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The Convert Problem

 

I. The Problem

While Israeli rabbis and politicians debate conversion standards, afflicting many converts with confusion and difficulty during this transitional period, a local problem of greater personal significance recedes to the background. R. Gedalia Dov Schwartz, senior rabbinic judge of the Chicago Rabbinical Council and the Beth Din of America, tries to tease that problem out of hiding and eradicate it with his new booklet, אהבת הגר – Loving the Convert: Converts to Judaism and Our Relationship With Them.

The Orthodox community, particularly in metropolitan areas, is quite homogeneous. The differences between people and sub-communities are generally quite minor. Converts, by dint of their non-Jewish backgrounds, are different. The few Jews who do not like people who are different will automatically dislike converts. Many others, though, may unintentionally make converts feel uncomfortable and even unwanted. A resulting feeling of rejection can be devastating to some converts.

II. The Solution: Part 1

The solution to this problem is two-pronged. The first is education of the greater Orthodox community. In this booklet, R. Schwartz takes on that task. Loving the Convert contains four sections. The first part, consisting of chapters 1-4, delineates the halakhic and hashkafic obligations of sensitivity to converts. Not only must we love them and pray for them three times a day, we must be extra careful to avoid offending them. In many ways, converts lack the typical support system in the Jewish community.

The second part of the booklet contains personal statements from converys about the difficulties they have encountered joining the Orthodox community. The third section examines halakhic issues related to converts, such as whether he may become a yeshiva dean (yes) or recite Kaddish for his deceased gentile parent (yes but only occasionally). The fourth part contains the Hebrew endnotes and extensive primary sources for the first and third parts.

Initially, the second section of the booklet seems out of place. Why would a prominent halakhic authority include the emotional words of laypeople in his work? However, when writing about the need to embrace converts, he clearly saw a need to point out both their sensitivities and the areas where our community needs work.

III. The Solution: Part 2

I mentioned earlier two elements to solving this problem. The first is educating the community. The second, not addressed in the booklet, is educating converts. They have to understand that a community that strives for closeness and closed-ness, a tight-knit society that builds a wall to the secular world (of varying heights, depending on each community), will present obstacles to joining. We will ask personal questions about your upbringing; we will play Jewish geography; we will treat you like family.

You may find this invasive, especially when some people are overly nosy. You may feel uncomfortable because you don’t have what you think are the “right” answers. You may not want to reveal your life’s story to strangers or at every Shabbos meal you attend. Just remember that this is not a unique experience for converts. Ba’alei teshuvah and people with unusual backgrounds — foreign accents, small town upbringing — face the same challenge.

You have to learn two skills. The first is blending in. Even those whose racial characteristics preclude fitting entirely into the American Orthodox community can blend in with their behavior. If you dress, speak and act like a member of the community, you will find you are treated much more like a member. You also have to learn how to deflect questions you don’t want to answer. In a perfect world, no one will ask you rude questions. Until then, have answers ready like “Someday I’ll give you the whole story” or “It’s a long and private story.” You can prepare joke answers or change the subject.

IV. Conclusion

It is hard for a community leader to acknowledge a societal problem. I salute R. Schwartz for also trying to solve it, even partially, through education. I’m not holding my breath until we eradicate rudeness. However, raising awareness can at least mitigate the problem and encourage others to reach out to those among us who feel vulnerable and rejected.

 

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Gil Student

Rabbi Gil Student is the founder, publisher and editor-in-chief of Torah Musings.

 
The opinions and facts here are presented solely by the author. Torah Musings assumes no responsibility for them. Please address religious questions to your rabbi.
 

63 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    >Initially, the second section of the booklet seems out of place. Why would a prominent halakhic authority include the emotional words of laypeople in his work?

    Really? I think only to aspiring Halachic Men, maybe. But to humans, it makes a lot of sense.

  2. Hirhurim says:

    Yes, that’s right. All the sefarim nowadays have it. Such as… maybe not.

  3. Michael Feldstein says:

    Where can I get a copy of the booklet?

  4. Ezzie says:

    Wouldn’t he include emotional words since the pesukim seem to as well? The title of the pamphlet is an emotional one directly from the Torah.

    If you dress, speak and act like a member of the community, you will find you are treated much more like a member.

    This is the only sentence that seems so contrary to the rest of the message: If you act exactly like us, then we’ll love you, otherwise…?

