Monday, May 15, 2006

Conversion Update

Steve Weiss of Canonist has been working overtime to explore the nature and the implications of the recent crackdown of the Rabbanut on conversions. performed by RCA rabbis (among others).
Apparently, the offices of Sephardic Chief Rabbi, Rav Shlomo Amar, are not singling out the RCA, but everyone who doesn't share their pecific take on conversion standards. From my own experience, this includes the IDF Rabbinate and Rav Haim Druckman's Bet Din.

As it presently appears, the rabbinate is seeking to establish unified standards for conversion. Prima facie, this is a reasonable enough request. The question that no one wants to answer is: 'What standards?' Kashrut, Shabbat, Jewish Education etc. or Shaytlach and the like. Furthermore, if the standards are set by Israeli standards (e.g. Hebrew fluency and understanding of the Prayerbook), the conversion effort in the US might as well close up shop, because the Israeli rabbis (like their governmental and secular colleagues) are abysmally ignorant of the realities of Diaspora Life.

More seriously, since the Rabbinate is not the Sanhedrin, what does this mean for the discretion of the local Bes Din (assuming the members possess the proper credentials of scholarship and of יראת שמים)? My impression, from reading the responsa of many of the gedolim who have addressed this issue in the past (R. Azriel Hildesheimer, R. David Zvi Hoffman, R. Hayyim Ozer Grodzensky, and R. Moshe Feinstein [all of them] זצ"ל), that the discretion of the Bes Din is a given, since בדיעבד כולם גרים הם.

The situation is extremely complex, laden with emotion and fraught with dangers of many types. To a certain degree, the future of the State of Israel depends upon its resolution. Certainly, the type of חילול ד' that is the daily result of rabbinic bureacratic inertia and obtusenessin this and other matters, is a malignancy that must be excised. That means 'Talk and Think out of the box.'

I pray that those involved will do just that.

While this story now appears to be much wider than I previously thought, I still think that within the Haredi (and, to a certain degree, Hardally) community there is a growing awareness of, and opposition to, the growth of a Modern Orthodox rabbinic presence in Israel.


Anonymous said...

Does the RCA have official standards for conversions?

Baalabus said...

I think your approval of "standards" is misguided.

First of all, the real issue is the implementation of standards. In other words, even if there were standards in place the Haredim would doubt the ability and inclination of RCA rabbis to uphold said standards.

Second of all, the whole notion of standards in this subject is contrary to Halacha. The r'uhs ainayim of the dayyinim of the converts intentions is required in the giyur process. Standards are antithetical to r'uhs ainayim, by definition and therefore a very bad idea.