Welcome to Times Will Tell, the weekly podcast from The Times of Israel.
The holiday of Shavuot, or the Feast of Weeks, is here and one of the major themes surrounding this day that marks the giving of the Torah on Mt. Sinai is conversion, which is linked to the reading of the Book of Ruth on this festive day.
So this week we’re speaking with Seth Farber, an American-Israeli rabbi and social activist who is a leading expert on conversion. Among other points, we discuss the history of conversion throughout the Diaspora and how it went awry in the Jewish state.
Farber was ordained by Yeshiva University and after moving to Israel, he earned a PhD in Jewish History from Hebrew University. In 2002, Farber founded the organization ITIM, which helps up to 5,000 people a year navigate the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in vital life cycle events.
According to Farber, ITIM works to build a Jewish and democratic Israel in which all Jews can lead full Jewish lives — including the increasing numbers of Jews who are not recognized as such by the State of Israel.
Farber is also a founder of Giyur K’Halacha, Israel’s largest non-governmental, Orthodox conversion program, which we’ll hear all about.