Friday, March 21, 2008

Eternal Jewish Family Conference in Argentina

The EJF will soon be having a conference in Argentina. I would appreciate receiving reports from those who attend as to what is said and decided there.

I would also like feedback as to the impact the ruling of the Bedatz against participlation in EJf has had.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Valid conversions are not always good for the Jewish people - Rabbeinu Bachye


[translated by R' Eliyahu Munk]

Rabbeinu Bachye[1](Devarim 21:14):. The sequences of our passages in this chapter are reminiscent of Isaiah 24,18 where the prophet tells us that when one has managed to escape one kind of terror, one will find oneself entrapped by a different kind of trap. The sum total of the moral/ethical teaching of these verses is that even marriages which are permitted by the Torah are not necessarily suitable union;. The marriages to prisoners of war are a prime example of such unions. Even though the women in question have converted to Judaism! This is not considered a complete (ideal) conversion. It is assumed that the woman in question converted out of fear, i.e. physical fear of otherwise being executed. Even when someone volunteers to become a proselyte with no pressure from any cases which we can detect, the sages (Yevamot 47) have instructed the judges performing the conversion to carefully examine the prospective proselyte’s background to determine if he or she is converting for ulterior motives, i.e. Not because of genuine religious conviction. Money, position, etc., may an be reasons which attract a Gentile to become Jewish. In the case of males more likely than not they have their eyes on a Jewish girl whom they wish to marry. Judiasm is different from other religions which are soul snatchers, missionary by definition. The reason is that we are a rational religion, not one which wishes to embrace all of mankind. Some of the other religions, Islam in particular, are imbued with th fervor to ram their beliefs down the throats of people whom they perceive to be pagans. Sometimes all kinds of enticements, both material and spiritual, are offered to the potential convert in order to get him to embrace a particular new fath. This is what Daniel already prophesied about (Daniel 7,20) “and a mouth speaking haughty words.” Daniel 7,25 also deals with the same phenomenon describing efforts at converting others to one’s belief being made my leaders of religious cults. In Daniel 11,36 Daniel harps on the same subject once more. Once the prospective convert to Judaism has been checked out and no ulterior motives have been discovered which would make us doubt his sincerity, he is advised of the yoke of Torah legislation and what is implied by joining the Jewish people. (Maimonides Hilchat Issurey Bi-ah 13,14). All of this is designed to make the prospective convert reconsider his plans to become Jewish. During the reign of David prospective converts were rejected as it was suspected that these converts were inspired by fear of the growing power of the Jewish state. In Solomon’s time they wele also not accepted as it was suspected that they were motivated by the affluence and security offered by King Solomon’s empire. (compare Maimonides Hilchot Issurey Bi-ah 13,14-15) Despite these rulings, there were many converts during the reign of David and Solomon, and once local courts had conducted such conversions and the converts had undergone ritual immersion the higher courts did not revoke these conversions. Although Solomon who married numerous women of pagan ancestry converted all them of.them prior to marrying them, and Shimshon too did not marry until after the lady had been converted, seeing these conversions were due to ulterior motives, scripture continues to describe the women in question as if they had remained Gentiles and sleeping with them was forbidden. The outcome of these “marriages.. testifies to the fact that they were flawed from the beginning. The Book of Kings accuses Solomon of building altars for the former deities his various foreign-born wives served, although he personally did nothing of the sort. The fact that he did not interfere with such goings on is placed at his doorstep. (compare Kings I chapter 11) our sages in Yevamot 47 that converts are as serious a plague for our sages in Yevamot 47 that converts are as serious a plague for the Jewih people as is the dreaded skin disease tzoraaat. The reason for this attitude is that experience has shown that the majority of converts abandoned their former religion only because of material advantages to be attained by becoming Jewish. Not only that, these converts have a habit of leading natural born Jews astray. Once these people have become legal converts. The first time such converts led the natural born Jews astray was during the episode of the golden calf, whereas a short time later the same thing occurred in Numbers 11,4 when.a group of peop\e described by Ihe Torah as asafsaf instigated the craving for meat which resulted in misearble death. Sifri Behaalotcha 86 attributes all this to these converts. Time and again such fair-weather converts have become the bane of our people. Just as we learned from the order in which these last few paragraphs have been arranged that one sin brings in its wake another sin, we can learn from another sequence of paragraphs that one commandment meticulously observed will bring in its wake the fulfillment of other commandments.



[1] רבנו בחיי (דברים כא:יד): ונסמכה לפרשה זו של יפת תואר פרשת כי תהיין לאיש שתי נשים האחת אהובה והאחת שנואה, ללמדך שאשת יפת תואר זו לא התירה התורה אלא בקושי גדול, ולא דיברה תורה אלא כנגד יצר הרע, שהרי לסוף הוא שונא אותה, ואם יש לו בן ממנה יהיה בן סורר ומורה, לכך סמך לה כי יהיה לאיש בן סורר ומורה, וכן מצינו בדוד שלקח את מעכה בתו של תלמי מלך גשור בצאתו למלחמה יצא ממנו אבשלום שבקש להרגו, ושכב עם נשיו לעיני כל ישראל, ועשה כמה מחלוקת בישראל ונהרגו על ידו אלפים ורבבות מישראל. ועוד היה בזה מדה כנגד מדה, הוא חטא בבת שבע ונענש באבשלום בנו שהוא בנו של בת אל נכר, הוא שכתוב (שמואל ב יב, יא) הנני מקים עליך רעה מביתך. וסמיך ליה עוד פרשת וכי יהיה באיש חטא משפט מות והומת, ללמדך שאם ינצל מן הפחד ילכד בפח:

ולמדנו מתוך סמיכות פרשיות אלו שעבירה גוררת עבירה, שהרי נישואין הללו אינן ראוין, ואף על פי שנתגיירה אין זה גירות שלמה שלא עשתה כן אלא מיראה ומפחד החרב, שאפילו מי שבא להתגייר מעצמו אמרו חז"ל (יבמות מז.) שבודקין אחריו שמא בשביל ממון הוא מתגייר או בשביל שררה שיזכה בו או בשביל הפחד או בשביל חשק, ואם הוא איש שמא נתן עיניו באשה יהודית ואם היא אשה שמא עיניה נתנה בבחור מבחורי ישראל, זה דרך תורתנו, לא כשאר התורות שמחזרין אחר האומות ורוצים להרחיב אמונתם בהם, זו באה לנצח ולהתגבר בכח החרב לכל מי שימאן להאמין, וזו באה לנצח בכח הדברים ודברי חלקות ופתויין ויחפאו על ה' דברים אשר לא כן, והוא שהתנבא עליהם דניאל ופם ממלל רברבן (דניאל ז, ח), וכתיב (שם, כה) ומלין לצד עלאה ימלל וגו', ויסבר להשניה זמנין ודת, כלומר שיחשוב לשנות המועדים והתורה שלנו ולא יעלה בידו, זהו לשון ויסבר, וכתיב עוד (שם יא, לו) ועל אל אלים ידבר נפלאות. ואחר שבודקין אחריו ואין מוציאין לו עילה, מודיעין אותו עול המצוות והטורח שיש בעשייתן כדי שיפרוש:

