Sephardi Chief Rabbi Rav Shlomo Amar has come under intense criticism from leading figures in the chareidi community for what they consider his overly lenient attitude toward geirus performed under the auspices of the Israel Defense Forces.On Monday, aides to Rav Amar tried to defuse the controversy by denying that he ever gave his blessing to conversions performed in the military.
“The rav hasn’t decided anything,” said one official close to Rav Amar.
Senior rabbonim from the Eidah Hachareidis and Rav Yosef Shalom Elyashiv have reportedly signed two letters. One is scheduled to appear tomorrow in the Israeli Hebrew Yated Ne’eman.
“We heard with fear that some rabbonim have deigned to accept religious conversions performed by the military rabbinate without [the convert] accepting the commandments as mandated by the religion of the Torah,” reads the letter bearing the imprimatur of the Eidah. The notice has also been posted on bulletin boards in chareidi communities.
The second letter, which is considered more important, does not explicitly mention Rav Amar by name. But according to a draft, the rabbonim protest “the ratification of goyim as Yidden.” The letter also urges marriage registrars in religious councils not to register converts who do not maintain a religious lifestyle.
Last month, Rav Amar’s office issued a press release stating that the military rabbinate cooperates closely with Israel’s chief rabbis in performing conversions in the army. Rav Amar was responding to a request by the Knesset State Control Committee, which sought his position on the validity of conversions performed in the IDF.
Rav Amar, who is the top state official responsible for conversions, wrote in his press release that all soldiers who underwent conversion in the army “were married according to Jewish law,” a statement signifying that their Judaism was never in doubt.
But his aide said Rav Amar has not yet ruled on the issue of army conversions, and that the press release had said he planned to raise it with the chief rabbinical council before staking out a final position.