ERIE, Pa. (Jun. 18)
Declaring that the halachic positions of Orthodox rabbis “can no longer be accepted as valid expressions of Jewish living,” a Conservative rabbi here has announced he will no longer accept Orthodox conversions or divorces as valid. Rabbi Mordecai Kieffer of Congregation B’rith Sholom also announced that Jews bringing him documents attesting Orthodox conversion “will have to undergo immersion in a Mikveh under my supervision.”
He also declared, in a statement in his synagogue bulletin, that divorce documents signed by an Orthodox Beth Din (rabbinical court) “will have to be re-written by the Beth Din of the Rabbinical Assembly,” the association of Conservative rabbis. He said “these steps are necessary to insure that the halacha has been faithfully followed, an assurance which the Orthodox rabbinate is no longer in a position to provide.” He said “I now declare them to be out of bounds.”
Rabbi Kieffer asserted that “we can no longer tolerate divisiveness caused by halachic aberrations” and that “to insure that the halacha is being properly interpreted and used, we must place in ascendant positions the leadership of Finkelstein over Feinstein, Waxman over Unterman, the Rabbi Kieffer over the Gerer Rebbe. The references were to Rabbi Louis Finkelstein, former chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary; Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, a leading Orthodox scholar; Rabbi Mordecai Waxman, president of the Rabbinical Assembly and to Rabbi Isar Unterman, former Israeli Ashkenazic Chief Rabbi.
CONSERVATIVES BARRED FROM MIKVEHS
Rabbi Kieffer opened his announcement with a denunciation of efforts of the Orthodox establishment in Israel to make acceptance by the National Religious Party in the government, finally formed without the NRP by Premier Yitzhak Rabin, contingent on a change in Israel’s Law of Return barring acceptance as Jews of immigrants converted by non-Orthodox rabbis.
He asserted that “gathering moral strength from the Israeli rabbinate. Orthodox rabbis in this country have taken similar steps–to invalidate the conversions, however halachic, of other rabbis.” He charged that in New York, “many Orthodox mikvehs have been closed to Conservative rabbis for use in conversion.” He said the halachic process “is not the province of any group” and that “the Orthodox, by their behavior, have shown themselves to be out of touch with the halachic method and to be out of touch with Jews.”