Monday, March 3, 2008

HaRav Aaron Soloveichik zt"l - descendants of Marranos are treated as Jews

I just received this letter. Does anyone know if it is authentic and the context in which it was written?


13 comments :

  1. Shulamith Levy director of Casa Amistad in Chicago posted this to her website:

    Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik

    By Schulamith C. Halevy


    Today Rabbi Aaron Soloveichik will be buried here, on the mount of Olives, where his wife, Rabbanit Ella was interned not long ago.

    Rabbi Soloveichik was the man who opened the door for anusim to return. His letter was what generated everything that followed. He was a man who feared no other man but God alone. He spoke his mind clearly on any matter pertaining to halakha. And he had at his side a woman whose strength and love held him and raised many many women in Chicago. She left us not long ago.

    I became close to the Rav, and the Rabbanit, as a result of my work for anusim. My father-in-law, who knew him from Yeshiva times went to visit him and my involvement on behalf on anusim came up. He said immediately that they must be encouraged and helped, and the letter came when I returned from Portugal. The handwritten original is here, with me.

    Since then I had the ear, the time and the appreciation of the Rabbi and his wife. It was very confirming to me, and a privilege I treasured.

    Some anusim were personally helped by them. When a rabbinic court in Israel would not give a return paper to a young man who was promised it, it was Rabbi Soloveichik's letter from Chicago that solved matters. A couple of Casa Amistad members -- a group of anusim in Chicago – actually went with me and met these wonderful people. On one occasion Rabbi Soloveichik said that the people of Israel must think and feel toward the anusim as a husband who has been longing for his wife while she was away.

    I called from Mexico when I needed his help, I came by with any question, and felt at home. I shared poetry with the Rabbanit, a poet, and was able to give a copy of her poems to her son at the shiva for her. He knew about them but had not seen any.

    Rabbi Soloveichik was our champion. He took the anusim and put them back at the center of rabbinic attention. We lost the greatest rabbinic mind in the US, the most courageous rabbinic mind of our time, and a man whose heroic effort kept his mind and spirit going despite his ailing frame, tormented by a severe stroke years ago. But it was his incredible wife, Ella who held him anchored to this earth. When she left, he could hold no more.

    May their memory remain as a great inspiration among us always. We must never forget what they have done for the anusim. In some years, I hope that children of anusim making their journy back will hear that there once was a rabbi in Chicago, who was more brave and more wise than any other, and who loved the anusim as a real part of him. And this rabbi broke the walls of ingnorance and cowardice, and thus was the road paved for our return.

    There are no "hespedim" on hol hamoed, and so we will not hear any of his greatness at his graveside. I had to get this out, though.

    Schulamith C. Halevy

    Web site: http://www.anusim.org

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  2. I do not understand the mechanism by which a single letter from a single Rabbi can undo a Halachic tradition that has been in place for over 1,000 years.

    Given the extraordinarily high reputation that Rabbi Soloveichik earned, one can only assume that he was not fully informed about "Anusim" before writing his letter.

    The date on the letter is March 1994. As a coincidence, I was in Florida at that time, and had a Rabbi explain to me that ALL "white Cubans" were purely Jews. He made a pretty convincing case....that conversos were forced to take names that identified them as such (often using -ez as a suffix) in order to prevent intermarriage between "new Christians" and "old Christians" and that the first Spaniards to settle Cuba were all conversos/marranos. These people never intermarried with the local darker Cubans, and therefore all white Cubans, while identifying as non-Jews, were reliably genetically Jewish via their presumed uninterrupted matrilineal line.

    This Rabbi went on to state that the same was true all throughout Central and South America because the Spanish sent their more disposable citizens to colonize.

    The Rabbi concluded by saying that because of their unquestioned lineage, they should be expeditiously converted when they want to, and that furthermore it is a Mitzvah to outreach to them because they are in fact Jews being rescued.

    I believed this fully in 1994 as I am sure Rabbi Solovechik did.

    Since then I have learned that the entire argument is incorrect, and I sincerely believe that if Rabbi Soloveichik was still alive, he would have altered his view by now.

    Either way, it's irrelevant, since one letter from one dead Rabbi, however great, does not constitute Halacha.

    To follow that letter is no different than following one of the thousands of dissenting opinions from the Gemara because one of the great Rabbis from that period believed in the opinion that ultimately was ruled against.

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  3. Recipients and PublicityMarch 3, 2008 at 9:14 PM

    Precisely because this question is about a written letter on this yeshiva's official letter-head, it should be very easy and required to call the telephone number on it or to write to Rav Soloveichik's sons who now run it. Or to contact someone with connections to this institution and its Roshei Yeshiva to tell them that a letter signed by their late Rosh Yeshiva and further requires validation.

    If it's a genuine letter, which it probably is, notice too how he was prepared to put it in writing on his official letterhead and sign it -- something that EJF has not been able to do for itself from any of the rabbis it claims support it and endorse it, even from those willing to go to its meetings and have their photos published in ads -- which does not add up to a much unless they issue letters like the one here, written or typed on their official letterheads and signed with no restrictions on who can see it and when it can be read. Just as applies to any haskoma or teshuva.

    As long as that is not done by EJF, there is no obligation on anyone to call any rabbis, such as Rabbis Dovid or Reuven Feinstein who have not issued an official letter to signal that they opnely endorse EJF and are willing to stand behind it, letter-heads, singnatures, and phone numbers included for anyone to follow-up based on that and not on the urgings of anonymous posters on blogs defending EJF for whatver reasons.

