Tuesday, March 08, 2005

Rabbi Binyamin Bar-Zohar acquitted on bribe charges, Rabbi Michael Dushinsky fled Israel, hasn't returned (Update: have my readers found him?)

4 Comments:

At 4:03 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

1)
Two rabbis detained for allegedly selling conversions to Judaism
February 13, 1997
Agence France-Presse

Two rabbis detained for allegedly selling conversions to Judaism

JERUSALEM, Feb 13 (AFP) - Israeli police have detained two rabbis for allegedly accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes for facilitating quickie conversions to Judaism, court sources said on Thursday.

Rabbi Michael Dushinsky, an employee in the social affairs ministry, was arrested Wednesday after Israeli television aired a documentary showing him accepting 15,000 dollars from a couple asking for a fast conversion.

The couple, a television reporter and a female volunteer from Peru, said they needed the conversion because the woman was pregnant and they needed to be married quickly.

A second rabbi, Benjamin Bar-Zohar, was detained for allegedly using connections in the rabbinical courts to facilitate the conversions.

The alleged scam involved Dushinsky and Bar-Zohar presenting religious authorities with fake witnesses to certify that candidates for conversion had long observed Jewish religious rules.

Police officials said they suspected Dushinsky of selling at least 10 conversions for bribes ranging from 7,000 to 10,000 dollars.

Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi Doron, who heads the court charged with authorizing conversions, called the case "shameful but isolated."

The court grants some 700 conversion certificates each year, out of 1,000-2,000 requests. The conversion procedure normally takes one ot two years.

The rabbinical courts in Israel are monopolised by the orthodox current in Judaism and reject conversions carried out by the conservative and reform branches of the religion.

2)
Two rabbis remanded in alleged bribes-for-conversion scheme
Haim Shapiro
February 13, 1997
The Jerusalem Post

Following a television report documenting a case in which a couple paid thousands of dollars for a quickie conversion to Judaism, the Tel Aviv Magistrate's Court yesterday remanded two religious functionaries for eight days each.

The incident, filmed by a hidden camera and shown on Ilana Dayan's Fact program on Channel 2 on Tuesday night, showed Rabbi Michael Dushinsky, the kashrut supervisor in the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, taking $15,000 in cash from a Jerusalem reporter and a kibbutz volunteer from Peru, who posed as a couple who said the woman was pregnant and they wanted a fast conversion so they could marry.

The film showed Dushinsky telling the couple that a conversion normally took a year or more, but that they would be provided with false witnesses who would tell a rabbinical court that the woman had lived with them and followed an observant Jewish way of life.

The Court remanded Dushinsky, 51, of Petah Tikva, and Rabbi Binyamin Bar-Zohar, 46, of Jerusalem, who had functioned as the rabbi of the Mateh Yehuda Regional Council. Police told the court that since the program was aired, they had received many similar complaints from the public and that this was apparently a common phenomenon.

The police said Dushinsky had taken bribes ranging from $7,000 to $15,000, promising to complete the conversion process within two weeks. He then allegedly passed two-thirds of the money to Bar-Zohar, who in turn allegedly used his connections in the rabbinical courts to facilitate the conversion. The police said that they knew of at least 10 such cases and that they had found $32,000 in Dushinsky's home.

Labor and Social Affairs Minister Eli Yishai yesterday expressed his shock and announced that Dushinsky would be immediately suspended.

Deputy Religious Affairs ministers Yigal Bibi and Arye Gamliel yesterday called a press conference, which they termed an open session of the "conversion authority," a body apparently organized in the wake of the scandal, with the participation of representatives from the ministry, the Chief Rabbinate, and the Tsomet Institute, which organizes conversion courses. A ministry spokesman said the body included a representative of the Absorption Ministry, but none was present.

Bibi said that Dushinsky and Bar-Zohar were not rabbis and not part of the conversion apparatus. In an apparent reference to the Reform and Conservative movements, Bibi said that if conversion would be as "certain groups want," the situation regarding conversion would be as depicted in Fact.

However, Bibi admitted that he had not acted since November, when Anat Galili, spokesperson for the Reform Movement's Israel Religious Action Center (IRAC), had told the Knesset Aliya and Absorption Committee of dozens of cases in which conversion candidates had been asked for bribes. At the time, Bibi had told Galili to go to the police.

Rabbi Yisrael Rosen, head of the Tsomet Institute, said that it was impossible to fool the special conversion courts used by the institute, but he acknowledged that with false witnesses it would be possible to fool a regular rabbinical court.

Rosen estimated the number converted by the special courts at 500 to 600 candidates a year, while Rabbi Rafi Dayan, an aide to Sephardi Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron, who heads the rabbinical courts, said that a total of 700 to 800 people are converted annually by recognized Orthodox rabbinical courts, of some 1,000 to 1,200 who wish to be converted.

Rabbi Einat Ramon, spokesperson for the Conservative Movement, said that almost half of those asking to be converted by Conservative rabbis had done so in reaction to being asked for bribes by those close to the Orthodox establishment.

Rabbi Uri Regev, head of the IRAC said that the bribery was a result of the monopoly of the Orthodox and their rigid and arbitrary procedures. He, too, spoke of conversion candidates who had first attempted an Orthodox conversion and had been disillusioned by demands for money.

2 photos; Caption: Rabbi Binyamin Bar-Zohar and Rabbi Michael Dushinsky yesterday; Credit: Ilan Ossendryver/Israel Sun

3)
Opinion
Corruption and conversion
February 14, 1997
The Jerusalem Post

This week's dramatic expose of an alleged bribes-for- conversion scheme by the Channel 2 program, Fact, was met with denials of widespread corruption from the Chief Rabbinate. The police are to be commended for moving quickly and remanding Rabbi Michael Dushinsky, who was filmed taking $15,000 from a couple posing as would-be converts, and Rabbi Binyamin Bar-Zohar, who allegedly received most of the money to arrange a quick conversion with rabbinical courts. The Rabbinate had better move as quickly to clean house for itself.

