Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Yair Hoffman - of Elephants and Nachum Eisenstein

I don’t know who Yair Hoffman is. But near as I can tell he is a Charedi writer who often posts on VIN. And just about everything I have read by him I agree with. He is a bold individual who has gone out of his way to seek and find truth.

It is people like this that allow me to maintain my faith in the idea of Achdus. He is joined in this by other Charedim for whom I have much respect. They include Jonathan Rosenblum, Rabbi Yakov Horowitz and most recently Rabbi Moshe Grylak. And there are others.

I am reminded of an interview he had with Yoelish Kraus the supposed unofficial Edah HaCharedis organizer and coordinator of the protesting mobs of Meah Shearim. He has also written about other ‘elephants in the room’ in right wing Orthodoxy and has taken positions virtually identical to mine. His post in VIN is yet another example of that and is one of his best yet.

It is a strong indictment against Tropper’s EJF and he questions why there is silence by the right about it. I applaud him for the courage to publish his views. He minces no words. He doesn’t have to. The anecdotes he wrote about speak for themselves.

What stood out in this article is the following true story:

Picture a young woman who is struggling to put the funds together to get to seminary. Amazingly, she succeeds. Her excitement is palpable. She works, she borrows, and somehow, someway - she purchases a ticket.

But alas, upon her arrival, she is not accepted to the seminary. Since her mother was a giores many years ago, the gairus needed to be rechecked. This was all based upon the new criterion established and or promulgated by the EJF.

Mind you, the gairus was a good gairus. Indeed, it was checked and relied upon by Rabbonim with unimpeachable credentials. The mother’s level of observance is unassailable as well.

No matter. The girl must undergo another tevilah. Since almost every seminary and yeshiva in Israel checks with the EJF about whether a Gairus must be redone or not, she does not have much choice. It is off to the Mikvah with her – with three Rabbonim in tow.

A quick glance at the EJF website is revealing. Only 19 Batei Din are on the approved list – in the entire United States. Nineteen in the whole country. Every other Bais Din? The plug has been pulled on them.
And so, apparently, the girl has no choice.

Or does she? What about the Mitzvah of Kivud Av V’Aim? If she capitulates to the demands of the EJF – what does this have her saying about her mother?

“Sorry, mom – I don’t believe you are really Jewish – so I am dipping again just to be sure..” Is this true Kivud Av V’aim? Is this not a complete and utter abnegation of the Mitzvah of “VeGair lo sonu”?
And guess what? This remarkable young lady, who does not possess an ounce of Chutzpah within her, chooses not to budge. She did not dip again.

Instead, she waited for a phone call. Perhaps they may change their minds. Perhaps some more evidence would emerge from America. It was a phone call that never came.

The young lady took a job helping a harried mother with her young children while she waited.. And waited. And waited.

The end of the story was that she never got into the seminary. But she remained pure of the horrific stain of hurting the two people in her life that she loves most - her parents. Her observance of Kivud Av v’Aim remained intact. And perhaps that devotion, that “Dama Ben Nesina” type of experience - may have been a greater spiritual elevation than any seminary in the world could have provided.

My reaction to this story was visceral. I literally shook with anger that an organization comprised of so many top rabbinic personalities can be involved in an organization that has devolved into one such as this!

Was it all Tropper? I’m sure he had a lot to do with it. But I have to blame another prominent member of EJF. It is no coincidence that Rabbi Nochum Eisenstein was in the forefront of this organization. He was one of its staunchest supporters and if I am not mistaken – attended every meeting. His arrogant and self serving recommendations – supposedly coming from Rav Elyashiv - seem to have all been automatically adopted by them.

I tend to doubt that Rav Elyashiv would have approved of what happened to the young lady in the story. But I am just as certain that Eisenstein’s arrogant attitude resulted in pride. Pride that his new rules were being followed. Letting the chips fall where they may. Who cares who gets hurt. Eisenstein's Judiasm prevailed!

This story is but one of many horror stories I have heard from other honorable rabbis about outstanding rabbinic figures that were dismissed by Tropper.

One rabbi with rich rabbinic heritage performed conversions firmly based in Halacha and his own Mesorah. He now had to cater to EJF's new standards. People who had in the past been converted by him now had a cloud hanging over their heads. Are they or aren’t they...? They will read the above anecdote and wonder why this religion - with all its strictures that they voluntarily and lovingly embraced - is doing this to them!

Long standing Batei Din in major cities with impeccable records that did not tow the EJF line were rejected. Their conversions were all deemed invalid by EJF requiring new ones.

Rules that have nothing to do with Halachic conversions were implemented – like the one about the illegitimacy of a Dayan who believes in an ancient universe. And who knows what other nonsense.

I realize that many of the rabbinic personalities who are associated with this organization are there for the right reasons. They wanted to end problematic conversions. One can quibble about which ones were or weren’t but few would argue that there were - at least more than a few - that were probably not valid.

To be fair I have since learned via some personal contacts in rabbinic organizations that many of the rabbis listed in EJF's website had long ago dropped out - well before this story broke. Their personal experiences with EJF and Tropper led them to realize that EJF had tremendous problems. Stories like this confirm it! Is there any question that this organization should now disband? The sooner the better.

That Tropper and hopefully now EJF has seen their downfall is a good start. But it is not enough. Because of his association with Rav Elyashiv - Nachum Eisenstein was at the top tier of those who dictated EJF policy. He must now be wondering what hit him.

Nonetheless it is long past time to put this individual and his polices where they belong – in the trash bin of history. He has done enough damage.