Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Response to Neshama Saver's defense of EJF I

Neshama Saver wrote [his comments are in italics]:

I shall call myself the "Neshama Saver" from now on to differentiate myself from the numerous other Anonymous' out there.

I would never be so full of hubris to say I understand the will of Hashem. I am a simple, modest, shomer Shabbos, glatt-kosher-only eating, synagogue-attending simple Yid. I will attempt to answer your questions to the best of my ability. I am not a Rav, even though I read & study Torah, Bavli, and other frum sources profusely.

Please tell me the basis for your Torah views since it is obviously not from rabbinical authorities – which you have not cited nor are you a Torah authority yourself. You haven’t cited any authoritative texts to bolster your views so I am assuming you are not basing yourself on these either. Your assertions certainly appear to be as if they are coming from one who really knows the will of G‑d as the Biblical prophets. In fact our sages respond to your style of argument by saying “these are only prophetic-like utterances.” [Eiruvin (70b), Bava Basra (12a) etc.] That is why I suggested you speak to the rabbis of EJF who are certainly accomplished talmidei chachomim. You are obviously a mature and intelligent adult – but you are making assertions as to halacha and public policy of Torah true Jews. You are criticizing me –as someone who is immoral and as one who doesn’t understand what G‑d wants. Again – what are the Jewish foundations of your criticizing of my activities. Keeping mitzvos does not make someone an authority on Judaism. The mishna in Avos (1:16) says “Make for yourself a Rav and keep away from doubt” – who is your Rav and your authoritative source of knowledge about Judaism. Did your rabbis tell you that the way to disagree with Torah scholars is to tell them to “drop dead?”

1) What I was trying to get across with my statement is that I am independent of EJF, and what I say or do has nothing to do with them. As long as I and my wife are keeping Torah, are shomer Shabbos, keep the laws of purity, eat glatt, and live a frum lifestyle, etc, they have nothing to say to us regarding what we say, do or write. That goes for any Torah-Jewish organization. This is not the Catholic Church, where one must listen to the Pope & the Magesterium or else face repercussions. Same things hold for every beis din on this planet. They don't care what I say as long as we are keeping a Torah lifestyle. Plus, I am a strong advocate of freedom of speech.

Again I find this assertion astounding. I can’t imagine any rabbi agreeing with this statement. There is a whole body of Torah literature called hashkofa. There is a halachic category of apikores or heretic. You are asserting that as long as you are orthoprax (mitzva observing) who can think and say anything you want and don’t care whether it is considered Jewish. Do you think you have the right as a Jew to assert that G‑d is physical or that the Torah wasn’t given to Moshe on Sinai – chas v’shalom?

2) …Should every Jewish male married to a goya who is seriously going through the process of gerus, divorce their wives, throw away their gentile (for now) kids, and move on. Dear sir, halachachly that may or may not be the correct thing to do. But nobody is going to do so, especially the millions of us raised, through no fault of our own, secular.

Again you are saying – the halacha is not relevant?!. Have you ever studied the halachos concerning conversion? Are you aware of the literature dealing with “leshem ishus” (conversion for the sake of marriage.) If you have – than please cite which rabbinical sources agree with what you are saying. Are you saying that a person who was born as a mamzer should not be stigmatized because it was “no fault of his own.?” That a cohen should be able to marry a divorcee because it is not his fault he fell in love with her? Are you saying that adultery should not be punishable by death because they were truly in love? What if you found out your wife was actually your biological sister - would you stay married? Would you stay married if you found out your wife was Jewish and had been married before and had not received a get from the first husband?

What EJF does is not proselytizing.

They are trying to to right a wrong that almost two centuries of being frei, secular and Torah-less perpetuated on the overwhelming majority of Yidden, especially in the U.S.

Proselytizing means trying to change a person’s religious beliefs. Trying to convince a person to convert to Judaism is proselytizing. If you want to assert that even though Judaism never proselytized but it needs to now because circumstances are different – I am open to hearing the justification. However you and EJF are both asserting that making great efforts to convince someone to convert to Judaism is not proselytizing. You are simply saying that justified proselytizing is not proselytizing. That is a great example of “doublethink”

3)I would love to honor you by sharing more about myself, but as I said in an earlier post, I do not wish to be blackballed into cherum purgatory for the rest of my life.

