The Eda Haredit organization announced on Sunday evening that it was calling off
its rally planned for Wednesday, which was to be in protest over the recent
approval of the IDF conversions by senior Sephardi adjudicator and head of the
Shas Council of Torah Sages Rabbi Ovadia Yosef and Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo
For the past six weeks, since Yosef and Amar okayed the military
conversions, the senior haredi-Ashkenazi rabbis, led by Rabbi Yosef Shalom
Elyashiv, have been expressing their discontent over what they considered a
breach of the purity of Israel. The planned rally, an example of rare
collaboration between the Eda Haredit, headed by Rabbi Tuvia Weiss, and
Elyashiv, was going to be a protest against the sweeping approval the Sephardi
rabbis gave to the IDF conversions, which according to Weiss and Elyashiv
include those of people who never really intended to accept Torah and mitzvot,
and therefore should have their conversions annulled.
reached on Sunday, mediated by political opponents former Shas chairman Arye
Deri and current Shas chairman Eli Yishai, were that someone who can be proven
to have had lied at the time of his or her conversion regarding his intent to
accept the mitzvot, will not be considered Jewish.
This could be an
acceptable formula for Yosef and the three rabbis meeting with the Eda Haredit
leadership on his behalf, since it does not represent a deviation from his
original adjudication. Proving one’s intent is nearly impossible, especially
when the instance at hand – the conversion – might have taken place years ago.
That means that the conversion of a secular convert would not necessarily be
At the same time, it changes the sweeping nature of the
approval of the military conversions, and leaves room to investigate cases that
This option is important for the haredi Ashkenazi
establishment, even if it won’t act on it on a regular basis, as most converts
avoid friction with marriage registrars who might cast aspersions on their
Rabbi Nahum Eisenstein, of the capital’s Ma’alot Dafna
neighborhood and chairman of the International Rabbinical Committee for
Conversion Matters, who represents Elyashiv on matters pertaining to conversion,
said on Sunday before the official decision to call off the rally that he was
“pleasantly surprised and very satisfied over the fact that talks were under
way. This is a first very positive step in the past six weeks since the
conversions were approved.
“This kind of understanding will be best for
the unity of the Jewish people,” Eisenstein continued.
“Such a decision –
which has a bearing on the entirety of the Jews – must be reached through the
consensus of the leading sages of our generation,” he said of Elyashiv, Yosef
and Rabbi Shmuel Wosner, the leading hassidic adjudicator.
force the whole nation to be bound to one opinion, it’s neither democratic nor
good for the Jewish people. At the same time, there is no room for compromise on
Rabbi Shmuel Pappenheim of the Eda Haredit explained that
the tension of the past weeks was a result first and foremost of
miscommunication between the sides.
“There was never the notion of
establishing lax conversions; Yosef was in line with the rest of the leading
sages, his words were simply misinterpreted,” Pappenheim said.
are specific complaints regarding a conversion, it can be examined.”
asked by The Jerusalem Post how it can be determined what a convert’s intent was
at the time of his or her process, regardless of where they are in life years
later, Pappenheim replied that what is important is “what kind of instruction
they received, if it was from a real Jew who has a Torah lifestyle, if the
convert was exposed to that kind of household, if the process was done by a
serious rabbi. But if it is clear that the convert was merely prompted on what
to answer the rabbinic judges at the conversion court,” that would not be
As for whether the IDF conversion process met the standards
he described, Pappenheim said that in the past there were problems, but in the
past six months things have been improving.
“This all came from a big
misunderstanding. There were people from both sides who had an interest to raise
the flames; once serious figures from both sides got involved, this was
resolved,” he said.
The Eda Haredit had been under heavy fire recently,
after it started organizing the demonstration, which was perceived by Yosef’s
supporters as directed against him. Not only did the Chief Rabbinate’s kashrut
division recently tighten its supervision over the procedural – as opposed to
halachic – aspects of the Badatz Eda Haredit kashrut industry, but also the
Religious Services Ministry, headed by Shas’s Ya’acov Margi, warned the Eda
Haredit last week that it would inspect its marriage registration, following a
State Comptroller’s Report on the topic.
“After the state comptroller
raised the issue of marriage registration with us and in the wake of numerous
complaints regarding your conduct, you must coordinate a time for us to inspect
the claims and the alleged nonimplementation of the necessary procedures,” the
director of the ministry’s marriage and rabbinate division wrote in a letter to
the Eda Haredit on Thursday.
“If such a meeting is not set up within a
month, we will have to stop providing you with marriage certificates, and the
current arrangement of marriage registration we have will be
Surprisingly, the final understandings were reached without
Amar’s involvement, a spokesman for the chief rabbi confirmed on Sunday
Shas had issued numerous furious announcements against Deri, who
they said humiliated Yosef by “bending” his ruling in a “compromise” that had
the sole purpose of gaining the former Shas leader media
Yishai was also active in meetings with the heads of the Eda,
but Deri apparently was the one who came up with the formula both sides could
A spokesman for Deri said he and Amar had spent the entire
weekend in the same location, and were fully coordinated on the
“This is a happy day for me, in which the dignity of the Torah and
its sages was saved,” Deri said in a statement.
“It is time we put our
energies into finding the uniting and merging elements, rather than what
separates and distances us.”
Rabbi Seth Farber, the head of ITIM: The
Jewish-Life Information Center, however, who set the military conversion dispute
into motion when he filed a High Court of Justice petition against marriage
registrars who do not recognize military conversions, called the understandings
“a cynical use of people’s lives to make political deals, immoral and against
the explicit Halacha to not deceive converts.
“The heavy doubts over the
identity of thousands of Jews, who converted according to Halacha, have
Since the Chief Rabbinate can’t reach a solution that ensures
the future of the IDF converts, we will have to return to find it in the court
through our petition,” Farber said.