Sunday, June 22, 2008

Mystery surrounds leak of names of 150 of Rav Druckman's invalidated converts

Haaretz reports:

Who leaked the list of names of some 150 people converted by Rabbi Haim Druckman to High Rabbinic Court Judge Avraham Sherman, after which Sherman ruled the conversions null and void because Druckman, the head of the conversion court, was out of the country at the time they took place? And who gave Sherman what Judge Tova Strassberg-Cohen, the ombudsman of complaints against judges, called the "mysterious file" against Druckman?

This mystery has been keeping the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee busy for the past few days, hearing and reading various versions from different rabbis, along with recriminations and defamations.

A reminder of the affair, which has caused a serious rupture between the Orthdox and ultra-Orthodox: At the end of March, a Rabbinical Court of Appeals headed by the staunchly conservative Rabbi Sherman upheld a ruling that an Ashdod woman, whom Druckman converted 15 years ago and sought a divorce, could not be considered Jewish since she had never practiced religious Judaism, effectively invalidating conversions by Druckman's conversion court. Following the ruling, Strassberg-Cohen recommended two weeks ago that Sherman be removed from his post.

On May 26, the Chief Rabbi of Rehovot, Simcha Hacohen Kook told the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee: "We have a list that Israel Rosen sent the rabbinical court" of invalid conversions and marriages.

Rabbi Rosen, who was head of the Conversion Administration before Druckman, when Druckman was the head of the conversion court, discovered that in 2000, Druckman issued some 150 conversion certificates although he was out of the country when the conversions took place. Rosen brought the matter before the chief rabbis, who censured Druckman but upheld the conversions.

Rosen sent all the members of the Knesset committee an angry letter in which he denied sending a list of names to the rabbinic court, or presenting those on the list as invalid for marriage.

Druckman's deputy in the Conversion Administration, Rabbi Shmuel Klein said: "I assume that Rabbi Sherman is not the Holy Spirit and therefore someone had to bring this information to his door."

Klein wants Justice Minister Daniel Friedmann and the Knesset committee members to find out the identity of that individual: "Who prepared the file, who paid whom and where was this file all these years." Klein wants to find out what role Rosen and the administrator of the rabbinic courts, Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, had in the affair. He says he has "had it up to here with people stomping on Rabbi Druckman."

In response, Rosen said: "Rabbi Klein is framing me, as is his custom."

Ben-Dahan told Haaretz that the file on Druckman had been prepared on the orders of Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, following complaints he received. The file states that Druckman had converted foreign workers and illegal aliens in breach of Interior Ministry regulations. But how did the file reach Rabbi Sherman's High Rabbinic Court bench? According to Ben-Dahan, the bench asked for the file, and such a request "cannot avoid being carried out."

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