I don’t understand what you are afraid of – even from EJF?

I will tell you what I can. Yes, I 100% observe Shabbos, yontif, kashrus and as many mitzvos as I can. I decided to become religious as a result of being married to a goya. …I'm not sure if you are being facetious when you say it took courage to do what I did. But I am not the only one. I have met scores of couples in similar situations, and they have told me I have been a sort of beacon in the pitch black world of mixed marriage-land. If I can do it, so can they.

I am not being facetious. I admire people who strive for the truth – in spite of great obstacles. I also admire those who are willing to present their views for public discussion and possible rejection. I admire these people – including yourself - even though I might disagree with them.

My wife has decided to convert for many reasons. One has to do with children. Another is me badgering her over & over with the truth of Torah that it finally took hold, and she truly sees it also as the truth.

Are your children converted? Are they enrolled in yeshiva? If you decided not to keep mitzvos and didn’t insist on your wife converting – would she still convert? After all a non‑Jew can still be righteous and get the World to Come. Does she really want to be a Jewess independent of making you happy?

I found out about EJF from their ads. WE were already involved for years with kiruv groups and had already attended numerous shabbatons, retreats, classes, etc.

Were you referred to the EJF by a rabbi or did you contact them on your own through their application form on the internet or through the contact number on their ads?

EJF I believe is a great organization that can help others like us who don't know how to traverse the path we have…. That is why what you are doing infuriated me. It's not a pipe dream. The world is ripe for tens, if not, hundreds of thousands of non-Jews to join klal Yisrael. These goyim already have a heart for a Jew, Hashem, Torah & Mitzvas. Why push sincere potential converts, as well as their Jewish spouses as well as their precious children away? We should be rescuing them, not trying to destroy them.

So why not gear up for a massive program to convert goyim? What you are expressing is already mainstream in the Reform movement. Why not encourage intermarriage and then convert the non-Jewish spouse. According to you why be upset about intermarriage since it is truly an effective outreach tool?

I want to thank you for your efforts to try to explain your views to me. I apologize if some of my comments come across as too sharp or disrespectful – it was not meant as such. I do however take strong issue with your viewpoint. You have provided me – and the others reading my blog - for the first time an intimate window into what is actually going on in the world of intermarriage and EJF. Until now I had to make do with second hand reports.

With great respect and appreciation,

Saturday, December 15, 2007

This is a Torah viewpoint?

I just received two copies of the following comment. Assuming it is genuine and not a troll, it indicates a need for greater discussion - as well extra Torah lessons from his teachers. I would be very appreciative if anonymous would please contact his teachers at EJF and ask them whether they 1) agree with him 2) think that he expressed himself appropriately. If they in fact approve of his sentiments then I am willing to post an expanded version of this posting - so that I can respond to it. On the other hand if they find that it is not in accord with halacha and derech eretz than I would appreciate an apology. I welcome civil comments by anyone who wants to discuss the issues - whether they agree or disagree with me.

Anonymous said...

As a secular-raised Jew (not frum) married to a goya undergoing conversion via the EJF, I must tell you from the bottom of my hear to please drop dead.

It's because of Jews like you that 85% of our people want nothing to do with Hashem, Torah & Mitzvot.

May the Aybishter see fit to show you the errors of your close-minded ways as painlessly as possible, for your own sake. You are committing the worst of aviras. May Hashem show you mercy when He asks you why you were responsible for so many possible frum Jews being thrown back into the secular world.

December 14, 2007 6:11 PM

Friday, December 14, 2007

Moderated posting

I have received a number of supportive comments to my last posting. I did not publish them because they contained some unsupported assertions. However I do appreciate the thoughts.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

EJF smear campaign

When Rav Sternbuch warned me that my involvement in trying to clarify the halachic basis of EJF would lead to "attempts to get me" - I told him I didn't understand his concern. Unfortunately now I do. Recently someone asked me about how to deal with problematic geirus associated with certain Orthodox rabbis. I suggested contacting EJF for advice. Which they did and mentioned that I had recommended their contacting EJF. Bizarrely, however, the person received the following comments regarding myself - totally gratuitous insults as well as a grossly incorrect distortion of the Abarbanel's words. I am deleting the name of the member of EJF who responded. Furthermore the comment was entirely irrevelant to the matter being discussed. Following it is my response which I sent to EJF.

