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Virtual Talmud


Orthodox Coercion Hurts Our People

posted by Virtual Talmud

Kol ha kavod to Rabbi Stern on drawing the line between the coercive power of the Israeli Rabbinate and their encroachment on the American Orthodox Rabbinate’s authority over American conversions. However, I wonder if Rabbi Stern would be willing to go so far as to defend the right of those who receive non-Orthodox conversions here in America? Under Israeli law, such converts have the Right of Return, but are not recognized as Jews for religious or personal status purposes, like weddings or burials. Such policies are just the tip of the iceberg on a long list of ways that the Orthodox Rabbinate in Israel has alienated average Israelis so that they generally have a very negative attitude about our tradition and Jewish observance. While there are individual Orthodox rabbis in Israel who do not fit this mold, most do. As such, the Orthodox Rabbinate in Israel is perhaps the greatest threat to Israel’s future as a Jewish State.

My converts observe kashrut, celebrate the Sabbath, learn to read Hebrew and pray. Some have become regular Torah readers in our congregation. They, like the Biblical Ruth, have embraced our God and our people and made a commitment to live their lives through the mitzvot. Yet, it is not only the Orthodox in Israel who will reject them, but much of the Orthodox Rabbinate here as well.

We have more than enough challenges facing the Jewish community than to have to fight over turf and boundaries. It is high time that the Orthodox Rabbinate here and in Israel agree to serve on joint batei din (religious courts) with their non-Orthodox colleagues to train and welcome converts. This model has served a limited number of communities well and had been offered as a compromise by the Conservative (Masorti) Movement in Israel in its efforts to come to some arrangement with the Israeli government and Rabbinate.

Ruth becomes the progenitor of King David, and thus the future messiah, perhaps as a reminder to us all to do all we can to be welcoming to those who want to join our people and embrace our laws.

Read the Full Debate: Conversion, Choice, & Shavuot’s Message



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senlin

posted May 23, 2007 at 12:42 am


Yay!! It would be great if this board became a model of interdenominational cooperation and progress. I definitely agree that there are too many divisions between Jews, and the sad part is (in my view) that the majority of people (both Jewish and non) are primarily a product of their culture and family. Most Jews aren’t Conservative or Orthodox or whatever out of principle, but because that’s how they were raised. I think this makes it even more important for us to respect where other people are coming from and to work together with those of other backgrounds.



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David

posted May 23, 2007 at 5:25 pm


1/ It think its Iran and Hezbollah that are the greatest threats to Israel remaining a Jewish state, but that’s just me (and the real world) 2/ Inviting a non-Orthodox rabbi to serve on a beit din would be like inviting a dentist to serve in an operating room. Sure the dentist know more than a layperson about medicine, and is a professional in his/her own right, but you wouldn’t want to be operated on by one now would you? 3/ I agree that turf battles are pointless. That’s why reform and conservative rabbis should just stick with their own shrinking congregations and let the Orthodox rabbis handle the duties relating to their fast growing ones.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted May 23, 2007 at 7:16 pm


David, Your third comment is very biased, and quite insulting to those of us who have chosen not to be “Orthodox”–which is a Westernized concept, not Biblical. Are you familar when the label “Orthodox” was first used? I have a sickening feeling from the smell of the kavana expressed in your comments. Unity will not come through “I am better than you” or “we have growth and you don’t”. I despise when any one of the movements begin to express terms such as this–it is against our Torah! A Jew is a Jew is a Jew. And G-d forbide if such religious insitutionalized demands were placed on Ruth when she converted. After all, she expressed the desire to convert to another woman–not a Rabbi! Her mother-in-law accepted her; not an Orthodox community. Oh, how taboo is that! But, that is what Torah shows. And what of the line of David? Oi Gevalt! Let us not forget to those in the world who despise us, the don’t care what we call ourselves–we are all Jews. Shalom and Gut Yontiff, from a Reform Jew-by-Choice {to you, I suppose} but I gave my heart to God and Israel, Geulah bat Avraham Avinu V’ Sarah Imenu May we all have strength to always hear and obey–not in religiousity but with sincere kavana.



