Thursday, December 31, 2009

EJF scandal and the British conversion process

Jewish Chronicle

Three children rejected from JFS, their parents' conversions in doubt and their own Jewish identities in tatters. A legal ruling by a British court establishing "Who is a Jew" in a way at odds with the traditional Jewish definition. A community at risk of schism.

How did we get into this mess?

A scandal currently unfolding in New York, at first glance completely unrelated, may shed some light on the current farce. [...]


  1. I don't follow the author's logic at all in this case. Because the London Beit Din refused to acknowledge some Orthodox conversions performed in Israel, it 'paved the way' for a non-Orthodox convert to sue an Orthodox day school in England? Exactly how are the events related? If the two O conversions had been accepted and the Progressive conversion was still rejected would the parent not have sued? Would the court have ruled differently?

    I personally feel that the mania for nullifying conversion has gotten completely out of hand. Can anyone cite a teshuva from before 1948 in which an actual conversion was nullfiied? Not a ruling that in principle if such and such happened a conversion would be invalid, but an actual case in which someone ruled a particular person should not be considered a convert?

  2. Eternal Jewish Fraud WatchDecember 31, 2009 at 4:15 PM

    The article's author is a secular Jew venting at the frum establishment.

    She does not have to make any sense as long as she appeals to the Chronicle's readership with some kind of orthodox bashing.

  3. Larry, I completely agree. I'm not an expert, but it seems that the idea of nullifying conversions at all may be fundamentally problematic. Only G-d knows whether a conversion was valid -- if a rabbi like R' Tropper decides you "really" didn't accept the mitzvot, even though you said you did, and says you're a non-Jew, this is like playing G-d. If the rabbi is wrong and according to Hashem the conversion is still valid, the rabbi is like a murderer. (The Talmud compares someone who causes someone else to sin as being worse than a murderer, since you kill the person's soul rather than their body. And the rabbi would be causing the person to sin by telling him in effect that he no longer need fulfill the mitzvot).

    The Talmud also says that when a convert comes out of the mikveh, he is a Jew *in every respect.* In every respect must mean that like any Jew he cannot have his Jewishness revoked whenever some rabbi feels like it, or whenever somebody casts aspersions on someone on the beit din. The fact is, conversions have gone on in every generation for centuries and millenia, and basically all Jews today are descended in part from converts. In many cases entire villages of non-Jews in Russia, Poland and Lithuania converted (I've seen many references to this in historical literature). I'm sure under the current criteria many of these conversions would have been not allowed in the first place or could have been retroactively annulled. If today's Jews want to accept themselves as Jewish without a doubt, they should treat converts in the same way.

  4. The events are related because most recent case of the 12 year old M was the latest in a series of JFS admission controversies, with the previous cases of Helen Sagal and the Lightmans making national news (see links below). Those cases created the social and legal environment that helped the current case gain traction in the courts and the (non-frum) Jewish public forum.

    Because of the previous cases, many outside parties have gotten involved in court, including the British government, which supported the school; and the British Humanist Association and the Equality and Human Rights Commission, which supported M.

    The Lightmans have been publicly supporting M's case, which resulted in the decision against JFS, and prepared a supporting brief on behalf of M.

  5. Since I live in London, let me just make some comments on the background to the story.

    First, the writer is not secular, but Orthodox, although not Haredi.

    The school is a Jewish school, but is funded by the UK government as a state school. It is open to all members of the Jewish community, frum or not, and even reform. Howver, it is under the guidance ofthe Chief rabbi, and his Beit Din, which was headed by Dayan Ehrentrau.
    A few families had Jewish fathers, who had married covnerts, and they were converted in Israel by the rabbanut - not even the special Druckman court, but the regular rabbanut. The London Beth Din checked and surmised that many years alter the women were not frum, and didn't recognize their conversions. I asked a Rav in London a few years back, and he said the Lond Beth Din is qute strict onconversions, and they give all Israeli conversions a hard time. So any evidence that the covnert is not frum today, they wont accept the geirus.
    Without taking sides on the issue - the families were obviously upset, one had bene promised by the Chief rabbi that the child woudl be allowed into the school etc.
    So the anger grew, and there were several court cases, till it finally reached the House of Lords (UK Law lords).
    They decided that being Jewish is an ethnic issue and not a halchic issues, so under English (goyish) law, it is racist to deny someone into a Jewish school, if it is doen on ehtnic grounds.

