Windows and Doors

Windows and Doors

Who Is A Jew and Who Decides

The Israeli government’s Ministerial Committee on Legislation approved a bill on Sunday, which would protect all people who have converted to Judaism under the auspices of the Chief Rabbi of the Israel Defense Forces and the conversion course which it sponsors. Why this bill should even be necessary and who sponsored it are two of the almost tragic ironies of religious life in the modern Jewish State and the ways in which Diaspora Jews relate to it.
For starters, the bill, which seeks to protect converts from being retroactively drummed out of the Jewish people by either the Chief Rabbi of the State of Israel, or any other rabbinic bodies, was sponsored by David Rotem. Yes, the same David Rotem who sponsored an earlier bill on conversion in general and under who’s authority they could be performed – a bill which also put into question the authenticity of any Jew living in Israel who converted with anyone other than a relatively short list of Orthodox rabbis.
That bill, created a dust up among Jews around the world not seen in almost twenty years. And ironically, I suspect that many of the same people who stormed the barricades of Jewish life in anger over Rotem’s earlier proposal are the same people who will welcome his latest. Why? Because almost none of the conversation about conversion in Israel is about anything more than people wanting to secure their place in a largely bankrupt system.
Instead of addressing the bigger challenges of state-sponsored religion, most Jews simply want to make sure that their kind of Judaism is protected under a system which entangles synagogue and state in ways to which they would object, were it happening anywhere other than in Israel. Watching the seemingly endless cycle of “who is a Jew” debates is like watching people fight to receive a portion of food which will only make them sick when they eat it. Very sad.
And as for Mr. Rotem, one might reasonably ask, how is it that the same person sponsors two bills, one of which appears to fight for inclusiveness and the other which seems to support the exclusive right of only some rabbis to oversee legally recognized conversions? Part of the answer lies in the fact that in each case, Rotem was trying to protect the Jewishness of the Russian-Israelis who are the backbone of his party, Yisrael Beiteinu, and the split he proposed works for most of those people about whom Rotem is most concerned.
The larger answer however, the one which most people would like to avoid, is that even for most of the secular Russian-Israelis who choose to convert, the conversion they want is Orthodox. In fact, most Israelis still prefer to live with a measure of Orthodox domination because even if they experience is as stupid, and often tyrannical, Judaism, they see it as authentic Judaism. Also very sad.
Possible solutions to this situation will be addressed in a subsequent posting. For now, I would simply suggest that nobody is well served when they support a system as long as it protects their own spiritual authenticity but fails to protect that of others, or when people empower others to control their own identities out of a weird combination of nostalgia and lack of self-confidence in their own religious integrity.

  • Jim crawford

    The last sentence in this story isn’t that far from the American exceptionalism and Christian reconstructionism that too many people here are advocating. Just listen to the 2012 Republican candidates and their “religious” supporters.

  • r

    I find this to be sad. There are few enough Jews in this world without some Jews deciding who is “Jewish enough”. Haven’t we had enough trouble with divisions amongst Jews throughout Jewish history without re-creating it in the present? Santanya must be rolloing in his grave–those who are ignorant of the past are condemned to repeat it.
    I also wonder what the Chief Rabbi of the IDF has to do with this issue? Why confer on him the power to judge conversions instead of other rabbis? The whole thing smacks of political control.

  • withyobadself

    a Jew is someone who purposely deny that Jesus and god shared the same spirit…Jesus and god are one but Jesus doesn’t know everything he was forced to search for truth to find answers god wouldn’t help him with…truth is a tempting passasge way to god for everybody

  • kenneth

    Reminds of the time I was “converted” by a decidedly un-Rabbinic authority! A couple years ago at a party, a Frenchman we knew had been drinking pretty heavily and spotted the pentacle ring I wear (Wiccan). He said “oh you are Jewish.” I tried to explain the difference between the five and six pointed star. He was having none of it. “No, if you are Jewish, that’s cool with me.” I did the only thing I could. I thanked him for his tolerance and told him I would see his name remembered in Israel as a righteous man!

