Friday, May 2, 2008

Thousands of conversions questioned by Supreme Rabbnical Court in Israel

Ynet just published the following article Jpost also has an article See also previous post of Rav Sternbuch's views

Thousands of conversions questioned

High Rabbinical Court calls into question all conversions performed by Rabbi Chaim Drukman since 1999

“All conversions performed since 1999 by Rabbi Chaim Avior and Rabbi Chaim Drukman, who heads the Israeli Conversion Court, must be disqualified,” the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem concluded earlier this week, while discussing an appeal made a by a woman whose 15-year-old conversion conversion was annulled by the Ashdod Rabbinical Court, thus naming her children non-Jewish.

In the 50-page verdict,Judges Sherman, Izirer and Scheinfeld it said: "First, all conversions performed since 1999 by Rabbi Chaim Avior and Rabbi Chaim Drukman must be disqualified; second, conversions can be retroactively annulled for those who are not observant."

click on above link to see full article


  1. Is there anywhere we can view the actual decision? Can you get it and then post it?

  2. This decision has the potential to shake and perhaps overthrow the official Israeli Rabbinical govenment-sanctioned courts entirely. A blessed idea. The Mizruchnik dayyanim are being disqualified en-masse by this ruling of a beis din made up of the talmidim of Rav Elyashiv (Rav Sherman, Rav Izirer...). That is their whole point: The war against Rav Kuk from nearly a century ago continues! Conversions are not the real issue here, but rather who is a rav that may convert.

    This ruling will go directly to the Supreme Court and the Knesset. I pray to Hashem that the legal foundations of Torah life in Israel will be thoroughly redefined, never to be the same again.

    If need be, Tzohar will step in and start to do conversions, and marriages of the converted, all on their own without the official rabbinate's sanction. They don't need Rav Elyashiv's approval; they have their own gedolim. The dominance in Israeli life of the dinosaur Rabbanus ha-Rashis will finally end. Israelis will finally be able to freely choose whichever rav they want to marry them. They will freely choose whichever kind of beis din they want to convert them (and it won't have to be a chareidi one). Instead of the "system" telling them which rav or beis din they have to go to.

    Me-oz yotzo matok. This ruling by a beis din of kanno'im has the possibility of bringing the whole corrupt system of the rabbanus ha-rashis down entirely!

    Itamar Ross, Holon & NY

  3. Dear Itamar Ross:

    You wrote:

    "This ruling will go directly to the Supreme Court"-

    Both the Ynet and Jpost articles states:

    “All conversions performed since 1999 by Rabbi Chaim Avior and Rabbi Chaim Drukman, who heads the Israeli Conversion Court, must be disqualified,” the Supreme Rabbinical Court in Jerusalem concluded earlier this week"

    This article is from Yated Neeman 2 years ago:

    A New Conversion Scandal
    by Jonathan Rosenblum
    Yated Ne'eman
    May 17, 2006

    No issue creates more tension, and in some case temptation for rabbis, than that of conversion. In Modern Orthodox congregations outside of Israel, for instance, the rabbi may find himself in a very difficult situation when a congregant insists that he convert a non-Jew, whom the congregant’s son or daughter wants to marry. The tension increases exponentially if that particular congregant happens to be one of the rabbi’s biggest supporters.

    In order to protect themselves from being pressured to perform questionable conversions, some rabbis have a blanket rule that they will not participate in any beis din for the purpose of geirus, and will only refer would geirim to other batei dinim. For the past quarter century, various proposals to create standing batei dinim to handle conversion matters have been mooted in the United States. A series of recent conferences of rabbonim sponsored by the Eternal Jewish Family program under the title "Universally accepted conversions in intermarriage" has given new impetus to the idea.

    In Eretz Yisrael, a whole set of ideological/theological pressures push some rabbis towards cutting corners in conversion procedures and settling for something less, often much less, than full kabolos ol mitzvos, which the leading poskim of our time, including Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv, have declared to be an absolute requirement for geirus, even b’dieved.

    Since the early ‘90s, the State of Israel has granted citizenship to hundreds of thousands of non-Jews from the FSU. Churches have proliferated, Russian-speaking inductees to the IDF regularly demand to be sworn into service on Christian bibles, and Russian-speaking anti-Semites prey on Jews in a number of Israeli cities, most recently in Petach Tikvah. The importation of so many gentiles into the country creates a massive problem of self-definition for all those who view Israel as somehow a "Jewish state" and a place for the ingathering of the exiles.

    As a consequence, former Prime Minister Ariel Sharon made conversion of a large percentage of the hundreds of the thousands of non-Jewish immigrants a matter of the highest national priority, and with his usual determination created new frameworks both within the army and the Prime Minister’s office to expedite the conversion process and increase the number of converts.

