Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Conversion - Rav Druckman/Halachic debate?

Bartley Kulp's comment to "Conversion - Rav Druckman/"They are Jews"":
To Isaac Balbin, Rav Druckman still has to prove himself on this issue as fa as I understand it. While I might agree with you that calling him an aprikoris is just a tad bit out of reality, he himself admitted that he was relying on minority opinions. Something that is rarely done without a damn good reason. The truth is he is not even a halachic authority. Nor is he recognized as such within the dati leumi world. Moreover he is running a conversion policy in a manner that has never been done before so the onus is with him to prove his point. Outside of the reform and conservative movements nobody is nor have they ever advocated conversions for the sake of combating assimilation.

The only reason that he is getting such support from members of the dati leumi camp is that they feel that rabbi Sherman has attacked all of them. They have not responded with any substantial remarks exept for a lot of cliches. I do not beleive for one second that rav Lichtenstein would marry his children to such converts.I mean the ones who were never shomrei mitzvot. My bet is if such converts became more observant 10 years later he would make them reconvert perhaps l'chumra before he would allow his children to marry these people.

I will take this a step further that if it were rav Lichtenstein who was the head of this conversion committee, he would never opt for this route.

Forget about Rav Lichtenstein for a second, let the question be put to other rabbanim in the daati leumi camp. The question being if one converts without subsequently observing the mitzvot like Shabbos etc.. do we treat them Jewishly or not. I would be surprised if anybody would support Rav Druckman without hesitation. It would also be interesting to pole the RCA, Rav Marc Shapiro, Rav Lichtenstein, Rav Azrieli, etc... if they think that even in light of the current demographic situation should we l'chatchila or otherwise set up special beitei dinim in order to combat assimulation. None of them speak about this.

Rav druckman was handpicked by Ariel Sharon who wanted to get the conversion process sped up. His interests had no regard for halacha whatsoever. He also knew that he could not just push rabbanim around. What he did know was that Rav Druckman would be his man to get the job done the way he wanted it to be. Do you get that? Clergy hand picked by the prime minister. This is not Judaism! This is the Church of England where the Arch Bishops are selected by a committee from the prime minister's office called the Crown Nomination Committee. The whole idea of having a chief rabbi is an English Colonial concept. The Church of England is a government run institution. In essence so is the rabbinate. You might ask what about the descending opinions within the rabbinate. This is irrelevant. At the end of the day the supreme court can be brought in to decide any dispute. This is what is happening now with the conversion issue.

This is why I say that it is time to dissolve the rabbinate. There are those who say that the rabbinate and the status quo are essential for maintaining the Jewish character of the state. However in marrying our religious institutions with the state, we are getting state run Judaism. Now if you think that this is an exaggeration, after all it is anybodies choice whether or not they want to rely on rabbinute hechsherim. Obviously the cheif rabbi cannot tell anybody what shitta to rely on regarding shabbos. Consider this, in the state of Israel rabbinute controls who gets married and by where they get buried. Also they define who is a Jew. I cannot think of more critical areas of Jewish life and the government run rabbinate controls these things. Not community leaders. In the end it will be the Israeli supreme court that is going to decide who is a Jew in Israel, not torah leaders. This is the biggest michshel and the ultimate chillul Hashem.

Are we going to go the way of England? In England successive politically correct governments have appointed a whole generation of egalitarian politically correct clergy. Now the Anglican Church has compromised its previous doctrines and is embracing homosexuality as legitimate. In the race for a Jewish state we have inherited state run Judaism. Good luck to us all!


  1. "I do not beleive for one second that rav Lichtenstein would marry his children to such converts. I mean the ones who were never shomrei mitzvot."

    The psak of Rav Sherman did not make an exception for the ones who were always shomrei miztvot. Also their giur got canceled. See the problem with this psak? Gerei Tzedek, who did everything right, are suddenly, years after their conversion, punished for what "their" Beit Din did in OTHER cases.

  2. Bartley Kulp makes a number of excellent points that are easy to agree with.

    If there is a separation of "shul and State" in Israel, then how can we call Israel the "Jewish State?"

    What would be any more Jewish about Israel than for example, Brooklyn or Queens? (The demographics would be about the same, Jews, Russians, Arabs, Chinese).

    If Israel is not a "Jewish State", but a State where Jews live, then what would be the basis of a Jewish claim to govern ANY Middle Eastern land as Jews comprise less than 1% of the population?

    The basis for Jews to govern a non Jewish state in the Middle East boils down to a UN referendum and surely not a Biblical prescription.

    The UN referendum granted war reparations to the Jewish people from Germany.

    In other words, Germany committed a horrific genocide against the Jewish people. The UN passed a referendum to repay the Jewish people in allowing the Zionists to drive nearly a million Arabs from their homes and confiscate their lands and cities.