EJF wrote:

Hi, Dr. Eidensohn in his Book Titled 'Daas Torah' writes in the introduction that he gathered Different opinions Re: various Topics. He continues to write that Rav Eliyashuv , shlita Told him only To quote accepted opinions. He writes that he could not decide which ones are and which ones aren't so he brings all. Well.... in his Chapter on conversion He brings the opinion of the Abarbanel ....A Giant ....but not an Accepted Halachic opinion, That It is sufficient for a non Jew to Believe in the Thirteen Principals 'Even though he doesn't know anything from the entire Torah. It is sufficient to achieve spiritual Perfection Etc... Therfore when a NON JEW decides to CONVERT and Wants to learn torah to obtain the World to come,It is ONLY neccesary to to teach him these 13 Principals Etc..'.(See Pg 70 of above book) Maybe those Rabbi's in Florida accept the Ababarnel's Position as an accepted opinion Like Rabbi Eidenson does? Is that possible? I think Dr Eidensohn is a very Accomplished person and I'm sure He can help. I actually enjoy reading his book.

I responded to EJF with the following:
Unfortunately Rabbi "X" severely misunderstands the Abarbanel and the Rambam - whose status as a mainstream authority doesn't need my support. Furthermore I do not have a chapter on conversion in Daas Torah. The chapter which cited the Abarbanel was dealing with Principles of Faith [for a Jew] - below are the three entries included under the subheading of "Converts to Judaism must accept principles". The Rambam asserts in his commentary to Sanhedrin that if one accepts the 13 principles he will have the World to Come. The Abarbanel wrote a defense of the Rambam's 13 principles in a sefer Rosh Amana. The Abarbanel is not saying that one does not have to accept the 613 mitzvos - chas veshalom - as Rabbi "X" asserts. He is saying that since a Jew only needs acceptance of these principles to get Olam HaBah it is important that converts also be taught these principles. Therefore as converts with the acceptance of these principles he will get Olam HaBah - even if he is not a talmid chochom. Similarly a Jew who is ignorant of Torah - but accepts these principles will get Olam HaBah.

This is the relevant section copied from page 70 of "Daas Torah" in the chapter dealing with Principles of Belief.

Converts to Judaism must accept principles

Rambam[i](Hilchos Issurei Bi’ah 14:2): When a person comes to convert to Judaism, he is notified about foundation principles such as the unity of G‑d and the prohibition of idol worship. This is described in detail. He is also notified of some of the minor mitzvos and some of the major mitzvos but without going into detail…

Shulchan Aruch[ii](Yoreh Deah 268:2): When a person comes to convert to Judaism, he is asked why he wants to convert. … If after being told the despised status of Jews in the world he still wants to convert, he is immediately accepted. He is then taught the foundation principles of Judaism which is G‑d’s absolute unity and the prohibition of idol worship. This is presented in detail. He is also taught some of the lighter commandments and some of the more severe ones. He is also taught the punishment for transgressing these commandments…

Abarbanel[iii] (Rosh Amana #6): You will see that the principles and doctrines which are mentioned by the Rambam are not just principles of faith or religion. The Rambam intended that they be the principles of Judaism. Meaning that those who accept and believe in them are considered as part of the Jewish people and consequently will get the World to Come as promised in the Mishna (Sanhedrin 10:1). It is as if he is saying that these principles are the precondition for Jews to obtain the World to Come. In fact the Rambam (Commentary to Sanhedrin 10:1): When a person believes fully and genuinely in all these 13 principles of faith, he is considered part of the Jewish people and it is obligatory to love him, to have mercy on him and to relate to according to all the mitzvos that G‑d has commanded concerning interpersonal relationships of love and brotherhood. In addition, even if he is a sinner because of lust and lack of self‑control—he will be punished according to his sins—nevertheless he still has the World to Come. … ” Thus the Rambam is not saying that lack of belief in any one of these principles undermines the Torah. Rather his focus was on the issue of obtaining the World to Come and who is considered to be a Jew. Thus if a person believes these 13 principles he will be viewed as a Jew and obtain the World to Come. Even though he doesn’t know anything from the entire Torah, it is sufficient to achieve spiritual perfection with the belief in these principles. Therefore, when a non‑Jew decides to convert and wants to learn Torah to obtain the World to Come, it is only necessary to teach him these 13 principles and that is enough to achieve the desired reward. Without them he will not be considered a Jew and will not get the World to Come…

