Conservative Judaism

Conservative Judaism ExplainedIt seems that we’ve been going over and over the same debate about the streams of Judaism. It is not only tiresome, but it is demoralizing to watch the unfortunate but undeniably negative perceptions of other streams that we’ve been reading on Jewlicious. As Rabbi Aviner of Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva has pointed out, we are brothers and one nation, and that should be one of the values that drives our discussions. While debates such as these have a long and prominent history (Saducees and Pharisees, anyone?), I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps it might improve matters if people actually had some information at their fingertips.

So I’m going to do some cutting and pasting and borrowing of content from sources that I believe will provide a short overview of Conservative Judaism. This is a long post, but I believe it’s worth the read, and encourage those who are interested to go directly to the sources by clicking on the provided links.

1. I located this easy-to-understand “FAQ” by Rabbi Chaim Weiner about the Masorti (masorti means “traditional” in Hebrew) movement, as the Conservative movement is known outside the U.S.:

The basic beliefs of a Masorti Jew are no different than those of traditional Judaism. We believe in a God who created the world. We believe in a covenant between God and the people of Israel. We believe that we are comrnanded, as a part of that covenant, to live a special lifestyle, spelled out in the Torah and articulated in “halacha – Jewish law”. We accept that this law is defined by the classical books of the rabbis: the Mishnah, the Talmud, and thereafter refined through the codes and responsa.

The main principle that defines conservative Judaism is our relationship to modern science and scholarship.

What role do the results of modern studies, particularly in the fields of history, archaeology, bible scholarship and literature play in the understanding of our tradition?

The Masorti/Conservative approach to this question is unequivocal: The results of these sciences cannot be ignored. They must be used to inform our religious beliefs, to help us understand our tradition better. They cannot be rejected outright, without careful consideration of their claims.

There are many areas where the results of scholarship and tradition seem to contradict. In these instances it is our position that we must interpret the tradition in a way that it doesn’t contradict our knowledge from other sources. This is not a matter of convenience. The only reason to follow a tradition is because it is true. If we accept our tradition as truth, then it must agree with the facts as we know them. This means that, although we believe in the same things as traditional Judaism, how we understand those things is influenced by the findings of modern science and modern thought.

Do Masorti Jews believe that the Torah comes from heaven?

Bible scholarship has shown that the Torah has a history. It is difficult to accept the claim that the Torah was handed down from heaven at a certain point in history in the literal sense. We therefore understand this term as a metaphor to mean that the Torah is divine and that it reflects God’s will. Research can help us understand the process of how the Torah came about, but will probably never give us a full picture. From our point of view, the idea that a concept as complex as “how God communicates to people” could be reduced to a literal description is unacceptable.

How can you consider the findings of scholarship to be true? There are always different schools of thought, and the positions of the scholars constantly change as new information becomes available.

True. Science is not infallible and the more we know, the better we understand things. We do not accept modern notions as “Torah from Sinai” as truths to be defended no matter what. Every finding must be accepted for what it is: a guess, a fact, an interpretation or a most probable explanation. We must always be open to learning more. However, the more information we have, the more that evidence from different fields of study agrees, the closer we get to the truth. The fact that one is not absolutely sure doesn’t mean that we should just deny facts or accept things which are simply impossible. Our beliefs must always be reviewed by our critical understanding. Not because we are perfect, but because our faculty of reason is what God has given us, and we have no better tool to use to search for the truth. Our reason is not perfect, but it’s the best we have.

If you do not believe that the Torah was given by God literally, does this not undermine your commitment to observe the tradition?

No. If one believes that the commandments are God’s will, it does not matter how you understand how they were given. You would still feel bound to observe them.

The role that halacha plays: When we looked at ideology, we saw that there were many similarities between the ideology of Masorti and that of traditional Judaism. This similarity cuts through to halacha.

What is halacha? The Torah tells us of a special covenant between the Jewish people and God. As part of this covenant Jews have been given many commandments. The commandments of the Torah are of a general nature. We do not observe the commandments as they are in the Torah. There is a whole literature – the Mishnah, the Talmuds, the Midrash, the responsa literature and the codes -which explains and develops the commandments and translates them into rules for everyday living.