    Today we risk the life of every 18 year old Israeli Jew to protect that UN entity that could just as easily be dissolved by referendum as it was formed.

    I think that Bartley Kulp presents an excellent argument in support of "Post Zionistic" ideology.

  3. Have any of Rabbi Druckman's mitzvah observant Gerei Tzedikim presented themselves to any Rabbinical court to have their conversions reinstated?

    A Ger Tzedek who as you say "did everything right" would surely protest and wish to prove the authenticity of his Jewish status before a proper Beit Din.

    How is this different than a couple who discovers their ketuba is possul?

    I have known of several couples who years after their marriages discovered that their Nisuin or kettubot were improperly witnessed or executed. None of them decided to "call it quits" with each other as a couple. All presented themselves to a Rav in an attempt to correct the problem.

    I have not seen any articles about Gerei Tzaddikim, the alleged victims of Rav Sherman, who were striving to convert k'halacha. The only articles I have seen were about totally secular Russians bemoaning the loss of their State benefits.

  4. משה לרמן said...
    The psak of Rav Sherman did not make an exception for the ones who were always shomrei miztvot. Also their giur got canceled. See the problem with this psak? Gerei Tzedek, who did everything right, are suddenly, years after their conversion, punished for what "their" Beit Din did in OTHER cases."

    While it is indeed tragic that this should happen (if that is, in fact, the nature of R' Sherman's psak), the fault lays with the beis din that irresponsibly accepted hundreds of "converts" who never intended to keep mitzvos. When a beis din behaves irresponsibly in this way, it casts question on all its conversions. Even if the psak only invalidates the insincere conversions, every conversion from R' Druckman's beis din will be under suspicion of being invalid.

    Having been personally involved in investigating cases of questionable conversion here in America, there is no question, in my mind, that the guilty parties are, always, the irresponsible Orthodox rabbis that perform conversions without proper attention to halacha. This is what has now happened in Israel, but on a far greater scale.

  5. anonymous said...

    "I think that Bartley Kulp presents an excellent argument in support of "Post Zionistic" ideology."

    This does not a support for post zionist ideology per say. I will admit though that on the surface it would seem to support their agenda though. Enough of post Zionism for now. I will touch on your other points. I am also not advocating a complete divorce between church and state in the American sense of the word.

    First of all you are asking an existential question that without the bible what is our our excuse for dispossessing the Palestinians and being a center trigger for so much conflict? The truth is that there is no justification for it. This is why Ben Gurion sent a message through Aba Ebben to the U.N. on the eve of the vote over partition, that the justification for our presence in the holy land is the bible. Keeping in mind that Ben Gurion was himself an athiest, he was not just trying spin on a potentialy religious audience. The matter was and still is very simple without bringing in divinity. Besides being a book of laws the bible represents the oldest deed of land ownership known to mankind.

    Again this was Ben Gurion who brought up this point before the U.N. and not Chief Rabbi Herzog z'l. In fact all of these things that you are bringing up such as German war reparations, the fact that we could be dissolved by refurendum (although I am not so sure that that is so simplistic) are irregardless of the fact on whether or not our country is a theocracy of any kind. Certainly the U.N. delegates who voted on these issues did not have frum interpretation of halacha or the rabbinate in mind while voting.

    Nor do I think that soldiers when they risk there lives on the battlefield do they declare "G-d save the chief rabbi of Israel."

    The thing is that I think you are mixing up Torah and nationalism. The law of return is essentially a nationalistic law, not a torah one. It is not that much different to the laws that exist in such countries like Germany, Hungary and China. The rabbinate does not have much of a part in the enforcement or carrying out this law. The jewish Agency and the ministry of the interior do. In fact they do so in spite of the rabbinate. Under the law of return individuals of Jewish patrilineage decent and non Jewish spouses can become citizens here. Thus the seeds of todays problem that Rav Druckman was desperately trying to deal with. This is hardly a torah based law and it is unlikely that much will change without a rabbinate.

    You are also forgetting that the most powerful body that can facilitate Jewish identity through education and religious ordinances is not the Rabbinate but the Knesset. In this building the religious parties have a lot of clout.

    Even with all of this said, the heart of the matter is that the ends do not justify the means. It is degrading to the torah to have beiti dinim that are not autonymous and are subject to government pressure. This is in spite of the problems that we are now existentially facing because of the 300,000 non Jewish Russian olim.

    Also consider this, perhaps half of these people will not consider converting anyways. So why are we prostituting ourselves?

  6. Moshe Lerman said...

    "The psak of Rav Sherman did not make an exception for the ones who were always shomrei miztvot."

    I know that. That is why I specified the ones who were never shomrei mitzvot to make my point.

  7. I have just seen your response to my post.

    Firstly, can you please advise where Rav Druckman allegedly said "he was relying on minority opinions". Did he name the opinions?

