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.
Translation: Please let Israel be overrun by Islamic suicide bombers that want to commit genocide against us. At least they don't eat pork like those evil Christians!
Good thing not all Israelis think like Yishai.
Conversion is governed by the specific provisions of Jewish law. The head of a secular government has absolutely no role in this matter, any more than he could say "the rules for declaring food kosher should be relaxed sot any food can become kosher."
Why is it that the secularsits can't keep their hands off religion? Who is Sharon or Perez to decide on rabbinical matters?
They are politicians and may consider changing the immigration policy if they so choose; that is their spehere. I was appalled at the words of Perez that he "will decide who the rabbis are."
Wherever they are, the secularists can't be and let others be: they burn churches and sinagogues. And then they accuse the "fundamentalists" of being intolerant.
6 For there shall be a day, that the watchmen upon the mount Ephraim shall cry, Arise ye, and let us go up to Zion unto the LORD our God.
7 For thus saith the LORD; Sing with gladness for Jacob, and shout among the chief of the nations: publish ye, praise ye, and say, O LORD, save thy people, the remnant of Israel.
8 Behold, I will bring them from the north country, and gather them from the coasts of the earth, and with them the blind and the lame, the woman with child and her that travaileth with child together: a great company shall return thither.
9 They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them: I will cause them to walk by the rivers of waters in a straight way, wherein they shall not stumble: for I am a father to Israel, and Ephraim is my firstborn.
In all seriousness, what kind of goyim would come in droves? A: Zionist Christians, who more than likely would happily "adopt a religious lifestyle once they got here", because
They shall come with weeping, and with supplications will I lead them
Ephraim = melo hagoyim
It's a shame they're not this tolerant about converting to Christianity...
This may actually be a positive developement. It possibly is the realization by the secular politicos that their star is in decline and that Observant Jews are becoming a demographic force.
The only reason for these types of statements by Sharon, et al, is because there is a tidal wave of observant Jews coming towards them. It is completely Israeli to try to change the rules of the game by these sorts of statments and attacks on the fundamentals of Judaism. Sharon is hardly the first Israeli leader to attack his observant brethren. With the birth of every new baby to a religious household, the old guard is viewing its own marginalization.
Yes, but these provisions are themselves subject to varying degrees of interpretation. In Israel conversion and marriage are controlled by the Orthodox. Sharon's remarks, nor any Israeli law, can change the Jewish laws. But Sharon can change the Israeli governments definition of who is a Jew. And he can appeal to the Beit Din (Religious court) to reexamine the issues of conversion.
At one time (a long time ago) it mattered not whether your mother of father was a Jew -- either would do. Now it is matrilinial.
To become a Jew in Israel, one has to undergo a rigorous lifestyle change, and depending on which sect you choose so goes the type of change. To become a Jew in the USA, depending on which sect and which branch (orthodox, conservative or reform), you may not have to change your life much.
But the Orthodox will not accept a reform or conservative conversion. The result is a lot of confused people, a lot of unhappy people, and a lot of people who want to be Jews but do not accept the Orthodox interpretation of Halacha.
As in the days of yore, there were the Pharisees, Saducees and other sects of Jews. Each sect adopted different interpretations of Jewish law. There needs to be more unanimity.
Before I ramble too much, there is a question of priority. If the Orthodox believe that having more Jews is a priority, they will change their rulings to permit easier conversion, and hope that those who convert will slowly come closer to living a Torah life. The way it stands now, they want proof that you will live a Torah (as defined by them) life BEFORE you will convert. And in many respects it is a double standard, because even the Orthodox recognize the principle that no Jew is perfect, and that one of the purposes in life for a Jew is to spend the life becoming a better Jew one step at a time.
You have hit the essence, but I don't agree with your conclusions.
It is already possible, for anyone who WANTS to become a Jew, but it's the definition of Jew, and the demonstration of commitment , or lack of, that is relevant to or found "wanting."
If the Orthodox believe that having more Jews is a priority, they will change their ruling to permit easier conversion, and hope that those who convert will slowly come closer to living a Torah life.
Yes we need more Jews, but history has proven and still proves that "hoping" doesn't work.
Making it easier to convert to Judaism doesn't make more Jews. Reform and Conservative Jews are losing membership EVERY YEAR to assimilation and intermarriage.
Judaism has stayed alive with commitment to core values and observances, including keeping kosher, keeping the Sabbath, laws of family, including marriage etc. The communities that held these commitments (and that weren't wiped out by Hitler, (yms) have kept Judaism alive (yes, Jews of all levels of observance have also laid their lives on the line to keep Israel alive...)
The way it stands now, they want proof that you will live a Torah (as defined by them) life BEFORE you will convert. And in many respects it is a double standard, because even the Orthodox recognize the principle that no Jew is perfect, and that one of the purposes in life for a Jew is to spend the life becoming a better Jew one step at a time.
WADR, that's not a double standard. If a potential convert can't exhibit at least some commitment to try and hold by the standards BEFORE they convert, there is little likelihood that they will hold strong after. Think of all the "for marriage" converts here in the U.S. From empirical knowledge, I know that few of them stay on the same madrega/level from their conversion, and few advance. There are, gratefully, remarkable and successful exceptions.
People should understand that much of the above discussion in the post is rhetoric, for control of funds for religious institutions weighed against votes. It's revolting, but it's reality.
The bottom line is that if someone wants to convert Orthodox in Israel, afaik you do NOT have to move to Bnei Brak and starting wearing payes; consistently keeping the abovementioned Mitzvot (and others), some consistent attempt at learning and respect for the customs of the community involved will earn the Righteous Convert, the Ger Tzedak, the respect that Orthodox Jews have given them 3x day for nearly (more than?) 2 millenia:
In the Amidah, in Al Hatzadikim - On The Righteous we ask G-d for compassion for the righteous converts BEFORE we ask for ourselves... We are never to forget that when we stood and received the Law, we were all converts... and we became that way by saying not "we shall listen and we shall do," but the reverse:"we shall do and we shall listen."
But iirc it's about unquestionable faith; that may lead to some understanding, but when we accept the yoke of Heaven and Torah, we do it acknowledging that we can never truly comprehend.
(But trying sure makes it interesting...!)
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?
The recipee of beef-stroganoff was a little revised not to include anything of dairy products
It sounds a lot like this whole discussion is based on some angry rumors by non-observant Jews who just don't like Halacha.