European rabbis attack American conversion group

By Simon Rocker, January 7, 2010

Members of the London Beth Din have attacked a controversial conversion organisation with which their former head, Dayan Chanoch Ehrentreu, is involved.

The LBD judges signed a statement from the Conference of European Rabbis, protesting at the American-based Eternal Jewish Family setting up in Europe and calling for the cancellation on its seminar in Munich this week.

Dayan Ehrentreu, who retired as LBD head three years ago, is listed as chairman of the EJF’s halachic committee for Europe. He is also a trustee of the CER and head of its travelling Beth Din, supervising conversions for the Conference on the continent.

Scandal erupted over EJF last month when its founder Rabbi Leib Tropper of New Jersey resigned after recordings emerged of a sexually explicit telephone conversation, apparently between him and a prospective woman convert.

But even before the Tropper affair, the CER had made it clear that EJF was unwelcome in Europe, and questioned its opening of an office in Amsterdam.

Now the CER has toughened its stand, with a hard-hitting statement issued at the end of last week calling on EJF to cancel its seminar in Munich this week.

The statement complained that EJF “actively influence gentiles to convert which is against the traditions of our community from previous times, and there is a concern for a breach of the walls of our faith in Europe.”

It also said that “the leaders of this aforementioned organisation caused a desecration of the Divine Name and a disgrace to the name of the Orthodox rabbinate throughout the world in recent weeks”.

The CER rabbis said that if EJF does not cancel the seminar, “we call upon the rabbis that were invited to the seminar not to participate with them and to guard themselves from entering there”.

Dayan Ehrentreu was unavailable for comment. But the EJF website cites a letter co-signed by him at the end of last month — following Rabbi Tropper’s departure — which affirmed support for the organisation’s activities. EJF has been active in demanding rigorous standards of conversion across the Orthodox world.

But its policy of encouraging the intermarried spouses of Jews to convert has aroused some controversy.

Aba Dunner, executive director of the CER, said there was “absolutely no pressure” on Dayan Ehrentreu to dissociate himself from EJF, despite the CER’s objections to it.

“If he chooses to be involved with an an organisation which the CER doesn’t like, that’s his prerogative. We still respect him. He is still head of the Beth Din of the CER,” he said.

But he accused the EJF of “interfering in the process of conversion in Europe. There are sufficient Batei Din which know what they are doing and we don’t need another organisation poking its nose in.”

Last updated: 5:11pm, January 7 2010