Friday, July 08, 2005

Sagal case: the Chief Rabbi's Statement

This statement by Chief Rabbi Sacks (following) gives some inkling of the circumstances, and, in fairness, I'm giving it its own posting. Clearly, the circumstances of the original giyyur were somewhat murky. There is extensive coverage in the Jewish Chronicle (can't be accessed without a subscription), including a separate article by Rabbi Sacks which argues strongly that there must be a component of religious faith / belief in conversion to Judaism. Ve'hamavin yavin. The genesis of this issue is clearly in the original conversion in Israel, for which, the JC reveals, no record and no file exists, and the now-venerable Rabbi who carried out the ceremony cannot recall the case. While this goes a long way to explaining what is happening here, it is still *highly* questionable as to whether or not the whole issue was handled correctly. Unlike many other families in the UK, who wouldn't dream of sending their children to Jewish schools (and unlike N America, this includes many fully Orthodox families - the private High schiools in London are full of boys in kippot), this started because the Sagals wanted to give their son a Jewish education. Application of rahamim over din would have been in order here. Still, here's the statement:
Chief Rabbi’s statement
In April 2005 an appeal was made to me by Mrs Helen Sagal, to reconsider the ruling of the London Beth Din in relation to her Jewish status and by implication that of her son Guy, for whom she had applied for a place at JFS. Together with other members of the London Beth Din I met Mrs Sagal. We were able to discuss with her the circumstances surrounding the conversion process which took place in Israel in 1990, doubts about the validity of which had been raised. In the light of that conversation we sought further information from Israel. That process has inevitably taken time. It was, however, necessary for us to be able to come to a fully informed judgment.The facts that have emerged are these:1. Mrs Sagal was unable to provide us with evidence that, whether at the time of her conversion or subsequently, she maintained even the most basic observance of Jewish law, essential to the validity of a conversion.2. In addition, there were serious procedural irregularities in the original conversion in Israel. In reply to our letter setting out the facts of the case, the Israeli Chief Rabbinate wrote to us confirming the right of the London Beth Din to examine her case afresh. This we have done, and on the evidence available to us, we are unable to ratify her conversion.This means that we cannot recognise her Jewish status.This has been a difficult and painful case for all concerned. The London Beth Din and I have spent many weeks trying to find grounds on which to confirm her Jewish status. We have worked together on this case, exploring every avenue and possibility, but we have not succeeded in finding any basis on which to reach an alternative conclusion. There is a way forward, which will require commitment from the Sagal family. If they are willing to undertake the journey toward Jewish practice, we will enrol Mrs Sagal and her children in a conversion process with the aim of establishing their Jewish status beyond doubt. The door is open and we will give them every help.


Anonymous said...

The bottom line in all of this is that the Sagal family have bever shown any real commitment to Judaism. There would appear to never have been any intention to accept the religious tenets of Judaism. When you join a golf club or gym you have to keep the rules - why should Mrs Sagal consider that Judaism is less important than the golf club or gym.
To acknowledge her conversion would be an insult to those who have genuinely fully accepted Judaism

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