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Israel’s Conversion Stalemate

Rabbi Stern makes an important point in advocating that the moderate Orthodox stop relegating a monopoly to the haredi over religious policy in Israel. They certainly should help Yisrael Beiteinu’s efforts to fast track conversions in Israel for the 300,000 Russian immigrants whose fate is intertwined with the Jewish State, even if they have not been given a chance to undergo formal conversion to Judaism. I am reminded of the tragic story of Sgt. Nikolai Rappaport, a Russian immigrant and IDF soldier, who was killed a number of years ago by a blast of Hezbollah shrapnel. He was shipped home to Russia for burial. Ostensibly it was to allow his (non-Jewish) mother to be present at the funeral. However, if his family had wanted to bury him in Israel, they could not have done so in a Jewish cemetery.
That is why conversions in Israel are not just an Orthodox problem.


What “radical” step is Yisrael Beiteinu taking? What has generated such objections among the haredi? To allow all municipal rabbis to conduct conversions, something that Yisrael Beiteinu MK Rotem says the Chief Rabbinate once permitted but then restricted. Rotem would also expand the authority to conduct conversions to rabbis in moshavim and kibbutzim. These are all Orthodox rabbis, the only rabbis officially recognized as such in Israel.
Over five years ago (Feb, 20, 2002) the Israeli Supreme Court ordered the Interior Ministry to register as Jews any Israeli citizen who had been converted by the Conservative or Reform Movements in Israel or abroad.
That decision did not require the Religious Ministry to recognize such converts as Jews for religious purposes such as marriage or burial. The great injustice to klal Yisrael (the unity of the Jewish People) is the failure of the Orthodox world to accept Conservative and Reform conversions when the halakhic requirements of conversion–immersion in a mikveh and, for males, ritual circumcision or the taking of a drop of blood for those already circumcised–are followed.
Some of the controversy over conversion in Israel is over who can be recognized as a rabbi (and which Jewish movements can be recognized as legitimate expressions of Jewish identity and observance). Some of the controversy is over how observant the potential convert must be to be accepted into the Jewish community. Unfortunately, efforts to constitute a joint, inter-movement conversion institute in Israel have been stymied by the same haredi intransigence. that is throwing a road block up for Yisrael Beiteinu’s efforts to help the Russians.
Within this context, MK Rotem is not trying to rock the boat as much as get it unstuck from its logjam. In the meantime, hundreds of thousands of Russian Jews-in-waiting, as well as others, will continue to suffer in identity limbo.



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laura mushkat

posted January 10, 2008 at 4:00 pm


What would Israel do if all the other Jews thruout the world had a financial “strike” against Israel for their stand? If they were told, in other words, if you want to get help from those who disagree with your religous policies, change them. That will be the only thing to loosen the grip, believe me!
Since one can not FORCE another country or people to do their bidding, Israel would be perfectly OK with saying “NO”. Then they would not have polititions in the US, England, etc. asked by their constiuents to back Israel and eventually the help from other countries would go south. Yes, as the only democracy in the Middle East they get help elsewhere but if their getting help would mean loss at the votting places how long would that really last?
Just an idea that will probubly never occur so the problems will be the Israeli’s alone to handle and evidently they can not do that too well. Unable to be buried in a Jewish cemetary and a Jew? Another reason not to move there!
Laura



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Evin Daly

posted January 10, 2008 at 6:27 pm


I believe (as a convert to Reform judiasm) that the issue is our personal devotion to G-d as Jews. In method and form, to each his or her own but not to the exclusion of others. What does one group of Jews judging another teach us? Nothing. It’s a waste to time that should be spent in acceptance and in devotion of our lives and thoughts to G-d, who is afterall the ultimate judge. He or she who is a Jew, IS a Jew.
Shalom.



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Chaya L.

posted January 10, 2008 at 9:28 pm


CHABAD is not doing conversions under any circumstances, anywhere. And I haven’t gotten a clear reason from my rabbi. He just says the Chief Rabbi forbids it. Why?



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Dave

posted January 11, 2008 at 12:02 pm


1/ Conversion to reform Judaism? How does one convert to reform Judaism, and if one does so isn’t that an admission that there is a difference in the conversions?
2/ If I thought I had a medical problem would I go to my dentist? After all my dentist is a health care professional, a doctor, someone who knows more about medicine than I do.
No I would go to my family doctor. The dentist may or may not perform the correct procedure or diagnose me properly, but the odds are much greater that my family doctor would know do these things more correctly
This is why if one has a question or a ‘procedure’ in Judaism one should go to an Orthodox rabbi instead of a non-Orthdox rabbi.
3/ There will not be a ‘financial strike’ against Israel on this issue. The seculars don’t care about such things, and the more religious tend to back the Orthodox.



