Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Conversion - best beis din & Jerusalem seminary?

I just received this letter. Would appreciate help in providing him with answers.

Your blogs often discuss issues concerning conversions. But mostly all criticism.  Who in Jerusalem and who in New  York would you recommend an interested guir candidate, daughter of a Jewish father and goy mother to speak with and  learn from?  What beis din in New York City and Jerusalem is ideal in your estimation?  Is the RCA preferable over EJF? What seminary in Jerusalem is best for a md-20s girl giur candidate to learn at in your estimation?

 I could really use your advice.


  1. Ask him if this gentile daughter he is trying to find a conversion court for decided upon her own volition to seek to become Jewish, or if he or others are trying to encourage (read: proseltyze) to become Jewish. If the latter, this is problematic.

    This question must be asked, due to all the proseltyzing shenenagins going on in recent years.

  2. "Is the RCA preferable over EJF?"

    EJF doesn't do conversions, so that isn't a question.

    Is the RCA's conversions currently accepted in Israel?

  3. I heard that there is an opinion in the Yershalmi that religion is patrilineal - but I have not confirmed this nor seen it inside. Is anyone able to comment on this?

  4. EJF doesn't do conversions, so that isn't a question.

    Of course they do, they have their own in house beis din in Monsey, r' Rabinovitz used to be one av Beis Din until he left them, and they convene on the Kol Yaakov/EJF premises. The beis din members get their salaries from EJF.

    It was also reported that David Jacocbs occasionally sits on the beis din

  5. The RCA's conversions ARE currently accepted in Israel. If you go to the RCA beis din NO ONE would question her geirus. And by that capital "NO ONE" I mean that I know people as far to the right as Satmar who have accepted such a giyores.

    The recent bruhaha was about RCA *members* who convene their own beis din can produce converts who are not necessarily accepted as geirim in Israel.

    But the RCA's own beis din has never even been remotely questioned.


  6. I think what you're thinking of isn't actually a Yerushalmi, but a non-orthodox responsum based on it.

    In Qiddushin 31:14 (41a) Yaaqov of Kefar Guverayah thought it was proper to give a beris to the son of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother on Shabbos. The rest of the sugya shoots him down vehemently.

    And it's not even clear his reasoning was based on the boy being Jewish -- because the mishnah this gemara is discussing explicitly says that Jewishness is matrilineal. Would they even bother to quote this Yaaqov from Kefar Guveraya if he is going against the mishnah? They don't bother disproving what every lay-person says.

    I would take the Yerushalmi to mean that YKG considered the verse which speaks of "leveis avosam" to say that milah even for geirus trumps Shabbos because he is of a Jewish beis av.

    BTW, I once received the equal but opposite pesaq. A baby was born on Shabbos to a Jewish mother and a non-Jewish father. The family was out in the middle of nowhere -- the nearest Chabad House was even hundreds of miles away. Interestingly, the shaliach was a mohel and would normally be willing to spend Shabbos near them in order to do the milah, but he had a beris in his own congregation that same Shabbos. The next nearest mohel wanted to be paid per hour for the entire weekend, plus airfare and other expenses. The family couldn't afford it, so the question was whether I could raise the funds.

    Interestingly, the pesaq I got was that the beris couldn't be done on Shabbos anyway. The derashah that makes milah override Shabbos only applies to the father. Since the father isn't obligated, we were told that this child couldn't be gemalt on Shabbos anyway.

    So in the end, the shaliach came on Sunday, brought his own wine (mevushal), and ended up doing a beautiful ceremony that was explained meaningfully for those who attended. (Or so I'm told -- I wasn't there.)


  7. Hi, folks, someone asked you for the address of a good Beith Din.

    Is all you can do go on arguing about EJF????

  8. Anonymous for thisFebruary 2, 2010 at 6:24 PM

    I don't know about batei din and seminaries, but stay away from Ohel Sarah Imenu. Google around a bit and you'll see what I'm talking about.

  9. In New York, begin the process with Rabbi Marc Angel of Shearith Israel on the West Side.

    He's RCA approved.

  10. I think R' Angel is retired -- is he still supervising conversions? Anyway, he has the most lenient position on conversions of any well-known Orthodox rabbi, so it may not be a good idea.

  11. To second R' Micha Berger's comment above, I would also say that contacting a beis din that is part of RCA's GPS (Gerus Policies and Standards) network would be a very good way to proceed.

