Wednesday, November 05, 2014

Rabbi Barry Freundel's Arrest and the Negative Light it Casts on Jewish Conversion

In my first contribution to, I looked at the recent case in Washington D.C. of a well known Orthodox rabbi's arrest for voyeurism in the mikvah. This rabbi has been outspoken about only having the conversions overseen by select Orthodox rabbis outside of Israel considered valid. Here's the first two paragraphs and then the link to the full article:

Conversion to Judaism is a tricky subject. To begin with, we Jews are never quite sure if we should be defined as a religion or a race – or both. If we’re a religion, conversion seems like a plausible concept, much like gaining membership to a private club with sets of rules and regulations to adopt. If we’re defined as a race – a peoplehood – then admission would seem only possible through birthright. The topic is also tricky because there are those who believe that conversion to Judaism should be a challenging endeavor and highly discouraged at the outset (hence the myth that potential converts should be rejected thrice before being accepted). Others, however, take a more welcoming stance, encouraging potential converts along their journey – without outright proselytizing.

Mikvah (WikiCommons)

Back in the summer of 2003, millions of Sex and the City fans watched as character Charlotte York – a prototypical WASP – explored conversion to the Jewish faith before marrying Harry Goldenblatt. The HBO series did a fairly accurate portrayal of conversion, even if it was lampooned in some areas for the sake of humor. Charlotte’s conversion process began with rabbis rudely rejecting her, but she ultimately found a rabbi who welcomed her into a course of learning that concluded with a ceremony at the mikvah – immersing herself in the ritual bath to complete the conversion. [...]


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