Reader comments pro & anti the conversion:
PRO: I might add that Rabbi Herschel Schachter, one of the most respected adjudicators of Jewish law in America, served on the beit din in which Ivanka Trump’s was approved. This is not only a slap in the face to R Lookstein, but a slap in the face to the RCA beit din on which R Schachter served. I am hoping that the RCA strongly condemns this action, and defends the good honor of R Lookstein. After all, this could have happened to any one of its members.
ANTI: Something tells me the pictures of treif food and dining at treif restaurants (Ritz Diner anyone?) that Ivanka Trump has posted on her various social media feeds had a hand in nullifying all of Lookstein’s conversions. And rightfully so. I don’t know a single convert who calls himself or herself an “Orthodox Jew” but openly flaunts non-orthodox behaviours like Trump does. But she’s rich and famous so everyone looks the other way. The Rabbinical court has tyrannical tendencies, but in this instance they got it correct. Lookstein’s “conversions” aren’t valid!
Top rabbinical court nixes conversions by Ivanka Trump’s rabbi
Times of Israel, Jul 13 2016
Israel’s Supreme Rabbinical Court on Wednesday night ruled it does not recognize conversions by Orthodox rabbi Haskel Lookstein, forcing a woman seeking to get married to reconvert and calling into question other people converted by Lookstein, including the daughter of Republican presumptive nominee Donald Trump. The court rejected the appeal of a Pindosi woman identified only as Nicole, who had an Orthodox conversion in New York by Lookstein and is engaged to an Israeli man. Nicole had her status as a Jew rejected by the local rabbinical court in her fiance’s hometown of Petach Tikva in Israel after the two tried to register for marriage. In the decision on Wednesday, the court said Nicole would have to undergo a giyur l’chumra (expedited conversion) in order to get married. The couple, with the prodding of the rabbinical judges, and having set the wedding for some six months from now, agreed though they and religious freedom activists expressed dismay over the decision. Citing the lack of an official list of Pindosi rabbis recognized to give Orthodox conversions, the rabbinical panel insisted in the proceedings that it does not recognize Lookstein’s conversions and that all must be evaluated on a case-by-case basis. A rabbinical judge was quoted as saying in a statement by ITIM, the religious freedom group that represented Nicole:
I don’t know what the quality of Lookstein’s conversions are, the approval of the chief rabbi is insufficient … because there is no list of official rabbis and no order. Every conversion must go through a rabbinical court.
The Chief Rabbinate, which is distinct from the rabbinical courts, has backed Lookstein, a prominent New York rabbi who formerly manned the pulpit at Kehilath Jeshurun, a Modern Orthodox synagogue on Manhattan’s Upper East Side — as have many other prominent officials, including at a rally in central Jerusalem last week. As part of her fresh conversion, which appeared from the ITIM statement to have been completed already, Nicole testified that she is committed to Judaism and to maintaining an Orthodox lifestyle. The rabbinical court accepted her testimony as “sincere” and will allow her to marry. She said implored the judges to reconsider:
I feel humiliated. What they are saying is that they don’t recognize my Judaism. I love Rabbi Lookstein. He is my rabbi. He led me into the Jewish world, and I don’t want his conversion to not be recognized. I ask that even if I do pass this process today, you would still recognize Rabbi Lookstein’s conversion. For if you don’t, you should know that myself, and many others like me, would lose their trust in the Rabbinate.
Israeli Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau said prior to the appeal that he recognizes conversions performed by Lookstein. That includes Ivanka Trump, converted under Lookstein’s auspices in 2009, and who attends Kehilath Jeshurun with her husband, Jared Kushner. Rabbi Seth Farber, the head of ITIM, an organization that helps Israelis navigate Israeli religious bureaucracy and is assisting the woman in her appeal, said in response:
it is a sad day for converts and it’s a sad day for the relations between Israel and Pindosi Jewry. The rabbinical judges, in their decision, have degraded the convert, but not only her, they also degraded hundreds of Diaspora rabbis and their congregations. I will continue to protest the decision.
Jewish Agency head Natan Sharansky, who rallied on Lookstein’s behalf earlier this month, said in a statement:
Today’s decision by the Supreme Rabbinical Court, which effectively delegitimized a prominent rabbi in the Pindosi 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.
Nicole, the woman at the center of the row, told The Times of Israel two weeks ago in her first interview since the media storm erupted that the entire affair had turned into “a nightmare.” Nicole, 31, said:
I just want to get married, I want to start my life. They are putting my whole life on hold. My fiancé is religious, I am religious. I want my children to be considered Jewish. … That’s the whole point of the conversion. I am Jewish. It’s not fair that I would be considered otherwise. It’s very frustrating, I want to cry. All I want to do is have a Jewish family.
Israel’s Top Rabbinical Court Upholds Rejection of Rabbi Who Converted Ivanka Trump
Josefin Dolsten, Forward, Jul 13 2016
Israel’s supreme rabbinical court rejected Wednesday a conversion by a prominent Pindosi rabbi who also converted Ivanka Trump, reaffirming a widely criticized ruling by a lower court. The Pindosi woman had to testify about her commitment to Jewish law in the court, as part of an expedited procedure prescribed by the court to redo the invalidated conversion. The woman reportedly already completed the new conversion, allowing her to marry her Israeli fiancé. Initially, a local religious court in Petach Tikvah, a suburb east of Tel Aviv, rejected the conversion by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, a well-respected modern Orthodox spiritual leader, drawing broad condemnation, including from Education Minister Naftali Bennett, Jewish Agency Chairman Natan Sharansky and Israel’s Chief Ashkenazi Rabbi David Lau. Israel’s top religious court heard the woman’s appeal heard Wednesday but was not convinced, recognizing her commitment to Judaism but not the validity of Lookstein’s conversion, the Times of Israel reported. The ruling has far-reaching implications, not only because it raises the question of whether Trump will be recognized as Jewish in Israel. It represents an emerging gap between Israel’s Orthodox religious authority, which controls religious matters in the country, including marriages and funerals, and Jews in the Diaspora of all denominations. The rabbinate has traditionally not accepted conversions carried out by liberal streams of Judaism, and in recent years the religious authority has also targeted conversions by Orthodox rabbis not on its list of approved authorities, which has not completely been made public.