ולפיכך לא קבלו גרים בימי דוד ושלמה, בימי דוד שמא מן הפחד חזרו, בימי שלמה שמא מחמת המלכות והטובה שהיו בה ישראל חזרו, שכל החוזר מן האומות בשביל דבר מהבלי העולם אינו מגרי הצדק, ואף על פי כן היו הגרים בימי דוד ושלמה הרבה, והיו בית דין הגדול חוששים להם, לא דוחין אותן אחר שטבלו מכל מקום, ולא מקבלין אותן עד שתראה אחריתן. ולפי שגייר שלמה נשים ונשאן, וכן שמשון גייר ונשא, והדבר ידוע שלא חזרו אלא בשביל תליית דבר ולא על פי בית דין גיירום, חשבן הכתוב כאילו הן נכריות ובאיסורן עומדות. ועוד שהוכיח סופן על תחילתן שהן היו עובדות העבודה זרה שלהן ובנו להן במות, והעלה עליו הכתוב כאילו הוא בנאן, שנאמר (מלכים א יא, ז) אז יבנה שלמה במה. ולכך דרשו חז"ל (יבמות מז ע"ב) קשים גרים לישראל כנגע צרעת, שרובן חוזרין בשביל דבר ומטעין את ישראל, וקשה הדבר לפרוש מהן אחר שנתגיירו, ובכל מקום מצינו שהיו הגרים לישראל סיבה למכשולות ונזקים, במדבר במעשה העגל ערב רב היו סיבה, וכן בשאלת הבשר והאספסוף אשר בקרבו (במדבר יא, ד), אלו הגרים, הם היו תחילה לכל הרעות וראשית מדון:

Friday, March 14, 2008

Where is the letter from HaRav Amar shlita that converts for the sake of marriage will be accepted in Israel?

Jersey Girl said...

[amicusEJf (the defender of Eternal Jewish Family) asked:]

"Are you suggesting that - ex post facto - the Bedatz would not accept the gerus of an intermarried spouse that had been performed under the auspices of R' Smuel Eliezer Stern, for example, of R' Wosner's Beis Din? Has this actually ever happened?"

A number of young men and women from our community who are the children of women who were converted for marriage have gone to learn in Israeli yeshivas and seminaries. From what I have personally seen, none were eligible to marry a Jew in Israel and were explicitly told so.

The only shidduchim I have seen among these families have been with others in the same boat. There are very few observant Jewish men who would marry a woman who is not accepted as a Jew in Israel.

I have also been told by my own Rav in Israel that I may not make shidduchim for people who are offspring of women converted for marriage, even with others in the same situation.

Do you know if any of the children of women converted for marriage by Rav Wosner or Rav Stern have been able to marry in Israel?

I personally think that it is very misleading if American Rabbis will perform conversions that will not be accepted in Israel. If you are not a Jew in Israel, what good is the conversion?

Thursday, March 13, 2008

amicus EJF's defense of Eternal Jewish Family II

amicusEJF wrote:


Dear R' Eidensohn, shlita,

It's late and I am accompanying a close relative to surgery tomorrow morning, but let me try to hit a couple points now.

1) You wrote about the importance of sampling the visceral substrate in limited quantities.

I think you are right, as long as it is clearly labeled as such, which is indeed what you did with the original carmella corleone post. I think, however, that there was a week in which you presented RaP posts that stretched or violated this standard. We must remember that this blog does not exist in a vacuum; it exists in the blogosphere, which is a pretty foul place. Too much of that visceral substrate and this becomes a blog like any other blog. I can't imagine that Rav Moshe Shternbuch would sanction that under any circumstances.

2) Speaking of Rav Shternbuch, shlita: There are two parts of your list that I studiously avoided mentioning. One was the quote from Rav Shternbuch and the other was R' Tropper's criticism of you on the Abarbanel. I didn't feel and I don't feel that a public forum such as this blog is the place for these kind of things. Bemechilas kevodcha haram, I don't feel that publishing the quote from RMS is ultimately bekovodig towards him. As far as R' Tropper and RMS, I have to do some further checking. As far as his criticism of you on the Abarbanel, I have already taken that up with him directly.

I will say, though, that I disagree with the way you presented the Abarbanel's view. It's been a while since I went through it, but I do remember seeing a significant inaccuracy in that post. But that will have to wait for another time.

3) Burden of proof. I stand by what I wrote. It seems to make a lot of sense to me.

But you added something interesting: "The Bedatz represents an important group – whether you agree with them or not – whose acceptance or rejection clearly impacts the degree that the slogan “universal acceptance” is true. EJF can’t claim universal standards and then say to any part of the Jewish world - “I don’t have to justify myself to you because I really don’t care what you think – and I don’t care if you accept my conversions.” Universal standards which are only accepted by a part of the Orthodox world – are not universal standards! Isn’t that obvious?"

Are you suggesting that - ex post facto - the Bedatz would not accept the gerus of an intermarried spouse that had been performed under the auspices of R' Smuel Eliezer Stern, for example, of R' Wosner's Beis Din? Has this actually ever happened?
---------------------
amicusEJF added...

Sorry, I pushed the Publish button before I was done [and before I could proofread what I wrote]. Perhaps, though, I should stop here and carry on tomorrow.


Tuesday, March 11, 2008

Eternal Jewish family's anonymous and unofficial defender promises to answer my criticism

Responding in the calm, respectful and intelligent manner which has characterized all of his correspondence, the anonymous unofficial defender of Eternal Jewish Family - amicusEJF - promises to reply to my criticism of Eternal Jewish Family.

This was received yesterday - March 10, 2008
Anonymous amicusEJF said...

Dear R' Eidensohn, shlita,
Thank you for your thoughtful reply. I apologize that I cannot reply in a timely fashion since there are several other matters demanding my attention right now. I hope to do so later today.

I really don't understand why their champion has to be anonymous and unofficial. It certainly conveys the message that they have something to hide. Alternatively it implies that they view criticism as a sign that the critic is deviant or at least motivated by the dark forces and therefore they are afraid of contamination.

Much of my criticism is related to the lack of transparency of EJF's operation. Given the high power public relations people they have access to it is astounding that they are doing such a poor job of public relations. Their web site is a prime example of ineffective and misleading information. I appreciate that they took it down and have tried to fix it - but they still are missing the point of a web site. It has improved in one major issue. They took down the incredible videos which justified conversion as a step to greater psychological family health or providing a basis for the non-Jewish father to share the experience of going to shul with his daughter or reducing the tension from a disapproving mother-in-law who doesn't want a non-Jewish daughter-in-law. These videos clearly conveyed the unfortunately message that conversion is a pragmatic psychological and sociological alternative and has little to do with sincere interest in Judaism and keeping mitzvos.

Thursday, March 6, 2008

Response to AmicusEJF's criticisms of my blog and defense of EJF

AmicusEJF wrote:


”… I disagree with your decision to allow the carmella corleone post. I was also very disappointed with your decision to post that negative piece on Dr. Kaplan. I was very turned off from that and you may have noticed that I have barely commented since then. I believe that once you allow such supermarket tabloid style discussion, you have lowered the level of the blog to where many Jewish blogs are: in the gutter.”

I am sorry that the comments on this blog offend you. As I have alluded to before – there are basically two types of posting – one which records facts or opinions which purport to describe reality. As you yourself note this is an accurate description of most of what is posted on this blog. On the other hand there are postings here which convey the emotional reality or visceral substrate. I think that this has to be sampled also – though in only in limited quantities. This point is relevant to your subsequent comments.

You say: Why does EJF rely on anonymous spokesmen? ... In other words are these individuals actual spokesmen who are in fact representing Rabbi Tropper - but he doesn't want their identity revealed?

