Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Rav Kook zt"l - Supported Argentina ban on conversion - for welfare of Jews and non-Jews

Rav Kook (Daas Cohen Y.D. #154): [Written to the rabbis of Argentina] Even though the halacha is that those who convert for ulterior motives are valid gerim (Yevamos 24b) and this includes a man who converts for the sake of a woman and a woman who converts for the sake of a man, it appears from Tosfos (Chullin 3b) and Yevamos (24b) that this is only if the conversion involves a full commitment to keeping the mitzvos. But if the conversion is not complete –meaning without full observance of the mitzvos and also the motivation was not proper – then they are worse then regular lion‑converts that are mentioned there in a braissa. There is one opinion that these lion‑converts are genuine gerim but they are like the Kusim because according to the view that they are lion‑converts they are considered according to the halacha as total non‑Jews because there are two problems. 1) the conversion was not for the sake of Heaven 2) they don’t fully observe the mitzvos because as a minimum they worship idols through shituf as is learned from the verse “and yet they still worship their gods.” The language of Tosfos in Chullin is that they didn’t convert completely and thus it was not only idolatry that they violated. Thus in any case where the mitzvos are not observed properly and the motivation wasn’t proper – then there is no conversion at all. We see this in the language of the Rambam and Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 248) that a person who converts for ulterior motivation, we are concerned about him until his righteousness is established. In other words if we see that he is not conducting himself properly according to the halacha and he had ulterior motivation for conversion – this is not considered complete conversion. In fact by accepting a ger who is not going to be observant, we transgress the prohibition of placing a stumbling block before the blind in any case. For if we say that the conversion is not valid even bedieved and yet we accepted them – then that causes problems for society because they are treating non‑Jews as Jews. How many snares and destructions results from that – especially concerning kiddushin, gittin and yibum. The Jewish husband will mistakenly view their son as his son and if he has a Jewish wife afterwards and he dies without other children, his wife will be mistakenly allowed to remarry without chalitza even if he has a brother. There are many other harmful cases that can result. On the other hand if they are truly gerim then bedieved they are fully obligated to keep the entire Torah. Then the beis din causes the gerim problems because they are now obligated in punishment because of all the Torah prohibitions they are violating. Prior to conversion they were not obligated and not punished for transgressing the Torah. We see this in Yevamos (47a) that we are to instruct the candidate for conversion the punishment for not keeping the mitzvos. We tell him , “you should know that before you came to convert, if you ate chelev fat there was no punishment of kares. If you transgressed Shabbos you would not be punished with stoning. However once you convert , eating chelev fat is punishable with kares and profaning Shabbos is punished with stoning. Thus we see that we are commanded about lifnei ivair (placing a stumbling block before the blind – even for non‑Jews. This is stated in Avoda Zara (6b): How do you know that you should not offer a limb from a living animal to a non‑Jew? Because the Torah says “do not place a stumbling block before the blind.” And it is a kal v’chomer concerning our case because he causes him to be have a great obligation as a Jew and he will be punished for his transgressions of the Torah. Therefore it is wonderful what you and the other holy rabbis [of Argentina] have done in making and strengthening the boundaries in Argentina where there is a great breakdown in the walls and there is a great number of gerim who are not sincere – and you have decided not to accept gerim at all. Whoever genuinely wants to attach themselves to the holy Jewish people should come to Israel where they will carefully be evaluated by the Jewish courts. Only those who are genuinely committed to converting for the sake of Heaven and will be fully observant - will be accepted…

R' Moshe Feinstein zt"l - invalidating conversion for non-observant gerim

Igros Moshe (Even ha-Ezer 4:78): Concerning a woman who was married by a Conservative rabbi - in Houston who is known to openly violate Shabbos - to a man who was born in San Salvador to a non‑Jewish woman. The Conservative rabbi there claimed that he converted her together with two local men who were open Shabbos violators because he said that no one observes Shabbos in El Salvador. It is clear that the conversion is of no significance so that even if this couple were married by an Orthodox rabbi according to the halacha it still would have no significance because he is a full non‑Jew for whom kiddushin has no halachic significance. Furthermore even if he were converted by a Torah observant beis din – since he has not observed Torah mitzvos even for a moment he has not accepted the obligation of mitzvos - this is not considered conversion. However if he was a valid ger or was a Jew from birth, the marriage by a Conservative rabbi – who is presumed to deny the foundation principles of Judaism even though we don’t actually know the person and surely here where it is known for certain that he openly violates Shabbos –has no halachic significance. Consequently we have two clear factors why the marriage has no significance and therefore she is permitted to marry another man – but not a cohen since she has had sexual relations with a non‑Jew which disqualifiers her from marrying a cohen.

R' Moshe Feinstein zt"l - validating conversion for non-observant gerim

Igros Moshe (Yoreh Deah 1:160): Concerning a conversion which was done by a Conservative rabbi which did not have the proper acceptance of mitzva and the immersion in the mikve was not in the presence of a beis din but rather was observed by two women. It is obvious that this conversion has no halachic significance because the acceptance of mitzvos is a necessary condition for conversion. Even if she accepted all the mitzvos of the Torah except for one it is invalid as is stated in Bechoros (30b). Furthermore the acceptance of the obligation to keep mitzvos has to be done before three judges and failure to do so invalidates the conversion even bedieved as is stated in Shach (Y.D. 268:9). Therefore there is a basis to question the validity of the conversion - even though there are Orthodox rabbis who also accept converts [who end up not observing mitzvos]. Despite the fact that “we are witnesses” (anan sahadi) that the majority of converts do not genuinely accept the mitzvos as is proved by the way they conduct themselves after conversion. In addition she is not going to be more observant then her Jewish husband for whom she converted. She sees that he violates Shabbos as well as many other Torah prohibitions. However there is a basis for saying that a convert who doesn’t observe mitzvos is nonetheless a valid convert bedieved since she said before the beis din that she accepted the obligation to observe the Torah mitzvos and it happens that sometimes such a convert truly accepts the mitzvos even though they don’t keep them afterwards. Therefore perhaps she should be considered as such a ger who does not observe the laws of the Torah after conversion. This despite the fact that it is clear to us because of her subsequent non‑observance that at the moment of conversion she did not accept the mitzvos in her heart but only said that she was accepting them. Even though I personally don’t find it reasonable for the sake of the rare individual to remove the “we are witnesses” (anan sahadi) of her subsequent behavior and to pay attention to the possibility that she was sincere in her thoughts at the time of conversion. However perhaps this is the reasoning of these Orthodox rabbis and there is some basis for their view. There is also a strong justification to assert that she is a valid ger from the fact that her husband – for whose sake she converted – does not observe Shabbos as well as many other prohibitions so that she assumed that there is not really such an obligation to observe mitzvos to be a Jew. Therefore she is like a non‑Jew who converted amongst non‑Jews which Shabbos (68a) states is a valid ger even though he still worships idols. The reason that he is a valid ger is because he has accepted upon himself to be like all the other Jews and this is considered a valid acceptance of mitzvos even though he knows nothing about the mitzvos. That is because knowledge of mitzvos is not critical to become a ger. It is only when he knows about the mitzvos and refuses to keep them that the conversion is not valid. We know this from the fact that he has no obligation to learn the entire Torah before he converts – he is only instructed in some of the mitzvos. Therefore even though the beis din told her that she must keep Shabbos, she thought that this was just merely desirable and that even if she didn’t keep Shabbos and other mitzvos she mistakenly thought that she was a good Jew. Therefore she mistakenly thought she had accepted all the mitzvos that a Jew is required in order to convert – even though this caused her not to fulfill the mitzvos. This is a possible justification to consider her to be a valid giryorus – even though she doesn’t keep all the mitzvos. It is a weak justification for those Orthodox rabbis who accept such converts so as not to view them inferior to laymen. [Despite this possible justification for a non‑observant ger to be a valid ger] nevertheless the mitzvos have to be accepted before a beis din. It is likely that the Conservative rabbis don’t do this because they don’t know the laws of conversion. In addition they are not careful to follow the law even when they know it. Consequently their conversions lack the proper acceptance of mitzvos - even of the most minimal type - which is critical for a valid conversion. In addition the Conservative beis din is invalid because they reject many fundamental principles of Judaism and transgress a number of prohibitions. Look at Choshen Mishpat (7:9) and Piskei Teshuva there in the name of R’ Akiva Eiger – that even transgressing a rabbinic law disqualifies a person from being a judge and this doesn’t require an announcement. In addition it is almost a certainty that they transgress many Torah prohibitions even though witnesses have not been accepted to testify to this but it is “like we are witnesses” (anan sahadi) that anyone who is called with the debased description of Conservative is presumed to violate many prohibitions and to deny many of the fundamentals of religion. I have already explained in one teshuva that someone who is presumed to be a heretic is invalid - even without formal testimony from witnesses. This is true even for leniences. I don’t have the time to go into greater detail concerning this matter. Therefore it is quite obvious that a conversion done by a Conservative rabbi has no significance.


Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Convert the wife to save the husband? II

The previous post about post war aliya from Switzerland was missing the halachic conclusion. A rav from Switzerland suggested to me that a series of letters of Rav Herzog concerned this matter. Below is my translation of one of these letters.

Rabbi Isaac Herzog was born in Lomza, Poland, in 1888. When he was nine years old, he moved to Leeds, England, with his family. An outstanding rabbinic scholar, he acquired a broad general education, including a doctorate from the University of London. After serving as rabbi of Belfast and Dublin, he was invited in 1936 to serve as the second Ashkenazic chief rabbi of Israel, after Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook. He took an active part in rescue operations in Europe during the Holocaust and afterward, and was instrumental in saving many Jews and bringing them to Israel. He was also actively involved in the affairs of the newly established state of Israel. His posthumously published responsa reflect the trials and tribulations of the Jewish people in the twentieth century. Herzog died in Jerusalem in 1959. [taken from Bar Ilan Responsa database]

Rav Yitzchok Herzog(Heichal Yitzchok E. H. 1:21): Question: December 23, 1948 Recently there have been an increase in the cases that have come before me of Jews in our land who are married to non‑Jewish women (and the reverse). They request that their spouse be converted and that they continue being married to them by means of chupah and kiddushin because they are planning to emigrate to Israel. 1) Most of these non‑Jewish spouses have special merit because they saved their Jewish spouse from death by means of refusing to fulfill the orders of the evil Nazis to separate and divorce their Jewish spouse. Thus they put themselves in great danger and they were sent to concentration camps. 2) Some of them come when they are pregnant and wish to convert so that their child will be Jewish. 3) Some of the already have children from their Jewish husband and wish to convert their children together with them. Up until now I have refused to convert them because their motivation is not for the sake of Heaven but rather because they want to emigrate to Israel. I have conducted myself according to the Shulchan Aruch concerning a non‑Jewish woman who is suspected of living with a Jew and now wants to convert. However on the one hand I see the great and terrible tragedy of hundreds of families who wish to emigrate to Israel and on the other hand I am afraid to accept the responsibility for this decision. Therefore I am turning to you [Rav Herzog] the chief rabbi of Israel to make the halachic ruling in this matter. Answer: This is truly a difficult question….1) The main issue in this matter is not concerning the rabbinic prohibition of someone suspected of sexual relations with a non‑Jew… because as Yevamos (24b) explains the prohibition is only to prevent the strengthening of the suspicion. But in a situation where they are already married – the reason for the prohibition doesn’t apply. However Tosefta (Yevamos chapter 4:6) states that if a non‑Jew has sexual relations with a Jewish woman even if he converts afterwards he can not marry her because we suspect that he converted in order to marry her. But this is only lechatchila….2) However the present case is where they are already married according to secular law and thus it is not relevant to say that they are converting for the sake of marriage. Even though it is still possible that the conversion is because of remorse [for being intermarried] and thus he is putting pressure on her to convert and thus she wants to convert because of this pressure – but nevetheless the concern for such a possibility is not so great. Therefore since bedieved they are gerim we don’t have to be concerned so much with this. However it is different where they have definitely had sexual relations but they are not married even according to secular law. In such a case there is a genuine concern that the conversion is solely for the sake of marriage. In other words he wants to marry this particular non‑Jewish woman but he doesn’t want to live with her without marriage or to marry her in a secular marriage. In contrast where they are already married and bound to each other there isn’t such strong reason not to accept them and if they are accepted as converts then we definitely marry them afterwards with chupah and kiddushin. However here we have an additional concern that their motivation is in order to emigrate to Israel. This concern however depends on the conditions of the country where they are presently residing. If it is because the are aliens and they can’t remain in the country, then it is clear that they have an ulterior motivation for conversion. However if it is possible for them to remain in the country but they still want to emigrate to Israel it would seem that their intent is for the sake of Heaven because they are uprooting themselves and leaving their source of livelihood to move to a different land and specifically Israel. Thus it is clear that their intent it to be a part of the Jewish people and land. This is only so if it is clear to the beis din that they both want to emigrate to Israel. (But not if only the Jewish spouse wants it and the non‑Jewish spouse is merely agreeing to the pressure.) Then it is clear that the motivation is good and there is no basis for refusing to accept them. However if there is no possibility to remain in your country and they are forced to emigrate to Israel – they obviously have defective motivation. Nevetheless there is still basis to decide in their favor according to the view of Rav Shlomo Kluger (Chochmas Shlomo E.H. #11:5 and Tov Taam veDaas). He says that in circumstances where it is clear that they will not separate from each other under any circumstances and furthermore the Jewish spouse will give up Judaism and convert to Christianity - it is possible to be lenient. However this is only valid if the rav examines them very thoroughly and is fully satisfied that they in fact are interested in converting. The candidate has to have religious sensitivities and when he/she is explained fully and clearly the fundamental principles of our religion and the illumination of the mitzvos , it is then reasonable that he/she will observe them e.g., Shabbos and kashrus, family purity laws etc. It is also necessary that they explicitly promise with a clear conscience to completely observe Judaism. It is also necessary to obtain a promise from the Jewish spouse that he/she will also be fully observant. Otherwise the woman will follow after her Jewish husband or the husband will be influenced by his Jewish wife. It is also necessary to explain to them that even though that there are many non‑observant Jews - but a non‑observant Jew is still a Jew. However for someone who wants to convert, it is impossible unless they accept these conditions. In such a manner it is possible to convert the non‑Jewish spouse in such difficult circumstances and where these people have such merit according to what you have written in your letter. 3) You should know that even that already in the days of the Tannaim the accepted halacha was that bedieved all these who converted for ulterior motivation were considered valid gerim, nevertheless there is a serious concern raised in our day. That is because previously a sinner was despised and attacked amongst our people. Therefore when a non‑Jew accepted Judaism, even if his initial motivation was for the sake of marriage – he knew he would be in a very bad position in Jewish society (and he was already totally rejected in non‑Jewish society) if he didn’t conduct himself according to the Torah. In contrast in our day where there are so many non‑observant Jews – not only does non‑observance not cause him any difficulties – but he can be part of the elite of our people and community. Thus specifically today it is of great concern whether the conversion is truly done to accept the obligation of the mitzvos or because of some ulterior motivation. In other words whether he says one thing but thinks differently in his heart. While the Ritva said that incidental to being forced he will honestly come to accept. But today we can say that incidental to being forced he will say whatever he has to but why should he truly decide to observe the mitzvos? Thus today, in contrast to the past, there is much greater responsibility for the rav to understand all aspects of the case until he is truly confident that these people are in all likelihood going to observe our holy religion. 4) In regards to the non‑Jewish women who are married to Jews and they are pregnant and wish to convert in order that their child will be Jewish. This is really the question of the conversion of the mother and is dependent on what we just mentioned as to whether to accept the mother. However here it seems that there is greater room for leniency. Since her intent is that the child should be Jewish this seems to be motivation for the sake of Heaven and is not included in having ulterior motivation. Nevertheless if it seems that she herself has no interest to be Jewish herself then it would seem that her interest is only for the sake of the child so it will be easier for him to emigrate to Israel and she will follow him afterwards there. But this all depends on what we just discussed and it ultimately depends on the perception of the rav. So even though a child who is brought to the beis din for conversion is converted on the understanding of the beis din since it is beneficial for the child to convert – but here it is different. Because we are converting her and not the child and thus everything depends on her and thus we return to the issues previously discussed as to whether to accept her. If she is converted the child automatically becomes converted. 5) Concerning the case where she wants to convert together with her children from a Jew this again is dependent upon what we have discussed. However even though the halacha is that a child who is brought to convert by his father and mother and is converted by the court because it is viewed that it beneficial for the child to do that which his parents do and in particular what his father wants to do. Here according to the halacha even though the father is not halachically the father but since he is the biological father the reasoning still applies. But here we have a different question. If both the father and mother are not Jewish and yet it is clear that they want their child to be Jewish but they themselves refuse to accept upon themselves the heavy burden of Torah observance – it is likely that they will truly raise their child as a Jew. Because if they didn’t want him to be a Jew why would they bring him to beis din to be converted? Thus there is no reason to be concerned that their child will learn from them not to be observant since he knows that they are not Jewish. In contrast in the case where the biological father is a Jew and the son sees that his father isn’t observing the mitzvos and that the mother who converted is also not observant – what is the likelihood that he will be educated to be a Jew? Why do we need to get involved in this problem. Thus again the matter depends upon what I have said already. If according to the evaluation of the rav it is likely that the parents will fully observe Judaism and on the other hand if the conversion is not done that the Jew might convert to Christianity it is possible to accept as described above.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Convert the wife to save the husband? I

