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23 Tammuz 5766 - July 19, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Rabbinical Conference on Conversion and Intermarriage Held in Jerusalem This Week
Maranan Verabonon Direct it to Go Ahead — A Step to Correcting the Underlying Problems

By Betzalel Kahn and M Plaut

The Rabbinical Conference for Correct Conversion and the Prevention of Intermarriage of the Lillian Jean Kaplan Jewish Pride Through Education Project opened at the Metzudat David Hotel in Jerusalem on Monday this week. The three-day event was graced by the presence of gedolei Yisroel, prominent rabbonim who came to address the hundreds of rabbonim in attendance, and dayonim and marriage registrars and hundreds of other participants.

The rabbonim gathered in Jerusalem to put an end to the pressure on dayonim to issue conversion certificates to non- Jews who have no intention of keeping Torah and mitzvos. HaRav Simchah HaKohen Kook, the rov of Rechovot, HaRav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, a dayan at HaRav Wosner's beis din and author of Geirus Kehalochoh, and Rav Nachum Eisenstein, chairman of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l, have been hard at work seeking ways to raise public consciousness and make all dayanim aware of the seriousness of bringing goyim into Am Yisroel disguised as converts.

In recent months the American organization Horizons, headed by HaRav Reuven Feinstein and HaRav Leib Tropper, started a project called Eternal Jewish Family (Netzach Mishpachas Yisroel) in America, whose success led to a similar project in Israel. As an initial step it was decided to organize several conferences at different locations around the world of which this week's Rabbinical Conference, which has the blessings of maranan verabonon, is the third.

During a session held on Monday, figures on the gravity of the current situation were revealed and halachic discussions were held on the issue of marriage registration at botei din in Eretz Yisroel.

The opening session was held on Sunday at the home of Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita and attended by a delegation of rabbonim from the conference, including HaRav Reuven Feinstein, HaRav Simchah HaKohen Kook, HaRav Leib Tropper and HaRav Nachum Eisenstein.

Maran told them to strongly protest the special conversion system operating in Israel. "Today there are very few converts who are really geirei tzedek. They can and will find their way. The large conversion system set up in Israel is therefore unnecessary and there is thus an immense obligation to raise awareness and to make every possible effort to stop the terrible breaches in this matter," he said. "Every Jew knows there are certain mitzvos that are hard to fulfill. Is the potential convert aware of the obligations he faces and how hard it is to uphold the demands of the Torah and halochoh? There is no place for a conversion system and special conversion courts or various institutes whose only goal is to persuade goyim to convert. This kind of thinking must be uprooted."

Jerusalem City Councilman Rabbi Shlomo Rosenstein led the opening session at the Metzudat David Hotel on Monday afternoon which began with the recitation of Tehillim led by HaRav Eliyohu Schlesinger, the rov of Jerusalem's Gilo neighborhood.

HaRav Leib Tropper said that the goal of the conference was to remedy the bleak state of conversion, stressing the need to clarify who is worthy of sitting on the bench of a beis din involved in conversions. He quoted HaRav Eliashiv's assertion that in Eretz Yisroel conversion has reached a state of real "hefkeirus," even though in truth a non- Jew can be accepted for conversion only if he turns into a real eved Hashem al pi Torah.

Attorney R' Marvin Jacob of the US said that the current state of conversion is unprecedented and noted that rabbonim from every group had arrived to deal with the painful problem. He then asked HaRav Reuven Feinstein, rosh yeshiva of Yeshivas Staten Island, to address the conference.

HaRav Feinstein said there are two types of converts, those who convert for Hashem's sake and those who don't. He went on to say that a genuine ger is like a newborn child. HaKodosh Boruch Hu gives even a murderer a chance to be a ger tzedek, taking away his bad middos. He spoke about conversion problems in both Eretz Yisroel and the US, where non-Jews get mixed into the Jewish community because the father has a Jewish name and their conversion is accepted. Absurdly often the "convert" begins to take a greater interest in Yiddishkeit and wants to study Torah, said HaRav Feinstein, expanding on the problems that emerge.

