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A New Conversion Scandal

by Jonathan Rosenblum

Yated Ne’eman

May 17, 2006

In order to protect themselves from being pressured to perform questionable conversions, some rabbis have a blanket rule that they will not participate in any beis din for the purpose of geirus, and will only refer would geirim to other batei dinim. For the past quarter century, various proposals to create standing batei dinim to handle conversion matters have been mooted in the United States. A series of recent conferences of rabbonim sponsored by the Eternal Jewish Family program under the title “Universally accepted conversions in intermarriage” has given new impetus to the idea.

Despite the inherent contradiction involved in setting numerical targets for conversion, there have always been rabbis within religious Zionism prepared to play along for there own ideological/theological reasons. For religious Zionists, who attribute theological significance to the State of Israel, no less than for old time Zionists, like Sharon, the importation of hundreds of thousands of gentiles into Israel, under the Law of Return, constitutes a stain on the State of Israel.

Another pressure acting upon national religious rabbis is the fear that if they fail to do the bidding of the political echelons and dramatically increase the number of converts, the State will turn to the Conservative and Reform movements to pick up the slack, and they will have opened the door all the way for official recognition of the heterodox movements.

That fear explains, for instance, the willingness of the Chief Rabbinate to consider a joint conversion panel plan, advanced by leading figures at Yeshiva University, nearly two decades ago. The plan called for panels made up of Conservative, Reform, and Orthodox members who would then recommend candidates for conversion before a beit din made up of those possessing semichah from Orthodox institutions.

When confronted by Attorney-General Mani Mazuz with the discrepancy between the certificate and the facts, Rabbi Druckman explained that he had cancelled at the last minute his flight to Warsaw, but since he had promised the prospective converts (i.e., more than one) that he would convert them, he signed the certificates anyway.

In a subsequent court proceeding, the party mentioned in the falsified certificate testified that she wanted to convert in order to marry and make aliyah. Both the financial incentive and the desire to marry would have rendered her conversion halachically invalid. And given her own express admission as to her reasons for seeking to convert, it appears unlikely in the extreme that there was ever any kabolas mitzvos.

In his letter to Mazuz, attorney Shimon Yaakobi, the legal advisor to the rabbinical court system, mentioned that there were at least ten other cases in his files of affidavits signed by Rabbi Druckman that raised suspicions similar to those in the case under discussion. (In a subsequent letter from Mazuz to Rabbi Druckman, he mentions these other files.)