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The Melbourne Beit Din – Please G-d you will Never Need Them

February 16, 2012 – 11:18 am162 Comments

Three Blind Mice

By Yaron Gottlieb
The Melbourne Beit Din is in an enviable position in the community. We are aware of their presence, but we are glad to ignore their day-to-day actions. Nonetheless most of us have heard of a Beit Din horror story – such stories appear with alarming regularity.

The old Beit Din was closed and revamped due to foul scandals, lack of transparency, and gross abuses of power that left scores in limbo indefinitely. As the ABC reported in 2002, “Melbourne’s Beth Din, or Jewish Court, has been dissolved, and its head Rabbi has resigned, amid accusations of insensitivity, lack of transparency and administrative chaos. The Rabbinical Council of Victoria now has a problem on its hands – not just to reconstitute the Beth Din, but also to rekindle the faith of Melbourne’s Orthodox Jewish community in its leaders.”

But have things changed? From their own figures, only about 100 people have direct contact with the Beit Din each year (40 divorces and 10 conversions). In a community of over 50,000 that is not many, so this article may not seem relevant to your personal experience of being Jewish…until you need them. Then God help you.

The Beit Din is able to get away with its behaviour because it has a monopoly. All divorces and conversions go through them. People who feel that they’ve been treated unjustly are hesitant to talk about their experiences publicly because they are afraid that their divorces or conversions will be made even more difficult.

And then there is the very novel halachic development of annulling conversions. The threat that a conversion could be rescinded is a new way to keep the convert in limbo even after they have been declared Jewish. No one knows when the axe will fall, so everyone who has dealt with the Beit Din in conversion matters may feel a strong need to stay silent.My experience with the Beit Din was far less horrific than others, but then I did not really need them. I approached the Dayanim – or judges – (Rabbis Mordechai Gutnick, Barber and Kievman) because I wanted to teach converts.

During my interview with with the Dayanim, I thought of Monty Python; I definitely did not expect the Spanish Inquisition.

The questioning began simply enough about my observance of the basic commandments (shabbat, kashrut, and family purity).

Then things took a turn for the surreal and grossly inappropriate. I was asked a question so disgusting, I was rendered temporarily speechless. One of the Dayanim asked me, to whom does my wife send her spotted underpants for investigation when she has irregular menstrual bleeding?

No questions were asked about my honesty in business, nor whether I help the poor or underprivileged. From their questioning, it would seem being a decent, moral human is not important.

After the interview, I heard nothing. After repeated attempts to get an answer, I finally spoke to the secretary. She told me that I was rejected, the reason being that my wife does not cover her hair. When I challenged the board of the Beit Din on that explanation, they told me that:

  1. The secretary had no authority to give me that information;
  2. She would be told off for giving over that information;
  3. The information was wrong; and
  4. The reason would be forthcoming in a letter I would receive shortly.

They were at a loss to explain how the secretary knew of my wife’s head covering practices. Following my numerous requests for an official explanation, I did receive a response. Six months later!

The letter told me there were halachic considerations behind the rejection, but no actual halachic reason was given.

This raises the following points, all of which beg the question, is the new Beit Din so different from the old?

a) Why did this letter take half a year to arrive? And even then only after numerous emails from me? Why aren’t there processes to prevent this happening to others?

b) The Beit Din supposedly has an appeals process, as a nod to transparency. But there has never actually been a successful appeal. This is because an appeal cannot be initiated on halachic issues. In order to block an appeal no actual halacha has to be cited – as happened in my case – the Dayanim only have to say that there is a halachic issue involved. Where things get really Kafkaesque, is that when I attempted to appeal after several months of no response, I was told that I had to remain in limbo since I could not appeal until I had received an answer, leaving me hostage to the Dayanim’s lack of motivation to give me any answer – halachic or not.

c) The Dayanim preside over all elements of the Beit Din. They decide who the teachers are, they decide on the curriculum for converts. In any organisation, the more that power is concentrated without any checks or balances, the more corruptible the process becomes. There is no real role for the Beit Din’s board and the appeals process is window dressing.

d) Does the Beit Din keep records of how many people come to them before escaping to Reform and Conservative to complete their divorce or conversions? How many mamzerim (children born to a mother who is religiously still married to a man other than the child’s father – such children are excluded from many facets of Jewish life) are there in Melbourne due to the Beit Din’s processes? Remember, there are 50,000 Jews in Melbourne and only 40 official Jewish divorces a year.

e) In my rejection letter, it was stated that the form of Judaism taught to converts must be “uncontroversial.” Is every teacher on the Beit Din’s list subject to this criterion? Have the Chabad teachers on the list (who are in the vast majority) been vetted for their views on the Rebbe (is he the Messiah, is he alive, is he God)? Have the teachers been quizzed about their views on the State of Israel? Could there be converts being taught to hate the State?

f) Finally I would ask the Dayanim – you state in your rejection letter that a teacher must have good standing in the community. Following the revelations of Rabbi Freilich in the AJN, would you feel confident in your standing even within the rabbinical community?

The distance between the old Beit Din and the new seems trivial. Where is the increased transparency? Where is the greater responsiveness to the community’s needs?

After so many broken promises that they would respond to my requests for information, I concluded that there are three possibilities: either the Beit Din is dishonest, incompetent, or both.

This is not an article of complaint. It is clear that redress for my experience is not possible. No convert I ever taught could ever receive a fair go after the past few months. This is now about change and improving a broken system. Little can change without significant restructure, which will be the topic of a follow-up article.

Anyone with similar experiences of the Beit Din is welcome to contact me – anonymously if needed. All correspondence will be kept in the strictest confidence unless I’m otherwise instructed. My email address is ycgottlieb at gmail.com

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162 Comments »

  • Daniel Levy says:

    I can confirm that everything in this letter is factually correct. I have witnessed the good Rabbi toil in vain to simply gain the approval he needs to assist the conversion of a good man who has more moral fortitude in his left pinky finger than is possessed by the entire Beth Din Rabbinate.

  • Clearly Melbourne needs more than one Bet Din.

  • ariel says:

    I recall someone who was having problems with the Sydney Bet Din.

    He happened to be at Sydney Airport one day and spotted a Haredi gentleman whom he approached and opened up to him about his problem.

    The man said he was from NY and that in his experience, you just go to another Beit Din!

  • Dovorcee says:

    I recall that when I was going through my divorce ’95-’96, the rabbi to whom I had to speak on the phone, was so utterly vile to me, that in tears, I hung up on the man. I recall thinking “oh dear…NOW where will I have to go to get a get.” Baruch Hashem, that rabbi went away for a while and in that time, I got divorced. I have taken the precaustion of writing anonymously now, lest my divorce be annulled and my ex husband who has sincer remarried, be declared a polygamist! Lol…….
    May each of my tears and the many of all the other women that rabbi emotionally terrorised, return to teach him compassion…..water torture!

  • Divorcee says:

    Oops…That should have read from Divorcee…not Dovorcee….sorry….

  • Yaron says:

    Ariel,

    Where do you find this other Beit Din?

    Not everyone has the funds to go to the USA for the length of time it would take for the get/conversion. I’m not sure there are too many other options at the moment.

  • Yaron says:

    Divorcee
    That is appalling what happened to you. No one should have to put up with that.

    We can only hope that the situation will improve so that no one else will have to suffer such a situation again

  • Malki Rose says:

    “Do not wrong a stranger or oppress him, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt” Exodus 22:20

    Anyone who has ever had someone in their family attempt to convert through the Melbourne Beit Din will be familiar with the impossible ‘oppression’ and acrobatic hoops they are made to leap through.

    While it is true that Judaism is not a missionary faith and frowns upon recruitment, there is a significant difference between testing the genuineness of ones desire to convert and just being cruel and unusual.

    I have heard many people remark that a “reform conversion is not a real conversion” and that “reform converts are not really Jewish”, their “Gets (divorces) not valid” as the reform processes are not halachically sound nor thorough. If this is the case (that’s if!), I wonder to what extent the Beit Din can be held responsible for leaving many earnest potential converts with Reform as their only viable option for either process.

    I am also curious if anyone knows of a halachic basis or precedent for “nullifying conversions”. I cannot find a source for this.

    Questions asked to Rabbi Gottlieb regarding his wife’s underwear status, are not only archaic but also chauvinistic. Since Alex was not the one being interviewed (and not by a Mikveh attendant), it seems that the only purpose of asking such a question is to assess his ability to control his wifes practices.

    With the greatest of respect to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, it is widely known that his wife, also a righteous individual in her own right, was a very different person to him (publicly and privately) with very different approaches to halachic observance. Yet this had no bearing on the Rebbe’s suitability to be a great Chassidic leader.

  • Jack Chrapot says:

    Yaron,

    Pardon my ignorance but why is it necessary to obtain permission from a Beth Din to teach people who have already converted?

    I understood that a rabbi is a person who, by definition, is a teacher so why the need for anyone’s permission to carry out what should automatically be your duty as a rabbi?

  • Yaron says:

    Jack,
    Those who are in the process of converting study with a teacher (as well as having a mentor) in preparation for their conversion. So that they know what they are getting in to.

    The Beth Din have an official list of teachers who can teach their curriculum.

    Bizarrely enough I am lead to believe that their requirements for the mentor are actually lower than for the teacher.

  • Grandma C says:

    From anecdotal experiences of others, the conversion issue seems to be very similar in Sydney. Monopoly is never a good thing, whether it be supermarkets or Beth Dins.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Oy vey! I do not envy what you have been through Yaron. From my understanding – and knowing the rabbis involved – you would have received far less of a grilling (if at all) by the rabbis of the Sydney BD. Two of them are modern orthodox (rabbis lawrence and rogut), and the others (rabbis moshe gutnick and yoram ulman) are menschen (even though they are chabad!).

    The question about niddah is one that I am shocked you were asked. If you are a rav and you are a shomer Shabbos and kashrus, one would assume that you are shomrey hilchos niddah. If the rabbis wanted to disqualify you because of your non-conventional opinions, then they should have discussed them with you, rather than hinting that you and/or your wife are not sufficiently frum.

    I hope your question about whether the MBD has caused potential converts or divorcees to turn to Reform isn’t reflecting the reality. Here in Israel where I live, there are many potential geirim who turn to the charedi batei din as they find them easier to deal with than the rabbanut! maybe Melburnites should consider turning to Adass?! Or even travelling to Sydney for the SBD?

    I can’t see any solution on the horizon, other than a competing beth din, but this will create even more community machloikes, of which Melbourne has more than enough.

  • jack says:

    Yaron

    Hi u really have been left out to dry so to speak.

    Weren’t you for a while the Rabbi at the new shule near Bialik?

    What happened there how come you are no longer there?

  • Yaron says:

    Harry,
    I am not sure that the Adass Beit Din would be any more sympathetic to potential converts.

    A machloket can exist with only one side doing the fighting, so if the Beit Din decide to force their world view on the rest of the community, we can either accept their bullying or fight back. Either way there is a fight, but only one of them will achieve a positive result for everyone.

    Jack,
    I was the Rabbi at the shule, but neither my time there nor my leaving there are relevant to this topic.

  • sarah says:

    I have taught converts for the Sydney beth din in the past and find them really nice, easy to deal with, and often going out of their way to make things easy for people in difficult situations.
    Just wanted to ask malki rose what she is referring to with regards to the lubavitcher rebbe’s wife??

  • Joel Lazar says:

    Yaron,

    Horrible stuff to hear, I must say.

    I see you’ve indicated you will write a follow-up article that might suggest a way forward here, but I’m happy to even get the ball rolling here…

    The alternative beit din seems a perfectly good idea, whose board of dayanim could be populated by a number of fantastic, well-respected, empathetic and knowlededable rabbis in Melbourne – a few names that come to mind might be Rabbi Ralph Genende, Rabbi Ian Goodhardt and Rabbi Shamir Caplan (and I’m sure there would be others).

    As I’ve no doubt alot of specific knowledge would be required to take on the role of dayan (which likely deals with halakhik processes and issues that your standard pulpit rabbi but not be so fresh on day-to-day). But that’s where a bit of funding from a Jewish community organisation or two wouldn’t go astray for some specific training for them to undergo and brush up on such areas.

    Regarding the ‘added machloket’ that would arise by adding another beit din to melbourne, as some have suggested in their comments above. Whilst it is a valid concern and a definite factor (eg: ‘do not separate yourself from the community’ – ‘al tifrosh min hatzibur’), unsurprisingly, there are competing ‘torah values’ here over which “community division” does not have a monopoly. When the case-scenarios of “emotional terrosim” are no longer anomalies but the norm, and when those who want to pursue a just solution (‘tzeddek, tzeddek tirdof – ‘justice, justice you shall pursue), are not a small sect, but in fact, huge factions of the community, then one is doing so with great communal approval and fulfilling one’s halachik obligation to pursue that justice.

    I think it could work and if ‘vox popped’ in the Jewish News for example [as we know, a water-tight statistical set ;)] I’d bet you would find BIG percentages in favour of another beit din that is empathetic, wise, humane and gives us all comfort that those who approach the beit din, always at great crossroads in their lives, will be met with sensitivity and love.

  • lombard says:

    What a fabulous expose.
    hopefully,it will shake them up.
    good on on Rabbi Yaron

  • Tanya Arons says:

    Sigh… As King Solomon would say “There is nothing new under the Sun”. Don’t even get me started on my experiences with the Sydney Beit Din back on 1994. Oyyyy Gevalt! These Beit Dins are responsible for a lot of damage to good people as you have discovered. My wish for those affected is much healing, a wry sense of humour and the eternal quest for Justice meted out not by figureheads in an elite and illused “club” but by Hashem!

  • Marky says:

    I think the London BD is also the only one in town over there. It would be interesting to know if things are better there. If yes, then maybe the Rabbis here should go for some training there to show them how it should be done..

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Sarah – it’s well known that the frumkeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka was not at the same level as the Rebbe. There are articles on the subject, but none that you will find in any Chabad-sanctioned publications.

    Joel Lazar – the rabbis you mention as possibilities for an alternate Beth Din are lovely people. However, as you note, they probably don’t have the experience necessary for handling gittin, geirim, etc. Training might be an option, but it is unlikely that they would get practical experience in Melbourne – after all, the only other Beth Din they could go to would be the MBD.

    Also, my comment about machloikes still stands. Maybe a better option would be for the MBD to appoint a professional as their liaison person with applicants. However, this requires funds that the MBD is likely not to have,

    As for your suggestion about a vox pop in the AJN – why on earth do you read that rag? The best source of community news is http://www.jwire.com.au.

    Marky – there are several batei din in the UK, including in London. The LBD is the best known as it represents the United Synagogue and the Chief Rabbi.

  • Blogger says:

    Malki Rose: where on earth do you come up with this stuff?
    [quote]
    With the greatest of respect to the Lubavitcher Rebbe, it is widely known that his wife, also a righteous individual in her own right, was a very different person to him (publicly and privately) with very different approaches to halachic observance. Yet this had no bearing on the Rebbe’s suitability to be a great Chassidic leader. [unquote]

    Widely known?
    by who?
    What are your sources?

  • Ari says:

    Malki,

    Whilst I am by no means knowledgable in this area and in any case tend to sympathise with the Rabbis that pasken Lehakel in gerut because of the issue in Israel – nonetheless there are sources which seem to point towards nullifying conversion – by that I mean sources which could imply that a person was never a convert at all.
    Almost all of the sources of the gemarra, Rishonim and Achronim believe that once a person is a ger – having done Milah, Tevila and Kabbalat Mitzvot they can never return to being a non-Jew – the maximum is that they can be suspected as not being a full convert and then there are some rules in which we relate to them as non-Jews. However the main time when a conversion can be nullified is when a person is suspected of never accepting the mitzvot – or the entire mitzvot – at the time of conversion. In such a case the ‘convert’ may not be considered a convert at all. In recent times this issue has sprung up in Israel because Chareidi Dayanim – often judging cases related to agunot have nullified conversion based on political considerations and a dislike for R’ Drukman’s conversion courts. In one case a woman, who was completely shomer mitzvot had her conversion nullified because she was wearing pants. In any case the focus of discussions in this realm, as far as I can see, is regarding people who immediately after their ‘conversion’ did not keep the mitzvot at all. In such a case it may be an indicator that they never accepted the prime act of conversion – kabbalat mitzvot- and so were never actually converted. How much post conversion behaviour is an indicator of intent pre-conversion is of course the major focus. And see for instance Igrot Moshe YD 1:194 and also YD 1:157 – where he writes:
    A Ger who does not take upon himself the mitzvot it is clear that he is not a ger even bedieved…and even if he said that he takes upon himself the commandments, but we see that he does not really take them on it is as if he did nothing.
    From YD 268:3 it would appear that kabbalat mitzvot is the central and most important aspect of gerut – even though this is not stated outright it is probably because it is so obvious to not be necessary. And see also Bechorot 30.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Does anyone know of a situation where an Australian Beth Din has actually nullified a conversion?

  • Marky says:

    Harry, there are other Botei Din in London and Manchester(e.g. kedassia, MBD) as there are in Melbourne. You can have a Din Torah etc. at some of the other kehillos. Here we are discussing mainly a Bes Din for Geirushe . LBD is the only one, not only in London, but in all of the U.K. They mention it in this link:

    http://www.theus.org.uk/the_united_synagogue/the_london_beth_din/about_us/

  • Marky says:

    Typo.. I meant Bes Din for gerus

  • Yaron says:

    Malki,
    My understanding is that nullifying conversion is a recent halachic innovation, although I am not sure how recent (100 years or 10, but not stretching back too much further), nor do I know the circumstances of the early nullifications (I think everyone can agree that a neo-Nazi who converts to attack us from within never had the right intentions and can and should be thrown out).

    To be clear I do not know that nullifying conversions happens here – but converts have told me of their fears of this happening.

    How far could they take it? Could they withdraw a conversion of a mother who gives birth after the conversion? What would the status of the child be?

    And if they are so happy-go-lucky withdrawing conversions why can they not do something similar with agunot? The circumstances changed, so we will withdraw the ketuba.

  • Alex Fein says:

    Mandi, I know one person directly (and have heard similar stories about others) who spent the first year of his/her married life under the threat of annulment.

