THE Orthodox conversions of more than a dozen people hang in the balance after the Sydney and Melbourne Beth Dins stated they would not be recognised, following consultation with the London Beth Din, the Beth Din of America, the Johannesburg Beth Din and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.
The conversions in question were carried out at Melbourne’s Ark Centre under the auspices of Rabbi Shneur Reti-Waks.
“Any conversion performed by individual rabbis or by private Batei Din are not and will not be accepted generally and in particularly by the above-mentioned international Batei Din,” the Sydney and Melbourne Beth Dins said in a joint statement.
“This will inevitably have ramifications for the children of such unrecognised converts and for the general community in generations to come.”
Urging those who converted outside of their auspices to get in touch, the statement said, “The Sydney and Melbourne Batei Din will assess and compassionately assist in taking the necessary steps to attempt to rectify their status so that any such conversion candidate will ultimately be universally recognised.”
In response, the Ark Centre stated it stood by its conversion program, adding, “Around the world this unfortunate political battle is raging and it’s a shame Australia has dragged itself into it, choosing to ignore both the Jewish law and the practical requirement for all Orthodox Jews to have representation,” the Ark Centre told The AJN.
“It is our sincere hope that all Orthodox Jews in Melbourne are made to feel welcome, accepted and represented, working together to bring more and more Jews closer to observant Judaism.
“Rabbi Reti-Waks and Ark Centre continue to have open, honest and transparent conversations with those who have completed Orthodox conversion as well as those currently undertaking Orthodox conversion and will do so with those who continue to approach us.”
Sympathising with those who had undertaken conversion programs outside the auspices of the Sydney and Melbourne Beth Dins, the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV) and Rabbinic Council of Australia and New Zealand said they welcomed the Beth Dins’ efforts to rectify the converts’ status.
“While no doubt a difficult decision for all concerned, it is clearly in the best interests of well-intentioned conversion candidates to be informed of this now, rather than suffer disappointment and heartache in the future when attempting to get married or receive synagogue honours in an Orthodox synagogue or to be accepted within the Jewish community,” the RCV said.
The AJN understands Rabbi Reti-Waks’ membership of the RCV may be in jeopardy if he continues to perform conversions outside the auspices of the Melbourne Beth Din.