Speaking for myself, while I am a friend of EJF, and a volunteer who tries to help out with some things, R' Tropper has not sent me as a spokesman. Quite the opposite, he has questioned the usefulness of commenting on blogs and trying to correct errors and misimpressions on a blog. Since I have followed your [R' Eidensohn's] work over some years [Yad Moshe, Yad Yisroel, Daas Torah, many Avodah forum postings], I have a great respect for you. I thought that, even though this is a blog, it is different: It is R' Eidensohn's blog. It may be a house in a slummy neighborhood, but it is a talmid chacham's house. But then I saw that long innuendo-filled post against Dr. Kaplan, and I said to myself: Maybe, R' Tropper was right. And as I type these words in the "Leave your comment" box just to the left of carmella corleone's miasmic jeers, I don't know if I will comment here too much longer. And that is a shame, because I think there is value in answering sincere questions about EJF and in learning from valid criticisms.

While you seem to debate by the Marquis of Queensbury’s rules – Rabbi Tropper does not. While you speak in righteous indignation about the mud being slung at Rabbi Tropper and company – you don’t seem to be bothered by the mud he slings. Your defensive reading of his slur against me regarding my citation of the Abarbanel in my sefer Daas Torah – was a creative reading – but patently missed the point. I also sent you a copy of the correspondence I had with him. It was surely cut of the same cloth as those posts you found offensive when directed at Eternal Jewish Family. Yet you haven’t expressed any concern about them. You might also note in the correspondence that I informed Rabbi Tropper that he had written an inappropriate letter to Rav Sternbuch. He said he would send an apology. Last time I checked Rav Sternbuch had not received it. Perhaps you might remind him. Or are you saying that slinging mud is permitted in emails but not on blogs?

In sum – Rabbi Tropper is a tough political fighter and sometimes the offense he causes can best be dealt with by responses in kind. I personally do not question his motivation and sincerity – but other sincere individuals clearly do.

So let's return, in the meantime, to your post. You write: Or are they self-appointed representatives because Rabbi Tropper doesn't feel the need to explain the true nature of his operations... why doesn't Rabbi Tropper want to clarify and justify what he is doing? Well, clarify and justify to whom? To this blog? As explained above, he questions the utility of that, and with carmella on my screen, I can't say he's wrong. To the Bedatz? There I think you have a good point. If he were seeking the Bedatz's haskomah, then it would be incumbent upon him to clarify and justify his operations to their satisfaction. [I have no idea if that was ever attempted, but judging from what you have written, I would assume not.] On the other hand, if the Bedatz wants to publish an opinion on the EJF, I would suggest that, as part of their derishah and chakira, they or their people would call up talmidei chachamim who are heavily involved with EJF's operations, such as Rav Reuven Feinstein or Rav Shmiel Eliezer Stern of Rav Wosner's Beis Din, to understand what the clarifications and justifications are. This may have happened, I don't know. They may have not been satisfied with these and decided to oppose EJF. That is their prerogative.

I find it rather strange that EJF feels the burden of proof is on those who question them. When a major innovation is introduced into a mesora based society – the obligation is on the innovator to justify it. Why is it only necessary to respectfully communicate when seeking a haskomah? EJF’s widely trumpeted goal is universally accepted conversion.” The Bedatz represents an important group – whether you agree with them or not – whose acceptance or rejection clearly impacts the degree that the slogan “universal acceptance” is true. EJF can’t claim universal standards and then say to any part of the Jewish world - “I don’t have to justify myself to you because I really don’t care what you think – and I don’t care if you accept my conversions.” Universal standards which are only accepted by a part of the Orthodox world – are not universal standards! Isn’t that obvious?

To clarify and justify to the public at large? Well, that's exactly what I am trying to do here unofficially. Officially, they have printed a two-page spread in Hamodia and reprinted it in the Jewish Press. Also, they are working on redoing their website. My hope is that, one day, you should be able to find the clarifications and justifications you seek over there. But that two page spread was important. I suggest that you make a pdf file of it and make it available here.

Why is a public relations campaign in the Jewish Press considered a desirable part of EJF’s public relations – but satisfying the Bedatz’s legitimate concerns is not? If you have a pdf of the ad I would like to see it and maybe would even put it on this blog – but I would like it even more if there was a delegation sent to the Bedatz to calmly discuss what is going on.

You write about: to pursue or activiely persuade someone to convert and spending millions of dollars to persuade the nonJewish spouse to convert.

This is old ground. I have already written that these are moot points since EJF is not the first contact for gerus candidates. EJF deals only with referrals. Call them up and pretend to be a goy wishing to convert. They will send you to a local Rav. It is the local Rav or kiruv worker who must deal with the issues of rebuffing, admitting or pursuing a candidate for gerus. There is a lot to be said on that, but it's all moot as far as EJF's own programs.

This is indeed old ground and unfortunately your answers have not satisfactorily answered these questions. As has been pointed out there is an significant dissonance between what Rabbi Tropper claims he is doing and what other evidence describes.

On that point, I must add that although you write I was also given the astonishing response of "Why is it prohibited", you wrote above that you agreed that there was no prohibition!

Here it is:

In a recent intensive exchange of e-mails, I asked Rav Tropper the halachic rulings of Rav Moshe Feinstein he claims as the basis for EJF’s activities. His response was, “Why do you think it is prohibited?” This is an astounding justification for a radical break with the past. While in fact it is not explicitly prohibited – this radical innovation of spending millions of dollars to convince non‑Jews to convert presents serious dangers to the Jewish people. It requires acceptance or rejection through scholarly discussion in peer-reviewed responsa - as innovations have been justified in the past.

Daniel Eidensohn Ph.D.

Now, I agree with your point that those who reach out to gentiles in intermarriages spouses [not EJF, not EJF] need to explain what seems to be a radical innovation. But you yourself admit that they are not doing away with an explicit prohibition. That is a valid subject for discussion. Is an intermarried gentile better than a stam goy in this respect, or perhaps worse, as I suspect the Bedatz holds. Please call Rav Reuven Feinstein to discuss this [and other matters] with him. Please don't answer that you demand a written teshuvah and until he sends one out, you will not go to him. Please don't let it be a situation of "Hatziree ein biGilad, im rofei ein sham."

I can’t believe a yeshiva educated Orthodox Jew would be making the above statement. Since when are major changes in conversion so lightly justified? I cited Rav Chaim Ozer and Rav Moshe Feinstein and Rav Menashe Klein strongly disapproving of this procedure – even though there is no explicit issur. Similarly there are other poskim such as the Tzitz Eliezar who object to it. Again your insistence that EJF is not proselytizing is belied by the material I have collected on my blog as well as the interview Rabbi Tropper gave to Mishpacha magazine. I don’t see that it is appropriate for me to be the intermediate between Rav Reuven Feinstein and the Bedatz. Why can’t Rav Reuven Feinstein – who is the official director of EJF – simply write a response and send it to the Bedatz?

Now, you have an excellent point in that quote in Hebrew Mishpocha. Could you please provide the Hebrew original before I pursue that further? I have covered several points here, directly or indirectly, and I hope that helps you and others understand EJF's stance, at least to the degree that I understand it.

Kol tuv, amicusEJF

I am surprised that you can’t get a copy from Rabbi Tropper. Again I do not find your explanation – and it is just your explanation not that of Rabbi Tropper – satisfactory. If R’ Tropper can’t provide the text I will – bli neder- scan the material.

