A committee of rabbis, converts and a psychotherapist will review the conversion process in the Orthodox community in light of the recent arrest of Rabbi Barry Freundel of Kesher Israel Congregation, it was announced Wednesday by the Rabbinical Council of America.
The committee’s goal is to create safeguards against abuse, according to the RCA.
Freundel’s arrest on six counts of voyeurism for secretly videotaping people as they undressed for the mikvah, or ritual bath, “brought to light the need for a thorough review of [current procedures] to identify changes that will ensure a more effective and appropriate conversion process,” according to a press release from the RCA.
The committee is charged with looking into standardization of conversion procedures, the intake system, safe processes for potential converts to voice complaints and discomfort with their experiences, communications of the beit din’s (rabbinical court) expectations of potential converts and oversight of beit din operations.
Committee chair Rabbi Shmuel Goldin explained in a press release that the RCA wants to continue its policy of a national network of conversion courts. “It is clear, however, that the current structure of the [protocals and standards] requires a thorough review and enhancements to avoid future abuses.”
Added Rabbi Leonard Matanky, president of the RCA, “The RCA recognizes the inherent sensitivities and vulnerabilities involved in the conversion process and will do all it can to ensure that such victimization will never be repeated.”
The committee is expected to report its findings to the RCA by Jan. 31, 2015.
Evelyn Fruchter, a convert to Judaism and attorney specializing in litigation
Rabbi Shmuel Goldin, honorary president of the RCA and rabbi at Ahavath Torah in Englewood, N.J.
Abby Lerner, educator and teacher of family purity laws
Rabbi Haskel Lookstein of Congregation Kehilath Jeshurun in New York
Bethany Mandel, a convert to Judaism who is a freelance writer and author of “A Convert’s Bill of Rights”
Rabbi Yona Reiss, Av Beit Din, Chicago Rabbinical Council, Dayan Beth Din of American and chairman of RCA’s GPS conversion system
Bracha Rutner, an advisor in Jewish law for Washington D.C. and Riverdale, N.Y.
Shana Yocheved Schacter, a psychotherapist
Rabbi Yaakov Shulman of Congregation Talmud Torah in Brooklyn and a member of a rabbinic tribunal for conversions
Rabbi Adam Starr of Young Israel of Toco Hills in Atlanta
Rabbi Kalman Topp of Beth Jacob Congregation in Los Angeles