Though the Torah mentions kindness to the convert repeatedly, too often this lovely sentiment remains just that. Among many haredim and Orthodox Jews, it’s wonderful in theory, but not in practice. From the voyeur crimes of DC conversion rabbi Barry Freundel, to the many documented struggles converts endure; their battle for acceptance among those they wish to assimilate with are often losing battles for no fault of their own. They often begin by having to face a conversion industry that is costly and is very susceptible to corruption. Converts may be threatened with withheld or prolonged conversions for the pettiest of issues. After conversion, they may be threatened with ‘conversion revocation,’ or told that their conversions were not valid and repeating some or all of the process is required. Like baalei teshuvah, they are too often never fully accepted in some communities. However, their vulnerability and struggle extend beyond those the baalei teshuvah can understand completely.
David_Bar-Hayim discusses, from an Orthodox perspective, some of the problems converts (and even born Jews) face. His level-headed approach to Torah Judaism has been criticized by some in the haredi and Orthodox world. Some have even called him “apikores” (a heretic). However, to others, he is a refreshing change to the rigid positions taken in much of the Torah world that have made Judaism so stringent that it has become unpalatable to converts and Jews from birth alike.
Below are some halachic rulings and positions from David_Bar-Hayim’s wiki page:
In light of the fact that Israel is yet again a sovereign Jewish state, with Jerusalem as its capital, Bar-Hayim has argued for increased utilization of the Jerusalem Talmud which, in regard to Torat Eretz Yisrael and Minhagei Eretz Yisrael, possesses more lucid rulings than the Babylonian Talmud which was given supremacy in “exile-mode” Judaism.
- Any Jew worldwide, regardless of origin, and despite the practice of their forefathers, may eat kitniyot (“legumes”) on Passover, as most Sefardi Jews do, for it is a practice rejected as an unnecessary precaution by Halachic authorities as early as the time of its emergence.
- When the first day of Sukkot falls on Shabbat, Israeli Jews should follow the Mishna and Jerusalem Talmud’s ruling, and perform the lulav ritual.
- Hallel should be recited on Israeli Independence Day.
- Stainless steel utensils do not absorb dairy or meat, and may be washed with soap and water between dairy and meat use.
- The Shulchan Aruch’s rulings were intended as a resource and depiction of common practice in certain areas. The author never intended that his rulings become compulsory for Jewry.
- The size of an olive in Jewish law is roughly the size of an olive. Those commentators who overestimated the size of the olive were unfamiliar with olives for they had lived in lands which lacked them.
- The process of conversion to Judaism should be one that welcomes sincere converts and allows them the right to choose a rabbi and community which they identify with.
- Jewish law requires one to follow the most convincing position which is truest to the sources. One need not uphold a tradition which can be shown to have been conceived in error.
- The common form of reclining on Passover nowadays does not convey the aristocratic nobility it was intended to, and may often defeat its very purpose.
- The main purpose of Torah study is to create a holy nation that obeys the law, and not merely withdrawn individuals seeking personal gain.
- A blessing is to be recited when removing phylacteries.
- One may eat poultry followed by dairy without a waiting period.
- Torah sages can err, just as the Sanhedrin could (Leviticus 4:13).
- It is preferable for a married Jewish woman to expose her hair than to don a wig, for the wig actually increases attraction in the public domain and encourages the notion that Halakha is both irrational and intellectually dishonest.