EJF

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66 Responses

  1. David T. says:

    Yasher koach for an excellent article. While I agree that, properly run, an organization such as EJF could be valuable, it seems that EJF itself is beyond saving. By all accounts, the previous director still controls the finances. And the new director is the nephew of the previous director’s friend and colleague, who also has a less-than-squeaky-clean record. The only way EJF could be saved is by completely replacing everyone there – essentially rebuilding it from scratch, without any involvement from people formerly involved – which obviously is not going to happen.

  2. Daniel Korobkin says:

    Bravo, Rabbi Adlerstein, for addressing an issue that some of your colleagues are too intimidated to. However, I don’t feel you’ve gone far enough. EJF needs to be shut down, plain and simple. Its soil needs to be sown with salt, never to produce anything else. The reason, as EJF’s latest public statement suggests, is that EJF’s foundation is based on a megalomania that “we know what is best for you, since we’ve consulted the gedolim,” and presumes to make sweeping pronouncements about what is and isn’t valid. It furthermore did not seek conciliation with the RCA and other batei din and rabanim, but rather took the strident attitude, “It’s my way or the highway.” It wasn’t just the director, it was the hashkafa of the organization. I, for one, am confident that EJF will not show the humility that you call for – a humility that one would expect from any scandal-riddled organization – but will rather continue to shoot itself in the foot with the strident tone that you have quoted. After all, they have the gedolim on their side. There is value to an organization that is akin to EJF, but it needs to start all over again from the ground up. Sometimes, catastrophic flaws exist within an organization’s structure that do not allow it to continue, even with modification. ENRON was one example; EJF is another.

  3. Moshe says:

    Rav Adelstein!

    Thank you!Your voice is the voice of reason and emess and tzedek!

    The goals of EJF might be worthwhile. They probably do have a reason to exist in order to create a level of awareness about the need of basic halachk standard in the world of gerut and the element of kabbalat mitzvot that is an inherent main ingredient in it.

    However, the organization CANNOT coexist in a fashion that it funnels millions to mosdot. That is a also a worthy cause. But that cannot coexist in the same umbrella with an organization that requires extra freedom of any conflict of interest so that chillul Hashem as those thatoccurred two weeks ago do not recur.

    The leaders on top cannot be those who are disbursing funds to mosdot and yungeleyt. For that let them create another organization.

    And certainly, your first point, is the first step that they have to take: An apology and a cheshbon hanefesh and teshuva to wha was done by the previous director of their organization. Nothing can begin without a realcharata al haavar and a statement of acknowledging the errors on their part.

  4. joel rich says:

    IMHO what you are saying is that the shell of EJF should remain but the leopard should change its spots. Given the negative history, I’d suggest a fresh start for a new organization (even AIG realized this and renamed subsidiaries where it could)
    KT

  5. Joe Hill says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein –

    You seem to be contradicting yourself.

    On one hand you write that the “EJF needs to be inclusive of all legitimate batei din” and that “What cannot be disputed is that if EJF continues to covet the position of supreme setter of standards, it should be shunned and dropped by every self-respecting beis din. There is no one in the American Torah world who can claim such authority, and the exigencies of the realities here make it impossible for anyone to set policies from a distance. Gedolei Torah have always emphasized that many, many questions require the knowledge and experience of people closer to the local situation.”

    Yet on the other hand, in the very same article, you praise the RCA for (seemingly) the very same thing stating that “The RCA (which is responsible for a great portion of the conversion in the US, and has been working hard in the last few years to vastly improve its own standards by switching to a regional beis din system)…

    Please clarify.

  6. Larry Lennhoff says:

    (Who can forget the remark made by one of them mocking and delegitimizing rabbis in brown suits, or calling into question the conversion of any candidate who believed that the earth might be older than 5770 years?)

    The Rav’s actual statement was that any rabbi who believed in an old earth was passul l’dayanus (not permitted to be a judge) and that therefore any conversions performed by a beit din that included such a rabbi would be invalid. The beliefs of the potential convert were not mentioned.

  7. Baruch Pelta says:

    As usual, I related to R’ Adlerstein’s take. One query:
    issue vague assurances that everything they do is under the supervision of unnamed Gedolei Torah
    I’m confused. The statement was issued in part by R’ Reuven Feinstein. He is a gadol, so it’s under his supervision and has his haskama.

  8. Dov2 says:

    Trying to kasher EJF at this stage of the game seems to me to be as beneficial as trying to kasher a chazer.

  9. Michoel Halberstam says:

    A history of the development of our Jewish attitudes over the last decades leads to the inescapable conclusion that certain individuals,to advance their own unspecified agendas, will attempt to take control of a community function. To do so successfully one must be able to deligitimize all those who stand in one’s way. It is especially helpful that one can get involved in a subject like gerus which few people really understand. The rule of “the frumer the better” is always best applied when the general public doesn’t understand any of the issues. It is likely that this trend will continue, and that is unfortunate because if something is wrong, we can either fix it, or wait until the entire system, perhaps Chas Veshalom, even our entire way of life starts to break down. If such a thing happens, hindsight will be of little value.

