Question mark over conversions

Rabbi Shneur Reti-Waks.

THE Ark Centre in East Hawthorn has agreed not to accept any new people into its conversion program for the next 12 months under a deal reached with the Rabbinical Council of Victoria (RCV).

Meanwhile, the Jewish credentials of the 12 people who have already completed the program, and the 25 people currently in the program, are being considered by the Melbourne Beth Din, in consultation with the London Beth Din, the South African Beth Din, the Rabbinic Council of America and the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

The Melbourne Beth Din is consulting with the other bodies to determine if the conversion process conducted at Ark meets their halachic standards.

While those who converted will be considered Jewish by the Ark Centre, if they are not accepted by the Melbourne Beth Din they may not be considered Jewish by other Orthodox synagogues and organisations in Melbourne.

A rabbi on the Melbourne Beth Din told The AJN that it has already been in touch with the overseas bodies.

“We are determining if the conversions meet the halachic standards we would expect,” the rabbi said.

“I think we will have an answer shortly because we’ve already had correspondences with some of them.”

Last week, the RCV voted six to four to accept the Ark Centre’s Rabbi Shneur Reti-Waks as a member of the organisation on the condition that he directs all new converts for the next 12 months to the Melbourne Beth Din and that he get written permission from respected rabbis if he deviates from mainstream Orthodoxy.

“Until now, I was using my own judgement at times,” Rabbi Reti-Waks told The AJN.

“I’ve always worked within the rules of Orthodoxy but the RCV has some ground rules and I’m happy with those rules, so from now, for anything I do different I will get a written ruling.”

In a statement to The AJN this week, the RCV said that after extensive consultation with rabbis and halachic experts (poskim), Rabbi Reti-Waks was welcomed as a member of the organisation.

“We applaud Rabbi Reti-Waks and the Ark Centre for their commitments going forward towards community cohesion and homogeneity of halachic standards across local Orthodox synagogues,” the RCV said.

“The RCV is proud of their symbiotic relationship with the Melbourne Beth Din and is confident that the decision to welcome Rabbi Reti-Waks and the Ark community and Rabbi Reti-Waks’ commitment to comply in the future with the Melbourne Beth Din, will be to the benefit of all seekers of giyur [halachic conversion] for now and into the future.”

JOSHUA LEVI