Friday, March 25, 2011

Conversion controversy again? Or maybe it was a little twisted?

03/24/11    3pm

So, looking at some posts from the blogs that I follow, I found this post here by Rabbi Harry Maryles. Basically, it states that a woman, who converted through the Queens Vaad, and her husband want to make aliyah. According to Rabbi Maryles, states that the Queens Vaad was not being recognized. He or his commeters (I read it last night and I don't have the patience to see which) made some comment that now the Queens Vaad is not being recognized for marriages.

Now, I WENT THROUGH the Queens Vaad. I also know that my friend who converted with me (well, right before while I was in the waiting shower room) has already gotten married in Israel. She said when her mother-in-law brought in her papers they didn't even flinch, no waiting, phone calls, looking anything up-accepted on the spot.

So, seeing the post on R.Harry's blog, I was suspicious. I went to the MAMA article through the link on his post. Well, it turns out, the details were twisted a little bit. According to the article, "Fanny, who completed her conversion 10 years ago, could move to Israel registered as his non-Jewish wife, the Smiths cannot afford to do this. She would lose out on the financial benefit package that only new Jewish immigrants receive. The couple say they need these benefits to pay for their relocation."

Earlier on in the article, it says, " 'My wife and I live an Orthodox life and feel Orthodox, and we want to contribute to the Jewish state and live there,' Bruce Smith, a resident of Brooklyn, told the Forward. 'It makes us angry; it makes us upset.' "

While I agree that it's odd that they treat individuals who went through the vaad as gentiles, contribute? I mean, how do they contribute if they aren't rich American Jews coming to influx capital into the state? Instead, they are wishing to be carried by the state until they can float on their own. I'm surprised the state is paying for this. I was under the impression Nefesh B'Nefesh paid for the aliyah help and that they were funded by donations from rich American Jews. I have heard of state programs for people under certain ages with a bachelors degree where they contract to teach English or something, but not anything that everyone gets just cuz. Reading the article, I was wondering if maybe they didn't qualify for such a thing.

I still think there is something that isn't being said in the article. The RCA told me I wouldn't need a second conversion through them because the Vaad has a good reputation. If there was some funny business going on, where they were trying to hold control to get paid to convert, they would have offered to dip me for a fee. It doesn't make sense.

All in all. I guess it's good thing I don't plan on making Aliyah.

As a side note: I believe (but don't know because I'm not really on top of these things anymore) the Queens Vaad is no longer doing conversions, but this could be since the rabbi who did more than half, maybe 80 to 90% of the conversions passed away a little over a year ago (right before the start of last Spring semester). The other rabbis are also getting on in years (most over 80).


  1. Agreed, something sounds fishy here. Did this person try having the Vaad call the Rabbanut before going to the press with the story?

    I wonder if there are less conversions going on in NYC, or if those who had gone to the Vaad are now going to RCA instead.

  2. i also posted this in response to your post from the FOrwards article...

    Ive heard bad things about the VHQ in regards to kashrus and kvuros.

  3. Michal,

    The Israeli Rabbinate has been giving converts (and children of converts) a hard time. Supposedly they want to be sure that the conversions are Kosher and were done for the right reasons. I say supposedly. I believe the Israeli Rabbinate is corrupt. There is an organization in Israel, headed up by Rabbi Seth Farber, called ITIM that helps couples navigate the Israeli bureaucracy that gives them a hard time with marriage. I know of a case where a young woman whose mother converted many years ago - it was an Orthodox conversion, done in the US,and she remained religious and raised her kids religious. The kids were born AFTER her conversion and attended Yeshiva. This young woman made aliyah and met a young man in Israel. They wanted to get married and were living in Jerusalem. They opened a "tik" (file) for a marriage license in Jerusalem. The Rabbinate gave her a very hard time and told her she had to convert first. She was in touch with Rabbi Farber and Rabbi Adler and with their help was able to get married without the conversion (although I believe she did do a "safek conversion".

    With regard to the issue of benefits for Olim -- this is a completely separate issue and you are confusing this. There are two parties that are providing benefits to new olim. Nefesh B'Nefesh offers a personal grant to olim. It is not a huge amount of money, but it is enough to help offset the "start up costs" of moving to Israel. The cost of shipping a container to Israel ranges from $7500 to $12000. That does not include the cost of purchasing new appliances (fridge, oven, range, washer/dryer), or a car (twice as expensive as here-- both the car and the cost of gasoline!). Setting up a new home in Israel is an expensive proposition -- even for people who are "just" renting. Unlike here in the US, rented properties do not come with abovementioned large appliances. Renters must provide their own! NBN also provides assistance navigating the Israeli bureaucracy with regard to process of making aliyah. They provide counseling for finding a community and place to live, for choosing schooling, and for find a job. The Jewish Agency provides ALL olim with a "sal klita", literally, "absorption basket". This is essentially a monthly stipend, and then later a symbolic rental assistance. They give you a one way ticket to Israel. Some of the non financial assistance offered by JAFI overlaps with what NBN has to offer. None of this is a case of people getting a "free ride" -- all of it is incentive for people to make aliyah -- because unless one is extremely wealthy, one's standard of living WILL go down upon making aliyah. Since the start up costs of making aliyah can be formidable, NBN and JAFI have teamed up to try and lessen the formidability of aliyah and to make it more palatable. So, yes, there is financial assistance for people making aliyah "just cuz". And, this is a GOOD thing.