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.


  1. Rabbi Dr. Eidensohn asks excellent questions.

    Can someone, anyone, explain just who the "Bais Hora'ah of Lakewood" reaaly is? Who established this halachic body? By whose authority do they come to issue such rulings? It is one thing to certify the kashrus of potato chips, and quite another matter to "certify" a gentile woman AND her kids as being valid Halachic Jews IN THE MIDST OF A PUBLIC SCANDAL. Why did they not seek a ruling from Rav Eliashiv in Israel, or from other American gedolim too, and if they did, which gadol supports them?

    Does the "Bais Hora'ah of Lakewood" speak with the authority of the official Bais Medrash Gevoha Lakewood yeshiva backing them up? If so, were they appointed, and are they monitered and answerable to the Rosh Yeshiva, Rav Malkiel Kotler and his three co-Roshei Yeshiva, Rav Olshin, Rav Newman, and Rav Shustal???

    Could one appeal a verdict of the Bais Hora'ah of Lakewood to the Lakewood Roshei Yeshiva and if so do they also take responsibilty for the geirus performrd on the woman in question and her children?

    At least with the RCA rabbis, one knows where they are coming from, they are mostly from YU and are Modern Orthodox and have a system in place for better or worse that tries to work in tandem with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and they have their own world they live in, BUT here we are talking about the major Litvish Haredi center in America and the Lakewood Yeshiva in NJ, together with the Mir Yeshiva in Jerusalem are the two largest yeshivas in the world with over 5000 talmidim each, so when a "Bais Hora'ah of Lakewood" issues and publicizes a ruling on the Halchic status of ger/giyores/geirimlach -- then it raises eyebrows because one does not think of Lakewood as a place that the Rabbonim get involved in literally in this case "Federal cases" (in all sense of the word) and make it's voice heard VERY loudly, published thus far on the "ossur" Internet at Vos Iz Neies and on Yeshiva World, the latter being a very Yeshivishly politically correct "establishment conscious" website.

    Again, usually the most serious things one hears from a distance from organs such as "Bais Hora'ah of Lakewood" is that they ban Lakewood kids from going to local kosher Pizza joints to hang out, or that girls from homes that are deemed to be more "modern" by their standards should not be admitted to local Bais Yaakovs for fear of corrupting other kids and in the process requiring a fairly recent well known intervention from Rav Eliashiv who ordered them to take in all the girls no matter what so that HUNDREDS of frum Jewish girls should not be left out of school on the streets, or that kids of parents they deem to be too "balebatish" should somehow get the message that their sons are not welcome in the Lakewood chadorim, so that these were types of community-related issues some they dabbled in some of which were important yet it did not reach the level of the present case that the honorbale Rabbonim/Dayonim associated with the Bais Hora'ah of Lakewood are letting all of Klal Yisroel know that they have now joined the ranks of Batei Din accepting and certifying geirim as well.

    As they say in the classics... "tzarich iyun gadol me'od" because at this rate, Rabbi Tropper may soon be seeking out their services for ger applicants via the EJF, and Rabbi Tropper is not known to be fan of the Lakewood Yeshiva either.

  2. How about fighting this?

    Court applies Law of Return to Messianic Jews because of fathers...

    Messianic Jews are entitled to Israeli citizenship according to the Law of Return if their father is Jewish, according to a precedent-setting ruling handed down last week by the High Court of Justice.
    [Members of the Messianic...]

    Members of the Messianic Jewish Alliance of America (people in photo unrelated to story)
    Photo: AP
    Slideshow: Pictures of the week

    Fifteen years ago, the court rejected a petition by Messianic Jews who demanded to be recognized as Jews so as to automatically receive Israeli citizenship according to the Law of Return. In that landmark case, the court ruled that Messianic Jews had converted, and therefore were no longer Jewish.

    Since then, the state has refused to grant all requests for citizenship according to the Law of Return by Messianic Jews.

    Two years ago, however, a number of new immigrants to Israel belonging to the Messianic Jewish community petitioned the High Court after the Interior Ministry refused to grant them new immigrant status and citizenship according to the Law of Return.

    These petitioners, represented by attorneys Yehuda Raveh and Calev Myers, argued that they were eligible for new immigrant status and citizenship because they were the offsprings of fathers who were Jewish, not because they themselves were Jewish according to the definition of "Who is a Jew" in the Law of Return.

    According to Amendment 4A (a) to the Law of Return, passed in 1970, "The rights of a Jew under this law... are also vested in a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew, except for a person who has been a Jew and has voluntarily changed his religion."

    The law defines a Jew as "a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has become converted to Judaism and who is not a member of another religion."

    According to Myers, 12 Messianic Jews petitioned the High Court after the Interior Ministry refused to register them as new immigrants in accordance with the Law of Return. Myers said they had received letters stating that they would not receive citizenship because they allegedly engaged in missionary activity.

    An article published in the Baptist Press after the High Court ruling was handed down maintained that the court had ruled that "the Messianics should receive equal treatment under the Israeli Law of Return, which says that anyone who is born Jewish can immigrate from anywhere in the world to Israel and be granted citizenship automatically."

    But, as was explained to The Jerusalem Post by a legal assistant to Myers, this is apparently a misunderstanding of the ruling, which determined that the petitioners were entitled to automatic new immigrant status and citizenship precisely because they were not Jews as defined by the Law of Return, but rather because they were the offspring of Jewish fathers.

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    Moadim L'Simcha


    It seems as though the Israeli Gov't welcomes Christian Evangelicals.


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