    The homepage for the RCA GPS network is:

  12. Having sent gioros to Israel, I'm not sure what a good answer is. We always sent girls after they had already converted with a reputable beis din. I don't think Neve will take someone in the process of conversion. EYAHT won't take them even AFTER a valid conversion (don't get me started). Machon Ora used to take girls in the process, but I don't think they have an program for English speakers any more. I'm not sure about Shearim or Midreshet Rachel - would probably be on an individual basis if at all. I second the "stay away from Ohel Sarah" - have heard too many crazy stories from there. There are programs on some of the dati kibbutzim, but they have their own issue. I think the best recommendation is to go to Israel after a conversion.

  13. Contacting the RCA/BDA directly and having them refer the candidate to a rabbi to sponsor/guide the candidate sounds like a good approach. Has anyone tried this?

    I know that Neve has taken individual conversion candidates, but the ones that I am aware of were particularly strong candidates, and as Chava said, it would be on a case-by-case basis.

    In general, though, converts following up on their "mainstreaming" process after tevila by enrolling at a BT midrasha (Neve, Midreshet Rachel, Shearim, etc.), is quite common and, IMHO, a great idea.

  14. Chizki:

    I didn't understand Micha's comment to be suggesting using any GPS Rabbi.

    I believe Micha was saying that the in-house RCA Beis Din is accepted in Israel; bit that it is not necessarily the case that any other RCA Rabbi's conversions are accepted in Israel.

  15. Yeshaya-

    Rabbi Angel is about as erlich as erlich gets. Has anyone complained about his conversions to date? Has he been patered by the RCA?

    You are right to note he may not have the ultra chumras of others like Tropper and the EJF.

    To his credit.

  16. Aaron S.,

    My understanding is that, in 2008, the RCA established the GPS protocol and its network of regional batei din as a response to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's decision in 2006(?) to stop automatically accepting conversions performed by rabbis who are members of the RCA.

    See the statement by R' Barry Freundel: http://www.judaismconversion.org/The_Real_Story_Behind_the_New_National_Network.html

    I am under the impression that the GPS regional batei din have the imprimatur of the BDA. However, perhaps I am mistaken about this. If so, I would love to be corrected.

    If R' Berger is talking about something else entirely, I would love to have him let me know as well.

  17. Aaron S. is correct, I meant using RCA's beis din in particular. However, I think that a beis din that wouldn't be recognized in Israel wouldn't pass GPS muster. Not because the criteria coincide; more that artificially the RCA would insure that GPS certification would include such recognition, or else the certification doesn't mean much.


  18. The GPS program is "in house". All the Batei Din in the program are approved by the RCA.

    For example:

    Atlanta: Rabbi Michael Broyde, a member of the RCA Bet Din, is the contact.

    Chicago: The Chicago Rabbinical Council Bet Din is the GPS Regional Bet Din. Rav Gedaliah Dov Schwartz, Av Bet Din of the RCA Bet Din, is also Av Bet Din of the cRc.

    Seattle: Rabbi Moshe Kletenik is the current president of the RCA.

    Washington DC: Rabbi Barry Freundel is one of the key people in the conversion program.

  19. That my post has not been published, has confirmed to me that you simply are a RCA pusher. I suppose I'll have to ask Rav Shternbach directly about his thoughts on the RCA.....

  20. "Growing Up",

    Lakol zeman va'eis.... the time to stand up against unnecessary chumros or even "chumros" is NOT when the stakes are whether or not people will accept you as a geir.

    Even if you can prove that what you call a chumrah is really beyond baseline halakhah, and not -- as the other sees it -- a qulah beneath the baseline, there will still be imperfect acceptance of this man's daughter across the community. Is it right for him to martyr parts of her social life for that cause?

    BTW, EJF aside, there really is such a thing as legitimate machloqes with people legitimately holding more chamur than you. Beis Shammai weren't wrong, their positions just weren't how the halakhah was decided.


  21. R' Micha Berger,

    Thanks for the clarification. That being said, I'm still left with questions. I followed the link you provided in your 5:40 PM comment to the BDA website. When I went to the page within the site outlining the various services it offers (http://www.bethdin.org/services.asp), this is what it had to say on conversions:

    "Together with the Rabbinical Council of America, the Beth Din of America oversees the Geirus Protocols and Standards (“GPS”) national network of rabbinic courts for conversion. GPS was formed for the purpose of ensuring halachic integrity and uniform standards in the performance of Jewish conversions. (The Beth Din of America does not itself perform Jewish conversions.)"

    The way I'm understanding this is that, if the BDA used to be directly engaged in carrying out geirus in the past (and I'm assuming that such used to be the case), it no longer does so and now refers all geirus cases to the GPS-affiliated batei din.

