as racist and bad to preserve ones ethnicity, so the pull of assimilation cannot be fought outside of the halachic interpretation because to participate in a club that is exclusive to members of a culture strikes against popular American liberal values. On the other hand, when the club is based on an immovable unchanging doctrine, ie Torah, Rabbinical authority it is totally different. The strengthening of religious practice, done with intelligence, knowledge, and pride, will help to cure other ills."

    The founders of the Reform movement in America hoped that by removing the onus of Jewish observance that has for three millennia separated the Jewish people from their Gentile neighbors, they would successfully eradicate anti Semitism forever. The idea was that if Jews were to become less distinguishable from their Christian neighbors, there would no longer be any reason to hate them.

    The great experiment has been an astounding success, but in a completely different way than was originally intended. Reform Jews have so fully assimilated into American society that they can do business, socialize, and marry in Christian America completely indistinguishable from the non-Jews!! In fact the Reform experiment has worked so well that a significant number of those raised in Reform households have even converted to Christianity and become leaders in the Church (Barry Minkoff is amongst the most famous). At the root of it is the Reform negated the concept of a G-d given Torah and denied validity of that which commands us to live as Jews, differently from our neighbors. Once the Jew is no longer obligated to live according to Jewish ritual or observe Jewish law, what is left other than a nice social club that can never compete with the disco, the gym, the country club or the theater?
    In an ironic twist, the Reform movement, which cannot no longer fill its synagogues and programs with Jews due to the successful job they have done of assimilating them to values of the larger Christian society, decided that it cannot survive without members and now goes out to attract Gentiles to convert!

    Dr. Kaplan's dedication to philanthropy is admirable. But rather than throwing his millions of philanthropic dollars at the hopeless prospect of proselytizing Gentiles in a futile attempt to reverse the intermarriage crisis in the US, I would wish him to address the basic fact that 1 in 8 Jewish children living in several major communities in Israel cannot afford to eat more than one meal a day. The declining economy both in the US and Israel means that a significant percentage of Jewish children cannot afford decent health care, in both the US and Israel. Nearly three quarters of the Jewish children in one of Brooklyn’s largest Jewish communities cannot afford to attend a Jewish day school. Approximately 40% of the Jewish children in Israel’s coldest cities where daytime temperatures average 45 degrees during the winter months cannot afford coats, heat or proper winter clothing.

    There is no way to concoct a positive philanthropic project whose aim it would be to resurrect the nearly extinct membership of the invented Reform movement, given that the goals of its founding fathers were to bridge all barriers between Judaism and Christianity. And any project which falls outside of the framework of the Traditional halachic interpretation of Judaism is therefore destined, by definition toward failure.

    I wish Dr. Kaplan all the best of Mazal and continued success in all of his endeavors. I hope and pray that G-d will bless him with health, happiness, peace, success and the continued means to support the Jewish ideals that he holds so dear.

    --

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  2. Guma Kaplan Aguiar is the son of Ellen Kaplan.

    From Leor's website:

    "Mr. Aguiar is committed to numerous philanthropic causes and organizations. He is the Chairman of the Lillian Jean Kaplan Foundation, a private family foundation, he serves as Co-Chairman of EJF, the Eternal Jewish Family. Additionally, Mr. Aguiar serves on the boards of: Electrum Resources LLC, a private precious metals exploration company; Panthera, an organization focused on global wild cat conservation; Mount Sinai Medical Center Foundation, an organization committed to the advancement of the art and science of medicine through clinical excellence; and, Nefesh B’Nefesh, an organization dedicated to facilitating and revitalizing the Aliyah process and increasing its awareness.

    Mr. Aguiar and his wife Jamie have two children."

    Nefesh B'Nefesh has recently come under criticism by some Jewish groups because the organization which pays North Americans to settle in Israel receives a substantial percentage of its funding from Christian missionary organizations.

