Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

29 Cheshvan 5766 - November 30, 2005 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










Produced and housed by
Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Hundreds of Soldiers Undergo 4-Month Course and Receive Conversion Certificate from Special IDF Beis Din

by Betzalel Kahn

Twelve percent of the 5,000 non-Jewish soldiers currently serving in the IDF undergo an accelerated "conversion" process every year according to recently publicized figures. IDF officials estimate that rate will go up to 20 percent in the next few years.

The figures appeared in a report published by Ha'aretz, which quoted IDF officials saying, "The secret of success lies in the amiable way converts are treated and the approach of not requiring the converts' family members to change their way of life and keep mitzvos, unlike the accepted practice in the government conversion system."

The figure behind the IDF's mass conversion initiative is Personnel Division Commander Gen. Elazar Stern, who claims the army has an interest in converting non-Jews. "On the personal level, if there are soldiers who want to be Jews I have to allow them to do so. On the national level conversion is a social problem and the IDF can and must assist in solving it."

According to Gen. Stern, although previously the Chief of Staff opposed the mass conversion program "the attitude [toward the conversion program] changed following a visit to the conversion preparation course, which moved the generals to the point of tears," said Gen. Stern. He said IDF Chief Rabbi Lt. Gen. Yisrael Weiss is also making every effort to assist the conversion program and has brought in dayonim from the special conversion courts.

The report in Ha'aretz indicates that the initiative comes from the military and not from non-Jewish soldiers who seek to convert. Even before their induction into the army the IDF notifies non-Jewish soldiers about the possibility of taking a course in Judaism and undergoing conversion during their period of military service.

In the first phase of the program soldiers take a course on, "Judaism and Zionism." Known as Netiv, the course is run by the Institute for Jewish Studies, an organization maranan verabonon banned outright years ago because it is a partnership with the Conservative and Reform.

After the course, which lasts less than two months, the soldiers are sent to two two-week seminars and then appear before the Military Conversion Beis Din. The so-called conversion process lasts a total of less than six months, with a one-month interim between the course and the first seminar, followed by another one-month break before the second seminar.

The IDF boasts of how the "converts" are not obligated to change their way of life or to have their spouses participate in the program if they are married, again, unlike the policy of the Israeli Rabbinate. If the "convert" has children he does not have to transfer them to religious schools. Gen. Stern, who wears a knitted yarmulke, says, "Nowhere does it say that conversion applies to the spouse of the convert. Conversion [in the IDF] is as amicable as possible. As far as we are concerned the soldiers have already passed the main test by the very fact they were inducted and agreed to sacrifice their lives for the Jewish people. Fifty percent of the soldiers who decide to convert at the end of the process would not have come to us to begin with if the courses were not interesting."

Ha'aretz quotes Glila Yaakobs, coordinator for soldier "conversion" at the Joint Institute. "The fact our instructors are soldiers puts the converts at ease because they see in order to convert nobody expects them to turn into chareidim."

The Vaad HaRabboni Haolami LeInyonei Giyur, founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l, says the IDF's wholesale conversion system threatens to bring thousands of goyim into Kerem Beis Yisroel. The number of conversions by the special conversion courts has been relatively low due to the bureaucracy the converts encountered, whereas in the army one can undergo a `friendly' conversion while in uniform with very little effort."

The Vaad says gedolei Yisroel zt"l vylct"a have always warned against performing conversions in the army since the secular atmosphere pervading the IDF is not conducive to beginning to keep Torah and mitzvos in full, without which the conversion is invalid even bedi'eved according to all of the leading poskim.

"Conversions must be performed by established botei din, which conduct thorough inquiries do determine whether the candidate really is prepared to make a commitment to keep Torah and mitzvos in full," says the Vaad.

Those who complete the IDF "conversion" program receive official Chief Rabbinate of Israel conversion certificates, a policy based on a decision by the Attorney General. These facts came to light when the Justice Ministry prohibited marriage registrars around the country from challenging conversions performed in Israel. A letter Rabbinical Courts Director Eli Ben-Dehan sent six months ago also states, "Conversion certificates from the special conversion courts must be accepted by marriage registrars without requiring additional certification from other entities."

The majority of marriage registrars in Israel follow these directives, thereby bringing numerous goyim into Kerem Beis Yisroel. This policy is in direct contradiction to gedolei Yisroel including HaRav Shach, HaRav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach the Kehillas Yaakov and, ylct"a, Maran HaRav Eliashiv shlita, who issued a decision on 15 Sivan 5744 reading, "We hereby warn all marriage registrars that halochoh requires them to inquire into every conversion- certificate holder to ascertain whether the conversion was really performed according to halochoh before registering them."

The Vaad is calling on marriage registrars not to submit to directives by government officials, but to conduct thorough inquiries to insure every ger keeps Torah and mitzvos in full before registering him or her for marriage.


All material on this site is copyrighted and its use is restricted.
Click here for conditions of use.