Monday, February 25, 2008

A Deeper Look at the current EJF Website and Troubling Issues it Raises:

Recipients and Publicity wrote:

Here we have an organization that has taken upon itself one of the most responsible jobs, geirus, and one would think that in inviting prospective clients (primarily gentiles married to Jews) its website would go beyond mere platitudes and generalities.

With all the tens of millions of dollars already pumped into EJF and its events, one would think that they would have not only a state of the art website up and running but that it would also offer complete transparency of who are the ones selling the goods.

Sure, the logo on top of each page proclaims that EJF is a "[Star of David that is almost an Israeli army-look-alike with the sword and olive leaves in the center] Eternal Jewish Family: THE LILLIAN JEAN KAPLAN JEWISH PRIDE THROUGH EDUCATION PROJECT" but has absolutely no listing of staff or who will be taking care of applicants once they apply on the blank automated fill-in "application" page at

The only rabbis mentioned are on the expanded "about" page at Two being deceased (Rav Moshe Feinstein zt"l and Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach zt"l). Three alive, but two, very, very old and living in Israel: Rav Yosef Sholom Eliyashuv (born 1910) and Rav Shmuel Wosner (born 1913), with only a somewhat younger Rav Reuven Feinstein from America named in its history.

So in effect, the two deceased rabbis cannot be cited as "mashgichim" of any sort and the two much older rabbis from Israel cannot be "mashgichim" of what goes on in EJF either. So that leaves Rabbi Reuven Feinstein, who is very close with EJF's sole rabbi, the energized Rabbi Tropper and probably his main rabbinic ally.

So, just going by EJF's own website, there is no real known halachic supervisor (besides the omniscient Rabbi Tropper) to oversee who EJF is taking under its wings and preparing for conversions!

This is alarming because Rabbi Reuven Feinstein has his hands full running his large yeshiva MTJ on Staten Island, in NYC, and he has so many other duties such as attending Agudath Israel of America meetings, being mesader kiddushin at many people's weddings, and attending all sorts of functions. It is hard to imagine that he is personally intervieing each EJF applicant. Indeed, the same applies to Rabbi Tropper. He is a Rosh Yeshiva and he must be at his Yeshiva Kol Yaakov. He gives many guest lectures all over the USA. He has to raise funds (well maybe less now that the Dr. Tom Kaplan is taking this burdern off his shoulders) and it cannot be that he has the time to thoroghly screen each and every potential convert.

Rabbi Tropper may want and wish and think that he is probably at this time *trying* to keep his finger in every applicant's process because the situation is a bit dicy with the BADATZ having come out openly against him and the EJF and all it would take is for one phoney conversion process that EJF helped to blow up in his face and that would in turn blow his whole EJF dream out of the water. No-one said this would be easy.

Anyhow, coming back to the EJF website. Here are some issues to consider (as of February 25th, '08):

*No mention of staff. Even on the "about us" page.

*No mention of who is on the Board of Directors, if indeed there is one.

*No mention of a rabbinical advisory board. In fact not even Rabbi Leib Tropper, the rabbi most behind this effort is mentioned.

*No mention of what type of organization this is. Is it a USA 501 (c) 3 IRS approved not-for-profit charity? Does it take donations from the public? If Madonna the singer who is in with the Kabbalah Center sent EJF or the Lillian Jean Kpalan Foundation a big donation (to help converts, like her maybe, as she took on the Jewish name of "Esther") would anyone know if it was either accepted or, more hopefully, rejected? In fact who donates to EJF and keeps it going? Is it a different kind of private foundation? Is it an ancillary of the "Lillian Jean Kaplan Foundation" or what is its legal status *exactly* in the USA so that its records and files can be examined such as all such entities are according to USA, FOI (Freedom Of Information) rules allow.

