Israel – Rabbi Haim Druckman blasted haredi elements who cast doubts on the validity of conversions performed by the State Conversion Authority, which he heads, and by the IDF, during a symposium Monday at Jerusalem’s International Conference Center.
While his opening speech to some 400 rabbinic judges, rabbis and educators dealt more with the positive aspects of conversion at a time when people who are pushed away from religion can return to their Jewish roots, Druckman passionately defended the halachic validity of his authority while speaking later with reporters.
“There are people who won’t let the facts confuse them,” he angrily said of the Lithuanianharedi claim that most military converts do not go on to maintain an observant lifestyle, which would prove their intent was not pure and therefore their conversions should be annulled.
“There is no such data, and even if there were, it wouldn’t change the validity of the conversions. Conversions are a one-way operation. A convert who does not keep mitzvot will be punished like a Jew who does not keep mitzvot,” he said “All our conversions are according to pure Halacha, as passed down from generation to generation,” Druckman stressed. “Whoever comes to undergo a conversion does it because he or she really wants to be Jewish. They are not lacking anything [as Israelis].”
He was speaking of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who made aliya under the Law of Return but were not Jewish according to Halacha.
“Society isn’t pushing them to convert,” he continued. “They already received the benefits of olim.”
Druckman accused doubters among the haredim of “caring only about their own,” and not about the Jewish people. “Their sons and daughters won’t ever marry a convert anyway,” he said.
Shmuel Jesselsohn, director of the State Conversion Authority, said the authority had seen an increase of 27 percent in the number of converts from the FSU in 2010, which was evidence of a desire among non-Jewish Israelis to undergo the conversion process. He added that the increase among FSU olim who converted as part of the IDF program had risen by 6% during the same period.
The IDF conversion mechanism works closely with the State Conversion Authority, and members of its staff attended Monday’s event, including IDF Chief Rabbi Brig.-Gen. Rafi Peretz, who spoke of the importance to the Jewish people of the power of religious faith. “Where do you think [outgoing] Chief of General Staff Lt.-Gen. Gabi Ashkenazi had the strength to lead such a significant shift in the IDF in just a few years,” he asked rhetorically.
A co-sponsor of the Jerusalem conference was the Education Ministry’s Religious Education Administration. That body will be active in absorbing imminent waves of Falash Mura, who are non-Jewish Ethiopians with Jewish origins, and will be accompanying entire families as part of a special conversion processes.