Friday, October 30, 2009

Fears of Modern Orthodox Geirim

An anonymous commentator wrote:

I converted with a MO beis din, well actually two MO dayanim (definitely MO NOT conservadox/traditional/or anything of that nature) and one yeshivish dayan, in a mid-sized, but long established, out of town community twenty years ago. Since that time I married, am raising kah several children, wear a sheitel, and am pretty indistinguishable from the rest of my "middle of the road" slightly to the right of MO community.

I admit that there have been times when I've cringed at some conversions (not by my beis din) which I've seen. That being said, though, I am shaking in my shoes over what is lying in wait for me when my children reach shidduchim.

It seems that geirus has turned into nothing less than a witch hunt in recent years. That long-standing conversions are now going to be under a microscope seems very wrong, and something that is likely to prove a great embarrassment and emotionally traumatic for many totally sincere converts. It frightens me that the chareidi world, which does not accept MO as an acceptable hashkafa, is going to determine MY status and that of my children as well.

Add this to the other items I've seen, such as an opinion that the geirus of somebody could possibly be invalid if a dayan does not believe the universe is less than 6,000 years old, a position which was taken by no less than Rabbi Aryeh Kaplan back at that time and by dozens of those now well known in kiruv, and everybody who was converted by MO must be in great fear now.

Emotionally, it takes its toll - I always felt accepted, warmly accepted, but now it is all too clear how many don't really, at heart, want us. It is so terribly terribly painful. I did my part - I've embraced halacha, I've embraced this people, I've sacrificed to pay tuition for the children, and I have done my best, but it feels like hands are grasping to take it all away. How can Hashem let this happen to us? How is it permissible to oppress many sincere geirim in the name of ferreting out a few doubtful conversions?


  1. Every Jewish mother is shaking in her shoes when her children reach shidduchim.

    This is not a problem that is unique to the children of gerim.

    A perspective shiddach's family will either accept your child or not. And hopefully the shadchan will screen this out and shield you from some of the pain that everyone with a child in the shiddach process faces.

    But most likely the shadchan thinking that she has your best interests in mind will share too many of the hurtful things that the families of the boys/girls will say about your family and about your child.

    It is all part of a personal growth process, I guess.

    My cousin asked me the other day which I think hurts more, labor pains or shidduchim? All I could answer is that at least the labor pains eventually end.

    All the best to you. Hashem should bless us all that our children should easily and painlessly find their zivugim.

  2. Jersey Girl, how very sad to learn that you too did experience/are expiriencing problems with shidduchim, possibly problems of "racist" nature because you are Sefardi.

    However, I do not think that this situation can be compared to the situaion of a Ger/Gioret fearing that his Giur might be revoked for reasons that might be beyond his control, thus questionning the status and marriage prospects of the children.

    The more I hear about it, the more I get the impression
    1) that not every bit of information we receive is reliable (i.e. some Giurim might be considered void for a good reason, (like the Ger never being Shomer Shabbat) and that we tend sometimes to draw hasty conclusions about ourselves.

    2) that Giurim become more and more a battle ground for political arguments between Rabbis/Fractions/Groups that like to argue.

    And I suppose that this is what the guest poster meant when she spoke about a witch hunt going on: the Gerim become hostages in a war they have no part in, and that they cannot really influence either.

    This blog devotes many posts and comments to this kind of wars. To the casual onlooker, it leaves a sorry impression.

  3. I became a ger through a Rabbi in Queens who is involved with many cases, including as it happens, my wife and her mother and sister. (My giyur was several years before I met my wife.)

    My wife's mother did Reform and Conservative conversions before the O one, at each step reportedly being told that her conversion would be universally recognized. Eventually she ended up leaving recognizable Jewish life altogether, supposedly in large part because she never felt accepted by the community.

    It was very soon before the wedding of a ger friend of mine to a giyores, when it was discovered that there were (apparently valid) concerns with the validity of the giyur. She was hurt at having to repeat.

    Myself, I acknowledge that there are politics and superiority complexes and so on in the world. I'm prepared (I think) for the first time someone tells me my giyur's no good. At some point you have to say, there are those with valid concerns, and those with non-valid concerns. As to the former, H' is happy with my giyur, and if there's any nafka minah, we can settle the human side. As to the latter, you just have to say, to blazes with those concerns. Those people who will make a good match for our children will likely be the ones who will approach this issue in a prudent and appropriate way, and not be insistent on X or Y beis din.

