Committee created to replace Druckman

Rabbis Dahan, Bin-Nun and Weiss rumored to be candidates for position of Conversion Authority head.

Druckman 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Druckman 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A wave of speculation over who will be the new head of the Conversion Authority has swept rabbinical circles after the cabinet on Sunday appointed a search committee to find a replacement for present head Rabbi Haim Druckman. Some of the names being bandied about include former Shas health minister Nissim Dahan, Rabbi Yoel Bin-Nun, former IDF chief rabbi Israel Weiss and Rabbi Benny Lau. The five-member search committee will be composed of one representative of Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar, two representatives from the Prime Minister's Office and two representatives from the Civil Service Commission. Dahan or another figure close to Shas might have the best chances since the Sephardi haredi party is presently in the government coalition. As a result, the two PM's office representatives might be persuaded to go along with an appointment. A Shas-connected appointment would also receive the backing of Amar, who is close to Shas spiritual mentor Rabbi Ovadia Yosef. Also, Yosef's position on conversions is considered lenient. He has in the past supported a friendly, open approach to potential converts, which would fit well with the Prime Minister's Office expressed policy of encouraging as many of the 300,000 non-Jewish immigrants from the Former Soviet Union to embrace Orthodox Judaism. Another possible candidate would be a moderate, charismatic rabbi such as Lau or someone else connected with the Tzohar organization, a federation of moderate religious Zionist rabbis. Such a candidate would receive the backing of the Jewish Agency and Professor Binyamin Ish-Shalom, the head of the Joint Institute for Jewish Studies, the largest educating body involved in preparing prospective converts. Weiss has the advantage of gaining experience running the IDF conversion apparatus known as Nativ, which he helped establish. However, Weiss's involvement in Nativ has its down side. The haredi rabbinical establishment sees Nativ as a "conversion factory" that disregards the halachic requirement of demanding a commitment to an Orthodox lifestyle as a prerequisite for conversion to Judaism. Weiss, who was chief IDF rabbi during the Gaza disengagement, has also made enemies among religious Zionist rabbis who see his cooperation with the evacuation of Jews from Gush Katif as tantamount to treason. Bin-Nun, meanwhile, is considered too outside the mainstream to be able to garner the backing needed from the judges of the conversion courts and the court's rabbi representatives [shlichei beit din]. According to sources in the Conversion Authority, any new head interested in implementing a new conversion policy that is more open would have to contend with the independent thinking of the court judges who make the final decision on whose conversion is approved and whose is not. The new head will also have to confront the consensus opinion among the judges that the Conversion Authority, which was removed from the Rabbinical Courts in 2004 and transferred to the Prime Minister's Office, should be returned to the rabbinical courts.