    It is a bit of modern day bar kamtza story - the rabbis upset a Jew and a half, so it goes to the authorities.
    Mnay British thougth it was arrogant of the Law Lords to decide who is Jewish, as they would not be able to decide who is Catholic or Muslim.

  6. This is another case of mida keneged mida, Rabbi Lord Sacks refused to accept certain Orthodox Israeli conversions (done under the rabbinate) because he did not like that particular municipality rabbi, now he is forced to accept non Orthodox conversions.

    Like Tropper who revoked conversion of a woman because she wore pants was exposed ...

  7. Recipients and PublicityJanuary 1, 2010 at 6:25 AM

    By the way, this article illustrates the "law of unintended consequences" whereby: (a) maybe what this writer says is partly true and partly misguided/false; but more importantly: (b) the implosion of EJF and the public disgracing of Tropper reaches across the world and tars and feathers and taints anyone who has had and still has connection and positions with EJF=Tropper.

    Now the British Jewish papers are pointing big fingers at Dayan Ehrentrau, who instead of doing the smart thing and quitting, has instead decided to throw his lot in with the dead-in-the-water EJF and it makes it seem that the ONLY reason he's doing so is because he is getting a FINANCIAL REWARD for it from EJF=Kaplan=Tropper.

    A dayan taking shochad is like a doctor taking poison. He of all people should know better, and if not, he deserves the negative reactions he is getting in the press for his amoral blindness and immoral stupidity.

  8. London Beth Din had a kashrus supervisor who, after quite a few years supervising things like sherry , wine etc. was found out to be non-jewish.

    He had a quicky convertion, married his wife again, and then soon left England and judaism fairer shores.

    I think he went off because the wine and sherry should had been recalled as he was not jewish and it was 'stam yayin', but the dayonim swept it under the carpet. He realised it was all fake.

    This is so ironic!

    The London Beth Din would be one of the first organisations which would be banned by the EJF.

    All Dayonim and Rabbonim in UK know that more than 90% of LBD converts do not accept Torah and Mitzvos, and do not follow any kind of orthodox jewish life.

    I have followed many case studies from start (beginning to learn), till well after going to mikvah.

    Two examples:

    A one parent family converted after six months that is quite fast in any place! Straight after converting they went to one of the ladies non-jewish boy friends for a holiday, to recover from the stressing time she, and her kids had been though.

    A jewish man married a non-jewish girl, his wealthy father was not happy and demanded she convert, she played a good act and got though the 'tests'. As soon as she had converted her father-in-law took the whole family out to celebrate at a non kosher restaurant.

    These blatant acts of hypocrisy occurred within a week of converting, so I ask, how sincerely did they accept Torah and Mitzvos ?

    The LBD had a used to have a good reputation, but that was in the days of Dayan Abramsky and his ilk, it now appears to be a complete farce!

  9. quickie conversion? 6 months?
    I heard it is usually 4 years in the LBD and they are the strictest in Europe.
    In any country, the Haredim don't like any other Bet Din.
    The probllem in UK is that Dayan Ehrentrau was the biggest Talmid Hacham in the UK, and the Haredim couldn't accept this humiliation. He is Haredi himself. However, whilst he was usually machmir, on occasion he shwoed some leniencies, and that was the perfect opening for a hareid attack on him. Hence he supervised the Eruv . Of course in Israel there are eruvim too, as well as elsewhere. So the hysteria was due to this.
    Now, if you ask a Rabbi in UK, they will tell you the London Bet Din is the best for conversions, and has the highest standards in Europe.
    CER - I have no idea, nor am I up to date on their involvement in EJF.
    6 months is good, because LBD conversion is prety tough and irreversible. So if i meet shiksa, i can make her kosher in 6 months? How much will that cost? :)))


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