  • Marta

    This reminds me of a conversation I recently had on another blog, that happened to be Christian. Someone was asking whether Christians had a special duty to be involved in the American political practice even once the elections were done, and I made the point that they did, but not by supporting one sectarian goal or another. As people who believe in human dignity, we had a religious (as well as civic) duty to treat *all* people with respect, not just those we agreed with.
    I do not know the details of the situation in Israel, beyond what’s mentioned here. But I can’t help thinking that there is a similar theme. I think that people of all religions have a special duty to honor the divine spark in all other humans. Saying that someone’s conversion isn’t “good enough” shies too close to judging that person inappropriately….

  • romanscapegoat

    there is only one reason why someone would convert to being a jew…to be part of the in crowd and receive benefits such as getting better jobs, people realize all the good jobs are controlled by jews…this new bill keeps all wealth and power only to the few…Jess are even greedy to their own people…the CEO of the jesus corporation can only dream of a bill that could keep the wealth and power for themselves…jews should have listened to their messiah before killing him…

  • Gil

    Evidently Roman can’t get over the fact that his Jesus was killed by the same pagan Romans from whom he descends. Jesus was tried in a Roman civil court by pagan Romans. He was tried for treason vs Rome. The charge which Pilot questioned Jesus was: “Are you king of the Jews?” To which Jesus gave an enigmatic answer – to wit – “That’s what you say.” NO DENIAL ON HIS PART. His punishment was CRUCIFIXTION – A PUNISHMENT THAT WAS ONLY GIVEN TO THOSE WHO ATTEMPTED TREASON AND SEDITION; CRUCIFIXTION WAS NEVER – IN THE 500 YEARS OF THE EXISTENCE OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE – METED OUT FOR ANY OTHER OFFENSE VS THE CROWN. As a “good” Catholic Roman does not read his bible – only exerpts which are allowed by his dictatorial priests. For that matter his education in world history is gutter-snipe anti-Semitic crap. It appears that Roman doesn’t have the intellectual development, manual dexterity, educational training, or psychological demeanor to obtain gainful or rewarding positions. What really is disturbing is that he doesn’t attack the Afro-Americans who excel and dominate American professional sports, Asians who excel in I.T., and other religious and racial groups who dominate in their respective chosen professions, avocations, etc. In fact, if we look around, what use to be thought to be a particular skilled occupation is quickly being “overtaken” by new immigrants, who have the skills, intelligence, training, and motivation to “unseat” the old establishment. Of course we will always have “numb nuts” such as Romanscapegoat who sit on the side lines bitching and moaning, and railing vs a particular “scapegoat” singled out by his particular church. In summation Roman – for your gross deficiencies and inadequacies – YOU ARE JEALOUS OF PEOPLE WHO MAKE IT. GET A LIFE. UNFORTUNATELY YOU SUFFER FROM JEW DERANGEMENT SYNDROME. YOUR PARANOID PERSECUTORY SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS ARE BEYOND REMEDIATION.

  • romanscapegoat

    gil…the jews are the chosen people of god…god is not going to pick another group of people just because the Jews turn their backs on god…god will keep punishing the jews…the jews set their messiah up to be killed…pilot begged jesus to stop acting crazy and to stop forcing pilot to have him crucified…pilot even gave the jews a choice to free jesus…the jews chose to free the other guy…jesus ask god to forgive the jews for they know not what they do…the jews knew what they are doing and will and always be punished for turning away from god…

  • Ruth

    We are all Jews. Reform,Conservative,Orthodox, or Humanistic It does not matter. Thatis part of our trouble we do not stick together.

