An Open Letter to Minister Poraz

I read with horror and disgust that you stated that Reform and Conservative conversions should take place in Israel. Mr. Poraz, like Tommy Lapid and other members of the anti-religious parties, you have no idea or generally seem to not care, of the conversion crisis in North America, which is having a direct impact on the Jewishness of the State of Israel.

Shelomo Alfassa,

Shelomo Alfassa
Shelomo Alfassa
Arutz 7
Dear Minister Avraham Poraz,

I read with horror and disgust that you stated that Reform and Conservative conversions should take place in Israel. Mr. Poraz, like Tommy Lapid and other members of the anti-religious parties, you have no idea or generally seem to not care, of the conversion crisis in North America, which is having a direct impact on the Jewishness of the State of Israel.

As you know, Reform and Conservative Judaism does not follow the halacha, the Jewish holy law as prescribed in the Torah and Talmud, which has guided us as Jews throughout history. The issue is the leadership of these two groups (which make up the overwhelming majority of North American Jews) subjectively conducting what they term ?conversions? on people interested in converting. As of February 20, 2002, anyone who goes through one of these programs is considered Jewish by the standard of the Israeli Supreme Court. Once attending one of these ?conversion? programs, they need only pay a fee and they are ?Jewish?. After that, they are entitled to a free airplane ticket and can move to Israel, where they will receive financial benefits and other perks for up to eleven years.

Because of attitudes like yours, Mr. Poraz, and implementation of the Supreme Court?s law of acceptance, a flurry of conversion mills have been established in North America. They offer quick and cheap ?conversions?. Buddhists, Hindus, Christians or Muslims can rush right up and become a Jew in a matter of weeks, and sometimes days. Mr. Poraz, let?s say you were not a Jew. You could just come to Florida and become a Jew in just 12 weeks at no charge - a freebie. Programs like this are overflowing with participants, and every few months they refill their seats and turn out hundreds of new ?Jews?.

Allow me to tell you about some other conversion mills:

Car broke down? How about an over-the-Internet conversion? One self-proclaimed conversion mill based in New York will do this for you. Their website?s recommended reading list includes books that cover "transgender issues". The website is filled with encouragement for non-Jewish homosexuals to come ?convert? through their offices to Judaism. Because some sects within Judaism have a history of promoting issues that hone a Jew into a self-hating Jew, this particular ?rabbi? seems to recommend his potential converts read a certain propaganda-filled book by the Jew-hating Edward Said. I guess this is a way to fast-track the development of the self-hating Jew, in the newly ?converted?.

But that is not the only one. There is another where you can log on, log in, and get ready to join the Chosen People electronically. It is home study in a Reform Judaism frame. Then, when you think you have studied enough to become a Jew, you fly to a hotel in Miami where, in just one eight hour class, you are taught by a Reform ?rabbi? about Jewish ethics, blessings, prayers, heritage, Holocaust, customs, symbols, values, and choose a Hebrew name. Then you are sent to run out to the ocean for mikvah. That is a whopping 3.3 minutes per topic. Can anyone learn anything substantial in less then 4 minutes? Only eight hours, what a deal. As soon as you dry of with your towel (which the ?rabbi? tells you to bring from home), you can drive up the block to the Jewish Community Center on Biscayne Boulevard, where you can go to the second floor and apply to make Aliyah. Since the Aliyah office is generally on a speed track themselves, you can go from being a Christian, Muslim, Hindu or any non-Jewish religion, for that matter, to becoming a Jew and getting a date for your arrival in Israel in a matter of weeks, if not days. This Internet conversion program is operated by a relative of the infamous ?pork-eating rabbi?, known in the U.S. for his written endorsement of a restaurant that has a well-known (and quite funny) photo of him eating pork ribs. When he is not eating pork ribs, he, too, offers his own brand of conversions.

Don?t want to go the way of Reform Judaism? How about Conservative Judaism? There are at least three discount conservative conversions available:

A program in Canada is 26 hours, which includes a 'final exam' for the low price of $100.00. The website, however, does not indicate whether if you fail the final exam you will remain a Christian, Muslim or other initial religion. Can it be that the difference between being a Hindu or a Jew is one question on a test?

In another program, you meet 20 times and pay a $125.00 fee. With this, you get a lesson for 30 minutes by the ?rabbi?s? wife, who teaches, ?basic Hebrew reading in the last half hour.? I am not sure if 30 minutes of Hebrew will allow a new immigrant skip ulpan once arriving in Israel, but hey? the 30 minute Hebrew class is free. No better way of joining those whose ancestors stood at Har Sinai than taking a free 30 minute class by a ?rabbi?s wife.

In yet another program, you get together 20 times to study, you only have to pay an $80.00 fee, and you are Jewish. This program is best suited for the thrifty proselyte.

But lets get serious, Mr. Poraz. There is a common thread here yet unmentioned. Reform and some Conservative ?rabbis? conceptualize no need for entering the covenant of Abraham through circumcision. ?Reform has also been ambivalent at best with regard to circumcision,? says Rabbi Reuven Bulka of Hebrew Theological College in Chicago. He goes on, ?Reform has certainly not been insistent on the need for circumcision, taking the view that it is not necessary...?

An American Jewish organization of self-proclaimed ?educated and enlightened Jews? states circumcision is ?barbaric, primitive, torturous.? They say it does not have a place in ?modern Judaism.? This group is going through the American community promoting what they term ?Brit Shalom... a non-cutting naming ceremony for newborn Jewish boys.? They have completely erased from Judaism the concept of the covenant of Abraham, the fundamental and vital link to Judaism.

Mr. Poraz, there is a crisis within Klal Yisrael, one which must be looked at separate from politics. Even the most secular Jew should take measures to defend the religion of their grandparents from division into two distinct camps. One camp in which there are Jews according to God, Torah, Talmud and tradition, and another one which has ?Jews? based on a political-social model, made up of gentiles who have gone through a Jewish-like quasi right of passage. Many of these people are sincere in their desire to convert, but are being deceived by the Jewish ?rabbis? they approach. How can Reform and Conservative ?rabbis? insist that converts be holier than they, that converts be obliged to observe laws of kashruth, observe the Shabbat and holidays, put on tefillin each morning, pray three times a day, etc., when the ?rabbi? who is supervising the conversion most likely does not observe these practices him- or herself.

We must and shall welcome all gerei zedek (righteous converts) into Judaism. However, just like converts have a responsibility to be sincere, their teachers must be respected authorized members of the Jewish community, not fly-by-night hawkers who hang out a shingle that reads ?rabbi? and can authorize documents proclaiming the person who handed cash over to them to be Jewish. As a politician, you have the responsibility to protect the Jewishness of the Jewish state. It is one thing not to be observant, it is another to take actions that directly cause destruction of your religion.

Am I exaggerating?

Is all this taken out of context?

No.

I only wish it was.
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S. Alfassa is vice-president of the Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture. He is currently based in South Florida and may be reached at Alfassa@sephardicstudies.org.


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