    During the conversion process, this person was followed around by “interested parties” to ensure religious adherence.

    By the end of this ordeal, this person was informed that while he/she was “kosher” enough to get married, the conversion was *provisional* for a year.

    Should that person be spotted deviating from the Beit Din’s (read: Chabad) version of religiosity, he/she would have the conversion annulled.

    I don’t know whether the Melbourne Beit Din’s actually pulled the trigger yet; but the Israeli Beit Din has recently annulled many conversions. The knowledge that such a thing is even possible keeps most Melbourne converts in a perpetual state of trepidation.

    ***

    For what it’s worth, this person I alluded to converted for reasons in addition to having a Jewish partner. He/she loves the religion and wanted to tie his/her destiny to the Jewish people’s.

  • ariel says:

    Yaron,

    The story I told was merely indicating the problem. I don’t expect people to travel overseas to find a beit din. The haredi man in the story was equally surprised that Sydney and Melbourne only have one beit din each, unlike his native NY, suggesting we are in need of more kippah-sruga batei din reflecting the hashkafa of most of the community.

    At the end of the day we can remember that a beit din is only as powerful as the people make it by listening to it.

  • Harry,

    “menschen (even though they are chabad!)”??
    Not nice.

  • Joe in Australia says:

    it’s well known that the frumkeit of Rebbetzin Chaya Mushka was not at the same level as the Rebbe.

    For instance she did not wear a beard, and was rarely seen at Maariv.

  • Barry says:

    Another entry bagging the jewish religion and its institutions on Galus Australis with the same 5 or 6 vultures swirling for a bit of carcas. Cmon fellas! really!!

    Bring back the intellectually stimulating articles of yesteryear. Who knows you may even get some mainstream readership again. Cmon DW et al!!!

  • There seem to be plenty of “war stories” about experiences with the local Beth Din, and this is unfortunate. Conversions and divorces are never simple matters (the former often being done in the context of a mixed relationship), and invariably people are going to be aggrieved with it. So it should be recognized that our local Beth Din deals with two of the most difficult areas of Jewish life (if it was simple, anyone could do it).

    I seriously doubt if creating a second Orthodox Beth Din in “competition” is going to achieve anything. It would only be perceived as providing an alternative (and lesser) halachic standard to the current one. This would create cracks within the community (as if there aren’t enough already), and have people shopping around for Rabbinic rulings that meet their favour.

    A Beth Din is a court. The Magistrates Court has a “monopoly” on dealing with the matters it is authorized to deal with. If you don’t like the result in the Magistrates Court, you can appeal or sometimes escalate to a higher court. That there has not been a successful appeal is not proof, in and of itself, that the appeal process is broken. If people feel there is insufficient oversight or transparency in our Beth Din, that those are the areas that should be addressed to improve what we have. Perhaps an ombudsman or similar structure might work? It certainly sounds like there is room for improvement.

    Regarding the questions asked by the Beth Din to determine if someone is a suitable teacher for prospective converts, Yaron uses as pejorative to misrepresent and inflame. It is reasonable to assume that any Orthodox Jew has a Rabbi, and one of the roles of the Rabbi is to resolve questions of halacha. They might be kashrut or Shabbat questions, or they might pertain to the laws of niddah. Some people might use one Rabbi for a certain set of questions, and someone else for another (given the sensitivities). Finding out which Rabbi one turns to for a particular category of questions is one way to “measure” that person’s level of Orthodoxy. There are lots of other ways.

    It’s like the old joke of the guy who wants to make a bracha on his new motorcycle – http://dpolicar.livejournal.com/474115.html

    Finally, the remarks about the observance of the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s wife are totally irrelevant to this discussion.

  • Nathan says:

    Hi Yaron,

    It was refreshing to read your article, because up until now I was making the same statements as you but I was told that my perceptions are wrong and I am not committed enough to Judaism. Instead I should look at our patriarchs who sacrificed their life.

    I was born in Russia and was completely unaffiliated with Jewish life. After going through some personal tragedy and with assistance of a good rabbi and friend, I decided to become observant including getting a briss in my mid years. I was already married for many years and my wife was not Jewish. She was very supportive and after many quarrels she decided to convert to Judaism and raise our children Jewish.

    There were many things that bothered me about conversion that you have experienced which I do not want to go into as it already contributes to slandering (which I am engaged in now), but maybe if enough people complain things may change.

    Firstly, we had to pay $600 application fee which stated that the money is non-refundable, and that Melbourne BeitDin did not even have to accept our application form though they keep the cash. I found it very unfair, especially since this violates the Jewish laws which state that one must abide by the country’s laws unless they violate the Torah. Australia has its own consumer and non-for profit organisation laws which forbids this kind of practice.

    Secondly, a convert must pay a teacher every week $60 for a lesson (for about 2 years on average), even if you know this information, can get this information from internet such as http://www.chabad.org or if someone else can teach this to you free of charge. Regardless of your finical situation you have to pay – or no conversion! In our case we used our credit card on many ocasions. The great Ramabam who made the Jewish law understandable for everyone, refused to make any money from teaching the Torah. He quoted from our sages – “You should not make the Torah a shovel to dig with”. If a great mystic refused to take money for teaching Torah, how much more so, if the teacher is a housewife? On what basis do they pass these laws? And where does it say in the Torah that you need money to become a convert?

    Thirdly, after spending thousands of dollars and observing Judaism for over 3 years now, it has become quite clear to us now, that my wife will not be accepted because we live in a non-jewish area. To get converted I have to give up my job (I have a small home business), sell our home (after paying stamp duty and many other fees) and move to an area that Beit Din designates. I have asked many times “if this is the law, then why do other Beit Dins don’t require this? No valid answer has been given to me.

    Sadly, after observing Judaism for nearly 4 years spending every Shabbat praying with the minyan, we have decided to get converted through Liberal or Reform. From memory the great Lubavicher Rabbi has continuously gave the same message you should bring the jews closer to the Torah. How does that relate to my story I wonder. If anything it pushed us away.

    Natan

  • Yaron says:

    Barry,
    Really? You think this is just a complaining session and there was nothing wrong with their conduct? Did you not actually read the article?

    David,
    Have you seen the halachot of conversion in the Shulcan Aruch? It is not long or complicated. What it needs more than anything is clear thinking and common sense. Now read the article again.

    Again this is not about my ability to teach. I did not complain about the rejection. It is about the problematic (and lack of) process within the Beth Din. It is symptomatic of broader issues.

  • frosh says:

    Barry,
    Publishing an article where the author seeks to improve the level of governance and propriety of our institutions is not “bagging the Jewish religion”. Likewise with articles where the author is trying to combat corruption in an institution.
    Furthermore, I’d be interested to know how you have gauged the quality and quantity of the publication’s readership, particularly with regard to the degree that it is “mainstream”. Have you been conducting market research? Perhaps the publishers would be interested in purchasing your report, provided your methodology was sound.

    David,
    Regarding that joke, I can imagine members of the Reform movement thinking: “Not nice.”

  • Malki Rose says:

    “Finding out which Rabbi one turns to for a particular category of questions is one way to “measure” that person’s level of Orthodoxy. There are lots of other ways. ”

    Great so how about they employ one of them.
    A great place to start would be ascertaining whether or not someone is a mensch, do they observe the most basic of all Torah commandments bein adom l’chaveiroh. How do they treat other people. Do they help and give to the poor, the frail, the sick, the vulnerable, children?

    Outside of the super-orthodox this disgusting, demeaning and backwards practice of getting someone, a man, a Rabbi to inspect a woman’s undies is viewed as exactly what it is – abhorrent. (and I have many frum friends who simply refuse to do it.)

    To choose this particular line of questioning relating to the Rabbi’s wife’s underwear speaks volumes about our Beit Din if they feel that this is the true measure of a man’s orthodoxy.

    Regarding the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s wife, yes it is irrelevant. That was precisely my point. Its nobody’s business and says nothing of the level of orthodoxy of the Rabbi in question and part of the reason she led a very private life. Obviously those who have chosen to interject (they don’t seem to have a problem with the way the Beit Din treat people, but they are royally offended by any allusion to her not covering her hair) have not read any of the freely available literature on the life of the Schneerson family. If they would like a non-chabad view (I presume they don’t), I would suggest starting with Heilman & Friedman’s account, it is most enlightening and does not lessen the good work of the Lubavitcher Rebbe.

    To cite less emotive Rebbetzins, I refer to the wives of Rabbi’s Soloveitchik and Feinstein who also did not cover their hair in the ‘traditional’ way.

    Had Rabbis Feinstein or Soloveitchik been sitting before our Beit Din instead of Rabbi Gottlieb, would they have been viewed as problematic and ‘controversial’? Would they have been refused on the basis of their wives non-hair covering?

    Sadly, Nathan’s story is extremely common. It is not just that the Beit Din drive people from Yiddishkeit and attempt to fracture their family’s lives, but also that there is a huge Chilul Hashem made in the process.

    Another Beit Din might not be feasible in a community of this size which already struggles terribly with funding of integral projects, but it could certainly benefit enormously from containing some different series of voices.

    In its current state of course appeals don’t happen, they can’t really. There is no higher body to refer to and no recourse but to readdress the same mob who had a problem the first time.

    Chabad views may be just as valid as any other, but the Beit Din should be comprised of Rabbis of mixed perspectives of orthodoxy to ensure that there is always balance.

    This could mean situations are handled better, with more compassion and sensitivity to the array of orthodox interpretations and practices which exist, not just one.

  • ariel says:

    *Like* Malki’s last comment.

  • Ari says:

    Yaron,

    Whilst I do think the requirements for conversion in some batei din are very stringent – particularly given the Rambam/Tur/Shulchan Aruch – The fact is is that today our situation is worlds apart from the Jewish communities pre-haskala where the authority of the beit din and the notion of Jewish community was utterly different. In a post-haskala world, with the break down of the traditional Jewish community model and the break down of much of traditional Jewry – and in a time which may be likened to the times of David and Shlomo(I use this particularly with the gemarra in mind) – there may be room to be much more strict with converts – given that we cannot be sure why people are converting and if they convert whether they will maintain a frum lifestyle – things which I think was more certain during other ages.
    Having said that, and despite my providing halachic sources for annulment, I think the behaviour of some sectors of Orthodoxy in this regard in highly questionable – expecially when we are talking about annulment on a large scale.

  • jack says:

    Yaron

    U r right your position at Auburn synagogue is irrelevant.

    If u want to look at the upside you should thank your lucky stars that you were not accepted. Because by default as a teacher you would be part of the problem as you have explained.

    I am wondering what your perception of the MBD was prior to your meeting?

    Do u think that had any bearing on what happened?

    Finally you said “Then things took a turn for the surreal and grossly inappropriate. I was asked a question so disgusting, I was rendered temporarily speechless. One of the Dayanim asked me, to whom does my wife send her spotted underpants for investigation when she has irregular menstrual bleeding?”

    How disgusting I cant believe they would ask u such a question and in such graphic detail. I mean they could have asked u who do u ask your questions to? Which would be reasonable as even a Rabbi as yourself and for that matter any rabbi needs a rabbi. If they would have posed it like that it could be very neutral. They could have been referring to kashrus etc.. But to focus on niddah, please

    And if they wanted to ask about niddah they could have just asked to whom do u ask hil. niddah questions to.

    And if they wanted to be more specific why only if it is irregular bleeding. What about regular menstrual bleeding.

    And to say ‘your wife’s….underpants’ please.

    This all sounds a bit strange and your introduction to the question posed lends itself to believe that the question was indeed posed as quoted.

    It all sounds a bit strange to me.

    And maybe just maybe that is why you where rejected.

    And everyone else who are backing you here are nothing more than the blind leading the blind

  • Ari says:

    Malki:

    “Outside of the super-orthodox this disgusting, demeaning and backwards practice of getting someone, a man, a Rabbi to inspect a woman’s undies is viewed as exactly what it is – abhorrent. (and I have many frum friends who simply refuse to do it.)”

    Do you feel the entire notion of checking blood spots to be abhorrent or just when a man does it? If the entire notion of blood spots is problematic then how does one maintin niddah al pi halacha? If it is just the issue of a man checking – then, atleast in some communities – there are women who do so.
    Perhaps if you could elaborate as to why it is abhorrent?

    IN general though I think it could be problematic for people, even knowledgeable in halacha and hilchot nidah, to rely on their own judgement – as is the case in any area of halacha – of course within reason.

  • Seraphya says:

    David,

    “menschen (even though they are chabad!)”??

    Might not be nice, but it is understandable. If someone chooses to be identified with chabad then it is perfectly reasonable to be cautious. In matters related to treating other people chabad is suspect based on ideology. If the person is a non-jew the tanya (the holy book of chabad) encourages a racist outlook towards them. As for Jews, chabad has a record of not being completely honest for the sake of hiding their messianism or in the treatment of thier “kiruv” targets as naive marks.

    Additionally, Chabad’s widespread and leadership’s support of rubashkin who mistreated both people and animals makes it legitimate question to chabadnikim why they still identify with chabbad. (not to mention their views on Christ[messiah])

    There are some nice chabadnikim, but that is in spite of their chabad ideology not because of it.There is nothing wrong about being suspect of someone’s affiliation and ideology.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    David – I was wrong in making the facetious remark about Chabad in my posting above, for which I apologise. The comment was incorrect and loshen hora.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Thanks Alex – it’s just such a nasty possibility (retrospective annulment) that I was keen to understand if they had actually done it, but yes, of course the threat of is is really what it’s all about.

    Just thinking of why people who don’t feel compelled by halakhik considerations over all others in their every day Jewish practice, are prepared to accept the authority of institutions dispensed in the name of halakha regardless of the harshness and lack of transparency as to what that entails, and why they don’t rail against them.

    And I think people surrender in this way because they (we) feel very bound up in our sense of belonging to our community and don’t want to put ourselves out of the community and certainly when it comes to conversion wouldn’t want to put ourselves or our kids at risk of not belonging. We don’t want a divided Jewish community where one half cant marry the other half.

    But the harshness is part of why that is happening anyway….

  • jack says:

    harry friday 9.12pm; (shabbat began at about 8pm)

    mandi saturday 8.43pm; (shabbat concluded at about 9pm)

    two options.

    1. You live in another time zone (not sure this option works for mandi).

    2. Shabbat is not on your radar. Please then refrain from offering opinions about Torah and Halacha. For reasons self understood

  • Alex fein says:

    Jack:

    This blog does not take into account daylight saving time. Mandi posted at *9:43pm* and Harry is *not* in Australia.

    You are very very keen to discredit people here and you’ll indulge in lashon ha’ra to achieve this.

    Why?

    Let us know who you are, “Jack”

    Reveal your interests and reveal your position, “Jack.”

    ***

    For anyone else wanting to police the Yiddishkeit of commenters here, remeber this: all Melbourne Jews – Shomer Shabbbes or not – who are not Reform or Conservative, come under the Orthodox umbrella.

    That means they are subject to the authority, whims, and predilections of the (Chabad dominated) Beth Din in all personal status matters.

    They therefore have an interest and a right to comment.

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Jack – Are you saying that people who are not Orthodox in their practice should stop affiliating with Orthodox institutions? So should I not have had a Jewish wedding? or just not an Orthodox wedding? Or we should continue to look to Orthodox shules/institutions on matters of personal status but but should have no right to an opinion on the institutions charged with administering matters of personal status.

    That’s exactly the point there are people who don’t live fully observant lives but still care about halakha for reasons of belonging or tradition, or because we respect its authenticity and don’t want to formally adapt traditions without reference to halakha, even if we dont want to live it in a fully observant way. And by and large we have just rolled over on these issues out of respect for authority and because people like you will make personal attacks to intimidate and silence us.

    And whether you like it or not, you don’t get to define what shabbat observance means for other people.

  • Alex fein says:

    Mandi,

    Unfortunately, our community’s already divided.

    Potential converts who have horrible experiences with the Beth Din go to Reform and are separated from their family’s Orthodox tradition and the Orthodox community in general. Or they leave the community completely.

    People who cannot bear the thought of facing the Beth Din’s sclerotic bureaucracy and arrogance don’t bother divorcing religiously.

    They therefore create situations of potential mamzerut. The implications for their children – ie ability to marry other Jews and participate in various areas of Jewish life – are quite awful.

    There are ways that could potentially work much better than the current system. Yaron’s going to write about the halachic and practical possibilities in a follow up article.

    ***

    FWIW: the response to this topic – in public and in private – has been overwhelming. Many people are sick of being bound by a corrupt culture that is devoid of compassion and completely unrepresentative. People from many different sectors are beginning to articulate this. I really hope we can leave the tendency to surrender behind.

  • Yaron says:

    Jack,

    It’s very simple.
    1) The Dayanim asked me about my observance of Shabbes, kashrut, and taharat mishpacha.
    2) After I had answered these questions in full, additional questions about ktamim were asked.
    3) Many readers here are not necessarily familiar with the intricacies and language of taharat mishpacha.
    4) I gave an accurate account and translation of the question asked of me.

  • Harry – thanks for your response. That was very menchlich of you.

    Seraphya – here is not the place to go into too much detail on the points you raise. The Tanya and the other works of the Alter Rebbe are accepted by all Orthodox groups. Your comments about Chabad messianism, kiruv work and the Rubashkin case reek of prejudice, ignorance or both. I’d be happy to take the discussion offline and respond to any genuine concerns.

    Regards,

    A “nice” FFB Chabadnik whose ideology plays an important role in my life.

  • Darien says:

    This article would have so much more credibility if the author had taken the effort to investigate people and their experiences with the Bet Din instead he has spat the dummy over his own rejection for a gig with the Bet din.

    Which leads me to conclude that this article is a bit of a tantrum by a fellow who has had his ego bent out of shape by the fact that he didnt make the cut religiously for the gig and has nothing to do with genuine concern for our community.

    Indeed until his own rejection he was keen to join this Bet Din he now feels is so broken.

