In the eight months since EJF’s establishment, he said, “we’ve done 70 conversions divided among various rabbinical courts, and we have another 130 candidates in the process of studying for conversion. We get an average of six applications per week on our Web site.”
Tropper said batei din are functioning in Los Angeles, Lakewood, N.J., Monsey, N.Y., Philadelphia, Chicago, Cleveland and Jerusalem.
“We’re also looking at Milwaukee, Miami and Boston, but making the beit din is secondary to inspiring mixed-marriage couples to come to us,” he said. “The meat and potatoes of our program is getting intermarried couples to share the same passions. I travel all over the country to do that.”…
Last month, EJF hosted a conference in Florida called “Universally Accepted Conversions in Intermarriage.”
The event attracted 170 leading rabbis ranging from modern Orthodox to Lubavitch, including the chief rabbis of Israel and Poland.
“The notion circulating in the Jewish community that intermarried couples are unwelcome and that Orthodox rabbinical courts will not entertain their conversions is being quickly dispelled by the activities of this organization,” conference chairman Marvin Jacob told JTA.
The group has established seven rabbinical courts in the United States and is in the process of creating more. As rabbis join the EJF, they become part of the network of courts, or batei din, that perform conversions, Jacob said.…
By standardizing the conversion process, EJF hopes to lure in mixed couples that vow to practice Orthodox Judaism and keep kosher.
“Sometimes, even if people are ready we push them off for months, if not years, to test their sincerity. People lose interest and go away,” Jacob said. But if the judges are persuaded that the applicant is sincere about observing the commandments, “we urge that the conversion should take place immediately, because that’s halacha.”
Rabbi J. David Bleich has a long article in the first volume of Contemporary Halachic Problems that explains the ins and outs of this issue. The basic issue is the predominant rabbinic opinion that any conversion done for any reason other than a simple desire to be an observant Jew is invalid. This would include conversions done for the correct reason, but that also had incorrect motives – for marriage, to immigrate to Israel, financial, etc. – as well. Rabbi Bleich leans toward opposing conversions like these. But that was 30 years ago:
Another rabbi said the conference, and EJF itself, represent a sea change in thinking on the part of the U.S. Orthodox establishment.
“The trend here is to accept reality. There are about a million intermarried Jews out of 5.2 million Jews in America. What do you do with them?” said the rabbi, who asked that neither he nor his congregation be identified. “Many of these Jews would convert halachically, but until now, the Orthodox world has written them off.”
Indeed, Orthodoxy largely turned away intermarried couples, or demanded months of separation before the conversion and then afterward until marriage. Many more simply refused to convert the non-Jewish spouse. And others refused to sanction a Jewish marriage between the newly-converted spouse and her husband. But all this has been slowly changing. Hundreds of thousands intermarriages later, in a small way, Orthodoxy is finally admitting it was wrong.