Wednesday, August 6, 2008

Rabbi Sherman says Converts are a "Plague"


My thanks to Failed Messiah for posting this story on his blog. I don't know if I would have seen it, and it is too important to allow it to go without comment. The "rabbi" who made the "decision" against Rabbi Druckman's conversions (and left upwards of 20,000 people in limbo), has now come out to speak about his decision.

Now we have the true story (or at least, as true a story as the JPost can manage).

Not only does this guy think that everyone should bow to Haredim, not only does he think that Sephardim should bow to Ashkenazim, but he has finally admitted that he regards Converts as a “Plague” because they introduce “foreign influences” to the Jewish people.

I guess dressing in black like a priest and prancing around in the headwear of a 17th century Polish nobleman is not a “foreign influence” right? I guess regarding women as second-class citizens unworthy of education or even sitting on the same bus with them is not a “foreign influence” right?

It appears, from this article, that the man is consumed with hate for anyone who is not like him. I shall not judge him, as I don’t know him, but what I am reading has been very upsetting to me.

Please tell me, in arguing that the halakah must change because of modern circumstances, how is he different from those in the Reform movement? Is he not arguing that he doesn’t have to follow Torah as it is written, that he can have his new “modern” interpretation that does not include kindness to the stranger?

Often times, one becomes what they most wish to avoid. It appears he has met the apostate, and he is him.

----- » Jewish World » Jewish News » Article
Aug 6, 2008 23:17 | Updated Aug 6, 2008 23:26

Judge urges haredi conversion primacy

A judge on the High Rabbinical Court who made headlines in recent months for casting doubt on the Jewishness of hundreds of converts called Wednesday on religious Zionist rabbis to recognize the primacy of haredi rabbinical leadership.

"On questions that deal with the future of the entire Jewish people, the great halachic sages of the generation must be consulted," Rabbi Avraham Sherman said. "I call on religious Zionist rabbis to meet with the great rabbis of our day to reach an agreement on the issue of conversions."

Sherman said the major Torah sages of this generation were Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv of Jerusalem and Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Vosner of Bnei Brak, and that religious Zionist rabbis were obliged to abide by their opinions.

Sherman said that even highly respected Sephardi rabbis such as former chief rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Mordechai Eliahu should defer to Elyashiv's halachic decisions regarding conversions.

Sherman made the comments a day after a group of religious Zionists verbally attack him while he was giving a lecture. Sherman was invited to speak on conversions at the 70th anniversary ceremonies of the Mossad Harav Kook publishing house in Jerusalem on Tuesday night.

But Sherman was greeted with shouts, catcalls and inflammatory language by supporters of Rabbi Haim Druckman, outgoing head of the National Conversion Authority.

The Druckman supporters were forcibly removed from the lecture hall. They said their disruption of Sherman's lecture was a form of protest against Sherman's "dishonorable treatment" of Druckman, an educator and rabbinic leader in his 70s.

Sherman made headlines in recent months after issuing a lengthy, disparaging halachic opinion on the status of a conversions performed by the state-run National Conversion Authority headed by Druckman.

In the 50-page opinion Sherman sharply attacked Druckman and raised serious doubts regarding the validity of conversions performed by Druckman and other rabbis in the Conversion Authority, all of whom are religious Zionists.

Sherman's diatribe against Druckman was viewed by many religious Zionists as an attack on their belief system.

These religious Zionists see mass conversion of tens of thousands of non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union as important in fostering national and cultural unity.

In contrast, haredi rabbis assign less importance to the Zionist value of fostering national unity.

In his lecture at Mosad Harav Kook Sherman pointed out that there were two opposing views in Jewish thought to converting non-Jews to Judaism. One approach sees conversion as a very positive act that should be encouraged because it brings people closer to the true monotheistic faith.

Sherman said the Talmud expresses a contradictory opinion that views converts as a plague because they introduce foreign influences into the Jewish people.

Sherman said that in the past 100 years with the rise of intermarriage and assimilation the second opinion had taken precedence among all the great rabbinical sages.

"In the modern era the great rabbis see converts as a potential danger to the spiritual purity of the Jewish people," he said.

Sherman said that he and other rabbis were concerned about the way conversions were performed in the Conversion Authority.

"Too often in the rabbinical courts we come across supposed converts who never had the intention of observing an Orthodox way of life. This should concern all Jews, haredi and religious Zionist alike. We must unite and make sure that no considerations foreign to Halacha taint the conversion process."


  1. Your son is going to be in Israel this fall right? Please have him call us when he gets here!


  2. Just stumbled upon the page randomly, but decided to have a read. This strikes me as very upsetting for two reasons:

    First, a rabbi, an authority on kindness and tzedakah, can be so callous as to overlook the contributions of Jewish converts. Most converts (at least in the US and Britain) have to make considerable adjustments in their lifestyles upon conversion, and because of the sacrifices they make, they become extremely committed to participating in and enriching their local communities. I'm sure their financial contributions have also helped many synagogues function over the years - a fact that cannot be insignificant to any rabbi.

    What is mind boggling is that Judaism IS a religion of converts! Sara and Avraham, the first converts, are not responsible for every Jewish bloodline. They wandered the desert converting anyone and everyone they could find! Even after so many tribes had been established, the conversions kept on coming. Ruth was a convert - and the Torah recognizes both her and her son as Jews. Clearly, the Talmud overlooked the historical significance and denounced the legitimacy of conversion because of timely issues. Perhaps Jews were becoming more marginalized, and a natural reaction would be to limit the inclusion and scrutiny of outsiders. I'm not an expert on the Talmud, so this is just my speculation. Regardless, the Talmud should not be intended as law. It started as a discussion, and that's how it's contents should be viewed - JUST discussion.

    I don't think hate necessarily drives his thinking, but I think it is fear - and most people seem to fear change. But, as you say, it doesn't make him any less hypocritical and it is certainly not a message that promotes the true fundamentals of the religion.


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