The seemingly interminable war of words between Rabbi Avi Weiss and the Rabbinical Council of America continues this week with an op-ed in The Jewish Week challenging the council’s refusal to validate a conversion performed years ago. Weiss writes:
The case involved a young woman who attended my synagogue’s supplementary Jewish Youth Encounter Program (JYEP). This is not an unusual case as, over the years, the JYEP has had a profound impact on the religious lives of hundreds of young men and women. Subsequent to the conversion, this woman fell in love with a man whose rabbi turned to the RCA to validate her conversion. The RCA refused to do so, insisting that for its validation, the young women needs to convert once again. This refusal to validate without reconversion is being interpreted by the community, in the current climate (created by the GPS), as an invalidation of this convert’s Jewish status.
The RCA based its ruling on the fact that one of the converting rabbis was a convert himself. This concern is unjustified. A convert may serve on a Beit Din when the judgment is regarding another convert (Talmud Yebamot 102a, Yoreh Deah 269:11 and Hoshen Mishpat 7:1). Additionally, a convert may be a judge on a non-coercive Beit Din, i.e. one to which the person appearing before the court has willfully submitted him or herself (Shakh CM 7:1; Sema CM 7:4 and Shakh YD 269:15). A convert serving on a Beit Din of conversion should thus be valid for both of these reasons.
Weiss notes that in an opinion piece last March, the head of the RCA’s conversion committee, Rabbi Barry Freundel, wrote that “it is important to emphasize that nothing in this system is designed to change anyone’s previous status as a convert."
No word from the RCA yet, but we’ll keep you posted.