Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Here's to You, Rabbi Goren

Here we go again!

In case you ever wondered where this whole "let's revoke conversions" thing came from, the story is simple, and it involves the Langer Siblings.

Once upon a time, a non-Jewish Polish man named Borokovsky married a 16-year-old Jewish girl. Her parents pushed the man to convert, and so he did. After several years, the Jewish girl left the Polish man, but she never sought a get. Then, she remarried a Jewish man and they had two children. When those two children born of the second marriage were of marrying age, they filed for marriage licenses, only to be turned down on the grounds that they were mamzerim (bastard children, basically) because this nice Jewish girl didn't bother to get a get.

The case became incredibly popular, pulling in words from Moshe Dayan and Golda Meir.

Oh hello Rabbi Goren. 
What ended up happening is the genius Chief Rabbi Shlomo Goren decided that in order for these two poor children to get married, the only thing to do would be to annul the Polish man's conversion so that her marriage to him was not kosher and that her second marriage was kosher and the children would not fall into the mamzer category.

This rabbi looked and said, well, you know, we really don't know the legitimacy of the Polish man's conversion, nor do we really know that he's living a Jewish life, so, yeah, let's revoke his conversion years after the fact.

The Langer Siblings got married and lived happily ever after.

Conversion, as a result, has suffered the ridiculous and impossible fate of "revoked" conversions after the fact -- all because this one woman decided not to get a get like a normal human being.

It's also worth noting that this Rabbi Goren converted hundreds of people with certificates that said "Only Valid in Israel." Rabbi Goren believed that any conversion done in the State of Israel was sincere, no matter whether the person converting was agreeing to hold to the mitzvoth or not, because (his logic was) who would live in Israel in a Jewish state surrounded by Jews and not be sincere?! The problem was that people who left the State of Israel and went elsewhere were denied the basic rights of a Jew (one case involved a woman whose children couldn't be entered into a school in England because her conversion through Goren was only legit within the State of Israel).

Overall, Rabbi Goren -- for all of his merit that I'm sure exists -- did some horrible, horrible things for conversion and is the reason that cases like this even have to happen nowadays.

For more fun on the colorful history of conversion, I seriously recommend picking up Pledges of Jewish Allegiance. It's eye-opening, depressing, but a least lets the modern convert know who is responsible for the jack-upedness of today's bureaucratic, impersonal conversion system!