  • drew says:

    >>The alternative beit din seems a perfectly good idea, whose board of dayanim could be populated by a number of fantastic, well-respected, empathetic and knowlededable rabbis in Melbourne – a few names that come to mind might be Rabbi Ralph Genende, Rabbi Ian Goodhardt and Rabbi Shamir Caplan <<

    Come on… With the greatest respect, they would be the first to acknowledge that their halachik knowledge is far from adequate.

    I would guess that it wouldn't take 6 months before the Rabbanut and the London BD announced that they don't recognise their conversions.
    (And remember ex-Caulfield rabbi Rabbi Abraham is today one of the leading lights in the LBD and he knows all about the credentials of these rabbis.)

  • Seraphya says:

    David –

    You are right, here is not the post to work this out.

    I am not ignorant, in Melbourne of all places it is hard not to be aware of chabad’s presence in all things “orthodox”. It was an eye opener for me coming from a modern orthodox environment in NY and Israel to come to melbourne where Chabad dominates. I do have prejudices but I am willing to give people a chance, I just think that the prejudices are not unwarranted.
    I would like to continue this discussion somewhere else, I am not adverse to being convinced that I am incorrect. My email is my name at gmail.

    What is relevant in this case is that Yaron should not be responsible for subjugating his wife and that the rabbis on the beit din shouldn’t pretend that there are “halahick” considerations involved considering there is no halahick recognition of a category of “teacher of converts” to block an appeal.

    It is also quite clear that addas has its own beit din and that chabbad should have its own beit din that is quite separate from a modern orthodox beit din. I say this regardless of wether you agree with rav shach a”h thqat “chabad is the closest religion to judaism”

  • drew says:

    Harry Joachim says:
    The question about niddah is one that I am shocked you were asked. If you are a rav and you are a shomer Shabbos and kashrus, one would assume that you are shomrey hilchos niddah.

    ==
    To be dan lekaf zechut, may I suggest that the rabbis in the BD having heard of your wife’s ‘feminist’ tendencies and were genuinely concerned about the lack/level of taharat hamishpacha?

  • jack says:

    And yes for the record I may have embellished the words of the underpants question a little for dramatic effect but it did not change the content one bit.

    Posted by: yaron

    from the site failed messiah.

    Yaron

    it seems i wasnt so much off the mark in my earlier post.

    why didnt u post this on this site?

    I am wondering u say ‘I may have….dramatic effect’ did u or didnt u?

    Now if u did can we perhaps assume that u may have embellished other aspects of your meeting?

    I mean the meeting wasnt recorded the dayanim have not responded to your allegations and I doubt that they would on this forum. By your own admittance we cannot take what u said at face value. You only went on record when pressed to do so on the other blog site.

    Perhaps the Rabbis somehow where able to ascertain that you are not a very honest individual. That you embellish things to further your own agenda and worse to cast negative light on others.

    For a person who wrote and I quote ‘No questions were asked about my honesty in business’. The answer to the question if it would have been asked has now been answered.

    No, Yaron I am sorry but you would not be an appropriate teacher for a prospective convert irrespective what type of underwear is worn in your household. Simply put you failed the unasked question, ‘Are you honest’? Answer ‘no I am not’.

    For your and your families sake – DAYANu – enough is enough

  • Yaron says:

    Darien,

    “Indeed until his own rejection he was keen to join this Bet Din he now feels is so broken.”

    I agree, shooting off at the mouth without all the facts can cause all sorts of troubles

    I was looking to become a teacher only in order to help a former congregant. His last teacher left the country while he was in the middle of the conversion process and he needed a new teacher.

    If you read the article, it’s quite clear that I have no objection to being rejected. My issue is the total lack of process, the dishonesty, and the contempt of the Beth Din. Something I only learned when I got involved.

    After discussing my situation with others, it has become clear that many people have suffered much worse than me. It’s a completely rotten structure.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Jack, you are a sad, hateful little man. You are defined not by any positive contribution to life and society, but for your desperate insecurities which translate into vociferous and unwarranted attacks on others.

    You have wasted your life.

  • drew says:

    Instead of bagging the BD, we should be grateful that they are careful to applying the halacha 100% correctly.

    Who needs a situation where conversions are sham or not recognised by the rest of the world.

    See this article in the Jewish Chronicle:

    Israeli Rabbinate: we can annul conversions

    An “explosive” document on conversions by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has argued that Orthodox conversions carried out in Israel can be annulled at any time.
    The 122-page submission was presented to an Israeli High Court hearing brought by a women’s rights group trying to reinstate thousands of conversions that had been annulled in 2008.
    Commenting in London on the document, Federation of Synagogues’ Beth Din head Dayan Yisroel Lichtenstein said that it meant that any Beth Din could annul a conversion retroactively. On that basis, the London Beth Din would be “justified” in reviewing every Orthodox conversion carried out in Israel.
    The document, he said, could be used to demonstrate the incompatibility of religion and state in Israel and could lead to their separation, “a situation I deplore.

    “I have never seen anything like it. It leaves converts in a very uncomfortable situation. Families could face turmoil and the implications are horrific. It also means the authorities in Israel have to get their act together because they cannot allow such a situation to continue. They really have to revamp how conversions are done.”

    The Israeli rabbinate discovered from information on divorces that 97.2 per cent of converts between 1996 and 2008 had not kept mitzvot — and as a result, their conversions could be invalidated.
    ===

    97.2% of those conversions were sham! Isn’t this an absolute disgrace?
    It is unfair to Jews and is unfair to the ‘converts’ and even more so to their children.

    Despite Yaron’s complaints, the BD here and in Sydney should stick to their guns and only convert those who wish to be shomrei mitzvot.
    All others will find a welcome mat at their local Reform temple (where allegedly 3/4 of the families already have such a ‘convert’ in their ranks.)

    So on behalf of all Jews who follow the Torah and don’t seek shortcuts – Thank you rabbis and please continue to stick to your principles.

    OTOH, regarding gittin, I think the BD should pull up its socks.
    They must realise that many women seeking a get are already living (in sin) with someone else. Thus every day that they delay the get they are responsible for the transgression of the serious issur of eishet ish and adultery. Only by issuing the get can this be resolved.
    (Yes, I realise there are other issurim involved including niddah etc. But there is not much that the BD can do about it while the eishet ish matter is something they CAN resolve.)

    Finally, seeing that all 3 members of the BD are Lubavitcher chassidim – who are always trying to get Jews to do more mitzvot and less aveirot – a ‘quick gittin’ system should be a no-brainer for them.

  • Yaron says:

    Jack,
    Seriously? That is the best that you can do?

    My comment on FM was merely pointing out that I provided an explanation for people who aren’t experts. “Embellish” was the wrong word – but that in no way detracts from the inapropriateness of the question.

    At no time over our six month correspondence did anyone on the Beth Din dispute any of the facts as I have presented them here.

    But while we are on the topic of honesty, how about some from you? Are you friends or family with someone on the Beth Din? Might you even be directly involved somehow? What are your interests in the case?

    Who are you and why you are expending so much energy anonymously to defend the indefensible.

    And you presume way too much when speaking for my family.

  • drew says:

    Yaron says:

    My understanding is that nullifying conversion is a recent halachic innovation, although I am not sure how recent
    >>

    I also don’t know. But then in ealrier times there would’ve been very few non-genuine geirim, ie, people who were not truly prepared to undertake and live a Torah lifestyle. Why would anyone in Eastern Europe want to the the downtrodden and abused Jews – unless they really wanted to live as ‘frum’ Jews?

    These days we see far too many sham converts – eg, in Israel where the govt encourages conversions – especially to anyone joining the army
    http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-3968304,00.html

    BTW, for those who don’t know, conversion fo rthe sake of marriage is not acceptable

  • Jake says:

    Yaron – you conclude with asking people who have had “similair” experiences with the Beth Din to contact you.
    Precisely what do you intend to do with this information?
    Clearly your zealousness to publicly discredit the Beth Din disqualifies you as a teacher .
    נצור לשונך מרע ושפתיך מדבר מרמה

  • Barry says:

    so now Galus Australia and Failed messiah are running stories in cahoots…
    Frosh as much as you seem to want to deny it, this site has become Australias version of failed messiah, stooping to all types of lows to bash most things from the ‘religious establishment’ with a particularly nasty focus on Chabad.
    and yes comparing the comments section to earlier times you dont seem to be engaging many signifcant thinkers or community figures beyond your usual troop of anti chabad/religion disgruntled community fringe dwellers.

  • Barry – FM pulls stories from everywhere and reprint them – that’s the nature of the internet. He lives in a basement and publishes in the gutter.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Jack, Jake, Darien,

    You believe that so far this issue has been presented from one side and is wildly inaccurate. So perhaps it would be worth exploring the ‘the other side’.

    1)
    I would like to ask in all earnest what you believe a better course of action for Rabbi Gottlieb would have been?

    It is my understanding that a person publicises something of this nature only once they have exhausted all other options and it has become quite plain that there is no recourse to any higher authority. In other words, when it becomes clear that the entire system is rotten.
    Do you believe this is not the case? Is there an independent or affiliated body to which Rabbi Gottlieb can appeal and have his concerns addressed? Could it be done with any amount of transparency, accountability and expediency? (i.e. in the next 6 months?)

    By extension, what would any other person in the community who was unhappy with an aspect of their divorce or conversion proceedings need to do? Who can they go to for remedy?

    2)
    You believe that this is a “dummy-spit” on Rabbi Gottlieb’s part and that he has not taken the time to investigate the experiences of others who’ve dealt with the Beit Din.
    I wonder how necessary that is when we all know personally of so many casualties of the Beit Din’s conversion and divorce processes. Some of them have already posted here in this thread. What kind of population sample would be required to confirm that this does indeed happen and is very much a problem?

    But to be fair, we’ve not heard from those who have had positive experiences with the Beit Din.
    Those whose conversion and divorce processes were fair and balanced and who feel they were dealt with compassionately.

    So far we’ve not heard from them.

    Perhaps you have some examples of how the Beit Din functions successfully and some examples of successful appeals.

    Then at least readers will see that you are not just here to emotionally defend and protect the status quo but to offer some constructive input.

    Then we can actually have an understanding of what does and does not need fixing.

  • Barry says:

    Malki you wont get the other other side because those from the religious community on a whole have felt this site is antagonistic and vile towards the frum community and have disengaged.

    As i mentioned this site continues to run the bad news stories about chabad in particular without any attempt at least to pass off as balanced. There is an agenda here dominated by a fringe element of disaffected members of the community and we all know what it is. And contrary to how you may justify these libellous attacks, these articles dont lead to change they just lead to heartache for good people who have dedicated their lives to serving the community.
    If i used this site to learn of Jewish Life in the Antipodes all i would know is that this community is run by a chabad mafia who are sexual perverts and thugs.
    I wouldnt know that 80% of melbournes non chabad synagogues and membership choose to employ chabad rabbis because they are dedicated and idealistic with a perfect blend of progressiveness and traditional values.
    I wouldnt know that many of the community’s aging and struggling institutions like St kilda shul, East Melbourne shul, Toorak shul, elwood shul, Doncaster Shul, all the old age homes, have taken on young chabad rabbis precisely for the above reasons and are experiencing rejuvenation because of this.
    I wouldnt know that chabad houses like Port Melbourne have begun skateboarding clinics for housing commission kids or run regular care package campaigns for the underprivelaged.
    I wouldnt know that the strongest communities in Melbourne are chabad houses in Malvern, Glen Eira, glenhuntly rd, Maple st etc
    I wouldnt know that over 150 yeshivah students and girls go out every Friday visiting jews at work or at home (including old age homes and hosptial)
    I wouldnt know that every festival chabad youth sends out visitors to every single hospital in Melbourne to do the Mitzvos and to uplift spirtis of the patients and their familes.
    I wouldnt know that chabd kids and families regularly give up the comfort of their own homes and travel around australia in a campervan to visit isolated jews.
    I wouldnt know that there is a chabad place on carlisle st that has an open door policy for israli tourists to have food, lodging and spirtual nourishment and sees over 10,000 isrealis pass through its doors per annum.

    The whole melbourne community knows this except seemingly the authors of this blog. And while you write these myopic, hurtful, libellous articles, chabad are strengthening this community from the ground up through real deeds not hateful articles on the net.
    (And going away from anti-chabad for a moment if that is possible, may i point out that there is a growing and hugely popular frum and Torah committed communities growing at shaarei tefillah and heichel hatorah etc. which this site seems quite oblivious to.)

    So Malki dont pretend you are seeking some balance in the comments section when there is not a shred of it to be found amongst the contributors! Its time the penny dropped on who the intolerant ones are around here!!!

  • Malki Rose says:

    Barry,

    I agree with you that Chabad has done phenomenal work and I have commented on it many times over.

    GA does not seek to paint any part of the community in any light, only to provide a forum for discussion.

    It has, however, sought input from all sectors of the community.

    I have personally sought pieces about work being done in the Chabad community from multiple people, Rabbis and Leaders, on numerous occasions. Requests for articles from the Chabad community have fallen on deaf inboxes.

    GA’s articles are only reflections of what the community wish to raise, share or discuss.

    So if you feel that you or someone you know has something positive to share, and as you have suggested there is much positive being done, then write a piece and share it. Give readers the information.

    Don’t blame the contributors for failing to provide balance – Provide it!

    If nobody writes it then how can they possibly know?

  • Alex fein says:

    61 comments have been made on this article so far. Not *one* positive account of the Beth Din or the Dayanim has been offered.

    There has been a deluge of support for change, both publicly and privately. The number of negative responses is countable on one hand.

    Not a single negative response has been able to counter the details in the article, or the Beit Din horror stories brought by anyone else.

    Every negative response falls into one of three categories:

    . Engaging in profoundly flawed logic that this site is somehow anti-Chabad because Chabad chooses not to submit articles here.

    . Lamenting the passing of some mythical time that Galus only published articles of which the naysayers approved.

    . The desperate attempt to find any avenue for personal attack against Yaron or anyone who agrees with him.

    These few negative respondents will frantically claw at anything. They embarrass themselves with faulty logic and pettiness. They try to parse single words. They attack people’s Jewishness.

    No one in this tiny group has addressed any of the real issues:

    . Mamzerut
    . Chasing Jews away from Orthodox Judaism
    . Cruelty
    . Arrogance
    . Incompetence
    . Dishonesty

  • Barry says:

    Malki and Alex. Thats exactly my point. You have successfully alianated those that could contribute the postive stories.
    And now you are left with this.

  • Yaron says:

    Barry,

    We both know Chabad is perfectly capable of engaging in dialogue if it so chooses. It just chooses not to here.

    You are avoiding the central issue and getting off topic:
    The Melbourne Beth Din behaves in a way that a large number of Jews finds unacceptable.

    If the Beth Din wish to dispute any of these facts as I presented them, they are welcome to respond.

  • Nathan says:

    I want to be the first to give a positive story on Chabad!

    My rabbi is from Chabad and I believe that he is nothing short of a tsadik. He is the reason why I am observant today, and there is nothing he wouldn’t do, or go to, in order to help another Jew.

    I also had only had a positive experience with the Beit Din interviews and the atmosphere was very warm, caring and felt very comfortable. Me and my wife were also grateful to our teacher for her patience.

    Apart from a few staff apps in administration side of things (which I am not complaining about here) the only issue we have with Beit Din is why can’t there be more compassion when it comes to some laws of conversion especially where they are not black and white to begin with. If other Beit Din permits a convert to live where they can afford to live, than why not in Melbourne?

    If a person has financial difficulty as so many people do these days, then should they not be accepted because of this reason? Doesn’t it say in Sidur that Honour and wealth come from G-d himself? If G-d has made a person’s life difficult for whatever reasons, does it mean that we should add to his suffering? If the summery of the Tora on one foot states “don’t do to others what you don’t want done to you”, than why don’t we practice it? Especially in consideration to so many Jews who were born in an anti-religious environment due to no fault of their own.

    The finical difficulty can easily be verified. In our case we support our father in Law who is 75 years old, and can’t afford to pay for his rent or medicine. Doesn’t the Torah reward for such behaviour? Should I let an old man starve, or throw him in an old people’s home? Should I close down my business and join the doll que? Is it really necessary for me to go through all this hardship just to prove my commitment to G-d? Doesn’t G-d already know what is in each man’s heart?

    We live in an age of global communication. Whilst I understand that in 19th Century it would make perfect sense not to live 10 hours walk from the Schul. But now we have cars, we have phones and the Internet. I can pick up my mobile and call my Rabbi anytime. I can leave earlier so we get in time for Shabbat. I can jump to Chabad websites and access all the lessons I am interested in. That is my quarrel.

    But I also have to say that the love we have personally received from my Chabad Rabbi and its community was well above any expectations. I just don’t understand why can’ it be reflected in some of these laws especially since they are flexible and not practiced by everyone.

  • Alex fein says:

    Nathan,

    There are many wonderful Chabad people. No one here is saying otherwise.

    This thread is about the *Beit Din’s* lack of honesty, efficiency, and compassion.

    Your story seems to demonstrate quite starkly how the Beit Din made your life far harder than it needed to be – that they in fact treated you quite cruelly.

  • Nathan says:

    Since everything comes from G-d, I have decided if he wanted me to be religious on an Orthodox level he wouldn’t make it so difficult. For this reason, I am not as upset as others are. I have gone through that stage at the start though.

    I will still be observant, but at my home instead and not be so close to the community. Not for the reason that they will look down on me, but I don’t want my future kids finding out from others that they are not Jewsih, until they are old enough to understand the reasons fully.

    Its just sad to see, because for a while I thought me and my wife were on the right path.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Oh Barry stop it!

    Nobody has alienated anyone. Nobody from Chabad contributed positive stories thus far either because they couldn’t be bothered, didn’t know the site existed, or didn’t see the point because they keep their PR machine functioning internally and have no concept of how the wider world perceives them.

    Which illustrates the point made by so many people including yourself. Outsiders who click on websites such as Failedmessiah et al might end up with a shocking and unbalanced view of the Chabad world.

    Correct that Chabad is not a community of thugs and child molesters, but when Chabad leadership sweep things under the rug or fail to speak up it certainly looks like it, doesn’t it.
    Hmm, I wonder what could change that.

