Sunday, May 11, 2008

Red Barchetta

The hate-and-smear race is on again (not that it ever went away…). Often times it seems as if giyur is but another excuse to flare up feuds.

Some claim that full acceptance of all mitzvos at the time giyur has never been a fundamental condition for conversion. They may be right, but as I have mentioned many times before, there is a huge difference between the situation today and that of sixty years ago or more. Back then, joining Judaism could hardly be attributed to ulterior motives. One wishing to join a nation despised, persecuted, massacred and locked in ghettos was indication enough of sincerity. In that context, perhaps there was less of a need for immediate and complete acceptance of Mitzvos. But after the great destruction of European Jewry, when “Jew” became a term describing everyone wishing to cash in on the Holocaust, Zionism, or the State of Israel, a few thing changed – now didn’t they. The situation got even more problematic with the influx of immigrants from the FSU and intermarried couples from around the world.

But aside from the complex halachic and practical implications, came the “Green Manalishi” factor – in other words, corruption. The higher the demand for conversion, the higher the possibility and temptation for fraud. Fraudulent giyur scandals began to gain public awareness in the early to late 90’es, coinciding with the great immigration wave from the FSU. Rabbis of all denominations were implicated in many frauds and in many ways.

There is also a great ideological war here;
The “charedim”, have a traditionally hard-liner approach to halocha. Although an over-generalization, compared to the MO and Mizrachi, this generally holds true.
As far as giyur is concerned, until fairly recently all Orthodox currents were more or less in agreement on the conversion process. In fact, no other than rabbi Steve Riskin, who is known for a controversial statement or two, has voiced support for acceptance of all mitzvos at the time of conversion. But then ideology started to interfere with halachic process. The Religious Zionists see the settlement of the State of Israel as a mitzvah in and on itself, while some Left-Wing MO rabbis heading borderline-Orthodox congregations have spearheaded the idea of purposely lax rules of conversion. Whether this stems from a desire to enlarge their ranks or for their unconditional love of diversity and the Cult of Multiralism, I know not, and is beside the point. In the USA, this is not a big problem. 95% of such converts do not stay in the system, and those who do, if and when they wish to get closer to more mainstream Orthodoxy, may undergo a more acceptable conversion.
But in Israel the situation is different; if invalid conversion practices become ubiquitous, any secular Jews would de-facto become intermarried, eventually causing a complete rift between religious and secular, radicalizing the already painful schisms in the nation (if there is such a thing at all).

The dishonesty of the proponents of strict conversions, who recently started waving the flag of ‘universally accepted conversion guidelines’, is that they ignore the abysmal corruption in the giyur business.
Equally dishonest is the unending hand wringing of the Modern Orthodox and Mizrachi “victims” oppressed by the bloodthirsty charedim. The paragons of nuance, balance, and inclusiveness can’t have enough shedding crocodile tears for Rav Druckman and those converted by the batei-din he oversees. So far I have not read a single article taking Sherman’s ruling on its own merits, shocking and drastic as it is. Furthermore, they all turn this into an absolutely black-and-white (they love this term – especially when they apply it to others) situation, conveniently forgetting that the Rabanut does not recognize conversions by the Aida Charedis or Rav Nissim Karelitz’s batei-din, for example - not to mention the many different Moatzot Datiot (regional “Religous Councils”) fraught with power-plays and feuds over jurisdiction and funds etc.

Most appalling and repulsive are the secular journalists who feign to respect Rav Druckman. It wasn’t ten years since they all smeared him in chorus, accusing him of covering up for Ze’ev Kopolevitch. (Later convicted of sodomy and molestation. After serving his sentence he was reinstated in his former position of Rosh Yeshiva.) I guess their idealism made them (as well as the honest bloggers who bring up the molestation cases in the charedi sector even in the giyur issue) forget this.

To the best of my knowledge, so far, no one has even considered the halocha of “כשיד ישראל תקיפהת אין מקבלון גרים” (“when Israel is powerful, converts are not to be accepted” – the reason being that under such conditions the intentions of prospective converts cannot be trusted to be genuine). This should be considered especially by those who see the State as part of the ultimate redemption. In fact, none other than Shlomo HaMelech was harshly criticized for marrying converts against the Sanhedrin’s will, and it ultimately led to splitting the kingdom.
Since the corruption factor isn’t mentioned by anyone, neither the sharp rise in conversions, I have reasons to doubt all sides’ real motives. If it’s really Clal Yisroel’s and geirim’s benefit on everyone’s mind, I have a great solution for everyone: for five years, no geirim, period. During those five years, when there’s no money, fame, congregants or other benefits to be made, let all denominations sort out all the halachic differences. After such a long period, I am convinced that so many wise men will sure find a way. If there’s still no solution, anyone wishing to join such a nation is completely mad, and since he has no da’as to decide on such a drastic step, he can’t become a ger. (Though personally, I’d apply this logic today.)

this is convertible

this isn't!

© Joseph Izrael 2008


Anonymous said...

Great post. You said it, you said it all, and you said it well.

Freelance Kiruv Maniac said...