U.K. Jewish school sued for barring pupil over conversion

The following excerpt was found in Haaretz at the following link


http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/961550.html

A British couple is suing the largest and oldest Jewish high school over the school's refusal to accept their son as a student because his mother did not convert in an Orthodox ceremony.

The case, now before the High Court in London, has attracted wide media attention in the U.K. and is a source of contention in the Jewish community.


Most of the 1,900 students in the Jewish Free School (JFS), founded in 1732, do not come from Orthodox homes. Nevertheless, the school is identified with the central stream of British Jewry, the United Synagogue, which accepts the authority of the London Beth Din, or rabbinic court. The London rabbinic court is considered more strict on matters of conversion than rabbinic courts in Israel.

The parents, who have remained anonymous, describe as racist and illegal the school's refusal to accept their son because his mother was converted to Judaism in a Conservative ceremony. They say this is racist and illegal because the school receives government funding.

Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The crisis is now. It is worse than you imagined!

Jersey Girl wrote:

Dear RaP,

Thank you for responding to my post. I must admit that my family have become quite fond of your "blog persona".

A few things I would like to discuss a bit more however:

1."even intermarried Jews identify as Jews. "

This is the problem. We have LOTS of Goyim running around with Jewish sounding surnames. Many identify with Reform and some identify with Orthodox. Many will marry other Jews. This is an intermarriage no different than any other.

It has been estimated by some Orthodox Rabbis that as many as HALF of all ORTHODOX affiliated families in the US are personally affected by the Rabbinute's recent decisions regarding Diaspora conversions. The conversions that are being rejected are those that were done to permit intermarriage, most often a Jewish man and a Gentile woman. The Gentile children and grandchildren of these men can never convert according to many Rabbis.

This poses a HUGE problem for Rabbi X's daughter who is married to a young man, one of a large family, all of whom attended yeshiva but whose maternal grandmother is an Episcopalian. The parents thought "it will just be our little secret" when the mother put on a sheital and enrolled her kids in a black hat yeshiva.

Now there are two Rabbis whose daughters are married to these Goyim (no conversion by anyone) and one of their daughters is a Rebbetzin. Three of the marriages in that family have already been annulled. Now what happens to the young ladies who find out that they have to divorce the Gentile husbands they have been deceived into marrying and the children they will have to raise alone? What about the young men who will have to pay child support for the next 18 years for Gentile children that they were deceived into fathering?

I am personally close to FOUR families who are now facing this because their frum children married people who are not Jewish k'halacha, who are not Jewish in Israel and who are not eligible to convert to become a Jew in Israel.

(One of these is my youngest brother, another my cousin and two others are Rabbis with whom our family is close. Additionally I know two other Rabbis whose children's marriages were recently annulled because they found out during the Sheva Brachot that the spouse was a Gentile).


2. The majority of religious young men all go to work.

Please give them my contact info. Rabbi Eidensohn has it. I have a house full of daughters to marry off and it is enough that we support our own family let alone several more. So far all of the young men I am getting from the shadchanim only want to be supported whether or not they are learning.

3. "secular families must budget even more for the college education of their kids".

We have to pay to educate ours too whether they learn in Israel, go to college or continue in Yeshiva.

4."Rabbi Eidensohn is doing "whistle blowing leshem shomayim" and asking the kind of questions many people have in the backs of their minds when they come across the topic of EJF"

For sure, but I bet that if the Kaplans find out about who the Bedatz is and why they assured EJF they will be inclined to spend more on panthers and kidney disease (please its in my family too) and less on proselytizing Gentiles married to Jews. That would CERTAINLY cut into Rav Tropper's "bread" and "butter".

5. "you are getting caught up with and flying away with your own rhetoric".

You are right, I am sorry and please forgive me. My yetzer hara won out and I started to enjoy myself a little too much with the Godfather lines. I am sadly guilty of lowering the bar on this blog and will leave it to you RaP to restore the dialogue to the honorable and scholarly level it had previously attained. I will reserve my childish jokes for my children who would like me to put them to sleep right now.

Thank you again for everything you have been teaching us by contributing to this blog.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Friend of EJF unofficially responds. Criticizes "supermarket tabloid style" comments on blog

amicusEJF wrote:


Dear R' Eidensohn, shlita,

If anyone from EJF gives you an orange you can be sure that it will be a healthful fruit, free of any chashash or orlah, tevel or sheviis, and given to you in the respectful spirit of hameivi doron l'talmid chacham.

That said, I disagree with your decision to allow the carmella corleone post. I was also very disappointed with your decision to post that negative piece on Dr. Kaplan. I was very turned off from that and you may have noticed that I have barely commented since then. I believe that once you allow such supermarket tabloid style discussion, you have lowered the level of the blog to where many Jewish blogs are: in the gutter.

You say: Why does EJF rely on anonymous spokesmen? ... In other words are these individuals actual spokesmen who are in fact representing Rabbi Tropper - but he doesn't want their identity revealed?

Speaking for myself, while I am a friend of EJF, and a volunteer who tries to help out with some things, R' Tropper has not sent me as a spokesman. Quite the opposite, he has questioned the usefulness of commenting on blogs and trying to correct errors and misimpressions on a blog. Since I have followed your [R' Eidensohn's] work over some years [Yad Moshe, Yad Yisroel, Daas Torah, many Avodah forum postings], I have a great respect for you. I thought that, even though this is a blog, it is different: It is R' Eidensohn's blog. It may be a house in a slummy neighborhood, but it is a talmid chacham's house.

But then I saw that long innuendo-filled post against Dr. Kaplan, and I said to myself: Maybe, R' Tropper was right. And as I type these words in the "Leave your comment" box just to the left of carmella corleone's miasmic jeers, I don't know if I will comment here too much longer. And that is a shame, because I think there is value in answering sincere questions about EJF and in learning from valid criticisms.

So let's return, in the meantime, to your post. You write: Or are they self-appointed representatives because Rabbi Tropper doesn't feel the need to explain the true nature of his operations... why doesn't Rabbi Tropper want to clarify and justify what he is doing?

Well, clarify and justify to whom? To this blog? As explained above, he questions the utility of that, and with carmella on my screen, I can't say he's wrong.

To the Bedatz? There I think you have a good point. If he were seeking the Bedatz's haskomah, then it would be incumbent upon him to clarify and justify his operations to their satisfaction. [I have no idea if that was ever attempted, but judging from what you have written, I would assume not.] On the other hand, if the Bedatz wants to publish an opinion on the EJF, I would suggest that, as part of their derishah and chakira, they or their people would call up talmidei chachamim who are heavily involved with EJF's operations, such as Rav Reuven Feinstein or Rav Shmiel Eliezer Stern of Rav Wosner's Beis Din, to understand what the clarifications and justifications are. This may have happened, I don't know. They may have not been satisfied with these and decided to oppose EJF. That is their prerogative.

To clarify and justify to the public at large? Well, that's exactly what I am trying to do here unofficially. Officially, they have printed a two-page spread in Hamodia and reprinted it in the Jewish Press. Also, they are working on redoing their website. My hope is that, one day, you should be able to find the clarifications and justifications you seek over there. But that two page spread was important. I suggest that you make a pdf file of it and make it available here.

You write about: to pursue or activiely persuade someone to convert and spending millions of dollars to persuade the nonJewish spouse to convert.

