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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘conversion’

Proposed Conversion Bill, Change in Local Rabbinate Power Nixed by Netanyahu

Tuesday, October 21st, 2014

A bill that would allow any chief rabbi of any city to create his own religious court for conversion has finally stopped at the prime minister’s desk.

The bill would effectively neutralize the authority of the nation’s Chief Rabbinate over the conversion process in Israel.

It is one that has been fought bitterly by observant Jewish parties across the spectrum.

And now the proposed Conversion Bill advanced by Justice Minister Tzipi Livni’s Hatnua party has gotten the axe by Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu.

According to a report Monday by Channel 2 investigative journalist Amit Segal, the prime minister announced that he supports the hareidi position regarding conversions.

Netanyahu made the statement following months of skirmishes behind the scenes and quiet wrangling by both chief rabbis and hareidi political parties as well as members of the more moderate Bayit Yehudi party.

The prime minister allegedly also told heads of coalition factions that he will make sure the bill does not pass if it comes up for a vote, even if it is privately sponsored.

Because Livni’s credibility as a party chief may ride on this issue, however, the issue may be a deal breaker for her presence in the coalition.

A Yom Kippur Apology to Gwyneth Paltrow and Reform Jews

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Dear Gwyneth,

Several readers harshly criticized me for my remarks here about your decision to convert to Judaism under the auspices of a Kabbalah-oriented rabbi.

I have nothing against Kabbalah. I have nothing against Reform Jews.

My kosher beef is against fashionable Kabbalah and the Reform Movement industry that turn Judaism into a personal fiefdom based on personal views of universalism that have nothing to do with Torah.

Kabbalah is beyond me. Its mysticism can lead one to a great understanding of God and the essence of God, through the Zohar, the 13th century book that is studied worldwide by many very Orthodox Jews but which also has been hijacked by many as a tool for skipping over the basics.

I termed the conversion process by Reform “rabbis,” and this also holds for many Kabbalists, “instant Judaism.” I also referred to it as “false Judaism,” but quickly deleted the phrase after seeing justifiably angry talkbacks.

I apologize to you and Reform Jews for using both phrases, which I stand by 100 percent but regret having published because it didn’t serve the purpose of performing the mitzvah of “kiruv” – reaching out to bring Jews closer to Judaism based on beliefs of our first Yid, Avraham.

Although you are not Jewish, at least not yet, you do have a centuries-long history of learned rabbis in your ancestry. You discovered that your great-grandfather was a learned sage.

I find it sad that that some have no qualms about teaching their Kabbalah wares to the Hollywood holies, and that the Reform Movement welcomes with open arms anyone who wants to enter the tribe without learning and understanding the religion from the viewpoint of Orthodoxy.  Judaism has survived and flourished for 3,000 years in the face of attempts to destroy our religion through the same assimilation that the Reform Movement accepts be re-defining the term “Jew.”

Our sages, like your great-grandfather, always have discouraged conversion, which is a serious business and is more than “feeling” Jewish, putting on a tallis, eating gefilte fish and delving into the secrets of Kabbalah without having learned Torah.

I had no intention of discouraging you. That is not my business.

I do have the intention of discouraging conversions that reduce the Torah to nothing more than an interesting book from which one can pick and choose what he wants.

You were raised by an assimilated father and a Christian mother, and that says a lot about what happens to Jews when they do not stick to authentic Judaism, falsely libeled as a “monopoly” of the Orthodox.

As I have written elsewhere, certified medical doctors decide who are legitimate doctors. The same is true in dozens of other professions. I don’t go to an “alternative accountant” or “alternative lawyer.”

I often follow treatments in “alternative medicine,” but I never go to someone who calls himself an ”alternative doctor.”

Gwyneth, I won’t dwell on “instant Judaism” because it will only will cause me to apologize again after another argument readers who either disagree or simple feel I should ”leave you alone” and be happy you are searching for your roots. I really am glad you are doing so, and it would be wonderful if you read some translations of your great-grandfather’s books.

I apologize to you, and readers, whom I have offended.

I wish you a happy and good year and will try to lean more towards Kiruv and less towards mockery.

One other item, Gwyneth. Assuming you convert, and through an Orthodox rabbi, don’t forget your Jewish roots go back further than your centuries of rabbis in our ancestry. Your roots, once you are Jewish, are in Israel.

RCA: We Don’t Proactively Seek to Reevaluate Past Conversions

Saturday, March 8th, 2014

The Rabbinical Council of America denied a prominent rabbi’s accusation that it is actively negating past conversions.

The Orthodox rabbinic organization issued a statement Friday responding to a JTA opinion article criticizing the group written by Rabbi Shmuel Herzfeld. His article, published Thursday, accused the RCA and its Beth Din of America of “retroactively negating and rooting out converts who were for decades fully integrated into the Orthodox Jewish community.”

In their statement, the RCA’s president, Rabbi Leonard Matanky, and the Beth Din of America’s director, Rabbi Shlomo Weissmann, disputed this characterization.

