Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Chareidi World

1 Cheshvan 5769 - October 31, 2008 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly










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Dozens of False Conversions Performed in Riga

By Yechiel Sever, Riga

Based on a visit to Riga at the invitation of the Latvian Jewish community, a delegation of rabbonim revealed alarming findings regarding dozens of false conversions performed there recently. The delegation included representatives from the Conference of European Rabbis and Vaad Haolami LeInyonei Giyur, founded by the late gavad of Antwerp, HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth.

The visit followed a series of wholesale conversions performed in the city by Rabbi Uriya of Haifa one month ago.

The delegation members visited located Jewish institutions, accompanied by the local rabbonim and community heads. The visit included the city's only beis knesses, the single religious school, Yeshivas Riga, which is run by Vaad Lenidchei Yisroel and Shevus Ami, and the Shamir chareidi community, where concerted efforts have been made to memorialize the rich history of chareidi Jewry in Latvia.

The main meeting was held in the general Jewish community building. Although the primary goal of the visit had been to improve the situation regarding conversions and to provide halachic and professional assistance in verifying the Jewish status of children from the FSU, another important goal was to strengthen the local Jewish community that remains out of the 210 botei knesses and botei medrash that once graced the country.

The most famous of the various kehillos — once found in 61 different towns and cities — was in Dvinsk, where the rabbinate included HaRav Meir Simchoh haCohen, author of Or Sameach, and HaRav Yosef Rozhin, author of Tzafnas Panei'ach and known as "the Rogotchover."

The delegation's inquiry revealed that dozens of fictitious conversions were performed without requiring acceptance of mitzvas. The rabbonim found only a handful of candidates were actually suitable for conversion, whereas the vast majority lacked genuine desire and the dedication needed to complete the conversion process properly through an uncompromising acceptance of mitzvas.

The delegation's foremost achievement was the signing of a binding agreement with the local rabbonim and community heads to set up a limited conversion system that meets all halachic requirements, based on the recognition that dozens of false conversions were performed in the country.


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