Top religious court rules against US Rabbi Lookstein conversion
Israeli Rabbinic Court finalizes decision against private conversion performed by Ivanka Trump's rabbi.
Israel's Supreme Rabbinical Court ruled on Wednesday that the conversions performed on his own by Rabbi Haskel Lookstein, a prominent modern Orthodox rabbi from Manhattan, will not be recognized.
The ruling by the country's highest officially recognized religious court upheld a decision made last week by the Petah Tikva District Rabbinical Court, which held that conversions performed privately by Rabbi Lookstein were not to be recognized in Israel.
The initial ruling in the case drew the ire of national religious rabbinical figures in Israel, as well as many within the American Jewish community.
Beit Hillel, a liberal modern Orthodox organization in Israel, condemned the district court's ruling, saying it ignored Rabbi Lookstein's sterling reputation within the American Orthodox community.
"We are very disappointed with the decision not to recognize the Jewishness of a woman who was converted by one of the most distinguished Orthodox Rabbis in the US, Rabbi Haskel Lookstein. Rabbi Lookstein is a Torah scholar who served of decades as the Rabbi of the Jeshurun community of New York, and headed the Ramaz school-one of the most reputable religious-Zionist schools in the Diaspora-for many years," the Beit Hillel statement said.
The Supreme Rabbinical Court's ruling effectively sets legal precedent for the Israeli Rabbinate, though both of Israel's Chief Rabbis called upon the court to recognize conversions performed by Rabbi Lookstein.
Rabbi Lookstein is a member of the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the umbrella organization of non-haredi Orthodox rabbis. The RCA has an agreement with the Israeli Rabbinate that all conversions performed by the RCA's Geirut (conversion) Policies and Standards program (GPS) are accepted by the Israeli Rabbinate.
GPS is comprised of a select group of rabbinical courts in the US and Canada, personally approved by the Israeli Rabbinate and the RCA's poskim (halakhic decisors), Rav Schachter, Rav Willig and Rav Schwartz. GPS does not include Rabbi Lookstein, as it does not include most RCA members, as they are not dayanim (rabbinic court judges) and have not been vetted for conversion standards.
Rabbi Lookstein did not send the new convert to GPS, instead performing a personal conversion, which is not necessarily recognized by the Israeli Conversion Court.
Despite misleading reports that this invalidates the conversion of presidential candidate Donald Trump's daughter Ivanka Trump who converted under Rabbi Lookstein's supervision and mentoring, that is not the case as the rabbi sent her to a GPS Rabbinical Court and she did have a GPS conversion.
During the hearing, one judge said little explanation was given regarding the nature of the private conversions performed by Rabbi Lookstein.
"I don't know what are the nature of Rabbi Lookstein's [private] conversions; the [letters of] approval of the Chief Rabbis are not enough, because there is no list of approved rabbis and there is no clear explanation [of what took place]. Every conversion needs to go through a Rabbinical Court.