These rules, the way of life of the observant Jew, are the halacha. The halacha is far from being a closed book; everything being clear-cut and sealed in stone. There is not a page in the Talmud which is free from debate, not an issue over which there is not some difference of opinion. The halacha is dynamic. It has within it the ability to grow and to respond to changes. However, despite differences of opinion and the freedom that exist within the halacha, there have emerged guidelines which help define the system. Over time the Babylonian Talmud has become the final authority in Jewish law. Precedents have been set and practice has been established. Even when confronting new realities, the precedents of the past and the underlying principles which have been established are to be taken into consideration when deciding how the halacha applies today.

All that has been said so far is true for both Masorti and Orthodox Judaism. Where does Masorti differ?

The differences are not in how halacha is understood, but in how it is applied. Whenever a rabbi is called upon to give a ruling, in addition to determining the halacha, he must also judge the situation he is ruling upon. As Masorti rabbis understand the world differently than Orthodox rabbis, the way they apply the halacha differs.

This difference in the way we look at the world manifests itself in many ways. Masorti Jews respect academic research as a means to understand the world better and therefore the results of this research are brought to bear in our halachic decisions. Masorti Jews accept many of the values of modern society. We are integrated in the modern world and our halachic decisions reflect this integration. Rather than trying to set Jews apart from general society, we seek ways to make it possible to be an observant Jew within it. Our constituency includes many Jews who have not made a full commitment to observance. As a result of this, the importance of enabling “somewhat” observant Jews to play a fuller role in the community is an important consideration in our decisions.

The biggest difference in our approach centres on our attitude to change. Our society is characterized by rapid social change. Is this change good? Should we welcome it? Do you resist it? It is in those areas of our lives where the greatest social changes have occurred where the differences between the movements in Judaism are most apparent.

The most prominent example of the need to take a position regarding change is when we come to define the role of women in the synagogue. In our secular society the role of women has radically been changed. Women today are fully integrated in society, are educated, hold positions of power and share equal rights. The halacha grew in an age where none of this was true. The main challenge facing all traditional groups today is how to respond to this change. It is the Masorti position that it is the ability to address itself to change that has kept the halacha alive through the centuries. We maintain that failure to apply the tools of change that exist within the halacha to the changes in our world today will leave the halacha as irrelevant to most Jews.

Although these attitudes are wide reaching, it should be stressed that in most cases, there is no difference between the interpretations of Masorti and of Orthodox rabbis.

2. Ismar Schorsch, widely considered as one of the leading thinkers of the Conservative movement wrote The Sacred Cluster which defines the seven core beliefs and values that define the movement. Here are some selected (that is, selected by yours truly, so please forgive any hiccups and errors, I am doing my best) excerpts:

The Sacred Cluster

There are seven such core values, to my mind, that imprint Conservative Judaism with a principled receptivity to modernity balanced by a deep reverence for tradition. Whereas other movements in modern Judaism rest on a single tenet, such as the autonomy of the individual or the inclusiveness of God’s revelation at Sinai (Torah mi-Sinai), Conservative Judaism manifests a kaleidoscopic cluster of discrete and unprioritized core values. Conceptually they fall into two sets – three national and three religious – which are grounded and joined to each other by the overarching presence of God,who represents the seventh and ultimate core value. The dual nature of Judaism as polity and piety, a world religion that never transcended its national origins, is unified by God. In sum, a total of seven core values corresponding to the most basic number in Judaism’s construction of reality.

The Centrality of Modern Israel
Hebrew: The Irreplaceable Language of Jewish Expression
Devotion to the Ideal of Klal Yisrael
The Defining Role of Torah in the Reshaping of Judaism
The Study of Torah
The Governance of Jewish Life by Halakha
Belief in God

The Centrality of Modern Israel

For Conservative Jews, as for their ancestors, Israel is not only the birthplace of the Jewish people, but also its final destiny. Sacred texts, historical experience and liturgical memory have conspired to make it for them, in the words of Ezekiel, “the most desirable of all lands (20:6).” Its welfare is never out of mind. Conservative Jews are the backbone of Federation leadership in North America and the major source of its annual campaign. They visit Israel, send their children over a summer or for a year and support financially every one of its worthy institutions.(1) Israeli accomplishments on the battlefield and in the laboratory, in literature and politics, fill them with pride. Their life is a dialectic between homeland and exile. No matter how prosperous or assimilated, they betray an existential angst about anti-Semitism that denies them a complete sense of at-homeness anywhere in the diaspora.