  • Gil

    Roman goat – In older versions of the New Testament – the other man freed by the crowds’ choice was named Jesus bar Abbas – son of the father. He was a Jewish freedom fighter vs the hated Roman occupation. Your “jesus” was captured late at night staying up to celebrate the Passover seder. Remember He came to die to save your worthless soul. The man had a mission – or so you Christians teach. Which is it – die for your worthless hide and sinful soul – or walk around Jerusalem speaking in unintelligable paradigms. Even Peter did not understand his “good master,” which miffed Jesus off; telling Peter – “Get behind me ye devil for ye know not why I have come.” You are full of contradictions, and hatred. So your Jesus did not save mankind – did not remove hatred – split you into warring factions – no “lamb lying down with the lion,” no “loving your brother,” no “swords into ploughshares,” no “spears into pruning hooks.” Jesus was also forsaken by God. “Father in heaven, why have Thou forsaken me.” With all due respect to my Christian believing friends, Jesus’ credentials would not look good on his work resume. The only saving face retort is the old chestnut – “He will come again as a thief in the night.” Well over 2,000 years is a long time to wait – but I give you credit for your perserverence. If the gentleman reappears with the same intended goals of bringing peace – and since I’m not in the armament business, I will welcome him to my Passover celebration. As the ad for HOTEL 6 says- “I’ll keep a light on in the window” for him.

  • Gil

    Typo correction – change paradigms to parables

  • romanscapegoat

    gil jesus is coming to kill…jesus died on the the cross to teach the Hebrews to conquer death you only have to die…jesus told everyone god never left man, just talk to him…the Romans made up alot of lies when they created Christianity…JESUS DID NOT DIE FOR YOUR SINS…god will still have a relationship with people who don’t believe in jesus…gil were are the smart jews at I’m getting bored of you

  • Gil

    Roman goat go graze in the garbage dump – you think and speak the same trash. You are truly one ignorant, miserable fool. Your statements are strictly from hunger – you require a schooling care package. Your statement: “Jesus told everyone God never left man, just talk to him…” Well your Jesus complained: “My God who art in heaven – why have Thou foresaken me.” Certainly doesn’t appear that God hung around Jesus. Every statement you make is groundless and arises from a skewed, empty-headed and ignorant mind. Intellectually you would be a cerebral feather weight, and your “boxing matches” would be flammable and incendiary. Your vile and crass prejudice is lower than whale droppings – and boy that is hitting sandy bottom. We have witnessed your false bible thumping, ranting and raving, pseudo-intellectual Christianizing of passersby in the streets – while the police attempt to cart you away to one of the receiving hospital emergency psychiatric clinics, and then a quick evaluation, and transfer to one of the state psychiatric hospitals. Using the AKA of “scapegoat” and stating in other posts that “you are God” shows a deeply troubled, delusional, grandiose, paranoid individual, in need of help. I am going to borrow a few Christian notions 1- Judge not less ye be judged, 2- Father forgive Roman for he knows not what he does, 3- He who is without sin, let him throw the first stone. I will discontinue playing with, and taunting you. As a paranoid you know how to get under one’s skin. You must have given your family a very hard time. Perhaps with treatment you may be able to join a therapeutic group, or day hospital, where you will learn to cultivate friends, and socialize in an appropriate manner. Go in peace.

  • romanscapegoat

    gil…Jesus meant you don’t have to follow mans rules to have a relationship with god,religion is mans rules…god wouldn’t tell Jesus everything so Jesus was forced to search for truth to get answers…truth Leeds you to god …there is only one truth…and everyone is able to search for truth…yes Jesus cursed god and told god to leave him alone…jesus cried to god that he didn’t want this…gil you are a dumbass…i thought jews were smart

  • tired of the fight

    withyobadself and romanscapegoat both exhibit the signs of true believers; that what they believe is true and to hell with everyone else. Arguing with either of them wastes your blood pressure and your reason. They believe the parts of any scripture they find agrees with them and add common myths as more proof of their cause.
    The sad thing is that someone of equally weak mind will believe them and fall in line.
    May a more benevolent individual keep reminding the world that they have benefited from the existence of the Jews, either by what the Jews have contributed to society, or by killing them and taking what they themselves could not earn fairly.
    Read some history and learn not to repeat the mistakes of the past.

