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Say a convert is called to be one of the three witnesses for a person's conversion. May he do so? The reason why I am asking is that I know there are restrictions on gerim for serving on a beit din, mostly on matters when the person of question being approached by the beit din is a born Yisraeli, so I would like clarification and opinions brought forward arguing for either case.

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Thank you DoubleAA for commenting with the relevant essay, I'll just summarize.

To sum up Rabbi Michael Broyde's excellent essay:

R' Shlomo Kluger, R' Akiva Eiger -- no, according to the majority medieval opinion that a convert can't financially judge a born-Jew.

Rav Elyashiv, R' Hershel Schachter -- no, according to all medieval authorities, as a convert can't supervise a chalitza.

R' Gedalya Felder, Bet Mordechai and others -- yes according to all medieval authorities, as it's like judging a non-Jew.


(The Conservative movement allows it outright, and Rabbi Broyde has serious concerns with their logic.)

Rabbi Broyde's personal opinion, working from the above dispute, is that we (generally) shouldn't advise someone to get a conversion that will be invalidated by many significant opinions. Therefore, a convert shouldn't usually serve on a gerut bet din.

If, however, someone did already convert using a panel containing a convert, Rabbi Broyde would rely on the lenient opinions and consider the person Jewish.

There are, unsurprisingly, other Orthodox rabbis who will conclude "totally yes!" or "totally no!", depending on which reading they follow.

  • I am curious, what was the opinion of earlier/ancient authorities? – JJLL Jun 7 '15 at 1:49
  • @JJLL the earliest sources we have directly addressing this question is in the 1700s. The question is what older precedent to apply. – Shalom Jun 7 '15 at 1:59
  • Thank you for the clarification Shalom. When you referred to "medieval" I assumed you meant the fifth to 15th centuries. Am I understanding this correctly? The issue of a ger serving on a Bet Din for gerut was never addressed until the 18th century and if it was, the 18th century decisors did not cite sources? – JJLL Jun 7 '15 at 13:54
  • @JJLL the Talmud (~500) says a convert may not be on a chalitza panel, may judge non-Jews, and may not judge capital cases involving born-Jews. The medieval debate (~1100) was whether a convert may financially judge a born-Jew. Then in the 18th century, decisors addressed the conversion-panel question and felt different precedents were accurate: is it like chalitza, therefore no; is it like judging a non-Jew, therefore yes; or is it like financially judging a born-Jew, which makes it a medieval debate where we generally conclude no. – Shalom Jun 7 '15 at 16:47
  • Thank you Shalom for your very thorough and informative response. – JJLL Jun 7 '15 at 19:52

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