Sunday, June 1, 2008

Conversion crisis - Victory for the Haredim

Haaretz
June 1, 2008

by Avraham Poraz (served as interior minister in the years 2003-2004.)

The state's decision to stop employing Rabbi Haim Druckman, who has for several years headed the special conversion administration designed to expedite and alleviate the conversion process, followed a ruling by the Supreme Rabbinic Court. This court nullified a conversion Rabbi Druckman performed 15 years ago, and its ruling applies in effect to all the conversions performed through Rabbi Druckman's conversion administration, as well as to conversions within the Israel Defense Forces.

These sad developments are part of the struggle raging between Orthodox Zionism - whose approach was reflected in Rabbi Druckman's conversion administration and the one that operated in the IDF - and the ultra-Orthodox. Remember that we are talking about nullifying Orthodox conversions, which are the most strict to begin with.

Israel has more than 300,000 citizens who came to the country under the Law of Return, largely from the Commonwealth of Independent States, but are not considered Jewish according to Orthodox halakha, or Jewish religious law. In keeping with a Supreme Court ruling long ago, anyone who converted overseas in a recognized Jewish congregation, whether Reform or Conservative, is Jewish and is entitled to immigrate to Israel under the Law of Return. Since Israel recognizes only Orthodox conversions performed by the rabbinic establishment (and not even those now), the Reform and Conservative movements began conducting "pop-over conversions" - conversions were performed in Israel, but in converts were sent in the final phase to Reform and Conservative congregations overseas to complete the process.

This maneuver was prompted by the failure of the Neeman Committee's recommendations, accepted by the government back in 1997, to set up conversion institutes in which Conservative and Reform rabbis will officiate alongside Orthodox rabbis, and where the conversion itself will be performed in the final phase at a bet din, or religious court, recognized by the Chief Rabbinate, in other words, Orthodox. However, because of the strict requirements at Orthodox establishment courts, the number of conversions performed on the basis of the Neeman Committee's recommendations and through Rabbi Druckman's conversion administration was very small.

After the Interior Ministry refused to register "pop-over" converts as Jews, those individuals petitioned the High Court of Justice in 1999. When I became interior minister in March 2003, I thought that the Interior Ministry ought to recognize conversions performed by the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel itself, without resorting to the "pop-over" trick. However, my position on this was not included in the state's reply to the High Court. Only after I exerted pressure, in October 2003, on then-attorney general Elyakim Rubinstein, did he agree to present my position to the court as a "personal opinion." [...]

The government should therefore change the decision it made back when the recommendations of the Neeman Committee were adopted, and stipulate that the Interior Ministry register as Jews also people who underwent Reform or Conservative conversion. The appropriate solution of course is civil marriage and divorce, but if that is not possible yet, then the Conservative and Reform movements should be allowed to marry people and end marriages, by means of religious courts to be established by them and recognized by the state.

Granting legal recognition to both of these important streams would put an end to the Orthodox monopoly, and to the sense of alienation and disaffection of hundreds of thousands of Israel's citizens. We cannot rely on conversion administrations of Rabbi Druckman's sort, particularly since the battle over conversion between Orthodox Zionism, as reflected by Rabbi Druckman, and the ultra-Orthodox will end in my opinion with a victory for the Haredim.

10 comments :

  1. Granting legal recognition to both of these important streams would put an end to the Orthodox monopoly.

    I agree. It's neanderthal that it hasn't already happened.

    ReplyDelete
  2. This is why there must be an end to the Rabbinate control of personal status in this country. If people had the freedom to get married with a civil court justice, they would not feel the need to be Jewish. This would save the rabbinical establishment from political pressure towards loosening their standards.

    It would also save Klal Yisrael from the chillul Hashem that political arguments between rabbis cause at the expense of the plebiscite. A milchemet Hashem can also be a chillul Hashem in the wrong time and place.

    ReplyDelete
  3. Liorah Lleucu said...

    Granting legal recognition to both of these important streams would put an end to the Orthodox monopoly.

    I agree. It's neanderthal that it hasn't already happened.
    ============================
    I wasn't aware that whether something was neandrethal was a halachic factor!? Am I correct in concluding that you don't think halacha is relevant to determining the validity of conversion? Assuming that Reform and Conservative conversions are accepted - what is gained? You then have three different and incompatible set of rules for determining Jewish status. Would you accept having Israeli identity cards saying whether you a Reform, Conservative, Orthodox or secular Jew?

