Wednesday, May 24, 2006

When Is a Convert Not a Convert?

No doubt this subject has already been covered by people more educated and up-to-date on the subject than me, but once I saw the article, I had to say something.

While browsing the Jerusalem Post, I came across an opinion piece about the Orthodox Rabbinate not recognizing the divorces and conversions carried out by many Diaspora Orthodox rabbis. In order to be legitimate, such ceremonies must be conducted by rabbis on the Rabbinate's approval list.

Far be it from me to question the decisions of this exalted body, but I can't help thinking that the Rabbinate is trying to create a monopoly within its own sect. Get converted by an A-list Orthodox rabbi or the whole thing is null and void.

It's almost like the Rabbinate is forming a Jewish Vatican-- the be-all to end-all of the Jewish faith. What next? Will the Israel's Chief Rabbi suddenly announce that G-d regularly visits for bagels and shmear in order to talk business? Will he join the Pope as the Lord's own mouthpiece?

Maybe it's just me, but I don't like the idea of a bunch of alter kakers thousands of miles away making declarations about just who can be a true Orthodox convert. If a person who follows the teachings of the sect and follows the traditional process of conversion, they are a convert!

But, you know, the Rabbinate has the right to think what they want. If they want to believe that anyone who doesn't follow their edicts isn't a Jew, then I can't do anything about that. However, I have a right to my own beliefs, as well. And if I believe that the Rabbinate spends much of its time acting like a pompous windbag of an organization, then that's my right.

The right to question authority: that is why I am a Jew.


PS. Spell check keeps wanting to replace "rabbis" with "rabies." Sometimes I wonder...


  1. I'm equally bothered by many aspects of the Israeli Rabbinate... and I'm over here.

    However, considering the countless splits and sub-splits that have taken place in Judaism over the past 100 years (a very short time in terms of Jewish history) you can't blame them for trying to centralize control over core issues that can impact future generations of Jews in terms of family status and whether or not someone is even Jewish.

    The orthodox Rabbinate in the US is very widely split on a number of important issues and in the end have little or no enforcement power over American Jews. So it seems to make sense for the Israeli Rabbinate - which DOES have legal enforcement power over a huge portion of the world's remaining Jews be entrusted with the power to make decisions over who and what is 'kosher'.

    Whether or not they continue to be worthy of that trust and authority is a matter for another discussion. :-)

  2. Good point. I think that it's hard for a Reform Jew to understand the politics involved in the Orthodox Rabbinate. Not many people in my movement pay any attention to the Union for Reform Judaism. :)

    Thanks for commenting, David!