  10. Mark says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    A few points on your thought-provoking article.
    1 – I attended the same conference as Rabbi Shechter. In many ways it was clear that he was in a different league [from a halachic knowledge standpoint] than many of the other featured speakers and attendees. His shiur the first night of the conference during dinner was outstanding in every respect. His disgust at the way the conference was run and the incoherent message that was conveyed was patently visible even to me who is not personally acquainted with him.
    When I left the conference, I wrote a long letter to Menachem Lubinsky decrying many of the inconsistencies of the event. I never received an answer and I have heard that others who attended felt similarly about future events. There were not many repeat participants from what I am told.
    2 – Why did so many attend the conferences? Simple – if you’re a shul rav or a mekarev, you bump into geirus issues all day long. The RCA doesn’t reach out to help us, so why not take the help that the EJF can offer? It’s free, first-class, and even in an improperly managed event, there’s much to information to be had. I learned an enormous amount from the folks I spoke to outside of the official program. My eyes were opened to possibilities that I had not known existed and I’ve been able to help many geirim or would-be geirim since.
    3 – While some of the allegations you cite are troubling, that was by no means the overall message of the conference [which as I said was largely confused and incoherent.] Mostly, the talk revolved around how important it was to address the issue of Geirus in a responsible manner, how important it was to reach out to intermarried couples in a halachically acceptable manner, and how to find help when one does so. There was no bashing of others [other than a silly Ask-The-Rabbi event which focused almost exclusively, at R’ Tropper’s insistence, on whether one may shake hands with a woman,] and that wasn’t the sense I or anyone I know received from it. Perhaps things changed later.
    4 – I have sent many potential geirim to the EJF for help. Most received support and assistance far beyond anything I could have given. These were people who had been given the run-around in the city I live in by the local “Vaad” which is a conglomeration of every Orthodox rav in town from far left to far right. Some were unhappy with EJF’s insistence that they take on a particular path, but that was only two out of more than twenty that I sent.
    5 – Was EJF smart in how they handled their mission? By no means. That was part of my letter to ML. Nevertheless, I don’t believe that anyone disputes the need for an organization that creates standards and holds others accountable. The RCA has fallen way short on this and that’s why the EJF had room to step in. I am personally aware of many RCA rabbonim whose geirus is clearly unacceptable and can state with confidence that you would not allow your own offspring to marry their geirim. Someone needed to do something [obviously creating a big tent that isn’t narrowly defined] and no one was willing to do it. EJF failed miserably, but perhaps the underlying point was made – the RCA and other organization had better get serious about what happens in local Batei Din which operate like sheriffs in the Wild West. They set the law and enforce it as they see fit. This is a recipe for disaster and it’s been a disaster for years.
    [YA – I beg to differ. It is true that the situation mimics the old Wild West, with lots of irresponsibly blazing six guns, owned by RCA members and folks with long kapotes. The RCA at least employed a solution that solved a good deal of the problem, by throwing its authority behind regional batei din, each of which has responsible bnei Torah making the halachic decisions – and removing the profit motive. All the bnei Torah in the RCA that I know supported this move, and it had nothing to do with the EJF. Why do you think the real lefties founded their own rabbinic association two weeks ago, committed to implement their own standards of conversion, including seeing kabbolas mitzvos as optional (as one of their leaders has written)?]
    5 – These words, “it can offer important support and professionalism
    to existing batei din, similar to what AJOP added to the world of kiruv,” do nothing to support your assertion that people need to support only worthwhile organizations. I am aware that Rabbi Y. Lowenbraun is your old friend – you told me so at an AJOP convention a few years ago – but AJOP has added nothing by way of support or professionalism to the world of kiruv. Please point to one thing they’ve done to support or make us more professional? Anything?
    [YA – I have not attended in several years. When I did attend, I saw a huge boost to the morale of the very special people on the front lines of kiruv, and a huge amount of trading information, pointers, and sound advice. To me, that is a good part of professionalism]

  11. Bob Miller says:

    The whole thing looked like a con game to maximize its founder’s profits and pleasure. To do this, he first needed to get the whole world running to him for his approval, so he had to cast doubt on all other Jewish channels for conversion. Seeing no alternative, would-be converts would pay royally for his “blessing”. He could buy the good will of Jewish institutions by giving them some of the money he received. This association with them, and the presence of major rabbonim at his events, added to the general impression of his legitimacy. Women who felt they had to go through him to become converts could sometimes be shaken down for favors.

    No matter who “benefits” from the actions of a lowlife, he’s still a lowlife. Those who took his money should have first done a thorough background check on him. In these degraded times, attending the right schools, getting semicha, dressing like a frummer Yid, publicly taking a hard halachic line, etc., do not prove someone is the real deal.

  12. S. says:

    >The Rav’s actual statement was that any rabbi who believed in an old earth was passul l’dayanus (not permitted to be a judge) and that therefore any conversions performed by a beit din that included such a rabbi would be invalid. The beliefs of the potential convert were not mentioned.

    I believe R. Adler refers to a she’elah and teshuva, which was printed, where Rabbi Tropper asked R. Chaim Kanievsky if a person who is in every respect an appropriate candidate for conversion, save for believing the world is “million of years old.” Can that person be converted lechatchilah? And what is the status of such a person who already converted? The reply was no to the conversion lechatchila and neither yes nor no for the bediavad aspect.

  13. The Contarian says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    An excellent article

    I must take exception to your statement that it is not so much of what EJF was than what it could be now.

    The issue with EJF is that it was a bifurcated organization It had two core businesses, functions and missions, as it were.

    Acting as a clearing house for Batei Diinim was only one of the functions. At that, it was the tofel (secondary) one. This is the funnction that your article addrsses Unfortunately, that function acted as a front for the Ikar(primary) one. The organization was a kiruv/proseltization outfit geared toward intermar+ried couples. That is where most of the troubles lay. Its couples seminars were as important to it as the Dayanim conferences if not more so. You alluded to this flaw only tangentailly.

    First and foremost, the EJF leadership must decide what one and only one core business its in and drop the other.

    Personally I do not believe the EJF as an orginazation can morph into someting better for the simple reason that it seems to be owned lock stock and barrel by its former leadership.

    However as sn idea it can be resurreted in a new organization. Where the funding is to come from I leave that to the Almighty.

  14. A Ger says:

    As someone who was told their original conversion was invalid because of the members of the beis din (all of whom were frum rabbonim), I think the rav here has hit the nail on the head. There is however another issue I feel is being ignored in all this though.

    No one stood up for gerim who had their past conversions declared invalid. After I was told my gerus was invalid I had many rabbonim privately say to me that it was just “all politics” and that since I was frum it was ridiculous to make me do it again. The issue in my case centered around the av beis din for my gerus, who was apparently some sort of enemy of EJF. However, I still had to do it again through the EJF (and pay a large sum) because these same rabbonim shrugged and said “well hey politics is politics” and that there was nothing they could do since it was “bigger than them.” In other words I, along with other gerim, was thrown under the bus by the leaders of the frum community.

    Now everyone runs around and condemns the past actions of this organization. However, when everything was going down in terms of invalidating conversions everyone (including rabbonim) stood by silent while frum gerim were dragged through the mud. Shame.

  15. yaakov mornitzky says:

    rabbi adlerstein:
    do you have a problem with the psak of r chaim kanievsky which is in writing-i can email it to you upon request- that it is assur to convert someone who believes in an ancient universe?
    do you fault the ejf for following this pesak?

  16. David T. says:

    It occurred to me that perhaps problems such as:

    “There are still people out there whose reaction to every problem discovered within the Torah community is to cover up and deny, and to issue vague assurances that everything they do is under the supervision of unnamed Gedolei Torah.”

    are caused by statements such as:

    “Gedolei Torah have always emphasized that many, many questions require the knowledge and experience of people closer to the local situation.”

    Why do we need to quote “Gedolei Torah” for that which not only can be stated by any intelligent person, but is even blindingly obvious?

  17. aron feldman says:

    One lesson that seems to be lost from this whole lurid ongoing saga is that the criteria
    for being considered an Ehricher Yid is not your style of hat or kippa

  18. aron feldman says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein great piece! I agree that the EJF has seemingly taken a page out of the Ron Zeigler playbook in regard to showing contrition.

    A couple summers ago you wrote an excellent piece outlining the machlokes between Rabbis Sherman and Druckman,while Rabbi Sherman was given a hero’s welcome at the next EJF event can you saythat he hitched his horse to the wrong wagon or does this whole scandal validate the positions taken by R”Druckman’s camp?

  19. aron feldman says:

    6.As usual, I related to R’ Adlerstein’s take. One query:
    issue vague assurances that everything they do is under the supervision of unnamed Gedolei Torah
    I’m confused. The statement was issued in part by R’ Reuven Feinstein. He is a gadol, so it’s under his supervision and has his haskama.

    Comment by Baruch Pelta — December 29, 2009 @

    WADR to R”Reven there might be a conflict of interest here

  20. Aaron says:

    It’s overdue for there to be a central repository of published haskamos and authoritative translations in English from Gedolim that can be easily checked.

    If someone says they have or their organization has the authority of Gedolim but there is no corresponding documentation establishing veracity or context of such claim, the door needs to be rapidly shown and the claimant told not to carry the authority of someone made b’tzelem Elokim in vain.

    Refusal to authoritatively document only ensures that trust in leadership will diminish ever more rapidly. Empower others to check sources quickly and easily. With the web, technology exists to dismiss a specious claim within seconds.

    Gedolim could be clearer in stating openly and firmly that anyone found using their name and authority without permission will NEVER get it. Because there is little fear, aggressive organizational “machers” take advantage.

  21. DF says:

    Countless “ballei mussar” have stated that jewish institutions must be based upon foundations that are entirely free of corruption. There are many talmudic passages that are intrepreted in this vein. To allow the EJF to continue would fly in the face of all such pronouncements.

  22. Joe Hill says:

    The biggest “sin” of the EJF organizationally, was its proseltization of non-Jews — an issue that the Badatz was yelling against the EJF long before this scandal.

  23. jr says:

    R’ Adlerstein:
    While i agree with you on many points, I feel obliged to point out several things:
    1)The EJF actively sought to deligitimize converts and Rabbonim, and if you feel so strongly about it, why did you not speak out before? It’s easy to “pile on” now, but where were you before? Why were all these people who found the EJF’s methods distasteful silent? what were they afraid of? What have we descended to if we fear to speak emes?

    [YA – Are these questions, or statements? How do you know who spoke out? Happens to be that I did, as well as many more. I know of one person who refused to get involved with EJF, despite the offer of a significant bribe. Obviously, we were not successful. In retrospect, perhaps we should have yelled louder and more persistently. What could people be afraid of? Are you kidding?]

    2)By bellitling “real lefties” in a response above, you are acting no better than the EJF. Say what you want but they had the courage to speak out about this before anyone on the right did.

    [YA – That is simply not true. And when the far left spoke out, they did so for a very different reason – they wanted recognition of a standard rejected by the vast majority of people with a serious involvement with learning.]

    we need to end this “everyone to the right of me is a fanatic and everyone to the left of me is a heretic” business. It has plagued us for 3000 years. (no it doesn’t mean you have to agree with everyone, but stop with the labels, if you have a disagreement over an issue, let’s discuss the issue. No one ever said that kabal mitzvot is optional,

    [YA – Again, simply not true. Those in this camp have embraced the book by Israeli profs Sagi and Zohar, who say just that.]

    but there are indeed a range of opinions as to what it means and how far it goes. Rabbi Uziel is one such opinion, and I would hope no one here would question his conversions 90 years past, the way they’ve done with R’ Druckman.)

    [YA – For good reason. Rav Uziel never went as far as they are going today. (I am not referring to R Druckman’s conversions. I have no way of knowing what actually happened there. I’ve written much previously about my impressions of R Sherman’s psak. I am talking about the proposals of what should be deemed acceptable, and the breaking away of a group of rabbis from the RCA standard, to form a new rabbinic association without a single halachic heavyweight in their camp.) Check my debate in CC with R Angel for some more on R Uziel]

  24. Eddie London says:

    Sorry Rav Adlerstein, but you seem to be conveniently forgetting a basic principle of Torah and Halacha: Bribes blind the eys of the righteous; and a bribed Beth Din or Judge is invalid – posul.
    If in my wildest imagination I wanted to write a story of corruption, I couldn’t dream up something more disgraceful than the EJF scandal. Like I have argued before, you want to have your cake and eat it, and not say Mezonos. When money is being flooded into an organisation – no questions asked. When a scandal of Zimri type proprotions breaks loose, the entire basis and claims of mroal superiorirty of “strict conversions” crumbles away. In the Torah, it was not just Zimri and Kozbi who were executed. It was the instigator – Bilaam, the financier – Balak, and the fixers, the Midianites. You are suggesting that we simply do away with Zimri, and everyone else can carry on with their not so kosher work.
    And, you also neglect to mention the decade of hatred which is behind the EJF – agaisnt all modern thinkers, and good Rabbis such as Rav Druckman, and other modern Orthodox rabbis – who have been slandered and ridiculed by the Zimris and the Midianites of this scandal.

  25. Ori says:

    Is there a conflict of interest between being a Gadol who heads a Torah institute that needs donations, and being a Gadol who makes judgments for Klal Israel?

  26. MG says:

    See the Mesilas Yesharim, Ch. 22 – citing the midrash:

    רבי מנחמא בשם רבי תנחום כל המקבל עליו שררה כדי ליהנות ממנה אינו אלא כנואף הזה שהוא נהנה מגופה של אשה

  27. Tzurah says:

    Looking back with hindsight, I think EJF’s game was up once the RCA created their new GPS standards for geirus.

    The rise of EJF coincided with the worsening crisis between the Israeli Rabbanut and the RCA about the latter’s conversion standards (which EJF’s partner, R’ Nochum Eisenstein’s Vaad HaRabbonim Haolami L’Inyonei Giyur played a significant part in creating). Probably the peak of EJF’s influence was in 2006, when their conference had Rav Shlomo Amar and Rav Hershel Schachter in attendance.

    EJF’s goals back then appeared relatively reasonable.

    Here’s an excerpt from a blog post based on a phone interview with Tropper from 2006.

    _______________________
    The standards they’re [EJF are]looking to implement include [quoting Tropper] “That the rabbis who are performing conversion have to be versed and tested in the laws of conversion…we don’t allow, for example, rabbis who are the leaders, the one who inspired them to be a Jewish couple, to be on the rabbinic court [that oversees their conversion]…we also don’t allow people to extort money,” meaning that they place a limit for compensation of $1000 to the entire court handling a conversion, or roughly $330 apiece.
    A practice that the EJF is seeking to cut down on is “Rabbinic courts that issue conversions, but don’t release the certificate until after 6 months or 2 years, in case he goes back.” This is a problem, Tropper said, because “you can’t revert a conversion.”
    Towards establishing these standards, “We set up rabbinic courts – six of them we have in America…hopefully we’ll have more in Europe and England.”
    ___________________________

    The EJF’s primary goal, then, was to set up a network of regional batei din that would be automatically accepted by the Israeli Rabbanut, AS OPPOSED TO the RCA conversions.