[i] רמב"ם (הלכות איסורי ביאה יד:ב): ומודיעין אותו עיקרי הדת שהוא ייחוד השם ואיסור עכו"ם ומאריכין בדבר הזה ומודיעין אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות ואין מאריכין בדבר זה ומודיעין אותו עון לקט שכחה ופיאה ומעשר שני ומודיעין אותו עונשן של מצות כיצד אומרים לו הוי יודע שעד שלא באת לדת זו אם אכלת חלב אי אתה ענוש כרת אם חללת שבת אי אתה ענוש סקילה ועכשיו אחר שתתגייר אם אכלת חלב אתה ענוש כרת אם חללת שבת אתה ענוש סקילה ואין מרבין עליו ואין מדקדקין עליו שמא יגרום לטרדו ולהטותו מדרך טובה לדרך רעה שבתחלה אין מושכין את האדם אלא בדברי רצון ורכים וכן הוא אומר בחבלי אדם אמשכם ואח"כ בעבותות אהבה:

[ii] שולחן ערוך (יורה דעה רסח:ב): כשבא להתגייר אומרים לו מה ראית שבאת להתגייר ... אם אמר יודע אני ואיני כדאי להתחבר עמהם מקבלין אותו מיד ומודיעים אותו עיקרי הדת שהוא יחוד ה' ואיסור עבודת כוכבים ומאריכין עמו בדבר זה ומודיעים אותו מקצת מצות קלות ומקצת מצות חמורות ומודיעים אותו מקצת עונשין של מצות שאומרים לו...

[iii] אברבנאל (ראש אמנה פרק ו'): עוד תשובב תראה שהעיקרים והיסודות ההם שזכר הרב הגדול אינם עיקרי האמונות ולא עיקרי הדת בלבלד. אבל כיון בהם הרב שיהיו עיקרי היהדות כדי שהמאמין בהם יהיה מכלל ישראל, ושעליהם אמרה המשנה, "כל ישראל שי להם חקל לעולם הבא". וכאלו אמר שהעיקרים ההם הם היסודות אשר עילהם תבנה ותכונן ירושת העולם הבא הרוחני כל אשר בשם ישראל יכונה. בהאמינו אותם אף על פי שיחטא כמה חטאות יקבל ענשו על פי מריו ועל כל פנים יהיה לו חלק לעולם הבא. ראה דברי הרב שכתב בסוף העיקרים: זה לשונו: וכאשר יהיהי בלב האדם אלו עיקרים כולם ויאמין בם הנה הוא נכנס בכלל ישראל וצירך לאהוב אותו ולחמול עליו ולעשות עמו כל מה שצוה הבורא שיעשה איש לרעהו מהאהבה והאחוה ואפילו שיעשה כל העבירות שיש בעולם מצד התאוה והיצר וגבורת טבעיו החסרים יהיה לו עונש כפי חטאתו אבל יש לו חלק לעולם הבא והוא מפושעי ישראל.... עד כאן לשונו. הנה גלה הרב בזה שלא שם עיקרים והיסיודות האלה למה שתפול התורה בביטול אחד מהם, אבל היה כוונתו לבאר אותה המשנה שאמר "כל ישראל יש להם חלק לעולם הבא. ולתת רושם וגדר בו נכיר ונדע מי הוא זה ואיזה הוא אשר בשם ישראל יכונה וצדיק באמונותו יחיה ושאליו כיונה המשנה. ואמר הרב שבהאמינו אלו הי"ג עיקרים שזכר יקרא "ישראל" ויהיה בן העולם הבא. ואף על פי שלא ידע דבר אחר מכל התורה כולה די' לו להשגת השלימות הרוחני באמונת העיקרים האלה. ולכן לכל איש אישר ולגר הגר בתוכם הבאים לחסות "תחת כנפי השכינה" כשיאמר אחד מהן למדני תורה כדי שאהיה בן העולם הבא, צריך ללמדו הי"ג עיקרים האלה בלבד ועמהם הנה שכרו אותו. ובלעדיהן לא יזכר בשם "ישראל ולא יזכה לחיי העולם הבא...