In November, a representative of the World Union for Progressive Judaism in Israel testified before a Knesset committee that dozens of conversion candidates had complained to the Reform Movement about being asked for bribes by Rabbinate officials. At that time, Deputy Religious Affairs Minister Yigal Bibi responded that the complaint should be brought to the police. Since then, Bibi admitted, no action had been taken on the matter by the ministry.

The police say they have received many complaints of other cases of bribery since the program aired, and believe the phenomenon is widespread. It goes without saying that the police and the Rabbinate should not be satisfied with a narrow investigation in this case; they should work aggressively to root out corruption from wherever it has spread within rabbinical authority.

But the lessons of this scandal go beyond the matter of corruption to the wider problem of conversion in Israel. It is estimated that there are over 100,000 people here who want to convert to Judaism but cannot, because they do not meet the Rabbinate's criteria.

While there may be some who want to be Jews for opportunistic reasons, most prospective converts sincerely wish to join the Jewish people and become better integrated into Israeli society. Many wish to convert their adopted children. Beyond this tale of alleged corruption, which would be terrible enough in itself, is the human tragedy of the rejection of would-be Jews by the Jewish state.

The Reform and Conservative movements in Israel argue that this scandal is a classic case of absolute power corrupting absolutely. The crisis over conversions, however, is not just a function of the Orthodox monopoly in Israel, but of the steady movement to the right within Orthodoxy.

The main obstacle to conversion in Israel is the current Orthodox interpretation of the requirement to "accept the yoke of the mitzvot." While no one is suggesting this requirement be waived, "acceptance" can be interpreted in either a broad or strict fashion. The first Sephardi chief rabbi of Israel, Ben-Zion Meir Uziel, did not regard a commitment to follow all the mitzvot to be a prerequisite for conversion. Today, however, would-be converts are being refused by the Rabbinate on the grounds that they live on a secular kibbutz, or are not willing to educate their children in the Orthodox school system, or for some other reason are suspected of not adhering to Orthodox practice.

The Orthodox establishment believes that Reform and Conservative Judaism in general, and the lack of uniform conversion standards in particular, threaten to divide the Jewish people. The goal of a uniform standard is certainly a desirable one, if not an imperative. All strands of the Jewish world should be concerned about the potential of dividing into separate peoples that do not recognize one another as Jews.

The responsibility to avoid this division, however, falls on all three major branches of the Jewish people. In Israel, Reform and Conservative rabbis perform what they consider to be halachic conversions, while the Orthodox are moving in the other direction - becoming more stringent and less open to compromise.

If the real, wider conversion crisis is to be resolved, the Orthodox must bear a share of the responsibility to compromise. There is no intrinsic reason in Jewish law why it cannot be done. As the noted Orthodox author Rabbi Eliezer Berkowitz has written, "Within Halacha there are possibilities for an approach between the various ideological groupings of the Jewish people. ... {T}he responsibility of striving for unity in the spirit of 'love of Israel' is equally binding on all of us ... Halacha has to be stretched to its limits in order to further Jewish unity and mutual understanding."

The irony of the Orthodox trend toward stringency is that, in the name of preserving the Jewish character of Israel and avoiding a split within the Jewish people, its actual effect is exactly the opposite. Because it is so difficult to convert, many people who would become Jewish for the best of reasons are having the door shut in their faces by the Jewish state. Because the Orthodox establishment places such a high value on stringency, the greater value of Jewish unity is falling by the wayside.

Solving the problem of corruption in the Rabbinate is a great enough challenge, but it is only a prerequisite for confronting and reversing a long slide toward extremism. If there is a silver lining to this scandal, it is the hope that it might spark such a reexamination.

Editorial

4)
Israeli agents sought conversions for Palestinian collaborators
February 20, 1997
Agence France-Presse

JERUSALEM, Feb 20 (AFP) - Israel's domestic security agency Shin Beth sought fictitious conversions to Judaism for Palestinian collaborators to allow them to obtain Israeli nationality, the Haaretz newspaper reported Thursday.

Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi Doron told the daily that he had been asked on several occasions by the Shin Beth to "perform fictitious conversions of Palestinian collaborators."

"We refused to do so," added Doron, spiritual leader of the Sephardic Jewish community who heads a court overseeing conversions to Judaism.

The certificates of conversion would have allowed Palestinians in hiding in Israel to automatically obtain Israeli nationality as Jews. The conversion procedure normally takes one to two years.

The rabbi's revelations follow the detention by Israeli police of two rabbis for allegedly accepting tens of thousands of dollars in bribes for facilitating quick conversions to Judaism.

Rabbi Michael Dushinsky, an employee in the social affairs ministry, was arrested Wednesday after Israeli television aired a documentary showing him accepting 15,000 dollars from a couple asking for a fast conversion.

A second rabbi, Benjamin Bar-Zohar, was detained for allegedly using connections in the rabbinical courts to facilitate the conversions.

Doron, whose court grants some 700 conversion certificates each year out of 1,000-2,000 requests, called the case "shameful but isolated."

The rabbinical courts in Israel are monopolised by the orthodox current in Judaism and reject conversions carried out by the conservative and reform branches of the religion.

5)
Rabbinate official linked to conversion scandal takes leave
HAIM SHAPIRO and Itim
February 21, 1997
The Jerusalem Post

A senior administrator at the Chief Rabbinate is going on leave for two weeks because her name has been linked to the alleged payment of bribes to speed up conversions.

In a letter to Chief Rabbinate Director-General Gedalia Schreiber, Yehudit Herstein said that she felt called upon to take leave, although she insisted that she had committed no crime. She said she feared being used as a tool with which to attack the Chief Rabbinate.

Meanwhile the two rabbis suspected of taking bribes to speed up conversions, Michael Dushinsky and Binyamin Bar- Zohar, have had their remand extended until Monday, following a police appeal against an earlier decision to release them on bail.

6)
TOP RABBI FACES QUESTIONS.
By Our Correspondent in
Jerusalem.
February 22, 1997
The Guardian

ISRAEL's chief Sephardic rabbi is to be questioned by police next week about his alleged role in facilitating "quickie" conversions to Judaism.

Two rabbis have already been arrested after a television programme filmed them taking money from two investigative reporters posing as a couple in a religious fix.

