11/16/2007

Hate to Say I Told You So, But...

About a year and a half ago, when the whole Rabbanut vs. the RCA issue developed, I started writing about how a fellow named Rabbi Nachum Eisenstein and his organization, the Vaad HaRabbani Haolami Leinonei Giyur, were pushing the Rabbanut to discredit American orthodox rabbis. I mentioned that he was influencing organizations like EJF to adopt Rav Elyashiv's standards universally. I also mentioned that he doesn't really consider American community rabbis, (the modern orthodox variety in general, but lav davka) to be orthodox.

Those posts drove a lot of traffic to my blog, but my 'theories' didn't really gain much traction. Steven I. Weiss even spent an entire post debunking me and denying that RNE has anything to do with the whole issue. Granted, the fact that RNE did what he did at the EJF conference doesn't 'prove' that he was behind the whole Rabbanut vs. RCA thing. I actually have confirmed from other sources that, at least at the time of the scandal, RNE was part of a three-member 'kitchen cabinet' advising Rabbi Yigal Krispel, who was in charge of evaluating conversions from abroad. RNE remains a veteran member of the Jerusalem Rabbinical court establishment.

So last week, when RNE got up at the EJF and disqualified the conversions of any Rabbi who believes that the Earth is more than 6000 years old, people were shocked, up in arms, going nuts. I wasn't terribly surprised. RNE's been saying these things for years. The difference is that now he has a platform.

An angle of his speech that I haven't heard elsewhere is that he had a specific rabbi in mind with that diatribe: Rabbi Barry Freundel. RBF is the RCA's recognized giyur person for Greater Washington, and is very involved in giyur in general, through his shul (Kesher Israel in Georgetown). He is a big part of the RCA's restructuring of its giyur registration. He was the point person in the RCA's negotiations with the Rabbanut, which RNE was working hard to stop (to the extent that he informed Chief Rabbi Amar, the day before his meeting with Rabbis Freundel and Billet of the RCA, that RBF's shul has a women's tefillah group, in the hopes of discrediting him. I don't know whether RBF believes in a young Earth or not; I do know that there are members of Jerusalem's Rabbinical Court who would not accept his conversions (which, I might add from the experience of personally having worked with him on a few instances of giyur from the UMD community, are done with a very thorough and serious process). RBF also doesn't 'look' like the 'dayan' that EJF/RNE/RYSE envisions - no suit, colored shirt, knit kippah, and, IIRC, wedding band. I cannot imagine that it was an accident.

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