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chaim baruch-chaim

posted January 11, 2008 at 2:24 pm


1) Perhaps “conversion to Judaism overseen by Reform rabbis” would have better expressed Evin’s statement?
2) Dave’s analogy, though commonly made, is mistaken. It functions on the assumption that a Reform rabbi is not really a rabbi, but something else entirely (doctor vs dentist).
Dave’s position, as presented, implies that there is universal agreement about matters of procedure across Judaism. If that were true, there would be no distinctions between the various branches of Judaism. Yet even among the Orthodox streams of Judaism there is no clear agreement on various matters. And not very long ago, even Orthodox rabbis in America found that the Israeli establishment wasn’t recognizing their conversions.
But I will concede that, if one wants one’s conversion to be recognized by all subsets of the Jewish world, then the conversion would have to be performed in a manner at least minimally acceptable to all those subsets. At present, that seems to mean undergoing conversion through the official channels IN ISRAEL. It’s a matter of politics.
But if one is content being accepted as a Jew in the community where one lives and worships, then the standards of that subset are sufficient. At the end of time God can sort the details. And in the meantime, whether it matters or not depends on your psyche and your community.
3) And to the extent that support of Israel is an American political issue, plenty of fundamentalist Christians would never stand for a serious lessening of support for Israel. Christian fundamentalists support the Orthodox streams of Judaism because they see the Orthodox as more likely to do the things they believe necessary to trigger the return of their messiah.



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Felice Debra Eliscu

posted January 11, 2008 at 8:19 pm


O.K., Now I am really confused!



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chaim baruch-chaim

posted January 12, 2008 at 3:41 pm


Felice, you don’t say what you find confusing, but, if it is my last sentence, let me disabiguate those pronouns:
“Christian fundamentalists support the Orthodox streams of Judaism because they (CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS) see the Orthodox as more likely to do the things they (CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS) believe necessary to trigger the return of their (CHRISTIAN FUNDAMENTALISTS’) messiah.”



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Felice Debra Eliscu

posted January 13, 2008 at 1:42 pm


Chaim, Thank you for making that clear.
I was born 100% Jewish so I am not worried about conversion.
Anyone with enough knowlage can see this in my name.
So, “Christian Fundamentalists” support the Orthodox because
they “think” they will bring the second comming of Christ.
(excuse me while I laugh really hard)
Ignorance is Bliss, I often joke that I want to come back as a Chatholic. But seriously, when the Messiah comes (today I hope)I seriously doubt it will be Jesus Christ. Besides, what kind of a Messiah has to come twice? What a Loser! It is true that if we all lived as the Orthodox do,this would bring about the Messianic Aeon a whole lot faster. I try my best. Like fine wine I am improving with age. This problem with the Rabbi’s in Israel is a shame on them.
I do not see any Talmudic or Biblical basis for it. They should be ashamed of themselves for displaying “MANS INHUMANITY TO MAN”!!
This is the cause of all the caos in the iniverse.
Where are the great sages of today to tell them “SHAME ON YOU”!!
The Rabbi’s need to come to grips with reality, they are not G-d.
They are not even a Cohen-Gadol.(High Priest)
What a blessing it is to have all of these people to convert.
If I were there I would tell them this.



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Barre Rosenstock

posted January 13, 2008 at 6:54 pm


The other day I had the privelege of listening to the lecture of a bearded religous kabbalist, a decendant of european rabbis. His comments:a jew is a jew whether one calls themselves orthodox, conservative, reformed,or reconstructionist. We are one . Rabbis are
people, some of which form opinions and pass it on as law. “You must be
male, at least 40 years old and learned in torah to study Kaballah.” Rabbi Lurie the Kabalist left this earth at 39 . One needs to be 40 as the orthdoxy states– why? Being born of a Jewish mother goes back among other things to the rape of Jewish women and their conceiving because of it through the ages . Taking this one step further do we want to lose our
people because only the father is Jewish and an element of our faith states that rabbis, other than orthodox, cannot perform a conversion? This like saying that the Jordan river is the original and therefore the only Mikvah. How do the interpetations of man impact on our relgion . If one does not follow the teaching of the Bal Shem Tov does that mean he cannot be orthodox?
The pendulum of the generations swings. This generation reform’two generations from now perhaps wiil be ultra`orthodox. Water will seek it’s own level. Russian conversion, American conversion whatever nationality
one wants to be a Jew and follow the basic tennets of Judiasim so be it
I was not married by an orthodox Rabbi, does that make my children illegitmate and the Rabbi who married us a non entity? A Jew is a Jew
converted by whatever Rabbi or one born of a Jewish mother !My father,
avi sholom, came from a hassidic home, my mother a conservative home.
Relating to a precceding blog as regards the Christian faith . I do not ever remember reading anything denying the G-d of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob as being G-D almighty. Christian belief goes beyond our belief to
a messiah + that we do not acknowledge . What we need to remeber is “low yis a goy el goy harev low yamaduach melchmoh.” Let nations be as brothers beat there swords into pruning hooks and let there not be war anymore.