Hebrew: The Irreplaceable Language of Jewish Expression

Hebrew as the irreplaceable language of Jewish expression is the second core value of Conservative Judaism. Its existence is coterminous with that of the Jewish people and the many layers of the language mirror the cultures in which Jews perpetuated Judaism. It was never merely a vehicle of communication, but part of the fabric and texture of Judaism. Words vibrate with religious meaning, moral values and literary associations. Torah and Hebrew are inseparable and Jewish education was always predicated on mastering Hebrew. Hebrew literacy is the key to Judaism, to joining the unending dialectic between sacred texts, between Jews of different ages, between God and Israel. To know Judaism only in translation is, to quote Bialik, akin to kissing the bride through the veil.

Devotion to the Ideal of Klal Yisrael

The third core value is an undiminished devotion to the ideal of klal yisrael, the unfractured totality of Jewish existence and the ultimate significance of every single Jew. In the consciousness of Conservative Jews, there yet resonates the affirmation of haverim kol yisrael (all Israel is still joined in fellowship) – despite all the dispersion, dichotomies and politicization that history has visited upon us, Jews remainunited in a tenacious pilgrimage of universal import.(3) It is that residue of Jewish solidarity that makes Conservative Jews the least sectarian or parochial members of the community, that renders them the ideal donor of Federation campaigns and brings them to support unstintingly every worthy cause in Jewish life. Often communal needs will prompt them to compromise the needs of the movement.

Such admirable commitment to the welfare of the whole does not spring from any special measure of ethnicity, as is so often ascribed to Conservative Jews. Rather, I would argue that it is nurtured by the acute historical sense cultivated by their leadership. In opposition to exclusively rational, moral or halahkic criteria for change, Conservative Judaism embraced a historical romanticism that rooted tradition in the normative power of a heroic past. To be sure, history infused an awareness of the richness and diversity of the Jewish experience. But it also presumed to identify a normative Judaism and invest it with the sanctity of antiquity.

The Defining Role of Torah in the Reshaping of Judaism

The fourth core value is the defining role of Torah in the reshaping of Judaism after the loss of political sovereignty in 63 B.C.E. and the Second Temple in 70 C.E. to the Romans. In their stead, the Rabbis fashioned the Torah into a portable homeland, the synagogue into a national theater for religious drama and study into a form of worship. Conservative Judaism never repudiated any of these remarkable transformations. Chanting the Torah each Shabbat is still the centerpiece of the Conservative service…

…For Conservative Jews, the Torah is no less sacred, if less central, than it was for their pre-modern ancestors. I use the word “sacred” advisedly. The Torah is the foundation text of Judaism, the apex of an inverted pyramid of infinite commentary, not because it is divine, but because it is sacred, that is, adopted by the Jewish people as its spiritual font. The term skirts the divisive and futile question of origins, the fetid swamp of heresy. The sense of individual obligation, of being commanded, does not derive from divine authorship, but communal consent. The Written Torah, no less than the Oral Torah, reverberates with the divine-human encounter, with “a minimum of revelation and a maximum of interpretation.” It is no longer possible to separate the tinder from the spark. What history can attest is that the community of Israel has always huddled in the warmth of the flame.

The Study of Torah

Accordingly, the study of Torah, in both the narrow and extended sense, is the fifth core value of Conservative Judaism. As a canon without closure, the Hebrew Bible became the unfailing stimulus for midrash, the medium of an I-Thou relationship with the text and with God. Each generation and every community appropriated the Torah afresh through their own interpretive activity, creating a vast exegetical dialogue in which differences of opinion were valid and preserved. The undogmatic preeminence of Torah spawned a textually-based culture that prized individual creativity and legitimate conflict.

What Conservative Judaism brings to this ancient and unfinished dialectic are the tools and perspectives of modern scholarship blended with traditional learning and empathy. The full meaningof sacred texts will always elude those who restrict the range of acceptable questions, fear to read contextually and who engage in willful ignorance. It is precisely the sacredness of these texts that requires of serious students to employ every piece of scholarly equipment to unpack their contents. Their power is crippled by inflicting upon them readings that no longer carry any intellectual cogency. Modern Jews deserve the right to study Torah in consonance with their mental world and not solely through the eyes of their ancestors. Judaism does not seek to limit our thinking, only our actions.

