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U.S. rabbi involved in sex scandal led fight against non-Haredi conversions in Israel

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Scurrilous Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-15-10 02:02 PM
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U.S. rabbi involved in sex scandal led fight against non-Haredi conversions in Israel

"It is hard to imagine a more embarrassing situation for a prestigious Haredi (ultra-Orthodox) organization, a standard-bearer in the fight against conversions that fail to meet the strictest Haredi standards: The man who heads the organization, Rabbi Leib Tropper of Rockland County, has been accused of abandoning these standards and establishing a conversion process based mainly on satisfying his sexual urges.

Earlier this week, the New York Post published a sensational story: A "prominent Orthodox rabbi has been caught on tape discussing his apparent love affair with a shiksa (non-Jew) he was converting to Judaism." The woman in question is Shannon Orand, 32, of Houston, who sought to convert from Christianity to Judaism.

The bulk of the report is devoted to a recorded phone call in which the rabbi demanded that Orand perform various sexual services for himself and his friends in exchange for granting her a conversion certificate.

Only at the end does it mention that at the start of the month, Tropper resigned as head of the Eternal Jewish Family organization, which deals with conversions. But his connection to the group is in fact the story's punch line.

Tropper's stated goal in founding Eternal Jewish Family was to bolster Israeli Haredim in their war against non-Haredi Orthodox conversions, which they deem too lenient. Tropper, who is a well-known rabbi in the New York area and head of the Kol Yaakov yeshiva, enlisted wealthy American Jews in the fight against these conversions, especially those carried out by the Israeli Conversion Authority headed by religious Zionist Rabbi Haim Druckman."


Con Game

How a New York rabbi tried to remake the rules on converting to Judaism, until a sex tapeand a family feud between his wealthy backersbrought him down


"December was a very bad month for Rabbi Leib Tropper, a powerful ultra-Orthodox rabbi who has been seeking to determine the standards for conversion in Israel and throughout the world through his little-known yet influential organization, Eternal Jewish Family. First, black-and-white posters appeared on walls in Jerusalem and other Israeli cities threatening public disgrace if the rabbi refused to cease his filth. While the definition of filth was left up to readers imaginations, photos and video were prominently mentioned in the text, which demanded that Tropper suspend his involvement in performing religious conversions.

On December 14, Eternal Jewish Familywhich is based in the ultra-Orthodox enclave of Monsey, New York, and backed by the billionaire board president of New Yorks 92nd Street Y, and his nephew, who owns one of Israels most famous soccer clubssuddenly announced that its founder was resigning his post to pursue a variety of other interests, the details of which were again left to readers imaginations.

Two days later, the filth appeared online: audio tapes, allegedly of the rabbi, trying to coerce a single mother from Houston into having sex with other men for moneyand as the price of her conversion to Judaism.

Would you have a problem with just talking about sex to a guy, or only actually doing it? the man asks on one of the tapes. In another, he reassures her, I could roleplay a rape with you, but I couldnt actually rape you. A third featured explicit phone sex between the two. Shortly after the tapes surfaced, the hopeful convert, a ministers daughter named Shannon Orand, told the blogger Shmarya Rosenbergwho has covered the story on his blog, Failed Messiahthat the rabbi had said, If you fulfill my needs, Ill fulfill yoursand you need a conversion. Through an attorney, Tropper released a statement that admitted no wrongdoing but expressed regret for what has appeared to be conduct not within our significant laws of modesty. (When Tablet Magazine reached Tropper by phone at his home in Monsey to request comment, he simply said, No, no, and hung up.)

The sex tapes appeared to support the allegations of misconduct against Tropper, and they briefly elevated what started out as internecine rumor-mongering among ultra-Orthodox factions into legitimate tabloid fodder. (Tal-Mood for Love, read the headline above a brief item in the New York Post.) To more sensitive listeners, the tapes exhibited not just the particular sexual perversions of a rabbi from Monsey, but also the moral horror of a religious figure exploiting the trust of a woman who was hoping to join the Jewish religion and who was dependent on his authority. (Orand completed her conversion in Jerusalem last week under the auspices of a different Orthodox rabbi.)

Other than the mention in the Post, mainstream American newspapers ignored what is surely one of the weirdest, most embarrassing, and most consequential scandals in recent Jewish history. Mainstream rabbinical and Jewish communal organizations in the United States also chose to be silent. Yet the rise and fall of Leib Tropper raises fundamental questions about the abuse of a closed process in which a small group of ultra-Orthodox authorities are allowed to set their own binding terms for conversion to Judaism using the authority of the State of Israel and without any meaningful oversight. It is also the story of how an almost unknown rabbi managed to become one of the most powerful authorities on the question of conversion, fueled not by a superior knowledge of the Talmud but by access to something that appears to be even dearer to the hearts of the modern rabbinical establishment: money."
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aquart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-15-10 02:10 PM
Response to Original message
1. Sexual favors for an official Now You're a Jew certificate?
Are you kidding me? And why would anyone want to convert unless they had to for marriage? If you convert to a religion, you have to follow its rules.
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JoDog Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-15-10 04:12 PM
Response to Reply #1
2. Ahem.
I am in the last stages of conversion to Judaism. I am not married to a Jew, engaged to one or even dating one. I wasn't at the beginning of my studies either. I was raised an Episcopalian and was in Wicca for about 15 years. When some friends took me to a temple, I felt like my soul had finally come home.

The reasons for conversion are as varied as the people who seek it. While I am sure you meant no offense to people like me, I felt the need to set the record straight.

And you are right: a convert should be absolutely prepared to follow the rules of the strain of Judaism they convert to. However, in some pockets of the Orthodox community, there is a belief that sex with gentiles doesn't count as a sin. And depending on what the beliefs/traditions of the woman involved, it may not have been a sin in her eyes, either. The convert also isn't expected to follow the rules to the letter until after the process is complete.

Sex is only one of the problems, here. The extortion is just as troubling.
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aquart Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Fri Jan-15-10 05:36 PM
Response to Reply #2
3. Home is where the heart is. If you gotta, you gotta.
But to go from Wicca back into the patriarchy? Oh well.
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