Thursday, December 6, 2007

Jewish Press published my article

The Jewish Press just published my article in the Letters to the Editor section


It was also mentioned in Hirhurim


Tuesday, December 4, 2007

Article requested by Jewish Press

The Jewish Press requested that I send in a more detailed comment which they said they will publish in the print edition. This is what I submitted

The Bedatz’s criticism of Eternal Jewish Family

The Bedatz of the Eidah Chareidis has recently brought some disturbing developments to our attention. [This is the actual Bedatz not an unofficial offshoot]. I must note that I am not a neutral observer in this matter. I played a minor role in aiding Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita obtain information from the Internet as well as translating and distributing two letters. [See my blog Daas Torah - http://daattorah.blogspot.com/ ] While I have some knowledge of Rav Moshe Feinstein’s zt”l views as the author Yad Moshe - my comments are what I have heard from Rav Sternbuch and other rabbonim.

Last Chanukah, Rav Efrati described Rav Eliashiv’s views concerning teaching Torah in a non‑observant community which has non‑Jews who think that they are Jewish. Concerning intermarried couples he says: “Rav Eliashiv, shlita has repeatedly said that those living as intermarried couples cut themselves off from the Jewish people. Furthermore he holds that we are obligated to distance ourselves from them and their society and to cut off all connection with them. However this community is different because its members mistakenly think that the non‑Jewish spouses are Jewish. Therefore it is permitted to maintain ties with the Jewish spouses in order to draw them closer through ties of love and to bring them under the wings of the Shechina.” This shunning of intermarried couples has always been the normative approach.

Nevertheless, what if a couple comes to a rabbi and asks for the non‑Jewish spouse to be converted? While there are dissenting views – there are many great rabbinical authorities which permit conversion as last resort - if the Jewish spouse becomes observant and the non‑Jewish spouse sincerely accepts the obligation to keep all mitzvos.

Why did the Bedatz issue their protest against participation in Eternal Jewish Family (EJF) – despite it being supported by many gedolei Torah? Because EJF is actively pursuing the conversion of the non‑Jewish spouse! Rav Leib Tropper, the head of the organization, has repeatedly denied proselytizing because he says he is only dealing with couples referred to him by rabbis. However it is difficult to understand his denials since proselytizing simply means trying to convince someone to change their religion. That is clearly what EJF is doing. It is a fact that Rav Tropper spends hundreds of thousands of dollars per convention to persuade a handful of uncertain or curious couples that they should become Jews. Those who are certain are not invited. These intermarried couples are given free conventions at quality resort hotels where they are wined and dined and given an intensive program by the world’s best religious motivational speakers – all in the hope that they will decide to convert.

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.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Proselytising? II


Jewish Press published the following entitled
Oxnard Diary - what follows is the second half of the article
by Isa David Balaban June 28, 2006