“At no time have the RCA or the Beth Din proactively sought to reevaluate conversions; that is not our interest or desire,” they wrote. “However, Halachah does have its standards, and we have acted and will continue to act as a source of information to those rabbinic agencies which seek to determine if halachic standards have been upheld.”

The two officials added that the RCA’s current conversion protocols “have facilitated the acceptance of U.S. conversions throughout the world.”

Herzfeld, the rabbi of Ohev Sholom: The National Synagogue in Washington, cited the case of a woman, Karen Brunwasser, who had been converted to Judaism as an infant by a beit din, or rabbinic court, but had difficulty getting the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to recognize her conversion so she could marry. Brunwasser wrote about her experience in The Washington Jewish Week.

An RCA official, she wrote, had raised questions with the Chief Rabbinate about the Orthodox rabbis who converted her because they had served congregations that lacked a mechitza separating men and women. While the Israeli Chief Rabbinate eventually accepted her conversion, she attributed this victory to “powerful connections” who intervened on her behalf.

Herzfeld, in his JTA article, cited correspondence about Brunwasser’s case between the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and the Beth Din of America. In an email to the Chief Rabbinate, Rabbi Michoel Zylberman of the Beth Din of America wrote: “We are unable to approve the conversions done by a rabbi who serves in a synagogue without a mechitza.”

Zylberman continued: “Of course, one can argue with this position and if you want to be lenient here on the basis of other authorities you can do that which is right in your eyes.”

While not commenting on any specific case because of confidentiality policies, the RCA officials in their statement wrote that “it is only natural, as a responsible local presence of halachic authority, that we are a resource for rabbinical agencies, in Israel and worldwide.”

X-Factor Judge to Visit Israel and May Choose to Be a Jew

Tuesday, November 19th, 2013

The expected birth of a boy to Jewess Lauren Silverman and her Roman Catholic boyfriend and X-Factor Judge Simon Cowell has prompted him to plan a trip to Israel and think about becoming Jewish, the London Mirror reported.

He told the newspaper he wants to make a “more informed decision” before he commits to the faith.

Let’s not count on Cowell, whose father is Jewish, to undergo a conversion according to Jewish law, but at least he can be counted on to support the IDF. He donated $150,000 to the Friends of the Israel Defense Forces at its recent annual fundraiser in Beverley Hills.

The Mirror reported that Cowell, 54, previously has not expressed interest in religion, but a source said, “He is open to reason on the subject of religion and the faith in which his [expected] son is brought up.

Silverman, 36, has elected to undergo a C-section and her husband has booked a $20,000-a-night private hospital in the United States for the event.

Did She or Didn’t She?

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Over the past two days, while the army was shooting into the crowds in Egypt and half of Beirut was lifted by a huge car bomb, and many other awful things were happening, The Jewish Press readership has been dealing with mostly the question of the possibility that a Reform Rabbi named Angela Buchdahl could have attained her high position without the benefit of a Jewish conversion.

It started with an article in The Forward (Angela Buchdahl, First Asian-American Rabbi, Vies for Role at Central Synagogue), that basically suggested Buchdahl was not Jewish according to Jewish law:

But she also engaged Judaism at a time when the Reform movement itself was undergoing dramatic change. Eleven years after Buchdahl’s birth, in a move still hotly debated in all streams of Judaism, including within Reform Judaism itself, the Reform movement overturned more than 2,000 years of tradition that recognized only those whose mother was Jewish as Jews from birth. Others, including those with just a Jewish father, were required to undergo a process of conversion, though this process varied among Judaism’s different streams.

Starting in 1983, as intermarriage advanced steadily among its members, Reform Judaism conferred a “presumption of Jewish descent” on those with one Jewish parent, whether it was a father or a mother. The one condition to this recognition was that it be established “through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith,” according to the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

In many ways, Buchdahl represents the flowering of this revolution in Judaism, and symbolizes a kind of coming of age of its children.

This was coupled with an article in Hadassah Magazine:

Profile: Angela Buchdahl

Though Buchdahl’s mother did not convert, she wanted her children to find a home in the Jewish community. Her father instilled Jewish pride in his children and gave them a Jewish vocabulary, says Buchdahl, but it was her mother who imparted a sense of spiritual yearning and wonder. Her mother’s Buddhism informs her Judaism, she says, noting that Jewish and Korean cultures overlap in their approach to life, their emphasis on giving back and their drive to succeed and to be educated.

So yours truly, enchanted by the concept of the non-Jewish Rabbi, charged ahead. I still believe all the points I was making were right, namely that the Reform  doctrine of patrilineal descent and the “presumption of Judaism” in the case of a the offspring of a non-Jewish woman married to a Jew were on the money.

Except that it turns out Buchdahl may have converted to Judaism after all.

Thanks, first, to our reader Vicky Glikin of Deerfield, Illinois, who wrote:

It is highly unfortunate that your facts and the very premise for this article are plain wrong. Rabbi/Cantor Buchdahl underwent an Orthodox conversion, a fact that you would have easily discovered had you actually been trying to write an intelligent work of journalism.