  5. Ezzie says:

    That’s not to say I don’t believe it’s true – sadly, it certainly is, particularly the more ‘right’ you go (by virtue of the nature of their mode of dress more than anything else). But in terms of a message to give over, it’s a very sad one.

  6. joel rich says:

    You have to learn two skills. The first is blending in. …..You also have to learn how to deflect questions you don’t want to answer.
    =====================================
    perhaps true (and much like baalei tshuva) but I wish it was “the first is to continue to try to understand the ratzon hashem for you and the second is to have a pithy version of your story to tell your countless admirers.”
    KT

  7. Mike S. says:

    I mentioned earlier two elements to solving this problem. The first is educating the community. The second is educating converts. They have to understand that a community that strives for closeness and closed-ness, a tight-knit society that builds a wall to the secular world (of varying heights, depending on each community), will present obstacles to joining. We will ask personal questions about your upbringing; we will play Jewish geography; we will treat you like family.

    You may find this invasive, especially when some people are overly nosy. You may feel uncomfortable because you don’t have what you think are the “right” answers.

    If making geirim and ba’alei tshuvah uncomfortable (i.e. violating the issur of ona’at devarim) on a regular basis is inherent in the way we have structured our community are we permitted to maintain that structure? And it is not a “few Jews who do not like people who are different.” Large segments of the Jewish community raise their children to be contemptuous of anyone (even other FFB Jews) who are different. It is thought to reduce the likelihood of assimilation.

  8. Moshe Shoshan says:

    “. If you dress, speak and act like a member of the community, you will find you are treated much more like a member. ”

    This line concerns me. It is certainly good advice, based on the hard reality of the Jewish community. Gerim need to know this. However, by putting this advice in a pamphlet aimed at the general community, it has the potential to reinforce the frum community’s unhealthy obsession with conformity.

  9. yehupitz says:

    I understand why people are hard on that “conformity” line, but having been in communities with many converts, I would like to explain its importance and relevance.

    In one city, at a local “Stam Ashkenaz” minyan, I saw a ger davening. He is African-American. So right off the bat, there are challenges, not because of the much discussed Orthodox racism, but “stam”, because her can’t visually blend in as a non-Ger the way Caucasians can. So with this, issue, he wears a blue-stripe tallis, with a silver atara, with techeiles, and a gartl. Is there anything wrong with any of those things? No, but the cultural mixed signals have the effect of excluding him further than necessary. Other geirim and Baalei Teshuva still keep their pre-teshuva earring and then complement it with the Hamburg hat or up-hat he sees his rov wear. V’ka’heina rabbos if you get the drift. I don’t think the pamphlet is suggesting we go the Satmar route of black socks and knickers etc, but I think it is important for geirim and Baalei Teshuva to appreciate that they are not just now Hashem’s servants on a higher level than before, they are joining a new community; This in fact is the entire lesson of Megillas Rus. And any community, not just Ultra-Orthodox Eastern European groups, but all communities have a basic conformity of behavior and dress. (I remember Rabbi Weinberg zt”l sarcastically observing that even those ‘rebels’ of the past and present who preached individuality and non-conformity seemed to all be wearing the same type of clothing.) Geirim and Baalei Teshuva who ignore this reality do so at their own social peril.

  10. joel rich says:

    Geirim and Baalei Teshuva who ignore this reality do so at their own social peril.
    ==================================
    True, but who creates this reality? Who has the power to change it?
    KT

  11. Hirhurim says:

    Michael Feldstein: You can order it from the CRC. E-mail R. Moshe Kushner.

    Ezzie: This is the only sentence that seems so contrary to the rest of the message: If you act exactly like us, then we’ll love you, otherwise…?

    I only meant that if you act like everyone else, fewer people will ask you a lot of questions about your background.

    Mike S: If making geirim and ba’alei tshuvah uncomfortable (i.e. violating the issur of ona’at devarim) on a regular basis is inherent in the way we have structured our community are we permitted to maintain that structure?

    That would be true if it were the only value under consideration. But realistically, at least as many see it, in order to keep people within our minority community you need to erect some sort of divider with the majority culture. It takes great effort to prevent the wall that keeps people in from also keeping people out. I think we’re probably doing pretty well, considering.

    Large segments of the Jewish community raise their children to be contemptuous of anyone (even other FFB Jews) who are different.