    ReplyDelete
  4. Bartley Kulp said...

    This is why there must be an end to the Rabbinate control of personal status in this country. If people had the freedom to get married with a civil court justice, they would not feel the need to be Jewish. This would save the rabbinical establishment from political pressure towards loosening their standards.
    =======================
    Assuming there was no advantage to being Jewish - would you accept a Jewish state in which the majority are not Jewish? Would you give up the Jewish state to keep democracy or would you give up democracy to keep the Jewish state?

    ReplyDelete
  5. Letter written by the renowned Rabbi Chayim Oizer Grodzinski, zt”l of Vilna to Chief Rabbi Dr. Guedemann of Vienna:

    English Translation:

    Your honour knows that in the matter of the Zionists and the Mizrachi, I am in correspondence with the Gaonim of this generation, and all of them, have decided that Zionism is the work of the Sitro Achro with all its seductions and incitements, for the purpose of turning Israel from the good path and, that a great danger arises from it for all the Congregation of the Exile—Heaven forbid—and that all those who venture to defend the Zionists, are no better than they.

    To our shame, some rabbis in our country have joined the Zionists and have founded an organization under the name of Mizrachi, and they have rejected all the rebukes of the Gedoilei Hatorah, and they pretend to be men with respect for the Word of the L-rd.

    They have founded committees and it is likely that they will turn to your honour. I am therefore informing your honour that all the Gedoilim in our land are perplexed at the matter. In the books of the Poskim there is no suggestion that it is our duty to found a kingdom. On the contrary, our sages, the Tenoim and the Amoiroim, have expressly forbidden this. These rabbis of the Mizrachi have no faith, and do not trust in the salvation of the L-rd and their minds have become deranged into believing that in a state founded by the hands of man there will be peace for us.”
    SOURCE: "The Transformation" The Voice of Torah, pp 186-187

    ReplyDelete
  6. Well, if we're offering quotes:

    R’ Moshe Shternbach wrote:
    (תשובות והנהגות ח"ב סי' ק"מ):

    "... ולכן טען אז ואמר (הגרי"ז זצ"ל מבריסק) הרי בכנסיה התאספו רוב גדולי הדור, והקב"ה נוטה בתר רוב, והרי הסכימו על עצם מדינה, רק חלקו אם מותר לוותר על חלקי ארץ-ישראל, ואמר אז (בשנת תרצ"ו) חוששני שיתקיים שהרי אינו קשר רשעים והם מן המנין"


    "And thus he (the Brisker Rav – haGriz) said, in the convention met most of the gedolim of the generation, and Hashem tends to go after the majority, and they all agreed regarding a state in essence, they only disagreed whether it is allowed to give up parts of the land of Israel. And then he said (in 1936) ‘I fear that [the state] will be established since it was not a convention of the wicked and they are counted as part of the congregation."

    ReplyDelete
  7. "Assuming there was no advantage to being Jewish - would you accept a Jewish state in which the majority are not Jewish? Would you give up the Jewish state to keep democracy or would you give up democracy to keep the Jewish state?"

    June 1, 2008 9:13 PM

    To give up democracy in order to keep the Jewish state, eh?

    A Jewish state full of civil discord if not civil war and chillul Hashem(like what we have seen over the past month with the conversion crisis), you can keep your Jewish state.

    Like Bakshi Doron said, the present law in which one must get married through the rabbinate does not get rid of assimulation, however it does increase mamzerus in the population. It is also a red herring with the secular community.

    In my own opinion, a beit din should never be a bureau of the government. The two just do not mix and it puts pressure for the judges to rule in conformance of popular demand or political pressure. This is just a few problems that I have with the status quo.

    ReplyDelete
  8. Dear Bartley Kulp,

    If I understand correctly, it seems what you want is an "America" in the Middle East; that is, not a Jewish State but a State for Jews. It is true that this fulfills the Zionist dream.

    But how does a Levantine "America" fit into the overall culture of the ME?

    Can a completely secular Western style democracy ever even hope to SURVIVE among theocratic religiously conservative neighbors? (Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Palestine are ruled completely by Islamic law. Lebanon does not permit intermarriages. Religious issues have been at the center of Lebanon's ongoing civil war.)

