Shocking testimony of the corrupt activity of Rabbi Yosef Avior, one
of the heads of the special conversion court in Or Etzion in the south
of Israel, has been presented to the beis din of the gaavad
of Antwerp, HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth. The testimony states that Rabbi
Avior conducted a series of "conversions" for Belgian nationals
for financial gain.
Rabbi Avior has long been active throughout Europe, operating a "conversion"
industry there similar to the one he heads in Or Etzion. Recently,
a delegation of European rabbonim and dayanim met with Chief
Rabbi of Israel Yisroel Meir Lau and sharply decried the serious problems
Rabbi Avior is causing throughout Europe through his "conversions."
The rabbonim claimed that Rabbi Avior's activities stand in direct
contradiction and contrast to the position of Europe's rabbonim and
that he is not authorized by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to perform
such conversions. Despite these harsh realities, no initiative to
halt the extensive conversion industry has been taken.
Last week, appalling evidence of the activity was presented to the
beis din in Antwerp. Witnesses relate that Rabbi Avior received
the equivalent of 8000 dollars for a conversion ceremony he conducted
for a resident of Brussels.
The battle within Israel against the activities of Or Etzion's Rabbis
Druckman and Avior has gained impetus due to the publicity surrounding
the approval granted by director of the rabbinical courts, Rabbi Eli
Ben-Dahan, to 38 "conversions." The "conversions"
were of adopted children and the majority were performed in total
defiance of official Chief Rabbinate procedure. The behavior of the
Rabbinate officials and Rabbi Druckman is especially astonishing in
light of the fact that after the Rabbinate had previously held up
100 adult conversion files, Rabbi Druckman explicitly promised to
abide by Chief Rabbinate directives.
An extensive article in Ha'aretz under the heading, "Coffee
Break Beis Din" makes it absolutely clear that the dominant figure
in the special court in Or Etzion is Rabbi Yosef Avior. It states:
"In recent years, he has become the official and only address
for conversion candidates who have been rejected by other frameworks.
This court has been the prime address for parents who adopt minors
abroad. Even the minors who at first turned to the Conservative movement
court at Kibbutz Hanaton [and who were the subjects of the appeal
to the High Court to recognize Conservative conversions] were in the
end converted in Druckman's court."
Rabbi Avior is quoted in the article as saying: "Our basic hypothesis
is that we have not come to convert the parents. They are bona
fide Jews, and it is not our job to make them more Jewish or to
influence them to do teshuva. We only have to guarantee that
the adopted child we have converted lives in an environment where
a basic Jewish lifestyle is maintained. As far as we are concerned,
even a Tali school [secular schools with enrichment programs in Judaism]
Prominent rabbonim and dayanim told our reporter that there
is no doubt that if Chief Rabbinate procedures were truly followed,
the phenomenon of spurious, quick conversions would significantly
decrease. However, Rabbi Avior's own admission indicates that, at
least as far as he is concerned, guidelines are one thing and deeds
another. Rabbis Druckman and Avior are continuing to do as they please
in the special beis din in Or Etzion, despite their repeated
commitments to follow the guidelines of the Chief Rabbinate.
Rabbonim sharply decried the inefficacy of the Chief Rabbinate against
Rabbi Avior's court and similar courts, which are directly responsible
for the penetration of massive numbers of non-Jews into the Jewish
Nation. "We find it difficult to even conceive of the continuation
of a situation in which courts function in defiance of the directives
of the Chief Rabbinate, while at the same time, Rabbinate officials
approve these conversions. It is time to stop fooling the public and
to call an immediate halt to the activity of the special court in
Yated Ne'eman asked Rabbi Avior for his reaction, but he did
not reply to our questions. He also spoke sharply against Yated
Ne'eman, saying: "Do you expect me to react to you after all
that Yated writes about me?"
Based on the testimony given in the Antwerp beis din last week
and also on information from the files of the Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami
LeInyonei Giyur headed by HaRav Chaim Kreiswirth the following picture
of the European operation can be put together:
Rabbis Druckman and Avior started their conversion activities in Europe
about five years ago. In the beginning, Rabbi Druckman travel to Europe
several times using his credentials as an av beis din and a
senior member of the NRP political party to make connections and contacts
to put together a conversion operation in Europe.
In a later stage, Rabbi Druckman stopped traveling to Europe and the
major part of the operation was transferred to Rabbi Avior, a colleague
of his on the Or Etzion conversion court, to administer.
In the beginning the conversions were conducted in Europe. However,
when the Vaad discovered that Rabbi Avior was conducting conversions
in Zurich, the Vaad -- in cooperation with leading European rabbis
and especially the chairman of the Conference of European Rabbis the
Lord Rabbi Immanuel Jakobovits who passed away last week -- was
able to stop the actual conversions from taking place in Europe, even
though here and there Rabbi Avior still conducted some ceremonies
Because of these ongoing efforts of the Vaad in cooperation with leading
European rabbis, Rabbi Avior had to reorganize his activities which
became more discreet. After the initial interview of the conversion
candidates in Europe, they are brought to Israel where the actual
"conversion" ceremony takes place.
These conversions are not registered with the Israeli Chief Rabbinate
or with the Israeli Department of Religions and are even conducted
in complete defiance of written instructions of the Israeli Chief
Rabbinate which do not allow any conversions of foreign residents
Rabbi Avior's European conversion industry is completely private and
it collects handsome fees.
It should also be mentioned that these conversions are not recognized
by any prominent beis din in Europe. They are usually done
only to kasher an intermarriage but in reality the innocent
Jewish family members are only fooled into thinking that the marriage
will be acceptable with this type of "conversion."
With the new disclosure that Rabbi Avior takes a large fee for his
"services" it is hoped that the Israeli Chief Rabbinate will
finally put an end to this private business.
The Antwerp Beis Din is continuing its investigation of the situation.