Monday, December 31, 2007

The Emperor has no clothes - Eternal Jewish Family & Daas Torah

A very strange thing has happened. Despite my many postings and requests for one simple thing - the halachic guidelines of Eternal Jewish - EJF has produced nothing. This leads to the rather unfortunate conclusion that there is in fact no halachic justification for their specific program of proselytization. As the wise lawyer said, "If you have evidence you produce the evidence, otherwise you yell and scream and pound the table."

Conversion is a great problem today. Whether we are talking about intermarried couples or the children of intermarried couples or even ordinary conversion. The way this issue is handled strongly influences the nature of the Jewish people for future generations. However we are not dealing with Torah prohibitions but rather rabbinic laws and social policy issues. EJF claims to be relying on the halachic rulings of Rav Moshe Feinstein. In fact Rav Moshe does permit conversion of intermarried spouses. In other words even if the motivation is not for the sake of heaven but rather to stay in the marriage - as long as they agree to keep all the mitzvos they are good gerim bedieved. At the same time he says he himself has nothing to do with conversion. He advised those who wanted to convert the spouse to find some other rabbi who is willing to do it. He refuses because of the very poor success rate for these conversions and wants nothing to do with the whole enterprise of conversion. Rav Chaim Ozer states a similar position. They are both acknowledging that it is permissible to convert these spouses - but by and large it is just producing non-observant converts. Thus EJF seems to be following the narrow technical rulings of Rav Moshe and Rav Chaim Ozer - but not their Daas Torah.

This makes their activities even stranger since they have spared no expense to show that they are following the guidance of gedolei Torah. However, they have produced no evidence that in fact the gedolim are supporting their specific program. I have cited a letter from Rav Efrati - that Rav Eliashiv's standard response as to how to deal with intermarried couples is to shun them - except in the case where they and their community thinks that they are in fact Jewish. Where is the letter from Rav Eliashiv that he approves of proselytizing intermarried couples? Where is the letter from Rav Dovid or Rav Reuven Feinstein that their father approved of the policies of EJF?

Some have claimed that the mere association of many of our gedolim with EJF shows that they support its policies - even though they have not explicity stated it. I had the opportunity recently to speak with a talmid muvhok of one of the star speakers at the recent Washington convention of EJF. I asked him why his rebbe went. He replied, "When my rebbe returned from the convention he said it was shtus v'hevel." I asked so why did he go? The answer was that his yeshiva needed the money.

If EJF's goal is simply to raise the standard of geirus - that is great. But then why is there a need for all their conventions and the millions they spend to convince non-Jews to convert? How many times do you need to say "we want to raise the standards". Where are their guidelines. What are their recommendations dealing with non-Jews entering kiruv programs or into yeshivos in the hope that they will convert? What does it mean that they produced a handbook of these guidelines but as Rabbi Tropper informed me they "withdrew it from circulation 2 years ago because some things weren't clear."

I am still waiting to hear their reply.


  1. The Rema "permitted" Gentile wine in order to save Prussian Jewry from sinning because "their Rabbis permitted it and all of Prussian Jewry was drinking Gentile wine". (Responsa Y.D. 124 is controversial as to whether or not the Rema wrote it).

    The author of 124 deliberately constructed an incorrect argument that it is permissible to drink Gentile wine, and then hypothesized that the Moravian practice is based on the argument, though no Rabbi had ever heard of it and thus succeeded in constructed an invalid argument for drinking Gentile wine, which is plausible enough to save the Moravians from the label of sinners.

    This is no different. Intermarriage in America has reached over 50% for the past 2-3 generations. American Orthodox Rabbis have been performing conversions where there has been no halachic basis to do so in order to permit intermarriage.

    In order to save the credibility of the American Rabbinate who accept such "conversions" there must be some basis for permitting them even if there is not. This is where EJF steps in.

    We have Jewish day schools and yeshivas in America that are full of children who are only Jewish via patrilineal descent.

    We have Rabbis, Rebbetzins, Hazzanim, religious workers and shuls FULL of people only considered Jewish based upon the validity of conversion for the sake of permitting an intermarriage.

    I do not believe it to be in the best interest of the Jewish people to EVER accept such a standard.

    However, if Israeli Rabbis will not accept patrilineal descent as a valid determination of Jewish status for American Jews then they will have no choice but to permanently disqualify American Rabbis for the sake of determining "who is a Jew?"