    I live within such a community and I think you are exaggerating the attitude. I also don’t see it stopping converts from joining the community. They are warmly welcomed. The problem is that they are sometimes treated as curiosities rather than just another Jew.

    Moshe Shoshan: However, by putting this advice in a pamphlet aimed at the general community, it has the potential to reinforce the frum community’s unhealthy obsession with conformity

    I’m sorry if I was unclear. This was not in the booklet. Only the parts about educating the community are in it. The part about educating the converts is my own thoughts.

  12. yehupitz says:

    joel rich: It is the reality of human social relationships. It is the reality of community since communities came into being. I could find a few pesukim that corroborate, but I see it as a truth that is self-evident, and evident from all of human history; and not an evil Chareidi or fundamentalist or bigoted conspiracy.

    The degree to which some closed societies practice the conformity (sock color, hat style, haircut etc.) can be contested convincingly, but not the underlying nature. I don’t think anybody has the power to change that basic nature. People can try, have tried and will continue to try, but I think that anyone who attempts to will watch how his efforts will fail even in the short term.

  13. Hirhurim says:

    I updated the post to make it clear that the section about “educating converts” is not in the booklet. It’s my own idea.

  14. joel rich says:

    and not an evil Chareidi or fundamentalist or bigoted conspiracy.
    ===========================
    Just for clarity, I don’t think I said or implied that. As far as success in this matter, I hold by R’ Browning “Ah, but a man’s reach should exceed his grasp, or what’s a heaven for?” (or as I tell my kids, I’m going down fighting)
    KT

  15. Charlie Hall says:

    “The Orthodox community, particularly in metropolitan areas, is quite homogeneous. The differences between people and sub-communities are generally quite minor. Converts, by dint of their non-Jewish backgrounds, are different. The few Jews who do not like people who are different will automatically dislike converts. Many others, though, may unintentionally make converts feel uncomfortable and even unwanted. A resulting feeling of rejection can be devastating to some converts.”

    In my community you can’t tell the FFBs from the BTs from the gerim. And that is as it should be.

  16. Hirhurim says:

    Charlie: That’s only because the majority of your community is BT and gerim. People who grow up FFB have similar cultural baggage that causes a fairly homogeneous community.

  17. Me says:

    Different kinds of Gerim present themselves in different communities. I moved from an enormous community where there are both many BTs and many Gerim – granted gerim are clustered mostly around one or two shuls – to another large city with a much smaller religious community with one centralized shul. The number of gerim is enormous – but very different from the thick Jewish community I left. These gerim, vastly women, are very different from the kind in the thicker community – who to be honest (if they weren’t intermarried and seeking to clarify their situation), were often older, far more men, often people looking for community, often people with family problems…common issues that would make them a hard “fit” in MANY non-Jewish settings. Another distinction I’ve come to over the years is that a BT makes a radical, communally-esteemed leap of family-deriving, self-ASSERTION in becoming observant – a Ger makes a radical, JEWISH-community-affirmed act of self-RENUNCIATION. YES, as individuals they’re making a swell “affirmation” – AGAIN apart from the community they came from (which for the most part does not exist anywhere but traditional religious communities), but that casts the conversation about gerim AND Judaism into a very individual-orbiting light that would make little sense to sages and authorities and communities before the late modern era and THEIR self perception. the perception that stands, that makes gerim a hard fit with Orthodox communities EVEN when there’s lots of hugs and kisses is Jewish good, Goyish bad – evidenced in the frankly-made assertion that it’s ontologically advantageous for a Goy to be a Jew (R. Feinstein and child conversions I think?). that’s not a judgement of what’s in the law, but the kind of attitudes latent with community norms and attitudes that cohabit with the law and express themselves in the literature and society.

  18. Aryeh says:

    This book is emblematic of who R. Schwartz is. He is a great halachic authority widely respected even by those outside the so called modern orthodox circles. The Agudah in Chicago, while not members of the CRC, have been told by R. Fuerst (Dayan, Agudah) that R. Schwartz can be trusted. At the same time, he goes on trips with the Jeish Federation to Europe and Israel on rabbinic missions with other rabbbanim as well as non-Orthodox rabbis. He has the halachic credibility while having the right sensitivites towards individuals and the community. I pray that he should live to 120 as I fear what the CRC Beth Din and RCA Beth Din may look like when he is no longer there.

