The controversy surrounding the giyur beis din headed by Rav Chaim Druckman continues, with much misinformation and disinformation circulating.
Over recent days, both the chareidi print and electronic media have reported that Maran Hagon Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv Shlita and HaRav Aryeh Leib Shteinman Shlita have come out against the conversions performed by Rav Druckman, stating the people who have undergone conversions by Rav Druckman’s beis din are “goyim l’kol davar” – non-Jews in every sense of the word.
Other reports add that this position was also accepted by Maran HaRav Ovadia Yosef Shlita and Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar Shlita, who serves as the supreme voice on the Chief Rabbinate’s Rabbinical Supreme Court.
Such reports appeared on chareidi websites, in the weekly Mishpacha Magazine, and on Radio Kol Chai to name a few.
YWN attempted to verify the facts in the case and towards that end, contacted persons overseeing the giyur program in Machon Ora, the OU-NCSY center, a program affiliated with the Rabbinical Council of America, and other known personalities affiliated with the nationwide giyur network, aligned with the different streams if you will, chareidi and those more in line with Rav Druckman.
At present, there is no concrete written first-hand text to confirm or deny any of the statements. Most of the rabbanim have signaled they are studying the recent reports quoting decisions from Gedolei Yisrael, and at present, they cannot state conclusively what the future will bring for giyur in Eretz Yisrael, as well as for the many who were processed by Rav Druckman’s beis din.
As for Rav Druckman, he has since been dismissed from his position by the Prime Minister’s Office under the guise civil service law dictates he leave his post due to his age, 75.
Druckman responded harshly to the dismissal, stating it is politically motivated, pointing a finger of blame at the chareidi community, stating his conversions can stand the litmus test of halacha, rejecting all accusations that he ran a conversions factory, insisting all candidates were believed to have accepted ol mitzvos at the time of becoming Jews. He also had very harsh words for the dayanim of the Rabbinical Supreme Court, who appear to have blatantly ignored the instructions of Rav Amar, despite his superior role in the court hierarchy. By doing so, and publicizing their decision, they have indeed created an international stir, a reality Rav Amar apparently was trying to avoid.
For the giyurim, this time period is one bringing with it much pain, confusion, uncertainty, and a feeling of being shunned by Am Yisrael. Many former giyurim who have been maintaining a frum lifestyle are totally broken over the news that they may indeed be goyim [at least according to some] following years of a Torah life, not to mention the uncertain status of their children.
This due to the Rabbinical Supreme Court decision that a woman converted years ago by Rav Druckman, today seeking a get, [and] was told she does not need one. The rabbis ruled the conversion was not valid since they do not lead a frum lifestyle. The court invalidated the conversion retroactively, stating no get is required as a result since there was no kiddushin, and the children from the marriage are goyim.
It was this decision by the Ashdod Beis Din that sparked the nationwide or perhaps international giyur controversy which continues to have widespread ramifications in Eretz Yisrael for giyurim, their families, those studying for giyur at present and so-forth. Related to this, the European Council of Rabbis has announced they will not recognize Israeli conversions at this time, adding to the already complicated realities.
What many do not understand is that candidates for giyur are placed in a Catch-22 position for the following reason. One can indeed turn to the chareidi network to become a convert, and complete the course and its related requirements – thereby becoming a Jew. This however is not acceptable to the Interior Ministry, and this results in a person being Jewish according to the chareidim, but unable to obtain citizenship and eventually, unable to renew one’s visa and remain in Eretz Yisrael. This means such a “Jew” cannot work or obtain health insurance as citizens in Israel are entitled to.
On the other hand, one going through the process via Machon Ora or the RCA-related programs will be accepted by the Interior Ministry at the end of the day, but at present, he/she may not be accepted by Gedolei HaDor Shlita.
The giyurim are turning to the rabbinical community for guidance but unfortunately, at least for the time being, there does not appear to be anyone capable of providing answers that will enable giyur candidates to become Jews in the eyes of the chareidi world while being viewed as Jews by the Government of Israel and thereby being permitted to continue living in Israel. There are others who were scheduled to go to mikve soon, and the appointment has been canceled. Others were scheduled to take their halacha exams to complete the process, and yet another case interviewed by YWN is a giyur, with plans to wed in the very near future, into a chareidi family – with her future father-in-law being a frum (chareidi) rav. Now she too is without an idea regarding what she is permitted to do.
One former convert pointed out to YWN that even if one is willing to live in The Diaspora, one’s children one day may come to Israel and once again, they will not be viewed as Jews, starting the entire seemingly never-ending process over again.
(Yechiel Spira – YWN Israel)