Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

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26 Iyar 5766 - May 24, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











New Israeli-European Conversion Scandal
Vaad HaRabbonim and CER in Joint Effort to Strengthen European Conversion

By Betzalel Kahn, M Plaut, and Yated Ne'eman Staff

According to the Israel news organization News First Class, Rabbi Chaim Druckman, a former MK (NRP) whom Ariel Sharon appointed several years ago to head the conversion system in Israel, himself violated the law including forging a conversion certificate. The government conversion system was set up to encourage non-Jewish immigrants to undergo "conversion," claiming that the red tape at established botei din made conversions over difficult. "Red tape" was a reference to the fact the botei din did not convert everyone who walked in the door.

Over the years Yated Ne'eman has published numerous reports on the wholesale conversion industry run by the State of Israel. These reports did reduce the number of such so- called conversions, but certain figures always found ways to continue this flourishing, profitable business.

Previous Israeli governments encouraged the conversion industry based on a misguided goal of increasing the number of Jews in Eretz Yisroel. The heads of government have never managed to comprehend that a conversion not performed in accordance with halochoh is not worth the paper it's printed on. If a conversion was done by someone not authorized to do conversions or, more commonly, if the non- Jew did not genuinely accept the yoke of Heaven, then the conversion is not valid even bedi'eved, as all gedolei Yisroel zt"l vylct"a have ruled throughout the years.


From inside the Prime Minister's Office, Rabbi Chaim Druckman heads the State of Israel's official conversion system. Despite his attempts to convert every goy who shows an interest in becoming a Jew, the Interior Ministry must approve every request to open a conversion file and in many cases the opening of the file is postponed after discovering that the non-Jew only wants to convert for financial or personal reasons. If a file has not been opened there is no legal way for the conversion candidate to appear before any beis din.

Rabbi Druckman himself has been involved in conversions for years. Rabbi Druckman heads the Merkaz Shapira Conversion Beit Din. Scandals linked to Rabbi Druckman uncovered by the Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l, and Yated stirred harsh reactions, yet he continues to do as he sees fit.

Even after his official appointment as head of the government conversion system, Rabbi Druckman continued performing conversions on the side. A recent report by Elazar Levine published on a news website edited by investigative reporter Yoav Yitzchaki, News First Class, shows that these conversions were not only invalid according to halochoh, but were even illegal. Rabbi Druckman is also suspected of performing conversions abroad in violation of regulations established by the Israeli beis din system.

The recent case was as follows. Over two years ago, on 11 Shevat 5764, a woman from Byelorussia we will call D. arrived at the office of the rov of Warsaw, saying that she wanted to convert in order "to get married and make aliyah." In such a case the officials in Warsaw should have referred the candidate to a properly authorized beis din somewhere else in Europe. There is no rabbi in Poland who is authorized to do geirus. Yet for some reason a Warsaw "Beis Din" converted the woman, changing her name to N. T.

At the top of the ten-line conversion document were the words, "Bemoshav teloso kechodo yasivno" ("The three of us sat together as one"). The three "dayonim" signed on the document were two rabbis in Warsaw and Rabbi Chaim Druckman. Rabbi Druckman was in Eretz Yisroel on that date.

According to one investigation he signed the document in Eretz Yisroel, independent of any beis din and without seeing and hearing the conversion candidate and without asking her the questions every conversion candidate is asked. The document, it appears, was sent by mail or fax, signed and returned to Warsaw.

Over a year ago the woman who received the conversion certificate in Warsaw asked the Jerusalem Rabbinate Beis Din to certify her status as a Jew. Atty. Shimon Yaakobi, who serves as legal advisor to the Rabbinical Courts Administration, checked the conversion file like every other file, raising suspicions immediately. One week later he sent a letter to the Attorney General.

"The conversion certificate attached to the conversion request is formatted just like the form used by the Special Conversion Beit Din at Merkaz Shapira [which is run by Rabbi Druckman] with the particulars of the Jewish community in Warsaw pasted on," writes Yaakobi. "The document says it was signed on 11 Shevat 5764, yet on this date and the days before and after Rabbi Druckman was in Israel . . . This act is a forgery according to Paragraph 414 of the Penal Code.

"Further, according to the conversion guidelines established by the Chief Rabbi and the President of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, conversion dayonim are prohibited from converting outside of Israel, except with permission in advance from Rabbinical Court President. Such permission was not granted. If a conversion dayan, who is a government employee, engages in conversion outside of the botei din system without authorization he acts in violation of civil service regulations, and this would appear to be a disciplinary violation."

According to the report, Mazuz appointed Yaakov Shapira, a staff member of the Ministry of Justice to look into the case. Rabbi Druckman told Shapira, "It is correct that I was not in Warsaw on the day that the beit din sat. I was supposed to fly to Warsaw. At the last moment, I was forced to cancel my flight. But I promised those who sought to convert that I would convert them, so therefore I signed on the conversion certificate."

Thus, Rabbi Druckman admitted signing on the document even though he did not participate in the conversion. The Vaad issued a statement that the halachic ramifications of Rabbi Druckman's actions are more serious than the legal ones. According to the Vaad, if a proper beis din did not supervise the conversion, then even bedi'eved it is not valid.

The Vaad also said that one of the other signers, M. Schudrich, who uses the title "Rabbi of Warsaw," is a graduate of a Conservative seminary and served in the past in a Conservative pulpit in Japan. Rabbi Moshe Lebel, the rabbinical director of the Conference of European Rabbis advised the Vaad in writing that Schudrich is not authorized to do conversions.

The Vaad has been in contact with Rabbi Lebel and Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, av beis din of London and senior dayan of Europe, to establish botei din kevu'im vechashuvim to deal with issues of conversion, in addition to the current botei din in London, Paris and Munich (supervised by Dayan Ehrentreu).

At the recent convention of the Conference of European Rabbis (CER) in London, Rabbi Sitruk, Chief Rabbi of France and president of the Conference, announced that the Conference will deal strictly with members who perform unauthorized conversions. The Vaad and the CER will publicize a list of non-authorized CER members who still continue to do conversions. According to the Vaad, there are a handful of rabbis in Europe who continue to deal in conversions without authorization in partnership with certain rabbis from Israel. The Vaad gives its full support to the CER for establishing and enforcing conversion standards in Europe.

As recently reported in Yated, the Vaad in conjunction with EJF is trying to establish botei din kevu'im vechashuvim in North America and to stop individual rabbis from performing conversions. At the present time the Vaad has received full cooperation from several Orthodox rabbinical organizations in America to achieve this goal. However, some major Orthodox rabbinical organizations in America have still not made any serious effort to establish conversion standards.

It should also be noted (as previously reported) that the Israeli Rabbinate has set new regulations in recognizing conversions performed outside of Israel, with the aim of eventually only recognizing botei din kevu'im vechashuvim.


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