Rabbi Mikhail Dushinsky was secretly filmed asking for $15,000 (#9,000) from the young couple. The man said he was Jewish, but his partner, a kibbutz volunteer in real life, claimed she was pregnant and wanted to convert before her child was born. Rabbi Binyamin Bar Zohar was arrested on suspicion of being Mr Dushinsky's accomplice.

On Thursday the Tel Aviv district court remanded the two rabbis for questioning until Monday. Judge Saviona Rotlevy said it was suspected other people were involved, and called for a police investigation.

Police detectives have since raided the rabbinical court in Jerusalem, questioned court officials and seized files. Among those questioned is a lawyer specialising in religious issues, Avraham Doron, who is a brother of the chief rabbi, Eliahu Bakshi Doron.

Police say he was asked if his brother helped him speed up conversion requests. The chief rabbi, who has strongly denied any wrongdoing, says he is the victim of a slander campaign.

"When I first learned that my name was being mentioned in this scandal, I told the police I was prepared to answer any questions in the interests of truth and justice," he said. He also said that in 1993, three months after he was appointed to his position, he asked the rabbinical court to intervene on behalf of one applicant.

"This had nothing to do with my brother," he told the Israeli newspaper, Haa'retz. "I have no interest in what my brother does. From what he tells me he has not violated any law."

But another Israeli newspaper, Yedioth Ahronot, claims the police have documentary evidence proving the chief rabbi interceded on behalf of at least five conversion-seekers represented by his brother.

In normal circumstances Israel's rabbinical courts impose stringent requirements on those who seek to convert. They are expected at least to prove their knowledge of the Bible and Jewish law and must promise to follow a strict orthodox Jewish life style and send their children to religious schools.

Many non-Jewish Israelis have travelled abroad to be converted by reform rabbis. But only orthodox conversions are considered kosher by the chief rabbinate of Israel. The children of non-orthodox converts are not accepted as Jews by the rabbinate.

7)
Rabbis filmed taking bribes for conversions out on bail
BATSHEVA TSUR
February 25, 1997
The Jerusalem Post

Two rabbis detained for allegedly taking bribes to speed up conversions are currently under house arrest. They were released on bail Sunday, after being held for 12 days.

This emerged yesterday when police officers briefed the Knesset State Control Committee on the scandal.

The committee convened at the request of Roman Bronfman (Yisrael Ba'aliya), who said most of those affected by the conversion laws are immigrants from the former Soviet Union.

"These are people who considered themselves Jewish all their lives, even if they were not halachically correct," Bronfman said. "They want to join the Jewish people as full members now."

The police said the investigation is continuing and that they had tracked down eight people who had allegedly bribed the rabbis, Michael Dushinsky and Binyamin Bar- Zohar.

The two suspects are not part of the organized court system, said Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, head of the rabbinical courts, after viewing part of a Channel 2 Fact program in which they were exposed in an undercover film by Ilana Dayan.

A gloomy picture of the difficulties involved in obtaining a conversion emerged as Dina Yabolsky, principal of an ulpan for conversion, spoke of the trials and tribulations faced by new immigrants from mixed marriages. She said she knew of two cases where students had been approached to give bribes of $10,000 each.

The root of the problem, she said, is that it takes a year before the court is even prepared to consider a conversion case. The immigrants are kept in a state of tension and then often refused conversion.

Ben-Dahan admitted that, in 1996 alone, only 300 people - out of 1,180 who applied - had received permission to convert.

Committee chairman Ran Cohen (Meretz) said the committee would meet with the chief rabbis, whose representatives failed to appear at yesterday's meeting, and discuss the possibility of facilitating the conversion process.

"It is the long waiting process that lends a hand to all kinds of alternatives, including the alleged scam," Cohen said.

8)
Israeli rabbis charged with taking kickbacks for conversions
May 19, 2002
Agence France-Presse

JERUSALEM, May 19 (AFP) - Two Israeli rabbis were formally charged with taking bribes to ease conversions to Judaism by Gentiles wanting a fast-track to Israeli citizenship, court officials said Sunday.

Rabbis Michael Dushinsky from Kfar Shmayahu, north of Tel Aviv, and Benjamin Bar Zohar from Jerusalem were accused of having accepted thousands of dollars in return for pledges to speed up the conversion process.

The two rabbis were part of Israel's Orthodox community, which has sole responsibility for handing out the certificates of conversion which are recognised by the interior ministry.

Two employees were also implicated in the affair.

Under Israel's Law of Return, all Jewish immigrants are allowed to become Israeli citizens, but conversion to Judaism is a long process obliging candidates to learn the basics of the Jewish religion and how to apply the lessons to their daily lives.

9)
Rabbi does a disappearing act
ROSALYN HARARI
July 19, 2002
The Jerusalem Post
CITY LIGHTS

The legal authorities are having trouble bringing former rabbi Michael Dushinsky, who is charged with fraud, to trial. The prosecution simply cannot find him and the judge handling the trial, which should have begun last month, has had no alternative but to delay the proceedings, reports Al Hasharon Hebrew weekly.

Dushinsky is charged with taking bribes after promising to help cut down conversion proceedings. The police prosecutor has since asked the border police to help locate him after records show that he is abroad.

According to the indictment, Dushinsky received $12,000 from a Russian-born Christian woman who had tried unsuccessfully to convert. He is also said to have transferred part of the sum to another rabbi, instructing him not to tell anyone about the payment so that the flow of money could continue. Later he claimed that he had received $7,000 from a German-born Christian after promising him to speed up the conversion process so that it could be completed within two weeks to two months.

Dushinsky is further accused of taking another $9,000 for another conversion. When investigated by the police he claimed that his behavior was according to the norm and that the police had chosen to victimize him for no reason.

The affair was revealed in 1997 when a researcher from the TV show Uvda (Fact) came to the rabbi together with a young Peruvian woman who wanted to convert. According to the suit, Dushinsky demanded $15,000 for his efforts. The two say that they paid him the money, $10,000 of which he transferred to Binyamin Bar-Zohar, the rabbi of the Mateh Yehuda area council.