This is not to say that earlier generations got it all wrong. Nothing could be further from the truth. To witness their deep engagement with Torah and Talmud is to tap into inexhaustible wellsprings of mental acuity and spiritual power. It is to discover the multiple and ingenious ways – critical, midrashic, kabbalistic and philosophical – in which they explicated these texts. Like them, Conservative scholars take their placein an unbroken chain of exegetes, but with their own arsenal of questions, resources, and methodologies. No matter how differently done, the study of Torah remains at the heart of the Conservative spiritual enterprise.

Moreover, it is pursued with the conviction that critical scholarship will yield new religious meaning for the inner life of contemporary Jews…

The Governance of Jewish Life by Halakha

The sixth core value is the governance of Jewish life by halakha, which expresses the fundamental thrust of Judaism to concretize ethics and theology into daily practice. The native language of Judaism has always been the medium of deeds. Conservative Jews are rabbinic and not biblical Jews. They avow the sanctity of the Oral Torah erected by Rabbinic Judaism alongside the Written Torah as complementary and vital to deepen, enrich and transform it. Even if in their individual lives they may often fall short on observance, they generally do not ask of their rabbinic leadership to dismantle wholesale the entire halakhic system in order to translate personal behavior into public policy. Imbued with devotion to klal yisrael and a pervasive respect for tradition, they are more inclined to sacrifice personal autonomy for a reasonable degree of consensus and uniformity in communal life.

Collectively, the injunctions of Jewish law articulate Judaism’s deep-seated sense of covenant, a partnership with the divine to finish the task of creation. Individually, the mitzvot accomplish different ends. Some serve to harness and focus human energy by forging a regimen made up of boundaries, standards and rituals. To indulge in everything we are able to do, does not necessarily enhance human happiness or well-being. Some mitzvot provide the definitions and norms for the formation of community, while others still generate respites of holiness in which the feeling of God’s nearness pervades and overwhelms.

The institution of Shabbat, perhaps the greatest legacy of the Jewish religious imagination, realizes all three. The weekly rest it imposes both humbles and elevates. By desisting from all productive work for an entire day, Jews acknowledge God’s sovereignty over the world and the status of human beings as mere tenants and stewards…

…[Does not lead] Conservative Judaism to assert blithely that the halakha is immutable. Its historical sense is simply too keen. The halakhic system, historically considered, evinces a constant pattern of responsiveness, change and variety. Conservative Judaism did not read that record as carte blanche for a radical revision or even rejection of the system, but rather as warrant for valid adjustment where absolutely necessary. The result is a body of Conservative law sensitive to human need, halakhic integrity and the worldwide character of the Jewish community…

Belief in God

I come, at last, to the seventh and most basic core value of Conservative Judaism: its belief in God. It is this value which plants the religious nationalism and national religion that are inseparable from Judaism in the universal soil of monotheism. Remove God, the object of Israel’s millennial quest, and the rest will soon unravel. But this is precisely what Conservative Judaism refused to do, even after the Holocaust. Abraham Joshua Heschel, who came to the United States in March, 1940, to emerge after the war as the most significant Jewish theologian of the modern period, placed God squarely at the center of his rich exposition of the totality of the Jewish religious experience.

To speak of God is akin to speaking about the undetected matter of the universe. Beyond the reach of our instruments, it constitutes at least 90 per cent of the mass in the universe. Its existence is inferred solely from its effects: the gravitational force, otherwise unaccounted for, that it exerts on specific galactic shapes and rotational patterns and that it contributes in general to holding the universe together.

Similarly, Heschel was wont to stress the partial and restricted nature of biblical revelation.

