Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Rupert Murdoch and his ex Wendi Deng, who famously reunited them after Ivanka Trump broke off the relationship, sore that Jared Kushner didn’t stand up to his father who insisted she convert to Judaism...

 Ivanka Trump Coerced To Convert To Judaism! What Say You Hershel Schechter, Haskel Lookstein and the RCA?

 Wait, there’s more! This week, The New Yorker reported that Deng is responsible for the unholy alliance (Is that too cruel? Do I care?) between Trumpistan and Kushervania. That is to say, she brokered their reconciliation in 2008, when they briefly split due to that fact that Ivanka (who, as the magazine recalls, appeared in the documentary Born Rich “wearing a necklace with a silver cross”) was not exactly who Kushner’s mother imagined him standing under the chuppah with. And if you’re reading this, you know exactly what I mean (and honestly, hasn’t poor Seryl Kushner been through enough?)


 Rupert Murdoch and his ex Wendi Deng, who famously reunited them after Ivanka broke off the relationship, sore that Jared didn’t stand up to his father who insisted she convert to Judaism, according to The New Yorker.


 The Torah’s Approach to Conversion

Based on: Jewish Conversion, Its Meaning and Laws, by: Rabbi Yoel Schwartz, 1995, Feldheim Publishers, Pages 14-60.
To be valid, a conversion must be sincerely motivated, and accompanied by the willingness and opportunity, to observe the precepts. Insincerely motivated candidates, are unacceptable, and are to be rejected, even if we merely suspect their insincerity. Although the Talmud (Yevamos 24) rules that once performed, insincerely motivated conversions are valid, this statement requires much clarification, and is dependent on numerous, complex, factors.

The Talmud is speaking of situations in which mitzvah (commandment) observance is the traditional requirement for acceptance into Jewish society. When such is the case, even the insincere proselyte has to conform to the norm. Thus, of necessity, his conversion results in religious observance. Because our current society is free and permissive, conversion does not necessarily result in mitzvah (commandment) observance.

 In addition, those who interdate or intermarry, are obviously totally uncommitted to Judaism, and it is highly improbable that they will build Torah homes, once their Christian partners have converted. It is highly unlikely, too, that a female proselyte, will be more observant than her Jewish husband, who by his very behavior, in chosing a gentile for a wife, demonstrates that he is far removed from Jewish values.

In the light of these problems, how do we procede when faced by applicants whose motives are ulterior?

a. The conversion of one who evidently has no intention to observe the precepts, who is merely mouthing a false acceptance declaration, is obviously invalid.

b. The conversion of one who did not present the court with sufficient guarantee that he would
observe the precepts, is highly problematic, and under certain circumstances may be invalid.

c. According to Maimonides: Laws of Forbidden Relations 13:12 and the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law) (yoreh De’ah 268:12), a person who has already converted for ulterior motives, but whose intentions at the time of conversion (regarding precept observance) are not known, is accorded the status of a doubtful convert. When he demonstrates, by his subsequent conduct, that he is indeed precept observant, he is accorded the status of a genuine proselyte. The reason we do not nullify his conversion at the outset, as in case “b,” is that we fear that as he uttered his acceptance declaration, he might have truly intended to observe the precepts. (Case “b”, involves a conversion performed without sufficient guarantee that the convert had fully accepted Torah observance.) (Recently, the Worldwide Central Rabbinic Committee for Conversion Matters, alerted converts involved in such cases to this problem. Since then, many conversions have been referred to the Committee. Each case was presented to Israel’s greatest rabbis for a decision. In cases where the convert was currently Torah observant, and it was not possible to ascertain exactly what took place at the time of his conversion, the Committee advised the convert how to procede.

(Note: We have not presented halachic (Jewish Law) decisions. A qualified rabbi or conversion court, must be consulted in each and every case. Our purpose is to provide a general understanding of the conversion issue.)

Sometimes, various arguments are forwarded to justify the validity of conversions performed for the sake of marriage. It is worthwhile to review these arguments and to point out their flaws.

