Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

19 Iyar 5766 - May 17, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











The Vaad HaRabbonim Supports Chief Rabbi Amar's New Directive on Foreign Converts

By Betzalel Kahn

Israel Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar made a surprise move by starting to implement new regulations on registering individuals who underwent conversions outside of Israel. The Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth expressed its strong support for the new directive.

The Vaad has recently come under attack for trying to promote its policy that all conversions be performed only by botei din kevu'im vechashuvim and to require that all conversions meet universally accepted standards, especially with regard to a complete and sincere acceptance of all mitzvos. In recent months the Vaad has made special efforts along these lines in America with the cooperation of the Eternal Jewish Family (EJF) organization.

Even before Chief Rabbi Amar took office, the Rabbinate had begun to prepare lists of Orthodox rabbonim from chutz la'aretz who are authorized to perform conversions, as a result of finding numerous defects in conversions that were so serious that the conversions were considered invalid even bedi'eved. The new directives are not defined along political lines in any way, and have been applied with force and fairness to all conversions from whatever Orthodox rabbinical source — including members of all major rabbinical organizations in America.

The list was begun by R' Yitzchak Ochana while he worked for the Chief Rabbinate in charge of registering geirus from outside Israel, but was never completed. There are over 3,000 Orthodox rabbis in North America alone, so keeping track of them is a big job. In the current circumstances, any one of these could perform a conversion, but there is no supervision over them and there is no way to know whether or not their actions were valid.

Two months ago Chief Rabbi Amar appeared at a rabbinical conference in Miami organized by EJF, which is headed by HaRav Leib Tropper and chaired by Tom Kaplan. HaRav Reuven Feinstein supervises all EJF activities. During the conference Chief Rabbi Amar announced that new regulations had taken effect, requiring every rabbi from outside of Israel to receive permission from the Israel Chief Rabbinate before his conversions would be recognized by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate as valid. Chief Rabbi Amar also proposed setting up a central database to register marriages in the US.

During the conference proposals were also raised regarding the need to set up permanent, reputable regional botei din in the US to handle the issues of conversion and assimilation. The EJF has already set up such botei din in Monsey (Ezer Mishpot), Lakewood (Meishorim), Philadelphia, Cleveland, Chicago (Mercaz HaRabbonim) and Los Angeles (RCC), and another three are slated to open soon. The costs for the conversion process are kept as low as possible.

These botei din are comprised of dayonim talmidei chachomim who remain strictly within the confines of halochoh and maintain regular contact with gedolei haposkim. According to the new directives of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, only established, reputable botei din would be recognized by the Chief Rabbinate.

The US media reported extensively on the new regulations, noting that now conversions performed by the members of the Rabbinical Association of America are subject to the new regulations, even with a certification from the organization.

After a media report claimed that several conversions performed by Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) members were rejected in Israel even when they were endorsed by its affiliated Beis Din of America, the RCA released an unusual statement denying any knowledge of such rejections.


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