Rabbi Basil Herring, the aptly-named weakling who runs the Rabbinical Council of America, apparently jumped the gun on the supposed RCA-Israeli Chief Rabbinate conversion deal when he issued a press release early Sunday claiming it was a done deal. Later on Sunday, after the Rabbinate insisted there was no deal, Herring told the Jerusalem Post's Matthew Wagner in a telephone interview:
…[T]he differences between the RCA and the Rabbinate were "matters of detail."
"As far as everyone is concerned the deal is completed," said Herring, who admitted that he might not have announced the agreement, which has yet to be committed to paper, if the RCA convention were "in three weeks time."…
In other words, Herring announced the "deal" in order to look good for his membership. Nice.
So what is not finished about the "agreement"? This:
…[S]ources in the Chief Rabbinate said that no agreement had been reached. One source said that of about a dozen US rabbinic conversion courts approved by the RCA, "several" were still not recognized by the Rabbinate. This means that dozens, perhaps hundreds, of people approved by these rabbinic courts who thought they joined the Jewish people according to Orthodox standards are still considered gentiles by the Rabbinate.…
However, dissent between the RCA and the Israeli rabbinate is not limited to the list of certified US rabbinic conversion courts.
To the RCA's chagrin, Israel's Chief Rabbinate refuses to recognize any new conversion court judges unless they come to Jerusalem for a test and a personal interview before a special tribunal. [Rabbi Yitzhak] Peretz [an aide to Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar who is responsible for liaison with Diaspora rabbis] said this was Amar's personal demand.…
In other words, we're back to square one in this year-long saga. For his part, Rabbi Basil Herring, who has been consistently behind the curve during the past year, denies that Rabbi Amar is insisting on what everyone knows Rabbi Amar is insisting on. Of course, most haredi rabbis will not need to go through this insanity, because they can be approved by other haredi rabbis Amar approves of. No such luck for our hapless friends at the RCA, and their wet noodle executive director:
"Amar did not consult any of the great rabbinic sages regarding this issue," said one haredi rabbi who doubted that Amar would "prevent truly great Halachic scholars" in the Diaspora from entrusting their students with the duty to perform conversions.
As always, our friends at the RCA are kowtowing to haredim, unable to stand up for Torah im derekh eretz or for you.
The only thing haredim want from you is your money. The RCA will never say this, because cowards do not stand up until there is no choice left, and often do not stand up even then. But it is the truth; all haredim want is your cash. Do not give it to them, and make it clear why you are holding back. Take your dollars and fund the left wing of Modern Orthodoxy, even if you disagree with it. It is the only hope we have to stem the tyranny of the right.
The RCA is meeting as I write this. Perhaps you RCA members out there can make a real stand. Make Basil Herring go out and find a real job, and find someone with balls and intelligence (two things Herring definitely lacks) to replace him.
I know this would involve self sacrifice, and effort and risk and all those bad things you left behind in day school. But look at it this way – where there is no man, stand up and be one. It's a paraphrase of Hillel Hazaken, and in effect it means when you are surrounded by males without baytzim, find yours and use them. This is far more important than anything else you are likely to do this year – or next. Let's hope some of you actually get up and do it.
UPDATE 5-1-07: Rabbi Basil Herring is reported by the JPost to have said that he denied that this requirement was part of the agreement between the RCA and the Chief Rabbinate. But Herring told the JTA Monday something, well completely different:
The RCA said it had reached an agreement with the rabbinate to formalize the conversion process in North America after the rabbinate said last spring it would no longer accept even Orthodox conversions performed outside Israel. The agreement envisioned a system in which Orthodox conversions would go through a central office run by the RCA and the Beth Din of America and approved by the chief rabbinate.
However, a news conference to announce the agreement was canceled Monday afternoon due to a misunderstanding, RCA Executive Vice President Rabbi Basil Herring told JTA. The misunderstanding concerned who would appoint the judges to preside over regional rabbinical courts that will consider conversion candidates, said Herring, who added that he expects the matter to be cleared up soon.
Why is Herring the executive director of the RCA? Not there because of his honesty or acumen, now is he?