    This plan was torpedoed with the RCA’s decision to rein in ad hoc conversions by their members and create their own network of regional batei din under the GPS framework adopted in 2007.

    Many RCA-affiliated Modern Orthodox rabbis felt that their leadership completely caved in and sold out to the Rabbanut, and by extension, the Chareidim who were becoming more influential within it. However, the GPS framework allowed the RCA and Rabbanut to avert the crisis. This reapproachment between the Rabbanut and the RCA made EJF’s primary goal moot.

    I remember a conversation I had over a year ago with a community kollel rabbi who has been involved with EJF on geirus issues. When I told him that the RCA has largely been rehabilitated in the eyes of the Rabbanut, he responded with incredulity, then with extreme disappointment. My guess is that his reaction was not unusual among the yeshivish rabbeim working in conversion in the U.S. They saw the EJF as a potential “Torah-true” alternative to the RCA/BDA on conversion issues.

    Once they were outmaneuvered on their left, it was only a matter of time before they would get attacked from their right. At this point, the only real project left on EJF’s table was their active courting of intermarried couples. R’ Eisenstein started to keep them at a distance and it became far from clear if EJF’s conversions would, as promised, be automatically accepted by the Rabbanut. More questions started being asked publicly, in no small part through the efforts of Rav Shternbuch, via Rav Eidensohn’s DaasTorah blog. EJF has been a dying organization for years, kept alive artificially by the incredible wealth they had at their disposal. Following the footsteps of the public spat with Guma Aguiar, the current scandal was merely the nail in the coffin which outed Tropper.

  28. BD says:

    Yaakov Mornitzky: Actually, based on my first hand experience of seeing shailos asked from R’ Chim Kanievsky and hearing from other people how they saw or personally asked him shailos, I do have a problem with psakim in his name.

    Is it clear from the Teshuvah EXACTLY what question was asked or was it a general, vague question like those that fill all the “seforim” of “shailos” that are asked of him.

    BTW, we have a new paradigm of teshuvos these days. No reasoning explained for the psak. Please show me a serious sefer psak or SHU”T from prior generations that just gives psak/answer with no reasoning. It didn’t exist. The SH”A was intended to be learned with the Tur and B”Y, so the SH”A is not such a sefer. One word teshuvos are not reliable for anybody who was not present when the question was asked.

  29. Shades of Gray says:

    “With the recent formation of a rabbinic group that champions standards of conversion that the vast majority of the Torah world repudiates, it is more important than ever for b’nei Torah of all stripes, persuasions and headcoverings to band together to protect the primacy of halacha from this new assault, and to add hiddur to this mitzvah.”

    Following the Shinui victory, Jonathan Rosenblum noted the following(Jewish Observer, February, 2003):

    “Shas and Shinui exist in perfect symbiosis. Each derives it’s strength, in part, from fears of the other. In such a situation, it is particularly incumbent upon us not to do anything to encourage such fears. No threats to turn the Knesset into a Beit Kneset; no musing about legislation to make the recitation of Tehlim mandatory during the moment of silence observed for fallen soldiers.”

    Though I am certainly not comparing any left-wing rabbinic organization to the now-defunct Shinui, I think the polarization dynamic may be similar.

    Similarly, few things could fuel an anti-Torah attitude in the blogosphere, as without warning, announcing publicly that gerim and dayanim are passul if they hold of certain views on Science and Torah, instead of allaying fears, as would befit an outreach organization, in the spirit of “kiruv begins at home”.

    Though I originally wondered why there was silence after the above incident–“hoel vahavi yasvi rabanan v’lo micha beih, shma minah ka nicha l’hu”– I realized subsequently that protesting could also give an appearance of actually agreeing with the lenient science-Torah positions, so silence is not assent.

    Be that as it may, EJF needs more than good PR in the future to win back public trust, and it’s going to have to convince the public that it’s not “organized in a manner that it [can] become a monster”. I have no problem giving the EJF a second chance– either it will succeed or fail, hopefully the former.

  30. Charlie Hall says:

    Twenty six million dollars??? By an organization that coordinates conversions? How much were they charging prospective converts???

    And how is it that most of the charedi leadership allowed themselves to be snookered by this guy? I can accept that we have an occasional rogue within our community. I can’t accept that not only did he get the imprimateur of many of the greatest Torah leaders, but that those leaders appeared to buy into his attempts to pasul anyone who didn’t go along with him. This is not something that increases emunat chachamim.

  31. mb says:

    The biggest “sin” of the EJF organizationally, was its proseltization of non-Jews — an issue that the Badatz was yelling against the EJF long before this scandal.

    Comment by Joe Hill — December 29, 2009 @ 4:57 pm

    What is the sin in proselytizing? Jews did it for centuries until Roman, Christians and then Islam forbade it. Eidah Cheredit made up an averah.
    In these intermarried families, lays the seed of Abraham.
    Besides, every step a Jew takes he should be proselytizing. We are doing the opposite!

  32. Daniel Weltman says:

    Based on the many episodes come to light in the past few months, (and with “A Ger”‘s comment on this thread in particular), it seems clear that not only did EJF as a corporation cover up the misdeeds of its leaders, but the policies set forth blatantly committed an איסור דאורייתא, a Torah prohibition, of וגר לא תונה ולא תלחצנו — to never oppress or cheat a convert. In the light of this, I cannot imagine keeping it alive. It breaks the very Torah it should be upholding. I am ashamed as an orthodox Jew by EJF’s very existence. The fact is that every orthodox Beis Din and Rabbi should publicize a press release condemning the actions of the individuals that have come to light, and break all ties with the EJF publicly.

    גדול עוונם מנשא.

  33. Eddie London says:

    The problem with the EJF is not just the single issue of the absolute corruption (absolute power corrupts absolutely). A historian once said that Napolean could only come about by a country with lots of little napoleans. The attitude of Tropper, ie everyone who has another tradition is treif, is something the Hareid world has cultivated and created the situation for this to arise. The most extreme Haredi publicaiton – Yated, claimed that Modern Orhtodox Batei Din are treif and their Dayanim have no Yiras Shomoyim. They claimed That Rav Druckman’s conversions were at the same level as Reform conversions. And, they claimed that their Menuval’s conversions were by Talmidei Hochomim Yorei Shomoyim. So, is this menuval an example of Yiras Shomoyim? What planet are they on? I emailed Yated, and suggested that this scandal reeks of Shabbetai Zvi.