Since Dushinsky is abroad, the trial of Bar-Zohar who is accused together with him, has also been delayed.

"The prosecution is not doing anything to get Dushinsky here and it is clear that he is not going to arrive by himself," complains Bar-Zohar. "They cannot keep me as Dushinsky's hostage."

Judge Dorit Reich Shapira postponed the beginning of the trial by five months, hinting that if the prosecution could not produce Dushinsky to the next hearing, she would be forced to hear Bar- Zohar's case separately or to dismiss it.

10)
http://www.haaretz.com/hasen/spages/549111.html
Tue., March 08, 2005 Adar1 27, 5765
Rabbi acquitted on bribe charges
By Zvi Harel

The Tel Aviv District Court acquitted a rabbi yesterday who was charged with accepting bribes in order to speed up conversions. Rabbi Binyamin Bar-Zohar, 54, of Jerusalem was acquited unanimously by the three judges.

Bar-Zohar and Rabbi Michael Dushinsky, 59, of Petah Tikva, were charged three years ago. According to the prosecution, they conspired to accept money from people undergoing conversion in return for speaking to members of the rabbinical tribunal who were dealing with the conversions.

Bar-Zohar, the rabbi of the Mateh Yehuda regional council, claimed that it was not a crime to plead a case on behalf of someone in a rabbinical court and receive payment. He said he was not charged with bribery, and the money was not due to be paid to someone.

In April 2003, the magistrate's court that originally heard the case decided to dismiss the charges, but Bar-Zohar appealed to the district court, saying he wanted an acquittal.

Dushinsky, the kashrut supervisor in the Labor Ministry, was filmed by a hidden camera on a Channel 2 TV program, allegedly accepting a bribe. He then allegedly passed some of the money on to Bar-Zohar, who used his connections to facilitate the conversion.

Dushinsky left the country and proceedings against him were stopped. This fact, the court noted, had led to a prolonged legal process against Bar-Zohar. For this reason, the prosecution also did not object to the acquittal.

 
At 4:19 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

11)
BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Israeli Orthodox rabbis accused of taking bribes for conversions
Jewish Telegraphic Agency
February 19, 1997
By Michele Chabin

JERUSALEM, Feb. 18 (JTA) -- An Israeli television investigative report has left many people here wondering just how kosher the country's Orthodox conversions really are.

The report, aired last week on a popular program that regularly exposes alleged corruption, showed an Orthodox rabbi demanding thousands of dollars to perform what the media has termed a "quickie conversion."

The Chief Rabbinate's office has denied that the alleged extortion is widespread.

The program showed Rabbi Michael Dushinsky, the kashrut supervisor in the Labor and Social Affairs Ministry, taking $15,000 in cash from a reporter posing as a potential convert.

Caught on a hidden camera, Dushinsky told the woman and her "boyfriend" that even though a conversion ordinarily takes at least one year to complete, he would expedite the process by providing false witnesses who would testify before the rabbinical court that she is maintaining a religious lifestyle.

Dushinsky predicted on camera that he could complete the process within two weeks, even though the rabbinical court must hear Orthodox witnesses testify that the potential convert has observed the religious commandments for an entire calendar year.

After the broadcast, the Tel Aviv Magistrates Court placed Dushinsky, who allegedly took several other bribes, into custody.

The court also detained Rabbi Binyamin Bar-Zohar, who allegedly received two-thirds of the bribe money and then used his connections in the rabbinical court to expedite the conversions.

The television report came amid an escalating debate surrounding impending Orthodox-inspired legislation that would ban non-Orthodox conversions performed in Israel and would prevent Israeli citizens and residents from obtaining them abroad.

Orthodox authorities, who already have sole jurisdiction over marriage, divorce and conversion in Israel, maintain that Reform and Conservative conversions do not meet the stringent standards of Jewish law.

And, in an apparent effort to boost their campaign for the new conversion bill, some Orthodox leaders have lashed out at the practices of the liberal movements.

Last week, Interior Minister Eli Suissa charged that Reform rabbis were poised to do "quickie conversions" of Black Hebrews, a sect based in Chicago, who may want to join their community in Dimona, Israel.

Both the Reform movement and the Black Hebrews vehemently denied the minister's accusation.

Rabbi Lennard Thal, vice president of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, called Suissa's remark "incredibly outrageous."

The Reform movement does not do "quickie conversions," Thal said in a telephone interview. "Most Reform rabbis who function in large metropolitan areas encourage prospective converts to enroll in an introductory Judaism course which lasts 4 1/2 to six months."

In addition to the weekly classes, there are regular meetings with the rabbi who ultimately will perform the conversion.

Ben-Ami Carter, the leader of the Black Hebrews community in Israel, suggested that the minster's comment might be part of the Orthodox campaign against recognition of non-Orthodox conversions in Israel, according to the Israeli daily Yediot Achronot.

An estimated 500 to 700 people undergo Orthodox conversions in Israel each year. Another 300 people convert here through the Reform and Conservative movements, though these conversions are not recognized in Israel. The number who go abroad is not known.

In order to undergo an Orthodox conversion, the potential convert, or the parents of an adopted child, must vow to live according to Jewish law as strictly interpreted by the Orthodox.

Adoptive parents, for example, must promise to send their children to religious school, and they themselves must become observant.

Those who refuse sometimes turn to the Reform and Conservative movements, who offer the opportunity to obtain conversions overseas. The proposed conversion legislation would close that loophole by requiring all residents of Israel to obtain conversions in the Jewish state.

Although Reform and Conservative leaders here expressed relief that the so-called "conversion for pay" story was exposed, they asserted that both the rabbinate and the police were alerted to the problem in November, but failed to act.

At that time, Anat Galilee, spokeswoman for the Reform movement's Israel Religious Action Center told the Knesset's Aliyah and Absorption Committee that dozens of potential converts had been asked for bribes during the past several years.

Everyone involved in the conversion process "knows that this corruption has been going on for years, but the people who were asked to pay bribes have been unwilling to testify," said Rabbi Uri Regev, the center's director.

"Neither the police nor the religious establishment wanted to take this seriously."