The first argument is based on the principle that “devarim she’balev, einam devarim,” which literally means that “tacit thoughts are inconsequential.” Some people use this principle to prove that the insincere convert’s mental negations of the precepts, cannot nullify his positive oral acceptance of them. However, nearly all of our rabbinic authorities, assert that this claim is invalid. In Teshuvos Achiezer (111, no.26), HaRav Chaim Ozer Grodzinski maintains that one who mentally negates the precepts, while orally accepting them, is not a true convert. He bases his argument on the rationale that because conversion is in itself a “davar she’balev” “a matter of the heart,” it is the candidate’s inner conviction which determines the validity of his conversion. Other authorities invalidate the claim of “tacit thoughts are inconsequential” as it pertains to conversions, on the grounds that this principle applies only to matters of transaction, and not to ritual acts.

Rabbi Moshe Feinstein views the problem from a different vantage point. He accepts the argument that tacit thoughts cannot invalidate ritual acts. However, he points out that it is inapplicable in the case of such conversions, because the very marriage of a gentile woman to a non observant Jew, is equivalent to an open declaration that she will not observe the precepts. As we have already explained, this is so, because it is highly unlikely that the gentile member of such a union, will be more committed to Judaism than her remiss Jewish husband. Unlike mental or tacit negations, explains HaRav Feinstein, open declarations do invalidate conversions. When such cases appear before a rabbinical court, its members actually become witnesses to an acceptance declaration that is not sincere. Therefore, it is no longer a tacit insincerity, but rather an obvious one. As such, they are forbidden to sanction the conversion. 

There are rabbis who permit such conversions, even when it is highly unlikely that the converting partner will observe the precepts. They base themselves on the principle advanced in the Talmud Shabbos 34, that “one who converted amidst gentiles, is still a convert.” This principle is referring to one who converted, even though he knew very little about the precepts, particularly the Sabbath. These modern rabbis claim that such candidates assume that the precepts are merely ceremonial and not obligatory, and therefore place them in the category of those who have accepted Judaism on the basis of a very meager knowledge. However, this argument is faulty for two reasons. Firstly, the Talmud is speaking of one who would observe the Sabbath, if informed of its laws. Generally, people who convert only to facilitate marriage, have no interest in leading Torah lives, and as such, cannot be equated with the above mentioned Talmudic archetype. In addition (as taught by the Chazon Ish: Rabbi Karelitz), the conversion of one who does not believe that the Divine origin of the Torah is the binding force of all the precepts, is invalid. As a rule, most people who convert for the purpose of marriage, lack this basic inner belief.


This declaration that the convert was clearly lying about his wish to convert and accept mitzvos - that there was never conversion - is not some obscure minority opinion. It is clearly the view of the Achiezer and Rav Moshe Feinstein - amongst others.

The Achiezer says here that if the convert does not keep Shabbos and kashrus - that shows that the conversion was not sincere and never took place

Rav Chaim Ozer Grodinski(Achiezer 3:26.4):… Because of this reason it appears that Rav Posen is concerned about conversion these cases because they won’t observe the laws properly. However according to what I have explained there is no concern for this since they have accepted to observe all the mitzvos – even though it is true that they have in mind to transgress certain mitzvos later out of lust. However this intention does not disqualify their acceptance of mitzvos. It is only where they specifically refused to accept mitzvos that their acceptance of the mitzvos is disqualified. However where is clear that after conversion they will definitely transgress the Torah prohibitions against violating Shabbos and eating improperly slaughtered meat and we know clearly that their conversion was only for appearance sake without inner sincerity – it is an umdena demukach [a proven assessment] that this that he said he was accepting the mitzvos was totally meaningless. Consequently their acceptance of mitzvos is invalid [and they are not valid converts].

Rav Chaim Ozer Grodinski(Achiezer 3:28): Concerning the common practice of converting women who are married to Jews - according to the straight halacha it is not correct to convert them. That is because they are converting for the sake of marriage. Therefore even after marriage she is prohibited to him as is clear from the Rashba (#1205). While previously I had written to be lenient in these cases and I based myself on the Rambam (Pe’er HaDor 132) and Rav Shlomo Kluger also paskened leniently in an actual case. Nevertheless the fact is that there is not genuine acceptance of mitzvos in these cases. It is quite obvious that their hearts are not with the Jewish people since they do not observe Shabbos or niddah and they eat unkosher food as I wrote in the previous letter. This problem has already been noted by by the Beis Yitzchok who concluded that a proper beis din would not be involved in this. And regarding the issue of governing the non‑Jewish children…However the writer is correct that a good beis din should not be involved in this type of conversion. Nevertheless I don’t see that it is proper that the rabbis of the generation should make an open protest against conversion. That is because in the eyes of the masses it would be viewed as a chilul HaShem to prevent the women to convert and in particular their children since according to the straight halacha it is possible to convert them.