R. Yaakov Adas was born in Jerusalem in 1898 and died in 1963. He studied Torah with his father and with other Torah giants in Jerusalem. At a very young age he was appointed as a teacher in Yeshivat Porat Yosef in Jerusalem, and later he became head of that yeshiva. From 1935 he served as a rabbinical judge in Jerusalem, and from 1955 until his death he headed the Chief Rabbinic Court in Israel. [taken from the Bar Ilan Responsa Database]

The final halachic conclusions have been lost

Chedvas Yaakov(Y.D. #13): April 22, 1949. Question During World War II many of our brethren found refuge in Switzerland. Some of them - out of the constant fear for their lives and the daily dread of being deported – married non‑Jewish women with the assumption that this would give them to possibility of remaining in Switzerland. Nevetheless the Swiss government did not allow them to remain here in Switzerland and they are faced with two options – to leave Switzerland or to be placed in work camps which the Swiss government is in the process of setting up now for all refugees who are found in Switzerland. The fact is these people want to emigrate to Israel because they have no other place to go. They have turned to the Israeli office concerning emigration and have received the answer that their wives will not receive visas until they convert. The wives of these men have raised a great cry claiming that they truly want to convert and to accept upon themselves all the mitzvos. They insist that they will not separate from their husbands under any circumstances and they want to travel together to Israel to live there as Jews in every detail. To tell the truth the Agudas HaRabbonim is not convinced of the sincerity of these women’s declaration because these are things that every candidate for conversion says. Now the matter is placed before us in the full strength of its cruelty. If these women are not accepted as converts, these men will be forced to remain here and to go to the labor camps. They yell and demand that the rabbis give them the true reason why they are hesitating to accept their wives and they have no other choice not to be lost. Therefore it has occurred to a number of the members of the Agudas HaRabbonim in Switzerland to be lenient this time and to find some way to accept them for conversion so there won’t be so much commotion from both sides - because they also have children. They have to leave Switzerland and they have no where to go. In fact we don’t have the ability to be lenient without the consent of the rabbis of Israel. And because this matter is very urgent because every day they come and scream. Therefore we request that the response of the rabbis should come as quickly as possible and to be as specific as possible. It is sufficient that we receive the psak of the beis din of Jerusalem in order to take from us the responsibility in this matter….Thus we sign in the name of the Agudas HaRabbonim of Switzerland…Reply: This matter is extremely delicate and the question is very painful and complex as well as being of great practical concern in these days with the establishment of the state of Israel and immigration from all points of the globe bring hundreds if not thousands of intermarried couples of all types. There are non‑Jewish woman married to Jewish men and Jewish woman married to non‑Jewish men. We have been asked this question many types here in Israel as well as from outside of Israel. The truth is that we are also confused about this matter. Because on the one hand we have the example of Ezra the Scribe in the time of the Second Temple who was also faced with this painful question as we find in Ezra (9:1)…In chapter ten it records that Ezra announced that they had to send away their non‑Jewish wives and their children born to them… We don’t find in these verses that Ezra converted them and let the non‑Jewish women stay with their husbands neither the maidservants nor the children because the children of a slave has her status. We also find a similar description in the Book of Nechemia (13:23). There is also no mention there that they converted them. Thus from these Biblical sources it seems that they are not to be converted and we can not think that we have greater power than they. However there is another way of understanding what Ezra did. Ezra in fact had great authority along with the Great Assembly. The leaders of his time had the power to establish what the religion required. We in contrast do not have the power to separate these men from their non‑Jewish wives and so perhaps it is better for us to convert them as the lesser of two evils – “it is “better that they eat the flesh of dying animals that have been ritually slaughtered and not to eat the flesh of animals that are definitely unkosher.” In other words if their wives are not converted it is possible that their Jewish husbands will reject their religion and follow after that of their non‑Jewish wives. Thus this question can be viewed as life saving for the Jewish husbands because if their wives are not converted they won’t be able to separate from them and will be sent to these work camps. Who knows how much danger lies in wait for them in exile. We have found amongst the Achronim that in certain circumstances they were lenient in converting non‑Jewish women and letting them remain with their Jewish husbands with a proper Jewish marriage. [See Maharshal (E.H. 11:5) who writes that where there is a concern that they will leave Judaism they should be allowed to marry.] Therefore let me gather together the relevant sources with G‑d’s help from the Talmud and poskim…and G‑d should help me to determine the truth of the matter and that I should err in the halacha.

Friday, April 25, 2008

"One day they told me I'm no longer Jewish"

This article in Haaretz illustrates the dangers of a lenient [or sloppy] attitude towards Jewish status. The nightmare for someone who immigrated with the understanding that if a government official [or rabbi outside of Israel] said she was Jewish - she was secure in her status as a Jew.

About a year and a half ago, Svetlana Zakolodkin and her daughter Anastasia were summoned to the Interior Ministry's Population Registrar and told that as far as the state was concerned, they were no longer Jewish.

Clerk Mila Moskowitz confiscated their identity cards and said they would not be getting new ones unless they signed a request to change their status to non-Jewish, they said. She gave them new cards, in which the religion and nationality boxes were left empty.

Moskowitz told them that if they failed to prove they were Jewish, their citizenship would be revoked. Anastasia's university scholarship, which she received as a new immigrant, was canceled.

Proselytizing the Hispanic community I - The halachic paradox of the non-Jewish descendants of anousim (marranos)

It is well known that people who claim to be Jewish because they might be descended from the Jews who were forced to convert in Spain and Portugal - are not Jewish. However not only are they welcomed when they convert - but there are a number of organizations which encourage them i.e., proselytize them. We have mentioned Rabbi Manny Vinas in a number of posts. However there seems to be other - more well known rabbis involved. Look at the following letters.

In addition there is a puzzling letter from R' Aaron Soloveitchik which accords them the assumption of being Jewish - but at the same time requires them to convert for marriage.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The halachic minefield of geirus - The Lakewood ger IV

The Levi case is a good example of the halachic minefield of geirus. We have a couple - both supposedly converted by an Orthodox rabbi who worked for a Conservative synagogue using a beis din from the congregants. The man apparently misrepresented who he was in order to escape criminal charges. Several years later, she is reconverted in Lakewood – after having several children with this man who misrepresented himself as a Jew. He is discovered to be a fraud and the Lakewood beis declares that he is presumed to be a goy while she is considered fully Jewish.

Halachic questions.

1) Is the original conversion invalid because it was done in a Conservative shul.

2) Is the rav considered reliable since he served a Conservative congregation? Even if you want to view the rabbi as still valid – the beis din is questionable

3) Did he genuinely accept mitzvos since his motivation apparently was to avoid arrest for criminal activities.