    There is a few additional dimensions Rav Soloveichiks letter here that an astute reader will notice:

    Firstly that Rav Soloveichik is clear that Anusim require Halachic conversions.

    Secondly, when he says that: "They must be treated like full Jews in every way (counted for a minyan, given aliyot, etc) it is very puzzling because if they are not fully converted how can one do so? The only conclusion is that who will be such a person and why would an Orthodox shull have to believe him -- and it is a "he", because Rav Soloveichik was not permitting women to be counted for a minyan and get aliyas! -- this implies that the job of female Anusim(Anusot?) is only to get conversions if they wish to be considered as Jews.

    Thirdly: Simply put, how is anyone claiming to be from the true Anusim ever able to prove that they are such? Do they have the family records that go back to 1492, the day that the Jews were expelled from Spain and the decrees of conversion to Chatholicism came into full force for all remaining Jews in Spain and soon thereaafter to Portugal and to the new colonies in Latin and South America.

    The answer is that it's a humungous job and that by the time the person claiming such a dubious "heritage" will be told to come back with the proof and paperwork with some official signatures, mincha-ma'ariv will have ended and probably he won't be able to make it for Shabbos davening either.

    How does anyone prove their Yiddishe yichus?

    It's essentialy based on a chazaka, so that if one's mother was provably Jewish, and her mother and her mother's mother, at least for three generations, and hopefully four or five are better, so that if we know this person's grandparents and certainly great-grandparents were Jewish in the old country, and that is not so hard to figure out because in Eastern Europe Jews who married out of the faith were cut off from their people entirely and in Western Europe they almost always became Christians, and few were spared by Hitler in either place in the end.

    So how is someone who says he's Jewish from 300 or 400 years ago ever going to prove they are Jewish?

    The answer is that they never will be able to, because it is impossible, since only royal families or very rich or noble ones in Europe have the means to keep such records and quite often they fudge and lie as well as there are many children of illegitimate unions that come into the "official record" and are whitewashed.

    So while Rav Soloveichik's letter is very nice and shows that he is aware and thinking about the problem, no true Rov running a respectable shull worth his salt would ever give an aliyah or count in a minyan someone who walks in off the street and says that his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandpappies and great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandmammies were Jewish from 400 years ago. Such a person would be regarded as being a lunatic and may as well be saying that his great-great-great-great-great-great-great-grandpappy and great-great-great-great-great-great-great-gradmammy were Martians.

    So as they say, Rav Soloveichik's letter is both nisht tzum zach and not nogei'ah lema'aseh, and is essentially a brochah levatalah!

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  4. "how is anyone claiming to be from the true Anusim ever able to prove that they are such? "

    Genealogist Phillip Abensur in France has done this for several "anusim".

    I am a Spanish and Portuguese Sephardic Jew. I have my family tree all the way back to 1465 in Spain. My husband has his back to the 1250 in Spain.

    My tree, in case you are wondering, is in Portuguese and fills 5 volumes and 2500 pages.

    This is NOT uncommon among Sephardic families and most that I have known have kept books of genealogy throughout the generations. Copies of these genealogies are often left with synagogues, local governments and community centers for posterity along with supporting documentation (ie Mohel books, kettubot- it was common for two copies to be written, one for the Bais Din and a smaller one for the woman).

    It is also common among Sephardic families to list 10 generations on the back of ketubbot.

    My paternal grandmother descends from a converso family who returned to Judaism in 1610. The family genealogy from 1485-1890 is archived at Bevis Marks Synagogue in London.

    Most of those who claim to be anusim today, from South and Latin America are the descendants of Sephardic men who set out to make their fortune in the New World and who ended up marrying local women. Their descendants are NOT Jewish as Judaism has never recognized patrilineal descent. I have actually been contacted by several people who claim to be Jewish (anusim) whose paternal ancestor I could trace to my own family tree where it was noted that "he died unmarried". Obviously we explain that Judaism is passed from mother to child and not through the father.

    TRUE anusim, because they had always hoped to return DID keep detailed records and documents proving matrilineal Jewish descent.

    It would seem that Rav Soloveichik did not consult Sephardic Rabbis, historians or scholars before issuing a letter. For example Rabbi Dr. Alan Corre or Dayyan Rabbi Abraham Levy, Chief Sephardic Rabbi of England are both eminent scholars of the history and genealogy of Spanish and Portuguese Jewry. It is also well known that the Sephardic community in England does not perform ANY Gerut.

    In America, I advise ALL Jews to keep detailed genealogical documentation because due to the lack of a Rabbinate able to enforce halacha, all are effectively "conversos" (Reform). Should any of us ever wish for our descendants to rejoin the Jewish people, we will have to prove their Jewish matrilineal descent.

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  5. Recipients and PublicityMarch 4, 2008 at 4:38 AM

    Jersey girl:

    Your long response is copied here with responses starting with "RaP":

    "how is anyone claiming to be from the true Anusim ever able to prove that they are such? "

    Genealogist Phillip Abensur in France has done this for several "anusim".