Reb Moshe is saying here that those who convert for ulterior motives are on probation to establish if they were sincere in their acceptance. If there is no sincere acceptance then there never was conversion.

Igros Moshe(Y.D. 3:106): A candidate for conversion who does not want to accept a certain mitzva is he a ger bedieved?… Concerning the subject of conversion, the vast majority of them want to convert because of marriage and therefore should inherently not be accepted. However if they were accepted anyway - they are in fact valid gerim. This reservation about accepting converts for the sake of marriage is true even if they accept all the mitzvos since they did not decide to convert for the sake of Heaven. Therefore it is obvious that there is suspicion that despite the fact they stated before the beis din that they are accepting to do the mitzvos – that they are not telling the truth and they need to be examined further. 

 This in fact is the intent of the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 268:12): When it is known that they converted for ulterior motivation, they should be treated with suspicion until that their righteous is established. That is because since they converted for ulterior motivation, they should be suspected that even though they have verbally accepted the mitzvos but not in their heart. Since there is clear reason to suspect their lack of sincerity, it is not considered a merely a possible mental reservation which has no halachic significance (devarim sheb’lev). See Tosfos (Gittin 32a) and Tosfos (Kiddushin 49b)…Therefore they are to be viewed as doubtful gerim until their righteousness is establish and then they are viewed as definite gerim. 

Most of the time and perhaps all of the time when a Jew wants a non‑Jew, that the Jew himself is not observant. Therefore it is not logical that the non‑Jew who is converting for the sake of a Jew will be more observant. It is as if we are witnesses that the non‑Jew is not definitely accepting the mitzvos. 

Therefore it requires a great deal of deliberation in the acceptance of gerim. Unfortunately due to our many sins the situation has degenerated in many places that they accept these type of gerim – even G‑d fearing rabbis – because of the pressure of congregants on them. Therefore it is very critical to fix and create protective measures to stop this great breakdown of the system. It is certain because of these problems that the rabbis of Holland made a decree that gerim would not be accepted unless all of the rabbis agreed. This type of decree is a legitimate approach to protect the Torah and mitzvos against that which can not be permitted as is stated in Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 228:28). Concerning the present case where the candidate for conversion wants to accept all the laws of the Torah but does not want to accept wearing modest clothing. She wants to wear the clothing that are worn – due to our many sins – by the average woman of this degenerate generation. The question is whether to accept her as a valid ger and if the answer is negative - what is her status if she is accepted anyway?

 This requires careful thought. Bechoros (30b) states that a non‑Jew who comes to accept the entire Torah except for one thing is not to be accepted. R’ Yose says that he isn’t accepted even if rejects one detail of a rabbinic halacha. The question is whether this gemora is only concerning initially whether to accept the candidate as seems from the language of the gemora or that even if he accepted – he is not a valid ger? It is certain that gerim are accepted even though they don’t know most of the laws of the Torah - because we instruct them only in some of the mitzvos. It is certain that we don’t even teach them most of the laws of Shabbos. Furthermore we find an even more extreme situation in that even if the ger doesn’t know any mitzvos he is still a valid ger. This is stated in Shabbos (68b) that a ger who converts amongst non‑Jews is liable for one chatas for all the violations on every Shabbos and prohibited blood and fat and idolatry. Thus we see that even if he isn’t instructed in a single mitzva or even the foundations of religious belief he is still a valid ger. That is because the case in the gemora concerns a person who has accepted upon himself to do all that a Jew is required to do – and that is sufficient for valid conversion. 

