Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

7 Nissan 5760 - April 12, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Opinion & Comment
Century 2000

by Rabbi Nochum Eisenstein

A friend of mine from Kiryat Gat sent me a copy of a free newspaper being distributed in English and Hebrew called "Partnership 2000: A Century of Progress for Chicago's Jewish Community." Since I was born and raised in Chicago and the beginning of my rabbinical career was as chairman of the Vaad Hapoel for Conversion Matters of the Mercaz HaRabbonim of Chicago and that the Gavad of Antwerp -- who is nosi of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur -- served as rosh yeshiva in Chicago for several years, made the paper especially interesting for me.

The newspaper makes the following statement: "Partnership 2000: A program of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan Chicago that links the Jews of Chicago with its partnered region of Kiryat Gat, Lachish and Shatia in the Israeli Northern Negev. Its goals are to improve the quality of life for the region's residents and to develop relationships between them and Chicagoans."

Certainly it is a noble goal to link my landsleit from Chicago with their less fortunate cousins from the Israeli Negev.

The paper also mentions that the Jewish United Fund of Chicago has allotted $1 million for the project and that the newspaper serves as an avenue to provide insight into some of the projects which Partnership 2000 sponsors.

What caught my attention was an article written by a Chicago lawyer who volunteered to teach English under a program called Yad B'yad which coordinates sending North American professionals for that purpose.

The article summarizes the Chicago lawyer's experience as a volunteer English teacher and the various projects he attended. "Within 2 weeks," writes the lawyer, "I attended a graduation of a `group conversion ceremony' and I saw most of the students head off for further college education."

Century 2000 has really brought new concepts and goals in Israeli education. They can now show representatives of those who donate $1 million annually how group conversion ceremonies are conducted and are proud to boast how the "converts" head off to secular colleges supposedly to live as righteous converts. The year 2000 has really hit Israel with new things to show off -- how conversions are done publicly in groups and with secular education success. I'm sure that my Chicago landsleit are proud of such accomplishments of our Jewish state.

Who would have dreamed of in the last century that such an easy solution was available to transform non-Jewish deprived immigrants to Jews with mass graduations and secular education.

The rabbis of the previous generation understood that conversion must be done on an individual basis after carefully investigating the sincerity of the candidate and ensuring that he or she will be able to become part of the established Orthodox community and continue to grow as a G-d- fearing Jew. The Dvar Avrohom in Volume 3 discusses the importance of being part of a strong Orthodox community.

It seems that not only has the Israeli link to partnership 2000 discovered modern day methods for mass conversions of non-Jews, but also the Chicago counterparts seem to have been educated in a different Chicago than I grew up in. A Chicagoan who is impressed by a meaningless group conversion ceremony that is not valid according to halacha even bedi'eved, since the candidates true sincerity to honestly accept full observance of mitzvos is lacking, and who writes back home about it approvingly, is not the type that I knew.

Rabbi Nochum Eisenstein is the rav of Maalot Dafna in Yerushalayim and Chairman of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur headed by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth.

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