  34. Mark says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    Thank you for your responses to my comment. In the name of eliciting further clarification I would appreciate if you could explain a few things that you wrote:

    “[YA – I beg to differ. It is true that the situation mimics the old Wild West, with lots of irresponsibly blazing six guns, owned by RCA members and folks with long kapotes. The RCA at least employed a solution that solved a good deal of the problem, by throwing its authority behind regional batei din, each of which has responsible bnei Torah making the halachic decisions – and removing the profit motive. All the bnei Torah in the RCA that I know supported this move, and it had nothing to do with the EJF.”

    If I recall correctly, this solution, which I [and I stress that I’m not an expert] thought was a great idea, was only introduced within the past few years. Am I correct on this point?
    If yes, I believe it was in response to the challenge set forth by EJF.

    [YA – Sure sounds like you are guessing. You ask if you are correct, and then say that if you are, you think it must be EJF. I disagree, despite the facile thinking of several journalists. Yes, Tropper had the ear of important people in Israel, both in the Rabbanut and outside. But people had been yelling into the same ears for many, many years before. Did Tropper and friends pique their interest? More likely, both Tropper and the Rabbanut were responding to the same thing: the realization of how much spurious Orthodox conversion was going on. Well before the Druckman/Sherman spat I saw conversions questioned, tevilah redone decades later, shidduchim in jeapordy because certain batei din had poor reputations, to put it mildly.]

    Perhaps not as a direct response, but rather, there was finally a national interest in the subject of Geirus. The rampant disorder in the ranks of the RCA geirus factories [and I acknowledge that there were long kapotes guilty too but that’s not the subject of the discussion] had the spotlight shining on them and they responded to that pressure. Wisely, might I add. They moved smartly to address a problem. But admit that it was a longstanding problem that they never dealt with responsibly until external pressure was placed on them by forces such as EJF.
    For that itself, I think an organization far better organized than EJF and more morally scrupulous, can be a good thing. I also understood that this was the reason that so many in the yeshivish world were interested in backing it. It took upon its shoulders a responsibility that few were willing to tackle. Unfortunately, for reasons mentioned earlier, it did not accomplish it’s mission, but this side effect that I mentioned is a very big one that should not be minimized.
    [OF course if the RCA started their upgrading process in earnest prior to the formation of EJF then my point is wrong, but I don’t believe it did. Am I correct?]

  35. nachum klafter says:

    The authority of a Beis Din rests on its integrity. From its inception, the EJF has been divisive and controversial. Now it is just finished. This scandal is a mortal blow.

    Actually, I believe that the RCA’s network of Batei Dinim which operate under Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz shlit”a, and which function in coordination with the Israel Chief Rabbinate, is governed according to excellent standards. It should be the the single “go-to place” for conversions in North America. If the Haredim will not join or make use of this excellent resource for their conversions, then they should at least create a system in which emulates it.

  36. aron feldman says:

    . Why do you think the real lefties founded their own rabbinic association two weeks ago, committed to implement their own standards of conversion, including seeing kabbolas mitzvos as optional (as one of their leaders has written)?]

    While the idea of Geirus sans KOM has been promoted by the likes of the late Dr Eliezer Berkovits is has been proven to be halachicly untenable,does this movement have a chance of catching fire?

    Be that as it may, EJF needs more than good PR in the future to win back public trust, and it’s going to have to convince the public that it’s not “organized in a manner that it [can] become a monster”. I have no problem giving the EJF a second chance– either it will succeed or fail, hopefully the former.

    Comment by Shades of Gray — December 29, 2009

    Well since the Charedi world tends to resort to cover ups as opposed to taking the bull by the horns,Klal Yisroel might be better served if the EJF closes shop.How will the public be guaranteed that the former head of the EJF is totally out of the picture as opposed to being involved behind the scenes?

  37. Reb Yid says:

    A fitting epitaph for EJF would be reminiscent of the Holy Roman Empire–it’s neither eternal nor Jewish, and certainly has nothing to do with family values.

  38. Yeshivishe Liberal says:

    This scandal has a quintissentially American feel to it. It’s usually the conservative, family values preachers that are caught in the men’s room with their pants down (ala Larry Craig).

    I was taught that Talmidei Chachaim marbim Sholom b’Olam. Torah Scholars are supposed to being peace into the world; not take take bribes, threaten converts or have illicit realtionships. And this is not an isolated incident. This organization should have been shut along time ago.

  39. Bob Miller says:

    In my earlier comment — December 29, 2009 @ 11:59 am,
    I neglected to mention that much of the money going to EJF was from other than the would-be converts. There were idealistic contributors who felt EJF would actually guide intermarried families towards genuine Judaism. These contributors’ donations were also used by EJF’s founder in self-serving ways.

  40. Garnel Ironheart says:

    My thought: this changes nothing. There will be a tempest for a while. People will be shocked, call for changes, etc. And in a few months, perhaps a little longer, no one will notice that the man at the centre of the scandal will be back in effective control of EJF, that EJF will continue to conduct “business as usual”, that publications within the Chareidi community will continue to denigrate any non-Chareidi batei din and beliefs, and that all this will take place with the haskamos of the “Gedolei HaDor”. (Does anyone with such a haskamah actual go to a Gadol HaDor anymore or do they just pick names out of a hat to put on the pashkevil?)
    And then there will be another scandal, another call for soul searching and the like, and that too will fade.
    Nothing will change. Nothing.
    On the other hand, Canada might make it 7 gold medals in a row at the World Junior Hockey Championships in a week or two. Now that’s exciting!

  41. Barzilai says:

    As an organization that endeavors to encourage halachic standards, I imagine that EJF statement’s were constrained by their unwillingness to crucify Rabbi Tropper without evidence that would stand up in a Beis Din.

  42. aron feldman says:

    What is the sin in proselytizing? Jews did it for centuries until Roman, Christians and then Islam forbade it. Eidah Cheredit made up an averah.
    In these intermarried families, lays the seed of Abraham.
    Besides, every step a Jew takes he should be proselytizing. We are doing the opposite!

    Comment by mb — December 30, 2009 @ 12:54 am

    Allow me to quote from R”Adlerstein;

    “Do they not recall that our last experiment in quickie mass conversions (over two thousand years ago) gave us not loyal Jews, but an Idumean fifth column and the reign of Herod the madman?”

  43. Nachum Lamm says:

    Calling them “quickie mass conversions” is misleading. (As would be using that phrase about today.) They were *forced* conversions.

  44. Dr. E says:

    My reaction to “EJF” is that it is really another microcosm of a general trained that we have been seeing during this last decade, whatever you call it. That is how the prevalent response in some circles to “crisis” or scandal. Perhaps, it is “Daas Baalei Batim” to say that “gentleman, it is time to blow the whole thing up and start over again”. Yet, the predictable response is one of not admitting that the system is broken at its core, but covering things up, wrist slaps, and marginalizing perpetrators or their indiscretions. I’m not so sure that these reactions will satisfy the Rambam’s criteria for Teshuva.