This is old ground. I have already written that these are moot points since EJF is not the first contact for gerus candidates. EJF deals only with referrals. Call them up and pretend to be a goy wishing to convert. They will send you to a local Rav. It is the local Rav or kiruv worker who must deal with the issues of rebuffing, admitting or pursuing a candidate for gerus. There is a lot to be said on that, but it's all moot as far as EJF's own programs.

On that point, I must add that although you write I was also given the astonishing response of "Why is it prohibited", you wrote above that you agreed that there was no prohibition!

Here it is:
In a recent intensive exchange of e-mails, I asked Rav Tropper the halachic rulings of Rav Moshe Feinstein he claims as the basis for EJF’s activities. His response was, “Why do you think it is prohibited?” This is an astounding justification for a radical break with the past. While in fact it is not explicitly prohibited – this radical innovation of spending millions of dollars to convince non‑Jews to convert presents serious dangers to the Jewish people. It requires acceptance or rejection through scholarly discussion in peer-reviewed responsa - as innovations have been justified in the past.

Daniel Eidensohn Ph.D.

Now, I agree with your point that those who reach out to gentiles in intermarriages spouses [not EJF, not EJF] need to explain what seems to be a radical innovation. But you yourself admit that they are not doing away with an explicit prohibition. That is a valid subject for discussion. Is an intermarried gentile better than a stam goy in this respect, or perhaps worse, as I suspect the Bedatz holds. Please call Rav Reuven Feinstein to discuss this [and other matters] with him. Please don't answer that you demand a written teshuvah and until he sends one out, you will not go to him. Please don't let it be a situation of "Hatziree ein biGilad, im rofei ein sham."

Now, you have an excellent point in that quote in Hebrew Mishpocha. Could you please provide the Hebrew original before I pursue that further?

I have covered several points here, directly or indirectly, and I hope that helps you and others understand EJF's stance, at least to the degree that I understand it.

Kol tuv,

amicusEJF

Why is EJF refusing to have open for-the-record dialogue?

The fact that we have two anonymous commentators on this blog claiming to speak for Eternal Jewish Family raises the obvious question - why can't EJF speak openly on the public record. Are they afraid of providing a genuine accounting of their activities?

1) I started blogging about EJF because the Bedatz was unable to get clear answers concerning the halachic basis of EJF's activities. The two letters from the Bedatz strongly criticizing EJF were simply the result of Rabbi Tropper's arrogant refusal to clarify the nature and basis of his operations.

2) I had an intensive email correspondence with Rabbi Tropper in which my questions were answered with - "It's in the Igros Moshe! Why don't you use the Yad Moshe index to find the answers?" When I replied that Rav Moshe does not write in the Igros Moshe that it is permitted to pursue or activiely persuade someone to convert - just because they are intermarried - I was told to contact Rav Reuven Feinstein but that I should wait until he calmed down from being upset about my questions. I was also given the astonishing response of "Why is it prohibited". In short I was given the run around concerning some very basic halachic issues.

3) The obsessive secrecy is also reflected in the fact that they used to have a manual describing their proceduces and halachic bases but this was discontinued two years ago because it wasn't clear. Why after two years they still don't have an official manual is very puzzling.

4) The paranoia of EJF was manifest in a nasty slur against me that was gratuitously added to the response to an request for advice regarding a problem in conversion. The person who sent the question to EJF mentioned that I had recommended that they ask EJF. The slur questioned my integrity and grossly misread material contained in my sefer Daas Torah

5) An additional example of EJF paranoia was told to me by Rav Sternuch shlita. "EJF is convinced that you have manipulated me and the Bedatz organization to attack them because of Rav Eisenstein's statement that those who believe the universe is more than 6000 years old are kofrim and their geirus is no good. They believe that you think the world is more than 6000 years old so you have to destroy them." While this sounds unbelievable but the letters I received from Rabbi Tropper contained repeated demands that I reveal to him and to Rav Reuven Feinstein the evidence I used to convince the Bedatz to turn against EJF.

6) Why doesn't EJF have written letters of support from the gedolim that they claim are supporting them?

7)Why are there no written teshuvos from these gedolim explaining the legitimacy of spending millions of dollars to persuade the nonJewish spouse to convert?

8) Where are the list of rabbis of EJF who do the work of supervising and certifying the rabbinic courts that are acceptable to do geirus?

9) Why does Rabbbi Tropper repeatedly deny he is involved in proselytizing when he acknowledges doing this in the interview in Mishpocha magazine which I translated and put on this blog. To say that proselytizing an intermarried couple is not proselytizing is to make words meaningless.

10) Why is EJF working at apparently contradictory goals of raising standards and making it harder to convert at the same time actively trying to convince the non-Jewish spouse to convert?

There are two active anonymous commentators to this blog who have asserted that they are accurately expressing the view of EJF. [No verification or letter from Rabbi Tropper concerning either of them] They have seriously attempted to clarify our questions and to answer important concerns. For example one of them asserted that EJF was not interested in converting descendants of Marranos. They also hinted that EJF might soon be producing a letter of support signed by the gedolim who are purported to support it.

Why does EJF rely on anonymous spokesmen? What are they hiding? Or is EJF just so arrogant that they don't feel it necessary to justify anything they do? In other words are these individuals actual spokesmen who are in fact representing Rabbi Tropper - but he doesn't want their identity revealed? Or are they self-appointed representatives because Rabbi Tropper doesn't feel the need to explain the true nature of his operations. If they are true representatives - why are they anonymous? If they are not representatives - why doesn't Rabbi Tropper want to clarify and justify what he is doing?


Monday, March 3, 2008

Descendants of Marranos (Anousim) - should they be encouraged to convert? II

Recipients and Publicity wrote:


That such an article appears on the Aish HaTorah website should be a cause for alarm in the Charedi world.

There should be a protest by the BADATZ against this kind of backtracking into Jewish history to seek "converts" and to put Aish HaTorah and organizations devoted to seeking "Jews lost and intermingled among the gentiles" on notice, that organizational efforts like this are essentially anti-Halachic because it is one thing for an individual to make their path to Yiddishkeit following the way Divine Hashgocha may have guided them, but that it is quite a different matter when organizations are set up, as is EJF, to facilitate the mass registration, collection, education, and help to convert goyim to Yiddishskeit that is anti-Halachic.

There is an importnat factor that must be born in mind. That in changes in Western culture in the last 25 years, there has also come a greater openess to alternate and outside-the-system beliefs and ways of life.

So just as many liberal-minded people have become open to oriental religions like Buddhism and even to Islam, there is a significal stream of people who have developed an admiration for Jews and a desire to not just know more about Judaism but to become "Jewish" in some way.

There are therefore many "Jews by choice" (see things like http://jewsbychoice.org/ and http://jbuff.com/c060400.htm and http://joi.org/blog/?p=852 and http://www.converttojudaism.org/ to see how this concept is used and plays it outself out) who are usually gentiles who may not even have an urge for any Jewish religious conversions but they have decided that by their own criteria they are "Jews" -- after all in a society that places a premium on autnomous choice this is a valid move.

And then of course, there are the more open oned, neither-here-nor-there, such as the many gentiles welcomed by the Kabbalah Centre, the best-known being the singer Madonna who has taken on a Hebrew name of "Esther" has her own personal rabbi, she spends hours per day studying with him, has given tens of millions to the Kabbalah Centre of London and has brought many celebrities, some born Jews and many not on board this group.

