Through this post at Jewschool, I learned about this Israeli High Rabbinical Court ruling that invalidates all conversions done by the State of Israel’s own Conversion Authority under the current head of that government agency, former Knesset member Chaim Drukman. The High Rabbinical Court ruled this because they examined a woman who had converted 15 years ago on the occasion of her divorce, and decided that she was insufficiently observant of Jewish law. They put her, her children, and her ex-husband who was born Jewish, on a list of people who can’t get married in Israel. (What was the logic behind declaring the ex-husband not to be legally Jewish? You got me there.)
In the comments to the Jerusalem Post article, I found a link to this article from a far-right religious web publication, justifying the high court’s decision. The second article gives the impression that some Orthodox rabbis had chosen to invalidate Rabbi Drukman’s conversions because he worked with a Conservative-movement-trained rabbi in Warsaw.
I am flabbergasted that all of these people who converted to Judaism in good faith through the Israeli government’s Orthodox official religious courts are now going to be unable to marry in Israel, attending religious schools, be buried in Jewish cemeteries in Israel–all the things that Israel’s government religious courts control. All of this may stem from political ill-will between these rabbis and Rabbi Drukman.
When the Reform movement decided to opt for patrilineal descent in 1983, I was a teenager, and I remember thinking that it made sense. My mom told me at the time it would drive a wedge between Jews who did and Jews who did not accept the principle. Fine–people in the Reform movement knew in 1983 that Orthodox religious courts didn’t accept their conversions. When people convert to Judaism, they convert to join the community to which they want to belong. They agree to conform to the interpretation of Jewish tradition of their own community.
But what happens when you think you’ve chosen as your rabbinic authority an unimpeachable representative of the community to which you want to belong–and the ground shifts?
What I cannot believe is the cynicism of publishing such a ruling right before the Shabbat when Jews read the Kedoshim Torah portion, which contains Leviticus 19:34, ” The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as one of your citizens; you shall love him as yourself, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt: I the LORD am your God.” (Jewish Publication Society translation.) This passage has also been translated to mean, ” The foreigner who becomes a proselyte must be exactly like one who is native born among you. You shall love him as [you love] yourself, for you were foreigners in Egypt. I am God your Lord.” (This works because the same Hebrew word, ger, means a stranger or a convert.) This verse is the basis for Jewish legal interpretations against hassling converts.
It’s meant to convey the idea that we should treat people as we want to be treated–a universal notion as well as a Jewish one. Or so I believe.
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