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Anonymous

posted January 14, 2008 at 6:47 am


Debra said “Ignorance is Bliss, I often joke that I want to come back as a Chatholic. But seriously, when the Messiah comes (today I hope)I seriously doubt it will be Jesus Christ. Besides, what kind of a Messiah has to come twice? What a Loser!
Wow. What an incredibly tolerant and respectful point of view.
Obviously, being Jewish and all, you’re not going to agree with the theology behind the ideas your mocking. But outright mocking them, and using terms like “loser”, is exactly what Beliefnet stands AGAINST. We might want to keep that in mind.



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Felice Debra Eliscu

posted January 14, 2008 at 12:22 pm


If you choose to critique my opinion,you should have left your name.
I am a firm believer freedom of thought, this includes spiritual matters and Metaphysics. Imagine my shock when I learned that churches were where people went to worship a crucified Jew and the called him G-d! How many Jews have died or been displaced by the Church? Anti-Semitism is the norm. G-d forbid I say something about a DEAD JEW???
I tolerate all kinds of Christ-o-babble just living in America.
(A Jesus Country) People knock on my door and I am always polite to them. I simply tell them I am Jewish and they say “sorry to bother you”
Sometimes I get someone fiesty and I leave them questioning their own faith in Jesus, but they started it, not me. Perhaps you have mistaken the Torah for a book like the New Testament. I bet if Jesus did come back he would be pretty upset at how the account of his life was written, twisted an mis-understood! Not to mention all the crosses around the peoples necks! Just LOVELY….. I am sure he would want to be reminded of his Crucifiction first, (NOT). So make sure every church has a Big Crucifix on top of it. Why didn’t the Jews think of putting Gas chambers on top of Temples after the Holocaust?? I wonder…Oh ya It’s called bad taste! Have you ever asked yourself if Jesus was the Messiach why didn’t he fix anything? or…
How can you kill the Messiach? I am sure the answer is (He was here to die for our sins)Only when you take responsibility for your own actions will you start to contribute to life on Earth. In the mean time enjoy your belief, sorry I offended you. I feel sorry for Jesus my Brother, I hope he can rest in Peace. Funny how you only picked out the slight sarcasm in my post. I have friends of all faiths, even Muslim so what do you know of my tollerance? By the way “observant one”
my name is not Debra! Do you always call people by their middle name?
SHALOM-may the force be with you!



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Barre Rosenstock

posted January 14, 2008 at 10:38 pm


Felice, Feliz means happiness. Your blogs do not sound happy .
If I were a Christian your words would anger me and possibly cause a very adverse reaction . Peoples beliefs are their beliefs and only education and example can modify those beliefs–not negative criticisim- if they choose to investigate and go forward. Your blog has some of the same type of rhetoric taught to Palestinian children. the informaion they receive teaches them to hate . Your words are very strong, although this is America and you are entitled to your opinion and have free speech.
In my opinion, if you are comfortable and secure in your own judaic beliefs there is no need to criticze other beliefs. G-D ultimately makes and passes judgement . We humans do not pretend to understand G-D’s ways, at least I do not .
Now if you want to velify me please go ahead



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Barre Rosenstock

posted January 14, 2008 at 11:23 pm


Felice,by the way I did not write the response to your blog posted at 6{14 a.am.on the 14th . My opinion preceeded this blog and is signed .
You seem angry. Why???



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Felice Debra Eliscu

posted January 15, 2008 at 2:48 pm


Angry? yes.
Why? This is not easy to explain to explain in a blog.
I have mis-directed my anger in this case.
In truth all I need is a good Lawyer.



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Bill

posted January 16, 2008 at 12:18 am


B”H
Would you ask a competent dentist to effect a repair to the Space Shuttle’s engine seals? Or a lawyer who specializes in divorces, to rule on a Supreme Court issue regarding automobile/highway safety?
I think not. When it comes to Halacha, Jewish law, this must be decided by a competent Rabbi who believes in Torah Mi’Sinai, which means he believes that G-d actually gave the Torah, verabatim, to Moses and the Jewish People.
Since Conservative and Reform do NOT hold by this essential principle of Jewish theology, they are not IMHO qualified to rule on Halacha. This doesn’t mean that Conserative or Reform clery can’t assist others in the areas of family and personal counseling, or helping their congregantts in other ways; however they have no feeling for the meaning of Torah Mi-Sinai or the true role of Halacha in Jewish survival. The fact that they permit interfaith marriages, and participate in affairs where non-kosher food is served, sends a message to world Jewry that they just don’t care about Halacha.
Some time ago, a Reform assistant rabbi commented that Orthodox Judaism is a “cult.” A “cult?” And these individuals want to decide the future of the Jewish nation?
No thanks. I’ll take a Rav who is G-d fearing, thank you, to decide “Mi Yehudi” issues…Bill H.



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Scott R.

posted January 16, 2008 at 4:12 pm


Conservative rabbis hold to halacha. They just interpret it differently.
And as a Reform Jew, honestly, your opinion on what our rabbis are qualified to do and not do is just that – an opinion.



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