  19. IH says:

    A few observations:

    1. Our mesorah is ambivalent regarding conversion, by which I mean “fluctuation (as between one thing and its opposite)”. For all the quotations that can be selected about welcoming converts, there are also quotations like:
    אמר רב היינו דאמרי אינשי גיורא עד עשרה דרי לא תבזה ארמאי קמיה.

    2. It seems to me there must be side effects to the (societal) politicization of standards of conversion within Orthodoxy. If nothing else, the discourse (if one can call it that) that one hears in the blogosphere from adults reflects talk that must certainly influence their kids.

    3. The issue of homogeneity is more pernicious than external appearance: there is greater cognitive homogeneity within Orthodoxy than there was a generation or two ago. On the one hand, the converts who choose to affiliate with RW Orthodoxy are probably completely in sync with this (the proverbial zeal of the convert”, but ironically some (many?) in the club they want to join believe deep down that these gerim are pasul due to knowledge they acquired before they converted (e.g. they wouldn’t they let their children marry one).

  20. So when is your shul or any Orthodox shul sponsoring an Ahavas HaGer seminar? Personally I think it should be mandated in every O Shul and membership in the Shul should require attendance!

  21. So when is your shul or any Orthodox shul sponsoring an Ahavas HaGer seminar? Personally I think it should be mandated in every O Shul and membership in the Shul should require attendance of the seminar!

  22. Mike S. says:

    Large segments of the Jewish community raise their children to be contemptuous of anyone (even other FFB Jews) who are different.

    I live within such a community and I think you are exaggerating the attitude. I also don’t see it stopping converts from joining the community. They are warmly welcomed. The problem is that they are sometimes treated as curiosities rather than just another Jew

    Rabbi Student: how many kids get raised without regularly hearing one or more of the following terms (for the sake of strengthening my argument I will limit my list to terms frum Jews use to describe other frum Jews) in a disparaging way: “modern”, “Chareidi”, “yekke”, “kalte Litvak”, “Mizrachist”, “Aggudist” … well you can add more. These are all terms (when used disparagingly) used to identify people as being not like us and worthy of contempt. And this is toward other frum Jews. You know it is worse regarding Jews who do not accept the binding force of halacha or Gentiles.

    And if you are treating someone as a curiosity, you are not really welcoming him or her warmly. Ditto if you won’t consider him or her as a shidduch.

  23. Hirhurim says:

    Mike S: These are all terms (when used disparagingly) used to identify people as being not like us and worthy of contempt.

    There’s a difference between the former and the latter. I agree that these terms identify people as being not like us. I’m not so sure about the contempt part. My kids definitely tell me when they hear teachers refer to another group with contempt. It isn’t too often and some students protest (I tell my kids not to).

    In my experience, admittedly limited and to some degree selective of institutions with which I will affiliate, the contempt to outsiders is minimal and limited to select individuals whom people generally consider extremists.

    And if you are treating someone as a curiosity, you are not really welcoming him or her warmly.

    I totally disagree. My old landlady was a Brooklyn-born and raised woman who was delightful but very provincial. She loved people who are different but in her joy over diversity was very intrusive about her questions. I am sure she offended many people but it was only out of her love. But I have no doubt that she welcomed everyone into the community regardless of race, background, odd traits, etc.

  24. Hirhurim says:

    Harry: Gavriel Sanders came to my community for a Shabbos a year or two ago. He was a huge hit. I think he got more people than Paysach Krohn, and I saw people following him from one shul-speaking engagement to another throughout Shabbos.

  25. Anonymous says:

    >Gavriel Sanders came to my community for a Shabbos a year or two ago. He was a huge hit. I think he got more people than Paysach Krohn, and I saw people following him from one shul-speaking engagement to another throughout Shabbos.

    He was a hit, but his wife is a divorcee with children.

    I know, I know – it’s wrong to stigmatize a divorcee with children too. But the point has to be made – these are seen as a match for each other. A “regular” frum lady is no match for a former Baptist minister in our community, and we both know that.

  26. Reuven says:

    Did anyone notice that the subtitle of the book undermines the content? “Converts to Judaism and Our Relationship With Them” — Once people convert, they are no longer “them.” The “Our Relationship With Them” implies that “we the Jews” have some relationship to “them” who are not part of “us.” But they are!

  27. Raphael Kaufman says:

    “A “regular” frum lady is no match for a former Baptist minister in our community, and we both know that.”

    Perhaps not, but a truly “frum” lady might be.