    Obviously, there is much invested in “the system”. To respond by shutting things down and/or starting over is invariably seen as weakness, capitulating to public opinion which is expressed orally, in print or digitally. There seems to be an existential war raging, packaged under the label of Daas Torah (DT) vs. “everyone else”. There seems to be a great insecurity in some circles and protecting the DT brand seems to be of paramount importance. My observation and probably that of many in the CC community is that DT is losing this battle big time, with cynicism among the “everyone elses” building by the day. Unfortunately, Kavod haTorah has been the casualty. However, this insecurity has led DT to keep shooting itself in the foot. I constantly ask myself, “don’t they ‘get it’?”

    We see history repeating itself all of the time lately. Examples of broken systems are all around us as the elephants in the room. They include the “shidduch crisis”, molestation and abuse, Kollel, the self-inflicted Parnassa situation, and the list goes on and on. Instead of blowing things up, there is an interest in protecting holy grails and merely tweaking them through asifos, bans, programs, and cosmetic personnel changes.

    The Tropper fellow was obviously “a piece of work”, an askan par excellence, who invented a scam and recruited “venture capital” in the form of Rabbis with the name recognition he did not have. The scam was not only a source of income, but a means of furthering an agenda, and now we see merely covering up for his personal shortcomings. As with many askanim, the cause can be just about anything, trivial or significant. It’s merely a means to ends which are personal power and raising money through immoral channels. To marginalize Tropper as an exception to the rule would be quite convenient. But, that seems to be exactly what is happening here with EJF. While others may not have the salacious story of Tropper, they certainly share common themes. Unfortunately, there are many “Tropper-lites” and wannabes out there openly operating every day in positions of leadership right before our very eyes.

    Perhaps the biggest loser in this entire trend are the young people out there. Now, they might be learning and going with the flow. Some might also be texting, Tweeting, friending on Facebook and doing what young people do, perhaps more familiar with Tiger Woods than Leib Tropper. But, they eventually will grow up and attempt to live adult, religious Jewish lives. Invariably, they will come to realize that there was a leadership failure during their formidable years, when they become victims of the various broken systems. (Earth to DT: We are starting to see this already with young people smelling the coffee and walking away because of a lack of viable leadership models to lead them into responsible adulthood.) While today, the everyone elses might be cynical, yet somehow observant—the next generation might very well be neither–and be just apathetic and disengaged.

    So, as the sun sets on the “0’s” and a new decade begins, let’s hope that some systems, institutions, and organizations will experience tonight’s fireworks and there will be a return to self-reflection, sanity, normality, financial openness…and Kavod haTorah.

  45. L. Oberstein says:

    Time will tell. It may have to happen that the chareidim will have their own yichus books and the rest of the orthodox world will still welcome sincere individuals who believe in Evolution and wear pants as Jews. Which side will you be on?

  46. Baal Habos says:

    >There seems to be a great insecurity in some circles and protecting the DT brand seems to be of paramount importance.

    And rightly so. If DT is acknowledged to be something less than it is percieved as today, then a whole generation of those weaned on DT will need to re-evaluate – everything. And this will have vast repercussions.

  47. Ori says:

    Baal Habos: DT is acknowledged to be something less than it is percieved as today, then a whole generation of those weaned on DT will need to re-evaluate – everything. And this will have vast repercussions.

    Ori: If the current perception of Daat Torah is a mistake, then it will have to be fixed at some point. Would it be better to wait and let the next generation deal with it? Or the one after that?

  48. Esthermeinkint says:

    Dr. E. has opened the Pandora’s box of issues that the EJF is but one more example of. Just as Kollel Guy’s earlier response to another topic became the actual topic, I wonder if Cross-Currents could make Dr. E.s contribution an actual topic. Just as all blog topics gradually dwindle to be replaced by new articles, so is this one. But Dr. E.s addressing (rather than tip-toeing around) the elephants in the room ought not be laid to rest as the end of an important issue, but rather the opening up of another one.

    [YA – I will pass this suggestion on to Dr E and see if he takes the bait]

  49. Joe Hill says:

    Yet Chareidim, and their Emunas Chachomom — call it Daas Torah — are winning the numbers game. Their birth rate is skyrocketing their numbers and the fact is their intake of Baalei Teshiuva is far greater than their loss in off the derech.

  50. Miriam says:

    “Yet Chareidim, and their Emunas Chachomom — call it Daas Torah — are winning the numbers game. Their birth rate is skyrocketing their numbers and the fact is their intake of Baalei Teshiuva is far greater than their loss in off the derech.”

    Here in Eretz Yisrael, I find there are two types of Charedi communities. One type is the one breeding the blogosphere frustrations – fundamentalist, intolerant, sanctimoniously advocating one way for everyone. The other type is the way it should be – lots of busy, sincere people, who don’t have time for chit-chat about the latest cherem because their lives are too full of Torah.

    The question is not whether Charedim will survive, but which type.

  51. leiby geffen says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein-
    Why has no one demanded a listing of the recipients of “grants” from EJF? Rumor has it a very prominent figure accepted $100K+ for his yeshiva, and that others involved received significant (tens of thousands of dollars). Even some of the community rabbonim/avos batei din who may not have taken outright contributions were flown to the conventions and put up in luxury hotels on Leib Woods’ cheshbon. Let the “gedolim” come clean and run this organization with the transparency that we deserve.

  52. rachel w says:

    So, how long do you think a yeshiva or organization should have a secret detective trailing all their would-be donors to be sure that they are on the up and up? What do you want the head of a mosad to do? When the donations were accepted from the head of EJF, was there any reason to assume that there was a reason for a money-strapped yeshiva/mosad to turn them down? DT should not be confused with the Urim Vetumim. Everyone does the best they can do with the facts that they have. Does the money need to be returned? I guess a shaaloh should be asked. (OTOH, I certainly don’t think anyone should be returning the money to EJF. Wherever the money is now, I am sure it is serving a far better purpose than it would over there.)

  53. Shades of Gray says:

    “Here in Eretz Yisrael, I find there are two types of Charedi communities. One type is the one breeding the blogosphere frustrations – fundamentalist, intolerant, sanctimoniously advocating one way for everyone. The other type is the way it should be – lots of busy, sincere people, who don’t have time for chit-chat about the latest cherem because their lives are too full of Torah.”

    This reminds me of an article I recently read in the English “Sha’ah Tovah” magazine about a young chasid from Meah Shearim who finished Shas in time for his Bar Mitzvah(!). This was the past summer of the protests/riots, and the writer asked him whether he ever feels like he wants to join his friends outside at the protests on Shabbos. He answered, “I am busy finishing Shas. Who has time to attend protests?!”

  54. Meir Shinnar says:

    RY Adlerstein
    As for the past, the public should not be unnecessarily harsh on those who participated in EJF events in the past

    Why??
    Part of the raison d’etre of the EJF was not merely insisting on their standard of conversion of gerim for the future – itself a controversial issue- but passuling the gerut of many sincere gerim because of issues raised retrospectively about either them or their bate din – not substantive issues that raised any issues about their sincerity. This was apparent to anyone as a clear violation of a d’oraita of ona’at hager – and any rav who participated in their affair was aware of it – and therefore clearly participating in violating this issur d’oraita. Why shouldn’t we be harsh on rabbanim who showed that they are not shomer mitzvot?? Those involved in EJF may not be responsible for the behavior of the head that is the current scandal, although, especially for those closely involved, it raises issues about their judgment and ability to judge people – but they were, are and should remain fully liable for being involved with an organization publicly devoted to be mechallel hatorah – and the community, if it is devoted to torah, should hold them fully accountable for their association.

  55. Mark says:

    “Yet Chareidim, and their Emunas Chachomom — call it Daas Torah — are winning the numbers game. Their birth rate is skyrocketing their numbers and the fact is their intake of Baalei Teshiuva is far greater than their loss in off the derech.”

    Great point. Has anyone paused to wonder whether this might just be an indication that things aren’t quite as bad in Chareidi-land as one might guess from reading j-blogs?

    I suspect that if we were to place any segment of the Orthodox world under the same microscope that the Chareidi world is under, we might find all kinds of interesting things but don’t hold your breath waiting for this to happen. Nor should it, in my humble opinion because in every segment of the Orthodox world there is FAR more good than bad [even those with which I disagree.] What is the point then of endlessly focusing on the negative which gives a distorted picture? I fear the answer is not one that anyone would want to hear.

  56. Ori says:

    Miriam: Here in Eretz Yisrael, I find there are two types of Charedi communities. One type is the one breeding the blogosphere frustrations – fundamentalist, intolerant, sanctimoniously advocating one way for everyone. The other type is the way it should be – lots of busy, sincere people, who don’t have time for chit-chat about the latest cherem because their lives are too full of Torah.

    Ori: Two thousand years ago, you could have said the same thing. There were a lot of pharisees and their followers whose lives were full of Torah. Then there were the kana’im (= zealots) whose lives were full of hatred and plotting. They had to kill a lot of sane Jews before they could rebel against Rome.

    The problem is that intolerant are louder. They need to be confronted, lest they wrestle the leadership from saner heads. Is Charedi society confronting them? Lest I offend anybody, this question is not rhetorical. It is a real question from an outsider who truly does not know the answer.

  57. Malka Esther Lennhoff says:

    Charlie Hall asks “30.Twenty six million dollars??? By an organization that coordinates conversions? How much were they charging prospective converts???

    Converts were mentored for free. Mentors were paid out of the grants that EJF recieved. The beit dins they sent converts to generally charged $1,000 although at least 1 beit din on the list refused to accept any renumeration. In addition, some of the mikvaot had fees and of course the mikvah lady needed to be paid (or tipped) in the case of female converts – those fees, in my opinion were reasonable, and fairly normal compared to the similar cost of conversions done outside of EJF beit dins in the US. I was an EJF mentor and familiar with the cost. Additional costs for converts was travel to beit din meetings (typically 3 meetings although in some cases those meetings happened over a single weekend to help the convert with costs). Beit din fees were also allowed to be paid over time in several situations so that the convert was not having to shell out all the money at once which would have been a hardship.

    Other costs to the converts were the normal – books for studying, things needed to go kosher, ritual items, moving to a community, etc. You know all the things one needs to lead a shomer mitvot life.

    My biggest issues with EJF during my time working as a mentor and after I left had to do with the lack of standards for converts. Much time was put into what was required of a beit din member. Little was done in regards to the converts. I recieved a suggested 1 page sylabus to cover with my students, a recommended reading list, worked with them for at most 2 hours a week over the phone (EJF limit to how many hours they would pay me), and was not always consulted before they went ahead and converted my students, no beit din wanted to talk to me even though I was the mentor, beit dins were not given access to the weekly progress reports that mentors were supposed to send in. Mentors were not trained during my time at EJF although I’ve heard that has changed a bit. There is now a much better document to help the mentors in working with converts (many that have never met a convert prior to working as a mentor). The document EJF is using was one that a rabbi I worked with created based on his, my, and other’s work moderating a yahoo group for potential (and post-conversion) conversion students, our experience working with rabbis, our mentoring of converts, but it is simply a guideline.

    It was not permitted to insist that the jewish spouse of the non-jew be required to get mentoring and EJF did not provide that mentoring but instead passed them off to partners-in-torah only if the jewish spouse was interested. No recommended curiculum was suggested. Books were mere recomendations and not permitted to be required reading by either partner. No help/mentoring was offered for the children of converts no matter their age while these children were being expected to go into a jewish school immediately following their conversion.

    I constantly ask – if you don’t set standards for converts, you don’t have a set curriculum, almost all recommended books are at an intro level, students are rarely in the program for more than a 1 year – take the max time possible for them to learn – you have a convert being trained to be shomer mitvot in less than 100 hours, not defining what a community is – can the converts truly be fully trained and ready to be shomer mitzvot (or even fully understand what that means)? And if the jewish spouse decides NOT to read, not to do a partner-in-torah – how do you really expect that these converts are any better than those that came through other biet dins and organizations? Yeah they dress “right”, yes their local rabbi affirms that they attend shul regularly (but has probably never been in their house or studied with either spouse), yes the converts are sincere (although many of their spouses fight becoming observant right up until just before the conversion and by that point if they did not take advantage of partner-in-torah or the local rabbi they have little knowledge), yes they can typically pass the test given by beit dins although in my experience the majority of those test don’t require answering more than a few basic questions and 1-5 “more complex questions”. But I don’t understand how this fixes any of the problems/complaints about converts and their knowledge, commitment, and we are still relying on local rabbis, generally involved in kiruv, that don’t understand the difference in standards for a convert versus a born jew that is BTing.

    Do I think EJF has done some good? Yes. But do I think even in their heyday when I believed in their mission that they were solving the problem? No – if you don’t make sure that the converts standards are set, that there is a real curriculum, if you do not educate the local rabbis about what is required of a convert at the time of conversion, if you do not educate the jewish spouse – the situation will remain as it was and 10-20 years from now all those conversions may be put in doubt just like the RCA ones were because the problem was not solved.

