Rabbinical Council of America claims current conversion standards are less strict than before.
The New York Jewish Week sponsored a forum on the Who is a Jew issue and invited rabbis from the Reform, Conservative and Modern Orthodox movements to participate.
During the panel discussion, Rabbi Basil Herring, the RCA's executive VP, repeatedly called on panelists to be "truthful." But the proponent of American Modern Orthodoxy clearly did not apply that charge to himself, as the NY Jewish Week reports:
“Admit you’re changing the standards,” he said to Rabbi Herring.
The agreement calls for converts to study at least 350 hours before becoming Jewish and live in the community of conversion for 18 months, and for child converts to attend Orthodox days schools through 12th grade.
“The new RCA standards exclude a significant number of Orthodox converts who could have converted five or 10 years ago,” he said.
Rabbi Herring insisted that it was “a canard, false and untrue to say that RCA standards are more severe” than in the past. He said the group’s guidelines in the early 1990s were more strict, and that what the RCA has done now is take the existing guidelines and standardize them so as to increase conversions. He said there were more conversions in the last year and a half (150) than any previous 18-month period, and that another 200 conversions “are in the pipeline.”…
Besides the bald faced lie about previous conversion requirements, Rabbi Herring fails to mention that the RCA's agreement with Israel's Chief Rabbis makes it very difficult for a rabbi in Wisconsin, say, to do a conversion. He has to be attached to an "accepted" national organization, usually the RCA or Chabad. (And a significant portion of Chabad converts go through the RCA.)
This means a conversion that would have been done "in house" a few years ago now is done through the RCA and shows on the RCA's calendar.
So, while the RCA's numbers increase, overall Orthodox conversions may very well be decreasing.
Rabbis should tell the truth without prompting. Those who do not really shouldn't be rabbis at all.