Friday, December 23, 2011

Time for us to revolt against the usurpers, again.


The Conversion Controversies Continue

Received by email Friday, December 23, 2011
The Israeli Chief Rabbinate has recently rejected the applications of several Orthodox Jewish converts who have applied to live in Israel. This rejection has been reported widely in the Jewish media, and has generated much discussion--and anger, frustration, disgust. These cases are being appealed, and we hope that these converts will indeed be allowed to settle in Israel as Jews...

As long time readers of this blog and many others know, the Chief Rabbinate in Israel has the ultimate goal of de-legitimizing all Jews who are not ultra-orthodox and who do not accept ultra-orthodox authority over all Jews, and to de-legitimize all Jewish communities in the Diaspora except the few that give their express allegiance to and completely accept the authority of the ultra-orthodox faction in Israel.  They began waging this war against the other sects of Judaism several years ago, and that war has not even begun to make waves in the diaspora as it should be doing.  Jews in America don't realize the danger.  They think the UO are a minority fringe bunch of quacks that have nothing to do with them.  

...The Chief Rabbinate only accepts Orthodox conversions performed under their jurisdiction and/or with their express approval. Orthodox rabbis who refuse to bend to the will of the Chief Rabbinate are excluded from the Chief Rabbinate's "approved" list.
This policy is problematic on many levels...

This list has been in existence for several years now.  Few non ultra-orthodox American Jews know about it.  The long and short of it is, if you can't secure a letter of confirmation or a conversion certificate from one of these specific ultra-orthodox rabbis proving your Jewish heritage to their satisfaction or a "proper" conversion, then even orthodox American Jews are not considered Jewish by the Rabbinate in Israel.  They want a document showing at least three generations of observant Jews in a woman's family before they will certify her as Jewish.  Who has that after the holocaust?  Very few.  In cases of orthodox Jews, natural born or converts, the Rabbinate then has the authority to deny them the right of return, as has done so countless times in the past five or six years.  

...1. Conversions performed by non-Orthodox rabbis in the diaspora are routinely accepted in Israel as proof of Jewishness for the purposes of the law of return. Such converts are not subject to the authority of the Chief Rabbinate. Only Orthodox converts are under the aegis of the Chief Rabbinate, so only Orthodox converts must suffer the injustices and indignities inflicted upon them by the Chief Rabbinate...

The key phrase above is "for the purpose of the law of return."  Being a non ultra-orthodox Jew will get you into the country.  You can make aliyah.  What you can't do is get married, divorced, buried in a Jewish cemetery, or have any other right or privilege accorded to Jews in Israel because the Chief Rabbinate does not consider anyone who is not ultra-orthodox to be Jewish and they control all civil rights for Jews in Israel. 

...2. Conversions performed by Orthodox rabbis are done in conformity with the requirements of halakha. For the Chief Rabbinate to deny the Jewishness of such converts is a sin of the first magnitude. It causes pain and humiliation to such converts, and thus violates 36 (some say 46) Torah commandments. It also undermines the status of Orthodox rabbis in the diaspora (and in Israel!) who refuse to comply with the most extreme, Hareidi views on conversion...

They don't see it that way, obviously.  To them, they are weeding out "unfit" natural born Jews and "illegitimate" converts (i.e. all those who are not ultra-orthodox to their specifications, which are riddled with stringencies far and above halacha).  And they don't care who it hurts.  Their idea of racial and religious purity is their only concern. 

...3. In rejecting the Jewishness of Orthodox converts, the Chief Rabbinate wittingly or unwittingly turns potential converts away from halakha. It encourages them to prefer non-Orthodox conversions, so as to avoid confrontation with the Chief Rabbinate. Moreover, if Orthodox converts were really to take the Chief Rabbinate seriously, they would feel free to violate halakha--even though they are in fact halakhically Jewish!

Ironic, isn't it?  But again, the Rabbinate says to themselves, "So what if they don't follow halacha?  They shouldn't be pretending to in the first place, since they aren't really Jewish."

...4. The Chief Rabbinate has itself agreed to have Orthodox converts approved by the Jewish Agency, rather than through the Chief Rabbinate. This agreement was reached so that Orthodox converts would have a means of having their Jewishness validated by a body that is familiar with the Orthodox rabbinate worldwide, and that is able to evaluate properly the credentials of the sponsoring rabbis of conversions. Now, the Chief Rabbinate is reneging on its own formal agreement with the Jewish Agency...

Because the Jewish Agency recognizes conversions and lineages of modern orthodox and "orthodox-lite" Jews, which the Rabbinate can't stand any more than they can stand Conservative Jews, not to mention Reform (which they consider to be another religion entirely.  At least Conservatives give lip-service to halacha) . 

...5. The policy of the Chief Rabbinate is detrimental to the interests of the State of Israel. It alienates the very people who have shown great desire to be Jewish and to live in Israel...

Can't argue with that one.   I would love to have my family make aliyah, but I'm not going to subject my kids to the insanity of having to leave the country to get married, or having to go through an ultra-orthodox conversion even though they are natural born Jews just because their grandparents and parents were secular, not observant, for one example.  There are few people in American Jewry who don't have such ancestors hanging about in their family tree, and the Rabbinate considers these things proof a person isn't "really" Jewish.  Who wants to go through such idiocy?    

...6. A person who has undergone a halakhic conversion is 100% Jewish, regardless of anything the Chief Rabbinate says or does. The halakhot of conversion must not be allowed to be held hostage to the misguided and extreme views of the Chief Rabbinate or to the Chief Rabbinate's struggle to maintain power and authority for itself...

Unfortunately, it IS being held hostage by a bunch of extremists who insist on stringencies and practices which are not, and historically have never been, normative halacha.  They have all the power and authority, and that is not likely to change in light of the strange fact that moderate, liberal, conservative, and secular Jewish families don't have many children.  (That's a whole other blog post in itself - Jews are hardly overpopulating the world.)

...7. A great many Jews are rightly outraged by the Chief Rabbinate's egregious sins against converts, and its blatant disregard for the best interests of converts and the State of Israel. Many see this as a rabbinic power grab, not as a righteous way of providing religious leadership...

Yes.  And?  Diaspora Jews have no influence at all on this process, and Israeli Jews are either apathetic or out-manned and out-gunned, so to speak. 

...The Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals has been outspoken on behalf of a halakhically valid, compassionate and inclusive policy relating to conversion to Judaism. We have worked with like-minded people in Israel and the diaspora to defend the honor and rights of halakhic converts. At the forefront of these battles in Israel is Rabbi Shaul Farber, who heads an organization known at Itim. He deserves our appreciation and support.

Please stand with and support the work of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals (jewishideas.org) and the work of Itim (itim.org.il), and of other like-minded organizations that fight for an intellectually vibrant, compassionate and inclusive Orthodox Judaism. Together, we can accomplish great things.

Amein, class.  Let us hope that Jews in Israel are accorded the basic human rights to marry and to freedom of religious practice that the democratic government is supposed to guarantee.  Otherwise, more educated, moderate, working class Jews will leave, or stay away in the first place.  Israel can't afford to be intellectually and religiously dis-invested by the majority of Diaspora Jewry, or it can't survive.   If they think otherwise, they are sadly mistaken.  We, the reasonable center of Judaism, need to take back our government from the usurpers, or the nation will fail.  It's that simple.  And quite apropos for this time of year.

Shabbat Shalom and a peaceful Chanukkah to you all.

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