Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

8 Adar I 5768 - February 14, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Shema Yisrael Torah Network
Shema Yisrael Torah Network











Staunch Opposition Following Plan to Set Up Government Conversion Authority

By Yechiel Sever

Rabbonim, dayonim and public figures expressed shock and firm opposition following a further decline in the conversion system in Eretz Yisroel with the setup of a government conversion authority designed to speed up and push through the conversions of hundreds of thousands of immigrants.

Last week Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and the Ministerial Committee for Immigrant Affairs approved recommendations submitted five months ago by the Chalfon Committee, which was commissioned to assess conversion. The goal of these recommendations is to remove so-called bureaucratic obstacles and accelerate the "conversion" of hundreds of thousands of non-Jews who received citizenship under the Law of Return and whose apparent but false conversion is liable to cause assimilation and grave breaches in Kerem Beis Yisroel.

The setup of the new government authority means the dismantling of the current conversion system within a matter of months and the transfer of authority over conversion to a secular government body.

The committee behind the recommendations was headed by Immigrant Absorption Ministry Director-General Erez Chalfon. Minister Yaakov Edri has gone on record saying that the conversion of non-Jews is a national priority and an important strategy in safeguarding the future of the State of Israel.

The plan calls for ample funding and appointing new dayonim in order to inject a more "open" and "welcoming" spirit — designed to increase the number of conversion candidates.

The mainstream secular media hailed the approval of the recommendations, which are bound to introduce leniencies. "The approval of the recommendations was delayed because of opposition by chareidim and a portion of the rabbis in the conversion system," noted one report.

When the Chalfon Committee was set up six months ago, the Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur, founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l, warned against the danger underlying ties with various government ministries, which are driven solely by a desire to increase the conversion rate. According to the Vaad, one of the committee members, who wears a knitted kippah, tried in the past to set up a conversion system together with Reform and Conservative entities, claiming it was in accordance with halochoh, though gedolei Yisroel shlita have unanimously opposed it in clear-cut terms.

With the recent government decision, the Vaad reiterates that conversion cannot be used as a solution to deal with problems caused by bringing in hundreds of thousands of non-Jews in the last wave of immigration.

"People severed from any trace of Judaism cannot be expected to change their way of life and observe mitzvas fully, which is an unequivocal prerequisite for conversion and the lack of which invalidates conversions under all circumstances," says the Vaad Spokesman. "The Chief Rabbinate must make this clear to government officials once and for all. No rabbi may agree to sit with any government official to discuss the issue of conversion, which is a purely halachic matter, with no room for outside interference."

Merely participating in committees whose sole intention is to introduce conversion leniencies is liable to create major stumbling blocks in the present and future, inundating Eretz Yisroel with hundreds of thousands of non-Jews possessing conversion certificates that are not worth the paper they're printed on, notes the Vaad.

At most there are only a few hundred non-Jews genuinely prepared to undergo conversions that are valid according to halochoh, i.e. by accepting all mitzvas in full. Therefore, says the Vaad, not only should the conversion system not be expanded, but it should even by reduced to a handful of fixed, reputable botei din. The Vaad is calling on the Chief Rabbinate to openly sever all ties with various officials whose declared intent is solely to increase the number of highly questionable converts in Israel.


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