    I light of this, it seems to me that the only way to get the BDA to directly stamp its seal of approval on the Jewish status a particular ger would be for a potential convert to first go through geirus through any legitimate orthodox beis din (possibly through a GPS-affiliated beis din, but not necessarily so) and then, as a separate process, get the BDA to issue a Teudat Yahadut certifying his/her Jewish status.

    Does this sound about right? Or am I missing something?

  22. The RCA Beis Din only meets infrequently. Generally they have individual dayanim performing Gittin etc. They never did geirus, but left it up to member rabbis. There were complaints that member rabbis had all kinds of different standards, and that did not look good for RCA so they created a network of batei din and GPS. Really this was all in response to EJF. I think the prospective candidate needs to have a rabbi of her own and not go by online referrals.

  23. The RCA created their GPS in resposne to pressure from Rabbi Amar, Sefardic Cheif Rabbi of Israel who was was convinced by Tropper and freinds that conversion in the US were not halchcially valid and not of a hihg enough standard.
    R Amar announced that RCA conversions and thsoe of their Rabbis wold no longer be automaticallyy accpte din Israel

    In response to R Amar's threats concering the RCA , the RCA negotiated an agreement wiht the Israelie Cheif Rabbinate to " standardize" conversion in the United States adn settig up specila conversion panels aka as RCA's GPS.

    All of this flowed from the ruccus that Tropper started.
    Historicaly and halachically there have alwways been varying standards of halachally valid conversions.

    Unfortunatly for R Amar when his own Rabbis of the Israeli Rabbinate started to retroactivly annull conversions things got way out of hand,

    The hwole Troper affair was an attempt to seize back power.

    On a link on this web site to R.rothkof =Rakefet he disscusses the conversion of Ivanka Trumpin NY. He states tha talmedie chachamim were part of her conversion beit din and that nobody should every say her conversion was not valid.He said that he verified this from Rabbi yossef Blau mashgiahc ruchani, of Yeshiva University.( The same rabbi who organized Shannon Ornand's conversion in Israel
    R Rakefet said that he rconversion was haalchicaly valid despite teh fact that she was engaged to ajewish man before converting.Despite the fact that her husband officaly calims that heis a conservadox Jew.And that Rabbi blau invsetigated the story that Ivanka was seen eating fish in non kosher resturaunt in NY. R Rakefet explained that in her Orthodox commu nity of Kehlat Jeshrun in NY it was common practice for JEws to eat kosher fish out in non kosher restauraunts.He said that they have the chef double wrap the fish in aluminum foil for cooking.

    He did bemoan the fact that Jews in NY with the vast number of kosher Jewish restauraunts should not eat in treif ones, but he justified because it was considered acceptable in her in her Orthodox community.(BTW when traveing there are ways to have kosher food made in non kosher restauraunts for you, but u Really have to know your halacha and how to go about doing it.)

    For a excellent historical and halachic explanation of conversion in halchic Judaism read R. M.Angels article on it.Although R. Angel is knonw as Liberal what he writes is either true or not true. http://www.jewishideas.org/min-hamuvhar/conversion-judaism-halakha-hashkafa-and-histori

    For best coverage in America go to a RCA-Beth Din of America afilaited GPS Beit Din.

  24. Rabbi Angel's conversions are not accepted in Israel. They never were.

    I know this firsthand.

  25. She should not go with EJF for all the controversies associated with it. However if she does go with the EJF she should never, never accept phone calls from Tropper.

  26. ..."The beis din members get their salaries from EJF..."
    One beis din rabbi is on the faculty at tropper's yeshiva so he ets his money from Tropper at both places? And yes, they do conversions. The in house converting rabbi is Dovid Jacobs. I have an application, a syllabus and required reading list for conversion. They are operating as usual.

  27. interesting question this fellow asks.
    the most logical place for this woman to start is with whomever interested her in converting in the first place - her local Rabbi, chabad house, whatever. It is important in the conversion process for at least one person on the beis din to know the candidate well.

    As for the schools, most seminaries will not accept a candidate for conversion. If the woman is older, which is not made clear at all in the original post, then a seminary for young 20 somethings may be very out of place for her, and she would want to develop her own program; which can be done with a bit of effort.

  28. I beleive the time has come for people to come back to the basics.

    What is halachcially valid.Not my chumrah.Not your chumrah.

    there are reason why their are kulot in halacha.because they are valid halchic postions.Just as chumrahs are.For some reason the term , label kulah seems to indicate for most a less legitimate position.

    Time for rabbinic leadership to lead. To say their is halacha.As long as a person or a rav rules within the legitmate boundaries of halacha, the ruling should be accpeted.

