Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Jewish Press editorial - Continuing Conversion Crisis

The Jewish Press just ran an editorial lamenting the current conversion crisis. While it does summarize the different views it offers no solution.

In a recent series of editorials spanning several months, this page has been drawing attention to an emerging crisis regarding conversions in Israel. The crisis has largely been caused by a government initiative intended to promote mass conversions of Russian immigrants to Judaism in order to increase the “Jewish” population of Israel.
This initiative was undertaken despite the halachic imperative that conversions are ordinarily to be discouraged and in any event subject to the exacting requirements of Jewish law. That is, if the procedures are not scrupulously followed, the ostensible converts are not Jewish, with all that brings with it.
This past week the issue emerged in full fury with a clash between the governmental agency – the so-called Conversion Authority – charged with increasing the number of Jews through conversions and the rabbinic court charged with implementing the exacting halachic standards for conversions. Israel’s Supreme Rabbinical Court voted to uphold an Ashdod bet din’s nullification of a woman’s conversion to Judaism on the grounds that at the conversion proceeding she was never asked whether she agreed to abide by all halachic requirements. Also, the court took judicial notice that the overwhelming majority of Russian immigrants converted under the auspices of the Conversion Authority were not observant – which the court said cast doubt on the procedures followed by the Conversion Authority. In addition, the conversions presided over by the rabbinic head of the Conversion Authority were held to be presumptively suspect because he had allegedly certified at least one conversion at which he had not been present.
(click on link for full article).

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