    RaP: Sure there are professional writers of "Yichus trees" for hire that will trace the origins of any Chusid wandering the streets of Boro Park with a little money to spend and wishing to impress any future mechutunim with a long "Yichus tree" that will trace his holy lineage to the Rebbe or holy man of his choice. For some odd reason, many Chasidim like to trace their origins tthe "Remu" aka the RAMO, Rav Moshe Iserlis, perhaps because he co-authored the Shulchan Aruch, especially the Ashkenazi part of it, and therefore one is supposed to assume that a Yid descended from the "Remu" is by association a Halachic Jew as well. Who knows? The point being that anyone can hire a professional mapper of family lineage. The gentiles do this as well, and the news has carried items that Senator Barak Obama is a distant cousin to US Vice President Dick Cheney, maybe trying to manipulate the public's minds to make them feel "safer" and more at ease with Barak Hussein Obama that he is "one of us", or that the Bushes are related to the British royal family, when quite interestingly their are Jewish Sephardic Bush families on old grave-stones in Philadelphia. All this is very nice theater but that is not how Yiddishkeit and Halacha work. Halacha requires two kosher witnesses who can verify (often in writing) that someone had a Jewish mother and that her mother was Jewish and for at least one more generation. A Chazaka is thus established based on the eidim and no books and paid researchers are necessary.

    I am a Spanish and Portuguese Sephardic Jew. I have my family tree all the way back to 1465 in Spain. My husband has his back to the 1250 in Spain.

    RaP: Ok, so? It is known that Sephardim have a notion of "Sepharadi Tahor" but watch out that this does not become pure elitism either. No-one has to be frummer than the Pope (lehavdil) when a simple verification by word of mouth about a Jew's ancestry will do. It is really not that hard, as anyone in kiruv will know that all one needs to do to find out how Jewish someone actually is, is to ask where their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were born and what EVERYONE's family and maiden names were. It is very easy to know when the person is almost a vadai Yid and when there is a need to check out what does not sound quite kosher. Almost always, when both kiruv worker and the one they mekariving are both serious, open and honest about this, they will find out very quickly if anyone is or is not of a Jewish origin. The problem is different with Russians from Russia who are often-times out to trick the world and deliberately invent false ancestry, a quite different scenario to the average American who will not hide anything and will be more than happy most times to share what they know and don't know about their own families. So no need for these dramatic history books.

    My tree, in case you are wondering, is in Portuguese and fills 5 volumes and 2500 pages.

    RaP: Ok, hope the moths and rats or mold has not attacked them in the last 500+ years.

    This is NOT uncommon among Sephardic families and most that I have known have kept books of genealogy throughout the generations.

    RaP: Ok again. It helps, but what does it help with Anusim who do not have these books? You are getting into subjects of Jews who have proof of their yichus which is not the focus of this blog or these discussions where the worry is about invalid conversions or resort to mass conversions by organizations, an entirely different matter.

    Copies of these genealogies are often left with synagogues, local governments and community centers for posterity along with supporting documentation (ie Mohel books, kettubot- it was common for two copies to be written, one for the Bais Din and a smaller one for the woman).

    RaP: Surely you jest. Where are all these places? In Spain and Portugal? What Bais Din are you referring to? And again if people know that they are 1,000% Jewish then good for them, but the issues here are what about people that don't have such records to back them up?

    It is also common among Sephardic families to list 10 generations on the back of ketubbot.

    RaP: When you say "Sephardic families" could you elaborate please because as you know there are huge differences between the Sephardim of North Africa with the Mizrachi Jews such as the Yemenites and Persian Jews who are not technically "Sephardic" and it is doubtful that when the Israeli government brought the Yemenite Jews to Israel in Operation Magic Carpet that they also had them pack their cargoholds of the planes with all the volumes of Yichus, when the Yemenite were happy to escape with the shirts on their backs from death at the hands of cut-throats.

    My paternal grandmother descends from a converso family who returned to Judaism in 1610. The family genealogy from 1485-1890 is archived at Bevis Marks Synagogue in London.

    RaP: So you must be English then. Ok. The situation in 1610 is a lot different to 2008, a FOUR HUNDRED year gap, and in those days the greatest of the great Talmidei Chachomim, such as Rav Yosef Karo (1488 - 1575) and the holy ARI (1534 - 1572) busied themselves with coming up with solutions of how to deal with, welcome back and ameliorate the consequences of the girush sefard of 1492 and the gezeiros hashmad that followed. But to repeat, it'e been a VERY long time since then and to make it sound that it's as simple a matter as looking up a volume of supposed family records written in Portuguese is stretching it beyond the scope and credibility of present-day realities.

    Most of those who claim to be anusim today, from South and Latin America are the descendants of Sephardic men who set out to make their fortune in the New World and who ended up marrying local women. Their descendants are NOT Jewish as Judaism has never recognized patrilineal descent. I have actually been contacted by several people who claim to be Jewish (anusim) whose paternal ancestor I could trace to my own family tree where it was noted that "he died unmarried". Obviously we explain that Judaism is passed from mother to child and not through the father.

    RaP: The above is a VERY important statement and is the situation as it is today. But beware the trap that according to the latest Reform rulings accepting patrilineal descent these people would be welcomed in a Reform temple with open arms. (No-one said this would be easy.)

    TRUE anusim, because they had always hoped to return DID keep detailed records and documents proving matrilineal Jewish descent.

    RaP: The notion of "TRUE anusim" is something new, a neologism in fact, because thus far no-one has ever heard of or invoked a nafka mina (real Halachic difference) between "true" and "untrue" Anusim. In the year 5768 (2008) all Anusim are the same. How are they ever going to prove that they are descended from a line of Jewish mothers going back a long time without relying on the facilities of the genealogist from Paris (mentioned by you) who writes up people's yischus just like some experts concoct fake resumes. The CIA and the Mossad can cook up new identities for people too, but Halachah does not accept such shtik.

