Just a few years ago, it would have seemed impossible to bring together distinguished dayanim from throughout the world to explore issues regarding universally accepted conversions in intermarriage in the 21st century. Yet on Sunday, November 2nd, in downtown Philadelphia, the Eternal Jewish Family once again reached beyond any barriers of this challenge and convened some of the greatest dayanim and rabbanim of our times.
The esteemed group travelled from numerous cities around the world to Philadelphia’s downtown Marriott Hotel. Present were such notable dignitaries as Harav Shmuel Kaminetzky, Rosh Yeshiva of Philadelphia, member of the Moetzes Gedolei HaTorah; Dayan Chanoch Ehrentrau, Rosh Beis Din of London; Harav Binyomin Weiss, lead dayan of the beis din of Montreal; Harav Reuven Feinstein, shlita, Rosh Yeshiva of Staten Island and chairman of the EJF halachic committee; Harav Betzalel Tuvia Wettenstein, the Belzer Dayan; Harav Dovid Olewsky, Rosh Yeshiva, Yeshivas Ger of Brooklyn; Harav Eliyahu Levine, Rosh Kollel of Lakewood; and Harav Elya Ber Wachtfogel, the Rosh Yeshiva of South Fallsburg.
The conference was also honored with the presence of Harav Avrohom Sherman, head of the Bais Din Hagadol in Jerusalem, who communicated the brocho of Maran Harav Eliyashiv for his participation. Also from Israel came Harav Shlomo Pappenheim of the Eida Hachareidis and Harav Eliyahu Eisherik, lead dayan of the beis din of Tel Aviv and author of Toras Haribis. Harav Eisherik is also the emissary of the Gerrer Rebbe in all areas of geirus and concerns regarding botei din.
Together these spiritual giants delved into such topics as the standards of legitimate botei din, family and marital issues, the importance of determining a successful conversion candidate, and numerous other vital issues. The presence of the gedolei Torah, as well as the scope and breadth of their lectures and discussions, gave testimony to the Torah world’s recognition of the important accomplishments of Eternal Jewish Family.
The dayanim shared their experiences with conversions in intermarriage, leading to a yeshiva-like atmosphere as the distinguished participants exchanged divrei Torah. The consensus was clear that relaxation of conversion standards only leads to complex issues in the arenas of marriage, children’s chinuch, and integration into communities. The dayanim concurred that sincere conversion candidates must make commitments to live within communities that have the infrastructure of shuls, yeshivos, mikvaos and kosher food. Harav Leib Tropper, Chairman of the EJF Rabbinic Committee, outlined some of the recent successes of EJF in working with the growing network of botei din that subscribe to the standards of the gedolei haposkim who guide EJF’s policies.
An intriguing dimension to this revolutionary gathering was that, simultaneously in the same location, another EJF seminar was being held exclusively for the mentors of female candidates for conversion. Travelling from Oregon, Texas, Arizona, California, Maryland, and New York, the women received inspiration from an esteemed group of rabbanim who, while addressing their questions and concerns, also defined their challenging role as mentors of conversion candidates. More than this, the rabbanim conveyed heartfelt brachos that encouraged the participants to continue to be exemplary role models for other women who are on their way to conversion or already integrating into a community after the conversion process.
(Rochel Weinstein – Lubicom)