  28. YC says:

    re While Israeli rabbis and politicians debate conversion standards, afflicting many converts with confusion and difficulty during this transitional period, a local problem of greater personal significance recedes to the background.

    From speaking to converts the fact that the STATE OF ISRAEL sees (or may see) some of them as Benei Noach is a very big problem in the foreground.

  29. mycroft says:

    “It seems to me there must be side effects to the (societal) politicization of standards of conversion within Orthodoxy. ”

    It has also shown gerim that unfortunately a high percentage of the Jewish community really wishes there was no concept of Gerim-they admire the Syrian community for their insularity-of course readers of Jersey Sting see how what was inside their insularity.

  30. mycroft says:

    “So when is your shul or any Orthodox shul sponsoring an Ahavas HaGer seminar? ”

    First start with the Rabbis who sacrified gerim as an exchange for the Rabbis “acceptance”

  31. Hirhurim says:

    Mycroft: While your comments are always welcome, I suspect that your cynical tone in this thread might hurt real people — converts who read this and might be convinced that large portions of our community and important rabbis do not care for them. You may believe that but please do not write your cynical take on this post. Thank you for your understanding.

  32. Anonymous says:

    >Perhaps not, but a truly “frum” lady might be.

    That’s making lemons out of lemonade.

  33. YC says:

    re It has also shown gerim that unfortunately a high percentage of the Jewish community really wishes there was no concept of Gerim

    I never heard anyone express such a wish. I wonder what other mitzvot they wish to abolish.

    PS Without a concept of Gerim how to 600K men become Jewish in the first place?

  34. joel rich says:

    There is a common thread amongst many of our threads, a lack of real data which allows everyone to take their anecdotal experience (and perhaps personal bias) as a basis for suggested action. It’s most unfortunate imho that we lack the will as a community (ies) to really look ourselves in the mirror. As we frequently tell our clients, it’s hard to manage what you don’t measure.
    KT

  35. Rafael Araujo says:

    “Without a concept of Gerim how to 600K men become Jewish in the first place?”

    When R’ Moshe Shapiro came to Toronto recently, I went to hear a shiur of his. In his shiur, he quoted a Maharal, in Parashas Vayigash I believe, that there is a difference between BY at Har Sinai and subsequent geirim. However, don’t quote me on that.

  36. MDJ says:

    YC,
    It is not difficult to take 70 (plus spouses) people and make them 2 million after 210 years if you assume reasonably high fertility. Even assuming complete in marriage after arrival in Egypt, 7 children per couple will get you there in 8 generations or so, which can be fit into 210 years if children are born by parental age of 30. A stretch, yes, but it doesn’t require geirim or a miracle.

  37. Rafael Araujo says:

    “YC,
    It is not difficult to take 70 (plus spouses) people and make them 2 million after 210 years if you assume reasonably high fertility. Even assuming complete in marriage after arrival in Egypt, 7 children per couple will get you there in 8 generations or so, which can be fit into 210 years if children are born by parental age of 30. A stretch, yes, but it doesn’t require geirim or a miracle.”

    I believe Rav Zalman Sorotzkin in Oznayim L’Torah has a whole heshbon that support that number. Maybe YC is including the Erev Rav?

  38. IH says:

    That said, there was “replenishment” through conversion at various points in our history. We’re learning more about this through DNA year by year.

    On a different tack: do we proactively teach how important gerim have been to our mesorah: Sh’maya and Avtalyon, key links in the mesorah per Mishna Avot 1:10 — and, more in-your-face to everyone that owns Mikraot Gedolot, Onkelos.

  39. chareidilite says:

    Reuven on April 1, 2011 at 11:11 am

    Did anyone notice that the subtitle of the book undermines the content? “Converts to Judaism and Our Relationship With Them” — Once people convert, they are no longer “them.” The “Our Relationship With Them” implies that “we the Jews” have some relationship to “them” who are not part of “us.” But they are!

    So the title should have been “Converts to Judaism and Our Relationship With Us”?

  40. Shlomo says:

    The “v’ahavta es hager”/”blend in” paradox that many seem to be concerned with seems quite appropriate to me. We natural born Jews have a duty to love and accept gerim regardless of how they dress, and gerim have an obligation to make an effort to truly join the community that have chosen to become a part of. Gerim do not have a right to be socially accepted, and we do not have a right to have all members of the community to conform to communal norms. Nevertheless, both sides have obligations to act in a sensitive and appropriate manner. We all must work on ourselves and our own conduct and not have taynos on others for not fulfilling their own obligations.