Rav Ovadiah Yosef has long openly opposed the Kabbalah Center people, and no doubt it has gone a long way to clarify to the Sephardic masses especially in Israel who may care about Halachah to stay awy from the Kabbalah Center people and their ilk.

There are many other factors and examples that can be cited, but the bottom line is that now there are all sorts of groups and individulas who are crawling out of the wood-work and claiming a historical and or religious link with the Jewish people and Judaism, like the Anusim, (see some discussion at http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anusim and http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Talk:Anusim and http://www.judaismo-iberico.org/responsa/resp.htm and http://www.cs.tau.ac.il/~nachum/sch/sch/anusim.html and many, many more)

The implications of such movements for Klal Yisroel as we know it to be, and certainly that portion that can be called Orthodox and Charedi and Chasidic Jewry, is that if the various trends and movements in the world that seek not just to "gather up" a few lost souls/sparks here and there but want to create mass movements backed up organizations and perhaps even by the secular Israeli government, in the process creating inevitbale de facto and de jure alliances with the non-Halachic Reform and Conservative movements, which themselves have been declared "NOT JUDAISM", that it will create more not less confusion, and more and not less of a need for Halachic clarifications by notable Batie Din and Rabbinical groups speaking authoritatively.

The example of the BADATZ declartion against EJF is a key and historic move in that direction just as the historic 1997 declaration stating that Reform and Conservative are not Judaism by the Agudas Harabonim (Union of Orthodox Rabbis, the oldest Orthodox rabbinical organization in America that was also headed by Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l, not be confused with the OU) of America published in The Jewish Press of Friday, April 4th, 1997.

That "Kol Koreh" caused an uproar but by now has been conveniently forgotten, or more accurately tucked away, but its message was refreshing for its clarity.

This is what they said about Reform and Conservative, so that lesser forms of "Judaism":
______

"A HISTORIC DECLARATION
Issued March 1997"

The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of the United States and Canada (Agudath Harabonim) hereby declares: Reform and Conservative are not Judaism at all. Their adherents are Jews, according to the Jewish Law, but their religion is not Judaism. The Union of Orthodox Rabbis of The United States and Canada is the oldest Orthodox Rabbinic Organization in North America. Its leaders and members have been and are renowned and authoritative Torah scholars. Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, the foremost authority on Jewish law in our time, was its president until his passing (1895 – 1986).

1) The Agudath Harabonim has always been on guard against any attempt to alter, misrepresent or distort the Halacha (Jewish Law) as transmitted in the written an oral law, given by G-d through Moses on Sinai. It has therefore, rejected recognition of Reform and Conservative movements as Judaism, or their clergy as Rabbis. It has publicly rebuffed the claim of “three wings of Judaism.” There is only one Judaism: Torah Judaism. The Reform and Conservative are not Judaism at all, but another religion.

2) The present declaration is not based upon a new decision in Jewish Law. It is as old as Sinai. It is only giving new emphasis and vehemence, sounding an alarm and warning signal, because of the new dangers wrought by the conservative and reform movements. Their condoning of interfaith marriages, null and void conversions and homosexuality are repugnant not only to Torah Judaism, but also to common morality. Yet, they do this in the name of “Judaism.”

This declaration is thus a clarion call to all, that despite their brazen usurpation of the titles “Judaism,” “Jewish Heritage,” “Jewish Tradition,” “Jewish Continuity,” Reform and Conservative are not Judaism at all. They are outside of Torah and Outside of Judaism

3) Having caused havoc in the United States, leading generations of Jews toward assimilation and intermarriage, they now attempt to export their alien ideology to Israel. By promoting pluralism in Judaism, they seek to be recognized as rabbis entitled (contrary to existing law in Israel) to carry out Rabbinical functions, such as marriage, divorce, and conversion, contrary to Torah Law.

4) In addition to the above, from a Torah perspective, it is imperative to support Israel’s government in their refusal to change the status quo regarding the exclusive Orthodox Rabbinic authority. Even non-orthodox political leaders recognize that unless Jewish religious family law remains under the authority of the sole Rabbinate, the Jewish nation would be hopelessly divided.

5) Quotations from Torah luminaries of our time on the status of the Reform and Conservative movements and their clergy:

a) Chief Rabbi Herzog of Israel, zt”l: “Reform is not Judaism at all” – Dvar Halacha – Jerusalem 1956

b) The Lubavitcher Rebbe, zt”l: The doctrines and ideologies of the Reform and Conservative movements, can only be classed in the category of heretical movements which have plagued our people at one time or another, only to disappear eventually, having no basis in our everlasting Torah, the Torah of truth, the living Torah, Toras Emes, Toras Chaim.

c) Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt”l: The Karaites of the Geonic period were closer to Judaism than are the Reform of our time.

6) We appeal to our fellow Jew, members of the Reform and Conservative movements: Having been falsely led to believe by heretical leaders that Reform and Conservative are legitimate branches or denominations of Judaism, we urge you to be guided by this declaration, and withdraw from your affiliation with Reform and Conservative temples and their clergy. Do not hesitate to attend an Orthodox synagogue due to your inadequate observance of Judaism. On the contrary, it is because of that inadequacy that you need to attend an Orthodox synagogue where you will be warmly welcomed.

7) You, surely want your children and grand-children to remain Jewish and be qualified to marry Jews everywhere, make certain, then, to be guided by an Orthodox Rabbi in all areas of marriage, divorce, conversion, etc.

8) These are critical days for the State of Israel, under continuous threat by the Arabs and their allies throughout the world. Our return to Torah, in Israel and in the diaspora, will merit us to receive G-d’s help and guidance.
_____

THE UNION OF ORTHODOX RABBIS
OF THE UNITED STATES AND CANADA
235 EAST BROADWAY
NEW YORK, N.Y. 10002

212 964-6337
212 964-6338

A HALACHIC RULING

PROCLAIMED BY THE UNION OF ORTHODOX RABBIS OF THE

UNITED STATES AND CANADA - (AGUDATH HARABONIM)

Adar II, 5757
March 1997

It is prohibited to pray in a non-Orthodox Temple at any time. If one does not have an Orthodox synagogue within walking distance, one should pray at home. This is so even on Rosh Hashonah. One must not pray in a Conservative of Reform Temple, even if it means not hearing the blowing of the Shofar. This ruling is affirmed by the prior ruling of such Torah luminaries as Hagaon Reb Moshe Feinstein, zt'l, the late president of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis, and Hagaon Reb Joseph B. Soloveitchik, zt'l, of Boston, the late honorary president of the Union of Orthodox Rabbis.

Therefore, we call upon all Jews to discontinue to pray any time in a Conservative of Reform temple and instead pray in an Orthodox synagogue. If you have no Orthodox shul within walking distance, then pray at home.

May G-d grant that both the laity and the clergy of the Reform and Conservative movements will be guided by the light of the Torah to abandon their erroneous ways and through genuine Teshuva (repentance) return to Torah-Judaism."
______

The BADATZ in Eretz Yisroel of 2008 and and Agudas Harabonim in America of 1997, and Rav Eliashiv's call for the creation of a Registry of Halachic Jews, see below, saw fit to issue declarations and one can see that one of the core issues is the concern that these Orthodox and Charedi bodies have about the laxity of accepting watered-down or re-invented ideas about Yiddishkeit for a variety of reasons.

