SPECIAL REPORT: The Giyur Controversy Becomes Increasingly Complex

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yw logo26.jpgThe 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)




35 COMMENTS

  1. It should hardly come as a surprise that Gedolei Yisroel, Maran Hagon Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv Shlita and HaRav Aryeh Leib Shteinman Shlita, would come out against the validity of the geirus factory.

    The pain caused by all this lies squarely at the feet of the perpetrators of this factory.

    What the State recognizes or doesn’t recognize as a valid geirus is essentially irrelevant to the halachic status. The ger could go through a pro forma State sanctioned conversion AFTER completing a true halachic conversion.

  2. The motivation of the dayanim and the leading halachic authorities is clear: to ensure conversion is done according to halacha.

    The motivation of Druckman and his ilk is also clear: to convert as many Russians as possible. The national-religious camp and the secular camp, which see eye-to-eye on this issue, realize a couple hundred thousand non-Jewish Russians in Eretz Yisrael is problematic, and both camps are worried about “the demographic problem.” What’s their solution? To take any Russian who agrees “to be nice” and “convert” him or her.

    As for the bona fide converts and conversion candidates who got stuck in the middle, I certainly feel sorry for them, but Jews are not allowed to go and change the halacha every time a sticky situation comes up.

  3. There is a problem when a non-Torah observant politicans get involved halocha. I was involved in a situation a few years ago where I was told someone was marrying a frum girl who would not be considered Jewish in Israel. It took a while to realize they meant M’DINAT ISRAEL and NOT K’lal Yisroel. I asked a shayla at the time as to whether I could go to the Chasuna and I was told I should go as Geyrus is not up to the Izzy govt.

  4. Can someone explain why, although its not preferred and shouldn’t be necessary, if someone really wants to be a Jew according to everyone, why they can’t become a ger thru the “chareidi” network and then go thru the Machon Ora or RCA-related network to be recognized by the Interior Ministry?

  5. At the risk of sounding naïve, at best, and as a kofer b’ikur at worst, I find it very hard to take sides on this issue. I am wary of 100% believing any statements issued b’shem any of the Gedolei HaDor, as I have no idea if their words are being twisted by the people quoting them, if they issued their rulings after having been given all the information as opposed to some of it, if the people giving them the information did so objectively, and if they even really said what they did.
    Further, there is no proof that R’ Druckman, even if he was politically motivated or pressured t convert as many as possible violated the halacha outright. If (most of) the people he truly believed were ready, willing, able to, and wanted to become torah-observant Jews then perhaps the criticism being leveled at him is somewhat unfounded. Do we know if he rejected any potential converts?
    I find politics in Israel to be reprehensible and all too often the behaviors of the frum, torah observant on all sides of the political isle leave me singularly unimpressed.
    Torah and Israeli politics do not mix.

  6. Regarding the Catch-22 paragraph: don’t arabs who are citizens in Israel get health insurance? How is a non-gov’t-converted ger worse off than an arab citizen?

  7. I find this controversy very upsetting.
    The “he said, they said, the rav said” is all second and third hand, by parties who though probably well intentioned, have an interest/bias, so I don’t know who to believe.

    And the fact that some convert(s) went off the derek does not automatically invalidate a beis din! Every court struggles with that. They are not fortune tellers. Sincere, born Jews also go off the derek, unfortunately.

    And if half our people shun certain converts, we may be contributing to them going off the derek!
    The pain this must cause for the gerim involved, probably most of whom are sincere, is unfair, and OSSER. We are all responsible for each other, but I do not know how to help this…

    It would seem to me also, that a convert COULD go through both systems, but anyone who has been connected to a ger while they were going through the process knows it is usually- long, trying, even grueling to even the most sincere convert. Needing to go through it twice is inappropriate.

    May Hashem help us focus on healing this problem, instead of speaking Lashon HaRa & hurtful words, and more…

  8. “It should hardly come as a surprise that Gedolei Yisroel, Maran Hagon Rav Yosef Sholom Elyashiv Shlita and HaRav Aryeh Leib Shteinman Shlita, would come out against the validity of the geirus factory”.
    QUESTION THAT HAS NOT BEEN ANSWERED (except by Joseph), did they come out AGAINST the validity of the geirus of Rav Druckman?
    Sort of like the feather example by the Chofetz Chaim, the feathers have blown all around and can not be gathered back together. ‘loshen hara’

  9. To commenter number 4: “Druckman and his Ilk”, how dare you talk like this about a Rav of his stature? Did you even hear of Rav Druckman before this controversy? He is a gadol batorah who is responsible for building toras eretz yisrael with his own hands and sweat of his brow. His Torah knowledge is unquestionable and he is being vilified because he is not from the charedi camp. This machlokes has created a rift in klal yisrael and was manufactured to defame one of the foremost gedolim on the dati leumi community and a tremendous anav. I hope that when this machlokes blows over you go to him and beg mechilah for speaking about him this way.