    Muslim leaders often join Haredi leaders in taking a public stance against things that are offensive to both Jews and Muslims(ie.the Gay Parade in Jerusalem).

    http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/782059.html

    I recently read this, on a blog posted anonymously:

    "It is my view and a part of my belief as a Muslim and a believer in the one true G-d that there are no contradictions in any of the traditions I have read extensively Jewish scripts and Rabbinical opinions and Islamic law and actually find a harmony in the teaching on doctrinal level.

    The only differences arise when those who would have us believe they do things in our name respectively are actually pushing a secularist agenda not fulfilling G-ds Will and law.

    The war in Palestine is not Judaism versus Islam but, one set of secularist devils against another set of secularist devils who shroud themselves in the faith of their countrymen to abuse their emotions.

    And let it be quite clear for all to see that Muslims do not hate Jews who keep God's commandments and fear him."

    These sentiments also seem to be reflected in the December open letter from Muslims to Jews:
    "As Muslims and Jews we share core doctrinal beliefs,..... laws and jurisprudence, many significant values and even dietary restrictions. There is more in common between our religions and peoples than is known to each of us.
    http://www.israelenews.com/view.asp?ID=1378

    I bring this up in case others have not considered the political consequences of a Western style Israeli State in which the Rabbinate has no power or control in the traditionally religiously conservative Middle East.

    I think that as Jews we should not forget that 375 million Muslims who live in the countries surrounding Israel consider the secular lifestyle which is forbidden by both Islam and Judaism to be a threat to THEIR way of life as well.

    This is just some "food for thought".

    ReplyDelete
  9. Anonymous Jersey Girl said...

    Letter written by the renowned Rabbi Chayim Oizer Grodzinski, zt”l of Vilna to Chief Rabbi Dr. Guedemann of Vienna:

    English Translation:

    Your honour knows that in the matter of the Zionists and the Mizrachi, I am in correspondence with the Gaonim of this generation, and all of them, have decided that Zionism is the work of the Sitro Achro with all its seductions and incitements, for the purpose of turning Israel from the good path and, that a great danger arises from it for all the Congregation of the Exile—Heaven forbid—and that all those who venture to defend the Zionists, are no better than they."

    You are confusing me Jersey Girl. On the one hand you bring in a source in order to prove that the State of Israel is a product of the sitra achra. This is the position of the Badatz Eidat Hachereidit.

    They believe that zero participation with the state is permissible for torah Yidden. This also precludes being a member of the state run and funded rabbinate. It is a perfectly valid shitta and if that is how you hold that is your entitlement. So why are you questioning my logic in dismantling the rabbinate? Why should you care?

    Now while you are trying to figure out which shitta you subscribe to, there are about five or so, let us address the questions that you asked me.

    You asked, "If I understand correctly, it seems what you want is an "America" in the Middle East; that is, not a Jewish State but a State for Jews. It is true that this fulfills the Zionist dream.

    But how does a Levantine "America" fit into the overall culture of the ME?"

    I wish that all of the Yidden me included will do tshuva and come closer to Hashem's torah. It is easier to makarve people in an open society then it is when you have placed demands on them and control their personal lives.

    By any modern standard the authority of the rabbinate regarding people's personal lives is regarded by the secular here as oppressive and anachronistic. Today's generation has a din of tinnuk sh'b'nishba and they cannot be expected to listen to what the religious have to say hook, line and sinker. All the more so that we should not be surprised that they resent us when we control who they are permitted to marry or divorce. For example in a world that looks down at the cast system India, state legislated discrimination against mamzerim can be viewed outside of the torah world as oppressive. This in itself is a chillul Hashem.

    I am not G-d forbid implying that the rabbi's should change halacha in order to conform to modernity. The torah is eternal as is Hashem. I am saying that we should run things as we do everywhere else. With independent batei dinim. The most important aspect of these batei dinim is their autonomy to posken on issues as they see proper without political intervention.

    You might say that this will lead to intermarriage and mamzerut. Most Israelis who want to get married fly to Cyprus anyway and then use that marriage certificate at the Ministry of interior. Also forcing non religious Jews to marry al pi halacha is a recipe set up for mamzerut.