    When people are coming forward with stories of internal corruption or poor leadership then that would be the appropriate time for someone from Chabad to step forward and speak out against this corruption, not act like it is not happening, ignore it or castigate those who speak out.

    You dishonour all the fantastic initiatives you spoke of by using them as ammunition in an argument which is nothing to do with any of them. Don’t belittle the work of good men by throwing it at people in an argument. Let it stand in its own right as a shining example of the courage of young chabad families who are giving their lives to help their fellow Jews.

    Be a mensch enough to address the issues which others, like ‘Divorcee’ and ‘Nathan’ have put forward, not just Rabbi Gottlieb. The Beit Din has, for a long time, been riddled with problems and there has been a good 30 years of miserable people and shattered lives as a result. Don’t be pathetic and hide behind the good work of others.

    There is a problem in the ranks of the Beit Din. People have a choice to be part of the solution or part of the problem. You have chosen the former, this is very sad and clearly shows everyone that you have no place in the list of wonderful initiatives you illustrated. So you are good at noticing and proclaiming what other people do right and other people do wrong. But do nothing yourself?

    Offer something positive or constructive or go away.

  • Aaron Zelman says:

    Thank the Lord for the Internet.
    It gives a voice to the otherwise voiceless.
    Where else could (alleged) victims of the Beit Din air their grievances?
    Power to the people.

  • Jake says:

    Yaron – surely you jest when you suggest that if the Beth Din wish to dispute any of the facts that you have presented, that they should respond.
    Where and how do you expect them to respond?
    Do you expect them to respond on this blog?
    If you did have a valid complaint (big if) did you explore their grievances policy?
    The Rabbinate and Batei Din have their share of problems – but the one thing they don’t need, is a Rabbi shooting from the hip .
    Again I ask, what are you going to do with all the stories you collect?
    Do you intend forming your own Beth Din as an alternative to the MBD?

  • Barry says:

    Careful with the positive stories there Nathan thats not what this thread is about.
    This thread is part of a wider pattern of sustained attacks on religious institutions particularly Chabad.
    This thread is about a 4 or 5 people who are so afflicted by tunnel vision that the world is defined by the chips on their shoulders, their own prejudices and intolerences. Problems exist when it effects them. People are evil because they think they are. People that dont agree are roundly abused and driven away. I rember a time reading intellegent and religious views like kennard and menachem wolf both were driven away by borderline defamation and abuse.
    But the ultimate irony is Malkis last line.
    “Offer something positive or constructive or go away”
    Now thats some good advice that should be heeded.

  • frosh says:

    Barry and friends, I’m disinclined to argue anymore with morons who refuse to actually argue the issues, but instead resort to all sorts of irrelevant and slanderous insults.

    However, I’d just like to pose one question. Why is that NOT EVEN ONE of these people, giving them the benefit of the doubt that they are all actually different people (Barry, Jake, Jack, Drew etc) has the courage to use their real name? I can understand people who are sharing personal anecdotes of Beit Din horror stories not wanting to disclose their identities, but all the likes of Barry et al are doing are making cowardly accusations from undisclosed identities.

    Yes, if I were making such a moronic contribution to the conversation as Barry, Jake, Jack, or Drew etc, I’d also be too embarrassed to disclose my identity.

  • drew says:

    Frosh sweety, what was moronic about my posts?

  • Barry says:

    Hi Frosh.
    So you are complaining about not adressing the matter being raised by not adressing the matter being raised! I like it.
    Yes i am anonymous and we may all be the same person. We also may not. Thers no way of knowing who is sitting behind this computer right now. Theres no way of knowing if you are frosh or somone else. Thers no way of knowing if yorams story is true, false or just embellished. Theres no way of knowing much on the internet. Thats why theres so little credibility and so much rubbish going around. Yet we are happy to act as judge and jury precisely in this environment. To smear people and community institutions. Its your sacred cow – surely you cant be complaining.

  • Yaron says:

    Jake, Drew and Barry, you keep failing to address the issue.

    None of you seem to have even read the article so I will reiterate… again:

    1) The Beth Din have had 6 months to respond to the allegations above. I have been in contact with them via email and phone on numerous occasion. They have never disputed any of the facts I have presented. Nor have they answered any of the above questions, all of which are reasonable.

    2) The Beth Din have set up processes that do not work and are too easy for the Dayanim to by-pass.

    3) The majority of Jews in Melbourne are not religious but identify as Orthodox, and are being alienated when they come into contact with the Beth Din.

    4) This is not a thread designed to attack Chabad. It’s strange to see such defensiveness that has come out of nowhere.

    5) Have the courage of your convictions. Name yourselves if only because we are starting to suspect you are the same person using multiple pseudonyms.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Yaron,
    I wouldn’t bother, we’ve all said it countless times and they/he is not interested in listening no matter how any of us explain it. He is not stupid, he understands, he’s just choosing to divert the issue, best not to feed the troll. Save your energy.

  • Harry Joachim says:

    Frosh,

    Since time immemorial you have been harping on about posters using pseudonyms (including attacking me for my postings in other discussion threads). If you were to require the use of real names, then this blog would die a rapid death.

    This is the wonder of the Internet Mr Frosh, in case you hadn’t realised it!

  • Marky says:

    Harry, there are about 29 posters here. If only those who identified themselves were posting, there would have been 10 or less.

  • Eliyohu says:

    I see a lot of discussion on the issue of conversion. I’m reluctant to comment too much. As others have pointed out, the halachos of conversion (and their practical implementation) are extremely complex.

    My (limited!) understanding is that a conversion can only be “nullified” if one’s acceptance of the 613 mitzvos clearly was insincere to begin with. A ger’s subsequent behaviour is not a reason to nullify their conversion (unless it is CLEAR evidence of their state of mind at the time of the conversion itself). But as I and others have said, these matters are complex.

    Moving on to the issue of gittin (divorces)… Other than the “Agunah issue” (and I know that may be a massive “other than”), which issues have people faced? Were they administrative? Halachic?

    For the purpose of this specific question of mine I’m focusing on situations where both the husband and the wife agreed that they did indeed want the marriage dissolved, and a “get” issued. Have issues arisen in these situations as well?

    (I’m happy to offer my 2c on the “agunah issue”, where one spouse is recalcitrant, but first I’m interested if there are issues besides this particuar thorny one).

  • Ian Grinblat says:

    I used to think that the biggest problem our community faced was our inability to wstablish a JCA.
    I am appalled at the sniping that has been triggered by this article. In particular, I want to respond to Drew who implied that the rabbinic qualifications of Rabbis Ralph Genende, Ian Goodhardt and Shanir Caplan. Let me declare that I would be proud to be associated with any of that trio – if Drew is saying that they have only some “Target”-brand smicha, please tell me where I can gey one.

  • Leo says:

    “Religion now more dangerous than Arabs”
    Rabbi David Hartman, teacher and rebel, is celebrating his 80th birthday and cannot believe the kind of Judaism developing around him:

    Link: http://www.ynetnews.com/articles/0,7340,L-4159477,00.html

    I believe that the main reason why we are having this discussing is addressed in the interview with Rabbi Hartman in this article. That Judaism has lost its compassion, warmth and humanity instead placing the main focus on interpretation of some laws instead of bringing people close to Judaism. I have inserted some statements out of the interview which I believe is relevant to this blog. I believe that if Beth Din understood his message we wouldn’t be discussing these issues here.

    Rabbi Hartman is considered one of the great students of Rabbi Joseph Soloveitchik, who is considered a world expert on Maimonides and a professor of philosophy.

    Has religious authority become excessive?

    “That’s a very important question. Their authority today is not about important things. They have too much self-confidence, and they do not demonstrate morality. They don’t say: ‘You see that rabbi? He represents true Judaism.’ I don’t see that phenomenon today. I’m looking. I haven’t found it yet. I fear God, not rabbis.”

    “There used to be normal rabbis. One day, a group of believers came to a rabbi and asked him what they should be focusing on while fulfilling the commandment to burn chametz. He said, ‘You should make sure that your wife, who is dragging the sacks of flour, isn’t working too hard.’ Where has all that gone? What has happened to us?”

    To be religious today is an ongoing war not to let the haredim and the hardalim own the Torah. I want to return the Torah to the Labor Party, to the entire people of Israel. I don’t want religion to be the private property of certain people. I don’t want the length of the side locks to be the determining factor.”

    From a halachic perspective, is there a problem with women standing up to sing?

    “No. The Gemara talks only a loss of concentration while reciting the Shema. If women are singing when you are in the middle of reciting the Shema, it will hinder your intent. That’s it. No more. A rabbi in Israel saying that it’s better to die than to hear a woman singing is crazy.” (Referring to Elyakim Levanon, the rabbi of Elon Moreh, who declared that he would prefer to stand in front of a firing squad than hear a woman sing).

    In the main IDF hakafot event (the evening after Simchat Torah), female soldiers were pushed aside.

    “It’s a sexual obsession. They have made all of Judaism part of their sexual issues. Tell me, does all Judaism rest on this? I don’t understand, are they like sex maniacs, aroused the second they see a woman? Is this what we’re building the world on? Do you think that people will want to enter a spiritual life made up only of what is forbidden, forbidden, forbidden?”

    Like a knife in the gut
    We discussed the polemics around the Tzohar rabbis’ complex marriage ceremonies. “I am happy for them that they have come to an arrangement, but this should be just the beginning,” Rabbi Hartman said. “We have to advance much further. What is this? Is the Torah private property? It’s terrible. Judaism and marriage ceremonies are not private property.

    “I love teaching soldiers (in the Institute’s Lev Aharon program for senior IDF officers). Officers ask me to teach, and I come willingly. I teach that to be a Jew means to be a human being. Listen to this story. An officer came to me and said, ‘When I was in Lithuania, I was religious. When I moved to Israel, I lost all faith.’

    “I asked him why, and he said, ‘Because here Judaism is racist.’ His friend volunteered to be an officer in a tank unit and was killed. The rabbis discovered that a few generations ago, one of his parents was not Jewish, so he couldn’t be buried in the cemetery. The officer said: ‘I’m called upon to die as a Jew, but to be buried without the dignity of being a Jew.’

    “This was like a knife to the gut. I understood why he didn’t want any connection to this thing. You can’t respect a man who was willing to die for the survival of the Jewish people? I mean, there’s nothing holier than that. From my perspective, identifying with the survival of the Jewish people is religiousness today.

    “That’s why there is no such thing as secularism. If you want the Jewish people to exist, you’re not secular. Will to survive, that’s all. If that’s not enough, then what the hell is enough? Gefilte fish?”

    “There are so many deep things in Judaism that need to be exposed. They buried it all. They took a few piquant things and turned that into all of Judaism. Kashrut, modesty.”

    Maybe we’re feeling pangs for the Messiah?

    “I can see that you’re sensitive, that you understand that there should be something else here. Stay here, and don’t rely on what some rabbinic authority tells you.”

    When I came to Israel for the first time after the Six-Day War, Prof. Akiva Simon insisted that I go to a Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz. So I went. I saw that they were building a road in the middle of the kibbutz and asked him why. He explained that they were building a road so that a member of the kibbutz who was paralyzed and lived on the edge of the kibbutz could get to the dining room.

    “Afterwards, people asked me what my most religious experience was in Israel. They thought that I would say, reading Mishna at the Western Wall. But I said that it was at the Hashomer Hatzair kibbutz where I saw them building a road for one person. That’s a holy place. The entire community makes sure that the individual does not lose his place.

  • Yaron says:

    Eliyohu,
    Actually the laws of conversion are not complex. What conversion requires is probably more common sense and an understanding of the potential converts as they are at that time (not what they might become in the future).

    This is clearly demonstrated in the Shulchan Aruch. The space dedicated to laws of conversion is just over 1 page, including commentaries.

    The gett (divorce) issue is something different. The halacha is much more complex and I don’t want to get into the details in these comments. This article was about the dismissive, arrogant, incompetent and even cruel ways the Beit Din treat the people who need them. Many women have provided stories of this arrogance, incompetence and cruelty whether they had a smooth divorce or not.

    Ian,
    I agree. The implication that Rabbis Ralph Genende, Ian Goodhardt and Shanir Caplan are not qualified is disgusting. This is a not so subtle way of saying that only Haredi rabbis have any credibility.

  • drew says:

    Ian Grinblat says:
    .. I want to respond to Drew who implied that the rabbinic qualifications of Rabbis Ralph Genende, Ian Goodhardt and Shanir Caplan…
    if Drew is saying that they have only some “Target”-brand smicha…
    ..

    Ian, do yourself a favour and ask the 3 gentlemen themselves, if they have the foggiest idea of what to look for in a shaaloh on the innards of a chicken.

    (BTW, I am not denying that there are quite a few so-called ‘charedi/chabad’ rabbis in both Melb and Sydney who also wouldn’t have a clue.)

    “Target” brand semicha indeed..

    Let me declare that I would be proud to be associated with any of that trio – please tell me where I can gey one.

  • Ian Grinblat says:

    Drew,

    Nowadays, chickens are reared in extremely closely controlled environments. The likelihood of needing to ask a Rabbi about aomething found in a chicken gizzard is rather remote.
    Having said that, let me say further that I believe that yiddischkeit values mentschlichkeit far more highly than immaculate chicken gizzards (or underwear).

  • Yep, I'm converting says:

    Hi there,

    My first post on Galus Australis: most exciting! I hadn’t expected to write on the subject of conversion, just as when I convert, I do hope that I will get asked to speak or write on subjects (e.g. particular mitzvot) other than conversion… I’ll let you know if it ever happens!

    I am currently converting through the Melbourne Beth Din and have been for a while. I’d like to say a few things about the process. Firstly, I have found the Beth Din and the learning process overwhelmingly positive. The Beth Din are warm and willing to listen to my issues and help me to find my place and space in Yiddishkeit; in fact, some of the Dayanim have gone the extra mile for me, which I greatly appreciate.

    Yes, it costs $60 a lesson, and yes it’s frustrating when you know the stuff already. However, it is a blessing to be given this opportunity to learn… we all know people in the community who haven’t had the opportunity to learn Judaism even though they would like to (e.g. through living in Communist countries, or through lack of family resources). This is what I remember when I think “I already know this stuff”. Even if I do know stuff and can learn it off the internet, invariably I find something in the lesson that I didn’t know or wouldn’t be able to google.

    I wish to address some things that have been raised about conversion. I was told upfront the costs, including the $600 application fee, the general cost of lessons, and the requirement to live and/or move to a Jewish area. I was also told that I wouldn’t have recourse to the secular administrative appeals tribunal or to trade practices laws (does that even apply if you are not purchasing anything?). In other words, it was made clear to me at the start. I was also told that once I jump in the mikveh, I’d get my full certificate around a year later unless I needed it earlier (presumably if I were to get married, or to move to Israel and need an Israeli passport).

    Of course the process is a bit frustrating and I feel for those who’ve written about their frustrations. I want to provide another view from someone going through the process now.

    By the way, a note on why I’m not using my real name. I’m happy to share my opinions and thoughts with anyone but wouldn’t want the fact that I have positive things to say to be taken as ‘sucking up’ to the Dayanim. It’s not a fear thing!

  • letters in the age says:

    Alain De Bottons recent book in interesting .”Religion for Atheists>

    Listen to the radio national interview on the a.b.c, its great!!

    He says you combine the best of religious rituals within a humanistic context and you have a perfect balance.

    cheers and enjoy it below peeps!

    http://www.abc.net.au/radionational/programs/breakfast/2012-02-20/3839552

  • letters in the age says:

    http://www.standpointmag.co.uk/node/4264/full

    More food for thought, a little off the topic but a great read!

  • Happy Convert I am says:

    You beauty! I’m converting too!!!!!!!!!! Yeaahaaaaaaa!!!!! Running off to the Mikveh now!!!!

    I just want to share my beautiful, wonderful, joyous experience with everyone! It’s just so beautiful and wonderful and true blue not to say the least!

    I was happy to pay more than $600.00 for the application but they returned my money! The lessons are a bargain at $60.00 an hour! Did anyone ever compare how much it cost for 15 min with a brain surgeon? And we are talking here spiritual not just material staff.
    Not only did they not lose my application forms, and kept me waiting for ages, but they even sent a limousine to pick me up for an appointment. They even wanted to provide me with free accommodation, and right next to Yeshiva! Naturally out of pure modesty I had to decline.

    After my conversion I had to leave my phone of the hook, because the entire Jewsih community wanted me to marry their daughter because they heard that I was a convert! Wow, what a surprise, and the non-believers said there was prejudice against the converts! Days and night I’m going through the photos, if only we could marry more than one, you know – like they did before! (Hmmm, need to talk to my buddies at Beth Din about this point)

    I don’t know what these ungrateful Jews and Jews want to be are complaining about!

    This story is true completely true and I am not putting my name down, because I don’t want the Dayanim to feel they owe me a favour.

    Bye for now
    From very happy Convert

  • For anyone who cares, I know “Yep, I’m converting” personally (I referred her to this article).

    This stupid discussion about the credibility of anonymous comments is really annoying. This is the internet!

    Frosh – as site owner, it’s reasonable to point out if someone is using different nicks from the same IP address. Anything else is pure conjecture and is a diversion from the actual debate.

  • drew says:

    Ian Grinblat says:

    Nowadays, chickens are reared in extremely closely controlled environments. The likelihood of needing to ask a Rabbi about aomething found in a chicken gizzard is rather remote.
    >.

    Really? When chickens were allowed to roam about normally, they had more health issues than today – when they are battery reared and live on 2 square inches on a shelf from the day they hatch until the day they are killed?!

    >> Having said that, let me say further that I believe that yiddischkeit values mentschlichkeit far more highly than immaculate chicken gizzards (or underwear).

    Maybe you should consider Conservatism..

  • Malki Rose says:

    Happy convert am I,
    You forgot the posies, rolling green meadows and free room service with complimentary champagne.

  • Yaron says:

    Yep, I’m Converting,

    I am glad you are having a positive experience and that the community is being welcoming, as it should.

    That the system has produced a good experience isn’t evidence that the system itself is good. Too many people speak and write of unnecessary hardship for us to just accept that the Beit Din is fine and doesn’t need to change.

    I hope things go as smoothly for you through the whole process.

