“Let me introduce you to the other members of my gang…”

The New York Post and other newspapers around the country (e.g., The Forward and numerous other Jewish papers) printed a sordid story about a prominent Orthodox rabbi, who plays a major role in approving Orthodox conversions. Evidently this rabbi was caught on tape expressing his infatuation toward a “shiksa” he was converting to Judaism.

That part really didn’t surprise me very much. Many rabbis across denominational lines have oftentimes fallen in love with a gentile woman studying for conversion. It’s been going on since the days of Ruth and Boaz. But this case is different. The rabbi involved, allegedly encouraged her to have sex with his Orthodox friends.

Wait a minute–this part does not sound like Ruth and Boaz at all!

The young woman said that Rabbi Leib Tropper of Rockland County used to tell her, “If you fulfill my needs, I’ll fulfill yours – and you need a conversion.”

Some of you may wonder: Who is this guy?

In American and Haredi circles, Tropper is the vanguard for American Haredism and founder of the “Eternal Jewish Family,” until now, has put tremendous pressure on Modern Orthodox rabbis to accept only converts who adopt a Charedi lifestyle as viable candidates.

Not long ago, Rabbi Tropper even nullified a conversion he himself had carried out because the female convert was seen wearing trousers (It is ironic that Tropper had no difficulty for  allegedly offering Ms Orand a conversion for removing hers). Another EJF leader declared in 2007 that any rabbi who believes the world is older than 5,768 years is ineligible to sit on a conversion court. Rabbi Nate Slivkin was totally disenfranchised, tarred and feathered by Tropper and his organization.

Their biggest success came in 2006, when the Israeli rabbinate declared it would not recognize Orthodox conversions carried out in America, except by a tiny group of mostly Haredi rabbis. This was seen as a deliberate (and successful) attempt, spurred on by EJF, to disenfranchise Modern Orthodox rabbis.

Now back to our story…

Tropper encouraged pretty, blond Shannon Orand of Houston to participate in phone sex and actual sex with men the rabbi knows, including one he calls “the Satmar guy.” Based on the alleged charges, Rabbi Tropper could be heard discussing  the possibility of her sleeping with other men and to perform phone sex with them. One tape appears to capture phone sex between Tropper and the woman. Another purports to show the aftermath of a sexual encounter between this woman, Tropper and Tropper’s wife.

Why did such a thing happen? Rabbi Tropper was once considered the darling of the Haredi world; here is a man who possess seven (or possibly four–according to one of his students I personally know) ordinations (I myself only have two), and was considered to be to be a “gaon,” a “Talmudic genius,” by some.

Haredim would be wise to remember that no Jewish court–regardless how Orthodox it purports to be–can “make” a person Jewish. As the scholar Adin Steinzaltz writes, every conversion is something that occurs within the heart of the conversion candidate. All the rabbinical tribunal can do is merely attest that this process has taken place. Tragically, the “Who is a Jew?” issue, largely promoted by the late Lubavitcher Rebbe,” is responsible for creating the kind of divisiveness that is destroying the lives of not only Conservative or Reform “Jews by choice,” but even the lives of Orthodox converts. No rabbi has the right to use his power to retroactively negate a conversion of any candidate. This flatly contradicts the Halacha itself, and it opens the door for the kind of abuses we see in the Tropper case.

To its credit, the Orthodox RCA has come out with the following press release:

We are deeply appalled, saddened and pained by reports that have reached us concerning alleged inappropriate behavior on the part of the chairman of the rabbinic committee of the Eternal Jewish Family, Rabbi Leib Tropper. We need to wait for more complete information before we can react fully.

Nonetheless, at this time, we would make the following points clear:

1.      What we have heard, if true, violates the fundamental elements of all that Judaism holds sacred.

2.      We urge anyone who might have been victimized to seek appropriate counseling and we, at the Rabbinical Council of America, remain ready to refer anyone who needs such assistance to the appropriate professionals.

In the final analysis, we cannot be “a light unto the nations,” until we first become a light to ourselves.

I would also add that the time has come for Jews everywhere to stop using the pejorative Yiddish term, “shiksa” that describes a non-Jewish woman. Although the term is meant humorously, its derivation indicates the exact opposite. The word “shiksa” is partially derived from the Hebrew term sheketz, which means “abomination”, “impure,” “reptile,” or “object of loathing.” Any sane and moral person ought to ask: How can a beautiful creation of God be an “abomination” to anyone?  This type of cultural stereo-typing of non-Jewish persons diminishes human beings in a manner that is truly contrary to the ethical principles of the Divine Image that each of us is made in. If anyone is truly an “abomination,” it is the individual who flagrantly disparages God’s creations.

Musician Bob Dylan once wrote in one of his popular songs he played with the Traveling Wilburys, “Dirty World Lyrics” which reads, “I can’t wait to introduce you to the other members of my gang . . .” Perhaps Dylan’s words best describes Rabbi Leib Tropper’s unorthodox and loathsome behavior.

Amazingly, Ms. Orand remains as determined as ever to get her Orthodox conversion. We can only marvel at her determination and will-power.