    "Nefesh B'Nefesh raised $3 million to send and integrate its first planeload of new immigrants, which arrived at Ben-Gurion Airport to great fanfare on July 9.

    Of the total, $2 million came as a grant from the International Fellowship of Christians and Jews, which raises money primarily from Christian donors."
    http://www.jewishaz.com/jewishnews/020719/americans.shtml

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  3. Recipients and PublicityFebruary 24, 2008 at 4:43 AM

    Dear anonymous who states that "Guma Kaplan Aguiar is the son of Ellen Kaplan."

    Please do not misunderstand anything, but because the EJF has inserted itself into the heart of the matter of Halachic conversions to Judaism it is vital that the backgrounds of all the people involved with EJF itself on a leadership and policy level be known and beyond reproach.

    In that spirit, can you tell us who the "Aguiar" family is and what is the meaning of the highly unusual name "Guma"? And could you clarify who is the person from the Kaplan family that Rabbi Tropper helped to get a conversion for that has been said in a various circles was the catalyst and reason Tom Kaplan got onto the conversion bandwagon together with Rabbi Tropper?

    Clarification of these questions will help to resolve any conflict of interest issues that may be hindering the perception in the eyes of some astute observers that the motivation behind the EJF efforts to convert gentile spouses is not entirely altruistic but has some taint of self-vindication.

    Your mentioning of the "Nefesh BeNefesh" program whereby some Christian groups contribute to the air tickets to fly people to Israel for Aliyah is presumably meant as a "defense" of EJF to convert gentiles and make them into Jews. But don't you see the absurdity of that comparison because Nefesh BeNefesh is not interfering with any Halachic process nor is it setting itself up to influence the outcome of mass conversions to batei din. The only shaila is if it is permissible to accept money from Christian charities to assist Jews to move to Israel and it is known that Rav Eliashic has clearly ruled that it is ok to take that money from them to help Jews make aliyah.

    In a similar way, the American government gives billions of dollars to Israel and almost all Americans, in and out of government are Christinas, so does that mean that the Israeli government or even Jews in America should not take aid from the American government because basically all Americans are Christians and America is a Christian country? Obviously not.

    Anyhow, if EJF were to switch it's priorities and either replace the money coming from Christian sources or give to Nefesh BeNefesh instead of it's desire to involve itself in mass-produced and organized conversions to Judaism, then it would be hailed as a truly great organization, just as Sir Moses Montefiore, through his marriage into the wealthy Rothchild family, got himself and the Rothchild's involved in improving the quality of life of the poor Jews in Palestine under the Turks and with the Rothchilds they became known as great investors and helpers of the Jewish people who wished to live and settle in Eretz Yisroel and for which they are held in the highest regard by the Jewish people until this day.

    There are so many others to emulate. How about the Reichman family that put tens of millions of dollars at the disposal of Rav Shach zt"l to help Charedi causes so that he would not have to beg the secular Zionist leadership in Israel for funds? Or even not for tzedaka, how about emulating the great non-Jewish investor Warren Buffet who invested a few billion in Israel? These are all admirable avenues for wealthy people and billionares to invest either their capital or philanthropy/tzedaka in Eretz Yisroel and its people. But not to get involved in matters that per force must lead to a head on clash with Halachic bodies, such as batei din as the BADATZ that have ruled that EJF's goals are beyond the Halachic pale and represents a subversion of the status quo of the way Klal Yisroel deals with this crisis.

    There are many crises burning in the midest of Klal Yisroel today.

    There is a shidduch crisis. There is a dropout crisis. There is a divorce crisis. There are many crises and yes intermarriage and false conversions is one of them. But in no case has or can Klal Yisroel respond with "organizational" efforts in the vain hope that any given organization will solve any of the crises. Ultimately, problems are solved by individuals, families and one congregation or kehillah at a time.

