(photo credit: Courtesy)
Rabbi Haim Druckman blasted haredi elements who cast doubts on the validity of
conversions performed by the State Conversion Authority, which he heads, and by
the IDF, during a symposium Monday at Jerusalem’s International Conference
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While his opening speech to some 400 rabbinic judges, rabbis and
educators dealt more with the positive aspects of conversion at a time when
people who are pushed away from religion can return to their Jewish roots,
Druckman passionately defended the halachic validity of his authority while
speaking later with reporters.
“There are people who won’t let the facts
confuse them,” he angrily said of the Lithuanianharedi claim that most military
converts do not go on to maintain an observant lifestyle, which would prove
their intent was not pure and therefore their conversions should be
“There is no such data, and even if there were, it wouldn’t
change the validity of the conversions. Conversions are a one-way
operation. A convert who does not keep mitzvot will be punished like a Jew who
does not keep mitzvot,” he said “All our conversions are according to pure
Halacha, as passed down from generation to generation,” Druckman stressed.
“Whoever comes to undergo a conversion does it because he or she really wants to
be Jewish. They are not lacking anything [as Israelis].”
He was speaking
of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who made aliya under the Law of
Return but were not Jewish according to Halacha.
"Society isn’t pushing
them to convert,” he continued. “They already received the benefits of
Druckman accused doubters among the haredim of “caring only about
their own,” and not about the Jewish people. “Their sons and daughters won’t
ever marry a convert anyway,” he said.
Shmuel Jesselsohn, director of the
State Conversion Authority, said the authority had seen an increase of 27
percent in the number of converts from the FSU in 2010, which was evidence of a
desire among non-Jewish Israelis to undergo the conversion process. He added
that the increase among FSU olim who converted as part of the IDF program had
risen by 6% during the same period.
The IDF conversion mechanism works
closely with the State Conversion Authority, and members of its staff attended
Monday’s event, including IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz, who spoke of
the importance to the Jewish people of the power of religious faith. “Where do
you think [outgoing] Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi had the
strength to lead such a significant shift in the IDF in just a few years,” he
A co-sponsor of the Jerusalem conference was the
Education Ministry’s Religious Education Administration. That body will be
active in absorbing imminent waves of Falash Mura, who are non-Jewish Ethiopians
with Jewish origins, and will be accompanying entire families as part of a
special conversion processes.