We are not concerned with the possibility that if he knew this particular mitzva he would not accept it. That is because even if it were so it is only a mental reservation which has no halachic significance. Thus informing a candidate for conversion of the nature of mitzvos is only something that is desirable, but has no halachic consequence if not done. Therefore we must say that the language of the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 268:3) “all matters of conversion have to be in the presence of 3 fit to judge whether it is to instruct him about mitzvos or for his acceptance of mitzvos” – is not to be understood literally. That is because the point of the Shulchan Aruch is that the acceptance of mitzvos has to be in the presence of 3 but instructing him about mitzvos is not required for the validity of the conversion. The reason the Shulchan Aruch mentions instructing him in mitzvos is because that is what the beis din does concerning some of the mitzvos when he accepts the obligation to do mitzvos.

 That is in fact the language of the Shulchan Aruch (Y.D. 268:12) “and even if he is not informed of the reward and punishment of mitzvos he is still a valid ger.” This wording of the Shulchan Aruch here is also not precise because even if the candidate is not instructed at all concerning any mitzvos – as long as he accepts the obligation to do all the mitzvos that Jews are required to do – he is still a valid ger. It is only because it is typically not forgotten to instruct him in some mitzvos that the Shulchan Aruch mentions that they forgot to instruct him regarding the reward and punishment of mitzvos – because it is possible to forget this occasionally. However if they do tell him a particular mitzva or he knows about it himself since he sees Jews observing it and he says that he doesn’t accept it – that is the case that Bechoros (30b) says that he is not accepted as a ger. Therefore it is possible that in this case even if he was accepted as a ger – despite his rejection of a particular mitzva – bedieved he would still not be a valid ger. However Bechoros (30b) says that he is not to be accepted - which seems to be that he is only not accepted initially if he rejects any mitzva. Furthermore it would seem from the statement of R’ Yose in Bechoros (30b) that even if rejects a single detail of a rabbinic law he is not accepted – it would seem that since he has accepted every Torah mitzva including not to deviate from the rabbinic teachings – but at least he would be a ger according to the Torah. That is because it doesn’t make sense that the Sages would uproot the Torah level conversion - which is relevant to the validity of marriage and other matters – and to create a leniency and that this would not be mentioned openly in the gemora. Therefore we can conclude that even according to R’ Yose he is only saying not to accept them initially but if they were accepted – even if they had rejected a rabbinic law – they are still valid gerim. Furthermore they would be obligated to keep even the mitzva that they had rejected. That is because this that they did not accept it has no halachic significance to exempt them because they are make a condition against that which is written in the Torah – and therefore the condition is nullified...

 Therefore this woman who doesn’t want to accept to wear only modest clothing should definitely not be accepted initially. However whether she should be accepted bedieved depends on this doubt and it would seem more likely that bedieved if she was accepted that she would be a valid convert. Furthermore concerning whether to accept her initially – any conversion which is because of marriage even if she accepted the entire Torah – she should not be accepted. 

If so it is certainly is a major justification for the requirement that all the rabbis of Holland agree to accept her conversion – even if she accepted all the Torah laws. Nevertheless it is good that all the rabbis did not agree to accept her because of her refusal to wear modest clothing. That is because accepting her with two issues against her is much more serious than if she only had one. However there is another consideration since because of our many sins we find that Jewish women also are not careful about wearing only modest clothing – even those who are Torah observant. Therefore a non‑Jewish woman who comes to convert might think that modest clothing in only an act of piety that the rabbis are trying to impose on her more than is actually required – because she knows women who are observant and yet wear immodest clothing. And even if the rabbis tell her that it is actually prohibited and not just an act of piety – she doesn’t believe them. If so perhaps she should be viewed as converting without knowing the laws of the Torah and would be considered a valid ger according to Shabbos (68b)? This seems logical – even though I don’t have a proof for this presently. Nevertheless with all things considered it is better not to accept her because she should not be accepted anyway since the conversion is for the sake of marriage. Therefore even though people are lenient to accept converts for the sake of marriage it is not correct to be lenient in additional factors. Consequently the decree is correct and she should not be accepted


On Conversion to Judaism, by Rabbi Dr. Chaim E. Schertz



Rabbi Schertz received his semicha from Yeshiva University in 1969.  He also received masters in Jewish Philosophy from YU’s Bernard Revel Graduate School.  He has a second masters in the History of Ideas from New York University, and a PhD from New York University in the History of Western Thought.  He taught Classics in Pennsylvania State University and Philosophy at Regis College in Denver, Colorado. Rabbi Schertz served as the Rabbi of Kesher Israel Congregation in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania for over 25 years and is currently retired and living in Harrisburg.