*A link to "" which in turn links to a dead link for Yeshiva Kol Yaakov (what does that mean, that there is "nothing" at the center of all this, or that the center does not wish to be linked to its misbegotten step-child?) but on the link there is no real information about that organization either, just platitudes about how great Rabbi Tropper is (self-praise is no recommendation, the saying goes) and links to past Kol Yaakov Yeshiva newsletters with more articles by Rabbi Tropper and notes from grateful students, and oh yes, Kol Yaakov will be opening a branch in Yerushalayim soon and, naturally, Rabbi Tropper will be the Rosh Yeshiva (he wears many hats) and he will be making frequent trans-continental hops back and forth. So again, when does he have time to run EJF and screen the many candidates for conversion? (And note again, that the link to the heart of Rabbi Tropper's world, the Kol Yaakov Yeshiva, does not work and says nothing.)

*On the page "ask the rabbi" page, there is just a seforim shrank picture (typical, does that mean that one will commune with those deceased rabbis inside the seforim to get an answer?) and on the "lectures" page there is a photo of Rabbi Tropper but not his name, it says: "Coming Soon" -- hopefully it will not be "the second coming" either!

*The "Batei Din List" is perhaps the most troubling page of all as looking at the whole page one sees: First the "[Star of David that is almost an Israeli army-look-alike with the sword and olive leaves in the center] Eternal Jewish Family: THE LILLIAN JEAN KAPLAN JEWISH PRIDE THROUGH EDUCATION PROJECT" and then "EJF Approved Batei Din - List of EJF Approved Batei Din" and it states that: "The following batei din are known to EJF to be using universally accepted standards.
We would like to note that EJF does not perform conversions but works with existing batei din that are operating with the standards that have been handed to us by Gedolei Torah"

Fine mumbo-jumbo, and how would a prospective convert who knows very little about Yiddishkeit have any context to make sense of such a statement, like "they do, but they don't"! Very confusing and confused, and no doubt deliberately so. BUT at no point on the website is anyone told WHO exactly did, and does, the ongoing checking of the Batei Din and "approving" their standards. Who in fact is the "Executive Director" in the EJF office that does the work and who helps him get his job done. Is there no staff or is it a mix of EJF/Horizons/Kol Yaakov Yeshiva"/Rabbi Tropper's study&home&cell? Who are his assitants, and hopefully EJF is run by a "he", because a "she" has no ne'emanus in a beis din, sorry it's just a rule of halacha that beis din has to follow.

The list is impressive and as of Feb 25, '08 there are 14 of them one being in Israel and one in Canada. So 12 are in the USA. But who and when and where the "hechsherim" given to these batei din? Does EJF issue a written "seal of approval" that a prospective convert must and should obtain upon request a copy of from these batei din? And indeed, do Batei Din need "hechsherim" from another source especially one like EJF that is NOT a beis din itself, not a Jewishly or Halachically recognized religious body or council of any sort, that does not even state who its rabbis are, besides Rabbi Tropper, and those it deems to approve of its founding, the two late deceased rabbis, two very old ones in Israel and one American Rosh Yeshiva.

This is deception and geneivas da'as of the highest order.

What is this? Leitzonus and an insult to intelligence? An organization has the chutzpah to "evaluate" and "judge" and publicise batei din and does not say which rabbis it has on staff who have done this and who anyone can talk to (besides Rabbi Tropper of course).

Dumbfounding and one wonders why the listed batei din are going along with this, and hopefully it's not because they want donations from Tom Kaplan because that would be shochad...and it is hard to stop thinking when the EJF does not spell out who it uses and who it has on call, not just in Rabbi Tropper's rolodex, but objective outside Rabbonim, and EJF can trumpet is that rivers of money are flowing from the coffers of the "Lillian Jean Kaplan" Foundation to EJF which then sets itself up as the "supreme council" of which batei din are good or not. To repeat, this is chutzpah in motion!