From a Jewish perspective, however, the most heartbreaking aspect may be that those intermarried Jews who, despite past decisions, fervently wish to retain their identity and their children’s identity as Jews are up against near impossible odds. These include the inescapable reality that there are few more serious violations of Jewish law than marriage to a non-Jew, that such marriages are condemned by the Bible and completely unrecognized, and that the status of the children of such partnerships are regarded accordingly. But can Judaism simply turn its back on sincere returnees who are intermarried?
Those who remember the television program “The Millionaire” will recall that each time the anonymous benefactor’s emissary, John Beresford Tipton, approached someone with the gift of a million dollars (which was a lot of money in the late 50’s), the recipient’s initial response was a blend of disbelief and cynicism (the varying proportions of which kept the series interesting from week to week).
Such was the understandable reaction of most of the thirty-two intermarried couples who were invited to the Oxnard Seminar when their local rabbi informed them that the religion best known for turning away potential converts would not only welcome the non-Jewish spouse’s application for conversion but also wanted to roll out the red carpet.
And who can blame them? Having long been written off as a bad investment of an outreach rabbi’s time, they were now being invited along with their children to an all-expenses-paid retreat at a luxurious winery on the California coast. Between the gourmet meals, vineyard tour, and wine-tasting, they would get the lowdown on converting to Judaism, share their own experience with other similarly-situated couples, and meet the team that would streamline the process for them. It sounded too good to be true.
Yet by the end of the three-day event, even the couple who had braced themselves for “the ultimate Amway pitch” were reassured – and much more. Oxnard Seminar participant Mike Perkins called the experience “life-changing.” New Yorker Pauline Edwards described herself as being “beyond inspired.” Canadian David Durand said “it gave us a unity for life.”
Little wonder. Along with the steak and (kosher) caviar, EJF flew in a world class line up of motivational speakers. Such well known Torah heavy hitters as Rabbis Doron Kornbluth, Mordechai Neugroschel and Meyer Schiller gave talks and one of the top Israeli rock bands played through the night. Britney Spears’s publicist even made a video appearance. In short, it was a lineup that would make George Steinbrenner blush, and the all but inevitable result was that of the thirty-two couples that came to Oxnard, thirty applied for EJF’s Universally Accepted Conversion. Suffice to say that with chassidic tales, world class Beaujolais, and the California surf replacing Constantine’s sword, conversion will never be the same again.
Which raises the questions: Who is responsible for Judaism’s apparent course change, who is footing the bill for this, and where is it all heading?
The rudder of Judaism is being steered in the same way as it has for thousands of years – by the leading Torah scholars of the generation. Today, that distinction is shared by HaRav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, shlita, in Jerusalem and HaRav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, in New York. But it would be a mistake to believe that these Torah authorities, however venerated, had the power to change Jewish law or alter God’s Torah. As the Oxnard participants learned, no one has the power to do that – and this is part of what defines Judaism.
The surprising fact of the matter is that the legal basis for actively encouraging the conversion of non-Jewish spouses has long existed in the Bible commentaries of the medieval Jewish sage Maimonides. Based on subsequent elucidations by Rabbi Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky, zt”l, and most recently by HaRav Moshe Feinstein, zt”l, the gedolei hador merely made the decision to proactively apply this principal to the American situation at this time.
Financed by investor-philanthropist Thomas Kaplan and led by Feinstein-associate HaRav Leib Tropper, the Eternal Jewish Family was established last year to realize the vision of the gedolei hador. Its mission is to develop a new standard for conversion – one that is universally accepted by all rabbis regardless of their affiliation (divisions had emerged over the last hundred or so years about the proper interpretation of the Jewish conversion laws); to educate the thousands of rabbis from diverse streams of Judaism about the new standard and instruct them in its implementation; and to establish the educational vehicles and religious courts that will serve the needs of the new converts.
With the demand for additional couple retreats now pouring in, EJF is too busy to revel in its California triumph. (Rav Tropper merely said that he was “gratified.”) More advanced couples (who need no such motivational retreats) are already sending the volume of online application for UAC’s soaring (the EJF website can be found at www.eternaljewishfamily.org; the phone number is 845-425-0550) and the organization is determined to provide a world class product. Regional EJF offices are opening, and rabbinical conferences are slated for Jerusalem in July and Boston in October, with gatherings in Europe and South America to follow. And as if EJF’s plate needed filling, Israel’s Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar recently announced that EJF would develop Israel’s state-of-the-art, high-tech repository for conversion data .
Where is it all headed? EJF Executive Director David Jacobs believes the organization will receive a steady stream of applications that will gradually grow over time, and that EJF’s success should be measured in terms of the number of Jewish souls that otherwise would have been lost.
Others, like Thomas Kaplan, continue to hold out hope that EJF will significantly mitigate the willful self-destruction of non-Orthodox American Jewry.