The one element in the process of conversion with which all interpretations of the concept agree is the insistence that conversion may not happen under duress or coercion. The Talmud clearly states that a non-Jewish slave may be circumcised under duress [against his will] for becoming a slave, but a free man may not undergo such conversion. The Talmud gives the example of an adult who comes to be converted, nevertheless, he has no power to convert his adult son against his will. This is the opinion of Rabbi Shimon Eleazer as interpreted by Rava. The rabbis, however, go one step further and insist that even a slave, who is an adult, cannot be converted against his will. Thus, no adult can be coerced into conversion. [Yevamot 48:a]
In addition to such biblical analysis and exegesis there appears to be a logical underpinning to this conclusion. The Talmud stated in Ketubot 11:a that in cases dealing with minors one may provide them with Judaism without their awareness. This is based on the principle that one may provide another with any benefit [in this case the benefit is Judaism) without the consent or knowledge of the other. The corollary to this concept is that one may not impose any obligation upon another without that person’s awareness or consent. The Talmud assumes that in the case of an adult non-Jew, who has been raised as a non-Jew, the freedom that he enjoys in living as a non-Jew overrides any aspect of Judaism because Judaism entails a host of obligations. He is not anxious to limit his life style by the myriad of obligations which Judaism imposes despite the fact that Judaism may endow him with a higher spiritual life. Any attempt to impose such obligations upon him is tantamount to coercion and has no halachic validity.

The one other objection to the use of coercion is historical by nature. We have stated above that the foundation upon which the principles of conversion were established upon the conversion of the Israelites on Mt. Sinai. This was stated clearly by Maimonidies that in all future generations if a non-Jew wishes to enter the Covenant he must undergo the same ritual and requirements which the ancestors of the Jews underwent in the Wilderness [Issurei Biah 13:4]. This is similarly maintained by the Tosafists [Sanhedrin 68:b, under the heading Katan]. The Tosafists there maintain the various elements which allowed the Israelites to be converted into Jews, including the conversion of children. These principles applied to the future conversion of non-Jews.

Perhaps the most famous example of the invalidity of conversion when duress is an underlying issue, is the matter of the acceptance into Judaism of the Kutites. The Talmud discusses a controversy between Rabbi Yishmael and Rabbi Akiva whether the Kutites, who inhabited the Land of Israel after the Babylonian expulsion, were to be considered true converts (gerei emet) or converts who became so because of their fear of lions that roamed that area (gerei arayot). It is clear that if their conversion resulted from their fear, it was not acceptable in any sense. See Kiddushin 75 b.

The historical circumstances which demonstrated the inapplicability of coercion was stated in Tractate Shabbat 88:a.   The Talmud introduced an Aggadic interpretation of the Biblical text which implied that the Israelites camped beneath Mt. Sinai. Rabbi Avimi bar Chama bar Chasa stated that this came to teach that God placed the mountain upon their head and threatened them that if they did not accept the Torah they would be buried in that location, which seems to be a coercive statement. Rav Acha bar Jacov derived from this incident that due to the coercive nature of the act it had no legal or moral authority. Thus, if God should attempt to indict the Jews for non-observance they could always respond that their conversion had no validity because it was done under duress. Rava then stated that the issue of duress was canceled during the days of Achashverous when the Jews willingly accepted their conversion.

We must note that there appears to be one discrepancy in the Book of Esther that may lead to an opposite conclusion. The text states that, “many from the nations of the land became Jews because the fear of the Jews fell upon them” resulting from the king’s decree which empowered Jews (Esther VIII: 17). This implies that conversion which resulted from fear was an acceptable conversion. One could reply to this question by pointing out that the text never stated the normal term for conversion mitgayarim, but rather a unique term mityahadim. That could easily be taken to mean that there was no real conversion, but that these people merely took upon themselves the external appearance of being Jews to avoid calamity. Rashi, however, does interpret that the term mityahadim means mitgayarim i.e. conversion. One could explain this interpretation by noting although the conversions were performed, there is no indication that these conversions were accepted by the rabbinic authorities of that day. This is similar to the case of the Kutites who also converted. If, however, they converted primarily out of fear, then it is agreed that their conversion was invalid.

