Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

18 Teves 5766 - January 18, 2006 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Chief Rabbinate Attacks Wholesale IDF Conversions

by Betzalel Kahn

Following innumerable warnings by Vaad Harabbonim Ha'olomi L'Inyonei Giyur about the matter, the Chief Rabbinate attacked the IDF's wholesale conversion apparatus which is responsible for bringing non-Jews into Kerem Beis Yisroel through short, fictitious courses for soldiers.

On several occasions, Yated Ne'eman has exposed the ease with which soldiers receive IDF conversion certificates following a three-month series of courses after which they then continue their previous, non-Jewish way of life.

For the first time, recently, Chief Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar publicly expressed his doubts regarding the military conversions. "People claim that in the army it's easy to convert," he said, according to a Yediot Achronot report. "I asked why and the IDF Chief Rabbi told me that in the army it is more feasible to hold concentrated studies. I intend to check the contents of the conversion course in the army and check the Jewish way of life of the convert. We will act more strongly and with greater stringency."

High-ranking figures at the Chief Rabbinate issued caustic statements regarding the IDF conversion setup. "We have no supervision over the conversions in the IDF. The conversions are too easy—we won't be able to recognize army converts as Jews," said one official.

According to recently published figures, in the past four years more than 1,000 soldiers have been "converted," and the numbers are on the rise. In 2002 the IDF converted just 16 soldiers, whereas by 2003 that figure was up to 147 and shot up to 426 in 2004. Last year, over 700 soldiers underwent these so-called conversions.

While the civilian conversion system requires ten months of study in preparation for conversion, the IDF runs a three- month program. "After three months, the soldier receives the conversion certificate and he is a Jew in every respect," reports Yediot Achronot, adding that 90 percent of participants in the military courses take the exams at the IDF's special conversion botei din, whereas in the civilian conversion system only 20 percent of students take the exams. Thus in 2005 "only" 798 civilian immigrants converted.

The major problems stemming from the fictitious military conversions performed by IDF Chief Rabbi Brig. Gen. Yisrael Weiss, who is promoting these conversions under the aegis of Gen. Eliezer Stern, will emerge in the near future. Marriage registrars have been instructed by leading poskim not to register couples for marriage without conducting a thorough inquiry into their Jewishness, including those who arrive with an official conversion certificate.

In Rabbi Amar's recent statement he said he is very concerned over the military conversions and has no supervision over what takes place there. In another few years, he warned, these soldiers will come to register for marriage and the marriage registrars will delay them. Of even greater concern is the possibility of a High Court petition demanding that local rabbonim register non-Jews for marriage. According to halochoh, at the time of conversion, if conversion candidates do not genuinely intend to keep Torah and mitzvos the conversion is invalid, even bedi'eved.

Chief Rabbinate figures say that every military conversion should be assessed on an individual basis rather than recognizing the conversion automatically. "I have a really bad feeling about these [Army] conversions," one high- ranking official added. "They are too easy. It's a production line of Jews."

Maronon verabonon zt"l vylct"a have always opposed performing conversions in the military, saying conversion must take place only in regular, reputable botei din.

Vaad Harabbonim says the main problem with the military conversions is that marriage registrars are required by old Chief Rabbinate directives to accept these so-called converts as Jews in every respect. "This directive contradicts the opinion of maronon verabonon stated in 5744 [1984] prohibiting the acceptance of conversion certificates without ascertaining whether the conversion was done according to halochoh," says Vaad Harabbonim. "Marriage registrars must remain vigilant by not accepting IDF conversions without authorization from a certified beis din, in order to avoid bringing non-Jews into Kerem Beis Yisroel."


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