Converting Children To Judaism

David writes on Hirhurim: "Based on Rabbi Broyde’s summary of Rabbis Kook and Elyashiv’s position, "that a bet din ought not to convert a child to Judaism unless it is nearly certain that the child will grow up to be religious," I’m not sure how that leads to invalidating a conversion after the fact. Would it not simply be the case that performing such a conversion was ill-advised (or even forbidden), but not necessarily legally invalid?"

Larry writes: "I also think that with all due respect R. Broyde is underestimating the emotional impact on gerim of never being able to finally be sure one’s conversion is accepted. This seems to me to be oppressing the ger in the classic sense."

Ari writes: "When Rambam was put into cherem by a group of rabbis, and then that group of rabbis was put into cherem by the Rambam’s followers, and then those people were put into cherem by others (etc., etc.), not a single person ever went after anyone else’s conversions. Despite the fact that most of the Jewish world was put into cherem by some other part of the Jewish world, everyone recognized that attacking someone’s conversions and trying to retroactively undo them would be a sure way to destroy us as a people."

HAGTBG posts:

I, for one, like the intellectual diversity within halacha, and am not at all certain that there is any problem here as a matter of halachic theory.

Well, thats really the point isn’t it. It’s person’s life. This is not some treatise: the real world is supposed to affect psak. R’ Broyde you know that far better then me. And part of an ideological push by the new powers within the Chief Rabbinate, a body with a legal status in Israel. Hardly theoretical. Why even go down this line of reasoning.

However, I see no reason to argue that Jewish law intrinsically mandates uniformity on standards of conversion (as it, for example, does on matters of Jewish divorce).

And here’s the contradiction in your statement that you pointed out yourself. One person’s non-Jewish ex is another person’s mamzer offspring. A major kula from a chumra.

At the end of the day its nice to talk about theory … and about how different jurisdictions have discretion.

This decision precisely undermines discretion. And not in a good, we have a centralized court system,yay, way. Far from it.

It is an argument that everything must be done by the most RW opinion (I don’t say machmir because this is a strictness that will create greater leniency.) It is an argument that America’s rabbis are subserviant to the Chief Rabbinate, or a small faction therein. Here you had at least two points where the man was certified as Jewish (at his conversion and his marriage) and they were both overturned. The verdict undermines different regions and rabbinic authorities.

Will a person have to go in fear from beit din to beit din their whole lives wondering if one will find some flaw in their conversion? Why stop at divorce? Why not judge his Judaism for financial disputes.

I have not heard anything about the initial conversion; maybe it was no good or maybe it was.

But I am aghast that a worldly member of the rabbinate tries to talk down yet another attack on the (North) American rabbinate’s integrity.

BTW, there is a solution if this story is as bad as it seems. Threaten to have the RCA and the BDA advocate dismantling the Chief Rabbinate in an Israeli PR campaign. And carry through if the CR doesn’t act reasonably. There’s little risk: the CR provides less to Orthodoxy, especially modern Orthodoxy, then you’d think.

I suppose since the RCA has already placed itself under CR rule in the conversion area, it will bow again here, even though the CR is clueless about American Orthodoxy and the CR is hardly worthy of this authority.

I am not a convert but I can see how the wind blows and how my rabbis are there to protect me.

I have begun the process of documenting that my maternal line was considered Jewish for as far back as the records allow.

We all know the intermarriage rate is going to change things. Given how boldly the RCA defends its own, I suggest you all do the same and do your descendants a favor. If you want them considered Jewish.


Did you read what mycroft claimed? That a goy who had a Reform conversion and a goya who had a Reform conversion, if they had a Reform marriage, and subsequently divorced, would need a get before they could marry a Jew?!

They could live together for ten years or they could live together for a hundred years, two non-Jews who are married to each other NEVER need a get!

The chiddush here — which I actually believe must be a mistake on mycroft’s part — is that RYBS accepted Reform conversions as valid!

Otherwise why would he say they need a get if they get divorced?? They certainly don’t need a get in order to marry another non-Jew! so this seems to be saying that RYBS would have allowed a Reform convert to marry a Jew?! (Provided he had given a get to his first wife, who is also a Reform convert?!)

You have to know what’s plausible. RYBS could not possibly have accepted the validity of Reform conversions. No mikva, no circumcision? This person can marry a Jew as long as he gives his first wife a get? Or this non-Jewish woman can marry a Jew as long as she got a get from her non-Jewish first husband? Hello???

I know a woman who is a Reform convert and she said about her OWN conversion, "It was a farce." Those were her exact words. The Reform rabbi took her into his study, asked her a few questions, then took a certificate out of his drawer, signed it and handed it to her and said, "Congratulations, you’re a Jew." She expected something grander, some kind of ritual or prayer or blessing or SOMETHING. He signs a piece of paper and that’s her whole conversion?

Interestingly, this woman does consider herself to be Jewish because she lights candles every Friday night. I don’t know how many weeks in a row you have to do that in order to be a Jew in her mind, but there it is.

And you’re going to tell me that she is now a safek Jew and and if her husband (who of course is Jewish — or why would she have converted?) wants to divorce her and marry a Jew, he now has to give her a get?!

MYCROFT WRITES: Mrs. Katz and others read Tradition Fall 1994 page 14 in Archives for Subscribers to Tradition "The Rav’s opposition to moves which threatened the unity of the Jewish community also manifested itself in his attitudes towards non-Orthodox groups. He counselled against denying Conservative or Reform Rabbis the right to use communal mikvaJot for conversions. Moreover, he once instructed me that Reform conversions that were accompanied by circumcision and immersion in a mikve had to be treated as a saftk giyur. Accordingly, a get would be required to dissolve a marriage in which one of the partners previously underwent a Conservative or Reform conversion which conformed to the requirement of mila and tevila.)" Mrs Katz I never stated the Rav stated mikva and tvilah were not required. Of course, these Israel Rabbonim aren’t even choshed to a gerus performed byOrthodox Rabbis. And the Chareidi world is not one that politics rules.

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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