The secret code of repealed conversions

If you converted to Judaism and also got divorced, check the divorce documents that you received from the rabbinic courts. If it says 'the son of our forefather Abraham'? You're not in bad shape. If it says 'convert'? You're on your way to a repealed conversion. Rivkah Lubitch studied the opinion paper submitted by the Rabbinic Court to the High Court of Justice and discloses how converts are being marked

The legal advisor to the rabbinic courts, rabbi and attorney Shimon Yaakobi, has stated that it is his unequivocal legal opinion that conversions are never final—that is what we can surmise from 122 pages that he recently submitted as an opinion paper of the Rabbinic Court in response to CWJ's petition against repealed conversion.


In effect, Yaakobi is of the opinion that all converts are 'on probation' and it does not matter if the conversion were arranged in the rabbinic courts of Israel, in the special conversion courts of the state, or in a private ultra-Orthodox ceremony. He claims that while exercising their jurisdiction over marriage and divorce, the rabbinic courts of Israel,can question the validity of a conversion and determine that is was a mistake. Here's what we think: Yaakobi's take on the matter of repealed conversions is immoral, inhuman, and anti-halachic. And we hope the High Court will also determine that it's against the law.


And this isn't all. From the document submitted by Yaakobi it seems that the rabbinic judges have a secret code by which they mark the converts who get divorced, distinguishing those who obey the commandments from those who don't.


Years ago I was witness to an incident in which a rabbinic judge asked a woman questions regarding her religious observance while he was overseeing the get. I innocently assumed that we were dealing with a nosy rabbi. What's more, this included a reprimand to me that I tell a particular unnamed rabbi that he should stop converting people who do not obey the commandments. My objections that this rabbi has nothing to do with the particular woman at hand went on deaf ears. Ditto, with regarding to my objections that the rabbi in question had nothing to do with conversions. I swallowed my pride and kept quiet. I did not imagine in my wildest dreams that there was a secret code.


The second time I was witness to a similar interrogation of a woman convert at the time of her divorce– many years later—I understood that these were deliberate and systematic questions, and that the rabbis were looking for cracks in the conversions (in this case the woman was stringent in her religious observance). But, again, I could not have dreamed that all this had some connection to a secret code.


Interrogation and categorization

According to Yaakobi, the rabbinic courts have for many years routinely examined converts at the time of their divorce regarding their religious observance. As a rule, in all divorce procedures, it is customary to be very exact when referring to the names of the parties, as well as to their fathers' names. Since the convert has separated herself from her biological family, her father's name is not written. Instead, it is written: “The daughter/son of Avraham our Forefather.” However, Yaakobi claims that precedents exist that hold that if a convert has reverted to her old ways, it is an insult to refer to her as “the daughter of Avraham our Forefather.” So it is become the custom to ask the convert if she obeys the commandments. If she testifies that she obeys the commandments, the rabbis will write “the daughter of Avraham our Forefather”; but if she testifies that she does not obey the commandments, the rabbis will add the accolade “convert” after her name. So far, with respect to the divorce proceeding.


After the divorce is arranged, the rabbinic court sent the couple a document called “Act of Court.” This document is proof that a person has gotten divorced in accordance with Jewish Law and is free to marry whomever she pleases. This “Act of Court” also designates any limitations on future marriages, like a Cohen and a divorcee. It can also serve as documentary proof of the fact that a person is a Jew.


Yaakobi explains that when drafting the “Act of Court,” like the get, the rabbis are very careful how they write the names. According to Yaakobi, in certain circumstances, the court “cannot at this point ignore the doubts that have arisen, or even the conclusions that they have reached, regarding the validity of the conversion.” And they must give this expression in the “Act of Court.”


In other words, converts who get divorced are in the following position: From bad to worse. If the “Act of Court” says specifically “this document can not serve as proof of validity of the conversion,” the situation is worse. The holder of this document is more or less already recognized as a non-Jew (and in the case of the female holder of such a document, so are her children). If the “Act of Court” states that the holder is a “convert,” the situation is not much better. The holder of the document probably will not be able to register to marry without undergoing further examination by the rabbinic court as to the validity of her conversion. If in the “Act of Court” it is written that the holder is the “daughter/son of Avraham our Forefather,” the situation is bad enough. Perhaps the marriage registrar won't “inspect her ritual fringes” to see if she is adhering to the strict letter of the commandments. Or perhaps he will.


Yaakobi brings statistics to claim that of the 1,313 converts who were divorced between the years 1996-2008, 1,276 are referred to as “converts” in the Act of Court and all the rest are referred to as “daughters/sons of Avraham our Forefather.” These people might not know it, but they already have one foot out the door. These things are scandalous and remind me of grim times indeed.


Someone in the know regarding conversions told me that he asked some rabbis about this secret code embedded in the “Act of Court.” He claimed he does not know what Yaakobi is talking about. What's going on here? Can the legal adviser to the rabbinic courts please explain?


Rivkah Lubitch works at the Center for Women's Justice . Telephone: 972-2-5664390


פרסום ראשון: 02.03.10, 08:28
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