Rabbis delay converts' marriages

Say they await to hear Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar's position on High Rabbinical Court decision that cast doubt on the validity of thousands of conversions.

rabbi amar 248 (photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimsky)
rabbi amar 248
(photo credit: Ariel Jerozolimsky)
Rabbis responsible for registering Jewish Israelis for marriage said Sunday they would not register converts for marriage until Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar issues a definitive rejection of a High Rabbinical Court decision that cast doubt on the validity of thousands of conversions. "Before I can register a convert for marriage as a full-fledged Jew, I'll have to consult with Chief Rabbi Amar," said Rabbi Ratzon Arussi, chairman of the Rabbinate's Marriage Council. Rabbis in Ramat Gan and Jerusalem concurred with Arussi's call. "Rabbi Amar has to voice his opinion on this issue," said Ramat Gan Chief Rabbi Ya'acov Ariel. "He is the final authority on conversions." Meanwhile, Rabbi Yitzhak Ralbag, the official marriage registrar in Jerusalem, said he would operate in accordance with whatever Amar decided. The Jewishness of thousands of converts to Judaism has come under scrutiny recently after the High Rabbinical Court issued a legal decision last week that accused the head of the State Conversion Authority, Rabbi Haim Druckman, of apostasy and forgery. Rabbi Avraham Sherman, who authored the legal decision, which was signed by two other rabbinical judges, said that since Druckman was unfit to serve as a rabbinic judge, all conversions performed by him could not be recognized as legitimate. If Sherman's opinion is applied, hundreds of converts converted by Druckman between 1999 and 2004 would be considered non-Jews. The Jewishness of thousands more, converted under the auspices of the Conversion Authority since 2004, would also be doubted. In Israel, where Halacha dictates marital laws for Jewish Israelis, these converts would be prevented from marrying. Only non-Jews who are affiliated with a different religion, such as Christianity or Islam, are permitted to marry. Several days after the decision was published, Amar issued a general statement that all conversion would be recognized. But Amar did not directly address the accusations raised by Sherman against Druckman. Rabbis want Amar to issue a clear halachic decision on the status of conversions carried out by Druckman. Amar's spokesman said the chief rabbi intends to convene the Chief Rabbinate's governing council to discuss the issue and reach a definitive decision. But before the council can be convened new elections must be called. The term of the previous council came to an end in Nissan and a new council has yet to be chosen. The spokesman said he was unsure how long this would take. Even before Sherman issued his decision, rabbis in three cities - Ashdod, Petah Tikva and Rehovot - refused to automatically recognize converts converted under the auspices of the Conversion Authority. Rabbis Yosef Sheinin of Ashdod, Baruch Shimon Solomon of Petah Tikva and Simcha Hacohen Kook of Rehovot all require that converts undergo a repeat conversion before agreeing to register them for marriage. Technically, these rabbis are required to recognize the converts since all of them converted under the general supervision of Amar. But none of them have ever been disciplined. Instead, an arrangement is made with a neighboring rabbinate that is willing to recognize these converts. For instance, Rosh Ha'ayin Chief Rabbi Azaria Basis registers all converts who live in Petah Tikva. He also registers others who are not recognized by the Petah Tikva Rabbinate, such as Ethiopian Jews.