  4. There are problems any way you slice it.

    There are improper conversions that Klal Yisroel must guard against but there are also people with an agenda who are trying to invalidate proper conversions. In the second group you have some Rabbanut officials. Tropper is a hybrid who both creates improper gerim and denies the validity of proper ones.

    In the community at large there are ignoramouses and people with inferiority complexes who put down gerim which is grave sin. There are insecure BTs who feel good in foolishly thinking that gerim are on a lower level than them and put them down at every opportunity. There are modern orthodox, even musmachim from YU, who do not understand the concept of neshomos being at Har Sinai, or have never even heard of it, and foolishly assume that anyone wanting to convert has psychological problems or is a social misfit. Finally, there are even yeshivishe type men who never really amounted to much in learning who are making false interpretations of what Chazal & Rishonim say about gerim. There is one big baal gaaveh in NY who is a big macher at his shul who does not know how to learn. He brags everywhere about how he once almost got engaged to the daughter of a very wealthy person in the community before finding out she was adopted as ger ketana. He said he told the father that he wanted to "hit" him for not telling him earlier and he called it off. He goes on to cite mekoros which he twists around. Rabbonim say he is full of garbage. His marriage to a "meyuchas" by the way ended in divorce.

  5. My sister and I researched our maternal genealogy back to 1556 in hopes that we would find out that we weren't Jewish!

    We want to eat custard or ice cream after meat, go to the beach and mixed swim, and spend our Saturdays shopping at the mall.

    And, as much as the shiddach process was a nightmare for us, it is so much worse as we experience it through our children.

    So, do I feel sorry for a Ger/Geyoret whose conversion is being questioned? No, honestly, I am jealous and so is every frum born Jew I know of.

    Please, someone find out that I am not Jewish! It would be a big relief to me and my children to find out that they can marry whomever pleases them.

  6. JG, what a sad sad post! I am the giores who wrote the above, and I can only imagine what experiences you must have gone through to lead you to write that you value so little this tremendous gift Hashem gave you (not that I believe for a moment that you really mean what you wrote, not in your heart of hearts).

    I know as well as anybody, I suppose, that the frum world isn't perfect, far from it I fear, and that people can be hurt by those whose motive aren't pure or who lack sensitivity. It seems to me, though, that the only response at such a time is to daven to Hashem and be comforted by Him. If we really believe in G-d, then we have to believe that He can fix whatever mess others (or we ourselves) manage to make. Also, if we don't like what is happening, we don't like the shidduch system (and I agree that there's a lot not to like), well then we can each do our part to change things, at least by acting with decency, kindness and compassion ourselves and by raising our children to do the same.

    For all the pain that some are causing now, we can't forget the many amazing wonderful people who are out there also. For my part, all of this struggle and occasional pain will be worth it if my children turn out to be some of those "amazing wonderful people".

    Please don't think I'm preaching to you, because I'm only saying the same things I tell myself when I am distressed by what I see and hear...

  7. Wonderful woman, may hashem shield you from many of the unthinking, hurtful people out there in the world who own the title of "kanoim & spiritual protectors".

  8. We want to eat custard or ice cream after meat, go to the beach and mixed swim, and spend our Saturdays shopping at the mall.

    On of R' Yisrael Salanter's students said the same thing to him. His response,
    "Do not worry. You are not Jewish, you are nothing more than an uncivilized animal."

  9. "My sister and I researched our maternal genealogy back to 1556 in hopes that we would find out that we weren't Jewish!"

    Why can't you just drop it, as so many OTD did over the centuries?

  10. The conversion war has nothing to do with standards, it is part of the war the haredi world wage of Modern orthodox. For example, Rabbi Bomzer. Before they went after his conversions they went after the Vaad. As many know rabbi Bomzer serves as the president of Vaad harabonim of Flatbush. It is organization which gives hechsers to restaurants etc. The problem was that this organization had many Modern Orthodox rabbi and some people did not like it. People like Leib Tropper who resides in Monsey and Leib Pinter who currently resides in federal prison (finally we can say it on this blog) and others.

    So they started to spread lies that r' Bomzer is too lenient and his mashigichim are not observant etc, sounds familiar?, then they founded their own organization Kehila kashrus and they still spread lies on the Vaad.

