Skip to comments.Sharon: Jewish conversion process should be shortened
Posted on 12/30/2002 4:34:38 PM PST by naine
Sharon: Jewish conversion process should be shortened
Secular Jews shouldn't immigrate to Israel, Shas minister says
By Aluf Benn
Prime Minister Ariel Sharon said yesterday that the process of converting to Judaism should be shortened, in response to Health Minister Nissim Dahan's remarks that secular Jews should not immigrate to Israel.
"It should be possible for anyone who wants to become a Jew to do so," the prime minister said at yesterday's weekly cabinet meeting.
During the meeting, Dahan's comments were sharply criticized by ministers Natan Sharansky (Yisrael b'Aliyah) and Yitzhak Levy (National Religious Party).
Israel Radio reported earlier yesterday that Dahan said Diaspora Jews should not immigrate to Israel if they think that they would be unable to adopt a religious lifestyle once they got here. Dahan's comments before a convention of World Orthodox Jewry in Jerusalem drew fire from the convention delegates, who were discussing the Jewish nature of Israel.
Dahan explained that he feared the erosion of the state's Jewish identity, adding that the presence of Jews in the Diaspora was a result of God's benevolence. "We prefer a Jew overseas to a gentile in Israel," Dahan said.
Rabbis and Jewish community leaders denounced Dahan's statement. Minister Levy said that Jews should be encouraged to immigrate to Israel without any connection to the political or religious situation in the country.
"Dahan's statements are a complete distortion of Judaism," MK Zevulun Orlev (NRP) said. "The mitzva of immigrating to Israel is unconditional, and (Dahan's statements) are a heresy against Zionism. I doubt whether a cabinet minister who says such things and encourages people not to immigrate to Israel can be a member of the government."
Jewish Agency Chairman Sallai Meridor said yesterday that he hoped Dahan would soon retract his remarks. "Such statements have not been heard since the beginning of Zionism. His statement is a serious anti-Zionist utterance," Meridor said. "The minister chose to encourage Jews not to immigrate to Israel - against the policy of the Israeli government."
Following up on Dahan's comments, Shas Chairman and Interior Minister Eli Yishai said that Diaspora Jews who are considering immigration must be told that there is a danger that Israel will become a secular country with a secular government.
"If Israel is losing its Jewish character and becoming a secular state, should we bring here the Jews of the Diaspora, who keep the Torah in their communities, so they can be assimilated in a place where churches are built?
"It is better to stay Jewish anywhere else, and not to come to Israel to assimilate," Yishai said. "When the state was established, Ben-Gurion told our parents and grandparents that a Jewish state will be established, and they came to Israel. Today, you can ask our parents whether they would have come here had they known that [Shinui Chairman Yosef] Lapid would destroy the Jewish state and form a secular government with [Labor Chairman Amram] Mitzna. The answer is simple: They would have preferred to stay in Morocco, Tunis and Iran and to remain Jews."
Yishai warned of the implications of a secular government: "A secular state will bring, according to Sallai Meridor, hundreds of thousands of goyim (gentiles), who will build hundreds of churches and will open more stores that sell pork. In every city we will see Christmas trees. This is what Yosef Lapid and Amram Mitzna want."
Yishai also said that the Law of Return must be changed to ban gentiles from immigrating.
stroganoff, which starts as beef stroganoff can't be non-kosher, well, if the beef's kosher, of course:)
Fun is - when a certain female in jewish history said "Your G-d is my G-d" the conversion problem was settled right there.
Now there's a bunch of would-be G-d "aide-interpreters", who feel free to change Halaha as they please with the right to revoke the convert's "jewishness" if he or she stumbles in his or her day to day life
I don't buy it!
There are various sects of orthodox Jews that have different thresholds for conversion. From what I know, most of them require strict sabbath observance above all else. It really depends on which rabbis you assemble to determine if/when you will be eligible. As far as I know, there is no universal application... it's really more a matter of convincing the beit din (a religious court assembled for this purpose), which consists of 3 people (including at least one rabbi) of the sincerity of your application.