    To head those efforts within the Prime Minister’s office, he tapped Rabbi Chaim Druckman, the head of a hesder yeshiva and a former National Religious Party Knesset member. Rabbi Druckman has long maintained his own beis din for conversion and been known for his "lenient" attitude towards geirus – just how lenient we will soon see.

    The very idea of setting numerical goals for conversion, as Sharon did, and as his successor Ehud Olmert has indicated he will continue to do, represents an inherent contradiction to geirus. Each full-hearted commitment by a non-Jew to attach him or herself to the Jewish people and to accept upon him or herself the yoke of mitzvos represents an amazing exercise of individual free will. Free will, by its very nature, cannot be subjected to numerical quotas or some bureaucrat’s time table.

    Despite the inherent contradiction involved in setting numerical targets for conversion, there have always been rabbis within religious Zionism prepared to play along for there own ideological/theological reasons. For religious Zionists, who attribute theological significance to the State of Israel, no less than for old time Zionists, like Sharon, the importation of hundreds of thousands of gentiles into Israel, under the Law of Return, constitutes a stain on the State of Israel.

    Another pressure acting upon national religious rabbis is the fear that if they fail to do the bidding of the political echelons and dramatically increase the number of converts, the State will turn to the Conservative and Reform movements to pick up the slack, and they will have opened the door all the way for official recognition of the heterodox movements.

    That fear explains, for instance, the willingness of the Chief Rabbinate to consider a joint conversion panel plan, advanced by leading figures at Yeshiva University, nearly two decades ago. The plan called for panels made up of Conservative, Reform, and Orthodox members who would then recommend candidates for conversion before a beit din made up of those possessing semichah from Orthodox institutions.

    The joint conversion panel was subsequently reborn as the Institute for Jewish Studies, a conversion preparation course, jointly run by Orthodox, Conservative and Reform personnel. Rabbi Druckman’s conversion authority works closely with the Instittue for Jewish Studies, even though the Chief Rabbinate proscribed such cooperation.

    THIS WEEK investigative journalist Elazar Levin broke a story that revealed just how far some rabbis have been willing to go to expedite conversion and increase the numbers. Rabbi Chaim Druckman, head of the conversion authority in the Prime Minister’s office, Levin revealed, nearly two years ago signed a certificate of conversion, which stated in Aramaic that a particular candidate for conversion had come before a beis din of the three undersigned rabbis to be converted. The only problem was that the alleged geirus took place in Warsaw, and Rabbi Druckman, one of the signatories, was in Israel that day.

    When confronted by Attorney-General Mani Mazuz with the discrepancy between the certificate and the facts, Rabbi Druckman explained that he had cancelled at the last minute his flight to Warsaw, but since he had promised the prospective converts (i.e., more than one) that he would convert them, he signed the certificates anyway.

    In a subsequent court proceeding, the party mentioned in the falsified certificate testified that she wanted to convert in order to marry and make aliyah. Both the financial incentive and the desire to marry would have rendered her conversion halachically invalid. And given her own express admission as to her reasons for seeking to convert, it appears unlikely in the extreme that there was ever any kabolas mitzvos.

    In his letter to Mazuz, attorney Shimon Yaakobi, the legal advisor to the rabbinical court system, mentioned that there were at least ten other cases in his files of affidavits signed by Rabbi Druckman that raised suspicions similar to those in the case under discussion. (In a subsequent letter from Mazuz to Rabbi Druckman, he mentions these other files.)

    After receiving Yaakobi’s letter, Mazuz took no action on the file for nearly a year. At that point, he sent Rabbi Druckman a strongly worded letter calling his attention to numerous apparent violations of the law, including: false testimony and violating civil service regulations by performing conversions outside of the country while on the state payrolll. But after the strong admonition, Mazuz informed Rabbi Druckman that he saw no need to open a criminal investigation.

    Mazuz, naturally enough, focused on possible violations of Israeli law, rather than of halacha. But the latter were, if anything, even more glaring. If Rabbi Druckman was not present in Poland, as he admits, there is no reason to think that the halachic requirement of a beis din of three was present in Warsaw. Another one of the signatures on the certificate of conversion was that of one Michael Shudrich, a rabbi in Poland. According to a recent written communication from Rabbi Moshe Lebel, the rabbinical director of the Conference of European Rabbis to the Vaad Olami L’Inyanei Giyur, founded by the late Rabbi Chaim Kreiswirth, zt"l, Shudrich is not recognized by the CER to arrange conversions. Finally, as Shimon Yaakobi mentioned in his letter to Mazuz, by knowingly signing a false statement, Rabbi Druckman called into question his credibility on all the hundreds of conversions arranged under his auspicies in the Prime Minister’s office and before that.

