Sefardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who is also president of Israel's rabbinic courts, is trying to overturn the decision released last week by the High Rabbinical Court to void all conversions done by Conversion Authority head Rabbi Haim Druckman since 1999.
…the entire Ha'aretz report written by Yair Ettinger:
Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, acting in his capacity as president of the Supreme Rabbinical Court, will attempt to revoke a ruling from last week, which invalidated thousands of conversions carried out in Israel over the last few years, Haaretz has learned.
The judges, it emerges, went ahead with the ruling despite the stern objection of Amar, who is said to have been surprised by the decision.
Amar tried to halt the publication of the ruling, according to which conversions to Judaism that have been conducted by Rabbi Haim Druckman - a prominent figure in Religious Zionism - are void, and the converts cannot be recognized as Jewish by the Chief Rabbinate.
The ruling, which was already drafted in February, casts severe doubts on Druckman's conversion arrangements. The decision, made by a panel headed by the staunchly conservative Rabbi Avraham Sherman, stemmed from debating the divorce case of a woman who had been converted by Druckman 15 years ago.
The Ashdod Regional Rabbinical Court ruled that the woman cannot be recognized as Jewish, since she has never practiced Judaism. The debate was subsequently extrapolated to discuss Druckman's conversion parameters as a whole.
Sherman's ruling said: "Conversion certificates from whichever rabbinical court, as big, reputable and qualified as it may be, do not enable the marriage registrar to allow a convert into the People of Israel, when there has not been a genuine acceptance of the religious duties, which is something that can be discerned by the appellant's appearance and demeanor."
Professor Michael Corinaldi, a conversion expert, said: "The decision makes every conversion, and every convert, conditional; I've heard of the border police, but not of the mitzvah police."
Rabbinical Courts Director Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan said he is prevented from sharing his personal take on the ruling, but "with respect to the ruling, one must bear in mind that there are other groups in the rabbinical courts that think utterly differently of Rabbi Druckman's conversion methods."
Rabbi Druckman, pictured above, is a Religious Zionist.
Who is Rabbi Avraham Sherman?
Chief Sephardi Rabbi Shlomo Amar last week canceled the conference on women whose husbands refuse to grant them a divorce (agunot), which was due to take place in Jerusalem on Tuesday, at the order of ultra-Orthodox Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv. …
Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, the director general of Israel's rabbinical courts, who coordinated the preparations for the conference, was also displeased by the conference's cancelation. "It was a blessed initiative. It's sad that months of efforts will be lost," Ben-Dahan said.
He said he did not know who caused the conference's cancelation and why. However, Haaretz has learned that it was dictated by rabbinic court figures, who object to the efforts to improve the circumstances of women who cannot get a divorce. Supreme Rabbinical Court judges Rabbi Hagai Izirer and Rabbi Avraham Sherman both advocate strengthening the husband's and rabbinical court's status in divorce cases. Izirer even supports authorizing the rabbinical court to cancel a divorce. Thus children born to a woman after she has divorced could turn, retroactively, into bastards.
Izirer and Sherman spearheaded a campaign to pressure Diaspora rabbis to refuse the invitation to the conference.
Rabbi Sherman also advocates abolishing the Tender Years Presumption Law, which gives automatic custody of childen age 5 and younger to the mother in divorce cases, unless the mother is ruled unfit.:
…Sherman was the rabbinic court representative on a special Justice Ministry committee which this week recommended a change in child custody legislation governing young children (up to six years old) that would strengthen the father's position vis-à-vis the mother.
The committee was also made up of judges from the secular civil court system, lawyers, academics and medical staff.
Current legislations, known as the Tender Years Presumption Law, automatically gives the mother custody of the children until they reach the age of six, barring cases in which the court is convinced that the mother is incapacitated.
"True, since the Gaonic period [the 8th through 11th century in Babylonia] rabbis have expressed the opinion that while the children are young it is best that they be taken care of by the mother," said Sherman.
"The Rambam [Rabbi Moses Ben Maimon, 1125-1204] also ruled that it is more appropriate for the mother to have custody of the children when they are at a very early age.
"But neither the Gaonim nor the Rambam said that the mother's right to custody should be automatic. Rather, each case should be decided individually to determine the best interests of the children."
Sherman said that under normal circumstances it was more appropriate that the mother maintain custody of very small children.
"The needs of children at this age are primarily physiological and psychologically speaking the child is more dependent on the mother. This does not mean the father has no responsibilities. In addition to supporting his children economically, the presence of a father figure is central to the development of every child.
"As judges our central concern must be to advance the interest of the children," he said.…
In other words, rabbis – not secular court judges, psychiatrists and other professionals – should determine who gets custody.
Not coincidentally, revocation of this law would dramatically weaken women's position vis a vis the divorce. It is also important to remember that all divorces in Israel, just like all marriages, must be done by clergy. There is no secular divorce and no other way out for the majority of Israelis who are not haredi or even Orthodox.
He and Rabbi Izirer were two of the three judges in the decision released Friday that ruled invalid all conversions done by Rabbi Druckman.
Rabbi Sherman is both a haredi and a loyal follower of Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv.