Conversions of Convenience, or Conversions of Commitment?

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6 Responses

  1. Jacob T says:

    I couldn’t agree more–the Israeli government and, by extension, the rabbanut should stay out of conversion entirely. Regarding the Law of Return, the status quo should be preserved. Once the Jew is a citizen, the state should recognize marriages performed by all rabbis, heterodox and Orthodox alike. At the end of life, the state should deny no one who has cast their lot with the Jewish people a Jewish burial–if a more stringent rabbi won’t perform a ceremony for the convert in question, surely a more lenient one can be found. Problem solved, right?

  2. Ori says:

    In most Heterodox communities there is no stigma attached to intermarriage, it is the rule rather than the exception. Children of intermarriage are either considered Jewish (Jewish mother or Reform patrilineal descent) or can be easily converted without the gentile mother converting. So the children can go to the religious school, have a Bar/Bat Mitzvah, etc. This being the case, what is exactly the convenience of converting for the gentile spouse in a Heterodox synagogue?

    You can make the case that anybody who is not Orthodox lacks the commitment to be a good Jew. But it doesn’t make sense to consider Heterodox conversions a convenience, at least in the US where religion is a personal matter with no legal consequences.

  3. mycroft says:

    “Rather, it is a matter of viewing conversion as a fateful, life-changing step. As a result, during 40 years in the rabbinate, I converted less than ten people. Total.”

    I believe Rabbi Feldman-but perhaps I am misunderstanding what he means. If he means that he was involved in less than 10 geirus of adults with no prior connection to Judaism I find that in accord with my understanding of rough frequency of geirus. But if the 10 includes baalei Tshuva who the realize that halachikally they aren’t Jewish and giyurei katan I find it strange-that the man who was probably the leading Rabbi in the South for decades and was involved in kiruv would not have had more cases. Certainly, in the beginninjg of his career before Roe v Wade and more succesful fertility treatments adoptions were relatively frequent-and the leading Rav of the South wasn’t involved in those geirus.

  4. YM says:

    Ori, until the 1980s the heterodox communties were still troubled by intermarriage; there was still a “stigma” and so there was pressure for conversions. You are correct that today there is little stigma.

  5. Miriam says:

    They knew that my non-recognition applied only to non-Jews who entered Judaism under non-halachic guidelines, but that obviously all non-Orthodox Jews remain Jews in the eyes of halacha.

    But as Ori describes, and as I’ve also seen, many of those who nowadays affiliate as Reform Jews aren’t halachically Jewish – let’s call them “cultural” rather than “convenient” conversions, but either way they didn’t go the whole 9 halachic yards. And that’s been going on for years, so the adult leadership in Reform likely has many such “non-Jews who entered Judaism under non-halachic guidelines.”

    To tell them they can still become Israeli under the Law of Return doesn’t answer the schism they live in.

  6. Ori says:

    Miriam: To tell them they can still become Israeli under the Law of Return doesn’t answer the schism they live in.

    Ori: They don’t like in a schism, anymore than somebody like me, who is culturally Jewish, Halachically Jewish, and does not follow Halacha lives in a schism. The issue is whether they should care about the state of Israel, but arguably that has already been answered by the Reform Movement in the past.

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