    It would seem that Rav Soloveichik did not consult Sephardic Rabbis, historians or scholars before issuing a letter. For example Rabbi Dr. Alan Corre or Dayyan Rabbi Abraham Levy, Chief Sephardic Rabbi of England are both eminent scholars of the history and genealogy of Spanish and Portuguese Jewry. It is also well known that the Sephardic community in England does not perform ANY Gerut.

    RaP: Ok, so this is good, if they are machmir, and they are rooted in Sephardic law and lore, so should the rest of the world be.

    In America, I advise ALL Jews to keep detailed genealogical documentation because due to the lack of a Rabbinate able to enforce halacha,

    RaP: This is false and silly for a number of very obvious reasons. Sure one should keep basic records but there is no need to shlep around five volumes over five centuries. It is also false that there is a "lack of a Rabbinate" in the USA when there are multiple rabbinates for the multiple kehillas. The centralized UK Chief Rabbinate has not done wonders for English Jewry either. The fact that in America there are rabbis, yeshivas, kehillas and batei din in many places means that more territory gets covered and more people get included in the affairs of local kehillas and get to be subject to local poskim and batei din. It may seem "chaotic" to an Englishman, and there is plenty of room for improvement, but the system is not broken and it does not need major fixing. It mostly works just fine for those who wish to work with it and those who wish to buck the syetm of their local rabbis and kehillas will do so no matter where they are.

    all are effectively "conversos" (Reform).

    RaP: This is pure baloney (as they say in America) or rubbish (as the English say it.) So are all the Satmar Chasidim "conversos" and Reform? In fact what is this connection between Reform and Conversos altogether? Conversos is one subject and Reform is another. Conversos were people who had once been Jews but then CHOSE to practice Christianity outwardly. In fact, "Conversos" are not technically "Anusim" because Conversos exercised their CHOICE and chose to become Catholics by day and tried to hide their Jewishness, bu the "Anusim" were forced by torture or other means to be Baptised. There are many types of Marranos. Then, Reform Jews in the USA are proud Jews (from their point of view) they have been the Jewish establsihement in America for hundreds of years. They have thoiusands of temples and a huge following. They claim to be "religious" as Reform Jews. They do not sanction becoming Christian or being a "secret Jew" they wish that others would become Reform Jews. Whereas Conversos and Anusim are people who practiced Christianity for generations. They were hidden from the Jewish world, and now that its hip to be Jewish in some circles, out come some people who allege that they are "Anusim/Conversos" -- how they can prove it is beyond any credibility and would not stand in secular court of law for laws of inheritnace, for example -- and they now come along and want to be as Jewish as the shtreimel rebbe your local neighborhood shtiebel? Very funny indeed! Now how pathetic and feeble is such an argument? It is such a joke that it is amazing that anyone could make such claims or comparisons, but evidently some people do. Please be more careful when making such hysterically funny and grossly wrong and certainly patently illogical and unhistorical "claims" as if it were a "true fact".

    Should any of us ever wish for our descendants to rejoin the Jewish people, we will have to prove their Jewish matrilineal descent.

    RaP: What is this nonsense? Those who are part of the Jewish people don't need to rejoin it! Baruch H-shem the majority of the world's Jewish people are still provably Jewish, easily and without need for big fat books research by professors in Paris to help nail down their Jewish yichus. It is still the norm and beauty of Yiddishkeit that when Jewish people wish to marry each other they do not need to bring along copious documents. There are simpler and more direct personal ways to establish via chazakas who is or is not Jewish. The Reform movement caused serious damage by adopting patrilineal descent but that happened about thirty years ago and that thank G-d it is only one generation and still within the realm of the possible to monitor and keep track of who is and isn't Jewish without books. Altho, Rav Eliashiv does think it's time to start such books on computer data bases, a proposal that has still not been accepted by the Torah world at large. The recent Russian aliyah was the real challenge where for the first time hundreds of thousands of non-Jews from Russia came to Israel, but here again, it is very easy to find out in this generation who is or is not truly Jewish among Russian Jews. Actually, real Russian Jews are experts in fishing out the Russian fakers and there have been articles about this, some batie din in Israel use these Russian Jewish "snooping dogs" (pardon the expression!) The so-called modern Anusim are mostly a Hollywoodian (Woody-Allanian?) romantic myth created out of thin air spurred on by the "Jews by Choice" movement and the trendiness of being "Jewish" by non-Jews that has engendered this new twist of "Anusim" but to put it blunly, it's basically a non-starter in real Yiddishkeit and Halachic terms. May as well focus on the issue of the Karaites for that matter. And finally, the question of conversions of gentiles for purposes of marrying their Jewish spouse is a more real problem in America and that is where Halachic standards need to be tightended, but to say that somehow it means that "all Jews" will "have to prove" (prove to who?) their Jewishness because in America "all Jews are like Reform Jews and are even like Conversos" (people who were forced to abandon Judaism for Christianity) is an outrageous claim that makes everything you say very suspicious, unfortunately, because there are sometimes "Jews for Jesus" types who try to get into these kinds of debates very stealthily, and indeed the phenomenon of "Jews for Jesus" produces the same results as the "Conversos" because it's Jews who have undergone Shmad, in English: Apsotasy, a very serious sin especially if it continues for generations and for which there are no simple Halachic cures. Actually, for a gentile wishing to convert to Judaism not because of falling in love with a Jew but because they have fallen in love with Judaism it is a lot safer and easier for them to become a Ger Tzedek (Righteous Convert) unlike a Jew who abandons his faith and willingly gets Baptised and becomes a full Christian and thereby being a meshumad (apostate) in Jewish law, it is actully much harder for such a person to be re-accepted in Klal Yisroel without major clarifications in front of a reputable beis din.