4) The Lakewood beis din ruled that he is presumed not to be a valid convert. Was it because of the lack of validity of his conversion by a Conservative beis din or was it because of his apparent fraudulent motivation?

5) Even if he were motivated by a desire to escape arrest – how does the Lakewood beis din know that he didn’t honestly want to convert and accept all mitzvos. After all the halacha is clear that if a person converts for the sake of marriage or other ulterior motives and yet is willing to accept mitzvos – the conversion is valid. Proof of his sincerity is that he clearly devoted a number of years living an exemplary lifestyle of not only observing the mitzvos but also seriously devoting himself to Torah study. Therefore why is he presumed not to be a valid ger?

6) She had a second conversion. But why is she considered a valid giyorus if she was knowingly living with someone she knew was fraudulently passing himself off as a Jew rather than as a convert. She thus was apparently living with and having children with someone who was apparently not Jewish after she had her second conversion. How then can she be viewed as a valid convert. Accepting all the mitzvos except for the prohibition of not living with a goy – the geirus is not accepted (Bechoros 30b).

7) If her husband is declared as presumably not Jewish –that means that she was never married to him. Does that mean she can remarry without a get? Since there are obviously reasons to at least have a sofek that he might have actually converted despite the fraud - if she remarries and has children with her new husband it would seem that there is a question of mamzerim?

8) If her husband is presumed not Jewish and she has been fully aware of this and still lived with him - then there is a legitimate question of the validity of her Jewish status as noted above. That would mean her children are not Jewish.

In sum if one is lenient in terms of declaring them to be gerim bedieved because they accepted mitzvos in front of a beis din of presumably observant Jews – then there is a major danger of mamzerus – unless he gives her a get. Thus he has to be considered at least a possible Jew. If we reject them both as gerim because of their deceptive behavior – then that means that not only are they not Jewish but neither are their children.

There are teshuvos written by major poskim that support all the alternatives presented above.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

Pesach & gerim - Jewish essence of being a ger (stranger or outsider) developed in Egypt

Shemos[1](22:20): You shall not upset a ger (outsider), nor oppress him; for you were gerim (outsiders) in Egypt.

Shemos[2](23:9): Also you shall not upset a ger (stranger) because you know the heart of a stranger, since you were gerim (strangers) in the land of Egypt.

Vayikra[3](19:33-34): When a stranger (ger) dwells with you in your land do not wrong him. Rather he should be treated as a native born resident and you shall love him as yourself because you were strangers (gerim) in Egypt. I am the L‑rd your G‑d.

Devarim[4](10:18-19): He executes the judgment of the orphan and the widow and loves the ger (stranger) giving him food and clothing. Therefore you shall love the ger (stranger) since you were gerim in the land of Egypt.

Ohr HaChaim[5](Shemos 22:20): Do not wrong a ger because you were gerim in Egypt. Rashi explains because the ger can retaliate and upset you because you were gerim in Egypt. The Ibn Ezra says that you should remember that they are like you used to be. Ramban rejects both of these interpretations and says simply that you should know that G‑d hears the cries of the poor and the oppressed just as He heard your cries in Egypt. The explanation of this verse, based on well known facts, is that the Jewish soul is rooted in holiness because they are descendants of Avraham, Yitzchok and Yaakov who are the heritage of G‑d. Everyone else has an inferior lot. It is well known that people have no concern about the debasement and ridicule of others who are different from them from the aspect that the other is inferior in holiness. This is the cause of ridiculing others. That is why G‑d commanded them not to wrong and oppress gerim. G‑d is saying that the reason that He is commanding this is because you should not say that the ger has his source in evil or that since he is by nature connected to klipah that he is inferior to you. That is because you were gerim in Egypt. This is in accord to what I have explained in Bereishis (46:3), That I will make you into a great nation there. Also concerning (Shemos 20:2) Which I have brought you out of the land of Egypt, I explained that the souls of the Jews themselves were connected to klipah. Because of this the ger is one of you without any distinction. Since the ger is not spiritually inferior to you there is no basis for wronging or oppressing him.

Ohr HaChaim[6](Shemos18:21):[[ Why did Yisro deserved being the source of the information about forming the judicial system - especially when it implies - chas v'shalom - the ignorance of G-d's people prior to his suggestions? G-d wanted to teach the Jewish people a fundamental lesson for all generations. The lesson being that there are among the nations of the world men of great intelligence and understanding and these nations have awareness of important and valuable information. G-d's intent was to show through Yisro that the election of the Jews was not because of their knowledge and insight was greater than other nations. They were not chosen because of their superior wisdom and knowledge. Their election was the result of G-d's supreme kindness and His love of the Avos. This explanation is more appropriate according to the view that Yisro came prior to the Revelation at Sinai. Accordingly G-d's message was that even though their are amongst the Nations greater wise men than amongst the Jews - the Jews were nevertheless chosen. We are those to praise Him for choosing us because of his Kindness. However, even according to the view that Yisro came after the Revelation at Sinai - a similar lesson can be learned by the fact that Yisro is mentioned in the sequence of events of the Torah prior to the giving of the Torah.

Mei Shiloach[7](Chagiga 3a): Rava explained Shir HaShirim (7:2): “How beautiful are your feet in sandals, O prince’s daughter!” He said that this is referring to the daughter of Avraham who was the beginning of gerim. The issue is that we find great things concerning a ger which are not inherent in a born Jew. That is because a ger voluntarily converted out of love of G‑d. He came from amongst the nations to find refuge in the shadow of the wings of the Shechina even though his origin has no holiness. That is because holiness is something which is ingrained in a person from his youth by his father and mother and this produces great things which are not inherent in a ger. However when a born Jew strives to learn to act out of love and to add to his understanding and desire to serve G‑d it gives him both accomplishments. In other words he has the ingrained holiness from his parents and also he has the acquired voluntary initiative of heart [that is found in gerim]. Towards obtaining the second accomplishment there is the mitzva of pilgrimage to Yerushalayim three times a year which serves to work against the mechanical observance of mitzvos. When a born Jew has acquired this voluntary initiative he is also described as the “daughter of the prince” i.e., the daughter of Avraham who was the beginning of gerim. In other words the ger is characterized by his initiative of breaking out of habitual conduct and this voluntary activity was epitomized by Avraham. However today all gerim [ both converts and those Jews who break out of a habituated lifestyle] are aware of the idea of what to strive for because they see the example of holy Jews. In contrast Avraham who was the beginning of gerim lived when the entire world were idolaters. Nevertheless he broke out of this existence even though he didn’t know where the rejection of idolatry would take him. He called out “Who created the world?” until G‑d revealed Himself to him. This is also the issue here concerning the verse “Beautiful are your feet in sandals…” In other words when Jews make the pilgrimage to Yerushalayim they also are breaking their patterns of life and display renewed vigor in their spiritual strivings. This mitzva of pilgrimage is not an isolated commandment but demonstrates the principle of the renewal of spirituality by changing the patterns of life and attaining a new perspective on doing all mitzvos according to G‑d’s will. This idea was also manifest at Mt. Sinai when the Jews said “na’aseh v’nishma” (we will do and then understand). In other words first they will act and accept the obligation to do the mitzvos in simple compliance. However they did not intend to remain on the level of mechanical action and that is why they said “nishma” (we will understanding). That meant they intended to come to understand the essence and meaning of the mitzvos and the significance that G‑d saw in commanding each mitzva…

Chazon Ish[8] (Letters I:208) responded to the assertion that the Jews in Egypt were on the highest level in Torah, mitzvos, faith and piety. The assertion was based upon the medrashism which said that the righteous women went to the fields and gave birth and left their children and there were many miracles done for them…The deduction being that surely because of these righteous women and these miracles – the entire Jewish people must of have been totally devoted to G-d and his mitvos. A further foundation of this assertion was the medrash which states that the Jews were only enslaved for 86 years and that this is insufficient time to become significantly dissolute and debased. The Chazon Ish said that these deduction have no basis since they are all against what Chazal themselves say on the subject. He concludes that the assertion that it was impossible for the Jews to become ruined since they saw miracles is not valid. In fact the Jews saw miracles when they were redeemed from Egypt and at the Sea, as well as the Maan and at the giving of the Torah – and yet they made the Golden Calf. Furthermore there were 10 miracles at the Beis HaMikdash and many miracles and wonders done by the Prophets – nevertheless this did not prevent them from having free will to serve idols. one should not interpret the early generations in such a way that it is impossible for us to comprehend and learn from them. In fact they had free will and this is main thing in avodas HaShem.

