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Sacks still says no

by: SJ Reporter - Last updated: 2005-07-06

Sir Jonathan Sacks

Sir Jonathan Sacks

British Chief Rabbi Sir Jonathan Sacks could find himself in an English court for his failure to recognise an orthodox conversion to Judaism that took place in Israel.

The ongoing matter between the Chief Rabbi, his office and Helen Sagal in which her son Guy has been refused a place a the Jews' Free School has been taken up by Professor Geoffrey Alderman.
 
Despite a meeting with Sir Jonathan, the British Chief Rabbi is sticking by his court's decision to refuse to recognise Mrs Segal's conversion and therefore does not consider her son, Guy to be Jewish.
 
In a statement, Professor Alderman said:

“On Tuesday evening, 05 July 2005 I accompanied Mrs Helen Sagal and her husband, Israeli-born Mr Raoul Sagal, to a meeting with the Chief Rabbi, Sir Jonathan Sacks. The Chief Rabbi was accompanied by one of his Dayanim [Judges], Rabbi Ivan Binstock, and the Executive Director of his Office, Mrs Syma Weinberg.  The meeting, which had been requested by the Chief Rabbi, took place in Mrs Weinberg’s private residence, and lasted approximately 90 minutes. 
 
At the meeting Sir Jonathan made a statement intended to justify the view that he and his Beth Din [Ecclesiastical Court] had taken, that the validity of Mrs Sagal’s conversion effected in Israel could not be accepted.  He offered to personally oversee a fresh conversion process involving Mrs Sagal, her two sons and her as yet unborn child (whose birth is imminent), with the aim of establishing Mrs Sagal’s Jewish status “beyond doubt.”
 
Sir Jonathan acknowledged that his Office had authorised the ritual circumcision of Mr and Mrs Sagal’s elder son, Guy, without bothering to inquire into the circumstances of Mrs Sagal’s conversion.
 
The Chief Rabbi admitted that there had been serious deficiencies in the way his Office had handled the Sagal case, for which he apologised, and announced that one of his officials had been formally reprimanded. I welcomed this admission and offered my services, free, to put in place fresh administrative procedures that would ensure that the requirements of natural justice and English law were complied with in future such cases.
 
As to the matter of substance, I pointed out that irrespective of any view the Chief Rabbi personally might hold of the manner in which Mrs Sagal’s conversion had been effected in Israel, the fact was that that conversion had not been revoked. I asked for an undertaking that if Mrs Sagal were to agree to a re-conversion in England, the Chief Rabbi would meanwhile give his certification to the Jews’ Free School for the purpose of permitting her elder son, Guy, to enter this school in September.  I regret that this undertaking was not forthcoming.
 
Mr Sagal and I both observed that the evident effect of the decision not to recognise, in England, Mrs Sagal’s conversion in Israel must be to call into question hundreds - perhaps thousands - of Israeli conversions and to cause anguish to many Israel families.
 
Whilst I am grateful - and said so - for the ongoing personal involvement of the Chief Rabbi in this case, I am very disappointed with the outcome thus far.  We are in fact no further forward now than we were six months ago.  I have therefore advised Mr and Mrs Sagal to seek immediate redress in the English courts."