Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Tzohar Rabbis Will Establish Hotline in Defense of Converts


In case you are lulled into the belief that the Druckman decision has not hurt anyone because of what Rabbi Amar has said against it, here is something to remind you.

This is a story about how the Tzohar Rabbis will "come to the aid of converts" in an effort to make sure they are not discriminated against when facing marriage, burial, divorce, etc. This is a beautiful thing the Tzohar Rabbis are doing, and I sincerely applaud them for their strong stance against the Rabbinical Court that issued the Druckman decision.

Sadly, however, these "converts" were Jews only a few days ago--people who needed no legion of rabbis coming to their aid to assist them. There was no question about their status and their rights. Now there is.

The entire Jewish nation has been harmed by this decision. Please tell me, please explain how a baby, adopted by a Jewish couple and converted by Druckman's conversion authority, has somehow failed their beit Din. Tell me how people who are living as Orthodox Jews, maybe even employed in "Jewish industries" like kashrut, are suddenly unkosher because of the intercession of three rabbis' decision?

I am still so rattled by this whole thing.

May 6, 2008 22:26 | Updated May 6, 2008 22:40
Rabbis come to aid of converts

A group of religious Zionist rabbis decided Monday to set up a hotline to aid converts whose Jewishness might be called into question.

The move came after the High Rabbinical Court, in a decision that experts called unprecedented and highly controversial, retroactively annulled a woman's conversion and excoriated Rabbi Haim Druckman, the head of the National Conversion Authority. The decision could have far-reaching ramifications for hundreds of others who converted through Druckman.

Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who is also president of the High Rabbinical Court, attempted to ameliorate the situation by publicly announcing that the conversions would be recognized and that Druckman was kosher.

However, hundreds of converts, who have been living for years as Jews, were staggered by the High Court ruling and are now concerned that they and their offspring will not be recognized by religious institutions in Israel as Jews.

Since all marriages among Jews are carried out by the Chief Rabbinate, the high court decision could prevent hundreds of converts and their children from getting married.

In addition, rabbinical divorce courts, the only statutory body empowered to annul marriages, might not demand a writ of divorce in cases where a convert married a Jew. In Jewish law, the marriage of a gentile and a Jew is not formally recognized.

On Monday, Tzohar rabbis decided to create a hotline and provide rabbis who could defend converts before marriage registrars and rabbinical courts.

Many of the converts are either children adopted abroad who were required to undergo a conversion as part of their Israeli naturalization process, or immigrants from the former Soviet Union who came to Israel under the Law of Return but who are not Jewish according to Orthodox Jewish law.

"We plan to publicize [the hotline] in the Russia-language media," said Rabbi Rafi Feuerstein, chairman of Tzohar, who stressed that his organization would not do anything against the law.

"We want to send out a message to converts that they are not alone. They should also know that Rabbi Amar has promised to recognize them as full-fledged Jews," he said. "The Talmud says that the rabbinic court is the father of the convert. So we are just trying to fulfill our religious duty."

Another organization that has come to the aid of converts affected by the rabbinical court decision is ITIM, a nonprofit headed by Rabbi Shaul Farber that helps converts navigate the bureaucracies of the religious establishment.

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