  • Malki Rose says:

    Agreed,
    Good luck with it ‘Yep I’m converting’, this sounds very promising.
    May I ask what stage of the process you are up to, i.e. are you 6 months, 1 year etc into the process?

  • Darien says:

    Happy convert i am and malki,
    Dare i say we are being a little cynical and immature by mocking someones positive story?
    talk about offending potential converts!

  • Ian Grinblat says:

    Drew,
    When I grow up, I hope that I’m perfect like you.
    Until then, I’ll struggle with orthodoxy.
    I remain convinced that you need to take a few steps back to gain perspective. Do you remember the closing of Series 1 of The Sopranos? Tony comments to Carmen that “this (a new gang war) was all due to cunnilingus and psychaitry”.
    I will not judge/assess a Rabbi by his ability to pasken on chicken gizzards and spotted underwear. This whole discussion has touched on so many topics but where in all of them is the human heart? Even the brain needs broader vistas than underwear and chicken cavities can provide.
    Where is the human heart in all of this halacha?

  • convert says:

    Hi,
    I converted a few years back and wasn’t given my conversion certificate until I had done my year probation. I had to follow it up in the end as they had forgotten about me :). When I got married to a frum-from-birth guy a few years later, my conversion was looked at closely by the rabbi who was marrying us, subjecting me to a thorough investigation to make sure that the conversion was indeed kosher and I kept frum all the time after conversion. This never happens to Jewish by birth marriage prospects… There is still very much a double standard when it comes to Jewish by birth and Jewish by conversion, which is really against Torah. The rabbis should be the firsts to admit that. Once you’ve converted, you’re a Jew…just not in the eyes of many of the Jewish people…very disappointing

  • Alex Fein says:

    Hi Convert.

    I’m really sorry that you were treated in a way that violated both halacha and the spirit of our religion.

    Many of us are completely fed up with the sorts of behaviours and double standards that you decribed. Hopefully things will change.

    But kol ha’kavod for making it through the process :)

  • Recent divorcee says:

    Hi,

    I am not going to comment on the allegations raised in the initial article as I don’t believe in commenting on what I know nothing about.

    What I do know is that I dealt with the Melbourne Beth Din last year when I was getting divorced. At all times I was dealt with respectfully and with dignity, and particularly commend Rabbi Gutnick for the kindness and sensitivity he displayed when I broke down during proceedings. I in fact wrote afterwards to the Beth Din to thank them for the empathetic manner that they had dealt with me in these difficult circumstances.

    I must also add that they were very understanding about my difficulty in meeting the fees, affording me a reduced amount and agreeing on a payment plan that I was able to manage.

  • Alex – you are suggesting that Convert was treated in a way that violated halacha? Are you now a Rabbi who has investigated the situation to an appropriate level and made a determination?

    Convert – sorry to hear of your experience. The double standard in the way converts are treated generally within the community is unfortunate. The Chief Rabbi told a story at the recent gala dinner of a married couple where he was supervising the conversion of the wife, and the husband called up angrily saying: “now she wants to keep Shabbat – I don’t keep Shabbat and I’m Jewish!” (just an extract of a much longer story).

    You are coming up against ingrained attitudes that have been in place for many generations. Similar exist between BTs & FFBs. Birth into a particular culture gives you rights that others must try much harder to acquire. Come to think of it, these sorts of gaps exist throughout society – ask anyone who has tried to infiltrate the “old boy’s network”.

  • Yaron says:

    David,
    The Shulchan Aruch states clearly that as soon as an individual has converted they are Jewish ‘lechol davar’ for all matters.

    There is also a specific mitzvah of ‘veahavtem et hager’ (to love the convert)

    For anyone (including a rabbi) to act otherwise is against halacha and wrong. One does not need to be a rabbi to know such things.

  • Alex Fein says:

    Recent Divorcee,

    I’m really glad you were treated with compassion and I hope that your future holds much happiness.

    ***

    A general comment on the two positive accounts of dealing with the Beit Din:

    I’ll repeat what Yaron wrote earlier, “That the system has produced a good experience isn’t evidence that the system itself is good. Too many people speak and write of unnecessary hardship for us to just accept that the Beit Din is fine and doesn’t need to change.”

    ***

    David,

    Convert’s comment was not only about other Jews’ prejudices:

    It was about the recalcitrance of the Beit Din.

    It was about a provisional conversion (with the implicit threat of annulment).

    It was about a Rabbi who treated her as less than a Jew.

    It is not obscure halacha that to treat someone who has already converted as anything other than a Jew is a violation.

  • Darien says:

    Alex and Yaron with all due respect i think youve entirely missed the point. The Beth din take the responisbility of the future of Jewish nation every time they survey a convert. This is at the very heart of judaism – delineating between jew and non jew. Were there to be a breach in this area the defintion of Judaism and its future is compromised and can ultimately be lost altogether. Even one disingenuous convert, and you can rest assured there are people taking advantage of the system who are completely insencere in their approaches, erodes the very foundations of our Story. (think of famous ‘converts’ Brynne Edleston, madonna, isla fisher and those are just some of the famous ones). Furthermore there were large swathes of known converts who only became jewish to exploit or hurt the jewish nation (eruv rav, informers, missionarys etc.) So what one may see as a lack of compassion may really be the most compassionate act you could do. Think of airport security procedures. Im sure i dont need to elaborate for people of your standing. All this is emphasised further by the fact that judaism (as oppose to other religons) beleives a non jew doesnt need to convert to attain a form of salvation.

  • Yaron says:

    Darien,

    There are many faults with your arguments, but I will only deal with fault upon which the whole argument lies.

    Converts are do not convert to destroy the Jewish people. I do not think those Hollywood converts have lessened the standing of Judaism, nor did the numerous coverts of past generations (at least since Biblical times).

    If anything your desire to protect the Jewish people by controlling things too closely will inevitably lead to the opposite effect.

    Often people will want to connect with the Jewish people, even if it because of a spouse, and the Beth Din representing the community drive them away. What is achieved is not only the loss of the convert to Judaism but the Jewish partner as well.

  • ben Avraham Avinu says:

    I was referred to this site by a friend who knows how much I know and care about the process of conversion. I apologise at the outset for not posting under my real name, but ultimately my identity is not important. Suffice to say that I am now an observant, orthodox member of the community for a number of years already and am “in the know” regarding how the conversion system works here and elsewhere having gone through the system myself and being a friend and kind of mentor to others who have gone through or are going through the process.

    While some comments here (but certainly not all) may originate from a genuine, constructive desire to improve the processing of conversion and divorce in our city, there is a great deal of naivety, ignorance and unnecessary ill-will being displayed here that unfortunately will stymie any practical results from this discussion here.

    A few facts to start with:

    1. A number of recognised European Beth Dins have recently succumbed to pressure from both ends of the spectrum – with complaints of being too lenient on the one hand or too strict on the other regarding the processing of conversions. They have simply stepped back from the process and now refer all their applicants to Israel. What a disaster this would be if our local Beth Dins were forced to adopt a similar policy because of the pressures and conditions imposed upon them by various factions.

    2. On the other hand the London Beth Din, under the chairmanship of Dayan Erentrau, have until now refused to recognise the conversion of British residents who convert in Israel. Such converts are forced to go through a new process under the London Beth Din, when they return, if they want themselves or their children to be recognised as Jewish in Britain. I understand that this policy still stands even though Dayan Erehtrau is now semi-retired – and even though the London Beth Din is under the aegis of our “enlightened” Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks! So, while they may not revoke conversions, it is certainly the policy of that illustrious Beth Din, because of standards issues, not to recognise certain conversions in the first place even if performed by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel!

    3. In recent years the Israeli Chief Rabbinate has drawn up a list of Beth Dins recognised by them for conversion (and divorce) purposes. A fair number of erstwhile accepted Beth Dins (in the United States in particular) have now been “deregistered” with their converts not recognised by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate. As a result, many other international, recognised Beth Dins and the communities they serve are also not recognising the activities of these “deregistered” Beth Dins either. From what I have been told, due to my own personal experience, the conversions and divorces processed by both the Sydney and Melbourne Beth Dins are (at least to-date) recognised by the Israeli Rabbinate as well as by the other major Beth Dins around the world – including the London Beth Din. Any proposed changes to the existing situation here would therefore ultimately also need to be recognised by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate and other Beth Dins around the world. Anything less than this would obviously be a retrograde step and a great disservice to ALL conversion candidates and divorcing couples in our Australian Jewish communities.

    4. I have also discovered that that such recognition by Israel (and others) does not depend on the particular institution per se. It is predicated on the status of the personnel that make-up that particular Beth Din. Dayanim are assessed and recognised, or otherwise, based on their credentials and experience. It is not uncommon for the Israeli Chief Rabbinate to actually ask that the dayanim (or at least the Av Beth Din) be assessed and tested by them as to their halachic competence and experience. It is my understanding that the Sydney and Melbourne Beth Dins have a number of their personnel so approved. (My niece by marriage recently required a letter proving her Jewish status for marriage purposes in Israel. She was told by the Rabbinate in Jerusalem that despite a letter provided by her family’s (very) orthodox rabbi only a letter containing the signature of the senior dayan of our local Melbourne Beth Din is currently acceptable to them. I am told that hers in not an isolated experience.) So, any continued recognition of local conversions (and divorces) would require continued international recognition of the individual dayanim on the local Beth Dins. Again, anything less than this, and any consequent “deregistering” of our local Beth Dins, would obviously be a retrograde step and a great disservice to conversion candidates and divorcing couples in our Australian communities.

    5. In this regard I note the references to various rabbis being suggested as candidates for new dayanim on a/the local Beth Din. While not wishing to detract in any way from the good work these gentlemen do in their pastoral roles within their congregations, I believe that they would be the first to have the honesty and integrity to agree that they have neither the training nor the experience to take on the role of dayanim – certainly not with the expectation that they would receive the international recognition required for that role. With the greatest of respect to these gentlemen, it would be similar to asking the family GP (as qualified and respected as he may otherwise be in his medical role as a GP) to perform heart surgery. It is surely recognised that different roles, even within the same general field, require different qualifications. This very real fact in no way demeans the role of communal rabbi that these gentlemen otherwise fulfil as has been othereise suggested here.

    So, ultimately, any suggested changes, if they are to be taken seriously and not just dismissed as the usual impotent, anti-establishment whinging that goes on in many such blogs, needs to take all these facts into account. It is not really the local dayanim who are at fault – as much as Yoran may have his own personal issues with them. It is not even the stricter standards of any particular group (such as Chabad) that may or may not be a dominating influence. It is basically predicated on the need to adhere to a world-wide system that dictates the expected standards and methods that need to be used. If anything, it is this general system that dayanim currently need to work under, that may need to be looked at. But this will be true for whoever assumes the role of being on a/the Beth Din. And in all honesty it is not going to change because of a few blog-postings.

    All this is true until there are valid complaints of corruption in the field of ethics, finances, personal misconduct etc. That indeed requires the kind of action that precipitated the shut-down of the previous Melbourne Beth Din. Such issues should rightfully be separated from the other issues being discussed here regarding the level of halachic standards used. They do need to be acted on with alacrity and bipartisan support. But I haven’t seen any charges, even by the most vehement critics here, against the current Dayanim in Sydney or Melbourne in the area of the kind of professional or personal misconduct that caused the demise of the previous Beth Din.

    There will no doubt continue to be complaints no matter what may be done in the areas under discussion. Maintain strict conditions and the more liberal amongst us will complain as they have here. Loosen the standards and there is the very really danger that international and general recognition will be lost.

    As David Werdiger correctly points out it is also quite impossible, in the field of conversion and divorce that by their very nature are such highly emotional and traumatic areas, to find a universally accepted method of operation that will cater to all sensibilities in all circumstances.

    They’re the facts and realistically no amount of whinging about the situation in our own relatively small community will change them.

    Finally a few questions to Yaron:

    1. If you harboured such deep contempt for the activities of the current Beth Din, as reflected in your opinion piece, and if negative perceptions or complaints about its activities are so well-known and documented as you claim, then why did you apply for the position and thus implicate yourself in their activities? I would like to give you the benefit of the doubt and suggest that perhaps you felt you could reform the system from within. So did you take the opportunity to raise some of the issues you obviously had with the dayanim and their general policies during your interview and since? It appears from your own report that any discussion you did have was confined to your rejection as a tutor for converts. As you have not taken the opportunity of raising the less personal, yet ultimately more pressing issues, that you have now raised in your piece on this site, wouldn’t some of us be justified in thinking that your piece was simply just a petulant tirade precipitated by your being rejected as a conversion tutor?

    2. You claim regarding divorces administered by the Beth Din:
    “Many women have provided stories of this arrogance, incompetence and cruelty whether they had a smooth divorce or not.”
    These are very heavy personal charges regarding the dayanim themselves and quite different to complaining about strict standards they may or may not apply. From my own experiences I know the current dayanim personally. I am also in ongoing contact with others who went through, or are going through, the system here. Although some of the dayanim may be more right wing than some of us may prefer, I can say quite unequivocally that I would never ever accuse them of arrogance, incompetence and cruelty. I, for one, would be most interested if you can provide factual details to support this very serious claim other than the unsupported, sweeping innuendo you have resorted to. Otherwise you should have the decency (and halachic, if not also legal, obligation) to withdraw that aspect of your criticism which really is both libellous and unwarranted, outright character assassination.

    Meantime, I would suggest that if people have a genuine desire for change (and are not just interested in willy-nilly, destructively bagging the current system) they should initiate diplomatic and constructive discussions with those who can actually do something. Simply wildly venting on this blog destroys the credibility of the cause and burns bridges that could otherwise be used to constructively and practically assess and, if possible, improve the situation. Is it honestly postulated that there is a major communal conspiracy to discriminate against converts and divorcees? Have any of the critics here personally discussed these issues with the COSV, the RCV, or other community leaders involved in administering the Beth Din, or even with the dayanim themselves?

    But, unfortunately, I suppose to expect anything constructive like that will need to wait till the Messiah arrives.

  • Darien says:

    Yaron, ill give you the benifit of the doubt and assume you didnt entirely read what i wrote or understand it.

    Obviously most converts are sincere. There is an element that do convert for the wrong purposes or are obviously insencere. ie converting purely to get married and then revert once they danced their Hora or worse those that convert to utilise their jewish status for an alterior motive. What you might interperet as lacking compassion may really be necessary caution. Again i urge you to consider the analogy of airport security.

    However Yaron i must say, If you dont think the matter of an insencere or damaging convert effects the definition of the jewish nation and its standing then, with all due respect, perhaps the beth din were right in knocking you back!

  • Yaron says:

    ben Avraham Avinu,

    Your comment has a very official air about it.

    In order for people not to draw the wrong conclusions about who might be behind such a comment – especially one that contains an implicit threat of a defamation suit – I suggest that you reveal your real identity.

    What are your reasons for not revealing your identity? I believe many would find it quite important considering the nature of what you write.

    Contained within your comment are numerous obfuscations and half-truths. In my following article, I will demonstrate that the situation is not nearly as complicated as you suggest.

    You challenge me to answer a number of questions that have been dealt with comprehensively both in my article and in the comments section.

    Why have you failed to read (or acknowledge) what has already been written?

    You seem very invested in this issue. Until you can reveal your identity and interest in this matter, it is impossible to accept that yours is a comment made in good faith.

    Have the courage of your convictions and provide us with your name and your position in the interests of transparency and honesty.

  • Torah is no one’s private property!!! says:

    What a whole lot of nonsense! Who gave you the right to demand more than what is required in shulchan aruch? Do you have direct communication with God? I think he has enough prosecuting angels up there, he will do just fine without your help.

    I have met people from Orthodox religious background who after a tragedy or a divorce has ended up being secular including their kids. And I have met the children of converts of Melbourne who were completely un-observant and who later in life married Israeli Jews and became fully observant.
    There are no guarantees in life on anything, and the additional heart aches you give to these people are totally unwarranted. So stop with these interrogations, and listen to people like Rabbi Hartman. He is an expert on Rambam, is a professor of Philosophy and yes he is fully observant. Also, he is not afraid to use his name and when he talks he makes the headlines in Israel and all over the world. His message backs many of the comments mentioned here. In case you are too lazy to read his article.

    If God has personally brought someone to the Torah out of whatever circumstances, and you end up pushing that person away, even if he/she was one out of a thousand, – than you have failed in my opinion.

    Let God do his work and you do yours. If someone converted for the wrong reasons, he will get his punishment. And I am sure God is quite capable of saving the Jewish race without your help too. Who asked you to save the world in the first place? Let’s not start interpreting the motives of each person, you are not that gifted. On the other hand, If you are a prophet and you can see the future please accept my apologies.

    All you anonymous speakers, well know there are some serious issues that have been addressed here, don’t just sweep them under the carpet. If you really care about the welfare of Jewish people and converts as you say you do, why don’t you put your money where your mouth is, and conduct an anonymous survey?

    Why don’t you appoint an independent rabbi and send out a form to all who came to Beth Din in the last few years. Than you will know the real truth, and if you are so confident in your statements you will have the statistics to prove it – not just empty words!

    I tell you what, – I will even pay for all the stamps and expenses. Somehow I highly doubt it will happen though (for obvious reasons one need not explain).

  • Mandi Katz says:

    ben Avraham Avinu – what you say makes a lot of sense and one thing that emerges from your explanation is that the Chief Rabbanut in Israel has set the barriers on conversion more highly than was previously considered halakhikally necessary, and that this has meant that to avoid dissonance between Batei Din elsewhere and in Israel, other Batei Din have followed suit.

    Many people in turn ‘surrender’ to this higher standard because the alternative is conversions that aren’t widely accepted. Of course many more people seek conversion through Reform and Conservative or marry or have kids without conversion even though they wish to and do raise their kids to identify Jewishly. This sort of mirrors (although with different reasons) what has happened in Israel where half a million of the six or so million Jews in Israel are not halakhikally Jewish, and all the implications of that for Jewish (dis) unity – compounded because they cant have a reform or civil marriage at all so marriage as an institution is also devalued as a result.