  10. To #8
    If a Kol Korei came out about this, wouldn’t life be easier for all? As of yet there has been no publicly distributed documentation from Horav Elyashiv Shlito. Furthermore, Horav Amar condemned the methodology used to spread the word about Rabbi Drukmans faulty Maasei Geiru.

    BTW, one of the main people behind the “improper Jewish Music” Issur is a wannabee composer – whose musical composition skills aren’t the greatest. I’m sure if he would have had even one successful recording he wouldn’t worked so hard on an attempt at Shechitah of a Human being.

  11. It’s interesting that Herod, the desendant of the Idumean’s, a nation FORCIBLY CONVERTED was never referred to as a non-Jew, but rather as “Avda d’Beit Chashmonai. Moreover, the Torah itself allows for conversion against someone’s will (i.e. and therefore lacking a voluntary acceptance of the Mitzvot); the Eishet yefat toar. Megillat Esther refers to countelss non-Jews converting to Judaism, not out of love of Torah, but out of fear for their lives. Ruth, the prototypical convert seems, based on the simple meaning of the text, to have converted out of affection for her mother-in-law. For the life of me, I can’t understand the fuss created here.

  12. cantoresq – These forced conversions, what you mentioned as well as the Samaritans/Cuthim (who converted out of fear of being killed by the lions in the days of Yehoshua, and the Gemorah later relates were expelled from Klal Yisroel) were all criticized for having ever accepted them as Geirim.

  13. But Joseph, the forced converts were never written out of Klal Yisrael. Also I think you’re confused and are wrongly conflating the Yivonim with the Samaritans. The Givonim were a tribe who seemingly converted in the days of Joshua, out of fear that Israel would do to them what was done to the Egyptians. King David later expelled them from Israel due to their lack of mercy in the pilegesh baGivah incident. The Samaritans, or as the Talmud refers to them, the “Geiri Arayot” were a nation resettled by Nebuchanezer to Samaria. They adopted certain Jewish practices out of some sort of fear of lions. But as far as I recall, the never actually converted, and they never intermarried within klal Yisrael under the protections of Halacha. Contrast them with the Khazarians, who were forced to convert fo Judaism by their king. Despite the outside coercion, I know of no rejection of them.

  14. to #17 joseph — but they ARE valid gerim!!!

    to #16 cantoresq — the halachot of gerut is learned from the parsha of yefat toar.

    by the way — 10% of western world at the time of the romans (meaning the time of the mishna) were jewish — including a VAST number of gerim!

  15. TO # 15
    [deaf & dumb geirus] (pleaase dont jump to conclusions especialy when halacha & kavod hatora & peoples sensitivities are involved)

    IF ur interested in UNDERSTANDING what u are writng about- i refer u to the tshuva by rav yosef shalom [elyashiv] shlita on the subject ; printed in kovetz hatshuvos [chelek alef] i am sure rav sherman’s psak is alpie that tshuva & conversations with rav elyashiv.

  16. This situation is so unfortunate, but unfortunately very common for many Geirim in Israel, where the process is very confusing.

    My heart goes out to those “unknowns” who are stuck in this situation, and I hope those responsible are brought to justice, and the lives of those affected completely restored.

    The Yeshiva Insider

  17. cantoresq – My recollection is that it was the Cuthim (who are also known as the Samaritans, but referred to as the Cuthim in the Gemorah) who converted out of fear of the lions. They were always halachically questionable of they were Jewish or not, so there were special halachos how to interact with them.

    In any event, you also recognize a situation where a converted group of people were later expelled from Klal Yisroel (whether it was the Givonim or the Cuthim.)

  18. MiMedinat HaYam
    Where did you get that statistic of 10% of the western world being Jewish, unless you very narrowly define the western world.

  19. Joseph your recollection is correct. The Cuthim/Samaritans are the Geiri Arayot, and they never actually converted. As to the Givonim, David Hamelech rhetorically called them non-Jews since they lacked compassion and banned intermarriage with them as a punishment for their actions. But I don’t believe they were actually declared non-Jews as a matter of law. Assuming, that they were, such a declaration would be of little consequence to us as a king had far greater powers than other authorities.

  20. #4, 12, and 13 – I think you 3 really need to contemplate your words before putting pen to paper (or finger to keyboard 🙂 ). All of your statements are opinionated and lack evidence of any kind. We neither can testify what Rav Druckman’s intentions were (and for that matter whether he’s guilty of any misconduct at all), nor what the Chareidi Rabbanims’ intentions are as well.

    As far as the music controversy, Mah Inyan Shmita…? Not only is your comment most likely unfounded, it is blatantly uncalled for! We are Jews and must scrutinize every word that leaves our mouths!