    I don’t speak out much publically on issues, I’m a convert and with the current climate of invalidating conversions one worries that speaking out may cause someone to decide your conversion is invalid because you are disagreeing with gadolim and therefore must not have fully accepted all the mitzvot or understood what you were accepting.. I for a couple years I worked for EJF but have not done so for several years. During that time I tried to get them to take my issues seriously. I’m a convert. I’ve had a gerus l’chumrah. I work with thousands of converts informally through an online group. I’ve met many converts from both the RCA and EJF as well as other beit dins and organizations around the worl. Some are well trained and have great knowledge. Others are not. Many are sincere but not given all the information and mentoring they need to be shomer mitvot.

    I don’t know what the solution is. My fellow moderator on the yahoo group and I would love to start a boarding school for converts and BTs where they’d live in apartments and learn to keep kosher and shabbat with practical experience with rabbis on the premises at all times to answer questions. We’d like to have communal classes open not just to the members in the school but the community where we have the school. We’d like the community rabbis to give shiurim in our school. We want to help teach converts not just halacha and haskafa but how to integrate into a community and how to figure out which is the right community and haskafa for them. Unfortunately, unlike EJF we don’t have friends who can hand over millions of dollars. So in the meantime we’ve developed curriculums, books lists, explanations for mentors/rabbis with no convert mentoring experience, as well as a clear and detailed list of what a convert must know and be able to do at the time of conversion. Our members take these to their rabbis. EJF uses one of those as a basis in training their mentors, we don’t know how many rabbis are out there using our documents although we do hear from individual rabbis who thank us for our documentation. Do I think our documents are perfect? No. But we were addressing what a convert needed to know and be able to do long before RCA developed their standards and EJF did not have anything for us mentors until we approached them.

    I feel like even in this current crisis that us converts are being forgotten – that we are not being thought of as people or real Jews. I pray for the day that changes. I also pray that converts will be brought into the process of creating standards and where converts that have gone of the derach or were improperly trained are consulted so we can do a better job in the future of preventing those problems.

  58. Contarian says:

    I am not so sure the Charedim are winning.

    When a charedi father in yeshiva has to ask RSYA if he cam sell a kidney to marry off his daughter, that sounds more a like question that Rav Oshri dealt with than any modern day Rav.

  59. Shira says:

    I feel like even in this current crisis that us converts are being forgotten – that we are not being thought of as people or real Jews.

    Dear Malka Esther,

    Your words bring back memories. Some memories of having been ostracized myself (as a BT), but many more of how wonderful it is when there is an open and appreciative environment for all of Hashem’s children. It’s so stimulating and inspiring to talk to people about their own paths to Torah.

    I call it “out of town” but have since spent way too many years living “in town” where mentioning my own background was taboo, and a few amazing stories of neighbors’ were also suppressed in order to “fit in.”

    You are correct that there is a large body of understanding, including some culture and vocabulary, that baalei teshuva and geirim have ahead of them. I would think that by now someone could be compiling something like that on the internet.

    What’s the name of your group?

  60. Bob Miller says:

    Regarding the comment by Malka Esther Lennhoff — January 4, 2010 @ 10:18 am:

    Isn’t it ironic that EJF, the organization that made such sharp accusations about other people’s preparation of converts, could have been so lax in preparing converts (and spouses and EJF staff)? This is the EJF with virtually unlimited financing!

    Before allowing EJF to continue, Orthodox leaders outside EJF should investigate how funding might have been skimmed for purposes other than EJF’s stated mission. Whoever diverted funds in this manner or allowed it to happen should no longer be associated with EJF or any similar body.

  61. tzippi says:

    Malka Esther, you bring up some incredibly important points. I’m not sure if my commenting further will take this too off topic, but just some observations:
    My impression had always been that converts had to undergo such rigorous boot camp as far as halacha goes that other than nuances, i.e. minhag, etc., they would be pretty knowledgeable. (In fact, my experience has been that many baalei teshuva and geirim, due to their systematic learning of halacha, know more than some FFBs, whose schools may have expected the home to pick up the slack.)

    But over the last few years I’ve met two converts (now both single mothers) who converted with their families, and there are huge gaps in their knowledge. In one family, the kids are thriving and growing Jewishly. In the other family, the kids didn’t make it in the local Jewish schools and most of them aren’t Jewishly involved anymore. In the latter case, there’s enough blame to go around, but definitely lack of ongoing mentoring built into the system is a major factor.

  62. Tal S. Benschar says:

    “My biggest issues with EJF during my time working as a mentor and after I left had to do with the lack of standards for converts. Much time was put into what was required of a beit din member. Little was done in regards to the converts.”

    Isn’t the point that it is the responsibility of the beis din to ascertain how sincere the convert is?

  63. Joe Hill says:

    Re: Mrs. Lennhoff’s comment. This has precisely been the point raised against the EJF for over two years now by the Badatz in Jerusalem. The Badatz has been crying out against the EJF, long before the current scandal, due to the EJF’s proseltyzing of non-Jews — which predicated the EJF’s lax conversion standards.

    And herein lied the problem with the EJF all along.

  64. Malka Esther says:

    My latest post to cross-currents – don’t know if it will be approved but my comments did trigger discussion:

    Shira the group is (http://groups.yahoo.com/group/orthodoxconversiontojudaism/) .

    Bob, I think funds were more likely poorly used rather than diverted.

    Tal, the issue is NOT the converts sincerity that I have issue with. It is unrealistic to think that in 3 meetings lasting at most a total of 6 hours that a beit din can know how a convert is actually living and what knowledge they have and to not give the beit din the progress reports and access to the mentors they are handicapped. It is unrealistic to think that a convert can learn all they need to know in 50-100 hours of over the phone, long distance learning. To not make sure that they have local resources and that the entire family is educated handicaps the converts ability to live an observant life and handicaps their family. And it puts the converts in the position of finding their conversions questioned when they have done nothing wrong.

    And frankly I’m really tired of my conversions being questioned. I wonder how many gerus l’chumrot will I have to go through? How many times will I have to prove I know my stuff & am living an observant life. How many times will all the rabbis that have known me since before I converted have to write references for me? And how many times do I have to assure my students that they are Jewish and have nothing to worry about. The part that really breaks my heart is having to see Jews/converts constantly in a state of worry over whether they’ll be considered Jewish tomorrow or when their kids want to marry or make aliyah.

  65. Bob Miller says:

    An online article in the Five Towns Jewish Times by Rabbi Aba Dunner has the complete EJF story including a much more accurate description of its funding and operation that what I proposed in comments above.

  66. Michaltastik says:

    “EJF has been a dying organization for years, kept alive artificially by the incredible wealth they had at their disposal.”

    Let’s not forget the OCTJ – Orthodox Conversion To Judaism, the largest Yahoo discussion group on the subject of conversion – has been sending people, lots of them to EJF spouting that this is a “Universally recognized conversion.”

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