Jerusalem – It was by all accounts an unprecedented gathering of leading kiruv rabbonim from around the world, as well as rabbonim in cities and towns throughout Israel. The event took place from June 15 -17 at Jerusalem’s Inbal Hotel. The sponsor was the Eternal Jewish Family International, which is in the midst of a major global expansion of its activities to support rabbanim and batei din involved with intermarried couples who genuinely strive for a halachic conversion. It also assists kiruv organizations that are on the front lines in the fight against assimilation, such as the co-sponsors of the event: Arachim, Ohr Somayach, Hidabroot, Lev L’achim, Shuvu, and Nefesh Yehudi. In the U.S., it also includes the Gateways organization.
The rabbanim deliberated on such topics as “Worldwide Assimilation: Today’s Spiritual Holocaust”, “Building Barriers Against Fictitious Conversions,” Anti-Semitism and Assimilation: Cause or Effect?”, and “Determining the Status of Certain ‘Jews’ in the Community.” The rabbanim, who represented numerous cities around the globe, expressed their deepest concern over the grave issue of world-wide assimilation. In addition, they addressed a growing problem in Israel where many young people return from study abroad with non-Jewish spouses. Kiruv experts spoke of the dangers facing Israeli youth in Israel. They resolved to step up the educational efforts to hopefully thwart this growing trend.
The tone of the historic conference was set by EJF’s chairman, Menachem Yitzchak (Tom) Kaplan who noted that “in my wildest dreams I could not imagine such a rapid and broad acceptance by rabbanim all over the world of the vision we laid out with the help of the leading Torah authorities.” Kaplan said that he was “committed to do whatever it takes to take on assimilation and problematic conversions wherever the problem exists.” Rav Leib Tropper, the organization’s chairman of the Halachic Committee, spoke of the successes of EJF in “raising the bar on conversions and successfully uniting rabbonim and dayanim from disparate backgrounds in preserving kedushas yisroel.”
The theme of kedushas yisrael was also addressed by some of the notable gedolei yisrael and leading rabbanim who participated in the conference. They included Rav Yonah Metzger, Chief Rabbi of Israel, Rav Ela Behr Wachtfogel (Rosh Yeshiva, South Fallsburg) who made a 36-hour trip to Israel to address the conference, Rav Dov Povarsky (Rosh Yeshiva, Ponovezh), Rav Saul Alter (Rosh Yeshiva, Sfas Emes), Rav Reuven Feinstein (Rosh Yeshiva, Staten Island), Rav Pinchas Friedman (Belz), Rav Moshe Schapiro, (Rosh Yeshiva and a leading expert on worldwide kiruv), Rav Boruch Mordechai Ezrachi (Rosh Yeshiva, Ateret Yisrael), Rav Yitzchak Ezrachi (Rosh Yeshiva, Mir), Rav Yitzchok Scheiner (Rosh Yeshiva, Kaminetz), Rav Nosson Kopshitz (Dayan, Eda Hachareidis), Rav Moshe Smotny, Rav Shmuel Eliezer Stern (Bais Din of Rav Wozner), Rav Moshe Shteinman (son of Rav Aaron Leib Shteinman), Rav Shaul Kanievsky (son of Rav Chaim Kanievsky), Rav Dovid Yosef (son of Rav Ovadia Yosef), Stolner Rebbe, Rav Dovid Cohen (Rosh Yeshiva, Chevron), Rav Shmuel Deutsch (Rosh Yeshiva, Kol Torah), Rav Yehoshua Eichenstein (Rosh Yeshiva, Yad Aharon), Rav Nochum Eisenstein (Vaad Harabbonim Haolomi Leyonei Giyur), Rav Moshe Klein, and Rav Mordechai Altusky (Rosh Yeshiva, Torah Ohr),
A strong letter supporting EJF by Rav Aaron Leib Shteinman, which was also signed by Rav Yosef Sholem Eliyashiv, was read at the conference. It strongly supported the anti-assimilation theme of the conference and warned of the dangers of assimilation to the future of klal yisroel. Rav Zvi Elimelech Halberstam, the Sanzer Rebbe of Netanya, in his letter supported the new initiative to involve kiruv organizations in a direct war against intermarriage.
When the conference ended, there was a great sense of accomplishment in dealing with some of the most critical issues facing the Jewish nation. A new program called “Tochnit Kaplan” was warmly received. It will be a joint partnership between EJF and the kiruv organizations to include “straight talk” in their educational programs on the dangers of intermarriage. EJF will be co-sponsoring seminars around the world to promote this message. More than 300 Israeli rabbanim of cities and towns all over Israel signed on to a resolution that they will “intensely investigate” the halachic integrity of conversions before signing on a marriage certificate.
(YWN Desk – Israel)