(JNi.media) On Monday, according to Ha’aretz, six minors were converted to Judaism in a private ceremony in the Alon communal settlement in the Binyamin Region. This is a big deal because in Israel only Jews who were converted in a manner approved by the Chief Rabbinate may later get married, and eventually buried, by the Chief Rabbinate.
Following the current Netanyahu government’s nixing of the last Netanyahu government’s conversion reform, the Chief Rabbinate is the only recognized authority in the land for Jewish conversions.
Rabbi David Stav, cofounder and chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical organization whose rabbinic judges performed the Monday conversions, told Ha’aretz that his assumption is that by the time these minors are ready to get married, the law will have changed.
Other rabbis involved in the project, who are not as optimistic, suggested that by the time the six converts start thinking about settling down, there will be in place a reliable, Orthodox alternative to the Chief Rabbinate.
Israel’s Chief Rabbinate has been contending with a variety of rebellious attacks on its absolute authority in issues such as marriage and kosher certifications, attacks coming not from anti-rabbinic groups, but by an ever growing number of Orthodox Jews, mostly National Religious, who want to establish their own, independent institutions to replace what they say is a failing Chief Rabbinate.
Rabbinic Conversion Committee Chairman, ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Nachum Eisenstein, told Kikar Hashabbat that “these rabbis should be ashamed of themselves for calling it a proper conversion, when they know full well that most of their converts would desecrate their first Shabbat.”
He added: “It is a fact we know, that you need a lot of resources to check on every convert, and even in the existing [Chief Rabbinate’s] system, unfortunately, the vast majority do not observe Shabbat properly. And they (Tzohar) don’t look to improve even that, so how can they improve the Chief Rabbinate’s system?”
Which, essentially means that Rabbi Eisenstein admits his own conversion system isn’t producing more observant converts than would the Tzohar organization, and so this, like so many things in the Middle East, comes down to a territorial dispute.
Rabbi Eisenstein suggests, though, that “we, the ultra-Orthodox, do not need to fear this [new development] because we won’t recognize them. But we are concerned about all of the nation of Israel, not just our small group. We have our courts, but we feel responsible for the entire nation.”
That is to say that Rabbi Eisenstein would likely not accept a Jew who was converted by the Chief Rabbinate either.
But not every National Religious rabbi is in favor of the Tzohar “mutiny.” On Monday, it turned out that Rabbi Haim Druckman, one of the Chief Rabbinate’s staunch opponents on conversion, who has been attacked by that august body and had his own conversions annulled, objects to Rabbi Stav’s organization’s efforts.
Rabbi Druckman, dean of Or Etzion Yeshiva and Chairman of the Bnei Akiva Yeshivot Center, attacked the validity of the initiative, saying that such a move harms Torah life in Israel.
“I am opposed to any alternative to the Chief Rabbinate in the areas of Torah and religion, it will destroy the life of Torah in Israel,” Rabbi Druckman said in an interview with Channel 2 News.
Rabbi Druckman added: “I oppose the alternative kashrut and the alternative conversions equally. We are blessed that we have one chief rabbinate, which is the only reason Torah life in our country can be conducted as well as it is.”
As to the claim that the Chief Rabbinate is failing its constituencies, Rabbi Druckman said, “You have to make sure that if the rabbinate does not fulfill its role in your view, the next election will bring a different rabbinate. What can we do, during this term, this is our Chief Rabbinate.”