    This information revealed by journalist Levin should have created an explosion: Here, after all, was a public figure responsible for an important office within the Prime Minister’s Bureau, who had acted in such away as to call into his question his ability to perform his public duties in the most blatant fashion possible. Yet no explosion occurred. Apart from the webpage of investigative journalist Yoav Yitzchak, no other mainstream media have picked up the story.

    The case underlines the degree to which the Israeli media acts as a wolf pack to protect those whom it chooses to protect while tearing into those it has marked. For the last three months, Yoav Yitzchak has been running a series of exposes on Prime Minister Ehud Olmert’s highly profitable sale of his old apartment to American billionaire Daniel Abrahams, a frequent patron of left-wing Israeli politicians, and purchase of a new one at less than two-thirds of its estimated value from a builder, who received highly questionable zoning variances on the project in which Olmert bought, while Olmert was Mayor of Jerusalem. Again, the revelations have gone nowhere, despite Yitzchak’s long track record of breaking major stories.

    The Druckman affair also reveals the immense power centered in the hands of the Attorney-General, and how he wields his discretion in ways that arouse a good deal of suspicion. How, one wonders, could Mazuz have let Rabbi Druckman off with a mere reprimand after detailing a number of apparent violations of the law? Rabbi Druckman’s alleged offenses were even more serious by virtue of the fact that they related directly to his performance of his public duties, and undermined his credibility entirely. Wasn’t this the same Mazuz who has demanded that Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger step down for alleged misdeeds far less closely related to his official duties and, on their face, far less serious than those to which Rabbi Druckman has admitted.

  4. Done. This decision ensures that I will NEVER return to Israel to live. They probably will revoke my citizenship anyway.

    As someone who converted through the Beit Din L'Giur in 1999 I am one of those people whose conversion stands to be revoked.(how else could I have converted in Israel? I asked how I can convert to Judaism, they pionted me in the direction of Ulpan Giur. Something like 2000 - 3000 people converted in these Rabbinate-sponsored conversion classes every year. . That's betweem 18,000 and 27,000 people - marriages annulled, children suddenly not Jewish, peopel then also losing citizenship and having to leave the country. 18-27,000 lives turned completely upside down) It hasn't really sunk in yet.

    As someone who sat through these classes in some ways ther were a joke - many people were NOT sincere at all. One couple with a guy from South America converting actiually put up a CHRISTMAS TREE and drove regularly on Shabbat. I would see women in my class during the day in shorts and tank tops and then later that same day see them in class with long skirts and long sleeved shirts. And these were not people like many of the Russians who treated the whole thing with naked, utter and total contempt. I felt like such a frier for actually overhauling my wardrobe and wearing the long skirts all day every day, keeping kosher and keeping Shabbat. Later on, when asked about conversion by others, I would say, "If you really want to be Jewish you will wear the long skirts and at least try to keep kashrut and Shabbat." I encouraged Orthodox conversion, discouraged Reform conversion and still do to this day.

    But afterwards, you cannot police people for the rest of their lives. To do so would turn the State of Israel into a fascist police state. Sure, first they have religious police to look after converts, but then they will start policing the general public, making Israel like Saudi Arabia and Iran which DO have religious police (for an idea of how people deal with religious police, see the movie Persopolis and see what happens after the Ayatollah Khomeini takes over. Basically, everyone starts leading double lives. The whole thing becomes a poinless cat-and-mouse-game).

    In the Jerusalem Post in one of the talkbacks there was one guy who said he would gladly go back to Christianity and wants his foreskin back. I cannot say the same. I can never go back to being a Christian. I had lived as a Jew for some SIX YEARS before I had even started the conversion class. I did not need the class in order to pass the oral exam before the Beit Din.

    What about the people, like my roommate, myself and others who really were sincere? What if someone was no so into it at first but then became very observant afterwards? Jewish religious observance is fluid over the course of one's life.

    The only real way to do thsi woud be to go back over every single conversion, all 18-27,000 of them and do some sort of KGB like detective work to try to figure out if they were sincere at the time. But they don't want to do that because they are ultimately a bunch of lazy bureaucrats and prefer to just invalidate every conversion done in Israel over the past 9 years, upending thousands of lives. These rabbis will find themslves in the dustbin of history like the Sadducees in the not so distant future.

    But in the meantime, if I am not Jewish anymore, who am I?

    Posted by: Treifalicious | May 03, 2008 at 02:10 AM

  5. Jersey Girl, with all due respect, I'll assume your strange comment about the Supreme Court was just an innocent lack of understanding. The simple point is that unless this ruling by the Beis hadin harabboni hagodol gets canceled, it will be reviewed by the Knesset and by the Supreme Court of the State of Israel. You are just getting mixed up by the names.