    Owing to this sort of stuff, there is so much antagonsim towards the Rababnut in Israel. That may be expected in secular circles, but it is also the case in certain Modern Orthodox circles when it comes to matters of personal status . Couples seek to bypass the rabbanut by marrying without a licensed rabbi. I’m not sure how that works if they need a get…

    The increasing stringency in Israel has been the subject of comment from many people including Rabbi David Hartman and just last week even Isi Leibler has commented on this issue – http://wordfromjerusalem.com/?p=3894 and provides examples of precedent for a more liberal approach . Here’s an example: “Most notable was former Sephardi Israeli Chief Rabbi Uziel (1880-1953) who considered it a mitzvah to accept converts even if initially, they were unlikely to be fully observant. He quotes Maimonides who ruled that the convert is not required to observe all the rituals of Judaism and that it is a mitzvah to accept converts with the hope that they will become observant in the future.”

    He also refers to the book on conversion by Daniel Gordis who has Conservative smicha and David Ellinson t who writes about this issue, as it applies in Israel and beyond, from a very knowledgable position and from a deep love of and concern for the Jewish people.

    You are probably right that comments on a blog wont help that but I guess it raises awareness.

    So back to Melbourne – I have also heard good accounts of the Melbourne Bet Din in terms of compassion and responsiveness to women seeking divorce.

    And yes, both divorce and conversion are emotionally fraught so there will be dissatisfaction but doesn’t that all the more strengthen the case for kindness and inclusion wherever it is possible, albeit not required? It also boosts the already good case for transparency and timeliness beyond what is required by halakha as long as it doesn’t contravene halakha (and I am totally not an expert so I would be grateful for any explanation of how transparency – in the sense of providing clear reasoning to the affected party- can be problematic)

    That being so so, if you consider Yaron’s experience – what would be a good reason to disallow an observant , evidently Jewishly educated (he has smicha) and Orthodox person to teach a person who is converting? And what good reason is there not to explain the reasons fully and in a timely manner?

    Given the history of the bet Din in Melbourne, this sort of stuff is likely to create distrust and fear, even if there isn’t abundant evidence of reasons for that. And that in turn will lead to people looking beyond the Bet Din.

  • barry says:

    ben avraham avinu. Youve clearly come to the wrong place. You have written a well informed intelligent and credible post. Youve sensitively pointed out the intellectual dishonesty that is at play here. On this site this type of quality is usually responded to with ignoring the points youve articulately raised and a royal demand to reveal your identity or else…
    So for the last time people you are on the INTERNET. Not only do people have the abilty to be anonymous it is imperative to the rights of the interent user that their anonymity be protected if they wish.
    Now answer the points raised or apologise!

  • Avraham says:

    Hi Yaron,

    I can definitely understand your frustration. However, for me personally I think your article lacks crredibility as I do not believe that any of the questions asked would have disturbed you had you been accepted as a teacher. Halachik judaism does require certain private and intimate questions to be decided in accordance with the complex rules of halacha. I agree that the mode of expression could have been more sophisiticated but the question is certainly a valid one. The question of whether your wife covers her hair, although possibly not directly related to whether you know the halachot of geirut or are capable of teaching is relevant insofar as ideally a teacher of a convert (or a teacher of anyone for that matter) needs to be a role model and I think it would be difficult to teach a convert that she will need to cover her hair if in your own house that practice is not followed. I am not getting into the halachic issues whether a married woman needs to cover her hair as there seems to be many halachic views on that. However, we know the minhag in Melbourne (and in most of the orthodox world) is to accept the opinion that married women do need to cover their hair so it is reasonable for them to ideally want teachers who together with their spouses keep those rules. If there were not enough teachers, maybe the Bet Din would forego that ideal position but if there are enough teachers I think it is reasonable if that is what they look for. I am sure that when a shule looks for a pulpit rabbi it also looks at their family – it is only natural that people group them together. In terms of the time frame of getting back to you, I do not understand why it took so long and hopefully their efficency will improve (or maybe your case was an anomaly). A beth din that is just a reflection of the views of the people is not a beth din. They need to apply the halachic law and obviously, if halachic law doesn’t fit with people’s desires, the beth din will be scorned. But so it must be. So again even though the Beth Din have to behave like menchen, they do need to do their job and apply halachic law as required. If this requires them to reject people where they believe there such a rejection is reasonable, then so be it. In my opinion, a beth din that just tried to please people would be a bigger concern than a question that could have been asked in a little more of a sophisticated manner.

  • Eliyohu says:

    Ben Avraham Avinu, I appreciate your thoughtful observations.

    Just a general comment regarding divorces: Has anyone here ever worked in family law? (The secular side). I can tell you that it is quite likely the most emotion-laden, contentious, and difficult of all legal fields.

    I am not personally a lawyer, however I have watched a reasonable number of court proceedings. My personal observation is that a jury delivering a “guilty” verdict for a serious crime is often met by the now-convicted man with remarkable equanimity or stony-faced-ness. (His family is more likely to be the ones doing the crying). This is despite the fact that he will almost certainly now be spending the next few years of his life behind bars.

    A judge in family court delivering their judgement: TOTALLY different story! In family court, people break down ALL the time. It’s just human nature.

    Working in this area requires the proverbial wisdom of Solomon. Unfortunately, King Solomon is no longer with us, so we must do the best we can.

    I don’t know about the specifics of the Melbourne Beth Din’s strengths or (potentially) shortcomings in this most-vexed area of law, halacha and humanity. But I do warn the naive to be extremely reluctant to pass judgement. A little humility and caution may go a long way.

  • Yaron says:

    Once again – we are missing the point:

    Conversion is a politically complex situation in the Orthodox world – Agreed

    Divorce is a complex situation and the breakdown of a marriage and a household is tragic and must be dealt with delicately – Agreed

    We are not dealing with these situations, but rather with an organisation that cannot provide answers in a reasonable time frame and hide behind legalistic loopholes to avoid any transparency into their performance.

    The problem here is that the very framework around which the Beth Din is built is rotten, and this will cause unnecessary hardship for those who are in a delicate point in their lives.

  • Eliyohu says:

    Now THAT might be a practical start: Reducing delays and ensuring matters are followed up in a timely manner. I might write a pleasant email to the beis din as to timeframes. I suspect there may be administrative and logistical issues involved there, and the blame likely does not lie with the dayanim alone. Many people fail to give proper attention to the importance of appointing skilled clerks, secretaries, administrators and the like.

    As to explaining decisions, this is somewhat more complicated, I’d say. Courts and tribunals can and should give as much insight into their decision making as possible. However, ultimately, a judge cannot put too much stake into how people will react to his decisions. (Nor, by way of analogy, can a soccer referee). Otherwise, they would be failing their duty. They can explain, but they can’t afford to decide by opinion-poll.

    I am cautious to ask this question, but what practical improvements can you or others here suggest on the “non-dayanim” (i.e. the administrative) side of the equation? An audited budget would be a start, if this doesn’t already happen. Monitoring of time blowouts might be another. Ensuring proper follow-up would be a third. What am I missing on this side of the picture?

    (I don’t mean to minimise the importance of skilled and compassionate dayanim, just to shed light on an often-neglected but critical part of the system).

  • Mandi Katz says:

    I took too long to explain what I meant and I think it got lost. Lots of people like what Ben Avraham said. It certaainly makes sense but implicit in what he said is that the reason for a more stringent approach is not necessarily halakhik but political – it’s about fitting in with the toughest standard on the basis of a perception that it’s the most encompassing.

    But that’s not working….look at he mess in Israel as a result of that. It ends up excluding people who could be accommodated, halakhikally.

    And it follows that if the problem is not halakhik, if there is political will to fix it, it can be addressed.

    Saying that comments on a blog won’t fix it is, doesn’t address the substantive issue.

    It raises awareness and might encourage people to take steps to address it in other ways.

  • Yaron says:

    1) It was Dayanim’s refusal to respond to clear and uncomplicated questions that took six months. Administration can’t be blamed for this.

    2) To all those who claim that the Dayanim do not have give answers I would ask: every Gadol (one of the great rabbis) who has given an answer has always provided a detailed explanation with every response. Do these Dayanim see themselves as being above the gedolim of the past generations?

    Eliyohu,

    If we cannot trust the Dayanim in simple procedural matters, how could we trust them with the infinitely more sensitive cases?

  • Nathan says:

    Hi Mandi,

    Thank you for your comments. It seems that you fully understand our situation and frustrations. Are you or anyone else able to help me or even point me in the right direction I would be very grateful if you do. I left my comments earlier in the blog. I don’t want to repeat my story because I don’t want to bore anyone, especially those locked in Talmudic debates and a war of words.

    I fully understand the concept that the Orthodox jewry in regards to why they made the laws so strict, and I understand the philosophy behind building the fence around the Torah. It’s not that difficult to comprehend, but at this stage in my life I don’t want to grow a beard or to wear the black outfit. But, me and my wife have decided to be observant on the minimum level as described in Schulcan Aruh and we have been for the past 3 years.

    Unfortunately there seem to be a void in Melbounre. We can either take the very strict Orthodox approach which places additional restriction that are not demanded in jewsih law or we can go to Liberal or Reform. And, yes I understand that the latter option is a fraud and we have no intention to observe a watered down Judaism either.

    So what can we do? Where can we go to? Is there a Beith Din that will help us anywhere in Australia? All I want is for my wife to accept the obligation to observe the commandments and be dipped in the Mikva. We don’t care about the certificate and don’t want to make an eliah to Israel. But, I don’t want to live in sin nor do I want my children to be considered bastards.

    We are not blaming everyone, and we have been told from the start that where we live will not be accepted. But, I listened to my Rabbi who said that I must keep on trucking and I will find that all barriers will break away if I persevere. He is a very holy man and that’s how he lives his life.

    However, my first responsibility is to make sure I can make ends meet and provide for my future family. I can’t live beyond my means and pray to G-d that next month I will meet all of my financial obligations. I have tried living this way at the very start and it worked out for the worse.

    Though, I love the Chabad lectures and I admire their energy and commitment to G-d, after recent experience I have to say I agree more with the views of other observant Rabbi’s as mentioned in your earlier comments. Since they are correct in their own right and they do not demand one goes against the Shulcan Aruch, why can’t my wife have the option of converting this way? Must it be only the Orthodox way or Liberal?

    For years my relative has been trying to bring me to Judaism. And many times Yeshiva boys came to our business (back then in the city) to convince me to put on tefillin for the first time. What did they expect to find? They were well aware that the people they visit have assimilated and many of them have a non-Jewish husband or wife.
    So what happens if suddenly one of them finally succeeds and they arouse the feeling in a Jewish soul? Well, my story is the one of these examples. And it’s extremely unfair to make comments that everything is rosy and most emotions come with divorces (though I can imagine how painful it is – may no one have to experience such pain).

    We have been given so may contradictory advices it can confuse the hell out of anyone. Leave your wife, don’t leave your wife, have children, don’t have children, help your father in Law, and don’t help your father in law, and on and on…..

    Unless you go through it yourself, you will never know the pain and suffering that comes out of it. I have pushed my wife to limits, to a point of nervous break down. In the end when she broke down with her hand shaking, I felt an incredible shame. Is this the compassion of Judaism?

    To give advice to another person is the easiest thing in the world. To see it that person through – is another matter.The sad thing is that everyone tells us our story is very common. Everyone knows that there are problems in these areas, including my Rabbi and my relative who is a Chabadnic. But, no one wants to admit it or do anything about it. Instead we try to show off how skilled we are in the area of the debating, and try to diminish each other’s Ego’s.

    I would really appreciate if someone could tell us where to go for a conversion even if its not official. If someone can help us, our email is letstak@live.com.au. You can be anonymous if you like.

    PS: Please, no more Talmudic explanations or defending why it’s this way or that way, we had a gut full of them. We are after a solution and hope that only genuine people will reply to us. We are not interested in explanations and defending points of view, we just want genuine help.

    Thank You in advance.

  • Yaron says:

    Nathan,

    Every time I hear more of your story it hurts me a little more that we treat our people in this way.

    I can tell you that over the past week I have been contacted by hundreds of individuals who are outraged/sympathetic to situations such as your own.

    Unfortunately the only answer I have for you right now is that there seems to be a genuine desire for change, and hopefully it won’t be too long before the community finds a way to help people in your situation.

  • Eliyohu says:

    Dayanim should definitely give detailed explanations and reasons… explanations and reasons with which you may vigorously disagree.

    The general issue is a tragic one. Yaron, I genuinely admire your lack of venom, and your desire to improve things rather than trash them.

    The (now-defunct) Jewish Observer featured an *excellent* article a while back on the problems faced by batei din, and solutions which have been devised to address and reduce issues. I can’t find it on the net, unfortunately, but I’d suggest you give it a read (if you haven’t done so already). I may ask agudath israel to send me a copy if they can.

  • Nathan says:

    Thank you for your kind words.

    I wish I could find a solution though. I am very confused in regards to what is the right and moral thing to do. All my wife wants is to have a family with me. She has spent a third of her entire life with me and was very supportive when I told her I wanted to become observant. My own parents were against Judaism and thought my relative and the Rabbi have brainwashed me.

    Needless to say, there is no way I will ever leave her. But, I am stuck and I am also afraid to have children with her, as I do not want any ill to fall on them from my decision. But, I also can’t deny my wife the gift of a child that every woman wants.

    What should I do? What is the correct decision to make in our circumstances in relation to G-d’s will? I am not Job, and I can’t go through all the tests he did. He was a tzadik and I am a simple person and I haven’t got his clarity of vision. Until a 5 years ago, I didn’t even see a difference between a jew or a non-jew. Instead of finding salvation and piece in Jewish faith, I found the path at times unclear and confusing and though I may be wrong, full of politics like any other religion.

    This may take many years more before a solution can be found. I can’t wait that long, my wife is in her 30’s. I have asked so many people for help including those who brought me to Jewish faith. Our intentions are truly genuine. I am not afraid to disclose our names if someone can find a solution to our conversion or give us direction to follow.

  • Ron says:

    Barry,

    There is no way Ben Avraham Avinu is some ordinary person commenting on a blog. It’s one thing for ordinary people to be anonymous here, but this is different. I spoke to a couple of people and we all think the same thing. Ben Avraham knows things about politics and religion that ordinary people don’t.

    If Ben Avraham has some connection to the Beth Din or the RCV, it’s totally immoral that he doesn’t tell us. If he doesn’t, he needs to somehow make that clear because a lot of people are thinking the same thing.

    By the way, his legal threats are total rubbish.

  • ben Avraham Avinu says:

    The first sign of losing an argument is to resort to attacking the man rather than the subject. This form of intimidation is a tactic used often on sites like this . The appelation “moron” or “idiot” or worse are par for the course here. Yoran, you have chosen to resort to that now. Instead of replying to the points I have made you have resorted to questioning my integrity and honesty in speculating who I am. I can only imagine what would have happened had I indeed revealed my identity. Look at how the so-called friends of converts on this site parodied and riduculed the convert invited by David Werdiger to comment on the expereinces she had with the Melbourne Beth Din. Her comments obviously didn’t suit the agenda of those wishing to bag the current system. It is extremely fortunate that she indeed also didn’t use her real name.

    As I commented at the outset – my identity is irrelevant. If my points are valid then accept them if the’re not then explain why not. To refuse to acknowledge or address them on the basis that they are anonymous is just that – an excuse – and readers here looking for the truth will draw their own conclusions as to why that excuse has been used rather than addressing the points I have made and the questions I asked.

    Yaron, your credibility has been shattered. More and more are you admititing now that your issues stem from your rejection by the Beth Din. You hide behind an irrelevant demand rather than adressing the relevant issues honestly and rationally. By your own admission (on another gutter-site that picked up the story)you have laid false charges against the Beth Din in your claim that they made comments about your wife’s panties. You admiit that you resorted to that as a means of inflaming the situation. Why should we now believe anything you have said? I don’t think there are many, other than perhaps your wife Alex or a few of your friends on this site, who will be even interested in any proposal you now have to make. What credentials do you have for any expectations that people would listen? Have you been through the system? Have you surveyed those who have? Have you counselled converts or divorcees?
    Or are you just operatimng on hearsay and superficial knowledge of genuine and recognised coverion reuirements?

    Until such time as you can debate the situation objectively, knowledgably and with integrity I for one have nothing mpore to say to you on the subject.

    Just a word to Mandi,

    You are right in concluding that there are very real political issues in this area of conversion. Explaining this was the whole purpose of my original comment. To ignore this as Yoran is doing is simply not facing reality. However there is more to it than that. There are also halchic considerations that no amount of empathy or compassion can change. Nathan’s case is one example of his earnest desire to go thorugh the system but his obvious reluctance or inability to fulfil the conditions entailed are unfortunate problems for him at the moment. I also had my major challenges. It’s not easy for somone to give up a career and a good job because it entailed working on Shabbat. It is not easy to expect a wife, who after-all married a non-jew, to go on the journey as well. It is indeed not easy to move houses to a more Jewish neighbourhood so that we could walk to Shule on Shabbat and generally mix socially with other Jews. But I recognised that there are conditions that no-one with integrity and responsibility can vary. I decided that I wanted my conversion to be genuine (and accepted by all) so I made the required sacrifices and we haven’t looked back. We are am now happily involved and accepted within the orthodox community and loving my adopted way of life. And, yes, we thank the Beth Din for their guidance, empathy and care all the way through.

    As Eliyohu correctly reminds us, there are those, with their own personal axes to grind, who condemn the secular family law courts. Judges have actually had threats and attempts made against their lives. Remember the car that was driven though the front of the family law court buiding here in Melbourne? Would any objective person condone such attacks or accuse the judges of incomptence, cruelty or arrogance as a result?

    It’s a very complex issue but, as I have said, it’s not going to be resolved with biased, naive and mischievous comments on a blog such as this.

  • Eliyohu says:

    Ben Avraham Avinu, just an interesting (and possibly irrelevant) observation:

    The chachamim have noted that it is nothing short of a miracle that there are non-jews who choose to give up their (relatively) easy lives, and tie their fate to that of the Jewish people. However, thankfully, the self-selection involved means that people like you have tremendous fortitude and dedication.

