I don’t like to talk about “conversion to Judaism”: I am for the erasure of any distinction between Jews by birth and Jews by choice, in public and in private. Unfortunately, there are Jews whose self-esteem is very low, who cannot understand why anyone chooses to join the tribe, so they often project their discomfort on the “converts”. This is, to me, akin to spiritual rape; this is the reason why I try not to use the C-word. When someone becomes a Jew, he or she is not a convert, is a Jew.
I consider a blessing to be part of the Beit Din, the Rabbinic Court, of the Reform Movement and of the Beit Din of the European Region for Progressive Judaism, and to deal with conversions in such a role. Among my colleagues, I am known because I often cry. It’s stronger than me. The determination in joining our tribe, and the perseverance of so many kind souls, moves me to tears every time. Call me Rabbi Tissue.
Part of the interview with the Beit Din is, obviously, to explore the relation of the candidate with the largest Jewish community on Planet Earth, that is Israel. And also with the most important Jewish political movement in the 20th Century, that is Zionism. It makes sense: a Jew is a member of a particular Jewish community but also of the Jewish community worldwide. Belonging to the Jewish people means being aware of its many political movements, including Zionism’s various declinations.
It makes sense for everyone, except, it seems, for the anonymous person who runs the Twitter account of JewDas, the clique of “Diasporist” known for the 2018 Pesach-with-Corbyn extravaganza. Some days ago, well protected by anonymity, he or she tweeted a threat against those Beit Din that dare “to quiz” the converts “on Israel & Zionism”.
This is completely unacceptable.
The Rabbis invested in the sacred duty of being part of the Beit Din must feel free to ask all the questions they wish. Such freedom must be a given, whether the Rabbis see themselves as gatekeepers, or -as in my case- as “welcoming officers”. It is their -ours- unchallengeable role. No diktat can be accepted. No invasion can be tolerated.
I am by no means surprised that someone who proudly shows off the Marxist Gotha aims to police the Rabbis’ job. After all, when Marxists are not busy at excommunicating each other, they spend their time trying to put the Jews under control.
But JewDas’ threats must not be underestimated.
Because they are anonymous.
As a Rabbi, I am familiar with threats from the Far Left, an area which JewDas proudly belong. Unfortunately to be a Rabbi nowadays implies the danger of bumping into some extremist, who harasses you and your family at the jangle of Palestine free. It happened a few days ago, to my esteemed colleague Abraham Dayan in Leghorn. If anything similar happens to me in the UK, I can count on the CST. But I have young children, and sadly I cannot rule out that someone, properly instigated by the JewDas propaganda, could harass them while they are alone.
Moreover, I am also concerned for the prospective Jews, or -to use the words JewDas like- converts.
That threat comes from an anonymous coward. How can I rule out that someone from that extremist clique is not intimidating anyone interested in joining the Jewish people? JewDas are also well connected, they can have Jeremy Corbyn as a guest on Pesach.
Had it already happened? Had some future Jew being told that he or she will be “quizzed” by an abusive and politically oriented Beit Din? Had he or she been offered some kind of Mafia-like reassurance? Did anyone say already, protected by anonymity “we will take care of that Zionist Rabbi, if he dares to quiz you”? Had anyone been already scrutinised and perhaps profiled regarding his or her relation to Israel and Zionism? JewDas may well have the intention to turn into hell his of her Jewish life, if and when he or she dares to disagree from the Far Left. JewDas does it already, after all.
I am the Rabbi who always cries at the Beit Din. I care about the emotional safety of anyone who embarks in the long and difficult journey towards becoming a member of the Jewish people. Bullying and intimidation of these souls must not be allowed.
And unfortunately, we cannot rule out that, perhaps, it is happening already.