    Just to add another thought on this subject:

    I once was present when one of the Gedolim was asked to comment concerning the then recent machlokes between Rav Shach and the Lubavitcher Rebbe, ztl. His reply was a thunderous, “MACHLOKES GEDOLIM!!! DON’T GET INVOLVED!!!”.

    Here also I think that this is a good policy to follow. There is no good that can come out of your comments and there is potentially sever consequences for disparaging either side.

    Let’s wait and see how this story plays out before we comment.

  21. For those that are questioning why this issue has come up and have tried to bring proofs that there is no need to question the status of these gerim, perhaps you should study up Hilchos Gerim BEFORE you make yourself an authority to comment against Dayanim. Something tells me that you wouldn’t pass a B’china on Dayanus.

    Let’s know where we stand and where we don’t.

  22. cantoresq – Are you certain the Cuthim never converted? My understanding is that they went through a conversion process, that was disputed, leading to their questionable status as Jews.

  23. Joseph it’s been a while since I reviewed the gemara in Ketubot, but as I recall it, the Cutim were attacked by lions and believed it was because they were not worshipping the “G-d of the land” and sent away to Bavel for teachers. The teachers who were sent intentionally did not teach them everything. Thus there was no real conversion.

  24. The dispute to the validity of the Cuthim’s conversion process, as I recall, is to whether they’re intent was ever sincere. (Which is why since that incident we have many admonishments to be careful in whom we accept as converts.)

  25. To #27- We know exactly R. Druckman’s intentions. He’s said so in a public forum.
    To #12- Druckman was never a gadol. and never will be. he’s been shown to be a liar who falsifies documents. He admitted it. Would you go to a lawyer who did that. Wouldn’t he lose his law license?
    To #13 and the editors. Do you do any research. The Yated published just last friday includes a kol koreh from Rabbis Elyashiv, Shteinman, Wozner, etc. I won’t quote more names (I think thee were 10 or 12) because I’m afraid of making a mistake. Likewise a kol koreh of over 20 years ago was printed in the same Yated including Rav Schach, and the gedolim of then.
    very few people address the issues. R. Sherman and his Beis Din did. Many have been agonizing over this situation for years.

  26. How is it possible that it took so much time to the Guedolim to invalidate conversions ?
    Rav Druckman has been making conversions for more than 20 (twenty) years.
    How is it that it seems they did not check before instead a leaving a situations where now thousands of people does not do what to do ?
    is this a huge Hillul A_shem ?

  27. to no.32 and all who feel like him or her

    ““““`May hashem be merciful and not send the angel of death on our houses……….

    I read the op-ed page in the Haaretz newspaper online, and came across one paragraph by Asher Maoz..that should printed and spoken to klal yisrael. it says in pirkei avos ..”ezer who chacham ..halomed mi’chol adom”

    “Rabbi Druckman does not need my defense. His religious observance is no less strict than that of the three religious court judges who slung mud at him, and his Torah learning is no doubt greater than any of theirs. Rabbi Druckman may have one fault: He has the “deficiency” of loving the Jewish people and a sense of responsibility for the Jewish people. I thought that the Torah commanded us to have such characteristics. It turns out that I was wrong, at least according to the three respected rabbinic court judges.”

    I have known Harv Druckman for over twenty years
    and HE IS MORE THAN ANY GADOL LIVING TODAY, HE IS A MENTSCH.
    Hashem Yirachem..WE are so lost in banning and banning and taking and taking….What we need is sharing and sharing…Hitler did not care who was a gadol..The Arab terrorist does not care either.

    speech48 SI NY

  28. Appropos to the discussion about the Cuthim, the Gemara in Yevamot 24b clearly paskens that they were true converts. But there are other references in Chullin and other places that they did not have credibility regarding various mitzvot since they, as a whole, did not observe them. (I don’t know why I recalled that l’halacha they are not Jews. But it doesn’t seem to be based on anything Talmudic. Off the top of my head it may be a later p’sak in light of later assimilation between them and the indigenous population.)

  29. Thanks for the research, cantoresq. I believe their conversion was controversial, and questionable due to possible less than sincere intent, from the beggining. Nevertheless they were accepted as Jews, but restrictions were placed on intermarrying them and other regulations on interactions with them due to their status.

    Nevertheless, as time went on they became violently antagonistic to Klal Yisroel and were expelled from it. (As evidenced that today the Samaritans are not considered Jews at all.)

  30. Finally Joseph, we agree on something. While I didn’t find anything in the Talmud (and by the way I’ve not gone through Shas so I would know, but I have an excellent index called Michlal Ha’ma’amarim v’Hapitgamim put out by Mossad Harav Kook) attesting to a controversy surrounding their conversion, but since they did not properly adhere to certain mitzvot, indeed there were takkanot against marrying them. With the passage of time, and the Kuthim’s known assimilation of the Assyrian population that inhabbited Samaria, indeed they are no longer Jews by any stretch.