  • romanscapegoat

    tired of the fight…yes thanks to the Jews we have capitalism..socialism is what the Jewish messiah would have wanted

  • Gil

    Roman goat – And who do think the father of socialism/communism was – you guessed it – the Jew – Karl Marx. Another problem with your microcephalic end organ is that you have little capacity to either learn or retain much knowledge – your only rapped up in your Jesus – and that is with much ambivalence – your are torn between a Jewish “Messiah” who [never proclaimed himself one] – and a pantheon of “Holy Family” characters which is straight out of the mythic Roman and Greek polytheistic gods. In fact I truly understand your misconceptions about Jews. You were brought up in a religion that both made a Jewish rabbi into a messiah, and yet you not only pray to this rabbi but equate him, mystically, with being both the son of, as well as God himself. Not satisfied with this – you throw in the concept of the holy spirit. Then you murder him – and then you eat his body and drink his blood every Sunday. Man, talk about primitive confusion. Of course, the more intelligent of your group calls this “symbolic.” You feign to be looking for an intelligent Jew. Don’t beguile yourself. I would have never joined countering your stupidity and anti-Semitic rants – but it is illegitimi non carborundum such as you who PISS ME OFF. I respect all people of all faiths, or non believers, who exhibit respect for others. You are definitely a coelenterate and cur for your heinous remarks. As to “tired of the fight” – if shit heads such as YoYo and Goat are not countered in open forums such as this – there are enough would- be “jack boots” out there with adolescent and addled minds that are willing to “take up their cause” and harrass innocent people. Hate crimes are still part of our culture. Blacks, gays, Asians, etc. Each group has to defend themselves. Thank goodness that the majority of Americans come to the aid of the “underdog.”

  • Sandy

    Gil and Roman Goat: You both should be ashamed of yourselves. Read the book. Jesus/Yeshua stated that I am that I am He did stated that he and the Father are one. Read John 14:5-14. It also says in the Bible that what goes around comes around. So I you showing this hatred to everyone do you think that they love you if you treat them that way. What goes around comes around is in. Also in Romans 2:1-3 Also read I John 4:7-10. You guys have not read the Bible or even know what you are talking about. Read and study it before commenting on this. It is up to you know one else to do this. For what you are saying is making fools of you. So before saying things that you know nothing about read and study first. Sandy

  • Daniel

    Gil— What you said about GOAT was spot-on. To me, I never understood why people who hate a group (whether it be Jews, Black people, Gays, etc), spend all of their time seeking out fights with these people. If you dont like someone, leave them alone. Not a very hard concept to understand. My mother is Jewish, was raised in a secular home, and her first husband was Church Of Christ. I was not raised Jewish, but I can say this. What a person is cannot be written out of their soul. I always enjoyed reading the “Old Testament”, and saw the contradictions of Christianity early on. In the past few years, I have become more interested in studying the belief of my people, and I am proud to say it is my own. I am Jewish, not just because I was born of a Jewish mother, but because I am.
    Sandy, Although you are not being bellicose nor rude, do you really think that you can come here and tell us how to run our religion?
    We do not do that. Only Christians and Muslims seem to feel some inner need to constantly go out and force their beliefs on others. Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, etc, we do not try and convert the world; anti-semites claim that we are arrogant, self-centered, yet look at Christianity or Islam. If you believe 1% different than they, you are condemned.
    I am a democratic Socialist, not very religious, but some definition as to who a Jew is does need to be codified. Israel may be the only state that needs to tie religion into its very belief, but lets look at what happens to non-religious Jews through history. No Nazi asked how religious a man was when he was loaded onto a box car; he was condemned because he was Jewish.

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