    If a member of a particular community follows a communties rav who has a more machmere postion, great no problem,

    Halachich Judaism has never been monolithic.Nobody would say that R Shimshon R
    Hirsch in Germany was not frum.But, in the schools he established secualr stdies were taught by people did not wear head coverings even if the teacher was a frum Jew.

    We need more great rabbanim who can say yes, I hold this way but the way the other Rav holds is also valid.

    Read the correspondence between R. Moshe Feinstein and R Henkin concering the
    Manhatten Island eruv issue.They treated each other with great respect.they did not agree wiht each other but nether told the other that they were hachically wrong.They accpeted the fact that there could be different legitmate simeltaneous halachic rulings.

    We need to start demanding this from our rabbinic leaders.Respect for one another and respect for legitmate halacha even if there are differing opinions.

  29. Name withheld:

    Rabbi Angel's conversions are not accepted in Israel. They never were.

    I know this firsthand.

    Understood. I just wonder which rabbonim in Israel won't accept his geirus. Could you please be more specific?

    If this is the case, please name and identify those who have publicly patered Rabbi Angel. Clearly, he cannot be trusted in other manners. Further, let's once and for all dismiss the RCA. After all, they are not patered Rabbi Angel!

    Isn't politicizing geirus a wonderful thing?

  30. "On a link on this web site to R.rothkof =Rakefet he disscusses the conversion of Ivanka Trumpin NY. He states tha talmedie chachamim were part of her conversion beit din and that nobody should every say her conversion was not valid".

    Shulchan Aruch clearly rules that in cases where the conversion
    שולחן ערוך יורה דעה הלכות גרים סימן רסח סעיף יב

    כג כו] כשיבא הגר להתגייר, בודקים אחריו שמא בגלל ממון שיטול או בשביל שררה שיזכה לה או מפני הפחד בא ליכנס לדת. כז] ואם איש הוא, בודקין אחריו שמא עיניו נתן באשה יהודית. ואם אשה היא, בודקין אחריה שמא עיניה נתנה בבחורי ישראל,... ה"ז גר אפי' נודע שבשביל דבר הוא מתגייר, הואיל ומל וטבל יצא מכלל העובדי כוכבים, וחוששים לו עד שתתברר צדקתו;

    When one converts for an ulterior motive then even if the person accepted torah and mitzvot, we are "choshesh" until yitbaer tzidakoty (the righteousness of the person will be clarified). Until that moment one can/should be choshesh as to his true status. The nature of this chashash isdiscussed by various poskim where somestate that that it invalidates entirely the conversion and some say that itis only chashash derabanan and some state that it puts a safek in the gerut! (Rav MOshe writes so in one place).

    Rav shachter in his Shiur http://www.yutorah.org/lectures/lecture.cfm/739046/Rabbi_Hershel_Schachter/Conversions

    stated that there are different opinions as to the time which one is no longer doubted, ranging from one month after the conversion until five years after the conversion.

  31. When it comes to B"D, you should pick one based on the community that you plan to live in after your conversion. You should also check that their conversions are accepted in Israel. A fax or phone call to the Israeli Rabbinate will garner you a yes or no.

    As far as Sems, Neve Yerushalayim and Shaarim both have programs for girls who are in process of conversion. Both are of good quality and fairly mainstream. I would suggest looking up their contact information and calling them, possibly if you have the chance, even visiting them and seeing if they are a fit for you.

  32. A thought

    There is an obligation to educate a jew to become observant. There is no obligation with a non jew( except to educate him to keep 7 mitzvot). therefore since we all have limited enegy, if one uses that energy to educate a non jew to convert , the jew will not receive the education we are obligated to give them.

    The same would be if one could use x energy to educate one baal tsuhvah
    and with that same x energy one could educate 3 baal tshvot, one should help the three

    sounds cold, i know

  33. Why not contact Agudas Yisroel for their recommendation for a bais din?

    I'm sure that they could provide a good contact.

  34. R. Eidensohn - any reason for your censoring the comments on Ivanka Trump?

  35. Anonymous said...

    R. Eidensohn - any reason for your censoring the comments on Ivanka Trump?
    There is a cleara disagreement between a number of anonymous commentators and Rabbi Rakefet. It is obvious that I'll accept Rabbi Rakefet's views.

  36. R. Eidensohn does not need my support or approval. He has probably forgotten more Torah than I will ever know.

    Having said that, it seems clear to me to we should accept the views of R. Rakeffet, who is willing to express his views on a recording which anyone with an Internet connection may listen to, over anonymous commenters.