Here is the complete list of batie din on the EJF website:

Name, Rabbi and Telephone number:

*Beis Din of Yerushalayim: Rabbi Nachum Eisenstein 011-972-225-322047

*Beis Din of Monsey: Rabbi Pinchus Rabinowitz 845-425-1315

*Beis Din of Philadelphia: Rabbi Aharon Felder 215-745-2968

*Beis Din Merkaz HaRabbanim: Rabbi Moshe Soloveitchik 312-543-3945

*Beis Din of Cleveland: Rabbi Yisroel Grumer 216-321-5002

*Beis Din of New York: Rabbi Yisroel Dov Webster 718-236-9244

*Beis Din of RCC- Los Angeles: Rabbi Avraham Union 213-389-3382 ext 13

*Beis Din of Milwaukee: Rabbi Mendel Senderovic 414-234-8635

*Beis Din of Montreal, Canada: Rabbi Yonoson Binyomin Weiss 514-739-6363

*Beis Din of Miami: Rabbi Mendel Senderovic 414-234-8635 (Rabbi Senderovic is also listed above for Beis Din of Milwaukee. Is he an itinerant dayan?)

*Beis Din of Lakewood: Rabbi Dov Kahan 732-905-59220

*Beis Din of Dallas: Rabbi Yerachmiel Fried 214-987-3282

*Beis Din of Houston: Rabbi Yehoshua Wender 713-729-8870

*Beis Din of Cincinnati: Rabbi Zelig Scharfstein 513-731-4671

A quick look at these batei din will show that some are very new and function under the auspices of Litvishe yeshivishe rabbis mosly from "out-of-town" (i.e. outside of the main centers of Torah life) in communities tied to out-of-town rabbis and kollelim involved or tied in with kiruv rechokim. It even looks like it's a system of "kiruv-related batei din" designed to help the spouses and or partners of people who are getting into Yiddishkeit through kiruv programs to obtain conversions for their non-Jewish spouses/partners.

This is all very worrying, especially since the EJF website has said that in combination with Rabbi Tropper's "Horizons" outreach efforts, EJF will function as a kiruv/conversion effort and it sure looks as if Rabbi Tropper and EJF have lined up a series of Batei Din (except for Rabbi Eisenstein's in Eretz Yisroel -- a more complex effort -- that should not have gotten involved with EJF and will hopefully still break its ties with EJF now that the BADATZ has come out against the EJF) that will work with EJF's and Rabbi Tropper's goals of "kiruv and geirus" now set to march in "lock-step" and being a very radical departure from classical kiruv and from the autinimous of batei din, theta are now sold and depicted as "single-issue" batei din, in effect a "conglomorate geirus factory with local sub-divions" instead of the classical approach of allowing potential geirim to FIND THEIR OWN WAY without outside help from EJF or anyone to deal with each case on its merits and NOT as part of a greater and broader strategic scheme to help non-Jews get converted for their Jewish spouses and partners in kiruv programs. The Halacha has always been to ACTIVELY DISCOURAGE geirim, that is the din, and to allow the DIVINE Hashgocha to take its own route and that if it is bashert for a goy to become a ger tzedek then leave it to H-shen to show the way, so that there is no need for active organizations in this field that are mimicking the Reform policy of welcoming all and sundry non-Jews as a "solution" to assimilation, intermarriage or any other population challenge or self-inflicted human tragedies.

No wonder Rabbi Tropper and the EJF website is not saying who the active rabbinical board (if there even is one) is and who is giving them *their* hechsher now. But one thing we do know now, they do NOT have the hechsher of the BADATZ but to the contrary the BADATZ has pasulled (negated) them and has called upon any rabbis who assiciate with EJF to wihdraw from them.

Hopefully the BADATZ has also sent its letter asking rabbis to withdraw to the 14 honorable batei din and its rabbis listed by EJF on its website list and hopefully too the rabbonim and dayonim on that list will respect the BADATZ as much as, hopefully more than, they respect the secular-funded and mysteriously run EJF with its meaningless endorsements of batei din yet.

