Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

10 Shevat 5759 - Jan. 27, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly







Opinion & Comment
Easy Conversion is an Escape from Judaism, Not a Way In
by Rabbi Nochum Eisenstein

Continued attempts by various compromisers to find possibilities of cooperation with the Reform and Conservative continue to make headlines in Israel. The strong and clear psak din issued by maranan verabonon against any cooperation or even recognition of heretic groups needs no further clarification. However, in light of statements being made by unauthorized "orthodox" spokesmen, I feel it necessary to review several of the main points which are of interest in the psak din and to emphasize certain facts which are purposely being distorted, especially their claim that they are doing everything within the bounds of halacha.

The Ne'eman Committee is totally not acceptable for two reasons: 1] The existence of a committee composed of Orthodox, Reform and Conservative participants gives recognition to ideologies that do not recognize the principles of Torah from Sinai as being Jewish.

2] Furthermore, in practice, a committee established to seek compromise on conversion matters can only succeed by compromising halacha.

It should be noted that neither the actual Ne'eman Committee nor the Joint Conversion Institute established in its wake have any legitimate orthodox members who are representative of the community. The so called "orthodox" members of the committee were not appointed by any recognized rabbinical group, including the Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

The so-called orthodox head of the joint conversion institute is a professor who heads a learning center under Rabbi Steven Riskin. He has no backing from any authentic orthodox group. In fact such backing is clearly out of the question since the conversion institute was prohibited by rabbonim from all sections of orthodoxy.

It follows that the Ne'eman Committee's conclusions are nothing more than intervention on the part of the Israeli civil court and government into serious matters that are of a purely halachic nature. It is clearly understood that the Israeli court's decisions to register Reform and Conservative converts as Jews in the national population registry and to put this information on their identity cards is an action that has serious halachic consequences -- and the Ne'eman Committee is even worse because it interferes with the conversion process. It is not more than a government recognized and appointed commission of non- authorized Orthodox people who try to mix into halachic issues which must really be decided only by authentic rabbonim.

Neither Mr. Ne'eman nor Rabbi Riskin have hidden their view that the conversion process has to be made "easier" in order to accommodate the many seeking conversion. Ne'eman expressed his view when he appeared before the Knesset Law Committee earlier this month, and Rabbi Riskin wrote the same thing in an article in the winter issue of Breichot Shlomo. This just proves that the peshoro machers have decided that they can tamper with the halocho in order to "save" Klal Yisroel.

It is therefore worthwhile to repeat the position of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur headed by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth that conversion is not a solution to the problem of the hundreds of thousands of goyim who now live in Israel. A worthless conversion certificate will only worsen the problem by hiding the true goyim. Just like a worthless kashrus certificate cannot kasher pork, a worthless conversion certificate cannot transform a goy into a Jew -- regardless of how many rabbis signed the certificate.

It is unfortunate that certain rabbis who signed the landmark psak din last year prohibiting all aspects of the Ne'eman Committee's conclusions are now pressuring the true Orthodox rabbonim to reach some "compromise."

We do not want to mention who these rabbonim are at this time, since it is still hoped that they will not continue in these efforts and will remain true to the psak which they signed only a year ago. These rabbis have been told very clearly that there is no room to compromise on these matters and that no changes will be allowed in the original psak din.

Recent moves of the Israeli government to recognize the actions of the Reform and Conservative clergy have raised new calls to organize private sifrei yichus. A Vaad Leyichusei Yisroel has been founded to work on this project on the instructions of the gedolei hador and it reports that unsolicited registrations have been arriving in its office over the past several weeks.

I would like to conclude with the words of Professor de La Pergola of Hebrew University, said to be a world authority on Jewish demographics, who recently spoke about the demographics of the Jewish Nation. With regard to conversion he said that more Jews use conversion as a method to escape Judaism by getting social justification for marrying a non- Jewish spouse, than as a method to enter the Jewish nation. "The results of conversion do not justify the common claim that conversion is a way to increase the Jewish Nation," the Professor said.

Rabbonim who have dealt with conversion matters in the field know from bitter experience that very few of those who undergo a bogus conversion retain much Jewish identity for very long. I was told that at a meeting in Denmark of the "converts" of a person who considers himself an Orthodox rabbi, almost no one said that he or she considered himself Jewish as opposed to Danish.

The peshoro machers should examine the real consequences of bogus conversions before they present easy solutions for saving Klal Yisroel. From a halachic perspective they have no standing but from a practical perspective they display ignorance of the current makeup of the Jewish nation.

From this perspective, the motives of those who call for easy conversion must be examined to see what they really are. From the Torah's point of view, conversion without real acceptance of the yoke of mitzvos is, in many cases, nothing more than a hechsher to assimilation -- and worth as much as a hechsher on pork.

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