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lauramushkat

posted May 23, 2007 at 9:12 pm


This is a real problem only when one is asked the “truth” of their history and knows it. An example would be if generations after a child who was Jewish thru a father and a non-Jewish mother, and was accepted as this in a Reform temple married a Jew who did not know or care about this. The children would be considered Jewish by everyone who did not know their heritage and eventually it might not even come up. You would have a Jew who no one would think to question or who would think to question their own heritage if they did not know about the non-Jew way back in their family. Since most people do not know about their families more then a few generations back there may be many like this arround today. This did not even have to occur with a Reform Jew way back but even before Reform just a hook-up between a Jewish male and non-Jewish female that nobody knows about that resulted in children brought up Jewish. I believe this is truly what has occured as our people traveled the world. Hopefully the majority of Jews will not keep this a problem but eventually be able to fix it. Laura



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Al Eastman

posted May 24, 2007 at 12:26 am


The Religous (self-)Right(ous), no matter if they are Islamic, Christian, Hindu, Jewish or what have you has no place in ANY government. That is to say a political party of strictly the Religous (self-)Right(ous). Israel faces destruction from within, thanks to the erroneous recognition of religious parties, and their voice in government. The Hitlers of the world could care less how a Jew worships, or doesn’t. As long as a person is a Jew, he is a target for hatred and exterminiation. I wager that the Iranian president is laughing his tuchas off at how we fight among ourselves. To the israelis all I can say is that it is time to change your constitution (or its equivalent) and separate Synnagogue and State. Fail to do that and the Muslims can watch you disintegrate without their losing any more lives.



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jethro

posted May 24, 2007 at 2:29 am


David Your triumphalism aside, the fastest growing segment of Judaism is the unaffiliated. Arrogance coupled with a rigid adherence to halakha will not welcome unaffiliated Jews or converts into our shuls.



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Scott R.

posted May 24, 2007 at 10:09 pm


David, I see your attitude more among the Orthodox than any group of Jew. Frankly, it isn’t making Orthodoxy so appealing.



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David

posted May 25, 2007 at 2:56 am


1/ A reform Jew-by-choice? Reminds me (as I’ve said) of the Simpson’s episode where Bart asks Apu if a secret passageway behind the non-alcoholic beer freezer damages the product. Apu responds that the subject has never come up. Anybody know the biggest brewer of non-alcoholic beer? 2/ Are the unaffiliated the fastest growing segment of Judaism? Do the unaffiliated regularly have more than 10 offspring per woman? 3/ Before the reform movement began every Jew was Orthodox. With the first coming of the reform some name had to be given everyone else. Somebody came up with ‘Orthodox’ 4/ The Orthodox accept converts as they did Ruth. I believe Ruth was around before Moses Mendelssohn. 5/ The US Constitution bars any religious test for office so fundies of any religion can be part of any US government. 6/ Am I making Orthodoxy more ‘attractive’. Dunno. Duncare. Fecundity is making the Orthodox more numerous. 7/ Unity will come when the last reform /conservative/reconstructionist/renewal/whatever pitches headfirst into his last early bird potato salad at Wolfies on Collins. Given their deathbed demographics should be within the next century. The reform and conservatives don’t realise that having 1 or 2 designer babies in their forties will lead them to just such a finale.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted May 25, 2007 at 4:27 am


How many Orthodox live in poverty? US? Israel? As a result of poverty, people generally have more children {socialogy}. A population having more children doesn’t always mean that the children will remain within the culture of their parents. Everyone should find these reports interesting: http://www.ujc.org/page.html?ArticleID=108513 Shalom.



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Scott R.

posted May 25, 2007 at 4:39 am


Unity will come when the last reform /conservative/reconstructionist/renewal/whatever pitches headfirst into his last early bird potato salad at Wolfies on Collins. Wow. Wow. That’s something Hitler would say. There’s joy behind those words.



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Scott R.

posted May 25, 2007 at 4:44 am


Orthodoxy will never get much beyond the 10% it’s at in this country. People want what this country offers, and that’s the American Dream. For better or worse, most everyone wants a part of it. Sure, there are the enclaves in Brooklyn and Monsey and Lakehurst. But the kids can see out just like everyone else can see in. And when the kids see what the outside world has to offer, they aren’t going to stay. The internet will get in. The cell phones will get in. IPODs will get in. The New York Jewish Week just had a fascinating article two weeks ago about how all these Chabadnik-teens had dropped out of the lifestyle, and how some rabbis were doing whatthye could to keep them attached – even if they had dropped most of the trappings of Orthodoxy. They valued them as Jews, not as bolsters for frum numbers. Have 10 children. We can check back in 20 years to see how many you keep. If you can’t find them, check with the rest of us. We’ll be happy to give them a home.



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David

posted May 25, 2007 at 5:19 pm


1/ 10% as the upper limit of Orthodoxy? Check the link at http://www.ujc.org above. 34% of synagogue attending young Jewish adults are Orthodox. 2/ Something Hitler would have written? Actually closer to Voltaire’s comment about kings and bishops. Again check the link above. The Reform, etc are extremely old and the Orthodox extremely young. For example, nearly half of all Conservative Jews are 55 or older. No figurative language there. Does that make you feel better? 3/ Yes the Orthodox are losing more people to other branches than any other branch. But they have a much lower intermarriage rate. So when an Orthodox leaves Orthodoxy he/she generally stays Jewish. When a reform, etc leaves reform, etc they generally leave Judaism completely. Effictively becoming reform, etc is the Orthodox way of intermarrying. 4/ Are the Orthodox poorer. Probably. However the study above gives hints that that may not be true. It shows that only 30% of low income Jews are synagogue members. Also poverty among Jews is heavily concentrated among the elderly, an area where the Orthodox are underrepresented.



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lauramushkat

posted May 25, 2007 at 7:40 pm


I disagree with David on a lot of things. I do not agree that a majority of Orthodox Jews could possibly be poorer. Many are glatt kosher and would never be able to afford to be with many children if they were poor. Hae you been to their homes? While some are livig poor many have kitchens that a restaurant would be proud of. Special dishwashers that can do both meat and dairy-or even 2 just to name 1 thing! You may think they are poor because after they spend all the money they need to because how they practice their religon may leave them with little that they throw arround. Suggestion: go to a FAO Schwartz where there is a good population of Orthodox or ultra- Orthodox. You will see people dressed in ways that you know they are Orthodox large famlies. The kids get stuff you would expect someone like Trump would get for his children! Yes I know of Orthodox who keep kosher by eatting like veggens so they have enough but they are most likely not in the majority. Lara



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted May 25, 2007 at 7:45 pm


I know some who were raised Reform who prefer to meet with Chabad. So, much for your stereotyping, David. Oi! What chutzpah!



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Scott R.

posted May 25, 2007 at 7:47 pm


Your link doesn’t link to anything but a front page. Show me the statistics. Reform is young and growing. We have 360 members in our shul. 1/3 of them are in Hebrew school.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted May 25, 2007 at 7:48 pm


Laura, I’ve read quite a number of reports on poverty among Orthodox. I suppose it depends on what type of Orthodox community? I suppose we could discuss this. But, I find it more productive to just do what we can to help our brothers and sisters who are facing these conditions regardless of what movement they are associated with. ;) Poverty and anti-Semitism doesn’t discriminate in regard to Orthodox to Renewal. Why should we discriminate among ourselves? Shalom.



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Scott R.

posted May 25, 2007 at 7:49 pm


I still can’t get over the apparent joy that David took at the thought of us dying off. K’lal Y’Israel – yeah right. 2 people, 2 religions



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ANP

posted May 25, 2007 at 8:19 pm


I just have to say that as a woman who is not Jewish and who was not raised in any faith (Buddhist mother, Methodist-turned-agnostic-turned-atheist father) but considers herself a seeker and is open to converting to Judaism, I find all of this discussion very fascinating and interesting. Thank you to everyone who has posted comments to this lively discussion.



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David

posted May 27, 2007 at 3:09 am


1/ Here’s the full link: http://www.ujc.org/page.htm?ArticleID=108513 Just scroll down to ‘Religious denominations’ Some quotes: “Among younger Jewish adults who are synagogue members, Orthodoxy is capturing a growing market share” “More than half of all Orthodox adults are age 44 or younger” “There are slightly more middle aged Reform adults and fewer young adults relative to all US Jews” Some comparative data: Total Orthodox 39% children Total Reform 23% children Now I want to be fair so I’ve included a link to a fast growing reform congregation: http://www.home.earthlink.net/~tbsaz/body_index.html I don’t know what percentage of that congregation are in Hebrew school. 2/ Everyone is ‘dying off’. No ‘joy’, no angst. But some of us are leaving kids and some are not. 3/ I hope lots of reform do more than ‘meet’ with Chabad-I hope they go all the way to bal tshuvah.



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HASH(0x214c138c)

posted May 27, 2007 at 8:27 pm


David, My Rabbi shared with us at Torah study yesterday a commentary by the Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. The commentary dealt with the reasons why we don’t count ourselves. {We as in Jews.} The commentary is not on this rabbi’s website yet. But, here is the link: http://www.chiefrabbi.org/tt-index.html David, perhaps you forgot what happened when another David {King David} wanted to count all of the Israelites? Surely Naso was read in your congregation this past Shabbat??? Shalom.



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Ephraim

posted May 27, 2007 at 11:53 pm


I love all Jews



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted May 28, 2007 at 5:13 am


Anonymous? Oi! How’d that happen! The post on 5/27 at 2:32 PM was done by me.



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Myra

posted May 28, 2007 at 4:39 pm


The core issue at hand here comes back to “who is a Jew” and “who gets to decide who is Jewish”…sounds sort of “pope-ish” to me. We attach labels to movements to understand, in broad terms, the general practice within a cluster of people. Does that label make someone “more Jewish”, less Jewish or ???? And who is to decide? And if an “unaffiliated” Jew (meaning that someone is Jewish but does not attach a label to his/her practice/beliefs) has children, then who decides “how Jewish is Jewish”. Can we Jews, an international community, afford to exclude anyone who declares him/herself to be Jewish? As we worry about shrinking populations, assimilation and intermarriage, i would think that we need to accept EVERYONE, regardless of labels. Moreover, can Israel afford to “reject” a Jew whose pedigree does not meet some standard of “purity” or righteousness? If that were so, then many of us would be of questionable lineage….



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Dave

posted May 28, 2007 at 9:37 pm


1/ I wasn’t counting. Just analysing results. 2/ A Jew is someone born of a Jewish woman , or who was properly converted. 3/ Who’s worrying about a shrinking Jewish population? Not me. And with intermarriage and asimilation that Jewish population is going to be increasingly Orthodox. If the non-Orthodox want to stop reducing their populations, go ahead.



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senlin

posted May 30, 2007 at 5:07 am


Can we ignore David/Dave already? I’m as supportive as the next Jew of tolerance toward people willing to go through life with blinders on, but… I’d also like to think truth, kindness, God, etc., prevails. A great quote from a rabbi: “There is only one kind of Judaism: Orthodox. There is only kind of Jew: Reform.” As a woman in my shul noted recently, the Jewish community has a great tradition of following majority opinion while respecting — not destroying — the minority. Some segments of the Orthodox community are now on the brink of going against this great tradition. I think it’s important for everyone who values multiple voices, especially the many varied voices of converts, to respond to divisiveness and narrow-mindedness with, “This is not ‘halakha.’ This is not the way.”



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David

posted June 1, 2007 at 12:44 am


So let me see. People should ignore me because it is wrong not to respect minority opinion. Hmmm… But it doesn’t matter whether you read what I write 100 times or zero times. If what I say is true, what I say will happen, will happen.



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Grethel Jane Rickman

posted June 1, 2007 at 1:11 am


David, pay special attention to the word you used in your response: IF! Shalom



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Dave

posted June 1, 2007 at 6:59 pm


I withdraw the ‘if’.



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Rick Abrams

posted June 3, 2007 at 8:30 pm


When I look at the underlying thought patterns of the right wing Orthodox, I see a group who has adopted a very christianized world view. I call it Exclusivistic. Many Christians believe that only Faith in Jesus as their Lord and Savior results in Salvation. (They are not even aware that millions of people don’t think salvation is necessary or desireable.) The problem with the mind set that believes it alone knows the Truth is that everyone else is a Sinner. Who can promote sin? How can we allow Sin to exist? Let’s reinstitute the Inquistion or the Ovens to keep our race pure. That’s the logical thought pattern which we have seen through history by groups who deluded themselves into thinking that they have a lock on the Truth. A group who thinks it alone possesses the Truth can turn its children in suicide bombers. The right wing Orthodox are becoming more Exclusivistic — deluding themselves into beleiving that only they know the right way for Jews to be Jews. Everyone’s ideas are wrong and should be excluded from Jewish life. This underlying assumption results in dangerous consequences, e.g. Baruch Goldstein and Yigal Amir. The right wing Orthodox have more in common with the right wing Christians like James Dobson and his anti-Gay obessession than they do with Reform or secular Jews. We Jews are a People and not a narrow minded religious sect living with the deluded belief that only we know the Truth. Although we are not flying plans into The World Trade Towers, we should realize that the same exclusivistic thought pattern which led to prejudice and hatred in the Christian and Muslim worlds also exists in the Jewish world.



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