    The RCA of course will not stand up to protect their own rabbis, look for example at the letter the fearless leader of the RCA sent to Tropper after Tropper was forced to apologize for the lies he spread on a woman who left him to have a Modern Orthodox conversion.

    The letter goes way over the top to please Tropper (even my niece's fan letters to Hanna Montana are not that admiring)

    Dear Rav Tropper:

    This is a most helpful statement and clarification, and I thank you for issuing it. You are indeed a man of your word, and I look forward to the additional public clarifications, as discussed.

    Kol tuv, and be’hatzlachah in all of your work on behalf of the Klal.

    Basil Herring

    Even ohev shalom verodef shalom like rabbi Lookstein did not get any support from the RCA. I would not be surprised if one day the RCA will release a statement joining Tropper and r' Eisenstein criticizing rabbi lookstein's beard.

  11. It is true that the Vaad of Flatbush had very bad kashrus standards but they were later fixed by R' Mayer Goldberg. And while true, Kehillah & Rabbi Gornish are still hypocrites for attacking them since Kehillah was not much better and Gornish was just as bad. Except for the Vaad's weird shita about broccoli and grandfathered restaurants owned by goyim, they are much better today than most hashgochos in Brooklyn.

    And just because Tropper is a fraud, why do you assume that Bomzer is producing 100% kosher gerim? Bomzer is from the old guard of the Flatbush Vaad & it wouldn't surprise me if he is taking shortcuts although I do not know for certain.

  12. MO seems to be dodging the obvious solution:

    She should contact an adam gadol and send him the details of her geirus and get a psak on it in black and white.

    It'll work out fine and she can then go honestly into any shidduch. That's the only way a shidduch works anyway.

    And she still does not need to advertise all the background questions to every shidduch prospect right away. Just let it be known at the appropriate time. And be matzliach and mazel tov!

  13. JG proves that you don't have to be Ashkenazi to say "Es iz schwer tzu sein a yid".

  14. "Es iz schwer tzu sein a yid".

    Countless children went off the derech in America when they heard that from their parents' mouths, even if the parents still managed to be shomer shabbos.

    Source: R' Moshe Feinstein

  15. I really feel your pain. The advice I always give is:

    Ignore them. No one can take away your conversion. If somebody wants to review, inspect, judge your conversion, don't talk to them. Ignore them. Don't cooperate with jerks. There are plenty of us who want you to stick around. There are plenty of people who will marry your kids. Be thick skinned and stiff necked.

    You might be happier if you were outside New York / New Jersey. Move to Cleveland or Atlanta or Seattle or some other place where they will be delighted to have you.

    I am speaking from experience.

  16. My sister and I both believe in G-d too much to drop it.

    I tried to go OTD when I was a teen, but I looked terrible in jeans so I had to stay religious.

    There is something very wrong with a Jewish establishment that is out throwing millions and millions of dollars toward proselytizing from
    Argentina to Zimbabwe when it cannot feed, clothe or educate its own.

    My siblings and I did not go to yeshiva because my parents could not afford it. My parents taught us and we went to Talmud Torah. All of my siblings are observant though, somehow.

    Even though there was no financial aid for my siblings and I, there were plenty of the offspring of Jewish men and women who converted to them who went to yeshiva on community tzedakkah. Nothing has changed. In fact in my community these are the only children who are still in the yeshivas except for a few who are very well off because all of the other Shomer Shabbat families I know have put their children in public school because this is all they can afford.

    Why does the Jewish community prioritize the offspring of Jewish men and women who were converted to marry them, it is because my siblings and now my children, nieces and nephews will still be Jewish whether they go to yeshiva or not.

    But for the children of women converted to marry Jewish men, the yeshiva education for the children is required in order for their mother's giyur to be accepted.

    Born Jewish children who inherit the sin of their parents being middle class attend public school or homeschool and no matter how frum the homes are that they come from , they are remain outside of the "system".

    Don't worry Mrs. Anonymous, your children will have a much easier time finding nice frum bochurs and girls to marry.

    For my children, my nieces and nephews, cousins and friends who all have children in the shiddach parsha who are finding that shadchanim don't want to work with them because their families do not have money to support "learning" or because they did not go to a frum yeshiva or camp it is a

    And I do not know how many religious Jews will admit this, but ALL of my siblings, cousins, children and friends often wish that they were not born Jewish and say so among themselves.

    Maybe Anonymous does not experience the relentless Anti Semitism that born Jews live with daily because she does not "look Jewish" and so she cannot understand.