Still others decry the entire effort. Concerned that EJF might inadvertently send a message to unmarried Jews that intermarriage is okay or at least fungible, they contend that the Torah authorities involved have made a mistake of tragic proportions.

Only God knows, but it’s clear that something big happened at Oxnard.

Proselytising? I

Who is really to blame?
by Jonathan Rosenblum
Jerusalem Post
June 1, 2007

[This is the second half of the article]

"IT IS NOT those who uphold strict standards for conversion who show a lack of love and concern for the convert, but rather those who ignore the halachic requirement of a sincere commitment to mitzva observance. The latter expose those "converted" under their auspices to the danger of a painful shock many years later when they discover that their conversion is not universally recognized.

A universally recognized standard is the greatest protection for the sincere convert, and the implementation of such a standard by responsible rabbinical courts is the key to the complete integration of the sincere convert into the Jewish people, without any concern that someone will someday question his or her conversion.

Two weeks ago, I participated in a three-day seminar sponsored by the Eternal Jewish Family (EJF) organization in Phoenix, Arizona. The participants were 32 intermarried couples in each of which the non-Jewish spouse is contemplating conversion. (The leading contemporary halachic decisors have ruled that in the case of intermarried couples, the general rule that "the right hand pushes away" the would-be convert does not apply.)

The Phoenix seminar was the second of its kind. Of the 32 couples who participated in the first, 28 are on track to a full halachic conversion for the gentile spouse. One couple from the first seminar was halachically married at the Phoenix seminar. Another seven seminars sponsored by EJF are scheduled around the world for the coming year, each at a cost of hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Working with intermarried couples is only part of what EJF does. The organization also promotes a universally accepted standard for conversion. It has already sponsored numerous conferences for rabbinical court judges in the United States and Israel, and one is scheduled in the near future for Europe.

The two-fold efforts of EJF provide irrefutable proof that concern for universally recognized standards of conversion goes hand-in-hand with the greatest love and respect for the convert."

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Jewish Press Editorial & my (so far ) unpublished response

Jewish Press
Conversions And Controversy

By: Editorial Board Wednesday, November 21, 2007

A brief news item in last week’s Jewish Press reported on the latest conference of the Eternal Jewish Family, an organization intent on formulating universal standards for Jewish conversions. As was the case with its four earlier sessions, the group brought together notables from the Torah world – respected roshei yeshiva, leading poskim and prominent pulpit rabbis – to identify and promote a conversion process that would pass muster across the spectrum of Jewish life while alleviating the horror of conversions that are problematic because of questions about the procedures that were followed or the credentials of the overseers.

The enterprise would seem to be one of those things about which there should be no dispute. But the long knives are coming out nonetheless.

There are those who are not part of the Eternal Jewish Family team that are taking umbrage at its increasing success in the area of conversions. Frustration at not being accepted as the last word on conversions has, from the beginning, been a sore point with veteran conversion practitioners and rabbinic groups that preexisted the EJF (which, among other things, has directed the establishment of regional religious conversion courts that apply its standards and abide by its cap on what converts may be charged).

Unfortunately, a new dimension to the challenges has emerged.

In order to secure the recognition of the most stringent haredi communities, EJF early on enlisted the involvement of such luminaries as Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, Rav Ovadia Yosef and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in Israel and Rav Reuven Feinstein here in the U.S. There has also been support on the part of, among others, Rav Dov Povarky, Rav Moshe Shapiro, Rav Ahron Schechter, Rav Hillel David and Rav Shmuel Kaminetsky.

There are, however, voices from within the haredi world that have taken to questioning the bona fides of EJF despite the imprimatur of Rav Elyashiv and the other gedolim. To be sure, those leading the new charge have in the past made a point of tweaking Rav Elyashiv and others in the haredi hierarchy on various issues. And they have employed the time-honored device of approaching a posek, ex parte, for a p’sak regarding a litany of facts that may include a number of halahic no-nos but that do not necessarily have anything to do with the intended target. The inevitable negative ruling, though, is then spun as being directed at that target.

