Rabbinic judge urges haredi conversion primacy

Comments come after Druckman supporters shout down High Rabbinical Court judge during lecture.

Druckman 224.88 (photo credit: Courtesy)
Druckman 224.88
(photo credit: Courtesy)
A judge on the High Rabbinical Court who made headlines in recent months for casting doubt on the Jewishness of hundreds of converts called Wednesday on religious Zionist rabbis to recognize the primacy of haredi rabbinical leadership. "On questions that deal with the future of the entire Jewish people, the great halachic sages of the generation must be consulted," Rabbi Avraham Sherman said. "I call on religious Zionist rabbis to meet with the great rabbis of our day to reach an agreement on the issue of conversions." Sherman said the major Torah sages of this generation were Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv of Jerusalem and Rabbi Shmuel Halevi Vosner of Bnei Brak, and that religious Zionist rabbis were obliged to abide by their opinions. Sherman said that even highly respected Sephardi rabbis such as former chief rabbis Ovadia Yosef and Mordechai Eliahu should defer to Elyashiv's halachic decisions regarding conversions. Sherman made the comments a day after a group of religious Zionists verbally attack him while he was giving a lecture. Sherman was invited to speak on conversions at the 70th anniversary ceremonies of the Mossad Harav Kook publishing house in Jerusalem on Tuesday night. But Sherman was greeted with shouts, catcalls and inflammatory language by supporters of Rabbi Haim Druckman, outgoing head of the National Conversion Authority. The Druckman supporters were forcibly removed from the lecture hall. They said their disruption of Sherman's lecture was a form of protest against Sherman's "dishonorable treatment" of Druckman, an educator and rabbinic leader in his 70s. Sherman made headlines in recent months after issuing a lengthy, disparaging halachic opinion on the status of a conversions performed by the state-run National Conversion Authority headed by Druckman. In the 50-page opinion Sherman sharply attacked Druckman and raised serious doubts regarding the validity of conversions performed by Druckman and other rabbis in the Conversion Authority, all of whom are religious Zionists. Sherman's diatribe against Druckman was viewed by many religious Zionists as an attack on their belief system. These religious Zionists see mass conversion of tens of thousands of non-Jewish immigrants from the former Soviet Union as important in fostering national and cultural unity. In contrast, haredi rabbis assign less importance to the Zionist value of fostering national unity. In his lecture at Mosad Harav Kook Sherman pointed out that there were two opposing views in Jewish thought to converting non-Jews to Judaism. One approach sees conversion as a very positive act that should be encouraged because it brings people closer to the true monotheistic faith. Sherman said the Talmud expresses a contradictory opinion that views converts as a plague because they introduce foreign influences into the Jewish people. Sherman said that in the past 100 years with the rise of intermarriage and assimilation the second opinion had taken precedence among all the great rabbinical sages. "In the modern era the great rabbis see converts as a potential danger to the spiritual purity of the Jewish people," he said. Sherman said that he and other rabbis were concerned about the way conversions were performed in the Conversion Authority. "Too often in the rabbinical courts we come across supposed converts who never had the intention of observing an Orthodox way of life. This should concern all Jews, haredi and religious Zionist alike. We must unite and make sure that no considerations foreign to Halacha taint the conversion process."