Friday, July 11, 2008

Conversion Scandal: A Battle of Morristown

According to the Jewish Week, the Rabbinate recently put a young, observant man (who was converted as a child), through the seven fires of Hell before allowing him to marry. This was despite the fact that the head of the Bet Din of America, R. Gedaliah Schwartz, certified the validity of the conversion. In the end, the conversion was recognized. However, as the Rabbi in charge of conversion certification put it: '“a conversion will not be automatically recognized just because Rabbi Gedalia Schwartz says it’s OK. ”

If this story is accurately reported, it is not only a vicious and abhorrent slap at at outstanding Talmid Hakham, R. Schwartz. It is not only a violation of 48 Torah prohibitions against oppressing a convert. It is not only another, now less unprecedented violation of the integrity of fully comnstituted Battei Din. It is a flagrant betrayal of the concordat between the RCA and the Rabbanut.

Now, other sources assert that the case is all the result of a misunderstanding. I trust that that is true. The trouble is that the long record of disregard and disdain that far too many Israeli Haredi members of the Rabbanut display toward American Gedolim and Talmidei Hakhamim (staring with the Rav זצ"ל and even, mirabile dictu, Reb Moshe Feinstein זצ"ל, lends credence to the concern that this will not be the last of such misunderstandings. These people have an agenda. [Indeed, if I am correct, the rabbis who was quoted as not respecting R. Schwartz, has carried on a campaign of delegitimation against young, YU type rabbis.] At best, American Orthodox rabbis, especially YU musmakhim are in for a very difficult time in the foreseeable future.

It is clear, that a significant portion of, and the powers Ha that stand behind, the Haredi dominated Rabbanut is out to delegitimize everyone but themselves. I see no other way. The Israeli Chief Rabbinate must be ignored, and another system of Battei Din and Community Rabbis be established. In this, I agree with Rabbi Benny Lau, who was interviewed in the sane issue of the Jewish Week.

I am sitting in Prague, as I write this. This community was the scene of more than a few controversies that tore Jewry apart. I am well aware of the implications of that which I am advocating. However, this sort of flagrant בזיון התורה and בזיון תלמידי חכמים can't be ignored. Let these so-called rabbis be like their predecessors in the 2nd cent. BCE and seclude themselves in Qumran/Bnai Brak/Meah Shearim. We'll go on and spread Torah and Halakhah and Yirat Shamayim, for the greater glory of God.

7 comments:

Y. Ben-David said...

I must say that it is ironic that Religious Zionists (RZ) like yourself (and myself), who supported the idea of a state-sponsored (controlled?) Rabbinate, now are turning their backs on it. We must ask ourselves how this happened. There are several reasons:
(1) the electoral strength of the Haredi parties as compared to the political weakness of the RZ's
(2) the desire by some in the secular ranks, particularly on the Left, to weaken RZism because of its support for Jewish settlement in YESHA
(3) the desire by some in the secular ranks, particularly in the most anti-religious elements, to have the "official" face of Judaism (as represented by the Rabbinate and its related Establishment) be Haredi, believing that this will deter non-religous people from being attracted to religious observance.

My question is how is it possible to set up yet another Rabbinical body? This body would have to get recognition from the state in some form. For example, the Eida Haredit is not part of th state Rabbinate, yet marriages and the such that they perform are recognized by the state. If there is a lot of opposition to your new Rabbinate, how will it get such recognition?
We must also ask who would appoint the members of this new body. Would they indeed by "liberals"? I learn with an RZ rav, a big talmid hacham, supporter of YESHA, supporter of military service, yet he supports Rav Sherman's psak on halachic grounds...i.e. a conversion of a person who has no intention to be observant is very problematic. Here he views it not a matter of Zionist ideology, but as a halachic matter, pure and simple. If people like him come to dominate this new Rabbinical body, you will be back to square one. I could see such a body causing a major split within the RZ camp on these grounds, the more conservative elements of RZism saying that those who comprise the new body are not big enough scholars and the such.

Perhaps the solution is to dig in and try to get back influence in the official Rabbinate instead of going off on what might be a wild goose chase.

Ben Bayit said...

The day that mamlachti rabbis such as Benny Lau, the types of which were and are always critical of religious zionists for having separatist tendencies, for establishing separate schools, for moving to separate neighborhoods, and always critical of the haredim for the same reasons - the day they set up their own separatist court - that is the day I will have to take a double dose of my blood pressure pill for fear of laughing so hard that I cause myself severe heart trouble.............

Anonymous said...

you know, you can't say this is a violation of 48 prohibitions of oppressing a convert _if you don't believe the man is a convert in the first place_.

Anonymous said...

The story contains many errors. In fact, the story has a happy ending. Don't believe evrything you read.

Anonymous said...

a number of problems with the tone of this post: benei brak is not like the essenes. the essenes were one [deviant] sect among many. hareidi judaism are a legitimate part of jewish tradition. also, hareidim do not isolate themselves, as did the essenes. generally, they are an important part and contribute substantially to judaism wherever they exist in significant numbers. (satmar bikur cholim and hatzolah are 2 such examples.) so far your banner of 'spreading torah and halakhah and yirat shamayim for the greater glory of god' does not seem to be working; rather, the hareidi version is. even though the rz internal discussion is that they are the wave of the future, i believe this to be largely an internal discourse, unrelated to the broader israeli reality. thoughts?

ariel said...

"yet he supports Rav Sherman's psak on halachic grounds...i.e. a conversion of a person who has no intention to be observant is very problematic"

No, he supports PART of R' Sherman's psak. He probably opposes the part where R' Druckman is ruled to be an "apikoros bemezid". And that part is more significant in its broader implications for Israeli society.

"The day that mamlachti rabbis such as Benny Lau, the types of which were and are always critical of religious zionists for having separatist tendencies, for establishing separate schools, for moving to separate neighborhoods, and always critical of the haredim for the same reasons - the day they set up their own separatist court - that is the day I will have to take a double dose of my blood pressure pill for fear of laughing so hard that I cause myself severe heart trouble............."

Somehow the possibility doesn't seem so ridiculous to those of us who are capable of understanding that social separation and institutional separation are not the same thing.

Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

At best, American Orthodox rabbis, especially YU musmakhim are in for a very difficult time in the foreseeable future.

And qal vahhomer those from that other American Modern Orthodox semikha program...