This is not to take sides in a public row that is only bound to escalate in the coming weeks. We do, however, recognize the great strides achieved by EJF on an issue that has long vexed the religious community and hope that the important work of standardizing the conversion process will not be derailed, even momentarily.

My response sent November 22, 2007 which has not been published or acknowledged:

Firstly let me express strong gratitude to the Jewish Press for its efforts of many years to ameliorate the problems of the Jewish people. However I am troubled by your presentation of this matter and its serious deviation from your normal standards of impartiality and fairness. I fail to understand why you say you are not taking sides in this matter, when in fact you have invalidated the opposition as essentially beneath contempt. There are in fact serious halachic issues involved - something which unfortunately your informant in this matter has failed to mention. It would be helpful for the productive resolution of this matter if you heard from all the parties involved before passing judgment. Especially since the position of the Jewish Press carries great weight with its readership. Please let me know if you would like to hear the other side.

Daniel Eidensohn Ph.D.

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Bedatz letter regarding conversion

Rav Sternbuch, shlita approved translation by Daniel Eidensohn


5th of Kislev 5768

Concerning the Holiness of the Jewish People – the Holy Nation.

The senior dayanim of the Bedatz met today to discuss allegations that certain kiruv activists are actively proselytizing the children of intermarried couples to convince them to convert – even though according to Torah law there is no halachic relationship with their Jewish fathers. They are calling for the acceptance of these non-Jewish children in Jewish programs and religious schools. Such an action is literally a disaster and self‑destructive. It is self‑evident that such a program is absolutely prohibited by the Torah.

Furthermore until now anyone who wanted to marry a non‑Jewess – Heaven forefend! – knew very well that this act would sever them from the Jewish people forever. Because of the dire consequences of intermarriage, there was a strong barrier that prevented many from intermarrying. However now that the consequence of exclusion from the Jewish people has been removed - this motivation not to intermarry has been lost. Consequently these intermarried couples and their children remain amongst the Jewish people. This results in their non-Jewish children being accepted into religious schools out of the hope that they will eventually convert.

Therefore we are warning that this activity is against the Torah. It has never been acceptable to proselytize non‑Jews. Furthermore as we mentioned it actually encourages intermarriage.

We therefore are turning to the poskim and the roshei yeshivos not to participate in their conventions - such as the one that occurred in America last week. Even if their motivation was to improve the standards of conversions – they are making improvements in one area while making things worse in another. This approach is directly causing serious problems.

Those who heed our cautions will benefit and receive blessings.

We - the members of the Bedatz in Jerusalem - affix our signature to this document out of fear and concern for the holiness of the Jewish people – the holy nation.

Horav Meir Brandsorfer Horav Moshe Sternbuch
Horav Naftoli Frenkal Horav Avrohom Yitzchok Ulman
Horav Yakov Mendel Yorovitch Horav Yehoushua Rosenberg

Bedatz letter regarding conversion

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Kiruv Guidelines for Geirus

R' Daniel,

As always the proverbial devil is in the details.

· - Do Kiruv Orgs have an Achrayus to reach out specifically to intermarried people who show no interest? If they do not do so because they feel that their time is better served addressing other issues are they to be criticized?

· - If an intermarried couple does get involved with a Kiruv org or shul and is turned down by a beis din should compassion lead us to question the beis Din’s approach and should we then shop around for them?

· - Can we allow such people to be included in Kiruv efforts when there is a possibility of intermarriage or even countenancing it?

· - Even assuming all of that what is the posture we take towards these people? How positive and welcoming should we be?

Frankly, that is the issue at hand. There is an effort to “normalize” geirus to the point where we should be treating these people just like rechokim. It may be emes but it is certainly not yet a consensus……

There indeed are some pretty strong feelings out there. Our policy is that we do not sponsor geirus as a Kiruv oriented organization and we will work with a beis din unquestionably or a community rabbi to help in their education efforts. All prospective converts are told that we are happy to get them together with a beis din and that the expectation is shemiras Torah umitzvos right up front.

I hope this sheds some light

Kesivva vachasima tovah

Rabbi N. T.