Dei'ah veDibur - Information & Insight

A Window into the Charedi World

26 Tishrei 5760 - October 6, 1999 | Mordecai Plaut, director Published Weekly








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Conversion Industry Booming

by B. Rabinowitz

The "conversion" industry in Ohr Etzion, headed by National Religious Party MK Rabbi Chaim Druckman, is continuing its activities in defiance of the directives of the Chief Rabbinate. In addition, the rabbinical court there has not received the approval of the Chief Rabbinate, since it lacks an authorized dayan.

Although senior officials of the Chief Rabbinate are aware of these details, they have not issued instructions to curtail the activities of this special court.

Last month, Yated Ne'eman disclosed the fact that some one hundred "conversions" conducted in the special rabbinical court in Ohr Etzion were approved by Chief Rabbinate officials. The approval of these "converts" had been held up for months when it became apparent that the conversion court was defying Chief Rabbinate directives, and the conversions do not meet the minimal criteria determined by the Chief Rabbinate for valid conversions.

It should be noted that these conversions were finally approved only after heavy pressure was exerted by the heads of the special conversion court, MK Rabbi Chaim Druckman and Rabbi Yosef Avior. However approval was granted on condition that the two promise that from then on they would obey the directives of the Chief Rabbinate and operate accordingly. Despite this clear commitment, the makeup of the court which convened before Yom Kippur -- including Rabbis Avior, Altshuler and Irom -- did not in fact meet the requirements of the Chief Rabbinate.

Rabbi Avior has continued to perform conversions on minors. Recently, acting independently, he converted fifty minors in total violation of Chief Rabbinate instructions, which specify that minors who are adopted by non-religious families may not be converted.

These cases were sent for approval to the Director of Rabbinical Courts, Rabbi Eli Ben Dahan. However, Rabbi Ben Dahan received explicit orders not to approve such conversions, despite heavy pressure exerted by Rabbis Druckman and Avior.

In recent years, the special conversion court in Ohr Etzion has become the most active special conversion court in the country. Many cases rejected by rabbinical courts elsewhere are transferred to this special court located in the Shapira center of Ohr Etzion in the south of Israel. There, applicants undergo accelerated "conversion" procedures that do not conform to Chief Rabbinate directives.

Prominent activists have been shocked by the total hefkeirus prevailing in this conversion court.

The court also "converts" foreign residents and tourists, contrary to Chief Rabbinate directives that those candidates should be evaluated and dealt with by the rabbinical authorities in their countries of origin who are familiar with the mental and cultural background of prospective converts.

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