The Rabbis Said Choose: You Can Be an Olympian or a Jew — But Not Both

Benjamin Ish-Shalom, head of Israel’s Joint Conversion Institute, recently gave an interview to The Jewish Week that should makes one’s blood boil.

Ish-Shalom’s institute is the product of a collaboration between different streams of Judaism that has worked to help facilitate the conversion of the large numbers of immigrants from the former Soviet Union who are not considered to be Jews under halacha because their mothers aren’t Jewish.

Unfortunately, even though the Joint Conversion Institute has backing from Orthodox rabbis, its students have had a hard time passing muster with the official Orthodox rabbinic courts. The courts’ obstructionism has been so great that Ish-Shalom (who is himself Orthodox) is threatening to set up independent conversion courts. Ish-Shalom says that the existing courts often make demands on converts that have no basis in Jewish law.

Here’s a particularly maddening bit from Ish-Shalom about the behavior of the rabbinic courts:

Read the rest of the interview, in which Ish-Shalom also says that the rabbinic courts will refuse to convert candidates who live on secular kibbutzim.

Tagged as:

Your Comments

The Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Forward requires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not and will be deleted. Egregious commenters will be banned from commenting. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and the Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.

Recommend this article

The Rabbis Said Choose: You Can Be an Olympian or a Jew — But Not Both

Thank you!

This article has been sent!