The Bedatz’s criticism of Eternal Jewish Family
The Bedatz of the Eidah Chareidis has recently brought some disturbing developments to our attention. [This is the actual Bedatz not an unofficial offshoot]. I must note that I am not a neutral observer in this matter. I played a minor role in aiding Rav Moshe Sternbuch, shlita obtain information from the Internet as well as translating and distributing two letters. [See my blog Daas Torah - http://daattorah.blogspot.com/ ] While I have some knowledge of Rav Moshe Feinstein’s zt”l views as the author Yad Moshe - my comments are what I have heard from Rav Sternbuch and other rabbonim.
Last Chanukah, Rav Efrati described Rav Eliashiv’s views concerning teaching Torah in a non‑observant community which has non‑Jews who think that they are Jewish. Concerning intermarried couples he says: “Rav Eliashiv, shlita has repeatedly said that those living as intermarried couples cut themselves off from the Jewish people. Furthermore he holds that we are obligated to distance ourselves from them and their society and to cut off all connection with them. However this community is different because its members mistakenly think that the non‑Jewish spouses are Jewish. Therefore it is permitted to maintain ties with the Jewish spouses in order to draw them closer through ties of love and to bring them under the wings of the Shechina.” This shunning of intermarried couples has always been the normative approach.
Nevertheless, what if a couple comes to a rabbi and asks for the non‑Jewish spouse to be converted? While there are dissenting views – there are many great rabbinical authorities which permit conversion as last resort - if the Jewish spouse becomes observant and the non‑Jewish spouse sincerely accepts the obligation to keep all mitzvos.
Why did the Bedatz issue their protest against participation in Eternal Jewish Family (EJF) – despite it being supported by many gedolei Torah? Because EJF is actively pursuing the conversion of the non‑Jewish spouse! Rav Leib Tropper, the head of the organization, has repeatedly denied proselytizing because he says he is only dealing with couples referred to him by rabbis. However it is difficult to understand his denials since proselytizing simply means trying to convince someone to change their religion. That is clearly what EJF is doing. It is a fact that Rav Tropper spends hundreds of thousands of dollars per convention to persuade a handful of uncertain or curious couples that they should become Jews. Those who are certain are not invited. These intermarried couples are given free conventions at quality resort hotels where they are wined and dined and given an intensive program by the world’s best religious motivational speakers – all in the hope that they will decide to convert.
In a recent intensive exchange of e-mails, I asked Rav Tropper the halachic rulings of Rav Moshe Feinstein he claims as the basis for EJF’s activities. His response was, “Why do you think it is prohibited?” This is an astounding justification for a radical break with the past. While in fact it is not explicitly prohibited – this radical innovation of spending millions of dollars to convince non‑Jews to convert presents serious dangers to the Jewish people. It requires acceptance or rejection through scholarly discussion in peer-reviewed responsa - as innovations have been justified in the past.
Daniel Eidensohn Ph.D.