So I went looking for the misrepresented conversion, and found the following line in the Times (Defining Judaism, a Rabbi of Many Firsts), hidden among long, familiar paragraphs like this one:

Her first reaction was to think about a formal conversion to Judaism, but a second impulse quickly followed: Why should she convert to prove something, when she had been a Jew her entire life? In traditional Jewish law, a Jew is defined through the mother’s line. But over roughly the last 40 years, the Reform movement in Judaism accepted descent through the father’s line as legitimate for Jewish identification, so if a child has a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother who affiliates as a Jew (the mother need not convert if she is involved in synagogue life), the child does not need to undergo a conversion to become a Jew.

But then, the Times revealed: “Eventually, at 21, she did undergo a conversion ceremony, but she prefers to think of it as a reaffirmation ceremony.”

Another clue was in something David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, wrote in his letter today (Hebrew Union Pres. Pulls Fast One in Non-Jewish Rabbi Debate):  “you assume an article that was written in another newspaper and upon which your author draws for his piece reveals all the facts about her life. ”

Meaning, Ellenson may have known Buchdahl had converted in an Orthodox ceremony, but to concede this would mean that he agrees that it takes an Orthodox conversion to turn even the child of a Jewish father into a real Jew — as shown by the very poster child of patrilineal descent, the subject of our attention these past two days.

I still find the entire affair more than a little bizarre: why should someone who did convert in an Orthodox ceremony be sending out all the signals that they didn’t and that they’re proud they didn’t. Perhaps we’ll find out in the next chapter of this very strange story.

Ex-Mossad Chief Backs Move to ID Soviet Jews

Sunday, June 23rd, 2013

Ephraim HaLevy, former chief of the Mossad, has committed himself to a program which will help certify the Jewish identities of thousands of immigrants, primarily from the former Soviet Union, who need certifications that they are Jewish in order to marry under official Israeli law. The announcement came at the annual meeting of the Shorashim (Roots) program, an initiative of the Tzohar Rabbinical Organization. HaLevy was officially announced as the program’s Incoming chairman. Shorashim is backed by the Harry Triguboff Foundation based in Sydney, Australia, together with the Friedberg Charitable Foundation of Toronto, Canada and with funding from the government of Israel. The program operates out of offices in Moscow and Kiev, and the first center in Israel to assist couples with the identification process was opened last week in the presence of Triguboff.

Prof. Ze’ev Khanin, Chief Scientist of Israel’s Ministry of Immigrant Absorption, told the meeting that since the fall of the Soviet Union, more than one million people have immigrated to Israel. Accounting for natural demographic patterns compounded with a certain percentage of people who chose to leave Israel of their own initiative, approximately 975,000 people living in Israel today describe themselves as of Russian origin.

“For years we were imploring these Jews to come home to Israel and now we’re going to reject them because they can’t easily prove their Jewish ancestry?” HaLevy asked. “There is an answer and that is what this program offers, but if we don’t commit ourselves to it then we’ll go down as the biggest traitors in Jewish history.”

The process often involves sending emissaries into archives and cemeteries in tiny Russian and Ukrainian villages to obtain the levels of proof necessary to determine that an immigrant to Israel is of certain Jewish ancestry. Once procured, the documentation is then presented to Israeli rabbinical courts before an individual’s proof of Judaism can be confirmed.

Rabbi David Stav, the founder and president of Tzohar and also the national religious candidate for the position of Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel, told the meeting, “We can’t even begin to comprehend the value of what is being done here and this is truly a historic effort.”

Couples not afforded the assistance offered by Shorashim often will enter marriage without halachic approval, a situation which effectively would define their children as non-Jews under Israeli law. Those who are determined not to be of Jewish descent are provided with support to convert under rabbinic guidance.

Masorti Rabbis Perform First Conversions in Lisbon

Monday, April 29th, 2013

For the first time in the history of the Masorti movement, its rabbis performed conversions to Judaism in Portugal.

The two conversions were performed in the Portuguese capital at a Beit Din rabbinical court of three judges, who recognized Juliana Fernandes da Silva and her life partner Edgard Pimentel as Jews.

Though the Masorti movement — the smallest of the three major streams of Judaism — has performed conversions of several Portuguese Jews, this was the first time that the rabbinical court convened in Portugal, according to Rabbi Chaim Weiner of London, who oversaw the proceedings of the court.

Usually European Masorti converts travel to London, he added, but this time it was decided to hold the court in Lisbon because several rabbis were already in Portugal on a month-long study trip of the country’s Jewish heritage.

Da Silva, a 26-year-old Brazilian mathematician who grew up in a Catholic home, took a ritual dip in the mikveh following the court’s decision.

Immersion in the mikveh is required as part of the conversion process, and not afterwards, according to Jewish law.

Da Silva and Pimentel, a Brazilian born to an atheist father and a Catholic, non-observant mother, were welcomed at a reception the following day into Lisbon’s small Masorti community of a few dozen people.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/masorti-rabbis-perform-first-conversions-in-lisbon/2013/04/29/

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