The 5th International Halachic Forum on Universally Accepted Conversions in Intermarriage was held in Washington, D.C. on November 4th through the 7th, 2007 at the beautiful Renaissance Mayflower Hotel in Washington, DC, which is located a mere three blocks from the White House. The event was sponsored by the well-known philanthropist Mr. Tom Kaplan, chairman of the Lillian Jean Kaplan Jewish Pride through Education Project as well as by the Eternal Jewish Family (EJF). It was attended by more than 200 participants, Gedolei Yisroel from Israel and across the globe, Rabbis, Rabbonim, Dayanim and people who work in the field of geyrus. Among the honoured participants who spoke at the event were Harav Reuven Feinstein shlita,(son of the late Harav Moshe Feinstein zt”l) Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivah of Staten Island, Harav Shlomo Amar, Rishon Letzion, Chief Rabbi of Israel, Harav Ovadia Yosef, Rishon Letzion, Chairman Moetzes Chachmei Hatorah, Harav Yonah Metzgar, Chief Rabbi of Israel , Harav Yonasan Binyomin Weiss, Av Beis Din of Montreal, Harav Shmuel Lazer Stern, Beis Din of Harav Hagaon Shmuel Wosner and the Chairman of the EJF Halachic Committee in Israel, Rav Nachum Eisenstein, Va’ad L’Inyonei Giyur, Yerushalayim, Rav Leib Tropper, Rosh Yeshivah, Yeshivah Kol Yaakov, Harav Moshe Heinemann, Agudas Yisroel of Baltimore and many others.
The Montreal Jewish Community and the Ruth Institute, which is under the auspices of the Beis Din of Montreal were well represented at the conference; Ruth Institute Beis Din Dayanim Rabbi Dovid Merling, Rabbi Yonah Rosner, Rabbi Chalom Chriqui, and accompanied by Rabbi Saul Emanuel, the executive director of the Jewish Community Council, and Av Beis Din Rabbi Yonasan Binyomin Weiss all flew down to Washington take part in this important forum.
The EJF was established by the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, under the guidance of Rabbi Yosef Sholom Eliashev of Israel and Rabbi Reuven Feinstein of New York. It seeks to standardize the conversion process and consolidate the different Botei Dinim in North America. As one of the Botei Dinim that is recognized by the EJF, the Ruth Institute Beis Din is committed to uphold the high standards set by the EJF in geyrus. The EJF and its affiliated Botei Dinim are there for the intermarried couple , where there is a commitment by the Jewish partner to become strictly observant, and by the non-Jewish spouse to become a ger tzedek (righteous convert).
A number of high profile Rabbonim who are also skilled orators stepped up to the podium to discuss the steps that need to be taken by the ‘geyrus community’ to facilitate the adoption of universal standards amongst Rabbonim and others involved in conversions and intermarriage. Our own Av Beis Din, Rabbi Yonasan Binyomin Weiss gave a halachic discourse on the practical application and questions relating to the intricate laws that govern geyrus . Rabbi Weiss’s lecture led to a heated discussion by the audience concerning the issues he brought to the fore. Many of the participants sought out Rabbi Weiss after his presentation for advice and information in the field of geyrus.
The participants walked away from the event with a deeper understanding of the importance of standardizing the conversion process, and the responsibility they bear every time they help someone become a ger tzeddek.