    Secondly, I do think that on such an important issue, that the metzius is halachically relevant. When I say Metzius, I mean the fact that a Giyur did occur for many people, and that all of these have been scuppered on the grounds that Rav Druckman is an Apikores (which you admit is an argument that does not apply). I do think that bringing up issues of who appointed Rav Druckman is not the issue whatsoever. If eg Rav Zalman Nechemia was appointed by Ariel Sharon, you should presumably be making the same comment about every halachic decision that he would effect. No, the issue is not who appointed Rav Druckman. The issue is not separation of religion and state. The issue is about a Metzius Hanimtzo Lefonaynu.

    You allege that Rav Druckman is not a recognised Posek. I certainly have not asked him Shaylos, nor do I know the nature of his Shimush in Rabonus (do you?) but I have heard over many years that he was the Posek for the B'nei Akiva movement (at least) and I would expect that he has been paskening all his life for a whole range of people across many different topics. I'd expect, for instance, that he's not someone who simply as Yoreh Yoreh. You could argue that he is someone Shehigiya Lehoroh (although I have to admit, I really don't know any details in this regard). Perhaps his worst "crime" has been that he may Pasken according to opinions which aren't "accepted". Rav Abadi's opinions aren't "accepted" seemingly, yet nobody disputes his expertise as a Posek and if a Talmid of Rav Abadi paskens like Rav Abadi, is he acting outside of acceptable Halocho?

    One could also safely assume that Rav Amar would not acede to an Av Beis Din in Giyur who was acting against his understanding of Halocho, and we know that Rav Amar certainly confers with Gedolei Horo-oh outside of the official Rabbinate.

    Now, I also quote the following from Rabbi Seth Kadish (whom I do not know, and I have not asked his permission, although I found this somewhere on the net, so it's at least public)

    I also subsequently found a book he had written here:

    Rabbi Seth Kadish wrote:

    "I noticed quite a few comments recently about the recent conversion controversy. Since my family and I have been deeply and personally involved in the world of Israeli gerut for quite a number of years already, I would like to relay what we have learned from this intense interaction. We have been in many of the "Special Conversion Courts" dozens of times, including once at Rav Druckman's, and been personally involved with a great many gerim. We know a great many of the dayanim involved and have spoken to them personally about the issues. Frankly, we are not interested in getting involved in a debate about the controversy, but we are interested in perhaps clarifying some of the metzius based on our experiences, and the conclusions we have drawn from them. Kabbalas ha-mitzvos: All of the special conversion courts including Rav Druckman's require KHM. There has been a lot of debate recently about the shitah best known from Rav Uzziel, which was shared by Rav Unterman and Rav Goren zt"l (the latter is considered a RZ "gadol" today in Israeli circles), and by Rav Goren's two talmidim, Rav Chaim Druckman & Rav Zephania Drori shlit"a (commonly considered two of today's gedolai Torah in those same circles). It was also the live tradition in many non-Ashkenazic communities (and shared for instance by Rav Chaim David Halevi, in his own right a gadol ba-Torah). This a very important shitah, and a very convincing one in my personal opinion, but all of that is completely besides the point in the recent controversy. The reason is simply that there is simply no court that actually relies on this lekhatechilla (including Rav Druckman's). Period.

    In reality, all of the courts try to find evidence that the prospective convert is keeping Torah and mitzvot in their personal lives. I have seen a great many prospective converts given quite a hard time, including instances where I thought the dayanim went much too far. I have never seen *any* Israeli conversion court that takes its task lightly, and I have been in many different ones. The differences between them are mainly in the personalities of the dayanim, not in the shitos involved, though those differences in personality can be quite significant. In my opinion, most people who are accepted are sincere at the time; they have gone through a long, meaningful process. How many remain observant by common Orthodox standards in the long run is a great deal less, but (contrary to the rumor among Russian-speaking immigrants) there is no "gerut police" and such a thing has no place in any gerut system. There are also political differences between the courts, the most vivid being between Rav Druckman and Rav Rozen (which came out in the most recent controversy). I respect both of them. The point often lost is that the attempt to disqualify Rav Druckman as head of Minhal ha-Giyur means not just to disqualify the single court he headed, but ALL of the non-charedi batei din alike (including Rav Rozen's)! These batei din include gedolei Torah who are among the leaders of religious Zionism and supported by its entire Torah world. Another thing that should be clarified is that Rav Uzziel's shitah has *two* components, not just one: 1. Kabbalat ha-Mitzvot is a matter of accepting responsibility, and not that the beit din acts as some sort of a "frummo-counter". This is the most controversial aspect of it, which has been much debated recently. 2. "Russians" are not "stam goyim". There is a Torah obligation to encourage those with a personal connection to the Jewish people to formally join it through gerut. Especially for people who are born into Jewish families ("zera yisrael"), identify as Jews, and have even suffered anti-Semitism (and quite a few have). Or who are married to Jews. This in not just the opinion of Rav Uzziel and those cited above, but also of many Ashkenazic poskim in modern times such as Rav Azriel Hildesheimer, and is widely accepted (including to the best of my knowledge by the RCA). Despite the widespread discussion of #1, in our experience it is #2 that is truly the motivation for the batei din. The ingathering of the exiles was never promised to be lily-white: The State of Israel has accepted -- rightly and justly -- the surviving remnant of communities that suffered Hitler, Stalin, and 70 years of communism. These included intermarried families and their descendants. It is precisely this point that those who disqualify the RZ batei din most disagree with: The charedim view the recent aliyah of 1,000,000+ Russians as a Torah tragedy rather than as a historical vindication of Netach Yisrael. That is the difference that makes all the difference."