[1] שמות (כב:כ): וגר לא תונה ולא תלחצנו כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים:

[2] שמות (כג:ט): וגר לא תלחץ ואתם ידעתם את נפש הגר כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים:

[3] ויקרא (יט:לג-לד): וכי יגור אתך גר בארצכם לא תונו אתו: כאזרח מכם יהיה לכם הגר הגר אתכם ואהבת לו כמוך כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים אני יהוה אלהיכם:

[4] דברים (י:יח-יט): יח) עשה משפט יתום ואלמנה ואהב גר לתת לו לחם ושמלה: יט) ואהבתם את הגר כי גרים הייתם בארץ מצרים:

[5] אור החיים (שמות כב:כ): וגר לא תונה וגו' כי גרים וגו' רש"י ז"ל פירש אף הוא יכול להונותך, כי גרים וגו', ור' אברהם פירש זכור כי הייתם כמותו ורמב"ן דחה ב' הדרכים ופירש כי תדעו שאשמע צעקת דלים כאשר שמע צעקתך וגו':

ונראה לומר על פי הקדמה הידועה, כי נשמות בני ישראל הם שורש הקדושה, בני אברהם יצחק ויעקב, חבל נחלתו יתברך, וכל זולתם הם חלק רע, ולזה לא יקפידו בזלזול אדם שאינו מהם ובאונאתו, לצד שיחשבוהו שפחות הוא מהדרגות הקדושה, ומזה יולד ענפי האונאה, לזה כאשר צוה עליהם, לבל יונום ולא ילחצום, אמר הטעם שאני מצוך לבל תונהו, שאין לך לומר שהוא בחינת שורש הרע, או כיון שהוא מוטבע בבחינת הקליפה הרי נגרע מערכך, כי אתם גרים הייתם במצרים, פירוש על דרך מה שפירשתי (בראשית מו ג) בפסוק כי לגוי גדול אשימך שם, ובפסוק אשר הוצאתיך מארץ מצרים בפרשת יתרו (שמות כ: ב) שנשמות ישראל עצמם היו טבועים בקליפה, ואם כן יהיה גר זה כאחד מכם באין הבדל, ולזה לא תונהו ולא תלחצנו:

[6] אור החיים (שמות יח:כא) וראיתי לתת לב, איך זכה יתרו, שתכתב על ידו פרשה זו, והן אמת כי הוא כיבד משה עבד ה', והנה שכרו שכבדו ה', אלא היה ה' יכול עשות לו דרך כבוד אחר לא בדרך זה שיראה חס ושלום כפחות ידיעה בעם ה', עד שבא כהן מדין והשכילם:

ונראה כי טעם הדבר הוא להראות ה' את בני ישראל הדור ההוא וכל דור ודור, כי יש באומות גדולים בהבנה ובהשכלה, וצא ולמד מהשכלת יתרו בעצתו ואופן סדר בני אדם אשר בחר, כי יש באומות מכירים דברים המאושרים, והכוונה בזה, כי לא באה הבחירה בישראל, לצד שיש בהם השכלה והכרה יותר מכל האומות, וזה לך האות השכלת יתרו, הא למדת כי לא מרוב חכמת ישראל והשכלתם בחר ה' בהם, אלא לחסד עליון ולאהבת האבות, ויותר יערב לחיך טעם זה למאן דאמר יתרו קודם מתן תורה בא (ילק"ש רמז רסח), כי נתחכם ה' על זה קודם מתן תורה לומר שהגם שיש באומות יותר חכמים מישראל אף על פי כן אותנו הביא ה' אליו ובחר בנו, ועל זה בפרט עלינו לשבח לאשר בחר בנו מצד חסדיו, גם למאן דאמר (שם) אחר מתן תורה [בא], יש טעם במה שסדר ביאתו קודם, להראות הכוונה הנזכרת, שזולת זה אין הכוונה הנזכרת נגלית, והבן:

[7] מי השילוח (חגיגה ג. פרק ראשון): דרש רבא מאי דכתיב [שיר השירים ז:ב] מה יפו פעמיך בנעלים בת נדיב. בתו של אברהם אבינו שהי' תחילה לגרים, הענין בזה כי בגר נמצא יקרות גדול מאי שאין בישראל, כי הגר עושה בנדיבות ובאהבת לבו לפי שבא מבין האומות להתחסה בצל כנפי השכינה אך בשורש אין בו קדושה כי הקדושה המורגלת באדם מנעוריו ומשורשת בו מאביו ואמו בזה נמצא ג"כ יקרית גדול וזה לא נמצא בגר, אך כאשר נפש מישראל ישתדל ללמוד לעשות באהבה ולהוסיף הבנה וחשק לעבודת הש"י לזה יש השני מעלות ביחד שהוא מורגל ומקודש בקדושת האבות וגם מוסיף נדיבות לבו, ולזה היא מצות עליות רגלים שלא ישתקעו בהרגל מצות אנשים מלומדה ואז יקראו ישראל בת נדיב בתו של אברהם אבינו שהי' תחילה לגרים היינו שהגר הוא מבורר בזה שמנדברת לבו יוצא מההרגל וליותר הי' הדבר הזה מבורר אצל א"א ע"ה כי עתה לכל הגרים אף שיוצאים מהרגלם מ"מ יש להם תפיסה למה הם נכנסין לפי שרואים את ישראל מקודשין, אבל א"א ע"ה שהי' תחלה לגרים שהיו כל העולם עובדי ע"ז והוא יצא מן הכלל אף שלא ידע עוד במה שהוא בוחר וחושק, והי' צועק מי ברא אלה עד שנגלה אליו הש"י, וכן הענין כאן מה יפו פעמיך בנעלים כו' היינו בשעה שעולים לרגל ג"כ יוצאים מהרגלם ובתשוקה חדשה ילכו וכל דבר שיצא מן הכלל ללמד לא ללמד על עצמו יצא אלא כו' היינו שלאו דוקא רק במצוה הזו הולכים לעשות בחשק חדש ולא מההרגל רק בכל המצו' רוצים בהתבוננות חדשות כפי רצון ה' בכל עת ואינם עושים בהרגל, וזהו שאמרו במעמד הר סיני נעשה ונשמע היינו בתחחלה נעשה היינו שאנו מקבלים עלינו לעשות ולקיים מצותיך בתמימות אבל לא לעמוד רק בהמעשה היינו אח"כ נשמע היינו נרצה להבין השורש וכמה רצון יגיע להש"י בכל מעשינו...

[8] חזון איש (קובץ אגרות א:רח) כתבת שישראל במצרים היו במדרגה היותר גדולה בתורה ומצוות באמונה ובחסידות ונחתכת על הא דאמרו במדרש שמות פ''א ופכ''ג שהיו נשים צדקניות יוצאות לשדה ויולדות שם ומניחין את בניהן ונעשה להן נסים רבים וכמו שהאריך במדרש שם ומתגדלים ובאים עדרים עדרים, וכתבת דודאי ע''י צדקניות אלו ונסים האלו כל ישראל מסורים לד' ולמצותיו, עוד נתמכת בהא דאמרו במדרש שיר השירים ב' עיקר שיעבודן של ישראל פ''ו שנה ובסבור אתה שאין פנאי להתקלקל בשנים מועטות אלו.

