New Orthodox Conversion Effort Aimed At Intermarried

Rabbi Leib Tropper’s Eternal Jewish Family has launched an international effort to promote the conversion of non-Jewish spouses:

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.

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5 Comments

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5 responses to “New Orthodox Conversion Effort Aimed At Intermarried

  1. Anonymous

    “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.

    It seems that Tropper conviently forgot to mention that he was megayer his current wife. As far as orthodox addmitting they went wrong all these yeaRs ? i ddo not hink so.
    I think this rabbi is just saying it cause it makes him look better now that he is running a conversion buisiness.
    Plus of course we wont mention the big BUCKS these batei dinim are raking in for each conversion.
    Many are turned off from the high price and go to a concervative deal for much much less.

  2. Jerome Soller

    Although I was born Jewish, I know several people who have gone through orthodox or conservative Jewish conversions. While other organizations are heavily concerned with politics, prestige, or money, Rabbi Tropper’s organization has a reputation for having dealt with the orthodox conversion process in a way that is both halachically rigorous/universally recognized, sensitive to the needs/concerns of converts (during the conversion process and afterwards), and reasonably priced. The previous poster referred to the Rabbi’s wife as a convert. I believe that it is disrespectful (and possibly against Halacha) to remind a Geir (e.g., the Rabbi’s wife) of their past. If anything, a Geir should be held in greater respect than a person who was born Jewish.

  3. The counter illuy

    so he converted his wife u saying ?
    may be, i am not familiar with the man or the case.
    what is the consequence ? he is a rabbi, she is a convert married to a rabbi. is there a better scenario for orthodox converts ?
    they are damned if they are in the frum fold, they are damned if they marry the not observant -often to cause him to do tshuva- as the observant will not take them.
    all those bitching do not deserve these converts. it’s a shame, because the mitzvot (over 23?) to love the convert and against honaa to the convert are seemingly an important part of our faith. it is not one of those mitzvot that will never occur such as the ben sorer umore.
    these mitzvot (numerically as important as shabbat) were not given by fluke to be cancelled, like sotah. i think we don’t deserve them , likewise we are not ready for salvation.
    and when some of us whine about geirim, the qb”h will hear – ki hannun ahni !

  4. anon

    Rebbetzin Tropper was born Jewish. I know the family personally.

  5. Me

    The problem is not the spouse. 50% plus of American marriages now end in divorce. Something in the neighborhood of 86% of intermarriages end in divorce. Everyone thinks that they will beat the statistic. The real need is to teach people to think between their ears and not between their legs. The main problem here is all the “half” Jewish offspring that don’t whether it’s the front half, back half, top half, bottom half, left half, right half, etc, that’s jewish and what to do about it. Modern orthodoxy’s embracement of Goyish values… oops, I mean the “secular world” does not help the issue either.

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