  2. Anonymous wrote:

    "However, if Israeli Rabbis will not accept patrilineal descent as a valid determination of Jewish status for American Jews then they will have no choice but to permanently disqualify American Rabbis for the sake of determining "who is a Jew?""


    Please clarify your remarks. Are you asserting that the heter for converting an intermarried couple is not valid? That Rav Moshe Feinstein, Rav Chaim Ozer, and many others including Rav Ovadiah Yosef are poskening something they don't believe is valid?

    Your other point that EJF is a vehicle for disqualifying the independent halachic authority of American rabbis who use questionable heterim. I would assume you would also include issues such as gittin and kashrus.

    Apparently someone forgot to tell the chassidishe velt as well as the Bedatz. Actually you seem to be proposing that it is a litvishe conspiracy centered around Rav Eliashiv.

    Your suggestions are tantalizing but they need some evidence.

  3. "Are you asserting that the heter for converting an intermarried couple is not valid?"

    Is there truly a "heter" to permit intermarriage as long as the Gentile spouse will take a dip in a mikveh?

    Did Rabbi Yosef (who I believe is the Posek of Chief Sephardic Rabbi Amar), Rabbi Grodzinski ztl and Rabbi Feinstein ztl actually PERMIT conversion of the Gentile as a "cure" for intermarriage?

    Surely not without some Kabbalot Mitzvoth. And how can any Beit Din see evidence of Kabbalot Mitzvot when the Gentile continues to commit the aveira of cohabiting with the Jew with whom she has previously caused to sin (while allegedly being in the process of converting)? And is there ever an enforced separation that would be long enough to ascertain the sincerity of the Gentile to the commitment to Torah and Mitzvot?

    Your previous post on the Acheizer and Rav Moshe Feinstein seems to speak to the contrary. It would seem that the Achiezer reversed a previous opinion that many have quoted in support of such conversions and that Rav Moshe always found such "conversions" problematic.

    I do know that the publicized story about Rabbi Ovadia Yosef shlita in the Syrian community that was written about in the NY Times has at least two versions to it:

    Version 1: "According to the rabbi, the community’s refusal to recognize the woman’s conversion drew the ire of Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, at the time the chief Sephardic rabbi of Israel. Rabbi Yosef, a man of volcanic temperament, came all the way from Jerusalem to Brooklyn and informed the local rabbis that he, himself, vouched for the girl’s Jewish authenticity.

    “There he was, in person, in Shaare Zion” — the largest SY synagogue — “dressed in his robes and vestments,” the rabbi, who was there, told me. “He gave an oath that he had personally affixed his name to the girl’s conversion document. She was as Jewish as he was, and he wanted her recognized as a member of our community.”

    Version 2: The way that I remember it is a bit different. Once Hacham Baruch ztl (Rabbi Yosef's chaveruta at Porat Yosef) explained that the girl did indeed fall under that Takana that prevented the conversion of children who are products of intermarriage, Rabbi Yosef was indeed furious, but his fury was directed at the WOMAN who had duped Rabbi Yosef by pretending to be a righteous convert without ulterior motives when she was in fact the product of an intermarriage and could not be converted!

    Once Hacham Baruch explained the background of her situation, Rabbi Yosef was supportive of the community. As I remember hearing the story, it was told to illustrate Rabbi Yosef's SUPPORT for, and respect of, the Takana.

    That was my long answer to your question. The short answer is that I am in no position to question whether the heter itself is valid. However, I do question whether it has even once been applied properly. As far I as I can tell, the heter seems to require Kabbalot Mitzvoth. I have yet to see this occur in an intermarriage to which this heter was applied.

    Regarding Gittin: How many today would make a shidduch for their children with someone who is the product of a second marriage without first making sure that the Get from the first marriage was accepted in Israel?

    Regarding Kashrus: Many religious Jews throughout the world do not accept a number of the kashrus "innovations" of American Orthodox Rabbis.

