Clarification regarding Syrian Jewish Community and geirim

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    I just read this online and thought it important to repost and clarify, as it seems I was “under-informed” regarding geirim and their acceptance in the Syrian Jewish community. And I’m obviously not the only one. Below is a copy paste from “Daas Torah” on WordPress. I’ll do it in two posts as it’s quite long:

    Daas Torah

    Issues of Jewish Identity

    Syrian ban is not against sincere gerim

    Jersey Girl wrote:

    RaP- Here is a letter written by Rabbi Moshe Shammah:

    Oct. 15, 2007

    Letters to the Editor, Magazine

    The New York Times

    620 Eighth Ave.

    New York, NY 10018

    To the Editor,


    Moshe Shamah

    Rabbi, Sephardic Synagogue

    511 Ave. R

    Brooklyn, NY 11223


    Continued below:

    Why do you persist at asking this?

    The Takana states:

    The Takana bans conversions that kasher intermarriage which are fictitious and valueless.

    Why do you continually INSIST that this covers ALL gerim when this is clearly not the case?

    Do you have personal experience in a case of a Ger Tzedek from a qualified Beis Din who was NOT accepted in the Syrian community?

    I DO personally know of Gerim and their children and grandchildren who are fully accepted in the Syrian community.

    Here is a story from Rabbi Moshe Shammah posted back in 1994. I do know of this woman and also know that her children married in the community and her grandchildren attend the schools:

    The decree focuses on those who convert for the purpose of marrying a Jew or Jewess. A non-Jew who is clearly motivated by marriage but who sincerely and properly converts, should normally be accepted halakhically. However, the Syrian rabbis realized they were being fooled by insincere candidates, etc. and established the 1935 decree not to accept those who were converting in conjunction with a prospective or past marriage. The decree was not addressed to those who converted just for the love of Judaism.

    I really hope that you will stop slandering the Syrian community by saying that the Syrian community does not accept Gerei Tzeddek. It is simply NOT true.



    There was a convert who converted in israel, Rav Ovadiah Yosef the Gadol hador for Sephardim flew to Brooklyn to vouch for her and they still would not let her marry in.

    (It almost did create a schism because many did not want to disobey the Gadol Hador especially since he flew to Brooklyn to speak to the leaders)


    That story may be true, but the question remains whether the conversion was connected to marriage or not.

    And obviously I can’t vouch for the “article”.

    I also wanted to note that Rabbi Jacob Kassin passed away in December 1994.


    It doesnt matter why the conversion occured. if the Gador Hador says something you can belive it especially since he flew to Brooklyn to do so which is a major undertaking. Many Gedolim will not leave Israel.


    Its likely that Both Eric Trump and Ivanka Trump both converted for marriage as both married jews and converted orthodox


    Rabbi Shammah is a very liberal rabbi in the community. He’s from the old school of rabbis like Matloub Abadi.

    His views shouldn’t be taken as representative of the community as a whole. He himself is a signatory to the takanah in any event.

    This clarification is meaningless. The pashut pshat is that they used to have conversions of infants adopted, but with reproductive medicine and technology, this is becoming rare. The children of a ger are accepted, but that’s not the same as a ger being accepted.

    There have been several cases of individuals sincerely choosing to be Jewish who were rejected from the SY community.


    ZD: those type of conversations are the ones they didn’t want to accept, and that’s why the ban was created.


    Does anybody know the text of the original edict?


    mw13: English translation of the Hebrew proclamations of 1935 and 1946, and the 1984 proclamation (originally in English).


    Adar 5695 (February 1935)

    We have observed the conditions prevailing in the general Jewish community, where some youth have left the haven of their faith and have assimilated with non-Jews; in certain cases they have made efforts to marry gentiles, sometimes without any effort to convert them, and other times an effort is made for conversion to our faith, an action which is absolutely invalid and worthless in the eyes of the law of our Torah. We have therefore bestirred ourselves to build and establish an iron wall to protect our identity and religious integrity and to bolster the strong foundations of our faith and religious purity which we have maintained for many centuries going back to our country of origin, Syria.

    We, the undersigned rabbis, constituting the Religious Court, together with the Executive Committee of the Magen David Congregation and the outstanding laymen of the community, do hereby decree, with the authority of our Holy Torah, that no male or female member of our community has the right to intermarry with non-Jews; this law covers conversions, which we consider to be fictitious and valueless. We further decree that no future rabbinic court of the community should have the right or authority to convert male or female non-Jews who seek to marry into our community. We have followed the example of the community in Argentina, which maintains a rabbinic ban on any of the marital arrangements enumerated above, an edict which has received the wholehearted and unqualified endorsement of the Chief Rabbinate in Israel. This responsa is discussed in detail in Devar Sha’ul, Yoreh Deah, Part II to Part VI. In the event that any member of our community should ignore our ruling and marry, their issue will have to suffer the consequences. Announcements to this effect will be made advising the community not to allow any marriage with children of such converts. We are confident that the Jewish People are a holy people and they will adhere to the decision of their rabbis and will not conceive of doing otherwise.