כל הדברים אין בהם ממש שהם כולם נגד רז''ל שאמרו במדרש שמות ספ''א לא היו ישראל ראויין להנצל לפי' כו' שלא היה בידם מעשים טובים כו' ומפורש ביחזקאל (כ:ז) אומר אליהם וגו' וימרו וגו' ואת גלולי מצרים וגו' ופרש"י שם שמתו בג' ימי אפלה וכדאיתא בתנחומא בשלח, ושם ר"נ אומר א' מחמש אלף, ובשמות רבה פ"ה אר"נ ב' מס' רבוא והנה היו הצדיקים מיעוט קטן מאד, ובילקוט שמעוני ואתחנן תתכ"ח ועם מקרב גוי אין כתיב כאן כו' מלמד שהי' אלו ערלים ואלו ערלים אלו מגדלי בלורית כו' וכ"ה במד"ר ויקרא פכ"ג. ובש"ר פ"א ללמדך כשמת יוסף הפרו ברית מלה אמרו נהיה כמצריים, וברמב"ן פ' בא, י"ב מ', ומן הידעו שהיו ישראל במצרים רעים וחטאים מאד כו' .....

ומה שנראה לך שאי אפשר שיתקלקלו ישראל כיון שראו הנסים של ילדי הצדקניות, ז"א דהרי ראו נסים ונפלאות ביציאת מצרים ובים ובמן ובאר ומתן תורה ועשו העגל, והיו י' נסים במקדש והרבה נסים ונפלאות ע''י הנביאים, ומ''מ לא הכריחו כל אלו את הבחירה ועבדו ע''ז, ואל לנו לדרוש במופלא ממנו, שהיו הדורות הראשונים באופי בלתי אפשר לנו להשיג שום מושג מהם, אבל היו בבחירה חפשית, שזו עיקר עבודתו ית'.

Monday, April 14, 2008

The strange coalition to bring non-Jews to Israel

The full article is in Haaretz

Israel is losing its sovereignty

The government decision to stop handling the immigration of the Falashmura starting in early June is a worthy move that comes much too late. As illustrated by a series of articles currently being published in Haaretz, a strange coalition of "liberal" American Jewish organizations, rabbis from the messianic branch of religious Zionism and Shas leaders have, for too many years, succeeded in imposing terror on the Israeli establishment and brought to Israel about 26,000 Ethiopian citizens who do not match the Law of Return's criteria for new immigrants.

The Falashmura are not Jews. For many generations, after their ancestors converted, they lived as Christians in Ethiopia. Now they want to exploit their Jewish roots in order to leave one of the poorest countries in the world and to live as welfare recipients in Israel. It is impossible to assess the social and economic price the country has been paying for years for this "aliyah," and because every additional "oleh" will naturally demand that his family be brought, this is a time bomb that only becomes more powerful over the years. Bringing them to Israel has no connection to Judaism or Zionism.

Sunday, April 13, 2008

Rabbi Manny Vinas - part of movement that encourages converts

Rabbi Manny Vinas is also a research fellow of "the Institute for Jewish and Community Research" headed by Dr. Gary Tobin who recently wrote an article Stop keeping out non-Jews.

In Rabbi Vinas' biographical sketch on their website it mentions "Rabbi Manny Viñas is a first generation Cuban American. He was born and raised in Miami, Florida after his parents had emigrated to the United States as part of the large Cuban exile in 1960 following Castro's revolution. Manny's family was of converso background, practicing in Cuba many of the Jewish traditions that had been "secretly" handed down from generation to generation. In Miami, the family rediscovered its Jewish roots and formally returned to Judaism [i.e, they converted]."

Which means that Rabbi Vinas is himself a ger or the children of gerim. It also mentions "His mission is to provide a home for Latinos to engage in Jewish life by serving as a congregation for prayer and learning and as a resource for those of converso (anusim) background who wish to return to Judaism." In other words to convert non-Jews who have hispanic ancestry and might have a patrilinear connection to Judaism.

Based on the description of "Institute for Jewish and Community Research" he obviously has his sights set on more than converting just non-Jews from marrano or hispanic backgrounds.


The Institute continues to conduct research and write about conversion. As discussed in Opening the Gates: How Proactive Conversion Can Revitalize the Jewish Community , proactive conversion is the positive process of welcoming those who are interested into Judaism. Proactive conversion requires Jews to open the ideological and intellectual gates and help non-Jews walk through them into Jewish life. Being proactive means encouraging rather than discouraging non-Jews to consider Judaism. This will require changing ideology, practices, and institutional structure to better facilitate conversion to Judaism. If the Jewish community were to lower its barriers to conversion — barriers that it claims it does not have — it might find many people open to the message of Judaism.

Perceptions of stability and growth or decline can lead to self-fulfilling prophesies, in either direction. A community that is seen to be vibrant is likely to retain its members and attract others. On the other hand, a community that ages without replacing its numbers and attracting people from outside is likely to fulfill the image of being in decline. Communities that believe they are in decline can abandon institutions, cut services and plan for a more limited future, which in turn is defined through limited vision of what might be. Communities that plan for growth can often achieve that goal.

Concerning intermarriage:

Most Jews in the United States behave like other Americans: they value their freedom of choice. However, when Jews exercise their freedom of choice with regard to their spouse or partner (if that spouse or partner is not Jewish) they may find themselves at odds with what many feel are Jewish values. Do Jewish values differ from American values?

Nearly all Jews have an opinion and all Jews have a stake concerning intermarriage. Most Jews understand that they individually represent a small part of a tiny religious minority, both in the United States and the world as a whole. Already diminished by the extermination wrought by the Holocaust, Jews worry about group survival.

People who marry out of Judaism can be pessimistically viewed as defectors who are the cause of Judaism's self-destruction. Or, optimistically, we believe they can be the renewers of the faith — those who will bolster Jewish numbers and strength by bringing in newcomers and building the Jewish community. Intermarriage requires creative programming and investment, not condemnation and rejection.

Regarding the desirability of converting non-Jews to increase the number of Jews and to create a more diverse ethnic and racial Jewish people

The Potential to Grow the Jewish People
In addition to over 6 million Jews, IJCR also found some 4.2 million adults in the United States with Jewish heritage: those with a Jewish grandparent or great-grandparent, or more distant Jewish ancestor. Of these 4.2 million, there are 700,000 people with diverse backgrounds who are not currently Jewish, but are aware of a Jewish ancestor. When asked, they claim their Jewish heritage as part of their ethnic or religious identity, even if they do not answer Jewish when asked about their current primary identity. Of course, these numbers would be much larger if more people knew more about their Jewish ancestry. Many who are not currently Jewish have historical ties to Judaism but do not know about their ethnic origins. Ethnic histories over the centuries are quite complex and are lost to many. Millions of people have Jewish ancestors, especially those of Portuguese, Spanish, and African descent, but are unaware of it.

We also found an even larger population of some 6.7 million adults who are not Jewish, but who have a connection to Judaism or the Jewish community. This includes some who are married to Jews and feel identified with the community and others who have an affinity with Judaism or Jews based on intellectual or emotional identification. They are entwined in the Jewish community but are not self-defined as Jews. This group includes some 600,000 individuals — “connected non-Jews” — of diverse backgrounds who are connected to the Jewish people through marriage, friendship, extended family, community, or personal interest.

Some of these individuals are on the path to conversion; they may even be living as Jews in terms of synagogue attendance or ritual observance but have not yet formally become Jews through a conversion or affirmation process. Some may practice Judaism and another religion but have not yet decided to practice only Judaism. Some are so entwined within the Jewish community that they feel Jewish, according to their own self-assessment. They participate in Jewish life and may be raising their children as Jews. (See Table 2)

Christian missionaries' new tactic - blur the distinction between Jews and Christians & Rabbi Vinas

One of the issues connected to conversion is the tactic used by missionaries to try and convince a Jew that he can remain a Jew and still accept Jesus. This is done by trying to minimize the differences between Jews and Christians.
See the Jews for Judaism site.

Of interest that Jewish missionaries such as Rabbi Vinas use the tactic in reverse when he tells Christians that Christianity is not that different from Judaism.

Interview with Rabbi Vinas in Spanish

Por otro lado, el rabino neoyorquino Rigoberto Emmanuel Viñas, dijo no concordar con el juicio que hacen varias organizaciones judías que acusan de antisemita a „La Pasión de Cristo‰ que será estrenada en los Estados Unidos este Miércoles de Ceniza.