    Divorcees, on the other hand (BOTH husbands and wives) are, in a sense, simply unlucky people, who often wish they were finding themselves *anywhere* but in a courtroom facing the person they once loved. There may be a sense of relief at best, but more often, there is deep distress, pain and anguish.

    Judges, both secular and religious, can make bad decisions. As I said, King Solomon is no longer with us. (The famous custody battle – “cut the baby in half”). But the job needs to be done, excruciating as it is. The famous Judge Judy Sheindlin (the TV actress now) wrote about the “battle fatigue” she encountered. And the deep awareness that whilst she was returning to her safe and happy home at a day’s end, for many litigants in her courtroom, there would be no happy ending. Regardless of whatever judgement she might make. The term she (and no doubt others) used for what happened in that courtroom was a succinct “battles without winners”.

    Judges should (must!) be humble, competent, and compassionate. However, they can *still* leave behind a world of massive pain not of their making. And those pained by their situation may take it out on the judge. It’s a bit like blaming the oncologist who couldn’t save one’s relative, try as they might, and skillful as they might be. Some things are simply not within our power… That doesn’t mean the judge or doctor lacks compassion and skill.

    (I hope this isn’t just an irrelevant ramble. Make of it as you like).

    But I have to say, I have encountered FAR more venomous characters than Yaaron on the blogosphere, so I’m willing to assume good faith.

  • Nathan says:

    Hi ben Avraham Avinu,

    You probably assuming that we didn’t walk to the Schul on Shabbat just because we lived in a non-designated jewish area. I want to be the first to say – you are 100% correct.

    We didn’t walk there, because we slept there on the floor for almost every Shabbat and festivals. And we stayed there from sunset to sunset. My Rabbi can confirm this as well as many others who attended the Schul.

    Though we live about 35km away from the Schul, we were on of the most regular people there, and one of the first to arrive there, even though many people live within a few minutes walk.

    My wife and I, also cleaned the Schul on may occasions, though hardly anyone knows about it. There are other things my non-jewish wife has done for the Jewsih community, that most Jewish people wouldn’t do.

    I would really appreciate if you don’t use my Name as part of your debates on this blog as per my earlier requests. I didn’t come to this site to put down Beith Din and I have spoken earlier in a positive manner about them.

    And its true that everyone has challenges in life, but you don’t know mine, truly – you don’t. I have come here with hope that may be someone could help me or direct me to another person that may. Its obvious you can’t.

    I appreciate your understanding, and it’s truly not necessary to reply to me. I am not trying to change your point of view – you are entitled to it. So, please let us agree that there are other Rabbi’s and individuals who may have a different point of view that doesn’t go against the Khaloha and lets respect them too. You can argue with them if you like. They are much more knowledgeable than I am.

    Thank you for your understanding.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    ben Avraham Avinu, in fact, the first sign of losing an argument is when one makes the rather churlish claim that they have won.

    The second is when you begin to invent attacks on others about things they didn’t do. This is known as a strawman attack and is a rather famous logical fallacy: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Straw_man

    You claim that Yaron resorted to attacking people as “moron”s and “idiots” when he did nothing of the sort. You wrote:

    “The appelation “moron” or “idiot” or worse are par for the course here. Yoran, you have chosen to resort to that now”

    There are no comments here at all which show Yaron even come CLOSE to saying anything like that, or denigrating you or anyone else in such a way.

    So, honestly, the only person guilty of the character assassination is you.

    If people do suspect you are somehow involved in the Beth Din, then it looks terrible that pious religious leaders are being such hypocrites.

    Your entire post reeks of paternalistic condescension. All you have addressed so far is why the current Beth Din should stay. You haven’t paused for one second to address the fact that injustices have occurred (not just to Yaron, but others as well) except to arrogantly dismiss them out of hand.

  • Yaron says:

    ben Avraham Avinu,

    You have put forward a highly researched complex argument. That avoids the point altogether.

    My points were simple – I never objected to my rejection. That is the Beit Din’s prerogative. Rather there are three main issues at the heart of this:

    1) The time it took to answer me

    2) The failure to give an adequate answer

    3) The Beit Din hiding behind faulty procedure to prevent an appeal.

    How can we trust people with the highly charged (and by your own admission, very political) debate of conversion if they cannot get the above three points right?

    You also imply many things in your personal attacks against me (remember what you said about personal attack in the very same post where you attacked me?), none of which is true.

    I did not attack any of the converts or divorcees (and if I unintentionally hurt any of them with any of my comments I sincerely appologise).

    The comment on FM has been answered (my mistake was in the words used on that website not in my reporting the facts). The question about my wife’s underpants was most certainly asked.

    How would you know it was not? Were you in the meeting? The only other people in that meeting were the three dayanim. Can we now take that as an admission?

    The nature and viciousness of your comment makes your identity very much an issue. Your credibility rests on revealing your identity and a declaration of your interests.

  • Yo says:

    Truth is that Chabad is not even close to making up the majority of religious Jews (let alone all Jews) in ANY major community in the world – in Australia it has the credibility that it does not have anywhere there is any degree of pluralism or accountability. Melbourne Jewry is sunk until it retakes control from the anti-Zionist (yes, Chabad is such in its philosophy), racist (e.g. Dov Lior), publicity-seeking (“Chief Rabbi of Thailand”, Chabad LA Telethon) and anti-intellectual (name one great Chabad intellectual of the past 50 years) money-grubbers who have been identified and called out in other communities around the world.

    BTW What has the super-moral bais din in Melbourne done about the pedophiles gracing the ranks of their rabbinic peers? What is so wrong with excommunication at this point?

  • Ben says:

    How does a post like the above one or some of the earlier posts mocking converts or throwing shrill abuse get approved by the moderators? this site is a disgrace and a blight on the community. Yes i am loosely affiliated with Chabad and have supported their institutions in the past and i am fed up with the slander and defamation that goes on here. Any sense to be had in this argument has been overwhelmed by abusive overtones and bizarre demands regarding internet anonymity.
    I will not be returning!

  • Grandma C says:

    Can someone quickly write another article for Galus? I think this one and accompanying commentary has reached its limits. It is now just going around in circles and becoming a slanging match. 133 comments – wow! Now let’s move on….

  • Torah is no one’s private property!!! says:

    Yes, let’s dismiss all the valid concerns on the basis of a few comments and write a happy story instead! Who needs to resolve anything anyway, the Mashiach will do it all. Lets wait until these issues are viewed on ABC news like it did 10 years ago. That will be so much better for the Jewish community!

  • ben Avraham Avinu says:

    Yoran,

    You have misunderstood my comments. Please read them again. I did not say that you called anyone a moron etc. I said that sites like this are known for attacking the man with such name calling (and others on this site have certainly used those and similar expressions). I then followed that by saying that you have followed this trend of attacking the man – by questioning my integrity and truthfulness – rather than dealing with the issues I raised. I did not mean that you personally used those words in so doing.

    In any event, I have revealed more than enough relevant information about my life and where I am coming from. Apparently you think that challenging me and claiming I am someone else lets you off the hook and justifies why you are not answering my comments or questions. Very poor and very immaterial reason .

    You and you friends can attack me and speculate as much as you like. But I think that most objective people will see that this is just an irrelevant ploy to avoid the real issues I have raised. I am sure they will draw the obvious conclusions accordingly.

    BTW, my comments on your claim about your embellishment of the alleged question about your wife’s underwear were based on comments presented on this site. I have no idea if and how the issue was raised at the Beth Din. My comment was based on a quote posted above where you are quoted as writing on another blog:

    ” And yes for the record I may have embellished the words of the underpants question a little for dramatic effect….”

    So your fanciful conclusions are wrong. I didn’t have to be at the Beth Din meeting to claim that you did not report things the way they actually happened – you have clearly admitted so youself. And as Jack also commented above:

    “By your own admittance we cannot take what u said at face value.”

    That’s my source. So cut the far fetched detective work about this comment somehow proving that I am not who I say I am. You are wrong and quite obviously are introducing this bizarre irrelevancy as an attempt to detract from the real issues I have raised.

    In my parting comment I must say that I am now actually sorry that I even attempted to comment here. Despite my good intentions of introducing some facts and rational discussion on a topic close to my heart I admit that I have unfortunately been goaded into using similar reprehensible tactics of attacking the man. I should have realised that sites like this don’t want the facts or contrary opinions but instead actively foster and encourage lashon hara and unwarranted hatred and I should have kept my distance from the outset..

  • Yaron says:

    ben Avraham Avinu,

    Once again, I have answered all your questions in previous comments. On numerous occasions I have pointed out why your arguments do not relate to my article. Your insistence on continuously revisiting what has already been said is what’s known in the internet world as trolling.

    Finally, your obsession with my wife’s panties is unseemly. You parse a single word – that has been adequately explained – and somehow believe that her undergarments will absolve you from your obfuscations, viciousness and disingenuousness.

  • Yaron says:

    I feel that this discussion has well and truly taken its course and will not be commenting further on this particular article.

    Thank you to everyone for the positive feedback I have received and for the very stimulating debate.

  • david says:

    Nathan

    It seems your email address is incorrect.

    What is a good email address to contact u privately

    david

  • Drew 2 says:

    If they are genuinely obsessed with your wife’s panties, maybe this explains why it took them so long to get back to you?

  • Rochel Nerenberg says:

    bsd

    Hello Yaron:

    You told Ben Avraham Avinu that you had no objection to their rejecting you as a potential conversion teacher. Then, why did you consider an appeal against their decision, as you seem to allude to in point 3 of your second last comment to him? Clearly, you HAD an objection to their decision.
    About how they knew about your wife not covering their hair – they probably did a background check on you to make sure you were the same person you claimed to be. Your wife not covering her hair is hardly an intimate detail of your family life, being that her uncovered hair would be quite a noticeable aspect of her person when she goes out in public.
    Vetting teachers on their views of the Rebbe and the State of Israel – these issues are hashkafa based, and they are peripheral to the halachos of Shabbos, kashrus and family purity that potential converts must learn. As such, these issues have no bearing on the religious observance of the individual. However, what they must have found controversial was your position on certain aspects of halachah, which is important as you would definitely be transferring that to your potential students.
    Finally, your whole article focuses on your personal experience alone. One bad experience with the Beis Din does not translate to a “broken system.” Where were the other examples/anecdotes of their wrongdoings against other people?
    Also, the letter that took six months to arrive, as well as their reluctance to give you a straight answer are both certainly annoying, but are hardly things that warrant an agonised article bemoaning the lack of transparency or lack of responsiveness to the needs of the community of the Beis Din. After all, organisations in general are not duty-bound to give you an explanation for why they did not accept your job application.
    If the Beis Din does routinely mismanage conversion and divorce proceedings, or are genuinely nasty to potential converts, then all that definitely would call for a rigorous review of its processes (keeping in mind ben Avraham Avinu’s proviso of meeting international standards). Until then, we need the hard evidence.
    All the best,
    Rochel

  • Daniel Levy says:

    Rochel, I’ll field these questions for Yaron in his absence. Not because I know what he’s thinking, but because they’re bleedingly obvious. Seriously, I think a fifth grade student who had a good aptitude for reading comprehension could answer your questions.

    1) Why did he appeal if he was “okay” with their rejection?

    He hadn’t been given a reason why he was rejected, and he appealed to learn if there was a good reason for his rejection, and if not, then he would be accepted. Just because he’s at peace with the decision now doesn’t mean he wasn’t okay with it when he first appealed.

    2) Wearing the wig is important, suddenly?

    You do not consider the many examples that were provided of extremely well-respected rabbi whose rebbetzins wouldn’t even consider wearing a wig. Not to mention, this practice is disgustingly outdated and sexist – akin to the burqas that Muslim men force women to wear. Truly barbaric.

    3) Not just one experience – a lot of them.

    The problems of his experience certainly point to a broken system. No organisation should have the disgraceful practises listed by Yaron. Months upon months to reply to correspondence? Deliberate ignorance and obfuscation? Perversion on a truly alarming scale? If this happens to just one person, then yes, it is absolutely a broken system with zero checks and balances.

    Not to mention, Yaron’s case has not been the only one brought forth. Yaron later gave other examples in this comment thread which joined the chorus (perhaps a symphony?) of complaints levelled at the Beth Din by other commenters. One poor experience? Try a deluge.

    4) There is a most amusingly ironic conflict between:

    “After all, organisations in general are not duty-bound to give you an explanation for why they did not accept your job application.”

    and

    “Until then, we need the hard evidence.”

    It is very difficult to gather evidence on an organisation so secretive that it welches on its own appeals process and provides no justification for its actions whatsoever. This is the definition of a lack of transparency. Surely you must have suffered some sort of cognitive dissonance writing those two absurdly conflicting sentences, right?

  • Mandi Katz says:

    Nathan – your grace and dignified responses are admirable. lt is disappointing that Ben Avraham chose to make comments about your observance and lack of commitment – which have no basis in anything you said.But you are obviously more than capable of rising above that.

    Your story is heartbreaking. I hope better connected people than me have suggestions about what you can do.

    I will mail you the name of the Rabbi I think you should speak to but I hope that at the very least, other people reading this understand what it means to be a person whose personal life depends on the decisions of powerful men, made all the more powerful by our silent acquiesence.

    And I have not heard one even vaguely good reason why
    1.Yaron shouldn’t be allowed – as matter of Jewish law – to teach people converting
    2 why a Beth Din should not administer justice transparently (which is not he same as ruling to please people, as someone has confusedly suggested)
    3 why decisions should not be conveyed in a timely manner – the Beth Din apprarenlty charges fees for every dealing with it. It’s a funded organisation that should be properly staffed and administered. There is no good excuse for failing to respond in a timely way, in matters that affect people’s lives.

  • ben Avraham Avinu says:

    Against my better judgement I add one more comment only because I don’t want my silence be taken as acquiescence.

    Yaron, you castigate me for harping on the underwear issue. That is quite rich. It’s like the man who shot his parents and then asked for clemency on the grounds that he was am orphan.

    You were the one who raised this issue in a highly sensational manner as a major factor in your attempt to embarrass the dayanim and embellish your attack on them. It is now being revealed, by your own admission, as having at best been a mischievous embellishment and at worse not even true. Unfortunately it is this issue more than your claims about mishandling of conversions and divorces that people are now talking about. So my mentioning it is because it has a major impact on your argument, credibility and motives and is not some weird obsession as you have tried to dismiss it.

    Secondly, you have NOT answered my questions. Certainly not the ones I directed personally to you. You may try to dismiss it by charging me with trolling. I in return charge you with compounding your ducking of the real issues by referring me to some imaginary previous explanation.

    Word in Shule this morning was that a number of your claims that are pivotal to the allegations raised in your original article as to how you were treated by the Beth Din have been fabricated and mischievously misrepresented by you. The talk is that this will be revealed (if it hasn’t been already) in a more appropriate way and in a more appropriate forum. Perhaps you too have heard this and that explains why you have chosen to now remove yourself from the debate here (that you after-all started) in the ultimate manifestation of ducking the real issues and fruther questions that will follow.

  • Nathan says:

    Hi Mandi,

    Thank you for your comments even though I don’t deserve them. I really look forward to your email, and my wife has told me I made a spelling mistake earlier. Its: letstalk@live.com.au.

    It wasn’t mine intention to offend anyone, and if any one felt that I did – I’m sorry. I just wanted to emphasise that there are genuine people who fall through a void that exists between strict Orthodox Ruling and non-observant Liberal type.

    There can also be emotional pain, and great confusion on how to live your life after, if you partner can’t be accepted as a convert. Just because we don’t suit the Orthodox criteria, it doesn’t mean my feelings of obligation towards observing the commandments goes away and I we can now resume our previous secular life.

    I want to again state that I disagree about many comments on Chabad, such as there were no important teachers or contributors in the last 50 Years. Though I don’t know if “The Rebbi” is a mashiach or not, he was on the most enlightened people on the planet in recent times. I have read some of his comments on science, technology, biology, astronomy, theory of relativity, politics and explanation on the Torah. He spoke with such incredible depth and wisdom, it’s clear that his soul came from a very high plane. He also displayed an enormous love for any Jew regardless of his background or religious status. And he helped jews and non-jews a like. He gave a dollar instead of taking one.

    I feel I need to repeat, that we have received incredible warmth from many Chabad families. Just because I may disagree with some of their ideology, it doesn’t mean I don’t recognise their love and good will and how hard they try to educate the secular jews. Their work is truly remarkable and deserves a lot more credit than is given.

    Thank you to all, and may G-d bless all of us and make things crystal clear to us without delay so we don’t have to be divided anymore and live like brothers and sisters! What a life that would be!

    Again my email address is letstalk@live.com.au. If my email bounces for whatever reason please let me know via this blog. I would really appreciate if someone can point me in a direction of a rabbi who can help.

    Thank You.

  • Yaron says:

    It was my hope that I could have left this thread on a positive note. But ben Avraham Avinu has written a defamatory comment that must be answered.

    The spotted underwear question was asked. Regardless of the terminology, it was asked. I am prepared to sign a statutory declaration that it was asked.

    Ben Avraham Avinu, you wrote:
    “…a number of your claims that are pivotal to the allegations raised in your original article as to how you were treated by the Beth Din have been fabricated and mischievously misrepresented by you.”

    This is libelous.

    I am in possession of a series of emails – CCd to numerous people including an eminent lawyer – demonstrating that every element of my article is true.

    There is a paper trail. There are statutory declarations I am prepared to sign.

    Perhaps your determined character assassination of both Nathan and me is what lies behind your need to remain anonymous.

  • Nathan says:

    Hi David,

    It wasn’t my intention to have the last say, but I just noticed your earlier comment, and did not want you to think that I ignored you.

    I have already received one email so maybe it’s the Hotmail server, it sometimes goes up and down. If you still can’t send the email to letstalk@live.com.au perhaps you can let me know again and I can give you another email or a mobile number.

    Please let me know if you are not successful.

    Thank You.

  • Daniel Levy says:

    “Word in Shule this morning”

    ben Avraham Avinu, what a classless bullying tactic to use the threat of community gossip (is this primary school? grow up) against Yaron

    You really should have left it at your last comment, because now you reveal yourself for the petty human being that you are, when you a) gossip behind Yaron’s back and b) compare him to somebody who murdered his parents.