He noted that in Israel there is another problem of goyim who seek to convert for financial reasons, saying the government embraces new immigrants and soldiers. He also stressed the need and importance of distinguishing the real geirim. The gemora says that if one does not treat almonos and yesomim properly he will experience their pain himself chas vesholom. This certainly applies to the geirim who are also sensitive. Thus it is vitally important to distinguish the true geirim as well as to reject the others.

R' Thomas Kaplan, chairman of the Lillian Jean Kaplan Foundation — Horizons, said the family was prepared to support the worldwide campaign against false conversion. R' Kaplan spoke about how the initiative began, with a casual conversion after a study session about providing a solution for those who want to convert through a process that will be recognized by all sectors of the Jewish world in America and Eretz Yisroel as well.

Mr. Kaplan pledged, in the name of his family, that they will provide the necessary resources to do what they can to confront and overcome the issue of intermarriage in the proper manner. They aim to promulgate a process with clear rules and well-defined steps that will allow for all those who want to "throw their lot in with our people," to do so.

With the enemies faced by the Jewish people — Hamas, Hizbullah, Iran, and more — who would want to join our people? "Is it not a miracle" that people want to join us? he declared. "Our reward will be the absolute reward that comes from doing well, in this world and the next."

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar praised the Kaplan family and discussed the proposed amendment to the Conversion Law. He also noted that every year 120 Jewish girls convert to Islam, a matter which should also be addressed. Following his speech a tefilloh was held for the safety of all residents of Eretz Hakodesh.

Chief Rabbi Yonah Metzger recommended that rabbonim and dayonim pay careful attention to several points before accepting a conversion candidate: prior personal recommendation from someone very familiar with the candidate; not to open a file on a candidate already being handled by another beis din; to have a conversion candidate live for at least a year in the home of an observant family; and to interview the applicant in the presence of a full beis din, and to write out a complete record of the interview and to open it to public inspection.

The first day's session ended with Minchah, followed by a comprehensive shiur given by Rav Herschel Schachter via satellite, on conversion and related matters, with an extended survey of the various approaches presented by the poskim. After the shiur HaRav Ovadia Yosef addressed the conference, encouraging the rabbonim to stand firm in preserving Jewry and preventing non-halachic conversions.

Monday evening's session was led by Rabbi Binyomin Cohen, director of the Jerusalem Municipality's Department of Chareidi Education.

HaRav Simchah HaKohen Kook, the rov of Rechovot, spoke at that session. Discussing kabolas mitzvos, he quoted the Rambam who says that if a non-Jew accepts the mitzvos, then he is a Jew for all purposes. He does not mention milah, nor tevilloh — just accepting the yoke of mitzvos.

HaRav Shmuel Eliezer Stern, a rov and dayan on the beis din of HaRav Shmuel Halevi Wosner of Bnei Brak, said that all groups came together to the conference, to strengthen the holy subject of distinguishing between sacred and profane, between Yisroel and the other peoples. He emphasized the sanctity and the importance of this subject.

HaRav Nochum Eisenstein spoke to the conference detailing the message of Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita. He said that HaRav Eliashiv went out of his way to express his support for the conference. HaRav Eliashiv asked that the conference concentrate on the need to completely uproot the invalid conversion system. HaRav Eisenstein asked the Rov if in these terribly difficult days the conference should be postponed. Perhaps those who attend would serve better by spending their time in the beis medrash to multiply the merits of Klal Yisroel? But maranan verabonon said that even in these times when we are threatened from the outside on the North and the South, we must also meet the threat that comes from within.

Maran stressed that there is no need for a dedicated conversion system. The individual good geirim will find their places for a proper conversion. But the focus of the conference is to accomplish a sur meira, to uproot that which needs uprooting.

HaRav Yosef Sheinin, rov of Ashdod, chaired a late-night panel on confronting the problems of marriage registry. Participants included Rav Dani Antebbi, Rav Yaakov Meir Alter, Rav Yechiel Yabrov, Rav Yehuda Landa, Rav Avrohom Yeshayohu Smotani and Rav Yigal Krispel.

Conference organizers said the kashrus arrangements at the hotel were supervised by Badatz Mehadrin which is headed by HaRav S. Kook and HaRav Avrohom Rubin. The entire hotel was placed under the supervision of the Badatz Mehadrin for the duration of the Conference and a special three-day kashrus certificate was issued to cover the event.


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