Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Israeli Rabbinate To Review Religious Conversions By Criminally-Charged D.C. Rabbi

Haaretz reported yesterday the the Chief Rabbinate of Israel is reviewing the validity of conversions to Judaism performed in recent years by Washington, D.C. Orthodox Rabbi Barry Freundel who was arrested last week and charged with secretly videoing women who were undressing in the synagogue's mikveh (ritual bath). (See prior posting.) The review comes even though the U.S.-based Rabbinical Council of America already ruled yesterday "as a matter of Jewish law that conversions performed by Rabbi Freundel prior to his arrest on October 14, 2014 remain halakhically valid and prior converts remain Jewish in all respects." There has been tension in recent years more generally over whether Israel's rabbinate will recognize conversions performed elsewhere.  Since the Chief Rabbinate has final legal authority on who will be considered Jewish for purposes of marriage in Israel, a negative ruling by them could affect the status of at least four women converted by Freundel who have moved to Israel to marry.

UPDATE: Haaretz reportsthat the Chief Rabbinate in a statement published Oct. 21 said that it will raise no questions regarding the validity of past conversions by Rabbi Fruendel. This comes after strong international criticism of the Rabbinate's initial decision to possibly question some of the past conversions.