A friend of mine from Kiryat Gat sent me a copy of a free
newspaper being distributed in English and Hebrew called
"Partnership 2000: A Century of Progress for Chicago's Jewish
Community." Since I was born and raised in Chicago and the
beginning of my rabbinical career was as chairman of the Vaad
Hapoel for Conversion Matters of the Mercaz HaRabbonim of
Chicago and that the Gavad of Antwerp -- who is nosi
of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami LeInyonei Giyur -- served
as rosh yeshiva in Chicago for several years, made the
paper especially interesting for me.
The newspaper makes the following statement: "Partnership
2000: A program of the Jewish United Fund of Metropolitan
Chicago that links the Jews of Chicago with its partnered
region of Kiryat Gat, Lachish and Shatia in the Israeli
Northern Negev. Its goals are to improve the quality of life
for the region's residents and to develop relationships
between them and Chicagoans."
Certainly it is a noble goal to link my landsleit from
Chicago with their less fortunate cousins from the Israeli
The paper also mentions that the Jewish United Fund of
Chicago has allotted $1 million for the project and that the
newspaper serves as an avenue to provide insight into some of
the projects which Partnership 2000 sponsors.
What caught my attention was an article written by a Chicago
lawyer who volunteered to teach English under a program
called Yad B'yad which coordinates sending North American
professionals for that purpose.
The article summarizes the Chicago lawyer's experience as a
volunteer English teacher and the various projects he
attended. "Within 2 weeks," writes the lawyer, "I attended a
graduation of a `group conversion ceremony' and I saw most of
the students head off for further college education."
Century 2000 has really brought new concepts and goals in
Israeli education. They can now show representatives of those
who donate $1 million annually how group conversion
ceremonies are conducted and are proud to boast how the
"converts" head off to secular colleges supposedly to live as
righteous converts. The year 2000 has really hit Israel with
new things to show off -- how conversions are done publicly
in groups and with secular education success. I'm sure that
my Chicago landsleit are proud of such accomplishments
of our Jewish state.
Who would have dreamed of in the last century that such an
easy solution was available to transform non-Jewish deprived
immigrants to Jews with mass graduations and secular
The rabbis of the previous generation understood that
conversion must be done on an individual basis after
carefully investigating the sincerity of the candidate and
ensuring that he or she will be able to become part of the
established Orthodox community and continue to grow as a G-d-
fearing Jew. The Dvar Avrohom in Volume 3 discusses the
importance of being part of a strong Orthodox community.
It seems that not only has the Israeli link to partnership
2000 discovered modern day methods for mass conversions of
non-Jews, but also the Chicago counterparts seem to have been
educated in a different Chicago than I grew up in. A
Chicagoan who is impressed by a meaningless group conversion
ceremony that is not valid according to halacha even
bedi'eved, since the candidates true sincerity to
honestly accept full observance of mitzvos is lacking, and
who writes back home about it approvingly, is not the type
that I knew.
Rabbi Nochum Eisenstein is the rav of Maalot Dafna in
Yerushalayim and Chairman of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami
LeInyonei Giyur headed by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth.