In a previous post I wrote about establishing guidelines for the conversion process even though everybody is different. I am not very familiar with how the process works in the US (I’m in Europe), but apparently they want to introduce a person (ombudsman) that female conversion candidates can come to with their problems and concerns. I think this is a good thing and should be copied by other organizations.
Sexually inappropriate actions or exploitation is not the only problem during the conversion process. Many other things can have a negative impact on a candidate’s wellbeing. Just having some other person to talk to that is familiar with the conversion process and can give a different perspective might be equally important for some situations. Crazy Jewish Convert gives the following example:
If a person is in the conversion process for more than 3 years, we need a second opinion, and the ombudsman can alert the RCA to that need. Is it a personal problem with a rabbi in the process? Is there a disagreement over what standard the candidate should be held to in an area of halacha? Is this a family and the family members should be converted as they become ready (like the celebrated The Mountain Family)? Should the candidate be cut loose? What on earth is going on there?? Obviously something is up and needs to be reassessed. And if the candidate is just taking a long time (for whatever reason: whether health, family, financial, education, housing situation, etc), at least we will have an outside verification that the system is working like it should and that both sides understand what the delay is. Rabbis are funny about assuming that the conversion candidate knows what the problem is. The rabbi may have even said it, but it got lost in an emotional conversation or was said off-hand. Let’s make sure everyone is on the same page.
(Crazy Jewish Convert: The RCA Conversion Ombudsman Shouldn’t Just Be for Women)
It is common that a company or institution (university, etc) have some person responsible for handling complaints about equal opportunity issues (discrimination, harrasment, etc). So why not here, when this decision is so life-changing and has so much emotion attached.