Wednesday, June 29, 2011

News: Rabbi Angel on Parsha Hukkat and Conversion

Rabbi Angel, former President of the Rabbinical Council of America and author of Choosing to Be Jewish: The Orthodox Road to Conversion, has written a pretty scathing commentary on this week's parsha and conversion.

Here is an excerpt. The full version is located here.
Some years ago I attended a meeting of Orthodox rabbis to discuss policies relating to conversion to Judaism. One of the rabbis unabashedly proclaimed: “We have the power! We can demand prospective converts to do everything our way. We do not need to make any concessions because we have total control. They need us, we don’t need them. We have the power!”

I responded: “Did we become rabbis so that we can gain and exert power? Isn’t it our responsibility to help others and bring them closer to God and Torah, humbly and sincerely? Isn’t it antithetical to our religious worldview to arrogate to ourselves “power” to make people squirm, and bend to our will, and meet our demands—even when these demands far exceed what the actual halakha requires?”  
He responded: “We have the power, let’s use it.”

I find this account hard to believe, but I shouldn't be surprised because rabbis are human too. I think that sometimes we put rabbis on a pedestal and believe they are above regular human beings. But on the other hand, I am still willing to believe that the international rabbinate has been strong-armed in conversion policies by extremists within the Israeli Rabbinate, and that this voice was hopefully just the opinion of one misguided rabbi who needs a lesson in middos.


  1. day he`ll wake up and realize that "we" dont need him also.

  2. The Curmudgeonly Israeli Giyoret says:

    It doesn't sound so much like a lack of middot as an honest, if somewhat misguided attempt to ensure kosher converts.

    That attitude is going to be especially disastrous in Eretz Israel, where we have thousands of Russian immigrants who are halachically non-Jewish, but who grew up identified as Jews by the Russian authorities. The younger ones grow up as entirely Israeli, usually default "Jewish", serving in the military and using Hebrew as their language of choice. They aren't going anywhere, and they're going to be marrying Israelis. Converting them with no selectivity is a bad option, but not bringing them into the loop is worse.