  41. YC says:

    Rafael Araujo -thanks, I agree that is why I left as a PS

    MDJ – I was not questioning the ability to reach such a number
    I was pointing out that at har sinai there were 600K converts not including women and those men not counted as part of the 600k

    Re ability to reach 600K
    Rav Medan points out that not all shevatim were like the Levi/ Moshe line (4 generations to har sinai) .Look at Yehuda’s genealogy lists

  42. Shlomo says:

    “Rav Medan points out that not all shevatim were like the Levi/ Moshe line (4 generations to har sinai) .Look at Yehuda’s genealogy lists”

    One reason Moshe/Aharon (and potentially, Korach) were accepted as leaders was that they were some of the oldest people around. Possibly, also, davka because they were closest in descent (i.e. fewest generations) to Yaakov, compared to most other people their age (210 years is a long time for 4 generations).

  43. CRF says:

    Well, even for those who fit in, a little more sensitivity and awareness about this is all for the good. I fly “undercover” very well – I’m essentially fluent in Hebrew, married with a large family, use my Hebrew name for all purposes, dress the part of the typical frum wife and mother, and live in a different city from where I converted. Unfortunately, that very ability to “pass” has at times meant that I have heard the most disgusting, racist comments from those who had no idea about my background – not comments directed to me, obviously, but about other geirim or geirim in general. It is very depressing when such things occur. I always just have to remind myself that even if 10 percent are idiots, the vast majority are not, and that the saintly individuals I’ve come to know on this journey more than make up for the tzoraas caused by a few.

    Really, being welcomed or not welcomed just doesn’t make much difference. In the end if it is all emes, it is emes, and the failure of some to live up to Torah ideals doesn’t change anything as far as my obligations are concerned.

  44. layman says:

    “You have to learn two skills. The first is blending in. Even those whose racial characteristics preclude fitting entirely into the American Orthodox community can blend in with their behavior. If you dress, speak and act like a member of the community, you will find you are treated much more like a member. You also have to learn how to deflect questions you don’t want to answer. In a perfect world, no one will ask you rude questions. Until then, have answers ready like “Someday I’ll give you the whole story” or “It’s a long and private story.” You can prepare joke answers or change the subject.”

    I’m not suggesting that your advice is wrong; but it should be. This is everything that is wrong with the modern “frum” community.

  45. mycroft says:

    “Gerim do not have a right to be socially accepted”
    Really?

  46. mycroft says:

    “Really, being welcomed or not welcomed just doesn’t make much difference”
    Then you are a zadekes

  47. Shachar Ha'amim says:

    American converts should be encourage to move to Israel and join the national religious community. They will generally find a greater degree of acceptance there than in any charedi community or the american orthodox community

    The whole ‘educating converts’ bit of this post is sort of like blaming rape victims who dress provocatively. It really goes to the core of the fact that the American orthodox community is really only partially frum as it only partially strives to fulfill all mitzvot.

  48. Hirhurim says:

    Shachar: Your zeal for aliyah is admirable but I fear you are at least to some degree mistaken. I suspect that many converts hesitate to move to Israel because of the risk of bureaucratic problems with their Jewish status.

    Regardless, the Dati Leumi community is not the heaven you make it out to be and American Orthodoxy is not hell. There are always uncomfortable situations and people have to learn to deal with them.

    That said, yes, converts should be encouraged to move to Israel because it is a mitzvah.

  49. Anonymous says:

    Former American gentiles will find a greater degree of acceptance among Israelis than American Jews? I doubt it.

  50. Moshe Shoshan says:

    I live here in Israel and I second the two above comments.

  51. Jon_Brooklyn says:

    “It has also shown gerim that unfortunately a high percentage of the Jewish community really wishes there was no concept of Gerim-they admire the Syrian community for their insularity-of course readers of Jersey Sting see how what was inside their insularity.”

    This is pretty disgusting. I’m not sure how you go from 3 figure-head (ask anyone) rabbis to the character of a pretty massive group of people, but you should really consider apologizing.