To allow a non-Halachic organization, in the sense that it itself says that it does not do coversions and it's just a "project" of the "Lillian Jean Kaplan} Foundation, to not just give mere opinions but to actually "approve" and sit in judgment as a de facto "ubber-beis din" of other batei din, is a perilous and dangerous situation for any Torah-studying, Halacha-observant, beis din-respecting Jew!


  1. You are 100% correct.

    I am seeing that the Orthodox Rabbis in my city, those who run the shuls and the schools continue to ignore the halacha and the Bedatz letter and "outreach" to intermarried men promising to "convert" their Gentile wives and children.

    Every shul is full of Jewish men, their Gentile wives and children "converted" outside halacha. These men and their Gentile sons are given aliyas in every shul, the children attend in the best yeshivas is Brooklyn, Monsey and Jerusalem and these families are honored at journal dinners.

    The Gentile children are recommended for shidduchim by Rabbis who know better and when asked about the mother's family the answer is always "her parents died in the Holocaust" (amazing for a woman under 50!!)

    This is BIG business in America. The intermarried and their families support the Rabbis, the schools and the shuls in every city, Brooklyn, Deal, Miami, Monsey, LA and Baltimore as well as the more "out-of-town" places.

    Everyone thinks it does not happen in their community until someone they know has a child who unknowingly marries a Gentile who attended the finest yeshivas/Bais Yaakovs and who came highly recommended by all the Rabbis and Roshei Yeshiva. It doesn't occur to most families to do a background check after several Rabbis vouch for the yichus of the family and the middos of the child.

    I visited a shul last year where a wealthy intermarried man was upset because each week, Kohen and Levi aliyas went to the only Kohen, a middle class man and not a big donor. So at the big donor's insistence, the Rabbi wrote a letter to the Kohen (who is a Shomer Shabbos) and told him not to come anymore because the shul needed the money and it was upsetting the other members.

    This is the state of Orthodox Judaism in America. Halacha is for sold to the highest bidder and nothing will change until the people protest and Rabbis who do not follow halacha are ostracized by Bedatz or some other central Halachic body.

    Most people are afraid to question their Rabbis even after a tragedy has happened in their own family (like my cousin in Boro Park who married a goy who was educated in a famous Litvishe yeshiva and recommended by dozens of Rabbis).

    I am not trying to belittle or negate the halachic problems with EJF that you bring up, but it is dangerous to think that Rav Tropper and EJF are the problem with American Orthodoxy. They are only a symptom and even as far as symptoms go, they are the "tip of the iceberg".

  2. As someone who studied for seven years for geirus, beginning at the age of 14, I am very involved with the controversies surrounding the issue. It should be noted that none of the batei din on this list are, to my knowledge, officially associated with EJF. Instead, the organization simply lists them as acceptable batei din organizations and run by those with deep knowledge of the issues and upstanding members who have studied under and/or gained the trust of rabbonim such as Harav Eliyashiv shlit"a, Harav Amar shlit"a, Harav Feinstein shlit"a, and Rav Eisenstein shlit"a. I was mentored and tutored under one of the batei din listed on the EJF list and never heard anything about EJF from them. Also, my geirus was done by a beis din listed on the list, who also never made any mention of the EJF organization. Please remember that whenever you cast doubts of batei din being able to carry out geirus as a whole, you cast doubts on people like me, who studied for years, adjusted to, adapted with, and completely became part of the Torah world and have complete committment to halacha without any "motivation" by a spouse or partner. I am not saying that geirus shouldn't be more closely watched, and that there shouldn't be more assurance that gerim are truly Torah-practicing people; in fact, it would make it better for people like me. However, I do feel that blanket statements, be they about baeti din or organizations, should not be made, as they cause people to look with unneeded suspicion towards true geirim, which only reminds us over and over that we weren't born Jews, something that is expressly forbidden time and time again by the Torah.


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