Rabbi Einat Ramon, spokeswoman for the Masorti movement, as the Conservative branch is known in Israel, said the Dushinsky case "is far from an isolated incident. I am sure this is a widespread phenomenon."

"Something like 50 percent of the converts who convert through the Masorti movement tell us they were offered some kind of cash deal," Ramon added.

Ramon termed the Orthodox "monopoly" of personal-status issues "grave hypocrisy."

"Here they have been spreading lies about the non-Orthodox movements and the way we perform conversions, saying that our process is irresponsible, and we see how irresponsible the Orthodox are."

Regev called the alleged corruption a "direct consequence of the Orthodox monopoly" over conversions.

"The only conclusion must be that pluralism is essential. If there were recognized liberal alternatives to Orthodox conversions, people would not fall prey to such schemes because they would have access to non-Orthodox alternatives," Regev said.

"And the Orthodox themselves would find a more flexible framework. In the United States, no one has to bribe a rabbi to be converted."

Rafael Dayan, an adviser to Sephardi Chief Rabbi Eliahu Bakshi-Doron, denied that there is a "network" of bribe-takers operating in the rabbinate.

But Dayan conceded that "we have known about some problems for a while and have tried to stop them from spreading further." He would not elaborate.

In a clear sign that the rabbinate takes the matter very seriously, Dayan said, "The chief rabbi holds the view that anyone found guilty of taking bribes is not worthy of serving as a rabbi, particularly not in the rabbinate."

Regev maintains that the public's interest in the Dushinsky matter reflects "a new attitude in Israel, and not just in the religious domain."

In recent years, "the police and law enforcement authorities, as well as the public, have become more assertive in their efforts to ensure freedom of information," Regev said.

"You see this in the number of corruption cases that are being tried in court. A lot of sacred cows are being slaughtered."

12)
Want To Be Jewish? That'll Be $15,000! `Quickie conversion' scandal reveals widespread corruption in religious establishment.
Larry Derfner
The New York Jewish Week
February 21, 1997

Tel Aviv -- Rabbi Michael Dushinsky, supervisor of kashrut for the Ministry of Labor and Welfare, was sitting behind his desk this month counting out $15,000 in $100 bills.

Opposite him were a Jewish man and a Christian woman, who had just paid the rabbi for promising to speed up the woman's conversion to Judaism so the couple could marry. The prospective groom, however, in reality was a reporter for the Channel 2 television news magazine "Fact," and was carrying a hidden camera.

The videotaped transaction was broadcast on "Fact." Rabbi Dushinsky was arrested, as was his "partner," Rabbi Binyamin Bar-Zohar of the Yehuda local council, on suspicion of fraud. Police investigators say that since the show was aired, dozens of other converts and aspiring converts have told them of being subjected to the same sort of extortion in their efforts to become Jews.

The scandal has brought accusations of routine corruption in the system of Jewish conversions in Israel. It has revealed signs of a cottage industry of "agents" -- known colloquially as macherim -- and "advocates" who exploit the long, arduous, uncertain process of conversion in Israel's rabbinical courts to obtain thousands of dollars from gentiles in return for helping them become "instant" Jews.

The revelations come at a time of crucial decision-making on the Orthodox rabbinate's hold over conversions in Israel. This session, the Knesset will vote on legislation that for the first time would codify Orthodoxy's exclusive control over the conversion process within the country.

While in practice Orthodox rabbis have enjoyed this control de facto, the proposal to write it into law has deepened a bitter schism between diaspora Jewry and Israel's government, which is committed to bringing the vote forward. In recent weeks, Reform and Conservative leaders in Israel and the United States have launched a full-court press to abort the expected vote.

In New York last week, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told American rabbis he intended to keep the promise he made to the Orthodox parties within his coalition to allow the proposal to come to the Knesset floor.

Rabbi Moshe Sherer of the Orthodox Agudath Israel, one of those who met with Netanyahu, applauded the prime minister's stand. What the Orthodox object to, said Rabbi Sherer, are "quickie conversions" by Reform rabbis. "We do not want them to import the chaos that exists in this country to Israel."

Some 350 gentiles were converted last year through the rabbinical courts, which are under the auspices of the chief rabbinate. Another 650 or so became Jews through the Conversion Authority courts, which the chief rabbinate set up a couple of years ago, and which apparently have not been compromised by the macherim and advocates.

Conversion involves intensive study of Jewish laws and mitzvot for a year, two years or more. Prospective converts are typically directed to live with an Orthodox family, often on a religious kibbutz, to learn and adopt the observant way of life. In the end, it is up to the religious court rabbis to decide if the would-be convert is sufficiently knowledgeable and observant to be granted recognition as a Jew. Recognition is by no means automatic -- the rabbis can tell the convert that he or she needs more study, and the process can go on indefinitely.

This is where the macherim and advocates come in. Police say Rabbi Dushinsky was a macher who charged conversion candidates $7,000 to $15,000 for rushing their conversion through the rabbinical courts within two weeks. He would take one-third as his agent's cut and pass the rest onto Rabbi Bar-Zohar, who then acted as an "advocate" for the candidate, testifying before the rabbinical court that the hopeful convert was worthy of acceptance as a Jew.

Rabbis Dushinsky and Bar-Zohar insist that they didn't defraud anyone but merely charged a fee for legitimate services rendered. (Conversion is supposed to cost about $100 in official fees.)

The Conservative movement in Israel, which like the Reform movement performs conversions here that do not have official recognition, says that about half of its converts report that when they tried to go through the rabbinical courts, they were approached by macherim for bribes.

Anat Galili, spokeswoman for the Reform movement in Israel, says the macherim are well known among immigrants from the former Soviet Union, some 100,000 of whom are not Jewish. One Soviet immigrant, whose father was Jewish but whose mother was not, went through the rabbinical court's conversion process for about a year, studying Jewish laws and mitzvot at a school set up by the chief rabbinate. When told by the court to move with her children into the home of an observant family, however, the woman balked and sought the services of a macher. She paid him $6,000, and three weeks later received a conversion certificate and an ID card marked "Jewish," Galili says.

Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, director of the rabbinical courts, says he has looked into the issue and found that rabbinical judges are not involved in the "quickie" conversion-for-pay scam. "There is no situation like this, whereby a conversion file is opened in the rabbinical court and the candidate is converted in two weeks. There might be one or two such cases in the space of 10 years," he says.

The Orthodox establishment is at once turning against Rabbis Dushinsky and Bar-Zohar, and defending the religious court conversions. Minister of Labor and Welfare Eli Yishai of the Shas (Sephardi ultra-Orthodox) Party suspended Rabbi Dushinsky from his post, saying: "I am shocked at the actions exposed in the media. There is no place in the system for an employee who stinks it up."

Shas' Arye Gamliel, deputy minister of religious affairs, says, "This is a grave incident not only because of the bribery, but also because gentiles were falsely brought into the Jewish people."

The religious council of Kfar Shmaryahu, which once employed Rabbi Dushinsky, placed a newspaper ad saying the rabbi "was fired from his post a year ago, and since July 1996 has no connection to Kfar Shmaryahu." The haredi newspaper Yom Hashishi (Friday) reported that the Supreme Rabbinical Court recommended sanctioning Rabbi Bar-Zohar a year ago after finding that he provided false evidence in the conversion of two workers from the Philippines.

The police's fraud investigation is just beginning. Knesset hearings on the scandal have been scheduled. There are calls for the powerful State Comptroller Miriam Ben-Porat to conduct her own probe. The Orthodox are fighting to hold onto their monopoly over conversion in Israel, and the damage to their cause from a reporter's concealed camera could well grow wider and deeper.

13)
Members Of The Club
Stuart Schoffman
The New York Jewish Week
February 21, 1997

To tell you the truth, I always figured Madeleine K. Albright was Jewish. Something about her history as a Czech refugee, her original name Korbel, also her looks, the way she talks -- I think you know what i mean.

Several of my warmest friendships in the States are with gentiles of Jewish ancestry, and there too -- you know what I mean -- there's something in the sense of humor, in the way they think.

Not something in the genes necessarily, mind you ... but something. Something still Jewish about them.

None of my gentile friends of Jewish descent has any intention of "becoming" any more Jewish than they already are, nor does any of them display any inordinate propensity to seek out Jewish as opposed to gentile friends, eat Jewish foods, read books by Jewish authors, give to the UJA, turn first to news stories about Israel rather than Bosnia -- and neither, I would guess, does Madeleine Albright, an Episcopalian whose Catholic parents were born Jewish, and three of whose grandparents perished in the Holocaust.

Nevertheless, the State Department, under orders from the new secretary, issued a statement when Albright's origins were revealed in The Washington Post that this development would have no effect on her function as America's top foreign-policy executive.

Why the fuss, in this day and age?

The secretary of defense, William Cohen, and two of his predecessors, Casper Weinberger and James Schlesinger, all had Jewish forbears, as did JFK's Treasury Secretary C. Douglas Dillon, and of course Barry Goldwater, whose bid for the presidency in 1964 prompted Harry Golden's famous quip: "I always knew the first Jewish president would be an Episcopalian."

Not to mention all the still-Jewish Jews who have served at the pinnacle of American government, from Louis Brandeis to Henry Kissinger, to the raft of Jews (Rubin, Reich, Kantor, Ginsburg, Breyer, Deutsch, Berger, Ross, Indyk, et al) who have graced the stunningly philo-Semitic Clinton administration, inspiring no small degree of comment among Jewbaiters -- you can check it out on the Internet -- and dinner-table discussion among Jews, but causing very little to-do in the mainstream media.

In this arena, I've long believed, it's generally the Jews and the anti-Semites who bother to keep score. You know what I mean.

But let me not be disingenuous: This is a special case.

Running the State Department is no ordinary job, and it's fair to wonder, as Israeli officials perhaps did when they learned in 1994 of Albright's family history -- and kept silent -- whether the revelation, quite understand-ably a complex matter for the secretary, might somehow prompt her to be excessively "evenhanded" toward Israel.

Israel is a country whose identity, like Albright's, is bound up with the Holocaust, with persecution and survival -- and with the unpleasant choices and actions that survival sometimes requires -- which suggests that on a deep, even untapped, psychological level Albright may indeed have strong feelings about Israel.

Even before her Jewish roots were exposed, Albright viewed herself as a fugitive from oppression. As she put it last May, in a commencement speech at Brandeis University: "All I can offer is the benefit of my own experience ... as someone whose family was driven twice from its home -- first by Hitler, then by Stalin -- while I was still a girl."

Which brings me to a curious "thought-experiment."

If Madeleine Albright, in a flash of St. Paul-style epiphany, were to be so overwhelmed by her newly discovered Jewishness as to resign her post, hop on a plane, and present herself at Ben-Gurion airport as a new immigrant to Israel, she would be accepted at once under the Law of Return, no conversion necessary.

If indeed her mother were Jewish, she could even marry in Israel, a privilege reserved for Jews whose halachic bona fides are recognized by the Chief Rabbinate -- for though she is a Christian, she herself never willfully renounced Judaism.

Meanwhile, in the last decade many tens of thousands of non-Jews who are members of Jewish families have arrived in Israel as immigrants from the former Soviet Union -- likewise survivors, at least figuratively, of Hitler and Stalin, but whose Jewish genetic qualifications are inferior to Albright's. Surely the situation calls for flexibility in the matter of their conversion. Those among them who aspire to be Jews ought not to be obliged -- and there are ample halachic precedents for this approach -- to embrace a strictly Orthodox way of life all at once.

But Israel's Orthodox rabbinic establishment is today dominated by halachic hard-liners.

A high-end estimate of the number of conversions performed annually by the rabbinic courts is 800 or so, with another 400 applicants failing to qualify. The ultra-Orthodox newspaper Yated Ne'eman recently published figures for the years 1992 through 1996, indicating that a mere 1,172 Russian immigrants were halachically converted in Israel during that period.

The climate has bred the phenomenon of unscrupulous Orthodox rabbis who exact huge bribes in exchange for quickie conversions, as an investigative team from Israel's Channel 2 revealed the other week.