  52. mycroft says:

    “Hirhurim on April 3, 2011 at 12:06 pm
    Shachar: Your zeal for aliyah is admirable but I fear you are at least to some degree mistaken. I suspect that many converts hesitate to move to Israel because of the risk of bureaucratic problems with their Jewish status.”
    Agree with Gil-in fact I am aware of MO Rabbis who are no longer advising converts to go to Israel for the year or 2 after HS forthat reason.

    “Regardless, the Dati Leumi community is not the heaven you make it out to be and American Orthodoxy is not hell.”
    Agreed
    “There are always uncomfortable situations and people have to learn to deal with them.”
    Agreed but that doesn’t take away from the responsibility of our leaders Raabbonim, RY etc to take away unnecessary barriers that make people uncomfortable.

    “That said, yes, converts should be encouraged to move to Israel because it is a mitzvah.”
    UNtil a few years ago-now I am not sure-their gerus being questioned can cause fath problems.

    Anonymous on April 3, 2011 at 12:42 pm
    Former American gentiles will find a greater degree of acceptance among Israelis than American Jews? I doubt it.

  53. mycroft says:

    “admire the Syrian community for their insularity-of course readers of Jersey Sting see how what was inside their insularity.”

    This is pretty disgusting. I’m not sure how you go from 3 figure-head (ask anyone) rabbis to the character of a pretty massive group of people, but you should really consider apologizing”

    Are you disputing that Syrian community is not insular and certainly officially not accepting of gerim?
    Are you disputing the basic truth of the Jersey Sting?

  54. Sholom says:

    “This is pretty disgusting. I’m not sure how you go from 3 figure-head (ask anyone) rabbis to the character of a pretty massive group of people, but you should really consider apologizing.”

    I agree that this was inappropriate, but the Syrian community should be ashamed of themselves for continuing to ban conversions. Unfortunately, in some segments of Jewry tradition trumps ethics.

    Converts in the modern era are no more or less likely to be problematic for the Syrians than any other group within orthodoxy. The fact that their isn’t an uproar about this from other segments of orthodoxy should be considered scandalous.

  55. Yehoshua Friedman says:

    The dati leumi community in Israel is not all one piece. In the yishuvim there are places where people who are different are welcome. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are communities in America where this is the case as well, but I bet they are harder to find. The dati leumi community in Israel has more marriages of different edot and hence are more open to gerim. That may be less so in the more urban and status-oriented places. Once again, anecdotal evidence. I have a Yemenite and a Sefardi son-in-law, a Yemenite daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law whose American mother was a convert. They all live in unusual communities where a lot of diversity exists.

  56. Steve Brizel says:

    I think that the above pamphlet serves a vital purpose in educating the community about Ahavas HaGer and the would be Ger or BT that since he or she is entering a community, as opposed to just becoming a Jewish man or woman, tnat one must become part of the community as well.

  57. Shachar Ha'amim says:

    “Shachar: Your zeal for aliyah is admirable but I fear you are at least to some degree mistaken. I suspect that many converts hesitate to move to Israel because of the risk of bureaucratic problems with their Jewish status.

    Regardless, the Dati Leumi community is not the heaven you make it out to be and American Orthodoxy is not hell. There are always uncomfortable situations and people have to learn to deal with them.

    That said, yes, converts should be encouraged to move to Israel because it is a mitzvah.”

    My comment was a social comment. A convert that has converted via a reputable beit din should have no less bureaucratic problems than any other American orthodox Jewish oleh/ah. It seems to me that most American olim make aliyah after having already married in chu”l, so there is really no encounter with the “status” bureaucracy until their children seek to get married – by when there is enough of a “local” family history to satisfy the marriage registrar at the rabbinate. However, single American orthodox Jews who seek to marry in Israel often face many bureaucratic hurdles owing to the fact that American has no “central” orthodox rabbinic authority or registry. I experienced this firsthand – and my upbringing is probably even further to the right than Gil’s children are receiving (not to speak of Gil’s upbringing). So most of the gerut “bureaucracy” Gil refers to relates to unrecognized batei din or less than stellar batei din – and converts from those batei din won’t do much better in most of the American orthodox community.
    If Rabbi Gedaliah Schwartz converted you it actually might be EASIER – from a bureaucratic perspective – to register to get married in Israel than if you went to grew up in a NJ suburbm Frisch HS, studied in an Israeli one-year program and received semicha from YU and then made aliyah as a single man.