There have been attempts in Israel to get the various sects together to agree on a universal methodology, but the Orthodox rabbis wouldn't let go of their political power. In Israel they have full control of these matters.
I'm with you there. I am generally very supportive of the Orthodox communities, though not a member myself. But you mentioned the one particular issue that ticks me off the most -- the revocation of one's Jewishness. I think it's an absolutely atrocious religious ruling. Once a Jew, always a Jew! I cannot understand how they can convert someone, and then revoke that conversion! Suddenly, they think they are the pope or something. A person born of a Jewish mother could never be 'excommunicated' in any way... so I wonder where these rabbi get off "excommunicating" a convert. One is never supposed to remind a convert that he/she is a convert. Holding this threat of excommunication over their heads is a violation of Jewish law, IMHO, and is a practice that should be abandoned.
I do believe that many of the reform and conservative converts get lost. This is because their clergy do not have a way to make Judaism relevent to them. The a la cart cafeteria Judaism reform offers does not instill many Jewish values. Of course Judaism is religion of laws, a religion of practice and behavior, not just belief. This needs to be made clear to all converts, but it must be made relevent to them.
I agree that one must make changes in one's life to become a Jew. It is simply my opinion that the threshold is too high.
And there is a double standard. A secular Jew will be hounded all of his life by Chabad (I don't mean that in a disparaging way, I think Chabad does great mitzvot for the world) to be a better Jew. They will out of their way to help a Jew do Mitzvot, putting Mezzuzot on jail cells or going door to door to help him light sabbath candles or the channukiah. One step at a time. The convert, on the other hand, has a lot further to go. Often, it demands a strict sabbath observance which is a major lifestyle change. And the revocation of their conversion for failing to improve or stumbling backwards is particularly distasteful to me... it is as if the convert is being set up to fail, because the threshold is so high.
IMHO, there needs to be a process that encourages a convert to continue moving forward. I agree that Reform will more or less lose their Jews because the emphasis is all wrong. But afaic, the Orthodox process asks for too much of a down payment, and the double standard exists in the way one treats a secular Jew vs the way one treats a gentile seeking conversion.
But want to and practice are two different elements. And I think it's very hard for a non-Jew who accepts the yolk of Torah to turn that into full fledged practice. Heck, it's hard enough for a secular Jew.
And what constitues the correct practice is up for debate and up for manipulation and subject to the times. You don't really believe, for example, that by running a string around a 4 square mile block exempts Jews from breaking the sabbath laws of carrying books and tallis in the streets, do you? Well maybe you do. And I don't object to it. I only point out that what constitutes correct practice can be subjective and can be interpreted.
Tell me, what do you think about the practice of revoking one's conversion?
1. G-d exists.
2. G-d is one and unique.
3. G-d is incorporeal.
4. G-d is eternal.
5. Prayer is to be directed to G-d alone.
6. The words of the prophets are true.
7. Moses was the greatest prophet, and his prophecies are true.
8. The Torah was given to Moses.
9. There will be no other Torah.
10. G-d knows the thoughts and deeds of men.
11. G-d will reward the good and punish the wicked.
12. The Messiah will come.
13. The dead will be resurrected.
Even mayonnaise cannot be consumed with meat on the same sandwich.
And the problem with someone who wants to convert to Judaism, but doesn't accept Rabbinic law, is that-- they are not then practicing Judaism, and they are not Jewish
I don't dispute that, although the acceptance of Mishnah is unquestionably an act of faith - we believe it to have been written and passed down orally accurately.
I dispute the degree in which this is enforced, and the apparant double standard applied to prospective converts vs secular Jews. A person born of a Jewish mother is a Jew even if he cooks and eats lobster on Shabbat. Is defiance of Jewish law the same as rejection of Jewish law?
There really is a great arbitrary nature to all this. If you find a beit din of Sabbath observant Jews, 2 witnesses and a rabbi, to convert you, you are a Jew. Certainly they have an obligation to ensure your sincerity, but no 2 beit din's will maintain the same requirements, and there is essentially no way to ensure observance thereafter.
On what basis does the Orthodox community refuse to accept a conversion by a beit din?