The phenomenon of the Anusim is related to the non-Halachic "conversions" by Reform and Conservative and to the "Jews by Choice" movement and of course to the vaguele-defined over-all strategy of EJF and how it wishes to move with or within these events.

Here is a link to the full text of the Agudas Harabonim declaration:

http://truejews.org/Igud_Historic_Declaration.htm

and here is the link and the full text of an article that was published in the English yated in 1999
http://truejews.org/Jewsih_Registration.htm
_____

From: Yated Neeman USA (Wed, 29 Dec 1999)

Rav Elyashiv:

"Independent Registry an Urgent Necessity"

by Moshe Schapiro

As hundreds of thousands of gentile immigrants continue to pour into Israel from the former Soviet Union, the Torah leadership of Eretz Yisroel has reached a momentous decision: to set up an independent registry to keep track of who is Jewish. Rav Yosef Shalom Eliyashiv and Rav Aharon Leib Shteinman strongly support the plan.

"There is no longer any doubt that the majority of immigrants coming to this country are not Jewish," says Rav Yosef Efrati, Rav Eliyashiv's closest disciple. "The Jewish Agency itself admits this, and yet many immigrants are [falsely] given documents stating that they are Jewish. Two generations from now, their children will speak fluent Hebrew and behave like regular Israelis, and no one will be able to tell the difference. What will prevent them from marrying Jews?"

According to Rav Efrati, Rav Eliyashiv shed many tears before finally arriving at this decision. He realizes that the establishment of an independent registry will divide the Jewish nation and evoke a strong backlash from the Israeli government and from the Reform and Conservative movements, as well as confuse and possibly alienate many non-aligned secular Jews. However, the alternative -- standing aside and allowing the wholesale infiltration of hundreds of thousands of gentiles into the Jewish People -- is totally unacceptable.

To date, over 500,000 non-Jewish immigrants have entered Israel under the aegis of the Law of Return. The law grants full citizenship status not only to Jews, but also to gentile descendants of Jews, and to the gentile next of kin of gentile descendants of Jews. Often, the Jewish Agency flies entire clans of gentiles to Israel on the basis of a long-forgotten Jewish grandfather of one of its members. Lately, gentiles throughout Russia have been applying for citizenship on the basis of forged documents linking them to fictitious Jewish relatives who supposedly lived several decades ago.

Though the immigration issue forced the decision to establish an independent registry, the system would solve many other problems that are not being addressed effectively by the governmental registry. For example, better tracking of mamzerim and Karaites [who have special marriage restrictions under Jewish Law].

In view of the long-term repercussions of establishing the independent registry, the Torah leadership of Eretz Yisroel will involve spiritual leaders from around the world in the plan so as to gain as wide a consensus as possible before implementing it in practice.

"Most Jews-even non-religious ones-identify with the halachic definition of who is a Jew. The key will be in how the plan is presented to them," Rav Efrati says. "This is one of the major obstacles to implementing the plan at this time. The Torah leadership of Eretz Yisroel wants to avoid alienating non-religious Jews at all costs. This would be counterproductive, since the objective here is to encourage every halachic Jew in the world to join the registry."

The American Torah community will play a central role in the implementation of the plan, since Israeli law prohibits the establishment of independent registries inside the country. Therefore, it is likely that the data bank will be situated in the United States.

The sheer logistics of registering approximately 12,000,000 Jews in all parts of the world are another daunting challenge. However, this has not deterred the spiritual leaders of Eretz Yisroel.

"Some people say that one should not ring the alarm when one does not have the complete solution to a problem," says Rav Efrati. "Rav Eliyashiv, however, disagrees. He believes that one should cry out even if one does not have the complete solution, for the very act of crying out will alert others and motivate them to work for the good of Klal Yisroel."
_____

Here are some important things to consider and it is not clear yet how they will jell:

One wonders how Rav Eliashiv's call in 1999 now fits in with EJF's desire to facilitate conversions? EJF has also not clarified if it will get involved in helping Anusim get conversions. The Reform and Conservative will no doubt stand behind the Anusim. The Agudas Harabonim has pasuled the Reform and Conservative. The BADATZ has pasuled the EJF. Rav Eliashiv has made it clear that there should be a Registry for all Halachic Jews.

Anusim join the Falashas, Jews with Reform and Conservative conversions, Russian Jews with partila non-Halachic Jewish lineage, and gentiles converted by Orthodox batei din under highly questionable Halachic circumstances such the non_Jew in an interfaith intermarriage converting for the sake of the Jewish spouse and partner.

Hopefully the BADATZ will take the lead in seeing the total picture of all these diparate groups seeking to all of a sudden "become instant Jews" and look into the matter conmprehesivly and block the door, in the spirit of Ezra HaSofer as a precedent! and issue definitive prohibitions and guidelines to stop invalid and doubtful conversions of all sorts in the light of so many alien and marginal groups and the organizations that back them wishing to knock down not just the doors to Klal Yisroel but to destroy the very core notion of H-shem himself being the one who is hamavdil bein Yisroel lo'amim.

Descendants of Marranos (Anousim) - should they be encouraged to convert?

The problems of conversion are not limited to the question of intermarriage or the Russian and Ethiopian immigration to Israel. There is apparently a world wide effort to bring the descendants of the Jews of Spain and Portugal who were forced to convert - back to Judaism. What follows is an excerpt of an article that appears on the Aish HaTorah website [link below] which originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post. See also my previous post.

Welcome Back

What Ferdinand and Isabella, Spain's 15th century monarchs, had sought to demolish through Inquisition and expulsion, Nuria was determined to bring back to life. Her return to Judaism was the culmination of a spiritual quest, one that led her and her husband to study with an Orthodox rabbi in Barcelona who embraced them and received them with warmth and understanding.

Slowly but surely they made Judaism the focal point of their lives, adopting the rituals and lifestyle of traditional Jews. They now attend synagogue regularly, observe Shabbat and keep kosher. Nuria has even organized a local group of activists, who took upon themselves the thankless task of defending Israel's good name in the local Spanish media, where the Jewish state comes under frequent, and rather fierce, attack from its critics.

After the rabbinical court judges accepted them, Nuria decided to become "Nurit," and Edward fittingly took the name of "Yitzhak," after the patriarch who was nearly sacrificed on the altar, only to be saved at the last minute by Divine intervention.

When I saw Nurit the following day, she was at the Western Wall, her eyes filled with tears. The first thing she had done, she told me, when she approached the ancient relic of the Holy Temple, was to touch its stones. She then cast her eyes heavenwards, and addressed her grandfather: "I did it, grandpa. I have returned. I am a Jew."

Hearing this story, I was overcome with emotion. What greater testament could there be to the power of the Jewish soul, to the eternal and unbreakable spirit of the pintele Yid, the Jewish spark that can never be extinguished? Across Spain and the rest of the Spanish-speaking world, there are untold thousands, possibly more, who still carry this spark within them, longing to return to their people, to come home again to the faith and beliefs that were so cruelly torn away from them over the centuries.

The Jewish people owe it to them and to their ancestors to recognize the anguish and suffering they have endured and to facilitate their return. The descendants of the Anousim (Hebrew for "those who were coerced") are grappling with profound issues of identity, history and faith. They should not have to do so on their own.

Specifically, there are a number of steps that can and should be taken to help them, including publishing more material on Jewish topics in Spanish, opening small and accessible Jewish libraries throughout Spain, and raising awareness about them among rabbis and communal leaders to ease their reintegration into the Jewish community.

