The Powerful M.0. Rabbis Who Administered Shannon Orand’s Conversion To Judaism

There were two in particularRav Shmuel Eliyahu (Chief Rabbi of Safed and the son of the former Sephardic Chief Rabbi of Israel, Mordechai Eliyahu) and Chief Rabbi Dov Lior of Hevron, one of the six most powerful Religious Zionist rabbis in Israel.

Rabbi Dov Lior is fighting with Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. He has a lawsuit against Rabbi Shlomo Amar, Israel’s Sephardic Chief Rabbi for dismissing him from a position he held for over 30 years from his position of examining people who came for semicha (rabbinic ordination).

Why was Rabbi Dov Lior fired from this position? Because the percentage of chareidim that he was passing was too low in Rabbi Shlomo Amar’s estimation.

How did Rabbi Dov Lior conduct this exam? It was a written exam. Your name is not on the exam. You put a number on it. The person who’s checking the paper has no idea whose paper he is checking.

Rabbi Shlomo Amar said that “lifestyle factors” should be considered in determining people’s scores. Rabbi Dov Lior refused. He has sued that the way he was dismissed did not follow the law.

There is a secular law in Israel that Batei Din (Jewish law courts) there are not allowed to convert someone who is not a citizen or permanent resident of Israel.

There are 14 regular Batei Din in Israel, including the one in Safed run by Rav Shmuel Eliyahu. He can oversee conversions.

I wonder who was Shannon Orand’s sponsoring rabbi? The sponsoring rabbi in an Orthodox conversion does not sit on her Beit Din (Jewish law court composed of three rabbis).

Perhaps the rabbis who were working with her in Houston — I assume they never knew what Rabbi Leib Tropper was doing with her — contacted these rabbis in Israel to take care of her conversion another way.

Another possibility is Rav Elyashiv‘s right-hand man for conversions, Rabbi Nachum Eisenstein. He’s the Eternal Jewish Family’s man in Israel for giur (conversions). He’s been attacking the Religious Zionists (aka Modern Orthodox) for a long time. Perhaps these Religious Zionist rabbis did this Shannon Orand conversion to punch Rabbi Nachum Eisenstein in the nose.

Shannon Orand appeared to have been pressed into doing unseemly things by Rabbi Leib Tropper. He had apparently let her know that the only way she was going to get a legitimate conversion to Judaism was if he said it was legitimate.

Rabbi Leib Tropper amassed an enormous amount of power in the Orthodox world through his Eternal Jewish Family foundation. He had significant rabbinic backing because he had a lot of money backing his organization. He was paying the deficits on several yeshivot including that of Moshe Feinstein‘s second son — “Rabbi Reuven Feinstein is the Rosh Yeshiva of the residence hall of Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem, located in Staten Island, New York.”

The Eternal Jewish Family has been funding the deficits of Mesivtha Tifereth Jerusalem for about a decade. I don’t expect that Rabbi Reuven Feinstein will withdraw his support from EJF as long as they are financially supporting his yeshiva.

According to the website Jewish Family, Rabbi Rafi Ostroff was the third rabbi on Shannon Orand’s Beit Din. That he’s not qualified to perform marriages in Israel, let alone conversions, may not be relevant. Rabbi Dov Lior and Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu are qualified dayanim (Jewish law judges). They can put together a Beit Din of whichever rabbis he chooses.

Rabbi Rafi Ostroff works for World Bnei Akiva, which Rav Druckman oversees. This means that Rav Druckman must support this conversion of Shannon Orand.

There was a huge scandal about conversion to Orthodox Judaism in South America in the 1940s. The South American Orthodox rabbis decided they would no longer convert people to Judaism in South America. They would send everyone they thought qualified to Israel instead to do the conversion.

The Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi of Israel at the time, Yitzchak HaLevi Herzog, rejected their takana (enactment).

Why? Because he reasoned that this system would only permit the conversion of the wealthy who could afford to fly to Israel. What about poor people who were sincere about converting to Judaism?

They ended up flying to Florida for conversion (which was considerably less expensive than flying to Israel).

Even though it sounds as if Shannon Orand’s conversion was illegal by secular Israeli law, it is very difficult to tell a court run by such powerful rabbis as Dov Lior and Shmuel Eliyahu that its actions are illegal.

Courts like to determine their own jurisdiction.

Israeli’s Ministry of the Interior issues citizenship cards. They will decide if the conversion falls within what the state of Israel will accept. Even though the Israeli Supreme Court has told the Ministry to accept any conversion, they don’t.

There are places where the rabbinate will accept a conversion and the Ministry will not and other places where the opposite situation occurs.

Generally the Ministry will do whatever the local Israeli consulate tells them to do.

This reminds me of the hazmanah (legal brief) written by Rabbi Shmuel Fried on behalf of the Rabbinical Council of America — the rabbinic arm of the Orthodox Union — to the Bet Din Eizori, Jerusalem in the matter of Rabbi Mordecai Tendler.

Rabbi Shmuel Fried is a toain (an attorney for Jewish law courts). He’s good. He’s tough. He’s based in New York.

Here’s how the toanim in New York practice their craft — they yell and scream at the dayanim to try to intimidate them.

Rabbi Shmuel Fried tried this approach to the Bet Din Eizori in Jerusalem. He started yelling at the rosh beit din (head of the law court).

At batei din in Israel, you usually don’t have a bailiff in the court room but you do have one in the building.

The judges summoned the bailiff and told him to put Rabbi Shmuel Fried in jail for 24 hours. Bring him back then and we’ll continue the case.

When Rabbi Shmuel Fried came back the next day, he was much more civil (according to the transcript).

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see My work has been covered in the New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and on 60 Minutes. I teach Alexander Technique in Beverly Hills (
This entry was posted in Conversion, R. Dov Lior, R. Haim Druckman, R. Rafi Ostroff, R. Shmuel Eliyahu, R. Shmuel Fried, Shannon Orand. Bookmark the permalink.