Rabbonim and dayanim are speaking out strongly against an attempt to undermine the authority of city rabbis through a proposal by the State Attorney's Office to appoint four "lenient" rabbis as marriage registrars to rubber-stamp IDF conversions. The proposal follows a petition filed against prominent municipal rabbis who refused to recognize army "conversions." The State Attorney's Office also announced early this week unquestioning recognition of IDF conversions, though in the past the State Attorney's Office has said these conversions are not administratively valid. The rabbonim responded by saying it comes as little surprise that the State Attorney's Office recanted its previous stance since the Chief Rabbinate has recognized thousands of IDF "conversions" over the years.
Early this week the State Attorney's Office issued a statement regarding its new stance on the petition to recognize so-called "conversions" in government frameworks, including the military. According to the statement, four rabbis would be named as marriage registrars for couples where one or both underwent a conversion program under government auspices.
"The State Attorney's Office feels this is a fair, desirable and reasonable solution for couples who encounter difficulties in registering for marriage due to the refusal by the rabbis named in the petition," reads the statement, referring to their unwillingness to recognize the "conversions" of complete non-Jews. The rabbis slated for appointment are Rabbi Yeshayahu Meislish, Rabbi Yisrael Glickman, Rabbi Eliezer Altshuler and Rabbi Eyal Yosef.
During one of the High Court hearings a representative from the State Attorney's Office said conversions in the army are conducted without certified dayonim and do not meet the Chief Rabbinate's requirements. Her remarks sparked a public firestorm and surprisingly the Sephardic Chief Rabbinate released a statement claiming that "the chief military rabbis worked in full cooperation with the Israel Chief Rabbis in every matter. Soldiers underwent conversion in these batei din for conversion, some of whom have been married for many years due to the marriage registrars."
The announcement by the Sephardic Chief Rabbi drew protest since it took a side on the longstanding controversy surrounding efforts to permit the thousands of military conversions conducted over the years, even though most of the conversion candidates did not even keep their first Shabbos. Maranan verabbonon issued a scathing notice in reaction.
The Sephardic Chief Rabbi's announcement drew widespread protest. Now the State Attorney's Office has reversed its earlier statements, saying, "Administrative aspects of the IDF conversion system should be regulated, but this does not have the potential to affect the State Attorney's position, which states that IDF conversions are a part of the State of Israel's government conversion apparatus, and State of Israel authorities recognize the validity of these conversions for all intents and purposes."
This week the rabbonim voiced their pain and protest, saying that after the Chief Rabbinate's recognition of IDF conversions, the State Attorney's Office cannot be expected to do more.
The Vaad HaRabbonim LeInyonei Giyur, founded by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth zt"l, stressed that after the Chief Rabbinate's recognition of IDF conversion — although some claim it recanted its statements following the objections of gedolei Yisroel — at a meeting of the Chief Rabbinate Council a decision was made to form a committee of inquiry to examine IDF conversions following serious faults in army conversions; for instance, already in the conversion preparatory study program, conversion candidates study Reform tenets. The committee has disbanded, but the undisputed defects in the program are sufficient grounds to freeze the entire army conversion system starting immediately.
"The State Attorney's proposal to bypass city rabbis by appointing four `lenient' rabbis as marriage registrars to automatically approve army conversions seriously undermines city rabbis," noted the Vaad HaRabbonim. "It is a deep insult to local rabbis, intimating that they do not carry out their task faithfully, though they stand guard over lineal purity, preventing breaches in the sanctity of Kerem Beis Yisroel. This is in addition to the insult against the Chief Rabbinate's determination that the army conversion system is plagued with serious defects and therefore rabbis cannot accept these conversion candidates automatically.
"Therefore, we are again calling for the setup of a committee of inquiry to look into the conversions, to ascertain whether the `converts' are indeed keeping Torah and mitzvas, which is highly unlikely within a secular military environment, and in the meantime the entire army conversion apparatus should be shelved. The State Attorney certifies the `conversions' without looking into the matter at all. Its aim is well known — to circumvent the authority of prominent city rabbis.
"This is not just a question of conversion performed in the army," added Vaad HaRabbonim, "but in the case of every convert who underwent conversion at any beis din marriage registrars are charged with the task of verifying that they indeed accepted mitzvas earnestly, in accordance with the well-known directives issued by gedolei Yisroel in 5744 , in order to prevent potentially tragic results."