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  6. "to find out how Jewish someone actually is, is to ask where their parents, grandparents and great-grandparents were born and what EVERYONE's family and maiden names were"

    American Jews who are the product of intermarriages, who have a reason to pretend to be Jewish also have a well rehearsed story. I always recommend to verify it via Public Records back to the maternal great grandmother. In places where there are/were no public records (ie Morocco, Cairo, Cuba) the Jewish community kept very thorough records which are readily accessible by contacting the relocated community in Israel, UK, France or the US. I have helped many people do this (for free).

    I know of FOUR Rabbis who recently discovered that their own children were married to Gentiles and who have had annulments, a heartbreak everyone wants to prevent.

    A friend of mine, a shadchan in Brooklyn who tells me that half of all of those who come to her are not Jewish k'halacha, as they have a mother or maternal grandmother who was "converted" for marriage to a Jew.

    A Rabbi who is a family friend (not Syrian) told us that of the forty or so people who have come to him for help with shidduchim in the past year, only three would be eligible to marry a Jew in Israel.

    "It is known that Sephardim have a notion of "Sepharadi Tahor" but watch out that this does not become pure elitism either"

    Today, thanks to great "kiruv" on the part of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Marc Angel and others, the term "Sephardic" refers most often to Spanish and Portuguese Gentiles whose families remained in Spain and Portugal as Christians and who are now being mass "converted" to Judaism particularly in Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. Even Wikipedia defines "Sephardic Jews" this way.

    Jews who ARE JEWS from Spain whose families went to Arab countries are intentionally being replaced by "anusim/conversos" as the "true" "Sephardim" because there is a need among Zionists to have more commonality with the Christians who financially support them than the Muslims who surround who neighbor Israel. In order to achieve this, Israel must rid itself of its Levantine Jews and their Arabian culture in favor of those from a culture more palatable to European Christians, ie. the Hispanic/Christian/European "anusim" (sing.= anus). This is unfortunately being played out in every non Syrian Sephardic synagogue in America right now.

    "Those who are part of the Jewish people don't need to rejoin it!"

    If any of your children wish to marry in Israel you will need to PROVE Jewish status (even the NY Times magazine printed an article about this 3/2/08). Many shadchanim also now require documented PROOF of maternal Jewish lineage back four generations in anticipation of Rabbonim who will not perform marriages otherwise. We were told by the shadchanim we contacted for our daughter to obtain certification of Jewish status from a Beit Din in Brooklyn. For this, the testimony in writing of two Jewish witnesses who know/knew my mother, maternal grandmother and my maternal grandmother's mother would have traditionally been sufficient. But the Rabbis asked additionally for Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, kettubot and family pictures. Just for FYI, my family has been continually observant, Orthodox affiliated and has lived in the same neighborhood for four generations.

    Please forgive me if I have come off as elitist or dramatic in any way, it is surely not my intention.

    I was trying to explain that it is easy for American Jews to prove maternal Jewish lineage(ie.my, my mother's and my maternal grandmother's Birth Certificates and grandmother's mother's Death Certificate showing burial by Hevra Chadisha in an Orthodox Cemetery).

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  7. Recipients and PublicityMarch 5, 2008 at 2:23 AM

    Hi Jersey girl. Thanks for responding. See the next responses within your comments starting with "RaP":

    American Jews who are the product of intermarriages, who have a reason to pretend to be Jewish also have a well rehearsed story.

    RaP: Ok, but as a whole they are a lot different to Russians. In the Charedi communities of New York, most marriages are within the same type of people even if they marry people from other Charedi communities, so this is just not happening with them. As for the secular Jews of America, sure anything is possible and any combo of people is possible, but again, Americans are not by nature secretive and scheming and they don't hold secrets well in a society that encourages confessions to the therapists of everything, as is done on national TV shows, so that this culture of openess, or of naivete, works in favor of a good detective.

    I always recommend to verify it via Public Records back to the maternal great grandmother.

    RaP: Again, this does not apply to the established Charedi and Chasidic communities and with them many have lost old records during the Holocaust.

    In places where there are/were no public records (ie Morocco, Cairo, Cuba) the Jewish community kept very thorough records which are readily accessible by contacting the relocated community in Israel, UK, France or the US. I have helped many people do this (for free).

    RaP: Ok, good. Good to know.

    I know of FOUR Rabbis who recently discovered that their own children were married to Gentiles and who have had annulments, a heartbreak everyone wants to prevent.

    RaP: Rabbis? What kind of rabbis? This shows how the level of the rabbinate is sinking. Rabbis are supposed to be able to sit on beth dins and interrogate people so how could these guys let this happen to them? Fire them! Something does not sound right here because there are tell-tale clues when someone is not Jewish. Never rely on where people learned, altho it is a key, but always rely on people's birth stories and establish where the last three generations were born and what their family names were/are.

    A friend of mine, a shadchan in Brooklyn who tells me that half of all of those who come to her are not Jewish k'halacha, as they have a mother or maternal grandmother who was "converted" for marriage to a Jew.