    A big Rebbe can talk to his Chasidim and a Rosh Yeshiva can talk to his yeshiva, but Rabbi Tropper and EJF cannot talk to all of Klal Yisroel and the Jewish people as if they ere addressing a local meeting of Rabbi Tropper's Kol Yaakov Yeshiva's board of directors.

    Therefore, just as:

    No one organization can solve the shiddusch and singles crisis.

    No one organization has solved the dropout and teens at risk crisis.

    No organization can stop or help the divorce or sholom bayis crisis.

    Likewise:

    No single organization can stop or change intermarriage and the challenge of creating a universal standard or to encourage conversions of non-Jews married to Jewish spouses.

    Sure, some people have set up large kiruv organizations. Some large some small. But they are essentialy involved in educating ignorant people. There primary job is to educate ignorant Jews about Yiddishkeit in the hope of making them frum. Success varies. Setting up a Ba'al teshuva Yeshiva is also commendable. What can be wrong with setting up a makom Torah to teach other Yidden about Yiddishkeit?

    But Orthodox Kiruv organizations cannot start functioning like Reform temples who actively seek to accept the gentile spouses and "partners" into the community.

    Being Orthodox, by definition, means that there will always be barriers and sometimes those barriers will be almost impossible to overcome.

    It is not for nothing that the Chazal teach us that in the future Klal Yisroel will not accept geirim. And thus where there is a great danger in either not pushing for a strict standard, as with some too-lenient Orthodox rabbis or with the too-pushy EJF effort, that it will induce the kind of reaction neither will wish to see, and that is that Charedi Jews, and the actions of the BADATZ are already a good example, will close the door entirly on all geirim well-before the arrival of Mashiach, because no-one wishes to see him greeted by an oilem of safek-Yidden.

    Thus not only the BADATZ's recent declarations and intereest in this matter, but also the Beis Din LeInyonei Giur backed by Rav Eliashiv in Eretz Yisroel are already cracking down.

    There is a huge debate about all of this in Eretz Yisroel with some left-wing Mizrachi rabbis supporting the Israeli government's push for mass non-Halachic "conversions" so where EJF stands in relation to all of this is ambiguous.

    On the one hand they wish to appear as having the backing of Charedi gedolim, but on the other hand they do NOT work like a Charedi organization by the way they push and shove and posture and yes, even bully and intimidate, in their ambition to function as some kind of central attraction center, screening and production base for large-scale mass-conversions of gentiles married to Jews, when perhaps they would be better advised to back off. The world does not need Rabbi Tropper as "director of conversions" when his speciality has always been to make yeshiva bochurim out of young secular Jews. It is misguided of him to now try to make Halachic Jews out of non-Jews.

    It is time for Rabbi Tropper to stop and take stock why he is so obsessed with changing one species of people into another. He would be better advised to leave well enough alone and let nature take its course and hand over the reins to the Eibishter.

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  4. Everybody has causes that are close to their heart.

    Whether that be children, feeding the hungry, torah study, medical research, animals... There will always be starving children somewhere in the world.

    For whatever reason, bringing Jews from the diaspora to Eretz Israel and making an attempt to solve the "conversion gone wrong & multiple conversion horror stories" is close to the Kaplan family's heart.

    It's horrific when an observant family and their 10 children make Aliyah only to discover upon arrival that the wife's conversion isn't accepted. Suddenly, according to Jewish law, they aren't married, the wife is a goy and the 10 children in long skirts and peyots (the oldest boy planning a Jerusalem wedding to a nice Jewish girl that Spring) are told they're not Jewish either.

    Something has to be done about the conversion issues. If the EJF plan to unite the leadership and come to an agreement of halachic standards isn't the answer, I pray they don't give up trying to find a solution that does work.

    The Kaplan/Aguiar family also happens to be involved with various Yeshiva's, fighting the missionary problems, and keeping Jews Jewish.

    This family should be applauded for their efforts in the Jewish world.

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  5. His name is actually Guma Leondro Kaplan DeSousa Aguiar......

    ReplyDelete

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