Viñas, de la congregación Lincoln Park Jewish Center, expresó en una entrevista a El Diario-La Prensa, su malestar sobre la controversia creada en torno del filme y señaló que, en su opinión, no se está permitiendo que salga a la luz el verdadero mensaje de la película: „Creo que ese mensaje habla de la pasión y la energía de la religión cristiana, explicó el rabino.

On the other hand, New York Rabbi Rigoberto Emmanuel Viñas said he did not agree with the viewpoint expressed by many Jewish organizations that accused "The Passion of the Christ" of having an Anti Semitic message . The film will be premiered in the United States this Ash Wednesday.

Vinas, Rabbi of the congregation Lincoln Park Jewish Center, in an interview with El Diario-La Prensa, spoke of his discomfort with the controversy created around the film and noted that, in his view, the controversy is not letting out the true message of the film: "I think that message speaks of the passion and energy of the Christian religion, the rabbi explained.


Interview with Rabbi Vinas in Spanish II

Y el catolicismo, arrodillarse ante los santos, ¿no es también una forma de idolatría?

And Catholicism to kneel down before the saints isn't this also a form of idolatry

El catolicismo es una religión monoteísta.

Catholicism is a monotheistic religion.

Cree en un solo Dios,

They believe in single G-d

que llaman el Padre.

by the name of the Father

La religión católica usa a María, Jesús y los santos como intermediarios para llegar al Padre.

The Catholic religion uses Mary, Jesus and the saints as intermediaries to arrive at the Father.

No es idolatría, porque no los considera dioses. Yo no considero el cristianismo una idolatría, como tampoco acepto tener intermediarios para orar al padre que me creó.

This is not idolatry because they are not considered deities. I do not consider Christianity a form of idolatry in that it neither accepts nor has intermediaries for praying to the father that I believe.

No le parece que sus diferencias de juicio para católicos y santeros son prejuicios porque la santería viene de los negros?
It does not appear that there are differences that I judge, in my opinion between catholics and santeros that are not prejudiced because the santeria (an Afro Cuban religion) came to the blacks.

Mi congregación contiene un gran número de negros judíos.
My congregation contains a large number of black Jews.

Han venido de todas partes del mundo, de Etiopía, Uganda. El judaísmo no reconoce color ni raza, sólo el espíritu humano.
They have come from all parts of the world, from Ethiopia, Uganda. Judaism does not recognize color nor race, only the human spirit.

Mi juicio sobre la santería se basa en su fe en múltiples dioses.
My judgment on the Santeria (Afro Cuban religion) is based on their faith in multiple deities.

El monoteísmo puede ser el gran remedio contra el racismo.
Monotheism is a great remedy for racism.

Si hay un sólo Dios,

If there is only a single G-d

es el mismo que nos creó
and it is the same G-d in which I believe

a todos y el que nos ama a todos iguales, judío, gentil, blanco, negro, chino, árabe y japonés

to all and to all who are loved the same, Jew, Gentile, white, Black, Chinese, Arab and Japanese.

Rabbi Vinas denies proselyzing - he just encourages non-Jews to explore Judaism

The following is found on the Voice of America web site. The link posted by anonymous does not work - but if you search for Vinas,VOA and select the cached version it does appear.

The congregation also has quite a few converts -people who are reconnecting with their historic roots, or those who have been seeking a spiritual home, and find in the Orthodox Jewish community a life-style they like. "Thank God we have many of those," Rabbi Viñas says of the Jews by choice. "I'm actually one of the Orthodox synagogues that's known for welcoming people who are in the process of exploring their connection to Judaism. I want you to know, though, about conversion. That Judaism is very much against proselytizing. But we are for people who want to explore. So if somebody wanted to come and study and learn more about Judaism, and at the end of that process felt that they didn't want to convert, I would feel very successful, because it would mean that they had learned and experienced things and come to a decision on their own. I'm also very happy to report to you that there are quite a number of people who DO convert."

Friday, April 11, 2008

Cheshbon Hanefesh - Let's pause to take an accounting

There has of late been significant dispute and strong disagreement on this blog between our commentators - especially since Eternal Jewish Family seems to be fading from the picture. I have basically stayed out and not expressed my views on these internal dispute - even though I do have strong opinions on the matter. However by not publicly judging the views - I think a great deal of relevant information has been presented - mostly with great clarity and cogency.

It is important to keep in mind that we are dealing with a complex halachic issue which is complicated by contradictory social realities and muddled by unclear and inconsistent goals of the various authorities and communities involved. That is why I am being very cautious about what I post. My silence should not be interpreted to mean that I agree with the comment. Nor should my lack of support indicate that I doubt the veracity of the information. I have gained much insight and clarity through the sincere - though sometimes abrasive - debate. While some of the comments have been abusive and insulting - I realize the pain and genuine concern that motivated them. They would have been more effective if presented in a more respectful manner.

The information that I post - as well as the comments - are being read daily by many people around the world. The number of daily hits has been significantly increasing as well as the influence of this blog on these issues.

I just want to express my appreciation of your efforts and to update you on what is happening. I also greatly appreciate the material which has been sent to me directly - some of which has been the basis of a number of my postings.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Eternal Jewish Family Argentine conference cancelled II

I was just informed that the Argentine conference was cancelled at the last minute due to Rav Eliashiv's disapproval.

Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Hillel organization to encourage intermarriage?

Hillel - whose purpose has been to strengthen and encourage Jewish commitment on the college campus - announces that they have a new open door policy which will include non-Jews.

Aish HaTorah


Monday, April 7, 2008

What you find sometimes lurking under the rocks!

The following is an example of what I usually reject. However every once in a while it is helpful to be reminded of what lurks out there. It would be nice if we could maintain a high level discussion based solely on facts. Unfortunately social action requires dealing with all types of people.


Anti-Hypocrite Heeb has left a new comment on your post "An unintentional intermarriage - Jewish Action Mag...":

The hypocrisy & self-righteousness of Jersey Girls and other arrogant Torah-rejecting so-called frum Jews astounds me.
Since you are all the self-declared watchdogs of Taliban Jewry, do you even accept the geirus of the woman in the Jewish Action article, or even though she now did EVERYTHING correct according to all halacha, is she forever banned from being a Jew because she didn't emerge from a Jewish womb?

Just admit that you hate all goyim and that all converts to Torah Judaism, no matter how sincere and no matter how halachachly correct their conversion was, will NEVER be acceptable Jews in your eyes and the other evil ones who simply HATE!

Friday, April 4, 2008

Intermarriage is good for the Jews - the non-Orthodox view

There has been a lot of discussion amongst non-Orthodox Jews recently about how there is no intermarriage crisis since many non-Jewish spouses raise the children as Jews. Therefore intermarriage is a gentle form of proselytizing and the result is a net increase in the number of "Jews". An example of this just appeared in the Wall Street Journal

This however makes sense only if you don't accept halacha and thus Judaism is determined by psychological and sociological identity. For those who are guided by halacha - this is all very sad. It is one thing to reject one's Judaism by intermarriage. It is perhaps even more destructive to redefine Judaism and convince non-Jews to think that they are Jewish because they have a Jewish identity.

Brain death & the intermarriage-conversion problem

I have been posting almost exclusively about conversion and the intermarriage problem. Today's posting about brain death is a change - but I want to use it to illustrate a problem in the halachic process that is relevant to intermarriage and conversion. What follows is not meant as an authoritative exposition of brain death.

As many of you know there is a major fight over the definition of death in Israel due to a law regarding organ transplants. To transplant organs the donor needs to be dead - but not so dead that the organs have deteriorated. Thus it is critical to know precisely when the donor is dead enough to donate but alive enough so that his organs are useful.

There are two basic approaches - 1) as long as the heart is beating the person is alive 2) as long as the person is breathing the person is alive

The second apporach has been complicated by brain death. There are basically two types of brain death. One is the person is unconscious and is unaware of his surroundings and will never recover consciousness. This can happen because of stroke or injury which destroys those parts of the brain dealing with awareness. A person can live for years in this vegatative state with both the heart and the breathing working. Halachically he is not dead. A problem arises however if the brainstem which controls breathing is damaged and therefore the person lacks the brain mechanism for spontaneous independent breathing. Or alternatively the brain flow to the brain as a whole is stopped and he is effectively decapitated.

