Friday, May 09, 2008

Are You a Convert To Judaism? Think Again!

How many more lives will this man ruin? Rabbi Norman Eisenstein, a man who I recall was a known Kanoi when he was still an adolescent student in Skokie Yeshiva has inserted himself into the recent controversy over Rabbi Druckman’s conversions. In fact he may very well be behind it. He is supposedly Rav Elyashiv’s right hand man. And the Dayanim who voided those conversions were Rav Elyashiv’s appointees.

Rabbi Eisenstein has come out and supported the decision taken by them - invalidating the conversions of hundreds if not thousands of Jews converted by Rabbi Chaim Druckman. The claim is that since it was discovered that some (many?) of his converts never accepted the requirement to observe Mitzvos it casts doubt on all of his converts and they must all re-convert.

The repercussions of this are awful. This isn’t just about Rabbi Druckman. It is about any Rav who ever converted any Ger if it is discovered that a significant number of his Gerim never intended to observe the Mitzvos. According to Rabbi Eisenstein et al, all of his Gerim are suspect too.

Imagine the fallout of this Psak. A Rav of a respected rabbinic organization in a major city is given the responsibility for all conversions in that city. Over his long career he has converted countless numbers of Gerim. Some of them were done because of marriage concerns. He felt that such conversions are valid as long as there is a promise to keep the Mitzvos. And he did not feel obligated to follow up and see that that they did.

Typically in those cases a parent wanted their son’s non Jewish fiancé to be Jewish. The non Jewish fiancé couldn’t care less about religion and says, ‘Sure! Why not? I’ll convert!’ She goes to the rabbi with her future in-laws and promises to keep the Mitzvos. But in her mind she will continue to live her non observant lifestyle. The Rabbi believes that the verbal promise was enough and goes ahead with the conversion. She goes to classes, promises to be observant, goes to the Mikva and then that Rabbi is Mesader Kedushin. This was a fairly common occurrence in the mid to late 20th century - and perhaps even until recently.

According to most Poskim this woman is not Jewish. She did it only to please her new in-laws. She does not observe a single Mitzvah and never really intended to. This kind of typical scenario is what generated much of the uproar that led to an upgrading of the conversion process both here and in Israel. Rightly so in my view.

But let us further examine the above secanrio. The rabbi in charge of Geirus, himself an Ehrliche Jew but whose leniencies on Geirus were not accepted by most Poskim also converted many Gerim who were sincere. They pledged to keep the Mitzvos and did. They became integrated into Klal Yisroel. They had children. Those children married. They all went to Yeshivos. That a grand-parent was a Ger or Giyroes is but a distant family memory to them… an interesting footnote to their family history but otherwise irrelevant to their lives. Until now!

If a young Talmid Chacham, an Avreich, learning in Lakewood Yeshiva had a grandmother who was converted by that Rabbi and her daughter is that Avreichs’ mother. He is not Jewish. His mother who was Frum from birth and was a top Beis Yaakov student - is not Jewish. Her son was a top ‘Philly’ boy and is now a Magid Shuir. But he too is not Jewish any more than the Pope is.

There were many such Rabbis in Orthodoxy. They have converted both sincere and insincere converts. Rabbi Eisenstein has just voided all of them, and the Jewishness of their children in the case of female converts.

Were his intentions good? Did he mean to strengthen Klal Yisroel by eliminating false coverts in our midst? I’m sure that’s what he thinks. And I cannot judge him. But there is a True Judge. And Rabbi Eisenstein will not be judged by his intentions. He will be judged by his actions. And his actions in this and in many other situations have cast misery into the lives of countless numbers of people.