Viewers were treated to the sorry spectacle, recorded on hidden camera, of one Rabbi Michael Dushinsky avidly collecting $15,000 in cash.

"Don't tell her what's going on," Rabbi Dushinsky cautioned the young Israeli who had come to him pretending his Peruvian girlfriend was pregnant. "She shouldn't think Judaism is something you buy with money."

Some prospective converts turn to Israel's Conservative and Reform rabbis, but of late these converts are not being registered as Jews by the Interior Ministry, which is controlled by the powerful, ultra-Orthodox Shas party. And as Prime Minister Netanyahu candidly informed American rabbis on his recent visit to the States, he is obligated under his coalition agreement to support the demand of Israel's religious political parties for legislation that would formally delegitimize non-Orthodox conversions in Israel.

In other words, Madeleine Albright would be a Jew, whereas a non-Orthodox convert, say an immigrant from Moldova, who had immersed herself in Torah and Hebrew and Jewish law, and a mikveh, would not. With all due respect, can this really be what Zionism is all about?

14)
Hidden camera reveals rabbis taking bribes for conversions: Israel rocked by film documenting the extortion of gentiles trying to convert to Judaism.
Larry Derfner
The Cleveland Jewish News
February 21, 1997

Tel Aviv

Rabbi Michael Dushinsky, supervisor of kashrut for the Ministry of Labor and Welfare, was sitting behind his desk earlier this month, counting out $15,000 in $100 bills. Opposite him were a Jewish man and a Christian woman, who had just handed the money to the rabbi in payment for promising to speed up the woman's conversion to Judaism so the couple could marry.

The prospective "groom," however, was in reality a reporter for the Channel 2 television news magazine "Fact," and he was carrying a hidden video camera.

The videotaped transaction was later broadcast on "Fact." Rabbi Dushinsky was arrested, as was his "partner," Rabbi Binyamin Bar-Zohar, rabbi of the Yehuda local council, on suspicion of fraud. Police investigators say that since the show was aired, dozens of other converts and aspiring converts have told them of being subjected to the same sort of extortion in their efforts to become Jews.

The scandal has brought accusations of routine corruption in the system of Jewish conversions in Israel. It has revealed signs of a cottage industry of "agents" - known colloquially as macherim - and "advocates" who exploit the long, arduous, uncertain process of conversion in Israel's rabbinical courts; these agents obtain thousands of dollars from gentiles in return for helping them become "instant" Jews.

Last year, 350 gentiles were converted through the rabbinical courts, which are under the auspices of the Chief Rabbinate. Another 650 or so became Jews through the Conversion Authority courts, which the Chief Rabbinate set up a couple of years ago, and which apparently have not been compromised by the macherim and advocates.

Conversion involves intensive study of Jewish laws and mitzvot (commandments) for a year, two years or more. Prospective converts are typically directed to live with an Orthodox family, often on a religious kibbutz, to learn and adopt the observant way of life. In the end, it is up to the religious court rabbis to decide if the would-be convert is sufficiently knowledgeable and observant to be granted recognition as a Jew. Recognition is by no means automatic - rabbis can tell the convert that they needs more study, and the process can go on indefinitely. This is where the macherim and advocates come in.

Police say Dushinsky was a macher (deal maker) who charged conversion candidates $7,000 to $15,000 for rushing their conversion through the rabbinical courts within two weeks. He would take one-third as his agent's cut, and pass the rest onto Bar-Zohar, who then acted as an "advocate" for the candidate, testifying before the rabbinical court that the hopeful convert was worthy of acceptance as a Jew. Dushinsky and Bar-Zohar insist that they didn't defraud anyone, but merely charged a fee for legitimate services rendered. (Conversion is supposed to cost about $100 in official fees.)

The Conservative Movement in Israel which, like the Reform Movement, performs conversions here that do not have official recognition, says that about half its converts report that when they tried to go through the rabbinical courts, they were approached by macherim for bribes.

Anat Galili, spokeswoman for the Reform Movement in Israel, says the macherim are well-known among immigrants from the former Soviet Union, 100,000 of whom are not Jewish. One Soviet immigrant, whose father was Jewish but whose mother was not, went through the rabbinical court's conversion process for about a year, studying Jewish laws and mitzvot at a school set up by the Chief Rabbinate.

When told by the court to move with her children into the home of an observant family, however, the woman balked and sought the services of a macher. She paid him $6,000, and three weeks later received a conversion certificate and an ID card marked, "Jewish," Galili says.

Rabbi Eli Ben-Dahan, director of the rabbinical courts, says he has looked into the issue and found that rabbinical judges are not involved in the "quickie" conversion-for-pay scam. "There is no situation like this, whereby a conversion file is opened in the rabbinical court and the candidate is converted in two weeks. There might be one or two such cases in the space of 10 years," he says.

The Orthodox establishment is at once turning against Dushinsky and Bar-Zohar, and defending the religious court conversions.

Minister of Labor and Welfare Eli Yishai of the Shas (Sephardi rigorously Orthodox) Party, suspended Dushinsky from his post.

Shas' Arye Gamliel, deputy minister of religious affairs, says, "This is a grave incident not only because of the bribery, but also because gentiles were falsely brought into the Jewish people."

The religious council of Kfar Shmaryahu, which once employed Dushinsky, took out an ad in the newspapers saying the rabbi "was fired from his post a year ago, and since July 1996 has no connection to Kfar Shmaryahu." The haredi newspaper Yom Hashishi (Friday) reported that the Supreme Rabbinical Court recommended sanctioning Bar-Zohar a year ago after finding that he provided false evidence in the conversion of two workers from the Philippines.

The police fraud investigation is just beginning. Knesset hearings on the scandal have been scheduled. There are calls for the powerful state comptroller Miriam Ben-Porat to conduct her own probe.

The Orthodox are fighting to hold onto their monopoly over conversion in Israel, and the damage to their cause from a reporter's concealed video camera could well grow wider and deeper.

15)
Looking at Israeli conversion law in light of Albright
Stuart Schoffman
MetroWest Jewish News
February 27, 1997

To tell you the truth, I always figured Madeleine K. Albright was Jewish. Something about her history as a Czech refugee, her original name Korbel, also her looks, the way she talks -- I think you know what I mean.

