London Beth Din
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The London Beth Din (LBD) is the Ashkenazi Beth Din of the United Synagogue, the largest Ashkenazi synagogal body in London, England. In its capacity as Court of the Chief Rabbi, it is historically the supreme halakhic Authority for Ashkenazim in several Commonwealth countries and additionally is consulted by Batei Din throughout Europe.
The LBD are known for having a conversion program that is often called the 'gold standard' although this program is overly stringent according to the Halacha and often causes problems for the converts.
The program is supposed to take 2-3 years although at times it does take longer. The Beth Din processes about 35 converts per annum from around the UK, with other Beth Dins (such as Manchester sending their converts to LBD for final approval). The process involves private tutoring from an approved list of teachers, and a six month period where the candidate is expected to board with an approved family. The candidate is expected to pay for this. They are also expected to live within walking distance of an Orthodox Jewish community.
In spite of the fact that cancelling conversions is historically unprecedented, the LBD have been willing to do this with alarming regularity. They have brought into question conversions performed by the Chief Rabbinate in Israel, and we active in deciding to cancel the Orthodox conversion of over a dozen Australians. This was following a ruling by the Rabbinate that they could cancel any conversion from around the world at any time. Within the rabbinic community there was also a call for Jews to no longer accept any converts, although this was eventually rejected by the Beth Din.
The excessive stringency means the Beth Din has been called out for "unprecedented intransigence and inhumane treatment of candidates" and "standards that are unprecedented historically, halachically dubious and which increasingly tend to exclude any convert who is not willing to take on a strictly Orthodox lifestyle"
The highly centralised Orthodox community in London means that not going through them for a conversion could harm a family, such as not being permitted to attend a Jewish school, or be buried in a Jewish cemetery.
There is an alternative pathway to conversion in London through the Spanish and Portuguese community, and others such as Chuck Davidson who is willing to travel internationally to perform Orthodox conversions.
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