Rabbi Stav gets increased police protection following ‘threatening’ coverage of conversion issue

Sharansky: Chief Rabbinate trying to preserve monopoly.

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August 16, 2015 18:42
3 minute read.
Rabbi David Stav

Rabbi David Stav. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM)

 
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Shoham police will increase patrols close to and around the home of Rabbi David Stav, the town’s municipal chief rabbi, due to a concern for his safety following the launch of a network of conversion courts last week that the rabbi helped found.

The inauguration of the Giur K’halacha conversion courts that will work independently from the state conversion system created a fierce media storm in the haredi (ultra-Orthodox) press, with advocates of a strict, centralized system under the Chief Rabbinate heavily criticizing Stav for what they perceive to be a an overly lenient approach to conversion that would create false converts who could then intermarry with Jewish Israelis.

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Proponents of the new courts argue that their conversions will comply with Jewish law, but make use of leniencies for conversion outlined by rabbinic authorities in the past to convert minors whose families hail from the former Soviet Union, and thus increase conversion rates.

In reaction to the new courts, the haredi weekly newspaper Ba’kehillah labeled Stav, who is also the chairman of the Tzohar rabbinical association, “a danger to Judaism, a danger to the rabbinate, a danger to the Torah,” on its front page last week, and said that he threatened “the walls of religion.”

Last week’s edition of the Yom L’Yom weekly newspaper, the mouthpiece of the Shas party, called the new conversion system “the rabbinical courts of the Reform with a yarmulke.”

At a bar mitzva celebration last Thursday, Shas Council of Torah Sages member Rabbi David Yosef made the same comment.

Speaking to The Jerusalem Post last week, Stav railed against the tone of the criticism against him and the other founders of Giur K’halacha, accusing the haredi media of incitement and saying that they had “thrown off any all restraint.”



On Saturday night, Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef, a brother of Rabbi David Yosef, referenced the controversy for the first time, and claimed that the approach of the new courts was not in accordance with Jewish law. He referred to the children of immigrants from the former USSR as “a person whose mother and father go to church every Sunday.”

Rabbi Seth Farber of the ITIM organization, which helped create Giur K’halacha, labeled Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef’s characterization of the immigrant community as a “populist stereotype,” and said that the new courts would convert a child only if there was a commitment by the parents that the child would not practice any other religion and that they would provide him with some form of Jewish education.

“Most immigrant families see themselves as Jewish, they don’t go to church, and are simply looking to certify their Jewishness and become full members of the Jewish community, for which there is an available halachic solution,” said Farber.

Speaking to the Post last week, Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky criticized the Chief Rabbinate for its stance on conversion, its apparent opposition to Giur K’halacha, and its opposition to a government resolution passed in the last government but repealed by the current coalition to liberalize the state conversion system.

“They want to keep a monopoly and to preserve their own importance but it’s not control which gives power,” said Sharansky, arguing that rabbinic attitudes to conversion had changed in accordance with political realities throughout history.

The Chief Rabbinate, Sharansky said, would have more influence if it recognized this principle and allowed Chief Rabbinate-ordained rabbis, such as those who established Giur K’halacha, to adopt this position.

Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, another of the new conversion courts’ founders, also told the Post last week that all conversions would strictly conform with Jewish law, and called for the Chief Rabbinate to support the new system.

“We care about Halacha desperately, and what we are doing is in accordance with Halacha, and are commensurate with the rulings of former chief rabbis of Israel,” said Riskin. “We are a strong Orthodox voice, and we cannot only have a haredi Orthodox voice on such issues, in light of the circumstances and fabric of Jewish

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