Published On: Thu, Jul 14th, 2016

Sorry, Dear Ivanka, Israel’s High Rabbinical Court Doesn’t Recognize Your Conversion

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Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner

Republican candidate Donald Trump may have to stop referring to his daughter Ivanka as being an Orthodox Jew.

Israel’s high rabbinical court on Wednesday decided not to recognize a conversion performed by an influential American Orthodox rabbi Haskel Lookstein,  the spiritual leader of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun on the Upper East Side of Manhattan.

The high court debated on an appeal regarding a ruling of a lower rabbinical court in Petach Tikvah, because Rabbi Lookstein was not on the approved list of rabbis submitted by the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA).

The court said it would allow a young woman he converted in the US to register for marriage with her Israeli fiancé – which is due to take place in another two weeks –  only after she undergo a quick second conversion to erase any doubts about the validity of the original.

The rabbinical court judges made her reaffirm in their presence that she accepts the faith in the one God, the Torah and its commandments and that she accepted the yoke of the rabbis on halakhic matters.

She will also have to immerse in the Mikvah, a ritual bath, but the judges said they would not make her do so twice: It is standard for brides to immerse themselves before their wedding, and the judges said this pre-wedding immersion would also count as her immersion for the purpose of conversion.

The woman said: “I feel humiliated, they were actually saying they’re not recognizing my being Jewish. I love Rabbi Glookstein, he is my rabbi, he brought me into the Jewish world, and I don’t want his conversions not to be recognized.”

The high rabbinical court panel was headed by Dayan Rabbi Nahum Gortler and with the dayanim Rabbi Yitzhak Elimelech and Rabbi Maimon Nahari — all three being recent appointments for whom this has been their very first ruling in this capacity. Which may explain why they chose to ignore the public and strong urgings of both Sephardi and Ashkenazi chief rabbis to accept Rabbi Lookstein’s conversions.

The high court decision essentially annulling all his past conversions—daughters of billionaire presidential candidates Ivanka Trump included—and called on the petitioner to undergo a “giur l’chumra, ” which means a new conversion.

Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky, responded in a statement saying, “Today’s decision by the Supreme Rabbinical Court, which effectively delegitimized a prominent rabbi in the American Jewish community, demonstrates why Israel is in danger of being delegitimized as a center of religious authority in the eyes of world Jewry. I call on the Government of Israel, which recognizes the vital importance of the Israel-Diaspora relationship, to take immediate steps to change the attitude of Israel’s religious authorities toward the spiritual leaders of the Diaspora.”

UJA-Federation of New York CEO Eric S. Goldstein issued the following statement: “We are deeply saddened by the Supreme Rabbinical Court’s decision to refuse recognition of conversions by Rabbi Lookstein, a revered spiritual leader in our community. This egregious decision undermines the authority of all diaspora rabbis, will cause much needless suffering, and further frays the bonds between world Jewry and Israel.”

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