    RaP: Who are these people? Sounds like she is getting people from very weak sources, like from Reform temples or JCC community centers. They are surely not coming from very Charedi, or Chasidic or even from known Modern Orthodox sources.

    A Rabbi who is a family friend (not Syrian) told us that of the forty or so people who have come to him for help with shidduchim in the past year, only three would be eligible to marry a Jew in Israel.

    RaP: Again, sounds like this rabbi is dealing with a very shvach crowd of hodge-podge people. Who is the rabbi and who are these people coming to him? One cannot generalize and extrapolate. And that the Israeli Chief Rabbinate is cracking down is good. There is no doubt that a Halachic Jew will be proven as such, and all the documents and references would be provided.

    Today, thanks to great "kiruv" on the part of Aish HaTorah, Rabbi Marc Angel and others, the term "Sephardic" refers most often to Spanish and Portuguese Gentiles whose families remained in Spain and Portugal as Christians and who are now being mass "converted" to Judaism particularly in Mexico, the Caribbean, and South America. Even Wikipedia defines "Sephardic Jews" this way.

    RaP: Wikipedia is not a source for Halachah! On the contrary they include mostly non-Halachic sources and gentiles can edit as much as anyone. It's like citing a "Shulchan Aruch" concocted by Eisav and Yishmael themselves! As for what Aish HaTorah is doing, their day is coming too. They are notorious for pushing the limits of many things in Yiddishkeit. They are as secretive as any cult and they do enormous amounts of fundraising and are not accountable to anyone. They even have many internal disputes. Rabbi Noach Weinberg has been the subject of controversy, they are still "golden boys" but sooner or later the Charedi world will wake up and it will come as no surprise if the BADATZ will warn them, just as they have put Rabbi Tropper and the EJF on notice. As for Rabbi Angel, he is Modern Orthodox and that is another segment of Klal Yisroel. But what you desribe is very troubling.

    Jews who ARE JEWS from Spain whose families went to Arab countries are intentionally being replaced by "anusim/conversos" as the "true" "Sephardim" because there is a need among Zionists to have more commonality with the Christians who financially support them than the Muslims who surround who neighbor Israel. In order to achieve this, Israel must rid itself of its Levantine Jews and their Arabian culture in favor of those from a culture more palatable to European Christians, ie. the Hispanic/Christian/European "anusim" (sing.= anus). This is unfortunately being played out in every non Syrian Sephardic synagogue in America right now.

    RaP: This is tragic but no-one can control the secular Israeli government. They do not respond to rabbis unless they need their votes in the Knesset. So this matter must be brought to the attention of Rav Ovadiah Yosef who guides SHAS and to the Chasidic and MAFDAL rabbis to get them involved and work to stop this. But there are pressues from everywhere, such as from Reform and Conservative, Russian "Jews", and all sorts. No-one said ikvese demeshichah would be easy.

    "Those who are part of the Jewish people don't need to rejoin it!"

    If any of your children wish to marry in Israel you will need to PROVE Jewish status (even the NY Times magazine printed an article about this 3/2/08).

    RaP: Ok, nothing wrong with that. No doubt any Halachic Jew will come up with all the papers and proofs and references. In any case, Charedim and Chasidim do not need the Israeli government to get their people married as they conduct their own marriages without Israeli governmental involvement. When a Chasidic Rebbe or a Litvish Rosh Yeshiva or Rov agrees to be mesader kiddushin, there has usually been a satisfation that all the parties are Halachically Jewish. You are talking more about people who will rely and seek the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's approval. But this needs better explanation. Can you point to web links that explain this clearly? Thanks.

    Many shadchanim also now require documented PROOF of maternal Jewish lineage back four generations in anticipation of Rabbonim who will not perform marriages otherwise.

    RaP: Ok, this is good, at least some people are taking this matter seriously.

    We were told by the shadchanim we contacted for our daughter to obtain certification of Jewish status from a Beit Din in Brooklyn. For this, the testimony in writing of two Jewish witnesses who know/knew my mother, maternal grandmother and my maternal grandmother's mother would have traditionally been sufficient. But the Rabbis asked additionally for Birth Certificates, Death Certificates, kettubot and family pictures. Just for FYI, my family has been continually observant, Orthodox affiliated and has lived in the same neighborhood for four generations.

    RaP: Ok, but I am sure you feel it is worth the hassles. May H-shem reward all the efforts you put into the mitzvah of marrying off your daughter!

    Please forgive me if I have come off as elitist or dramatic in any way, it is surely not my intention.

    RaP: Not at all. But I think that there are different posters here using the same name. One is like you, more kind and open, the other seems to be more agressive and hasty. Perils of anonymity.

    I was trying to explain that it is easy for American Jews to prove maternal Jewish lineage(ie.my, my mother's and my maternal grandmother's Birth Certificates and grandmother's mother's Death Certificate showing burial by Hevra Chadisha in an Orthodox Cemetery).

    RaP: Ok, just let's stay alive and out of cemeteries for as long as possible, Amen! Tizku lemitzvot!

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  8. Dear RaP:

    "In the Charedi communities of New York, most marriages are within the same type of people even if they marry people from other Charedi communities, so this is just not happening with them."

    My cousin is married to the Satmar Rebbe's nephew. She tells me that they have been redd PLENTY of Chassidic Goyim. I personally know of about a dozen families whose kids attended Satmar schools who are the children of Gentile mothers and Jewish fathers. Don't lull yourself into any false sense of security.

