Tuesday, March 22, 2022

Conversion crisis - Zionist ideolgy and Halacha II

As mentioned in a previous post - the current dispute is not so much political as ideological. In other words it is not simply the result of people seeking out power over others for the sake of power. It is also not a conflict between those who are modern, moderate and involved in the world versus those who are reactionary and out of touch with reality. It is not even a dispute about halacha per se. The Religious Zionism poskim are fully aware of the halachic views and sources that concern the Chareidi poskim. [I am not concerning myself with the ignorant masses and politicians who have a distorted or no knowledge or interest in the halachic issues.]

The prime dispute is whether the halacha should be used to advance the goals of Zionism or not. I will be publishing a number of posts which illustrate these points by citing recognized Religious Zionist rabbis.

What follows is the conclusion of an article published in the mainstream Religious Zionist journal Techumin which is published by Tzomet. It appeared originally in Hebrew in Techumin #12 pp 81-97 (5751/1991). This is an English translation which was published by Tzomet in a compilation of Techumin articles known as "Crossroads"


Conversion of Russian Immigrants

by Rav Yigal Ariel

Conversion as a Catalyst of Spiritual Renewal

The problem of conversion of women intermarried with Jews was seen in previous generations as one of the battlefronts in the war against assimilation. The feeling that any concession in this area would be equivalent to surrender in the war underlies the sharp and bitter tone of those who disallowed these conversions. These responsa do not relate to the special problems of the present aliya.

We are not engaged here in a “war”, but in an attempt to redeem an entire community captured by the enemy. The question applies chiefly to the second generation, the children of intermarriage, where suspicions concerning their motivation evaporates and instead the major consideration is helping Jews to return to Judaism. The problem of free-willed assimilation in the western world is not comparable to the situation in the former Soviet Union, where Jews were faced with ignorance and duress. In any event, assimilation today has become a tidal wave, where refusal to accept converts has no deterrent value. There is no difficulty in today’s secular and permissive society to live with a non-Jew without Jewish marriage. This is surely true outside of Israel, and to a great extent in Israel as well.

Conversion is not a self-contained problem, but should be seen as part of the general spiritual problem of Russian aliya. The struggle over their spiritual absorption is the heart of the problem, and it will ultimately determine the character of Israeli society in the future. The immigrants, because of their spiritual estrangement, are not rushing to convert. They find that they can manage very well without the approval of the Rabbinate.

Conversion therefore, is not the problem of the immigrants, but the interest of the Rabbinate, desiring to prevent a calamity to Israeli society. In this situation, the initiative of those who desire to convert should be seen as more sincere. The motivation is “for the sake of heaven” and nothing else. Under these circumstances, it is incumbent on the bet din to help them, even if this would be a case of “sin, in order to benefit your fellow” (Git. 38; Tosafot 4lb, s.v. ‘kofin”; Shab. 4a, s.v. “v’chi”; cf. Melamed LeHoeal 2,83).

In these circumstances, it may turn out that conversion, rather than causing injury can be the instrument of spiritual renewal not only for the convert, but for the Jewish spouse as well. In cases where the family comes of its own initiative to convert, conversion can precede the initial state of absorption. The lack of prior education is not a problem, even if it will transpire that they will not fully fulfill the requirement to study Judaism subsequently. The conversion should, however, be conditional on their being sponsored and adopted by a religious community. That kind of bond can inspire a genuine dedication to Torah and Judaism, for the convert and his entire extended family


  1. "the major consideration is helping Jews to return to Judaism."

    With all due respect, IS there an Orthodox opinion that supports patrilineal descent. This is the second post on this blog to refer to "Jewish seed" or in this case "helping Jews return to Judaism" in reference to the Gentile biological offspring of Jewish men.

    "where refusal to accept converts has no deterrent value"

    We have already shown an example of the Syrian community where this statement has been proven false.

    "That kind of bond can inspire a genuine dedication to Torah and Judaism, for the convert and his entire extended family"

    Isn't it a bit naive to believe that the Jewish community will have a positive effect on the spritual wellbeing without the "convert" also having ANY negative effect on the community??

    I believe that it is racist, elitist and narrow minded to harbor the illusion that we the Jewish people are so superior to the nations that we will "bring up" anyone in our midst.

    If that were the case then no Jewish family in the world would ever be a victim of crime or Anti Semitism from a Gentile from a neighboring community. The amazing effect of being exposed to Jews would transform every Gentile into an admirable tzaddik whom it would be a sin to push away from our congregations.

    Such should be the case regarding the African American community of Crown Heights, the Hispanic Community of Harlem, the Arabs of Gaza and the Russians of Ashkelon who terrorize elderly Jews on the streets. The positive effect of living near Jews certainly should have transformed every resident of these areas into tzaddikim on the level of Onkelot by now!!

    Rather I believe that what HAS been the case has been the negative influence upon our communities from our non Jewish neighbors. Never before in the history of the Jewish people have our communities known such scandal.

  2. Jersey Girl says: "Rather I believe..."

    Nobody cares what you believe as long as you are just an anonymous poster on this Blog (just a discussion forum) that floats in cybersapce together with hundreds of millions of other posters on Blogs.

    You need to gain perspective.

  3. If they are not going to convert , then the Rabbanut should consider other approaches and statuses that were in play during Biblical times, eg shifcha, eved , pilegesh, eshet yefat toar, and other options, eg converting the child when only the father is Jewish. Some of these have already been considered, but if you can't force people to convert, have to look at other ways of preserving the jewish nation.


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