Orthodox Judaism’s Conversion Controversy

To quote Toby Katz, commenting on Cross-Currents:

The RCA is upset because so many RCA rabbis have done conversions that they never should have done — converting women who had no intention of ever keeping mitzvos, just so they could marry Jewish men who also had no intention of keeping mitzvos, but wanted to make their mothers happy (which they could have done more easily by marrying Jewish women to start with, but never mind)

But in truth this has long been a serious halachic question, and we are now dealing with the fallout of hundreds or thousands such dubious “Orthodox” conversions over a period of many years. If a convert never had any intention of accepting mitzvos and never lived a religious life, then according to most poskim (including many in the RCA, which is internally more divided than its press release would indicate), there never was a conversion in the first place.

When personal tragedies now result, the pain and heartache must be laid at the feet of the rabbis who bowed to the pressure of their congregants and performed these illegitimate conversions, with the full knowledge that these people never intended to be sincere halachic converts.

A friend writes: "Of all the quotes on that page, including some by well known people, you chose that one? I think you just lost a reader and a friend."

This is the same friend who’s told me — unsolicited — that my own conversion to Judaism was not adequate and where I should go to remedy things.

Now he wants to emotionally blackmail me from offering points of view contrary to his own?

I bet almost all of the thousands of Modern Orthodox converts to Judaism whose conversions were just overturned looked down upon and did not accept the Jewishness of those who converted to Judaism through non-Orthodox streams (if they authentically converted to Orthodox Judaism they have no alternative).

Now the shoe’s on the other foot and they don’t like it.


This is the nature of the religion you and I have tried to join.

This is the life we chose.

It’s like becoming a member of the Mafia and then complaining about an order to kill somebody.

I admit it’s fun to see the Rabbinical Council of America (the main rabbinic body for America’s Modern Orthodox) — which does not accept rabbis from Yeshivat Chovevei Torah (on the left-wing of Modern Orthodoxy) — now invalidated by its chareidi overseers in Israel.

I don’t care if highly Orthodox Jews choose to not accept my conversion to Judaism or anybody else’s conversion. I think it is strange when such Jews lecture me about my shortcomings without my soliciting their opinion while at the same time they try to be friends with me.

On the one hand, they bludgeon me with their unasked for judgments on intimate things and on the other hand, they want to be close to me.


These people lack some social calibration skills.

Regarding my friend’s comment above, I didn’t choose that quote by Toby Katz from a string of comments. I took it because it was posted to me. I have a million things to do today to try to make some money to survive. My reader Kishke posted that comment. I thought it was interesting. I reposted it.

To end a friendship because I quote people you disagree with, that’s bizarre and petty.

Everybody expects me to be all sensitive and on the side of those whose conversions were overturned.

I rarely take sides on my blog and I’m not taking sides now.

I choose to post stuff I find interesting, whether I agree with it or not.

People often tell me that they are offended by something I’ve said or written. Unless you are a close friend of mine, why would you think I care?

"My feelings are hurt and I’m offended" is the type of comment you expect from a weak-minded girl.

If I write something that offends you, that’s between you and your therapist. I don’t write this blog to make my readers feel good. I write out of weird internal compulsions that I barely understand. This blog is overwhelmingly instinctive. I think or feel or read something that somehow strikes some chord in me — the chord could be of humor or disgust or anger or joy — and I post it.

Just because a story or a comment strikes home to you and makes you feel things, why would that entitle you to ream me? You should blog (some of) your thoughts and feelings. I never bother to tell people I interact with that I disagreed with something they said or wrote, let alone say that I was offended. I don’t waste my breath.

If somebody writes something that offends me, I might discuss it with my therapist/shrink or closest friends or blog about it.

This attitude of "You wrote something that offends me and now you’re out of my life" strikes me as very gay (in a bad way). It sounds like Andrew Sullivan — the Queen of Hissy Fit Blogging.

My friend emails: "Maybe you can’t understand it because your life is built around artifice. Porn, mock romances over the internet, make believe Jewish identity (you can’t be called a convert because according to your notes you never formally converted), a life of make believe, no children, no job, no responsibilities. Kierkegaard would have referred to this fall into illusion as "despair". Perhaps worrying about one’s children seems "gay" to you, but perhaps in your world any dealing with reality that doesn’t reflect the idyll of soft rock songs may be entirely foreign."

About Luke Ford

I've written five books (see Amazon.com). 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 (Alexander90210.com).
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