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September 30, 2014 / 6 Tishri, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘conversion’

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.

All God’s Children Take a Bath

Thursday, August 16th, 2012

Several biblical regulations specify that full immersion in water is required to regain ritual purity after ritually impure incidents have occurred. Most forms of impurity can be nullified through immersion in any natural collection of water. Some require “living water,” such as springs or groundwater wells. Living water has the further advantage of being able to purify even while flowing as opposed to rainwater which must be stationary in order to purify. Discoloration or contamination of the water can invalidate the water for immersion.

In Judaism, a “Mikva” ritual bath is usually constructed especially, as the household or other community water sources do not have the quantity and kind of water required. A mikvah is used in the following circumstances:

1) by Jewish women to achieve ritual purity after menstruation or childbirth (Leviticus 15:5-10, 19-27)

2) by Jewish men to achieve ritual purity (Leviticus 15:5-10, 19-27)

3) by Jewish men or women after discharges (Leviticus 15:13,16) or leprosy (Leviticus 14:6-9)

4) by Jewish men or women after contact with a corpse or grave (Numbers 19:19)

5) by Jewish priests when they are being consecrated (Exodus 40:12)

6) after mistakenly eating meat from an animal that died naturally (Leviticus 17:15)

7) for utensils used for food captured in battle (Leviticus) or of non-Jewish manufacture (Rabbinic)

8) as part of a traditional procedure for conversion to Judaism (Rabbinic)

In Islam, the requirements for ritual bath are the same as in Judaism, including the preferred use of “living water,” such as springs or groundwater wells and the prohibition of discoloration or contamination. There is no minimum quantity of water, and leniency is given to using tap water where its source is springs or groundwater wells, even if it has been stored in retaining tanks before being used. Ghusul is required in the following circumstances:

1) by Islamic women to achieve ritual purity after menstruation or childbirth

2) by Islamic men to achieve ritual purity

3) by Islamic men or women after discharges

4) After contact with a corpse or grave

7) for utensils used for food captured in battle or foreign manufacture *

* There is a haddith (a saying or an act or tacit approval or disapproval ascribed either validly or invalidly to the Islamic prophet Muhammad) that requires this, but I do not know if its is practiced by any Madh’hab (Muslim school of law).

In Christianity, there are no requirements for the ritual bath, although, based on the accounts of John the Baptist, running river water is preferred (specifically the Jordan river). However regular water, standing or springs or groundwater can be used. Baptism is only required in the following circumstance:

1) as part of a traditional procedure for “conversion” (actually initiation) to Christianity, either as a baby (in place of circumcision), or as an adult to express free-choice acceptance of Christianity.

(Disclaimer: I wrote this informally from memory, please verify any statements before relying on what is written here)

Neighborly Chesed: Above And Beyond

Wednesday, June 20th, 2012

My husband and I are living in our house for over 30 years. We have wonderful neighbors on both sides. The one on the right, a non-frum Jewish couple, lived in their house longer than we’ve resided in ours. We always got along very well with them, as they are unusually kind, friendly and helpful people. When I had an injury many years ago and couldn’t function properly, the husband always offered to drive me – and indeed drove me – to therapy. He was happy to pick up anything I needed from the store – and always with a smile. I tried not to take advantage, but I very much appreciated his and his wife’s help.

In recent years a frum couple, also friendly and kind, moved in on the other side of these people. The man, a doctor, offered his services whenever they needed it, and was always available for advice and help.

Our non-frum neighbors always commented about how they could never move away, even though they were retired and didn’t need a house the size of theirs. After all, they were thrilled with their neighbors, as well as with other people on the block.

The non-observant wife of the aforementioned couple was born a non-Jew and claimed to have converted to Judaism. While not giving that fact much thought, I found it difficult to believe that she would have been converted by an Orthodox rabbi since she had no intention of being observant. I thus assumed that a Reform rabbi probably converted her. Whatever her religious status, our good neighborly relationship remained intact.

This woman (we’ll call her Carol) unfortunately became ill four years ago. Throughout her illness, she remained positive and lived life to the fullest. Sadly, things took a turn for the worse and she recently passed away.

The doctor and his wife (the frum neighbors mentioned earlier), always looking to do chesed, asked Carol’s husband on the day of the funeral for Carol’s conversion papers so as to ascertain if she was really Jewish. To their pleasant surprise, as well as to ours, Carol’s conversion papers revealed that an Orthodox rabbi had performed her conversion. The papers, written in Hebrew and English, were signed by a well-known rabbi.

The frum doctor and his wife arranged through our local rabbi to have Kaddish recited for Carol. The doctor’s wife, another neighbor and I shared the cost.

Despite not practicing her religion, Carol’s soul – due to her caring neighbors – now has Kaddish being said for her three times a day. Her husband and family, overcome with emotion, filled with tears upon hearing this even though they didn’t understand the depth of our action.

I’m quite sure Carol’s neshamah is smiling and that Hashem is proud of the chesed Am Yisrael does for one another. Mi k’amcha Yisrael!

Report: Orthodox Conversions in Israel Down 31%

Tuesday, May 22nd, 2012

Orthodox conversions in Israel are down by 31 percent over the past two years, according to a new report.

“Both demographic changes and bureaucratic hurdles have contributed to this change,” said Rabbi Seth Farber, director of ITIM: Resources and Advocacy for Jewish Life.

The ITIM study, released on the eve of Shavuot, the holiday in which Jewish tradition celebrates the conversion to Judaism of biblical Ruth, shows that the total number of Orthodox conversions performed in Israel in 2011, including Jews from the former Soviet Union and Ethiopia, has been cut nearly in half since 2007.

There were 4,293 Orthodox conversions in 2011, compared with 8,008 in 2007. From 2008 to 2010, the number of Orthodox conversions fell from 6,221 to 4,645.

ITIM’s report also discussed other developments in conversion in Israel during the past year, including the absence of clear criteria for recognizing conversions done abroad.

“Despite the 2005 Supreme Court ruling which calls upon the Ministry of Interior to recognize the autonomy of local Jewish communities on issues relating to conversion, the State of Israel continues to make it difficult for converts to make aliyah,” according to the report.

“This is against the spirit of Jewish tradition,” Farber said.

The report will be placed on the table of the Knesset Immigration and Absorption Committee this week.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/report-orthodox-conversions-in-israel-down-31/2012/05/22/

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