Amar in US to resolve conversion rift

Secret list compiled by chief rabbi of "approved" rabbinic courts has US group rattled.

By MATTHEW WAGNER
October 14, 2007 22:37
2 minute read.
Amar in US to resolve conversion rift

rabbi amar 298.88 AJ. (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimski [file])

Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar is meeting this week with representatives from the Rabbinic Council of America (RCA) in an attempt to reach an agreement over Israeli Rabbinate recognition of conversions performed in the US and Canada. Amar was scheduled to meet with the Chicago Rabbinic Council on Sunday and on Monday he is slated to meet with RCA officials in New York for at least two days. For over a year the RCA, the largest rabbinic organization in the world, and the Chief Rabbinate have been at odds over the issue of conversions. Amar, who heads the rabbinic courts in Israel and is also responsible for conversions performed here, has compiled a secret list of "approved" rabbinic courts in the US and Canada. Any conversion performed by a court not on this approved list is automatically rejected. As a result, converts who completed their conversion in the US or Canada are presently not considered Jewish even if they took their conversion seriously and embraced an Orthodox lifestyle. RCA members have been sharply critical of Amar's policy. They argue that the sincerity of the convert, not the name of the rabbinic courts, should be Amar's primary concern. They also argue that the US and Canada are outside the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's jurisdiction. Therefore, they say, Amar has no right meddling in RCA policies. However, sources close to Amar have accused the RCA of losing control of who should and who should not be authorized to perform conversions. "Often you have a situation in which only one rabbi who knows what he is doing sits on the conversion court," said a source in the Chief Rabbinate. "He brings along another two people who haven't got a clue. It lacks seriousness. This is a situation that cannot continue." Rabbi Basil Herring, RCA's executive vice president, speaking from New York, refrained from commenting on the content of the meetings between Amar and the RCA. "The RCA is happy to be hosting Amar in New York and Chicago, together with Yeshiva University and the Orthodox Union, to engage in discussion of numerous issues of shared concern," he said. "We will, in due course, share further details of these discussions. But it is of mutual agreement that no further comments be made at this time." In recent months the RCA, partly in response to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's criticisms, has set up a network of approved conversion courts throughout the US and Canada that are centrally governed by a senior rabbinic council. Members of the RCA hope that instead of quibbling over an approved list, Amar will agree to recognize the senior rabbinic council's authority over conversions performed in North America. If the RCA gets its way, any rabbinic court approved by this central authority will automatically be approved by the Chief Rabbinate.


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