Conversion Controversy

Hirhurim reports:

Late last week, the Chief Rabbinical High Court in Israel ruled that all conversions over the past 20 years by R. Haim Druckman–the head of the Conversion Administration–are invalid. This led to an uproar and Chief (Sephardic) Rabbi Shlomo Amar has announced that the ruling is invalid. Here are some headlines on the story:

I’ll bet that R. Shlomo Goren is probably looking down on all of this with great interest.

Below is the full RCA press release (link):
Click here to read more

RCA Affirms its Support for Israel’s Conversion Authority
RCA Reacts to Ruling of Israeli Rabbinical Appeals Court regarding Past Conversions by the Israeli Conversion Authority

May 6, 2008 — Leviticus 19:33 : "You (plural) shall not oppress the convert in your land."
Commentary of the Netziv: "The plural form of the verse teaches us that a third party who sees the oppression of a convert and does not protest is also guilty of oppression."

The Rabbinical Council of America, having taken note of the recent ruling of the Bet Din Elyon (Rabbinic Court of Appeals) of Israel, nullifying certain conversions performed by the State Conversion Authority led by Rabbi Chaim Druckman, has today issued the following statement:

Having reviewed the ruling of the Bet Din Elyon in detail, and being fully mindful of the respect due the rulings of duly constituted rabbinical courts in their respective jurisdictions, the RCA finds it necessary to state for the record that in our view the ruling itself, as well as the language and tone thereof, are entirely beyond the pale of acceptable halachic practice, violate numerous Torah laws regarding converts and their families, create a massive desecration of God’s name, insult outstanding rabbinic leaders and halachic scholars in Israel, and are a reprehensible cause of widespread conflict and animosity within the Jewish people in Israel and beyond. The RCA is appalled that such a ruling has been issued by that court.

We have been assured by Israel’s Chief Rabbi Rav Shlomo Moshe Amar, who is also the President of the Rabbinical Courts System of Israel, that in releasing this ruling the court in question directly countermanded his instructions and policies. He has confirmed that the ruling has no legal standing at this time. We commend Rav Amar for his positive role in this matter since its very inception in the Ashdod regional court.

We add our rabbinic voice to those of others who have called for a thorough review and repudiation of the actions of a select few of the Bet Din Elyon, who in this ruling as in other previous instances, have sought to undermine the Conversion Authority.

For this reason, and others, it is more important than ever that the Conversion Authority be strengthened in its important work in bringing about halachicly proper conversions to our faith and to the Jewish people.

Given the very public nature of the challenge posed by the ruling in question, we call on the Chief Rabbis of Israel to reaffirm their support of the Conversion Authority and its leadership in clear and unambiguous terms at the earliest possible time. Until that will happen, each passing day will cause reprehensible anguish to halachic converts, irreparable harm to the fabric of the Jewish people, and a considerable debasement of the good name of Torah, halachah, and tradition.

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 (
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