    My parents and grandparents always said "it is hard to be a Jew" and none of their offspring grew up non observant.

    It is just a fact of life of being Jewish, ie. anti semitism , racism and oppression

    You can just ask my daughter who was detained and really abused by LaGuardia security today for an hour and a half until she nearly missed her flight. They told her that they "pull her aside only because she was wearing a long skirt". And this is certainly NOT the first time.

    If it is not "hard to be a Jew" for you, I will quote my mother and tell you "then you are not doing it right".

    If you think that is sad, then consider that G-d makes it hard for us in order that we develop emunah and proper middot.

    Do we have to like it? The answer is "no", no more than a child likes to do his homework or chores.

    I don't like being Jewish, it is hard. It is supposed to be hard to serve Hashem in the ways that Jews are uniquely commanded to.

    I don't know why anyone in his or her right mind would choose to do more, much much more homework than the teacher has assigned to him/her just because the extra work was assigned to someone else.

    I would rather be out playing like you were assigned instead of stuck inside with 100 math problems.

    And yet for some reason, you were moved to stand in front of a Beit Din and take an oath to Shamayim that you would rather do math problems than play outside.

    Frankly,I cannot understand that.

    All the best to you. I need to go rip the itchy sheital that I wish I did not have to wear off of my head before I scream.

  17. Jersey Girl needs to learn some musser.

  18. JerseyGirl-
    I'm so insulted by your comments I can hardly tell you. You and those who share your sentiments are already OTD regardless, because you hate the mitzvot you keep. You will receive no credit for whatever you do. You might as well go uncovered to McD's and get a bacon cheeseburger this Saturday. You'd at least be happy in this life, if not in the world to come.

    PS-if your Sheitel itches so much why not switch to a scarf, for crying out loud?

  19. I am so sorry that you've had such a difficult time.

    From a pure economics standpoint, in most communities, perhaps not yours, but still MOST, geirim are likely to be more highly educated than the FFB's and to earn higher incomes. That is certainly the case with me (B'H for my parents who sent me to an Ivy and to a top professional school at great personal sacrifice), and I have never not once taken a nickel of tuition assistance or any other aid other than bikur cholim meals for a couple of weeks after I had twins - and I didn't have just a few children in school, either.

    The reasons I send my children to yeshiva are many, but to "protect" my geirus is not top of the list. I would give ANYTHING to have been able to receive the education my children are getting. Through long long toil I've worked my way through a few textbooks in biblical Hebrew, memorized many shorashim, and now am at the point where I can open a chumash and read the pasuk and Rashi with no need for English. Wouldn't it have been nice if I could have been there in 5th grade like my children. I fit in the things I learn by hook and crook - an hour at lunch, a seder with my husband shabbos afternooon, an hour here and an hour there; what a tremendous thing to give my children this period of life to learn about Hashem and how to relate to Him.

    BTW, it so happens that I do look very Jewish, both in style and tznius of dress and in physical appearance. I appreciate that I work in an unusual environment - primarily Ph.D.'s of very diverse ethnic backgrounds, but I can only recall two incidents that I thought might have an element of anti-semitism over my career. Dietary restrictions, not shaking hands, etc. are something my colleagues took right in stride. Unfortunately, I can recall many more ugly comments about geirim and goyim coming from so-called frum people than I can anti-semitic comments coming from goyim. I've often thought that my life might in fact be easier did I not "pass" as FFB quite so well because then people might at least watch what they say regardless of what they think. (As a side point, growing up when I wasn't Jewish, I not once ever heard my parents or any other member of my family or their social circle for that matter make a racist statement about anybody - Jewish black Chinese or whathaveyou.)

    It all comes down to attitude. You think that being Jewish is so difficult and why would anybody take it on that you liken it to choosing to do extra homework. I looked at it this way: once one believes that the Torah is true, how could one not want to do all one can to be a part of it? You liken it to meaningless math problems. I think it is much more like when I fell in love with chemistry in college - I couldn't stay out of the lab. I LOVED it. I was (and still am) always dying to learn more, to discover more about how the world works. I couldn't have cared less about the grade or turning a project in - I wanted to spend those hours in the lab because I wanted to learn for its own sake.