    I have certainly no expertise in this field and I note the conflicting information. This is an issue of such importance that it should not be poisoned by party politics.

    Consider: Rambam, Issurei Bioh 13:14. He is a ger, but "vechosheshin lo ad sheyisba'eir tzidkoso".
    Sounds like a Ger with a question mark when you have reason to suspect the particular Ger. Seems to me they have the benefit of the doubt until we know more? And no, we do not retrospectively extirpate Gerus because a woman might wear pants occasionally or occasionally have her hair uncovered but who is otherwise erlich (I read somewhere that a well known Rov did pasul such a giyores, and I fear that is also the thin edge of a situation where people will be over Lo Sonu Es HaGer with Hiddurim (sic) )

    By the way, on the issue of politics, I have great problems with the idea of a Dayan employed by the State not accepting the hierarchy inherent in that system. It seems to me that you can't have it both ways. Imagine a Rav working for Belz who has a question about the kashrus of something. The Belzer Chief Posek tells that Rav it's okay. That Rav happens to consider Rav X of the Eido Chareidis as the Posek Acharon and discusses it with Rav X and Rav X says it's Trayf according to his opinion. So, the Rav then publishes an article which attempts to show why the product is Trayf and that in the process the Belzer Posek is an Apikores for relying on opinions X,Y and Z. Can you imagine this happening? I would have thought that the sensible thing to do in a situation like that is try and bring the two Poskim together or if that wasn't possible go through the issues as presented by both Poskim and after that, if I felt that the Belzer Poseik's views were not acceptable, to resign my post from the Belzer Hashgocho. I'm not picking on anyone here, it could be OU/KAJ ... fill in the blank.

    Yes, it is true that here things are different because of a political appointment, but again, in such a matter, we must peel away the politics and look at the clean halachic issue.

    I'm not sure that Dayan Sherman's later comment that the great Sefardi Poskim should fall into line with Rav Elyoshiv and Rav Wosner? is a solution either. It smacks of racism, frankly.

    In summary: I don't quite know the basis of Rav Druckman's approach and whether what Seth Kaddish writes is accurate and at the same time I can't accept that Rav Druckman is an Apikores!

    [Apologies, I don't have time to proof-read the above properly]

  8. To Isaac Balbin...
    You brought up interesting points. I will get back to you on Sunday or Monday because I have to get ready for ShabbaT. Shabbat Shalom!

  9. The Jerusalem Post
    Aug 6, 2008 23:17 | Updated Aug 7, 2008 10:17

    "Rabbinic judge urges haredi conversion primacy


    A judge on the High Rabbinical Court who made headlines in recent months for casting doubt on the Jewishness of hundreds of converts called Wednesday on religious Zionist rabbis to recognize the primacy of haredi rabbinical leadership.

    "On questions that deal with the future of the entire Jewish people, the great halachic sages of the generation must be consulted," Rabbi Avraham Sherman said. "I call on religious Zionist rabbis to meet with the great rabbis of our day to reach an agreement on the issue of conversions."

    Sherman said the major Torah sages of this generation were Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv of Jerusalem and Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Vosner of Bnei Brak, and that religious Zionist rabbis were obliged to abide by their opinions.

    Sherman said that even highly respected Sephardi rabbis such as former chief rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Mordechai Eliahu should defer to Elyashiv's halachic decisions regarding conversions.

    Sherman made the comments a day after a group of religious Zionists verbally attack him while he was giving a lecture. Sherman was invited to speak on conversions at the 70th anniversary ceremonies of the Mossad Harav Kook publishing house in Jerusalem on Tuesday night.

    But Sherman was greeted with shouts, catcalls and inflammatory language by supporters of Rabbi Haim Druckman, outgoing head of the National Conversion Authority.

    The Druckman supporters were forcibly removed from the lecture hall. They said their disruption of Sherman's lecture was a form of protest against Sherman's "dishonorable treatment" of Druckman, an educator and rabbinic leader in his 70s.


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