Saturday, January 23, 2010

How geirus should be fixed (revised)

There is little doubt in the minds of sincere gerim and Orthodox Jews who keep up with the news that something needs to be done to resolve the issues with geirus. What should be done? I am only one gyoress out there. However, based on my experiences taking classes, speaking with others and finally, my own learning for conversion, I have some ideas on how the rabbonim could go about this, if they so chose.

As already on the RCA protocols, regions would be created. Each region would have a beis din set up. I would make a beis din for EACH boro, another for just upstate whatever those counties are, another for NJ North, NJ South.... you get the idea... I would say that a Chabad beis din could be set up in Crown Heights and they would not be permitted to use their own regional beis din but they would go through that system. Those who convert with the Chabad would be expected to take on Chabad minhagim.

Furthermore, they should create workshops whereby the veteran conversion rabbis would work with novice conversion rabbis. The rabbis would get a certificate or be put on a list after completing this workshop. The veteran rabbis (who would likely also be the dayanim for the regional baytai dayanim) would also make themselves available for questions to rabbis who had not sponsored m/any candidates before, these new sponsor rabbis. In fact, they should constantly check in with the new sponsors. Women teachers could also obtain these certificates qualifying them to tutor or teach classes. It would be at the discretion of the beis din if a woman had enough Jewish education to take this certification or she needs more study beforehand. In this manner, there would be a balance between the power of the local rabbi and the local beis din.

I also think that they could then be practical and have classes set up by the beis din. Each rabbi who is currently sponsoring at least one person would be required to teach X number of classes for the beis din. Any other certificate holder in the community could volunteer to teach a section or more. They would put all these teachers together and have a giant class somewhat like they do at OZ (Ohab Zedek on the Upper West Side of New York City which hosts a program with about 60 candidates at a time.) It would actually be more efficient though, because besides taking the class, the candidate would have a sponsor (whereas OZ geirus candidate all have same rabbi) they are specifically working with. The sponsor would decide when to take a candidate to the beis din. As is the case now, the baytai dayanim would pretty much accept the sponsor’s recommendation.

This is a change from what goes on now. The problem I see is that some of the rabbis who are sponsoring candidates don’t seem to know what they are doing and they don’t seem to have any guidance. Furthermore, I don’t believe that someone is ready for geirus in less than a year. I sure wasn't ready at 3 months. Some may be reading this and feel it is not so different from the current RCA system. Well, the current RCA beis din is not enforcing the standards they have listed in their GPS. I know someone who converted through their beis din in about eight months. Furthermore, she converted with two children who did not want to convert. Besides this candidate that I know personally, we all know about Ivanka Trump who was converted in less than a year, despite her wardrobe which did not reflect sincerity and a desire to belong to the Orthodox Jewish world.

I stated previously that I don’t think the rabbis care. I maintain this. If the rabbis at the RCA care, why are they performing conversions that do not meet their own GPS standards? Also, I think it’s crucial that the rabbis who are sponsoring candidates have some sort of training from rabbis who have been doing this a while. A well-tuned crapmeter doesn’t hurt, either.


  1. Honestly, I fear that a centralised, hierachic structure would do more harm than good.

    Because this would mean that the access points are limited. And this would increase the power of those limited access points. And this would increase the risk of corruption.

    The chief rabbinate system in Israel is the best proof that corruption is an issue indeed.

    Therefore, I am all for training the sponsors and rabbis who teach Gerim, but it should not be to tight a structure.

    There is nothing like competing, parallel structures to limit the scope of each...

  2. Also, Tropper was corrupt before he even got in this business. Time after time you see posts from people who have knows him and they all say the same the thing about how he's always been like this and how did he even get away with getting his power.

    -tsk tsk!

  3. I would not trust "rabbinic establishment" with any power, because I got the impression that they do not have the necessary structures to fight abuse and corruption.

    They lack transparency. This might be OK for "personal Councelling", but you cannot entrust them with any serious responsibility...

  4. I'm with gioret on this one.

    The idea of centralizing geirut scares me. In the end we will have competing standards and organizations just like there is in the kashrus racket, with organizations fighting each other over hashgochos and so on.

    There is a reason that geirut has been a local matter for generations.