  58. mycroft says:

    “However, single American orthodox Jews who seek to marry in Israel often face many bureaucratic hurdles owing to the fact that American has no “central” orthodox rabbinic authority or registry. I experienced this firsthand – and my upbringing is probably even further to the right than Gil’s children are receiving (not to speak of Gil’s upbringing). So most of the gerut “bureaucracy” Gil refers to relates to unrecognized batei din or less than stellar batei din – and converts from those batei din won’t do much better in most of the American orthodox community”
    Disagree with a very simple example that was blogged upon a while back. There was a person who was megayer along with his siblings in North America. Family made aliyah-person was married in Israel under previous CR rules. Marriage falls apart-male not presently religious. Male comes to Beis Din to give a get-head of beis din says get out no get is needed you aren’t religious. Years ago even before this incident came out I had spoken to a Rabbi about some of conversions-conversions were no secret family was a famous Jewish family who BTW as part of conversion agreement agreed to send their children to a moderate chareidi school.The Rabbi who was involved in some of the family conversions and asked how many of those were still religious-was told 2 out of 3. When that incident happened I asked another MO Rabbi who was involved in the conversion in question he told me not the first Rabbi but due to extraneous issues etc was not part of first conversion. The second Rabbi told me he had just been in that city and saw the documents and the Rabbis involved were not ones that could be reasonably questioned.
    About 6 weeks ago during a lecture by a visitorto some community on the conversion question I asked that Rabbi who usually lives in Israel-not a Rav hair or anyone who I even knew before jhis lecture was involved in the conversion issue- about that situation-since due to his background it was reasonable to say that person was familiar with people from the city where the conversion took place and he told me the one who they refused to allow to even give a get-he is not currently religious but his
    My point is given this story of a famous issue where I just happen by accident to know a lot of details-I don’t believe it will be easy for gerim-the people involved IMHO were not an “unrecognized batei din or less than stellar batei din – “

  59. mycroft says:

    “Steve Brizel on April 5, 2011 at 10:19 am
    I think that the above pamphlet serves a vital purpose in educating the community about Ahavas HaGer and the would be Ger or BT that since he or she is entering a community, as opposed to just becoming a Jewish man or woman, tnat one must become part of the community as well.”
    The concept that Steve writes is fundamental-amech ami even comes before eloiach elokiach. However, we have to be open to welcome the ger into our community.

  60. Yochev says:

    Although I agree that the ger should make every effort to “blend in”, individuals who aren’t Caucasian, have a tougher time doing so. I am an African American ger. I look, act, dress and speak like any other frum Jewish woman you would meet; however, my brown skin always sets me apart in any community. Contrary to popular belief, the constant questioning IS offensive and intrusive. Moreover, anyone who believes otherwise, is seriously deluding themselves. I know first hand that Caucasian gerim are not questioned the way that I am which just goes to show that our experiences within the community are drastically different. Caucasian gerim don’t worry that someone will try to send them to the non-kosher food section like I do and when I bring up ahavas hager to the people that do this, they act as if I am the one with the problem. Ha! It’s for the above reasons (and several others) that I believe this publication is well overdue.  People need to put themselves in our place for a change. And for the record, we are not all converts either. Some of us are fortunate enough to get married (yes, to Ashkenazim) and have brown skin born Jews. Just food for thought….

    Btw – This post was also written on behalf of anyone who doesn’t “look Jewish”. African Americans aren’t the only people to receive this kind of treatment.

  61. [...] The House I Lived In: A Taste of Gooseflesh by R. Shalom Carmy – Some Orthodox Jews are uncomfortable with converts for reasons that are not racist. But discomfort with people from different backgrounds is still small-minded. I’d add that many ba’alei teshuvah face the same attitude (see this post: link). [...]

  62. Suzanne says:

    I and my husband who is a Ger just made aliyah and I was afraid to move to a very Charadi community because my daughter has bangs and likes to wear colors. So we moved to a mixed community and go to the closest orthodox shul. Our problems seem to be that I was used to dressing frum and people stare at you in Israel if you dress different. This is sooooo rude. The Dati Leumi women show more skin and hair and the men ware knit kippas and short sleeve shirts. The men have accepted my husband totally, even though he wares a velvet kippa & white shirt etc. This is good. However, I’m a baal tchuva (spell?) but I hate it when people stare…It hurts terrible to be rejected, I can’t imagine what it must be like for the Ger, so painful. My heart goes out to you who suffer. Maybe it’s just females! haha

 
 

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