Sunday, June 19, 2005

London Beth Din: 1, Chief Rabbi: 0

The London Beth Din is continuing its quest to be regarded as the strictest Beth Din in the world in matters of conversion and has rejected a compromise by the Chief Rabbi which would allow Guy Sagal, whose case we discussed here and here, to attend JFS, an Orthodox Jewish High School in London:
The London Beth Din has rejected a compromise proposed by the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks, to end the controversy over the conversion to Judaism of Helen Sagal, the JC has learned. The proposal, under which Rabbi Sacks suggested that Ms Sagal’s son, Guy, be accepted as halachically Jewish for the purposes of receiving a place at JFS — leaving other questions about his religious status in abeyance — was turned down by the dayanim last week.
The Chief Rabbi's compromise is of course woefully inadequate -- essentially satisfying no one. Sadly, he does not have the courage to stand up and say what needs to be said, namely that Guy Sagal's mother was converted by an Orthodox Bet Din in Israel and that the London Beth Din should go concentrate on real problems in the community instead of denying women who converted through an Orthodox Beth Din the chance they desperately want to give their children a Jewish education.
The reason for his reticence, one could reasonably conclude, is a historic reluctance on the part of this Chief Rabbi to confront his Beth Din, partially due to his own insecurity over his halachic authority, and partially due to his consistent desire to be accepted by the Haredim, a segment of the community, incidentally, who never have and never will accept him as their representative.
Three points:
1. It has been pointed out before that the London Beth Din is completely out of touch with and non-representative of the people it supposedly represents. Judging by the fury this case has provoked in the community, here's as good an example as any.
2. I'd really like to hear what the Sephardi Beth Din in Israel, who converted Mrs. Sagal, has to say about the London Beth Din questioning their conversion. (It would also be interesting to hear what English Sephardim think about this -- they are strangely silent on this matter).
3. Most of all, I would like to read a piece interviewing other Brits who converted through the Sephardi Beth Din in Israel, or through other foreign Batei Din, about their feelings on this case. (Anecdotally, London seems to have a very high percentage of converts; I've met more converts here in the past year-and-a-bit than I've met in the previous 27 years.) Are they now worried that their own cases will, at some stage, be questioned? Because it occurs to me that what the Beth Din is doing is essentially making it impossible for many British residents who've converted overseas to ever feel totally comfortable and accepted in the community, as there is now a precedent for questioning their conversions and turning their lives completely upside down, even 20 years after the fact.

1 comment:

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