Friday, May 16, 2008

A different perspective - Itamar Ross defends the RZ/MO viewpoint

The following letter is a cogent attack on the Chareidi viewpoint. Because most of the criticism from the RZ/Mo in the present crisis has not dealt with the issues but rather just expresses their outrage and pain - this presentation is welcome. While I do not endorse his solutions - he defines the issues that we all ultimately need to address. It was originally left as a comment to "Messianic Jews are accepted as Jews for Law of Ret...":
Rabbi Eidensohn, actually this has not been the least bit unnoticed. Not by Rav Druckman or by anyone who lives with and deals with immigrant society in Israel (and that includes giyur). Many of us have been dealing with this for quite a few years now in the only real ways possible: Through a tolerant, welcoming and broad-minded Torah education, and through a warm community welcome by the religious population.

(No, we don't yell and scream and make a chilul Hashem like Yad le-Achim. Instead we just try to welcome long-lost family members back into our family.)

What is important is not the Israeli Supreme Court. What really matters is the fact that the missionaries have been working so hard for so many years to create a reality of "Christian Jews". And they have succeeded.

Now contrast this to the conversion debate. You have a family that suffered Nazism and Communism but nevertheless survived with its Jewish identity intact. They immigrate to Israel as a family of Jews, though some are halakhically Jewish and some are not. In Israel they receive the stigma of being "goyim" from the frum world. Websites even post articles and comments about them being the "erev rav" while the missionaries welcome them with open arms.

(Think about it: A gentile woman suffers anti-Semitism because of who she married, but remains loyal and accompanies him to a distant land, and wants to join his people because she loves them, or for her children's sake--she is an "erev rav." There are tens of thousands of families just like this. But instead of the erev rav, they remind me more of Ruth...)

What happens to this family? Not just to the halakhic non-Jews in it, but even to the halakhic Jews? The missionaries appeal to both alike. What is the result to Israeli society and ultimately to Torah of an approach that is utterly indifferent to questions of identity and community and peoplehood within the makeup of a Jew or of a convert?

What have we done when families who eat matza for a week on Pesach, built a sukkah for sukkot, get married under a chuppah, say kiddush on Shabbat, risk their lives as Jews to fight for their country's survival, but then get their conversions "revoked" by a charedi beit din?

And the most horrific thing of all is when these values--identity and community and peoplehood--are called by Rabbi Eidensohn "Zionism" in direct opposition to "Halachah." As if "true halakhah" need not or should not deal with the reality of these values in Israeli life today because they are tainted with "Zionism..." Rabbi Eidensohn, isn't "Amech Ami" also a Torah value and a halachic one?

It's not "Zionism" versus "Halachah" but rather two completely different visions of how the Ribbono Shel Olam wants us to apply halachah in a reality that includes the State of Israel. Please Rabbi Eidensohn, in the future, state this fairly.

When the missionaries approach this same population, don't be surprised if they have a lot of success. And at least some of that success is in the direct zechus of Rav Elyashiv and the Badatz. Baruch Hashem that Rav Druckman and the RZ rabbonim are trying to do what they can...


  1. It is indeed a well stated position. What it brings to light is how the existence of the secular nation called Israel has artificially created a situation that invites sympathy toward those who have intermarried.

    Had Israel not become a country in 1948 and the Holocaust survivors were merely spread around the world to the US, USSR etc... the heart-rending issue of people who "risk their lives as Jews to fight for their country's survival" would not be a "Jewish" issue.

    My uncle risked his life as a Jew to fight for his country's survival in WWII. That earned him respect and medals, but nobody thought that should entitle him to membership in a religion.

    We can't undo history, nor do I recommend it. What we should do is recognize the fact that Israel is merely a country with a lot of Jews and is not THE "Jewish State."

    Nationalism must be separated from Judaism, otherwise arguments such as the one in this posting will place fealty to Israel as a priority higher than all of Jewish law.

  2. Yasher Koach on such a well thought out, intelligent, calm and halacha-based argument.

    As a former "messianic Jew" who fell prey to the missionaries due to my secular upbringing in the States, I must say that this poster hit the nail on the head.

    Sadly, some in the Chareidi world see everything in black and white. They, more than anyone, should know that halacha consists of literally thousands of grey areas. Just studying one page of Bavli clearly proves this.