My gentile friends of Jewish descent don't have any intention of "becoming" any more Jewish than they already are, nor do any of them display any inordinate propensity to seek out Jewish as opposed to gentile friends, eat Jewish foods, read books by Jewish authors, give to the United Jewish Appeal, turn first to news stories about Israel rather than Bosnia -- and neither, I would guess, does Madeleine Albright, an Episcopalian whose Catholic parents were born Jewish, and three of whose grandparents perished in the Holocaust.

Nevertheless, the State Department, under orders from the new secretary, issued a statement when Albright's origins were revealed in The Washington Post that this development would have no effect on her function as America's top foreign-policy executive. Why the fuss, in this day and age? The secretary of defense, William Cohen, and two of his predecessors, Casper Weinberger and James Schlesinger, all had Jewish forbears, as did JFK's treasury secretary, C. Douglas Dillon, and, of course, Barry Goldwater, whose bid for the presidency in 1964 prompted Harry Golden's famous quip: "I always knew the first Jewish president would be an Episcopalian."

Not to mention all the still-Jewish Jews who have served at the pinnacle of American government, from Louis Brandeis to Henry Kissinger, to the raft of Jews (Rubin, Reich, Kantor, Ginsburg, Breyer, Deutsch, Berger, Ross, Indyk et al) who have graced the stunningly philo-Semitic Clinton administration, inspiring no small degree of comment among Jew-baiters -- you can check it out on the Internet -- and dinner-table discussion among Jews, but causing very little to-do in the mainstream media. In this arena, I've long believed, it's generally the Jews and the anti-Semites who bother to keep score.

But let me not be disingenuous: This is a special case. Running the State Department is no ordinary job, and it's fair to wonder, as Israeli officials perhaps did when they learned in 1994 of Albright's family history -- and kept silent -- whether the revelation, quite understandably a complex matter for the secretary, might somehow prompt her to be excessively "even-handed" toward Israel.

If Madeleine Albright, in a flash of St. Paul-style epiphany, were to be so over-whelmed by her newly discovered Jewishness as to resign her post, hop on a plane and present herself at Ben-Gurion Airport as a new immigrant to Israel, she would be accepted at once under the Law of Return, no conversion necessary. If indeed her mother were Jewish, she could even marry in Israel, a privilege reserved for Jews whose halachic bona fides are recognized by the Chief Rabbinate -- for though she is a Christian, she herself never willfully renounced Judaism.

Meanwhile, in the past decade many tens of thousands of non-Jews who are members of Jewish families have arrived in Israel as immigrants from the former Soviet Union -- likewise survivors, at least figuratively, of Hitler and Stalin, but whose Jewish genetic qualifications are inferior to Albright's. Surely the situation calls for flexibility in the matter of their conversion. Those among them who aspire to be Jews ought not to be obliged -- and there are ample halachic precedents for this approach -- to embrace a strictly Orthodox way of life all at once.

But Israel's Orthodox rabbinic establishment is today dominated by halachic hard liners. A high-end estimate of the number of conversions performed annually by the rabbinic courts is 800 or so, with another 400 applicants failing to qualify. The ultra-Orthodox newspaper Yated Ne'eman recently published figures for the years 1992 through 1996, indicating that a mere 1,172 Russian immigrants were halachically converted in Israel during that period. The climate has bred the phenomenon of unscrupulous Orthodox rabbis who exact huge bribes in exchange for quickie conversions, as an investigative team from Israel's Channel 2 recently revealed. Viewers were treated to the sorry spectacle, recorded on hidden camera, of one Rabbi Michael Dushinsky avidly collecting $15,000 in cash. "Don't tell her what's going on," Dushinsky cautioned the young Israeli who had come to him pretending his Peruvian girlfriend was pregnant. "She shouldn't think Judaism is something you buy with money."

Some prospective converts turn to Israel's Conservative and Reform rabbis, but of late these converts are not being registered as Jews by the Interior Ministry, which is controlled by the powerful, ultra-Orthodox Shas Party. And as Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu candidly informed American rabbis on his recent visit to the States, he is obligated under his coalition agreement to support the demand of Israel's religious political parties for legislation that would formally delegitimize non-Orthodox conversions in Israel. In other words, Madeleine Albright would be a Jew, whereas a non-Orthodox convert, say an immigrant from Moldavia, who had immersed herself in Torah and Hebrew and Jewish law, and a mikva, would not. With all due respect, can this really be what Zionism is all about?

Stuart Schoffman is an associate editor of the Jerusalem Report and a columnist for the JUF News of Chicago.

Article copyright MetroWest Jewish News.

 
At 4:41 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi Michael Dushinsky

Is that the same one working in the Czech Republic for the the Ronald Lauder Foundation?

http://www.thethreerings.com/faculty.php

Michael Dushinsky, Rabbi Dr.
Rabbi Dushinsky obtained rabbinical ordinations, followed by advanced Talmudic studies in higher Yeshivot: HanNegev, Netivot, Khevron and Merkaz HaRav, Jerusalem and Kolel, Ashqelon, Israel. He is a lecturer in adult education in communities in the Czech Republic and overseas, on Jewish Studies including: Mishnah, Talmud, Bible, introduction to early and late rabbinical literature, Jewish thought, Halachah, Midrash, liturgy, festivals and the calendar, Maimonides. In the Czech Republic, he established, teaches and conducts "The Jewish Liturgical Choir of Bejt Simcha". He is Consultant to the Ronald Lauder Foundation. In 1980s he was Rabbi and National Religious Supervisor to the Ministry of Welfare in Israel.

 
At 4:58 PM, Blogger jewishwhistleblower said...

1) In bribe scandal:
>Rabbi Michael Dushinsky, the
>kashrut supervisor in the Labor
>and Social Affairs Ministry2) Consultant to the Ronald Lauder Foundation:
>was Rabbi and National Religious
>Supervisor to the
>Ministry of Welfare in
>Israel.

Hmmmm....

Any one with more information?

 

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