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Jewish Press Editorial & my (so far ) unpublished response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.


  1. This is the Jewish Press' modus operandi ever since they have been publishing.

    The only difference is, now it is on an issue you disagree with.

  2. Your response to their editorial is very well stated.

    Here is the letter that I sent them:

    Given the current climate regarding this issue where the Israeli Rabbinute is not accepting Diaspora conversions and the recent Bedatz assur regarding kiruv activities aimed toward the Gentile children of non Jewish woman who cohabit with Jewish men, it is only my opinion that the Jewish Press should publish the letter from Bedatz along with the translation approved by Rabbi Sternbuch shlita.

    To publish instead an editorial that appears to support EJF in opposition to both the Rabbinute and Bedatz would seem contrary to what the mainstream of Orthodox Judaism is doing.

    I fail to understand why a publication that presents itself as an Anglo Orthodox Jewish news source would choose to ignore the extremely newsworthy statement of Bedatz in favor of publishing an editorial in support of an organization whose website has been pulled down because the Rabbis who previously supported it no longer wish to affiliate with it.

    Given that the statement from Bedatz was issued last Erev Shabbat, I fail to understand why it could not have been reported in this weeks paper. By now, it is not "news".

  3. Whom did you send this to at The Jewish Press? The correct e-mail address is either or And you're being very disingenuous when you complain that a letter you sent on Nov. 22 wasn't published by the paper --which is a weekly and the next issue of which won't be out until next Wed.! So how are they supposed to have published a letter of yours before their next issue goes to press???

  4. Yitzchok said:"And you're being very disingenuous when you complain that a letter you sent on Nov. 22 wasn't published by the paper --which is a weekly and the next issue of which won't be out until next Wed."

    You are apparently unaware of the Jewish Press website. There is a comment option on the website to which one can reply and it is added to the website. They also ask whether you want to be considered for the print edition. It only takes a day or two at most for the moderator to read letters. My letter simply has been ignored.

  5. I have been waiting to convert to Judaism for 10 years. Unable to convert for so long, due to being married to a non-Jew and having small children who are now almost of an age to go out on their own. It has been pure, absolute torture to my soul, this long wait. Now, when I am so close to being able to convert, I find all these problems, the Israeli Rabbinate has a certain list of approved Rabbonim, many of whom are DEAD already, and leaving just a couple of Rabbis far from me. No matter, I will go wherever I have to when the time comes. The situation for people who wish to convert IN Israel is even worse, to the point of almost being impossible - unless one is brought in from Russia through some faux-Jewish Rabbi "On Wings of Eagles" with the help of those same Israeli Rabbinate head Rabbis, who then convert these Russians to Judaism in a fast unhalachic conversion. Many, many of these Russians couldn't care less about Jews, Israel, or being Jewish themselves, but there they are for the benefits. While someone like me who has waited in torture for a decade to finally convert has to be put through hell. I believe at this point that the very LAST thing the Israeli Rabbinate wants are true, sincere converts who have Jewish souls that have awoken. They want non-Jews instead, masquerading as Jews, as they continue to convert the Russians and others who have no interest in being Jews in the first place except for the benefits! While at the same time denying people with true Jewish souls the opportunity.

    No matter. I will find a way to convert HALACHICALLY when the time comes, nobody will be able to stop my Jewish soul from coming home. I have studies from Orthodox sources (OU, etc.) for the past ten years on my own, as it's all I can do, now I have learned so much in theory but cannot yet put it into practice until I convert.

    The Rabbinate should be happy to accept a convert like me, instead of accepting Russians and hidden Jews for yushkie, who don't care about being a Jew. But will they? No. It will be hard, difficult, and immensely unfair. No matter. A true Jewish soul cannot be stopped once it wakes up.

  6. Why did the Jewish Press not print or even mention the Bedatz ruling? It is surely very big news throughout the Jewish world.

    Dear Anonymous who wishes to become a Geyores Tzeddekes:

    My husband is a Rabbi who has advocated for several sincere converts and our experiences with the Israeli Rabbinute have been very positive; that they have been VERY open to accepting SINCERE converts.

    To the best of our knowledge NO Diaspora conversions are being accepted in Israel without review. The Rabbinute will only accept those Diaspora conversions that they rule were done according to halacha. Sadly this has not been the case in the majority of cases.

    Some of the things you may need to consider as part of your potential conversion commitment are very difficult halachic realities.

    For example, a Jew cannot be married to a non Jew. Converting k'halacha in your case would most likely mean permanently separating from your husband unless he is also willing to make a sincere commitment to a life of Torah and mitzvah observance.

    The issues surrounding your children are also very complex and would need to be addressed by the Beit Din. In converting k'halacha, your non Jewish children are no longer your children according to Jewish law. Will you be happy all alone in this world? Jews are forbidden to proselytize to non Jews, so you will not be able to share your new life with your non Jewish children. Can a mother truly sever the maternal relationship to her own children in order to serve G-d as a Jew?

    The journey you consider is a very very difficult and lonely path. Any responsible Beit Din will want to ensure you are educated enough to make such a decision in an informed manner. This cannot happen overnight.

    The Rabbis who insist that you study Jewish law and Jewish observance for several years, that you live with an observant Jewish family alone, separated from your non Jewish husband and children is NOT being strict, to the contrary they are being compassionate to you.

    Conversion k'halacha is a MOST serious commitment as well as a one way ticket for all of eternity. It is entirely unfair to you if you make such a commitment unless you are well educated and informed of all of the consequences.

    As you are now, you are a righteous Gentile whom G-d Himself created in the most perfect and appropriate manner for your role in this world. You are assured your eternal place among the righteous if you observe the laws that are incumbent upon you as a Gentile.

    But you believe that you wish to take on more, MUCH MUCH more. More in fact than your Creator created you to observe!!

    You believe that you wish to observe the entire Torah, a commitment that those of us who were born Jewish almost always fail to fulfill (and quite honestly sometimes get quite angry with G-d for imposing upon us).

    How could you even begin to understand what this REALLY means until you have lived for a few years under the conditions of the oath you seek to impose upon yourself?

    You say no one will stop your Jewish soul from coming home and that is surely admirable. But how many can leave everything they have ever known and go to Israel in order to live with a Jewish family and study Judaism so that they will even BEGIN to understand the commitment to live a Jewish life REALLY entails?

    This type of commitment is truly necessary because once you convert, transgressing the laws you have sworn to observe will cost your soul its eternity.

    The Beit Din that does not allow you to enter into such a commitment lightly or without full understanding is the Beit Din that truly cares for you and your spiritual well being for eternity.

    In contrast, Rabbis who will permit
    Gentiles to sacrifice their eternity without the proper education and commitment in order to boost Jewish numbers or ease political issues are being unfair to those whom they convert. You are right to be outraged by this.

    I wish you all the best.

  7. 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.


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