Minutes of the first meeting of the Beth Din Working Party held at the New London Synagogue on Monday, 14th July 1975.
Present: Rabbis Henry Goldstein, Louis Jacobs, Michael Leigh, Marcel Marcus, Dow Marmur and Michael Standfield.
The Group decided to work on the basis of the hypothesis that a joint Beth Din (as an alternative to Adler House) would be established. In time we would produce a document to be ratified by the organisations and congregations who might be interested to participate. The broadest possible basis for participation would be sought. As a preliminary to the final report draft minutes would be circulated to all participants for their approval.
- Acceptance of Converts
a) Each candidate would be recommended by the sponsoring rabbi along the lines of present RSGB practice.
b) Each candidate would be examined by an Examination Board, functioning as the present RSGB Beth Din. (This is not Halachic but recognised as a desirable standard).
c) After the successful examination the candidate will be recommended to have Tevilah (and Milan where appropriate). After Tevilah there will be a formal acceptance ceremony at which a suitable document—stating that Tevilah has taken place—will be issued. It may be necessary to build a Mikveh of our own, but in the meantime that one in Brighton may be used. (This is the Halachic part of the ceremony).
d) Children should be accepted with their mother—as in the present RSGB practice—but each child has to have Tevilah.
e) In the case of male converts (children or adults) who are already circumcised, “re-circumcission” will not be required, unless the candidate wishes it.
f) Converts accepted by a Beth Din that does not require Tevilah need not submit themselves to Tevilah unless they so wish. Their children, however, who wish to marry in the Synagogues subscribing to the Beth Din will be required to have Tevilah and the final ceremony that follows. (See 2c).
g) If the mother is Jewish but the child has had no religious upbringing, the Beth Din (at the recommendation of the sponsoring rabbi) may demand an examination (see 2b) but not Tevilah.
h) If the father is Jewish and the child has had a Jewish education, the Beth Din will demand Tevilah (2c) but not an examination (2b).
i) When babies are accepted for adoption, Tevilah will be demanded. This can be easily arranged and it may be better to do it when the baby is very young.
j) The importance of Kiddushin is to be stressed. With this in mind the sponsoring rabbi would be advised to hurry up the tuition rather than allow the couple to marry in a registry office before conversion.
k) Personal observance on the part of converts should be stressed, but it must be left to their conscience. It is questionable whether we should demand more of them than of other congregants.
The next meeting was fixed for Monday, 1st September at 10 a.m. at the New London Synagogue.