Friday, January 08, 2010

European rabbis object to EJF - for the wrong reasons

As we report today, the London Beth Din dayanim and the Conference of European Rabbis have signed a letter blasting the controversial American conversion group, Eternal Jewish Family, and warning it not to expand its activities into Europe. The head of EJF, Leib Tropper, recently resigned after recordings emerged of him discussing having sex with a prospective convert.

The statement complained that EJF “actively influence gentiles to convert which is against the traditions of our community from previous times, and there is a concern for a breach of the walls of our faith in Europe.”

It also said that “the leaders of this aforementioned organisation caused a desecration of the Divine Name and a disgrace to the name of the Orthodox rabbinate throughout the world in recent weeks”.

The CER rabbis said that if EJF does not cancel the seminar, “we call upon the rabbis that were invited to the seminar not to participate with them and to guard themselves from entering there”.

First off, the LBD and CER rabbis should be commended for saying, in such strong terms, what so few other rabbis have dared say publicly - that Tropper is a "disgrace". The fact that so few rabbis have said what everyone else is thinking, and that there is even talk of some rabbis rehabilitating Tropper, is a disgrace in itself.

However, make no mistake here. The reason the LBD is objecting to EJF is not because it finds its approach too stringent or too inflexible, which is the major objection put forward by the modern Orthodox. It objects, first, because it finds its approach too liberal - because it evangelistically tries to persuade the non-Jewish partners in mixed marriages to convert. Second, and I suspect far more to the point, they simply don't want another group, particularly from the outside, interfering in their own area of authority.

As Abba Dunner, executive director of the CER, explicitely told the JC:

"There are sufficient Batei Din which know what they are doing and we don’t need another organisation poking its nose in.”

In other words, it is a territorial issue, not primarily a halachic one.

No comments: