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RCA Creates Committee To Review Conversion Process

Members Include Women and Men, Converts, Mental Health Professionals, Rabbis and Other Professionals

Rabbi Mark Dratch told The Jewish Link of Bergen County, “We are pleased with the variety of voices that are represented on this committee. In addition, we look forward to input from any member of the community that wishes to share thoughts and suggestions. We plan to provide the means to communicate with us in the very near future.”

Rabbi Dratch was referring to the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) which has named the members of a committee that will review its current Geirus Protocol and Standards (GPS) conversion process and suggest safeguards against possible abuses. The RCA committed to forming this committee following the recent arrest of Rabbi Barry Freundel, of Washington, DC, which brought to light the need for a thorough review of GPS to identify changes that will ensure a more effective and appropriate conversion process.

Rabbi Leonard Matanky, President of the RCA, named the following individuals to the committee, which is being chaired by Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, former President of the RCA and the rabbi of Ahavath Torah in Englewood, NJ.

Members are:

• Mrs. Evelyn Fruchter, a convert to Judaism and an attorney specializing in litigation;

• Mrs. Abby Lerner, educator and teacher of family purity laws;

• Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, Rabbi of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun, New York, NY;

• Mrs. Bethany Mandel, a convert to Judaism, former staff member at Commentary Magazine, and freelance writer who recently authored a column entitled, “A Convert’s Bill of Rights”;

• Rabbi Yona Reiss, Av Beit Din, Chicago Rabbinical Council; Dayan, Beth Din of America; and Chairman, GPS;

• Mrs. Bracha Rutner, Yoetzet Halacha (advisor in Jewish law) for the Riverdale, NY and Washington, DC communities;

• Mrs. Shana Yocheved Schacter, CSW, a psychotherapist in private practice;

• Rabbi Yaakov Shulman, Rabbi of Congregation Talmud Torah, Brooklyn, NY who is an experienced member of a rabbinic tribunal for conversions;

• Rabbi Adam Starr, Rabbi of Young Israel of Toco Hills, Atlanta, GA;

• Rabbi Kalman Topp, Rabbi of Beth Jacob Congregation, Los Angeles, CA.

“Our hearts continue to go out to those victimized by the unconscionable actions of a rabbi they trusted in the conversion process,” said Rabbi Matanky “The RCA recognizes the inherent sensitivities and vulnerabilities involved in the conversion process and will do all it can to ensure that such victimization will never be repeated. We believe the formation of this committee, reflecting a cross section of our community, is an important first step in this regard.”

Rabbi Goldin commented on the committee’s mandate, “The RCA continues to believe that a national network of conversion courts remains in the best interests of the Jewish community in general and potential converts in particular. It is clear, however, that the current structure of GPS requires a thorough review and enhancements to avoid future abuses. Our committee will look carefully at a wide range of matters including: the standardization of conversion procedures, the intake system, safe processes for potential converts to voice complaints and discomfort with their experiences, communications of Bet Dins’ expectations of potential converts and oversight of Bet Din operations, among others. We are determined to be clear of vision and bold in action in order to properly serve the important community of converts.”

Rabbi Mark Dratch, Executive Vice President of the RCA, added, “The Torah repeatedly commands us to love the convert. Individuals who choose to join the Jewish community are to be admired and treated with the utmost respect. The RCA will not rest until we fulfill that commandment to its fullest extent.”

The committee will begin its deliberations immediately, will report its findings to the RCA Executive Committee by January 31, 2015, and will make its recommendations public thereafter.

 

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