Rabbi annuls conversion after 15 years

Woman also told her 3 kids were "unacceptable for marriage" to Jews.

By MATTHEW WAGNER
May 18, 2007 01:12
2 minute read.
conversion class students 248.88

conversion class 248.88. (photo credit: Hilary Leila Krieger [file])

 
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A rabbinic judge has retroactively annulled a woman's conversion to Judaism, performed 15 years ago by the present head of the state's Conversion Authority. In his extraordinary recent intervention, Rabbi Avraham Atia of the Ashdod Rabbinic Court also ruled that the woman's three children and husband were "unacceptable for marriage to the Jewish people." Atia issued the ruling based on the woman's admission that she did not observe the halacha (Jewish law) governing Shabbat or family purity. The woman had come to Atia for a divorce from her husband. But Atia ruled that she was not a Jew, since she had not intended at the time of conversion to adhere to halacha. Therefore, she did not need a get (writ of divorce), since Jewish law does not recognize the marriage of a gentile to a Jew, he said. A copy of the ruling, which was issued in February, was obtained by The Jerusalem Post this week. Rivkah Lubitch, a Rabbinic Court advocate who represents the family, said she would appeal Atia's ruling in the High Rabbinic Court. "Permitting the retroactive annulment of conversions means that the convert will live in a constant state of fear that he or she will one day not be considered a Jew," Lubitch said. A week ago, Jewish Agency Chairman Ze'ev Bielski called on Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar to appoint conversion judges who were willing to be more lenient in the acceptance of converts. However, Atia's decision highlights the difficulties that converts can face when their conversions are performed by more lenient rabbis. Rabbi Seth Farber of the ITIM Jewish Life Information Center, an organization that helps Israelis navigate the bureaucracies of the religious courts, said he had dealt with several cases in which people converted by the Conversion Authority had difficulty being recognized as Jews when they registered to get married. "This case highlights an absurdity," he said. "On one hand, the government created the Conversion Authority to augment conversions. But at the same time, other rabbis - also state employees - are disqualifying those conversions." As part of his legal decision, Atia issued a nine-page attack, complete with scholarly rabbinic glosses, against Conversion Authority head Rabbi Haim Druckman, who performed the woman's conversion. Atia's ruling never mentions Druckman by name, but rather refers to him by the Hebrew letter "het," a homonym for "sin." Atia also attacked the Conversion Authority and the conversion courts that operate under its aegis. "These 'courts' permit 100 percent gentiles to marry into the Jewish people," Atia wrote. "And they cause many people to sin terribly. And they have turned conversions into a joke. The judges are nothing less than blasphemers and evil-doers. And since the judges are criminals, none of the conversions they perform should be recognized." Rabbi Moshe Klein, deputy head of the Conversion Authority, said in response that "Rabbi Druckman fears only God. Atia's vulgarity speaks for itself." Klein said he hoped Rabbi Eliahu Ben-Dahan, administrative head of the rabbinic court system, would rebuke Atia, but Shimon Ya'acobi, legal adviser to the rabbinic courts, said there were no plans to do so. "Within the context of a judicial ruling, Atia enjoys immunity from charges of slander," Ya'acobi said. Sources familiar with the rabbinic courts said it was very rare for a conversion to be annulled retroactively.

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