The passage outlined above in tractate Shabbat 88:a is quite problematic. It implies that from the time of the Exodus until the Persian conquest of the Babylonians, a period of about 700 years, there were no real Jews in the world. One, thus, must understand that this passage is to be seen as hyperbole rather than an accurate historical record. It is important, however, because it demonstrates how much emphasis the Talmud placed upon the requirement that no coercion could be part of the conversion process.

An adult may reject any element of the conversion process with which he does not agree or finds offensive which in turn nullifies the conversion itself as long as it is done prior to the conversion. “If a non-Jew is ready to accept the Torah with the exception of one law we should not accept him as a Jew. Rav Jose the son of Rav Judah says, even if he rejects one point or detail of the laws established by the Scribes ( the Oral Law)” [Bechorot 30:b] In the case of the conversion of minors, following the view of Rabbi Yosef (Ketubot 11:a) upon reaching adulthood they may always reject their prior conversion.


Teshuvot Chemdat Shlomo (Y.D. 29-30, referenced in the Pitchei Teshuvah 268:9) draws a fundamental distinction between Hoda’at Mitzvot and Kabblat Mitzvot. Chemdat Shlomo argues that although Hoda’at Mitzvot is not essential, Kabbalat Mitzvot is crucial. The convert’s commitment to observe (all) Mitzvot signifies the core of the conversion. If in a peculiar case the Beit Din mistakenly failed to inform the convert of the Torah’s obligations, the Geirut is acceptable BeDiEved. 

 However, if the convert is not committed to accept the Torah’s rules when he finds out what they are, the conversion is invalid.

The Chemdat Shlomo’s distinction has been accepted by the overwhelming majority of Poskim. These authorities include Rav Yitzchak Shmelkes (Teshuvot Beit Yitzchak Y.D. 2:100), Rav Avraham Yitzchak HaKohen Kook (Teshuvot Da’at Kohen 147), Teshuvot Devar Avraham (3:28), Rav Chaim Ozer Grodzinsky (Teshuvot Achiezer 3:26 and 28), Rav Moshe Feinstein (Teshuvot Igrot Moshe Y.D. 1:157), Rav Yosef Dov Soloveitchik (citing his father in footnote 22 to Kol Dodi Dofeik), Rav Shlomo Zalman Auerbach (Teshuvot Minchat Shlomo 1:35) and Rav Yosef Shalom Eliashiv (Kovetz Teshuvot 1:104). 
These authorities rule that if a covert did not commit to observing the Torah, the conversion is invalid.

Thus, were a non-Jew to be convinced (coerced) to undergo a conversion ceremony but is fully aware eating shellfish is forbidden by Jewish religious law and has no intention of observing those strictures, his or her mouthing of a mitigated “kabbalat hamitzvot” does not result in a conversion.

Rabbi Feinstein Igrot Moshe. In number 157 he writes:
… it is obvious and clear that [a non-Jew who did not accept (all) the mitzvot] is not a convert at all, even after the fact [of his conversion ceremony]… because kabbalat hamitzvot for a convert is essential [“me’akev”]. And even if he pronounces that he is accepting the mitzvot, if it is clear to us [“anan sa’hadi”] that he is not in truth accepting them, it is nothing.
And Rabbi Feinstein, concludes:
I altogether do not understand the reasoning of rabbis who err in this. Even according to [their mistaken notion], what gain are they bringing to the Jewish People by accepting such ‘converts’? It is certainly not pleasing to G-d or to the Jewish people that such ‘converts’ should become mixed into [the Congregation of] Israel. As to the halacha, it is clear that they are not converts at all.


Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner celebrated Kushner’s 31st birthday with an intimate dinner rather than a blowout Tuesday, when they were seen at “a cozy corner table” at Jesse Schenker’s West Village hot spot Recette. Spies say the pair nibbled on hamachi with uni, fluke with shellfish congee and s’mores with graham cracker ice cream, topped off by a candle. Trump then presented her hubby with two maroon Polo Ralph Lauren waffle shirts and other gifts.