Monday, December 10, 2007

Converts in Positions on Communal Authority

It all started when XGH posted about members being dissatisfied with the NCYI. Among the multitude of reasons was this one:

Ban against women and converts being shul presidents.

I was really taken by surprise when I was informed in the comments that this is dictated by halacha. Actually, surprised is probably the wrong adjective. Disheartened, disappointed? Here is yet another injustice I have to defend to myself. Many of the arguments against the rationality of this halacha are brought up in the Hirhurim article I linked to above. Blu Greenberg wrote in one of her books, "where there's a rabbinic will, there's a halachic way". Is there any interest in changing this halacha? Does anyone care?


Blogger Shoshana said...

I was not aware of the injunction against converts until right now, and it bothers me greatly despite any reason anyone can offer up, just as much as the injunction against women. Sigh. Not much else to say.

December 10, 2007 11:50 AM  
Blogger Tobie said...

I feel like many, many people have found various ways around the ban depending on the context- in the state of Israel, for example, the prohibition ceases to exist simply by defining the state as anything other than a traditional kingship. Probably any who wanted to could do the same to any other organization.

December 10, 2007 2:48 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Tobie, you know this for certain? I guess I don't understand why Israel would be different from golus? A ger can be a shul president in Sderot but not in Skokie?

December 10, 2007 2:56 PM  
Blogger Tobie said...

Well, I've heard the position given specifically for justifying the role of women in the Israeli government. I have not heard it used to justify roles in shul government, but I'm not sure why the same argument would not be able to be carried over. I mean, except for the obvious reason that when they were establishing the state they had all the secular pressure to be egalitarian and there is no such pressure in shul politics. But once you're defining positions of authority in a Jewish community, I would think that Prime Minister would be much higher on the list than shul president.

December 11, 2007 9:04 AM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Tobie, I was asking about converts and you seem to be responding about women.

And you are saying that you have heard of rabbinical rulings that this is permissible?

December 11, 2007 9:16 AM  
Blogger Gil Student said...

One way to avoid this issue is by appointing co-presidents rather than a single president. Converts can serve in joint functions, as I point out in my post on the subject.

December 11, 2007 12:26 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Thanks Gil,

Your post did a pretty good job outlining many of the issues.

December 11, 2007 12:37 PM  
Blogger Tobie said...

I think that the mechanism should be the same. I haven't really learned the issue in depth, but I'm pretty sure that the source of both is מקרב אחיך תקים לך מלך- the אחיך means no convert, the מלך means no woman. And the prohibition was then extended to all positions of communal authority.

And we read at least on psak by Rav Yisraeli in which- despite the fact that he views the state of Israel as a Jewish kingdom with all the powers of a king- nonetheless he validates the governing body as it is, including the right of women (and presumably converts, and actually non-Jews for that matter) to serve in all government positions. I think that if he could give a heter to a body that is practically a kingship for all intents and purposes according to his shitta, there's room to extend it.

And since a whole lot of other poskim must somehow have found a way to legitimize the government of Israel and its egalitarianism or permit women and converts to serve as ministers, or vote for them for positions in the government, even though we didn't actually read their psakim, presumably just about any rationale that they're going to use would apply at least equally to a shul. I didn't read anything making that leap, but I don't see why it shouldn't be possible if people want.

December 12, 2007 2:26 PM  

Post a Comment

<< Home