    Anything in life can be like that. Imagine being in a factory and all you do all day long is one big slog, just pouring plastic into molds to make little clear dishes. Hour after hour, day after day, week after week, unrelenting boredom. But then, imagine how you'd feel if somehow you know on one particular day that the run of petri dishes you're making that day were going to go to a hospital where a culture from a sick child would be done in it, enabling a doctor to find the right drug to save the child's life. I don't know about you but I think I'd be pretty excited that day, knowing that I have even a small part in saving a life through my daily labor. Likewise, the mitzvot can either be a burden or what gives us meaning.

    Judaism is not meant to be a huge burden. It is supposed, in the words of our local Rosh Kollel, to be a "heimish" religion. So to your mother I would say that "if it is hard to be a Jew, then you are not doing it right".

  20. אשא שיוצאת בפאה נוכרי, היא נוכרי ועובר זנות- ר' עובדיה יוסף
    Jersey girl you need to check with this imaginary posek of yours again, you know the Sephardi one that followed the Chazon Ish and no R' Ovadiah Yosef. You should know that Sheitels are a big no no.

    What happened to the wonderful NCSY highschool education you claimed to get in other threads? Such as in the Should Jews Hate Arabs thread where you claim that R' Kahane came to your NCSY school and encouraged you to go on a killing spree.

    Or in the thread Sexual Molestation is absolutely prohibited according to halacha where you claim to have nearly fallen into the hands of Baruch Lanner at your religious school.

    Your lies are simply getting too thick for you to even keep track of them. You seem to like being sensational and causing a stir. Which in itself is disgusting and not tzniut.

  21. In the Baruch Lanner thread, she says that her father didn't let her go to the Lanner classes.

    So if he sent her to a public school instead, the comments are consistent...

  22. @Mekubal:

    If you choose to post under the nick "Mekubal" and claim to represent the kabbalistic community, you would be well advised to be less categorical and judgemental in your comments, lest people get a very negative image of kabblists. You would do a disservice to the community you claim to represent.

  23. Why?/Shoshi

    You should really get all of the facts before you make comments. Lanner did not teach at NCSY schools. He ran extra-curricular programs for NCSY affiliated schools. So in order for her participation to have been an option, she would have needed to attend one of those schools.

    As far as being "judgmental" in my comments, of which do you speak? Of those that I have used to reply to Jersey Girl on this thread, one was taken directly from R' Salant Z"L. The other I quoted from R' Ovadiah Yosef, who quoted it from R' Mordechai Sharabi Z"L former chief Kabbalist of Jerusalem.

    Aside from the fact that I claim to represent no one buy myself, you should know that no mekubal is likely to sweep an egregious sin or statement under the rug. It is the way of most mekubalim to confront such things with bold truth.

    What Jersey Girl said, in this thread and others, are horrible things to say about Judaism, that are fundamentally lacking in truth. If she were simply someone who was ignorant I would kindly try to help her, however, it is apparent from the things she says, that she is not ignorant. Thus a more forceful approach is called for.

  24. Now I understand better what "Mekubal" means.

    That fact that you attend a "cabbalist" yeshiva makes you a lesson-giver.

    OK. So be it.

    The only thing that I do not really get is the claim that it is so important to be "modest". This does not square with your blog or comments on this blog.

  25. Shoshi,

    Thank you once again for the unimaginative insults.

    When you get a proper Torah view on what is and isn't modest speech feel free to make your corrections.

    However, all that I have done(which mekubalim have done in their writings for centuries) is to point out the lies of a person who is slandering Judaism. And point out to you the facts that you most apparently missed when you tried to defend that slanderer.

    You should really spend some time in a Sem to see how Torah and Torah issues are discussed by those who have dedicated their lives to them. If that fails you, you can even simply read the words of the Rishonim on the Torah, and see the sharpness with which these Tzadikim related to each other. Active and strong defense of Torah views, even against other Torah views is the standard. All the more so against those who would debase the Torah. I am truly sorry that you don't seem to realize this.

  26. let's just remember that when ruth hamoaviah converted, the frum also were reluctant to accept her. those who didn't are known now only as ploni almoni. those who did are the ancestors of dovid hamelech and the moshiach.

  27. As in any Shiddach situation, if they don't want you then it's their loss.

    If someone doesn't accept the geirut of a person who's been a practicing Jew for 20 years then that WILL be their problem. God will take out his wrath on them.

    There are many in the community of "Jews" who are trying to overturn these conversions who have become unrecognizable as Jews themselves.

    Don't sweat it, hold your head up high. You're in amazing company.


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