Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar stands behind Conversion Authority head Rabbi Chaim Druckman, and demands that Prime Minister Ehud Olmert reinstate him.
Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar, the Rishon LeTzion, plans to meet with Olmert's top aides next week. One of the main issues, the rabbi's aides say, will be Rabbi Druckman.
Rabbi Druckman became the center of a storm last month when a three-judge panel of the High Rabbinical Court invalidated all the conversions to Judaism performed over the past several years under Rabbi Druckman's watch. Religious-Zionist rabbis immediately stated that they did not recognize the validity of the ruling, and Rabbi Amar reassured government ministers that the ruling was not binding.
However, in mid-May, Rabbi Druckman received a letter from the Prime Minister's Bureau stating that because of his age - he had recently turned 75 - his term as Head of the Conversion Authority was not being renewed. The PM's Bureau oversees the functions of what used to be the Religious Affairs Ministry.
A top aide to Rabbi Amar told Arutz-7's Shimon Cohen that the rabbi will make it clear to the Olmert team that if Rabbi Druckman is not reinstated, "he will consider resigning." No Chief Rabbi of Israel has ever resigned.
"Rabbi Amar will not allow Rabbi Druckman's status to be hurt in any way," the aide said. "Rabbi Druckman must remain the head of the Conversion Authority."
They disagree as to how to understand our generation of the Ingathering of the Exiles and our obligation to prevent intermarriage of Jews
At the heart of the matter is the halakhic [Jewish legal] requirement, agreed upon nearly unanimously, that prospective converts display a sincere intention to observe a religious lifestyle, or else their entry into the Jewish nation is insincere and invalid. However, there are two schools of thought as to how to implement this requirement.
One school says that if a convert appears to be sincere in his desire to be a religious Jew when he appears before the rabbinical court, the judges may suffice with this and allow the conversion. In addition, they need not check up later on his "progress."
The more hareidi school of thought is that if a convert is later seen to be living a non-religious lifestyle, this renders the conversion invalid almost automatically.
Understanding Our Special Generation
Rabbi Moshe Klein, Rabbi Druckman's deputy in the Conversion Administration, said, "Though both sides rely on the same Halakhic sources, they disagree as to how to understand our generation of the Ingathering of the Exiles and our obligation to prevent intermarriage of Jews... Rabbi Druckman attempted, within the strictures of Halakhah, to make conversion more convert-friendly - but his work was stopped in the middle."
Rabbi Druckman has a sterling reputation among his many thousands of students, and regularly remains awake until 1-2 AM in order to meet with and help the many people who need him. For decades, he maintained a harrowing schedule as the founder and head of the Yeshivat Ohr Etzion institutions (including a military yeshiva high school), father to nine children, head of the nationwide Yeshivot Bnei Akiva umbrella organization, teacher in Yeshivat Merkaz HaRav, Knesset Member, advisor and helper to uncounted people who turned to him at all hours of the day, and more.
Rally in Support of Rabbi Druckman
On Thursday, hundreds of Rabbi Druckman's students gathered in Ohr Etzion - his yeshiva in Merkaz Shapira, near Ashkelon - for a solidarity rally for their teacher and rabbi. Among the rabbis who spoke there, Rabbi Yaakov Ariel, the Chief Rabbi of Ramat Gan, said, "The issue of conversion is a national one, and the Chief Rabbinate is the only institution that can determine these matters - and not just a panel of three judges. With all the disagreements, we stand behind the Chief Rabbinate; if there is not one single address, the Reform [movement] will come in and determine [that no Halakhic requirements are necessary at all]."