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Conversion Controversy

Many of you will have read during the week in the AJN about how a Tel Aviv Rabbinical Court has annulled an Israeli woman’s conversion, after 14 years, on the basis that she is no longer observant (and most likely never was).

The Jewish Daily Forward has more on the subject:
“…A local rabbinical court ruled that the petitioning couple’s marriage had been religiously invalid from the outset because the woman’s conversion to Judaism 14 years earlier was inauthentic. The rabbi claimed she failed to observe Orthodox ritual law once she was declared Jewish, and that she had never intended to observe it…”

While this presents an interestingly dilemma for Batei Dinn, around the World, it also presents a very convenient solution to the problem of insincere conversions. As you may or may not know, when a convert accepts Torah law upon themselves and then chooses to ignore it, the Beit Dinn themselves bear some of the guilt, halachically.

Some Israeli converts have expressed dismay at the hearing, as they feel it places their life in a permanent state of “limbo” – and one can’t help but feel for people in this situation. Furthermore, in the case of the woman in this hearing, her four children were also retrospectively made into non-Jews.

From a more ‘legalistic’ point of view, there is some validity in their argument. After all, the convert effectively entered into a contract which stated that she would adhere to Torah law, in return for being granted the status of “Jew”. If she never upheld her end of the bargain, then the contract is indeed invalid.

Of course, in matters of lifestyle and belief, matters are never that black and white. Issues such as who defines “Torah observance”need to be addressed. A convert may sincerely believe they are shomrei mitzvot, while a more Heradi Rabbi may not share that opinion.

None the less, if such decisions are adopted into the mainstream, there could be potentially be implications for Perth; where it could be argued by some that dozens of insincere conversions have taken place. In cases where a convert vaporises from the community and Shul life, the day after their conversion is completed, some might argue this even a valid response.

Whatever the outcome, whether or not the annulment stands, it has certainly put the issue back on the table for discussion.

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