  37. There is a cleara disagreement between a number of anonymous commentators and Rabbi Rakefet. It is obvious that I'll accept Rabbi Rakefet's views.
    R. Eidensohn:

    1. Where has Rabbi Rakefet ever indicated he believes that Ivanka Trump's conversion is valid? Is there a reliable website (or anything) citing his view?

    2. Even if that is the case, and you accept his view, why are you censoring opposing comments? Typically you do allow (anonymous) opposing comments -- even comments made in very strong language (which was not the case here.)

    3. Why is it "obvious" you will accept Rabbi Rakefet's view? Do you accept his views on Geirus issues in general? If not, why yes over here?

    Thanks again

  38. I was the one who wrote: "it seems clear to me to we should accept the views of R. Rakeffet, who is willing to express his views on a recording which anyone with an Internet connection may listen to, over anonymous commenters."

    Here is the link from Rabbi Eidensohn's blog where he links to Rabbi Rakeffet's lecture during which he discuses the Tropper affair:


    If my recollection is correct, R. Rakeffet also discusses the conversion of Ms. Trump during that lecture.

    I do not have semicha and do not consider myself to be especially learned. Whether I do or do not accept the views of R. Rakeffet on any subject is not relevant. I was merely commenting that I place more credibility on the opinions of someone who identifies himself than the opinions of those who do not. If you listen to the lectures of R. Rakeffet for any length of time, you will quickly discover from whom he received semicha and which Torah figures he deems to be important. If for some reason, you do not wish to or cannot listen to his lectures, you could look here:


  39. "...to we should accept the views of R. Rakeffet, who is willing to express his views on a recording which anyone with an Internet connection may listen to, over anonymous commenters."

    While this may be true regarding issues of credibility it does not speak about accepting this views about a given subject (like his opinions of gerut) to be the correct one. In fact, due to his openness in this issue there is an ability to state with more clarity that his views on this subject are wrong!

    In fact, for instance, his positions about the positions of Rav Moshe Feinstein are not correct as to what Rav Moshe wrote. And certainly he is not an authority on the level of Rav Hirshel Shechter and Rav Sternbuch where both have either written or spoken on this subject contrary to his positions on the matter. He may be very fine individual, and a ehrlcihe, and a Ben Torah but he is not of the caliber of the earlier ones and he happens to be wrong on the assessment and understanding of this issue (gerut).

  40. Roni wrote:

    "In fact, for instance, his positions about the positions of Rav Moshe Feinstein are not correct as to what Rav Moshe wrote. And certainly he is not an authority on the level of Rav Hirshel Shechter and Rav Sternbuch where both have either written or spoken on this subject contrary to his positions on the matter."

    Roni, please be specific about how you think Rav Rakeffet construed the opinion of Rav Moshe, and exactly what errors you think he made.

    I listened again to the section of the lecture where Rav Rakeffet discusses geirut in general, and the conversion of the former Ivanka Trump in particular. He quotes Rav Blau (the mashgiach ruchani of RIETS) in connection with Tropper's victim. With respect to the former Ivanka Trump, he discusses actions Rav Lookstein took in response to allegations. It was not clear to me whether or Rav Rakeffet discussed the matter with Rav Lookstein.

  41. dman:

    What did Rabbi Rakeffet sat regarding the allegations vis-a-vis Trump? Did he state an opinion on her conversion?

  42. I am NOT discussing Mrs. Trump (in particular, although what i write has relevance to her case). I listened to him in the past where he has series about Gerut. He lectured about the opinions of Rav Kook, Rav Hertzog, and then he discussed (amongst other things) Rav Moshe's opinions. He tries to make a picture that Rav Moshe later in life retracted his earlier opinions and was more meikil .

    Where he is wrong, imho, is: Rav Moshe never retracts his basic contentions that there are serious problems with gerut of a person who is a) converting for the sake of marriage, b) where the jewish partner does NOT keep torah and mitzvot. Rav Moshe in places states that his concern is tha tthe gerut is not chal even bediavad (and in one place he states that the concern is from both angles: the one who converted and the rabbis who make such conversions on an ongoing basis). In another place he states that it is clear that it remains a safek ger. And while R' Rakkefet attempts to portray Rav Moshe backing out later in life, the facts do not bear this out: , a tesvhua from a later date, brings us back to his original concerns that such gerut do not render him/her jewish at all.

    The concerns are REAL and not invented by fanatic rabbis (in fact the one's who were from the big alarmists over this issue were Rav Hertzog and Rav Kook the Chief Rabbi of Israel!).

  43. To Anonymous 05/05/10 5:37PM:

    Rather than try to summarize (and risk doing so incorrectly), I suggest that you listen to what R. Rakeffet has to say: You may livestream or download the lecture from here:



please use either your real name or a pseudonym.