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This is probably something that happened many times after World War II, when documentation was lost.

Here's the scenario:

A rabbi, who had led a kehila (congregation) in a small town in Slovakia, emigrates post-World-War-II to the USA, but when he arrives in New York, he has no proof of his smicha (rabbinical ordination).

A few people in New York knew him before, in Europe, and are willing to testify that they know him to have had smicha, and that he was the rav of their kehilla.


  • To what board/court/Bet Din would they have gone?
  • Is there anywhere now to go back and find out who the witnesses were?
  • Did the court/Bet Din issue him another sort of document in lieu of the original?
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The main point of Smicha is to prove that you know Halacha. Many famous poskim (who didn't work as official city Rabbonim) didn't have Smicha until needed (by government etc.) Therefore, if one is knowledgeable enough to pasken, he should be able to pass a rudimentary Smicha test. If he doesn't, he can't pasken even if he has Smicha.

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related: judaism.stackexchange.com/a/7494/759 – Double AA Mar 23 '12 at 2:28
@Madeleine also don't forget that there is no such thing as a "standardized smicha test". Most tests are oral and subjective. Therefore, if I will come and say that I am the Yehupetzviller Ilui (genius) and don't know basic Shulchan Aruch, no one will believe that I am who I claim to be. If, on the other hand, I know what I'm doing (and know it well), they won't care that I didn't receive my paper as I can get a new one now. – Shmuel Brin Mar 23 '12 at 5:28

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