    "But how does a Levantine "America" fit into the overall culture of the ME?"

    My answer is that I personally do not care. In a region where life is cheap, minorities are terrorized and, or murdered, honor killings condoned, slaves bought and sold, woman treated like chattels, and parents hating their enemies more than they love their children, I am not so certain that we should be trying to embed ourselves through emulation in order to mesh with our surroundings here. At anyrate we are exhorted by the torah and chazal not to emulate the behavior of the surrounding neighbors. So your question regarding fitting in to the fabric of the surrounding society is a stillborn one.

    Now to address your next question. You asked, "Can a completely secular Western style democracy ever even hope to SURVIVE among theocratic religiously conservative neighbors? (Jordan, Syria, Egypt and Palestine are ruled completely by Islamic law. Lebanon does not permit intermarriages. Religious issues have been at the center of Lebanon's ongoing civil war.)"

    First of all over the past sixty years the regimes in these countries at times have barely survive amongst themselves. In many of them their has been violent regime changes and attempts. Nobody has it easy in the middle east. One conclusion that one can make of this though is that to the degree that these countries westernize, the more stable they become (the Ayatolla revolution non - withstanding).

    Also Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and especially Syria are not ruled through Sharia. Lebanon is a perfect example to back up my argument on what can happen to a country that was once lauded internationally for its Leviatan spirit because some outdated status quo laws were being upheld by one part of the population. Does the word "status quo agreement" ring a bell?

    You ascerted, "Muslim leaders often join Haredi leaders in taking a public stance against things that are offensive to both Jews and Muslims(ie.the Gay Parade in Jerusalem)."

    My answer bogus. It only happened once and it was not something that was syncronized. Do not worry, Rav Elyashuv shlita does not have the mufti's personal cell number. It is also kind of ironic that you used that article to prove your point. Could it be that only when the Arabs see us rioting through rock throwing, burning stuff and causing general mayhem that they see in us a sort a kindred spirit? When we act like a bunch of strung out chimpanzees on anfedamines do they then see a reflection of themselves and only then remember that we are the children of Avraham (Ibrahim as they call him)?

    Like I said earlier, the Arab culture is something that I wish not to emulate.

    You then used an example of issues that we could could become close with. Here is an anonymous writer.
    "I recently read this, on a blog posted anonymously:

    "It is my view and a part of my belief as a Muslim and a believer in the one true G-d that there are no contradictions in any of the traditions I have read extensively Jewish scripts and Rabbinical opinions and Islamic law and actually find a harmony in the teaching on doctrinal level.

    The only differences arise when those who would have us believe they do things in our name respectively are actually pushing a secularist agenda not fulfilling G-ds Will and law.

    The war in Palestine is not Judaism versus Islam but, one set of secularist devils against another set of secularist devils who shroud themselves in the faith of their countrymen to abuse their emotions.

    And let it be quite clear for all to see that Muslims do not hate Jews who keep God's commandments and fear him."

    These sentiments also seem to be reflected in the December open letter from Muslims to Jews:
    "As Muslims and Jews we share core doctrinal beliefs,..... laws and jurisprudence, many significant values and even dietary restrictions. There is more in common between our religions and peoples than is known to each of us.
    http://www.israelenews.com/view.asp?ID=1378

    I know a lot of Arabs and I find his opinion highly unusual. The only thing that I will agree about with this lone man's assesment is that this is not a war between Judaism and Islam. I would say though that it is a war between Yishmael and the Jews. At anyrate he is just one in 375 million Arabs. The person who blew up bus#2 in Jerusalem and the man who murdered the students in Mercaz Harav knew no such respect for torah Jews. Most muslim fanatics do not. Again, the only religious Jews that most of these maniacs respect are the ones who are willing to call them master.

    As far as I see it, the best way to keep our society strong is through mutual respect for each other. This will help maintain the edge that we have over their (the Arabs) society.

    ReplyDelete
  10. I would like to post a correction. I wrote "Most Israelis who want to get married fly to Cyprus anyway and then use that marriage certificate at the Ministry of interior."

    What I meant to say is that most Israelis who cannot get married through the rabbinate can fly to Cyprus. Not most Israelis who just want to get married.

    ReplyDelete

ANONYMOUS COMMENTS WILL NOT BE POSTED!
please use either your real name or a pseudonym.