Above: Rabbi David Lau
London Haredi Rabbis Threaten To Refuse To Recognize Israeli Conversions To Judaism If Haredi Demands Are Not Met
Shmarya Rosenberg • FailedMessiah.com
Senior haredi rabbis in London have warned that if Israel decentralizes conversions to Judaism, they will no longer recognize Israeli conversions as valid.
Israel plans to decentralize conversions, which until now have been in the exclusive control of the state’s chief rabbinate, which is haredi-controlled.
But that has led to long wait times for conversions and to the alleged abuse of hundreds of potential converts, many of who have Jewish ancestors or a Jewish father, so Israel plans to decentralize conversions so that any chief rabbi of a city, town or incorporated are could chair a conversion court and do conversions.
However, the problem haredim have with this change is twofold. First, it weakens Israel’s chief rabbinate, which likely will be under exclusive haredi control for decades to come. Second, some of the local chief rabbis are Zionist Orthodox, and some of them are frequently lenient rather than strict in their halakhic (Jewish law) rulings.
Israel’s Ashkenazi haredi chief rabbi, David Lau, visited Britain last week specifically to discuss the looming decentralization of conversions in Israel with senior leaders of the haredi-controlled London Beth Din – Rabbi Chanoch Ehrentreu, Rabbi Aharon Yitzchok Binstock and Rabbi Menachem Gelley. Lau says the the three British haredi rabbis told him that if the change is made, they would not recognize Israel state conversion certificates, Ynet reported.
"The world's rabbis always believed that the State of Israel would protect this important and sensitive issue of conversion more than any other state. They never believed that they would have to consider whether to recognize conversion certificates arriving from Israel…[The three British haredi leaders] expressed their shock over the expropriation of responsibility for conversions from Israel's Chief Rabbinate,” Lau reportedly said on return to Israel.
"The government is taking a very dangerous move here. We are headed towards a dangerous and irresponsible direction for the State of Israel's Jewish future. What will our state look like if world rabbis announce that they will stop recognizing conversions from Israel? Is this the government's goal? To make things difficult for the converts? Why that's exactly what will happen. These conversions will not be recognized,” Lau added, saying that any change in the official state conversion process must have the approval of Israel’s chief rabbis and must comport with halakhic opinion.
The actual halakha allows any three Jewish men who are Sabbath-observant to convert someone to Judaism, but rabbis have come to demand that conversions court be staffed only with ordained rabbis, and haredim have upped that demand to mandate that only a central authority under haredi control can perform conversions.
Joining haredim in their opposition to decentralization are some right-wing Zionist Orthodox rabbis who are essentially haredi in almost every way except for the acceptance of Zionism.
The London Beth Din is the oifficial beit din (religious court) of the UK's chief rabbi, who is often far more open and liberal than the Beth Din is, and the Beth Din has been a sword in the side of successive chief rabbis. As a result, it is despised by many, if not most, British Jews.