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Conversion To Judaism: The Need For A Uniform Standard


But the strongest argument in favor of establishing fixed regional batei din commanding wide respect across a communal spectrum is that only such a structure can offer the degree of the finality that all agree is a crucial desideratum in the conversion process. Once converted, the convert should be like any born Jew: No matter what he subsequently does, his status as a Jew remains. (The only exception would be where the “convert” ignored very basic mitzvot from the very beginning, and thereby demonstrated a lack of sincere acceptance of the yoke of mitzvot at the time of conversion.)

An infinite variety of standards is a recipe for tragedy. Even the most sincere convert may face a situation ten or twenty years down the line where she or her child is rejected by a potential spouse, even though they have been fully observant for decades. Why? Because the rabbi who oversaw her conversion is known to follow questionable standards for conversion, thus raising an issue as to whether any bet din on which that rabbi sat is a valid bet din for overseeing a conversion.

Without a system of fixed batei din, it is possible to multiply such tragic scenarios almost ad infinitum. Every single convert would go through life with a constant cloud on his or her geirut.

Nearly a decade ago, Uri Regev, today the head of the international Reform movement, urged the necessity of two types of conversion: one for those who are interested in accepting the yoke of mitzvot and one for those who are not.

It would be a great tragedy if an Orthodox rabbi of Rabbi Angel’s distinction and long record of communal service were to appear to offer support for such a proposal.

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Three weeks ago, Rabbi Marc Angel, the retiring spiritual leader of Manhattan’s Congregation Shearith Israel, argued in these pages (“Conversion to Judaism: A Discussion of Standards,” op-ed, June 22) that: (1) there is a multiplicity of standards for conversion within halacha; and (2) the determination of what standards to apply is best left to the discretion of every individual rabbi.

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