In the above cases is he halachically dead?

Those who insist that cessation of blood flow to the brain means the person is dead - need to show that there is no flow. One of the standard non-invasive tests is the Doppler Test which uses ultrasound to test for blood flow. Another is the PET. While this sounds very scientific - the question is how accurate is the test? A recent item about a man declared dead and his organs assigned to others - was discovered to be fully alive - despite a PET test which showed there was no blood flow to the brain. Findings for the Doppler test typically indicate a 10% report that there is no blood flow when in fact there is. One study found a 25% error rate.

Thus we have four questions: 1) how is death defined - breathing or heart 2) what is the procedure that a doctor uses to ascertain the facts related to the halachic definition. 3) how accurate are these tests and procedures and 4) what percentage of people being falsely declared dead do we accept?

An illustration of these problems can be found on the following site which is devoted to halachically correct organ donations. Look at the video of the interview with Rav Dovid Feinstein It is clear that the poskim make rulings based upon the technical information they receive from others. To what degree is this information accurate?

In one of Rav Moshe Feinstein teshuvos regarding brain death, he states, "if it is true that there is a test which indicates that the blood flow to the brain has stopped then the person is dead." The problem is that the test mentioned - radiographic test - is generally not used and if it were used it might actually cause the death of the person be examined.

Another related problem is the awareness of the range of legitimate views.
In the case of brain death, the current campaign assumes that there is only one correct view - when in fact there are poskim on both sides.

To get back to the issue of conversion and intermarrige. There is a similar problem of whether the poskim are fully aware of also the range of legitimate halachic views. For example at the November EJF conference one of the horror stories used to illustrate the need for EJF setting the standards is that in the immersion of one ger - the rabbi did not inform her not to wear contact lenses. The conclusion was that the conversion was invalid. Bizarrely enough for an organization which is supposed to follow the rulings of R' Moshe Feinstein and is headed by his son R' Reuven Feinstein - no one mentioned that Rav Moshe does not regard contact lenses as invalidating the immersion. Obviously though it should be removed lechatchila. When one of rabbis of the organization was asked about this he acknowledged he wasn't aware of Rav Moshe's psak!

I have still not gotten confirmation that Rav Eliashiv approves of the proselytizing that EJF does. There is no confirmation from Rav Reuven Feinstein that his father approved the program of EJF.

The Achiezer withdrew his approval of conversion of itnermarriage, 22 years after he had approved by noting it just doesn't work. Rav Moshe Feinstein also refused to convert intermarried couples - even though he acknowledged that theoretically it was valid. He just noted the failure rate is so high he didn't want to be part of the enterprise.

There is concern with 1) what EJF and other kiruv organizations are doing 2) to what degree are the poskim they claim to rely on fully aware of what these organizations are doing

In the absence of clear documentation and open discussion about the consequences of these programs - there is clearly what to be concerned with.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Reply to Baruch's objection to blanket criticism of conversion organizations

Baruch wrote:

" 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,"

I share your concern. However I need you to clarify the target of your comment. Who were you concerned about - that motivated your comment to my blog? Are you referring to my postings and those of other commentators who have criticized Eternal Jewish Family or were you concerned primarily about Eternal Jewish Family's blanket criticism of those rabbis and batei dinim who are not under their supervision? If you have read through the material on this blog or elsewhere on the internet you are aware that it was stated in the Washington EJF conference that that rabbis who believe the world is more than 6000 years old can not perform conversions. This assertion - which has not been challenged or rejected by EJF - threatens the validity of the geirus of those who have utilized Modern Orthodox rabbis.

In fact Rav Sternbuch told me that Eternal Jewish Family believes that I have manipulated the Bedatz against them because they are convinced that I want to destroy them because of their delegitimizing Modern Orthodox rabbis with this rule.

Perhaps you were expressing your ire with the Bedatz who issued a public condemnation of EJF? Or perhaps you are concerned with the Israeli rabbinate which publicly rejects the validity of those rabbis who don't meet their standards?

Please clarify what your concern is.

Criticizing conversion organizations - debases all gerim?

Baruch has left a new comment on your post "A Deeper Look at the current EJF Website and Troub...":

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.

Lakewood baal teshuva marrano is Christian? III

Yeshiva World News

has some important updates to the story

Lakewood baal teshuva marrano is Christian? II

The Ger Tzedek who is a Levi, The Conservative Jew who is an Orthodox Rabbi, and The Christian College professor ordained by the Rabbinate of Israel -- an American Story

We are all familiar with the recent news story out of Lakewood NJ where Natan Levy was arrested as a fugitive from the FBI. It turned out that Mr. Levy was actually Ted Floyd, a Kansas gentile.

When the story first broke, Floyd was described by the Lakewood Rabbis as a Marrano who was a Baal Teshuvah and a Levi. This alone should raise questions since it is well known that Marranos are not Jewish. In their zest to collect a "frum" Jew, the Rabbis in Lakewood fully accepted that this man, who by his own admission wasn't raised Jewish, and they accepted him as both a full Jew and as a Levi.

After the story broke, a Rabbi Pinchas Aloof of Wichita Kansas was tracked down and he claimed that Floyd was a goy, but that he converted him and his wife. Aloof claimed he is an Orthodox Rabbi and it was an Orthodox conversion. The blog vosizneias reported "VIN News has now learned that the man in question, currently being held by the authorities for attempted passport fraud and identity theft, did in fact undergo a conversion by an Orthodox rabbi together with his wife in 2002.

VIN has located and contacted Rabbi Pinchas Aloof, who was serving the synagogue Congregation Ahavat Achim in Wichita, Kansas at the time Mr. and Mrs. Floyd underwent conversion—and who has vouched in a telephone conversation with VIN from his Texas home for the Floyds' authentic Jewish status and kosher conversion. "It was 100% kosher with a Beis Din, I was there; they both went trough the whole process 'al pi halacha'" says Rabbi Aloof."

Many visitors to that blog expressed fantastic relief that the truth was finally out! Of course, nobody seemed terribly troubled about the fact that this "Ger Tzedek" may have had ulterior motives (as a fugitive from justice) nor was anyone troubled that he arrived in Lakewood using the identity of a DEAD man and posed as a Levi. Nope, all the bloggers were glad that the Loshon Hora was being put to a stop and that this man's Jewishness was affirmed!

If anyone bothered to look a step further and do some basic internet searching, one would find that Aloof is NOT an Orthodox Rabbi, and there is no Beit Din in Wichita that could have done a proper conversion. Aloof has led more than one Conservative congregation, teaches at a Christian college, and his synagogue, which lacks a Mechitsa, is described as welcoming to people of all faiths. Some evidence is mounting that he might even be intermarried himself. Orthodox?

VIN claims further: "VIN News has confirmed that Rabbi Aloof received his semicha from the Rabbinate of Israel, and is a Talmud of Yeshivas Chofitz Chaim of Baltimore." From this we of course infer that the Rabbinate fully supports Rabbi Aloof and would of course accept the conversion of this man who converted while escaping the law and then later posed as a Marrano and Levi in Lakewood. I would love to see the Rabbinate make a statement either saying "this is our guy and we stand by him and this conversion" or "we made a mistake giving him Smicha and hereby revoke it" or "we never heard of him."

Time and time again we see Jewish Americans go to extreme lengths to find a way to accept any possible excuse to label Gentiles as the true Jews. Of course, the big question is "why?"

The answer may come from an unlikely source: Woody Allen, who said "I wouldn't want to be a member of any club who would have a person like ME as a member." American Jews feel great and empowered when a goy chooses to be Jewish. All of their dissatisfaction and insecurity about being Jewish evaporates when a goy wants to be part of the club. This is so important that the American Jews, and their Rabbis, truly do not care about the quality of the conversion, nor do they care even IF a conversion was done, in most cases. As long as we fill more seats and get more donations and bigger population numbers everything is good. Because Woody Allen is correct in his assessment of the American Jewish psyche, the logical cure to assimilation is to welcome the gentiles to our fold (their thinking, not mine).

That's one explanation. Of course the other explanation could just be that we have let so much Christian thought into our communities that now their value system is replacing ours.

Posted by: Bright Eyes