    Understandably they have had zero interaction with messianics, missionaries and non-frum Jews. But is how they are approaching the current situation the correct way to go about it?

    Hashem wants His (halachachly Jewish or properly converted) children to make teshuvah. How can they and more importantly, WHY would they want to when the Chareidi world seems to not even be concerned with them?

    We are talking about YIDDEN! Everything possible must be done to bring them back home. So be it if they choose not to become Chareidi. The Orthodox world is a big enough tent to fit all those who wish to be shomer mitzvot.

  3. Does anyone have any hard facts on who was being converted by Rabbi Druckman and his beis din? It would make a big difference if he was converting the heroic people mentioned on your blog who want to be jewish and do what jews do. On the other hand,if they are mixed marriages who convert as a joke and have no interest in ever growing as jews or being part of the jewish community that is another thing altogether. Does anyone know how many conversions actually took place? Without any data it could be that the number is so small that the argument loses a great deal of steam. Is this a mass movement that threatens the jewish community or is it a small number?

  4. Dear Dr. E:

    Rabbi Druckman's conversion institute issued certificates of conversion, according to the news reports for approximately 27,000 people since its inception in 1999.

    At the rate of 3000 conversions per year, when figuring Shabbat, Jewish holidays and Fast Days, this means about 273 working days or an average of about 11 conversions per day. Rabbi Druckman's Beis Din spent an average of 30 minutes total on each conversion!!

    As I am sure you are aware, when a conversion is done k'halacha, the Beis Din meets with the potential convert and his sponsor before a program of study for Giyur is even begun. The Beit Din evaluates the candidate's level of existing knowledge and sincerity in order to recommend a program of study and gauge progress throughout the process.

    The course of study for Giyur can, in some rare cases of extremely motivated people who were raised as Jews (ie. adopted by a Jewish family) take as little as several months or as is more typical, as long as several years.

    It is typical for the Beit Din to meet with the candidate and his/her sponsor AT LEAST every few months during the study process in order to evaluate the candidate's progress and sincerity. The study program should be uniquely tailored to the needs of the individual whose goal it is to become a fully functioning member of the Jewish community.

    Additionally, it is typical that the teacher of the potential ger will meet quite regularly with the Rabbi who heads the Beit Din in order to answer questions that arise regarding the study materials and unique issues that arise as the candidate makes progress in the conversion program.

    When I was teaching female candidates for Giyur, I spent a great deal of time speaking with the Av Beit Din regarding questions and concerns about candidates and their progress. Each person is unique and many questions and other issues come up throughout the process that can only be addressed by a Rav.

    Learning with a candidate for Giyur is a major undertaking, not unlike raising a child. Many questions arise on a constant basis throughout the process.

    The Rabbis of the Beit Din typically should meet several times throughout the educational process with the candidate to make sure that the candidate is on the right track in his education and to judge the candidates level of sincerity and understanding of the process.

    This is not a stringency or a cruelty. In fact, to the contrary the more involved the Beit Din is, the more compassionate the process of Giyur will be.

    A non Jew achieves his place in the World to Come by observing Seven Noahide Laws. A Gentile who converts to Judaism sacrifices his rightful place in the World to Come in order to join the Jewish people in their obligation to 613 mitzvot of the Torah.

    The process of conversion includes an oath to accept upon oneself the observance of all of the applicable mitzvot of the Torah. Should the convert not fulfill he oaths, he forfeits his eternity.

    The compassionate Beit Din spends as much time as is necessary to impress upon the candidate the seriousness of his oath of acceptance of the mitzvot and what is potentially at stake (his eternal soul) should he fail to perform the obligations that he BEGGED the Beit Din and SWORE to accept.

    The final step in the conversion process involves a declaration of an oath to join the Jewish people and to accept the yoke of Torah and Mitzvot to the best of the candidate's understanding.

    Then for men there is Brit Milah or dam Brit. For both men and women there is tevila which also must be witnessed by the Beit Din.

    Now in light of the average 30 minutes spent on each conversion by Rabbi Druckman's court, the answer
    to your question:

    "Is this a mass movement that threatens the jewish community?"

    should obviously and emphatically be "YES"!!!!

  5. Here is a link to the Rabbinical Council of America's Geirus Protocol.


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