    "Can you point to web links that explain this (procedure for marrying in Israel) clearly? Thanks"

    The best person to contact is Rabbi Seth Farber at ITIM. Things keep changing and Rabbi Farber keeps up.

    "I think that there are different posters here using the same name. One is like you, more kind and open, the other seems to be more agressive and hasty. Perils of anonymity."

    It's me. I have ups and downs like any other human. I get upset and frustrated. I am sorry, it's better when I ask my husband to proof read my posts before I hit "submit". I guess you can tell the difference between the "real" me and the "edited for prime time" me.

    I did also want to mention that I have a lot of family in London, but in the Sephardic community which does not do any conversions. I am not qualified to speak about the Ashkenazic community, however.

    Thanks you for all of your input, prayers and best wishes, I do sincerely appreciate it.

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  9. Recipients and PublicityMarch 5, 2008 at 7:10 PM

    Hi Jersey girl:

    You state: "My cousin is married to the Satmar Rebbe's nephew. She tells me that they have been redd PLENTY of Chassidic Goyim. I personally know of about a dozen families whose kids attended Satmar schools who are the children of Gentile mothers and Jewish fathers. Don't lull yourself into any false sense of security."

    As long as there has been a Klal Yisroel, there have been gentiles who wished to convert to Judaism for all sorts of reasons, in fact or father Avrohom was a convert and he is called Techila Legerim! There are deep and powerful spiritual reasons for why gerim join Klal Yisrael and why they will always be welcome until Mashiach comes and then the doors will be finally closed to gerim.

    Tragically, the traffic the other way has always been greater: There have been far more Jews who wished to become entirely assimilated, dropping their Judaism entirely and many apostasising entirely and becomeing Christians as happened in Germany on a mass scale in the 19th and 20th centuries, and after having married gentiles they and their children have been lost to the Jewish people. Rav Beryl Wein says that if every Jew would have remained being Jewish in hitory, there would actually be Billions of Jews in the world alive today, and not just the few 13 million or so known Jews.

    If a Satmar community of thousands, and they usually only live in communities of thousands, there are some converts or children of converts it is not alarming. Presumably the Satmar communities either did the conversions themselves or they accepted the conversions approved by other batei din.

    At any rate, you are wrong to think in terms of a "water-tight" "goy-proof" Jewish community when there is no such concept in Judaism. What the Syrians did only reveals that they faced a criss of their guys wanting to elope with their gentile secretaries, so that to not accept converts, is, if you will pardon the expression, anti-Torah, because the Torah explicitly instructs Jews to love the ger and if no-one is accepting even righteous gerim then they are going against the Torah's wishes.

    No-one is allowed to be frummer than what G-d requires in the Torah, and until the coming of Mashiach, the door is still open to accepting gerim according to Halachah.

    The issues with EJF and Aish HaTorah's antics is that they are now moving to recruit gentiles in a highly ORGANIZATIONAL way on a MASS SCALE from the clearly grey zones of life; gentiles who are either married to Jews or people like the "Anusim" who have happily worshiped Jesus and the Pope for ten generations and one morning they wake up, see something on national television or read an article and hey presto they decide that they are from "Anusim", call up a local rabbi maybe, and they expect the drums to roll, red carpets spread out, champagne poured and being hailed as herors and that the Jews should welcome them as some lost and given-up-for-dead MIAs who should be greeted as one says hi to your local cousin Barry from Brooklyn. So how nuts is that? but that is what some people and organizations are demanding, as you have amply demonstrated.

    But as for there being children from mothers who were not born Jewish attending Satmar schools, it is hard to imagine that the Satmar rabbis running those schools are acting no differently than principals without principles in some out-of-town Hebrew day school who are taking in all sorts of kids to keep up enrollments and in the face of communal pressures.

    Each case is unique and must be judged on its own merits, and until such time as a beth din or very reliable rabbis get to examine each case, then we give each the benefit of the doubt HERE (after all this is only a blog and not a beth din!) because Judaism is not a cruel religion and is not out to hurt anyone.

    But ultimately, in Torah true Judaism adherence with Halachah is requied and is the key to good results of Jewish life and living, which should waht it's like complying with with any set of life's rules and regulations as a legal matter and process, but should certainly not be the basis to cast aspersions or ridicule on Charedi institutions.

    You also state:
    "I did also want to mention that I have a lot of family in London, but in the Sephardic community which does not do any conversions. I am not qualified to speak about the Ashkenazic community, however."

    This is an honest and important statement because while some Sephardic communities have closed the doors to converts, in itself a "hora'at sha'ah" not really in the spirit of the Torah which allows for conversion to Judaism, you are also to be commended for stating that Ashkenazim have not instituted a blanket ban against accepting converts, which is actually the correct Torah approach (and may seem strange and even ludicrous or reckless to Sepharic Jews).