    If not canceled the legal foundations for Torah life in Israel will indeed be redefined. First indication of this: Today's Knesset proposal to entirely remove the authority to deal with conversion from the beis din hagodol:,7340,L-3539169,00.html

    For the views a serious mentsch on this issue, see Rav Sherlow's article:,7340,L-3539053,00.html

    Finally, of what relevance is quoting an essay published by Rav Elyashiv's mouthpiece (Yated Neeman)?

    Itamar Ross

  6. Hi Itamar,

    Thank you for politely responding to my concerns.

    When you write:

    "unless this ruling by the Beis hadin harabboni hagodol gets "canceled, it will be reviewed by the Knesset and by the Supreme Court of the State of Israel"

    The Supreme Court of Israel has already okayed Reform and Conservative conversions.

    But the Rabbinate still decides "who is a Jew" with regard to marriage.

    The Knesset might ultimately create a civil marriage option but for those who wish to marry as Jews in Israel, the definition of "who is a Jew" still rests with the Rabbinate which is Orthodox.

    I keep hearing about how "increasingly Haredi the Rabbinate has become". Is it possible that the Rabbinute APPEARS increasingly haredi in contrast to an increasingly secular Jewish world?

    I am old enough to remember an Israel that shut down on Shabbat and where it was a given that food was kosher.

    In the US, a person who is not Jewish k'halacha will have no problem finding a number of "rabbis" to marry him/her with Chuppah and kiddushin.

    But a Rabbi who follows halacha will not accept a ketuba from a Rabbi who does not follow halacha as testimony of Jewish status.

    If the Knesset were to dismantle the Rabbinute and allow non Orthodox Rabbis to officiate at "Jewish" marriages, I do not believe that it would have your desired result of complete acceptance of anyone who calls him/herself a Jew by the "Orthodox establishment".

    Rather what would be more likely would be the empowerment of an a-halachic Judaism that will speed Israelis onto the tragic road of assimilation and intermarriage that has all but destroyed Diaspora Jewry while at the same time, Orthodox communities adopt Takkanot forbidding marriages between their members and outsiders, much as has been done in a desperate measure to save Orthodox Jews in the Diaspora.

    While I agree that Rav Sherlow writes beautifully and comes across as a real mentsch, I do not believe that any of us are qualified to sit in judgment of
    Supreme RABBINICAL Court Rabbis.

    Once upon a time, I thought that my father and his Rabbis were HORRIBLE because of the Takana. My siblings and I each ran off to join more "black hat" communities.

    Now that I have lived in communities that are not under the Edict, I marvel at the foresight of those Rabbis and my grandparents a"h who had the insight back in the 1950's, before intermarriage even became a problem in the US, to join a community with a ban on conversions for marriage.

    I don't believe that Israel can survive the current conditions of crime, anti semitism, shul fires, pogroms or missionizing by so called other "Israelis".

    There is also a practical consideration for a country that is unable to provide for hundreds of thousands of non Jews who do not have any relationship to the Jewish people when there is 50% unemployment in many communities.

    I would not place my bets on MK Meir Sheetrit, Minister of the Interior to protest the recent decisions of the High Court.

    Sheetrit: Jews should not be granted automatic Israeli citizenship
    By Anshel Pfeffer, Haaretz Correspondent
    Tags: Meir Sheetrit, Law of Return

    Interior Minister Meir Sheetrit said during a Jewish Agency Board of Governors meeting on Tuesday that the Law of Return, which grants Jews worldwide the right to Israeli citizenship, should be amended.

    Sheetrit said that Jews who wish to settle in Israel should have the right to do so, but the state should avoid giving them citizenship "five minutes later."

    He fiercely criticized the policy to encourage aliyah among "the lost tribes of Israel" - communities who claim Jewish ancestry but are not halakhically Jewish - and said he would do anything within his jurisdiction to stop it.

    Sheetrit also said that his ministry has seen numerous cases of immigrants fraudulently obtaining aliyah benefits. He also referred to the spread of neo-Nazism among young immigrants from the former Soviet Union to support his call for tougher aliyah laws.

    Sheetrit spoke at a closing plenary session of the Board of Governors, in the presence of representatives of several Jewish communities and Zionist organizations worldwide

  7. Halacha is very clear as to what is required for conversion and what is not acceptable. I think orthodox rabbinates around the world should get together and come to a consensus of practise.

    One thing people arguing all these things fail to realize is that because these men did not follow procedure properly, thousands who converted under their auspices, and their offspring, many who I am sure are sincere in their Jewishness, and whose children have grown up as such, will find their whole lives turned upside down.

    This is unfair and I have no doubt that, that what was amiss, Hashem will require of these men.


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.