    Chief Rabbi Haim Tawil

    Rabbi Jacob Kassin

    Rabbi Murad Masalton

    Rabbi Moshe Gindi

    Rabbi Moshe Dweck Kassab


    Adar 5706 (February 1946)

    On the 9th day of Adar I in the year 5706 corresponding to the 10th day of February, 1946, the rabbis of the community and the Committee of Magen David Congregation once again discussed the question of intermarriage and conversions. The following religious rabbinic decisions were promulgated and accepted:

    I. Our community will never accept any converts, male or female, for marriage.

    2. The rabbi will not perform any religious ceremonies for such couples, i.e., marriages, circumcisions, bar mitzvahs, etc. In fact, the Congregation’s premises will be barred to them for use of any religious or social nature.

    3. The Mesadrim of the Congregation will not accord any honors to the convert or one married to a convert, such as offering him an Aliyah to the Sefer Torah. In addition, the aforesaid person, male or female, will not be allowed to purchase a seat, permanently or for the holidays, in our Congregations.

    4. After death of said person, he or she is not to be buried on the cemetery of our community, known as Rodfe Zedek, regardless of financial considerations.

    Seal of the Beth Din of Magen David Congregation

    Chief Rabbi Jacob S. Kassin


    WHEREAS, throughout the history of our community, our rabbis and lay leaders have always recognized the threat of conversions and the danger of intermarriage and assimilation; and have issued warnings and proclamations concerning these evils in February 1935, February 1946 and in May 1972. NOW, THEREFORE, we assembled rabbis and Presidents of the congregations and organizations of the Syrian and Near Eastern Jewish communities of Greater New York and New Jersey do now and hereby reaffirm these proclamations, and pledge ourselves to uphold, enforce and promulgate these regulations. We further declare that Shabbat Shuvah of each year be designated as a day to urge our people to rededicate themselves to these principles. IN WITNESS WHEREOF, we have caused this document to be prepared and have affixed our signatures thereto, at a special convocation held on this third day of Sivan 5744 corresponding to the 3rd day of June 1984.

    Dr. Jacob S. Kassin, Chief Rabbi

    (Signed by the rabbis and presidents of every synagogue, yeshivah, and social organization of the Sephardic Jewish communities of New York and New Jersey.)



    There was a convert who converted in israel, Rav Ovadiah Yosef the Gadol hador for Sephardim flew to Brooklyn to vouch for her and they still would not let her marry in.

    (It almost did create a schism because many did not want to disobey the Gadol Hador especially since he flew to Brooklyn to speak to the leaders)

    This story was related in a New York Times article about Syrian Jews. The woman who converted was involved in a romantic relationship with a member of the Syrian Jewish community which is probably why they refused to accept her.

    According to a thread on iamamother some geirim have been allowed to live in the community, but sincere converts (i.e. who converted for the love of Judaism) have not been allowed to marry Syrians. A comment on the daas torah article claims that a grandchild of one of the signatories in fact married a ger… it seems very unclear. Have any geirim been allowed to marry into the community. Are geirim who are not members of the community but choose to daven there allowed to get an aliyah? Are their children accepted in Syrian schools?


    Isn’t such an across the board takonah a violation of several Torah mitzvahs?


    In the average Ashkenaz synagogue, the % of kohanim is around 1% to 3%.

    In the average Syrian synagogue, the % of Kohanim is around 30% to 35%.

    Since the Torah prohibits Kohanim from marrying converts [gerim],
    is it wise to permit converts in a community where 30% of the men are Kohanim?

    Additionally, some poskim [whose names I unfortunately cannot remember] have written that Kohanim who are Syrian and/or Sephardic have a greater [or better] mesorah of kehunah than Ashkenazic Kohanim, which makes the prohibition against Kohanim marrying converts even greater for Kohanim who are Syrian and/or Sephardic.

    For example:
    When a Syrian Kohen performs a Pidyon HaBen, he NEVER returns the money, because Syrian Rabbis hold that there is no doubt [safek] on the identity of their Kohanim.

    Compare this to Ashkenaz Kohanim, who return the Pidyon HaBen money,
    because they fear a doubt [safek] on their identity of their Kohanim.

    Is it wise to permit converts in a community where 30% of men are Kohanim,
    who have no safek [or less safek] on their yichus as Kohanim?

    PS: Many Orthodox Rabbis in England do not accept converts, because Jews were re-admitted to England on condition that they not accept converts.

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