The past few years have seen a revival of the Israeli conversion dilemma, in which the status of people who convert to Judaism without becoming fully Torah observant is questioned. This perennial issue remains unsolved despite decades of discussion. The Conversion Crisis: A Continuing Discussion collects essays on this subject from the past forty years. Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein writes of two indispensable aspects of conversion—a rebirth into a new relationship with God and joining the people of Israel. The former requires acceptance of the commandments. Rabbi J. David Bleich surveys the responsa literature and concludes that a convert must accept the commandments with full sincerity. In contrast, Rabbi Marc Angel, Professor Avi Sagi and Professor Zvi Zohar argue that in exigent circumstances, a conversion without acceptance of the commandments is valid and appropriate. To these essays, Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, Rabbi Michael Broyde and Shmuel Kadosh respond with strong dissent. They contend that no such option exists and the community must find alternate ways—perhaps conversion of minors where the rules differ—to resolve the contemporary dilemma. As the book’s subtitle states, the discussion is ongoing and no proposal has yet been universally accepted.
Rabbi Gil Student writes frequently on Jewish issues and blogs at TorahMusings.com.