    For example, food is often considered Bishul Yisrael because a Jew lit the pilot light on the stove months or even years ago and the Gentile owned restaurant/caterer has not had a Jew on the premises since. I saw one with my own eyes where a Jew lit the stove on Friday, and a gentile staff being watched by a Mashgiach actively cooked food on Shabbat for a Motzei Shabbat event. When I questioned the Rav HaMachshir about this, he said that the catering establishment was gentile owned on Shabbat and were therefore free to cook, AND that the food was Bishul Yisrael because of the pilot light. My own Posek in Israel was outraged at this, but when I informed the local Rabbeim about this they continued to use the caterer and apparently did not consider this to be problematic.

    Another example is bread that is labeled Pas Yisrael because of a light bulb over the oven that was installed by a Jew perhaps years earlier (the light bulb "adds" to the heat).

    Restaurants/caterers and bakeries that are Jewish owned but use their Gentile workers to cook and bake on Shabbat because they are "sold" to a Gentile "partner" for Shabbat each week as mentioned above.

    I have seen a video of shechita where a Goy rips the trachea from the behema before there can be found any fault with the cut that might render the animal taref.

    How about a security camera "Mashgiach Temidi" for restaurants? No one actually watches the security camera, but the fact that a Jew COULD be watching constitutes a Mashgiach Temidi according to some opinions.

    If you wish I can respond to you privately with specific details as these allegations are easily proven via communications we have had with the supervising agencies.

    If Israeli Rabbis are "conspiring" in order to restore the observance of halacha to American Orthodoxy then it is a good thing for sure!!

    Otherwise, American Orthodoxy is in grave danger of continuing to slip away along the same path as Reform and Conservative.

  4. I had the opportunity recently to speak with a talmid muvhok of one of the star speakers at the recent Washington convention of EJF. I asked him why his rebbe went. He replied, "When my rebbe returned from the convention he said it was shtus v'hevel." I asked so why did he go? The answer was that his yeshiva needed the money

    You are confirming an earlier allegation in the comments that some rabbis were bought or paid off by rabbi Tropper

    Disturbing…To say the least….

  5. "You are confirming an earlier allegation in the comments that some rabbis were bought or paid off by rabbi Tropper"
    I disagree with your conclusion. The rabbi under discussion did not say anything at the convention that he did not believe. I understood the talmid to simply be saying that his rebbe did not see that the convention actually accomplished anything other than its own existence. He would not have gone execpt the benefit to his yeshiva. Thus he was not corrupted or bribed or paid off. On the other hand my point was that the association of gedolim with the convention doesn't prove that they approve or even are aware of what the organization is actually doing.

  6. I remember when the EJF had their first conference in 2005 in NJ (I think) they were able to get an article in My Machberes in the JP, The article mentioned the rabbis who participated and their organization/movement/association.

    At least one rabbi insisted before the conference and told rabbi Tropper that he only represents himself and has no official role in his movement.

    The rabbi name did appear in the JP with his movement name implying that the movement support EJF.

  7. To the best of my recollection this enterprise (EJF) started by rabbi Tropper telling people (a) he only works with people who are ALREADY intermarried,(b) follows Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, (c) his program is guided by rabbi Reuven Feinstein (d) has the blessing of rav Elyashiv.

    He got rabbi Nachum Eisenstein on board and told people that rabbi Eisenstein represents rav Elayashiv.

    Me think that rabbi Nachum Eisenstein got involved with the EJF because of his extra-curriculum activities as the head of “Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur" not because of his relations with Rav Elyashiv

    The question is if rabbi Elyashiv is aware of what is perpetrated by his name

  8. It was mentioned on other blog that it is more a political issue than halacathic issue. It is an attempt by some right wings groups in the haredi world to wrench control of the conversion process from the Modern Orthodox. Most conversions in the US are marriage based and the couples usually find the Modern Orthodox rabbis more accepting.

    You can see the vilification of Modern Orthodoxy in Kol Yaakov in Monsey as well as the call in the recent EJF conference to disqualify dayanim who hold to the old universe theory.

    Maybe they thought that if they have enough money would not need to find their marhe makom. I am glad they were proven wrong.

  9. So much time and attention is focused on current and prospective intermarried couples. However, as a single woman that moved to NYC for Orthdox conversion and to get a degree in Jewish studies (after finally being able to afford the high cost of living!), it seems the intermarried DO have the attractive and attention of conversion rabbis. Over the course of nearly 2 years, I've been told multiple times by rabbis that I'm not serious enough since I don't have a Jewish spouse or significant other! I am heart broken, but I will keep trying.

  10. Simplemente increible! :)


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