Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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16 Tammuz 5760 - July 19, 2000 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Or Etzion Conversion Court Defies the Gedolim to Appease the Reform

by B. Rabinowitz

The special conversion court in Or Etzion, headed by Rabbis Chaim Druckman, and Yosef Avior, recently conducted "conversion" ceremonies for the graduates of the State- sponsored Conversion Ulpan network, which is run jointly with Reform and Conservative leaders.

Such collaboration openly defies the directives of maranan verabonon, who firmly forbade all Torah-observant Jews to collaborate with, recognize or have any connection with these movements which, they said, "destroy religion, distort the Torah, have caused assimilation and wreaked havoc on Judaism in the Diaspora and in Israel."

More than two years ago a sharp struggle was waged against the establishment of these joint conversion ulpans. All of the gedolei Yisroel and rabbonim of chareidi Jewry opposed any collaboration. Nonetheless, Rabbis Druckman and Avior publicly proclaimed that anyone who studies in these ulpans will be "converted" by their court in Or Etzion.

Six months ago, Yated Ne'eman disclosed the plan to convert the graduates of these joint ulpans in the special conversion courts in Or Etzion.

Rabbi Avior announced his decision to adopt these ulpanim at a meeting of the Ministerial Committee for Conversion, headed by Minister Melchior. Rabbi Avior, who played an active role at that meeting, also said that he intends to visit these conversion ulpans, to interview the students, and afterwards to invite them to undergo conversion in the court in Or Etzion.

This announcement was accepted at the meeting with much satisfaction and was regarded as a good way of solving the problem of following through from the study course to conversions despite the collaboration with the Reform and the Conservatives.

At that meeting, the chairman of the joint conversion ulpans, Professor Benny Ish Shalom, said that he hopes to open 100 conversion ulpans within the next three years. His goal is to process 20,0000 people a year.

In a related matter, the conversion court in Or Etzion also recently conducted conversion ceremonies for tourists from abroad, in total defiance of the directives of the Chief Rabbinate.

The Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur headed by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth has obtained "conversion" documents verifying this serious breach. A number of important details are missing from these documents, including certification that the Chief Rabbinate approved of the conversions. By the same token, Rabbi Yosef Avior continues to conduct "conversions" in weak Jewish communities, also in violation of the directives of the Conference of European Rabbis.

Yated Ne'eman has made a comprehensive investigation of this issue and discovered a shocking picture of total disorder in all that pertains to conversion ceremonies abroad, which directly undermines the conversion standards established by European botei din.

In the past, the Chief Rabbinate has upheld the unequivocal position of Chief Rabbi Yisroel Meir Lau with respect to conversions conducted abroad which states: "No rabbi from Israel may involve himself in any way whatsoever in conversions abroad."

This position was made clear to Rabbi Avior, who claims to have stopped such activity, however his frequent visits to Europe and the recently-obtained documents call his denial into question.

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