U.S. Rabbis Furious at Israeli Chief Rabbinate's Rejection of Top Rabbi's Conversions

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The Chief Rabbinate in Tel Aviv.
The Chief Rabbinate in Tel Aviv. Credit: Aviad Herman

The Rabbinical Council of America reacted angrily Friday to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s decision to reject conversions that were authorized by the chief dayan of the largest Orthodox rabbinical court in the United States.

Rabbi Shalom Baum, president of the Rabbinical Council of America, said, “We have already begun an investigation into this latest disgrace and we demand a thorough report of how this could happen.”

The Israeli Rabbinate had not explained why it rejected the conversions in four recent cases approved by Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz, the head of the Beth Din of America and chief presiding rabbinical dayan (judge) of the National Beth Din of the RCA.

A statement on the Facebook page of the RCA, which was posted on Friday, said, “The Rabbinical Council of America strongly objects to the latest decisions of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel’s office rejecting the endorsement of leading rabbinic figures in North America of the status of at least two converts.

“While we have worked assiduously with the [Israeli Chief] Rabbinate in the past to assure the integrity of converts, recent missteps by its office have led to these latest decisions; we are working to reverse them.

“This decision by the Chief Rabbinate is especially egregious because it challenges the rulings of one of the preeminent [halakhic] authorities, Rabbi Gedalia Dov Schwartz,” the statement added, “and because it disregards the great efforts that we have made over the years, for the benefit of converts, to work with the Chief Rabbinate.”

ITIM, an advocacy organization that helps people navigate Israel’s rabbinical bureaucracy, and which is representing the four converts, said that "The strong language of the RCA statement highlights a growing shift between the rabbinate and the halakhic community around the world.  While the rabbinate pretends to speak in the name of the integrity of halakha, it, in fact, is completely disregarding basic principles – especially those of loving the convert."

"ITIM calls upon the rabbinate to immediately recognize all the certifications of Rabbi Schwartz as well as create a new policy that will be as embracing as possible to all converts."

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