    These are egregious counts of lashon hara. Not a good look for a supposedly religious man. As an atheist, I welcome you with open arms into the non-religious lifestyle. You’re already living it really well, because you obviously don’t give a flying -duck- about living life by god’s commands.

  • Rochel Nerenberg says:

    bsd

    Daniel,

    1. I’ll grant you that Yaron was not at peace before with their decision, but now is. However, if Yaron is *now* at peace with their decision, then why write such an inflammatory article black-washing the Beis Din at this moment?
    2. Why did you think that I was saying that the woman must wear a wig? Should I throw the fifth-grader insult you started your comment with back at you?
    a. Anyway, halachically, there is a big difference between covering hair, even if only partially, and not covering hair at all. There is plenty of halachic discussion on the matter, should you care to look it up, and not rely on your gut reaction to the issue.
    b. Which well-respected Rabbis whose wives do not cover their hair were you thinking of? Do they teach converts or sit on the Beis Din? Are their halachic positions accepted by mainstream Orthodoxy? Also, I suspect that the wives of the Rabbis you’re may be thinking of, would cover their hair in shule. That already shows some angst over not covering their hair in general.
    c. Part of a kosher conversion process involves teaching the woman that she must cover her hair. Why would they hire a person whose wife does not cover her hair to teach the convert this? Especially if the convert is going to develop a relationship with the teacher to the extent that they would go over to their house for Shabbos lunch and so on?
    d. Disgustingly outdated and barbaric? Pretty strong language for something as trivial as wearing a bandanna or hat over your head. By that token, women who turn up to the Melbourne Cup looking gorgeous in hats and gloves are submitting to disgustingly outdated and barbaric customs of say, the fifties, that required decent women to go out in public with a hat and gloves on.
    3.
    a. The deluge of complaints you speak of in the comments are largely composed of jumping down each others throats over something that was said or not said, bashing the establishment, and insulting each other. Only two commentors actually gave us their own concerns about the Beis Din conversion process – “Convert” and “Nathan” (and Nathan’s was not an actual complaint against the Beis Din – rather a request for help on conversion on his and his wife’s own terms). Some commentors gave their own positive experiences with the Beis Din, but they were shouted down with the “one good experience does not mean the system isn’t broken!” (hence I commented, “one bad experience does not mean the system is broken.” There is a huge difference between a system that is truly broken, and a system that could do with some improvements)
    b. They gave Yaron what he wanted – the letter explaining their decision not to accept him. What’s so perverted about that? The letter taking a long time to arrive lies more with inefficient administration rather than genuine corruption or perversion. Or, perhaps they had valid reasons for choosing to hold Yaron at arms length.
    4. Where is the irony/cognitive dissonance in what I said? Here’s the gist of what I said:
    They were not duty-bound to give him a reason for *rejecting his job application*. That is the first point.
    The second point, which is a *separate* issue, is that we need the hard evidence of *mismanagement of conversion and divorce proceedings, and bad treatment of converts.* So far, very little of that has actually been given here.

    Rochel

  • Rochel Nerenberg says:

    bsd

    Daniel,
    Wow. As I posted my last comment to you, I saw what you had written to ben Avraham Avinu. Now, I wonder if it was worth my while having written back to you? I can only hope so, if only for the other people who are reading the comments right now.

  • drew says:

    Re the disussion of (sham) geirus – click here to se the Halachik views of Rav Kook – famous for his Ahavas Yisroel and definitely not and extremist chareidi rabbi.

    http://www.rabbibrand.022.co.il/BRPortal/br/P102.jsp?arc=289899

  • drew says:

    Alex Fein says:
    It is not obscure halacha that to treat someone who has already converted as anything other than a Jew is a violation.
    >>

    You would’ve been mighty unimpressed (and actually sided with the entire Charedi rabbinate) when Rabbi Goren infamously annulled a conversion (and getting the Israeli govt out of a messy situation) allegedly doing a deal to be appointed as Chief Rabbi.

    Read all about it here
    http://www.jewishmediaresources.com/1094/who-is-really-to-blame
    more here:
    http://tinyurl.com/89z4zgj

  • drew says:

    Yaron says:
    I do not think those Hollywood converts have lessened the standing of Judaism,
    >>

    They certainly haven’t – because no self-respecting observant Jew will ever accept the hocus-pocus Reform ceremonies that these celebrities pay for.

    I suppose that is one aspect of Reform that we should be grateful for. Ie, that they have totally taken charge for the conversions of insincere and irreligious conversion candidates.

    >>If anything your desire to protect the Jewish people by controlling things too closely will inevitably lead to the opposite effect.

    Nonsense. All it leads to is that we don’t accept insincere non-Jews.

    >>>Often people will want to connect with the Jewish people, even if it because of a spouse, and the Beth Din representing the community drive them away. What is achieved is not only the loss of the convert to Judaism but the Jewish partner as well.

    Tough cheddar. That’s the Halacha.

  • ben Avraham Avinu says:

    Your latest answer Yaron really intrigues me enough to once again post even though I said, like you, that I have had my say.

    You have emails from the Beth Din asking you the question about underwear? Or is it that you are ready to sign a stat dec that the question was asked? How could that be when you yourself have admitted that you embellished that claim? What exactly was said in the email you appear to refer to or what exactly would you say in that stat dec? What exactly DID the dayanim ask you? You have given us the embellished text but you haven’t rpovided the real text yet. Why don’t you tell us what it was? The readers of this blog will then be able to see for themsleves whether your claims are correct or simply part of a mischievous beat-up. I assure you that if it indeed proves to be a question abour underwear I would be the first to present it to the Beth Din and ask for an explanation.

    I stand firmly by the report I heard in Shule even if you or others claim it libellous. The source we heard it from has a lot more credibility in my eyes than you do after you have already admitted to fabricating / enbellishing the question.

    And I have not commented on the time it took you to get an answer nor have I disputed your claim in this regard. I don’t need to see any emails or sta decs reagrding that. But, as has been commented here a number of times, that is an administrative matter and even if true refelcts a short-coming in that area. In any event it is confined to one answer to you and ultimately has nothing to do with the dayanim’s role in the ongoing processing of conversions which I know from my experience to have been completely competent and empathetic. I am still awaiting factual evidence of even one of the hundreds of comments you have allegedly received supporting YOUR libellous claim that the beth din acts arrogantly, incompetently and cruelly.

  • drew says:

    Torah is no one’s private property!!! says:
    … So stop with these interrogations, and listen to people like Rabbi Hartman. He is an expert on Rambam, is a professor of Philosophy and yes he is fully observant.
    ==

    Isn’t he the one who spends a fortune on the Haaretz website endlessly promoting himself?

    Whatever, to get a better idea of his “Orthodoxy” standards this is what Wikipedia has on him: (presumably self-supplied): http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_Hartman_(rabbi)

    “His teachings draw upon the tradition of Orthodox Judaism and emphasize religious pluralism, both among Jews and in interfaith relations. As his views often align with Conservative Judaism, some have asked whether he should be considered Orthodox.[3] Elliot Dorff has characterized Hartman as “Orthodox but close to the right border of Conservative Judaism.”[

  • Yaron says:

    Ben Avraham Avinu,
    I have already said everything there is to say throughout this thread. I have nothing further to add.

  • Nathan says:

    Hi Rochel,

    Thanks for your comments. For the clarity of the new readers, I wish to confirm that by your comments “conversion on his and his wife’s own terms” You really meant according to haloha, just not able to meet one additional prohibition due to financial difficulty, and one that has not interfered with my observance of any of the haloha”. .
    By the way it’s not that we don’t want to live close to other Jews, but the fact that they have settled in one of the most expensive areas in Melbourne. I know that some Chabad families receive support from their communities and it’s normal to ask for charity.

    But, I can’t live like that, it will break me. It’s a common knowledge that majority of marriage break-downs including in religious families come from financial hardship. I have never been dependent on someone and I can’t start begging now. I am the fourth generation of un-observant Jews in my family line. What more do you expect from me or my wife? Isn’t it good enough that we have been observant for the last 3 years?

    It’s highly logical to assume that if a person lives further away the convert may be slightly less observant. Warranted statements. Our Rabbi feared the same thing and warned me that they may happen, but he admits that he was wrong. If it didn’t affect my observance (where we live), so why can’t my wife convert? Because of some statistic? Is that what I am a statistic?

    So to give a clearer meaning about my wife situation, since you have used me in your example, in your comments it should state “ conversion based on humanity aspect and the willingness of Beith Dint in this case to overlook the additional prohibitions above haloha that are not imposed by other Beith Dins”

    PS: I don’t want people to think that I am taking any sides here. I respect everyone’s opinion, including even those who I disagree with. But I ask that we stop putting other Rabbi’s down as well. We all should stop commenting on the righteousness of another individual let us show him equal respect that we demand of others. Please, its very un-Jewsih if not for morally reasons.

    Why don’t we invite Rabbi David Hartman to Wittika hole in St Kilda and have your say and let him reply to you face to face. Im sure he will not be afraid. Who knows what will come out of it? Maybe we will begin to repair the broken bridges. Isn’t that the mission of Torah?

  • Sarah says:

    Quick question for Nathan: When submitting an application to begin the process of conversion, is it not made clear at the outset that living in the community ie walking distance to a shul is a prerequisite for conversion? I feel for you and have known others in your situation, which is a difficult one. I also know that a Beth Din (be it in Melbourne, Sydney, or anywhere else) has a right to set some general rules/policies that they apply to all candidates universally. Were you not made aware that it was a requirement to live near a shul?

  • Marky says:

    Rochel N, according to Daniel Levy, all of Yaron’s(and everyone else’s) religious beliefs and practices are barbaric, so that’s where he is coming from.

  • letters in the age says:

    With all due respect Galus et al, why has this site become a promotional piece for vested interests within the Jewish community…?

    Lets not make it the mumma mia blog of the Jewish diaspora.

    Cheers and nice piece, congrats Alex and co.

  • Nathan says:

    Hi Sararh,

    Appologies for late reply, I didn’t know it’s still going.

    I have to tell you that I feel like a celebrity here, everyone is so fascinated with my story even though I heard many times that it’s very common. Though I use simple words and most people would agree that my point is not that difficult to understand, people still want to put a different spin on it, and use me in their arguments.

    Considering, that I have not taken any sides here, I feel it’s a little over the top. It’s like there is coup happening here, and I am forced to choose sides. Who are you for or against, tell us? Are you on the side of good or evil? Reveal your intentions to us or we will expose you!

    I don’t believe anyone new who comes to this blog for the first time could be bothered to read hundreds of sometimes pointless arguments, and many others have already stopped responding to questions. So, now the questions are coming to me. Fine. Some people obviously need to prove that they are correct (if there is such a thing exists in the first place). For this reason they need closure. I get it now.

    Not everyone are able to step out of their own shoes and see things from another person’s perception it’s not easy. Once you put a label on a person you tend to treat him/her accordingly. If you feel your point is 100% correct and nothing short of the divine truth, than there’s no need to defend it, it will stand firm in its own right.

    I have left my email on this blog, and those who genuinely wanted to help me have already made contact. However some will only do so on this blog. Im sure there must be a reason why they want these questions in the public domain, so this is my last reply. I have already said goodbyes and good wishes to everyone, but the questions are just keep coming. It feels like a spider web, once you get caught it won’t let you go.

    For those who need to know more about me, I am happy to save you some time and give you the name of my Rabbi and the Schul I go to. You can come there and conduct a survey if you like. You can look how I prey and conduct myself and you can give me your assessment later. If you want to meet me, you can come to my house and we can have some coffee. You can bring your cup if you like, if you are afraid mine is not Kosher. I don’t get offended easily. All are welcome.

    To tell you the truth, you have to take part of the responsibility yourself for my views. After all it was your community who came to me (for which I am grateful by the way). They said – Brother, join us! Let’s do some Mitzvos! Let’s unite and bring Mashiach! Let’s be the light onto nations and show how one man should treat another!

    And now look what happened? You invite him to your house. You tell him all about G-d and his obligation. You help him get his first pair of tefillin. And now, this ungrateful jew, an ignoramus (that’s me), has the audacity to disagree with us and form his own view?
    Now you may ask yourself, do you need these headaches? Really do you need them?

    If you didn’t come knocking on my door and preaching me about Jewsih faith, I still would be watching football on TV on Shabbat. And I would have been none the wiser. Some food for thought before you knock on the door of another unaffiliated Jew.

    Okay, Back to Sara’s question. If you are so interested in the details, and to show how ones initial assumptions should not be trusted, I will tell you. When I first became observant (about 4 years ago), I lived 25 minutes’ walk from the Schul. Actually at the start I drove there for about a month. Than my rabbi came to my house and we walked together. Then I walked myself with my wife.

    So, when we applied for the conversion the area where we lived was not of concern. I didn’t get the lawyer to go over the conversion requirements as I didn’t feel I had to. Instead the cost associated with conversion bothered me and I have argued with my Rabbi for at least a month before I decided to proceed. I didn’t like the concept – that money should mix with religion (I am not talking about charity here). This left a sour after taste and reminded me of other religions.

    People have told us that their friends paid 200 or 300 dollars less for an application form a year earlier and it got me going. The waiver note on the bottom of the form was unfair which stated that the money is not refundable even if the application form is not approved. We also found out, that even if we can find someone who can teach my wife cheaper, or free of charge it wouldn’t be accepted. The money had to change hands at a set rate of $60 an hour.

    Now, I could have gone and requested explanations, but we were told that we would kiss our conversion goodbye if we did so. I also did not want to start any trouble.

    Im sure that I am not the only one who’s life did not work out as they have planned! It’s not in the nature of things to do so. G-d has his own agenda for us. Surely you will not argue with this point? Many things have happened to us which resulted in us moving out of the jewsih community later. But, I don’t feel the need to justify those to anyone. By the way, it did not affect our observance in anyway.

    If there are those who truly want me to move to StKilda or other Jewsih area I welcome the opportunity. I am happy to show you our income statements, our bills and credit card repayments. Then perhaps someone wants to fund it all, until I find a new job (there is a recession you know) that will pay for all my debts and allow me to be fully observant. Or maybe someone wants to sponsor my father in law? Its not that much, only $770 per month rent, plus around $200 worth of medical expenses. Ohh, Sorry, I forgot to tell you his is not Jewsih.

    Anyway, my emails details are letstalk@live.com.au for those who need my personal details, or those of my Rabbi. I will not be replying to anyone else on this blog, this is my first and the last time. Unless you are unable to send the email, please don’t bother.

    Take care everyone, and may G-d bless all of us and forgive all of us for our short comings (I speak of myself here).

  • Tiki says:

    Thank you Yaron,

    Your article raised some interesting issues and I’m sorry for the frustrating time you have had.

    One of the points you touched on was a lack of competent administration on the part of the Beit Din. I believe that this issue is key.

    A couple of years ago I got married in Israel and was required by the Beit Din in Israel to provide proof from the Melbourne Beit Din stating that I had never been married. My father kindly (and with super human patience) dealt with them.

    This is the email he received in response to his inquiry:

    Thank you for your enquiry about obtaining a Teudah Ravakut for your daughter.

    Please make sure the enclosed application form is completed and attach the required copies of information as listed including a cheque for the application fee, which is $250.00 per application. We accept bank cheques, cash or direct deposit into our account, details given upon request.

    Once the information has been checked you will need to send a representative for your daughter to make an appointment, on a Thursday afternoon, to appear before the Dayanim of the Melbourne Beth Din. We are currently not sitting now until January 14th 2010.

    On the day of the hearing please arrange for the person to be present five minutes before the appointed time. Although identification was provided with the application, ensure that photo identification

    It is essential that whom ever is standing in for your daughter is accompanied to the Beth Din by two Jewish males, each unrelated to the other and each unrelated to the applicant, who will bear witness at the Beth Din that they know the applicant and that they know their status i.e. unmarried, married, divorced. The witnesses, apart from giving oral testimony, will be required to sign a Statutory Declaration supporting their testimony.

    (end of mail)

    All this seemed pretty straight forward. My father arranged for two family friends to come and be witnesses as to my marital status. A week before the scheduled appointment, the representative of the Beit Din cancelled the meeting without giving explanation. My father had to try to find another suitable witness to fill in. On the rescheduled date of the appointment, My father(who had taken time off work in order to meet at the rescheduled time)and the witness arrived at the premises of the Beit Din. The building was dark and there was no answer to repeated rings on the buzzer. It turns out that they had cancelled the meeting (again) only this time, not informed my father and therefore, cost him an afternoon’s work.

    It seems to me that for an organisation whose function is to serve the community (and is so particular about payment of the application fee and arriving to scheduled appointments five minutes early), their service is incredibly, inexcusably poor.

    Now, I do not know much about the inner workings of the Beit Din or who is responsible for the administration side of things, however having to deal with such complete incompetence and rudeness certainly does not leave one with a desire to deal with them further. This may unfortunately cause some members of our community to decide that the whole ordeal isn’t worth it and opt not to deal with the Beit Din at all- which as we all know just causes bigger headaches down the road.

  • Francis says:

    Rabbi Gottlieb, thank you for your courage and honesty. As a ‘graduate’ of the Melbourne Beit Din geirus process, I am sure that the broader Jewish community would be mortified at how poorly resourced and inefficient Beit Din processes are. However, it really is the broader Jewish community who should take responsibility for this situation – these are the same people who pressure their son’s, daughter’s, brother’s and sister’s partners into converting but who are completely ignorant of both the subtantive halachic requirements and archaic bureaucratic processes. The Melbourne Beit Din is a reflection of the apathy of the broader community – until of course, as you say, they might need them.

  • Yaron says:

    Francis,
    Thank you for your comments. I think you have succeeded in distilling what has gone on in this thread into one short paragraph.

    If there were adjective that I would add to your brilliant summary it would be arrogant. After all the people who have commented (and there have been many more offline) they have not felt the need to respond, and unfortunately I feel there will be many more into the future who will be burned by their indifference.

    I think that you have jumped on the article when it has all but died, and I am not regularly checking it, but I would be happy to continue the discussion with you. You can find my email at the bottom of the article.

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