    Yet, the real dangers in the present, as pointed out, are that there are now some organizations that wish to get involved and help facilitate mass conversions which is out of the question Halachically (aqs evidenced by the example in the Book of Ezra in the Tanach whereby Ezra HaSofer told the intermarried Jews, who are mentioned by name in detail, to get rid of their gentile wives, Ther was no call then for mass conversions and there isn't one now. Mass conversions do NOT work, as can be see from the examaple of the mass conversions of the Khazars to Judaism in the 8th and 9th centuries which died out (see some info at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Khazar#Conversion_to_Judaism_and_relations_with_world_Jewry ), when even the Israeli governement has been blocked by all the Charedi rabbis and most MAFDAL rabbis within Israel from carrying out mass conversions of Russians in the Israeli army or in Israeli society. These blessing in disguise because the Russians couldn't give a damn about religion (unlike American Jews!) and they (i.e. the Russians) just do what they want and live their lives without caring what rabbis or the Israeli governement says in any case (they mistrust all authority). They would like that there would be official CIVIL marriages in Israel devoid of any religion and they may get their way, even some rabbis think it's not the worst thing in the world because it is a terrible idea to impose Halachic guidelines on people who do not keep Halachah (it als leads to doubtful kiddushin in marriages, problems with gittin and consequent mamzerus), they also despise religious Jews of all sorts (they can't fathom American Reform or Conservative Jews who they think are fools for wanting any religion at all) and they would like to eliminate religion from the world altogether (a residue from their Communist past in Russia where religion was mocked and BANNED in the former USSR and its colonies.)

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  10. "If a Satmar community of thousands, and they usually only live in communities of thousands, there are some converts or children of converts it is not alarming. Presumably the Satmar communities either did the conversions themselves or they accepted the conversions approved by other batei din."

    I am not talking about converts. I am talking about men who marry GOYIM and who go to live in Monsey, for example, put their kids in Satmar schools for a few years and then move to another community claiming to be a Satmar going MO.

    NO ONE in the MO community questions whether or not the woman with the Satmar levush is Jewish.

    I just challenged my husband that I could name a dozen families who we have known, Jewish men married to Gentile women who put the kids in Satmar schools for a few years and then moved on to more modern communities where no one even questioned their Jewishness.

    The other "trick" is to Israel for a few years. The kids come back fluent in Hebrew and then you can enroll them in a black hat yeshiva, no questions asked because they are "Israeli".

    I know quite a few of these also.

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  11. Recipients and PublicityMarch 9, 2008 at 10:42 AM

    Hi Jersey girl, see "RaP" responses below to this post.

    You say: I am not talking about converts. I am talking about men who marry GOYIM and who go to live in Monsey, for example, put their kids in Satmar schools for a few years and then move to another community claiming to be a Satmar going MO.

    NO ONE in the MO community questions whether or not the woman with the Satmar levush is Jewish.

    RaP: Ok, so these men are swindlers and frauds and that is something that has happened and does happen all the time. No beis din is absolutely "fool proof" either and the truth is that if one can trick and fool a beis din with fake desires for "sincere" conversion and then years later say "na-na-na-na-na-na-I-tricked-you" then one can certainly fool communities that are less monitered. In these cases they are then left to face G-d alone, because only He is the Dayan Ha'emes (Judge of Truth/Truthful Judge) who can and does ultimately judge these cases of trickery. There are always people who try to cheat and trick and beat "the system" -- tragically, lo aleinu, there are "frum" people who sleep with other men's wives, there are frum people who commit crimes and sins, sometimes even unspeakable ones, so that conspiring and aspiring to bring in gentile wives into Jewish communities is yet another in a series of moral and actual crimes. But generally speaking this can and should be caught if the rabbis and community leaders would be on guard and not be gullible fools. Surely, if they have encountered a few such cases they will watch out for other tricksters. If not, then those rabbis and school prinicipals without principles should be fired.

    You say: I just challenged my husband that I could name a dozen families who we have known, Jewish men married to Gentile women who put the kids in Satmar schools for a few years and then moved on to more modern communities where no one even questioned their Jewishness.

    RaP: You certainly have had an interesting life and it would be safe to say that not everyone could claim such knowledge. Seems that H-shem leads people in the path that they desire, so that if this is your interest, then you will find out more about this. But most Charedi Jews do not come across any of this stuff, even in a lifetime.

    You say: The other "trick" is to Israel for a few years. The kids come back fluent in Hebrew and then you can enroll them in a black hat yeshiva, no questions asked because they are "Israeli".

    I know quite a few of these also.

    RaP: Well, as you say, it's a trick, and no-one can create a system that is entirely trick proof or fool-proof. These kind of tricksters will have a day of reckoning, as the sages say: "Sof ganev letliah" the "end for the thief is the gallows" and "rabbos machshavos belev ish ve'atzas H-shem hi takum" that "many are the thoughts/plans of man, but it is the will of G-d that will be established"!

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  12. I'm surprised how ignorant of halacha many are here. The Rabbi is quoting Sephardic responsa ipsi literis, verbatim. The whole point is to be friendly towards those who are outside of the Jewish community but who in the past had ancestors who belonged to it.

    You don't want to impede their return or embarrass them. The Rabbi is correct and it is a shame that so many have not understood that. The community in Amsterdam would have never existed if it depended on your kind of attitude.

    Conversion is a new process. Most people simply started living as Jews and started living a Torah observant lifestyle. That's how people joined Israel for thousands of years.

    Read some Jewish history before you start quoting sages without any context. My two cents.

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  13. The said...

    I'm surprised how ignorant of halacha many are here. The Rabbi is quoting Sephardic responsa ipsi literis, verbatim. The whole point is to be friendly towards those who are outside of the Jewish community but who in the past had ancestors who belonged to it.
    ==============
    The responsa you are alluding are not contemporary teshuvos. They were written over 500 years ago. The consensus of modern poskim is that they are viewed as non-Jews.

    Your comments indicate a basic ignorance or a willful distortion of history and halacha

    ReplyDelete

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