Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Righting a Wrong

May a convert sit on a conversion Beis Din? The answer is not that simple. There is dispute among Poskim about that. So what if it happened? The answer is that one should probably undergo a pro forma conversion just so he or she can cover all their bases.

This is not my opinion. I am not qualified to make such determinations. It is the opinion of Rabbi Barry Freundel who is chairman of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) Gerus Policies and Standards (GPS) committee. He reflects their views. It was written in an op-ed in the Jewish Week in response to question raised by Rabbi Avi Weiss who recently criticized the RCA.

Rabbi Weiss felt the creation of GPS came with the promise that any conversion performed previously by a member of the RCA would automatically be endorsed. Since that has not occurred, he alleges that the RCA is guilty of misleading the Jewish world, and of undertaking a wholesale reevaluation of previously performed conversions.

But that is not what the GPS promised. It promised that upon request the RCA would ratify conversions performed under the auspices of individual rabbis if such conversions met its standards. In issuing such ratifications, the RCA has never based its decision on a convert’s “ongoing and current level of observance.” What is of significance to the RCA is the halachic requirement that a convert sincerely accept the fundamentals of Jewish belief and observance at the time of conversion itself. This is best evidenced by his or her behavior in the period immediately following the conversion.

In light of this comment, I wonder how many people still question a Gerus performed by an RCA rabbi? It seems clear to me that the standards used are the same standards used by Charedi Battei Din. It is a standard that has no disputants as far as I know. It is also the standard that has been in force for about two years now. The Yated knows this. And yet they printed a bold faced lie about one of its rabbis. (It was not Rabbi Avi Weiss.)

If I were the RCA I would sue the Yated into oblivion! That would be the best way to right this wrong – and in the process eliminate this public 'Chilul HaShem making' nuisance once and for all.