Israel should also consider establishing a national memorial to the victims of the Inquisition, and it should press the Spanish government to do the same. This would be a highly symbolic, though important, measure, one which would both educate future generations about the trauma of the Inquisition, and confer upon its victims the recognition they justly deserve.

At a time when so many young Jews are leaving the fold, Israel now has an opportunity to recover countless numbers of its long-lost brethren. From Spain to Brazil to the southwestern United States, the number of Anousim coming out into the open is surging. The time has come to welcome them back home.

This article originally appeared in the Jerusalem Post.

The full article can also be read at: http://www.aish.com/jewishissues/jewishsociety/

The_Inquisition_Full_Circle.asp


Author Biography:
Michael Freund served as deputy director of communications and policy planning in the Israeli prime minister's office from 1996 to 1999. He is currently an editorial writer and syndicated columnist for the Jerusalem Post.

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?


Sunday, March 2, 2008

Eternal Jewish Family defended - we are getting somewhere

Anonymous from several days ago

Reb RaP, I think we are getting somewhere.

First of all, I certainly am the commenter who used the "histrionic" capitals.

And I think you have said some nice things about me in the beginning of your response, so thank you for that.

Let me try to respond to a couple points:

1) There have been comments, recently and a bit earlier, critical of the EJF website. Overall, I think many excellent points have been made. The simple truth, which answers all of these, is that the website is under construction.

Reconstruction, really. It was once a much fuller website, but there were shortcomings pointed out with it and much of it was pulled. [One of the commenters here gave some credit to Dr. Eidensohn for this. Could be.]
It is being redone carefully. I have reason to know a little about this. You would think that with such a big organization, a professional facelift would take place with lightning speed, but alas, that is not how it is. I believe that after the changes, many of the currently justified criticisms will be moot points.

2) You state the equation EJF+Nefesh B’Nefesh=American "Falashas" three times, and seem to find it compelling, but I can barely figure out what you are talking about here. You seem to be concerned that EJF is performing mass conversions and shipping them off to Eretz Yisroel where they will join thousands of others with pseudo-conversions.

It is exactly the opposite. The problem of pseudo-converts slipping into Eretz Yisroel and the Jewish people existed prior to EJF. One of EJF's primary missions is to keep out the many who seek a pseudo-conversion and assist and direct the few who are committed to being gerei tzedek.

3) Further on that theme: EJF is not the crash course. Crash courses were what existed before EJF. Going through EJF will not save a ger any time or effort; it may increase the time and effort he put into his conversion. It will save him only the time and effort of going down the blind alleys of improper batei dinim.

4) The second response states:
The fact that Rav Elyashiv has met to DISCUSS an issue does not mean that the Rav SUPPORTS it. Then, he gives the example of the silk screen Sefer Torah, which was discussed by a group of Rabbis in his home, and which, of course Rav Elyashiv rejects.

But my proof was from this line of the archived Yated article: He said that HaRav Eliashiv went out of his way to express his support for the conference. This "conference" was not the opening session, for which Rav Elyashiv himself was present, but the three day conference as a whole. And neither the conference nor the opening session was a discussion of the propriety of EJF. That had already beed decided in the affirmative beforehand.

Then he writes: In other words, IF Rav Elyashiv did indeed approve of EJF, then there should be a letter to that effect.

I'm sorry, but that doesn't follow. Not everything in this world that Rav Elyashiv approves of or encourages gets a letter. But I will agree with you that such a letter would be nice.

5) Finally, i must admit that you caught me off-guard with your response about the hypothetical letter with 40-plus signatures. I thought you would say that it wouldn't really matter, but that's not what you said. Let me just say that I think you might be pleasantly surprised before long.

That's it for now. It's late here.

Ingathering of Jews or proselytes?

Anonymous wrote


"Incidently, there is something else to be concerned about, and that is that EJF and the powers behind it, will want to somehow compromise the Nefesh BeNefesh program to its agenda."

From Nefesh b'Nefesh's cached website their goal is stated as :
"revitalizing the Aliyah process and increasing its awareness".

Another organization that deserves some attention because of its role in encouraging "anusim" to make aliya to Israel is Shalvai Israel.

Shalvei Israel operates Machon Miriam a Spanish language conversion institute in Israel. Dozens of Spanish and Portuguese crypto-Jews graduate from Machon Miriam each year, and proceed to undergo formal conversion by Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

It also helps people who have converted to Judaism make Aliyah.

Shalvai Israel's cached website states:

"Rabbi Eliahu Birnbaum is the Rabbi and Educational Director of Shavei Israel..... Since 1998 he has served as Director of Machon Amiel and a judge on the Chief Rabbinate of Israel Conversion Court. "

Shalvei Israel receives much of its funding from Christian organizations as does Nefesh b'Nefesh. If I am reading this correctly, then one of the Judges on the Chief Rabbinate's Conversion Court receives funding from Christian organizations to go to South and Latin America to proselytize Hispanic Goyim.

Kulanu is another organization that proselytizes to Latin and South American "conversos" and encourages them to make aliyah to Israel.

From Kulanu's website:

"Kulanu assists communities without Jewish background who desire to embrace Judaism....For Example a Catholic named Villanueva, (in Peru) decided in 1966 to become Jewish after pondering the Bible. Many followed him, and after study with a rabbi in the late 1980s, nearly 300 people were converted by a beit din from Israel and made aliyah.

Another large group of Jews was 'lost' during the period of forced conversions to Christianity in Spain and Portugal starting in the 15th century. Many of these so-called 'Marranos' continued to practice Judaism in secret. Today their descendants can be found in Brazil, Mexico, the southwestern United States, and Majorca, as well as mainland Spain and Portugal.

Kulanu's activities concern these dispersed groups, including research, contacts, education, donation of religious books and articles, facilitation of conversion when requested, and help with relocation to Israel if desired."

One of the Rabbis involved with Kulanu as well as several other projects outreaching to "anusim' and "conversos" is Rigoberto Manny Vinas.

Vinas, born of Cuban Gentile parents who believe they are "conversos" received smicha from Yeshiva University and is currently the spiritual leader of the Lincoln Park Jewish Center in Yonkers. Much of Vina's work, which began in Rabbi Avi Weiss' Hebrew Institute of Riverdale, involves outreaching to "anusim"/"conversos" and encouraging them toward aliyah to Israel.

Incidentally, Rabbi Pinchas Weberman, who was listed on EJF's cached website as the Av Beis Din of an approved Conversion Court has a son, Rabbi David Weberman who married Esther Vinas, the sister of Rabbi Rigoberto Vinas.

The basis for outreaching to "anusim/conversos" as full Jews I have been told is a letter allegedly signed by Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik which I have copied below:

1 nisan 5754.

To whom it may concern:

I am taking the liberty to write about the people in the Americas who claim to be descendants of the marranos of Spain and Portugal.

They must be treated like full Jews in every way.(counted for a minyan, given aliyot, etc.).

Only when one of these anusim wishes to marry a Jew, must he or she undergo full conversion. That is, he or she must undergo immersion in a mikve (without the blessing) and full acceptance of mitzvot or commitment to the Torah. A man, if he is uncircumcised, must in addition undergo circumcision; if he is already circumcised, then he has to undergo hatafat dam brit.

Hoping that this will clarify the solution to this problem, I remain -

Respectfully yours,

Rabbi Aaron Soloveitchik"


I hope that this will inspire RaP toward more research into this topic.