“With amazing consistency the Bible records that the theophanies witnessed by Moses occurred in a cloud. Again and again we hear that the Lord ‘called to Moses out of the midst of the cloud’ (Exodus 24:16)…

We must neither willfully ignore nor abuse by allegorization these important terms. Whatever specific fact it may denote, it unequivocally conveys to the mind the fundamental truth that God was concealed even when He revealed, that even while His voice became manifest, His essence remained hidden.”(6)

For Judaism, then, God is a felt presence rather than a visible form, a voice rather than a vision. Revelation tends to be an auditory and not a visual experience. The grandeur of God is rarely compromised by the hunger to see or by the need to capture God in human language. And yet, God’s nearness and compassion are sensually asserted. The austerity of the one and the intimacy of the other are the difference between what we know and what we feel. God is both remote and nearby, transcendent and immanent. To do justice to our head and heart, that is, to the whole person, Judaism has never vitiated the polarity that lies in the midst of its monotheistic faith…


  1. josh

    6/16/2005 at 12:11 pm

    Are you proseltysing?

    I’ll give you that in these days of short tempers, intolerance, and increasing assimilation, there should definitely be a renewal of Jewish unity. Instead of emphasizing the differences, we should start from what we have in common and go from there.

    Unfortunately, I think that this starts and ends with deciding who has a Jewish mother.

    Sorry, I’m praying that mashiach comes very soon to settle this argument once and for all!

  2. esther

    6/16/2005 at 12:12 pm

    Chancellor Schorsch announced his retirement yesterday, actually. Since we’re talking Conservative Judaism and all. Don’t get excited about who’s gonna replace him…he’s stepping down June 30 of next year.

  3. laya

    6/16/2005 at 12:36 pm

    On paper it all sounds so good, doesn’t it?

    I grew up bewteen my local Reform and Conservative shuls. I went to Sunday school at the Conservative one. No one in my class returned to that place after our bar or bat mitzvah’s if we were given the choice. They completely failed to instill in us any sense of passion or joy about being Jewish. They failed to instill a sense of community between the members, or relevance to the real world in the stuff we were learning. In fact, I barely remember what they taught us. All I know is that you can ask any secular Israeli kid on the street who Rambam is and they can tell you. After years of conservative hebrew school I don’t remember ever hearing the name.

    If Conservative Judaism “worked” I really might not have much of a problem with it. But I know my experience isn’t unique, and the conservative movement keeps losing numbers for a reason.

  4. ck

    6/16/2005 at 12:42 pm

    Thank you so much TM for that lovely and informative essay on Conservative Judaism. I definitely learnt a thing or two. I was particularly interested in your quoting from Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary. In that respect, just as a minor adendum, I recall reading an article in Forward where the good Rabbi, head of Conservative Judaism’s flagship institution stated, unequivocally, that

    the movement made a “mistake” when it issued a landmark ruling a half-century ago permitting Jews to drive to synagogue on the Sabbath…By sanctioning travel on the Sabbath, he said, the Conservative movement “gave up on the desirability of living close to the synagogue and creating a Shabbos community.”

    The same article noted that according “to the … National Jewish Population Survey 2000-01, Conservative Judaism has lost its primacy as the nation’s largest synagogue movement. The survey found that only 33% of households belonging to a synagogue affiliated with a Conservative temple — a 10-percentage-point drop from the 43% reported in the 1990 survey.”

    You write in your post that:

    The biggest difference in our approach centres on our attitude to change. Our society is characterized by rapid social change. Is this change good? Should we welcome it? Do you resist it? It is in those areas of our lives where the greatest social changes have occurred where the differences between the movements in Judaism are most apparent.

    Stats and personal experience clearly demonstrate that Conservative Judaism has not adapted too well to change. Which is kinda odd. I mean with all the lofty values meant to appeal to the modern thinking Jew, you would think Conservative synagogues would be booming, that kids brought up within the Conservative movement would be leading a veritable rennaissance in Jewish communal life. Instead we are faced with the spectacle of young Jews abandoning Judaism in droves (except within Orthodox circles) we see rampant intermarriage (except within Orthodox circles) we see declining birth rates (except within… you get the point). Its gotten to the point where we now have to look to non-Jews to save Judaism! What’s up with that?

    I dunno. But I do know that Conservative Judaism isn’t for me and that consequently, all of the problems mentioned above will not directly affect me. Of course anything that detrimentally affects klal yisrael affects me, and I am sad for those folks who do not see the same beauty in Judaism that I do. Oh well. Think about it.

  5. David M. Frost

    6/16/2005 at 12:50 pm

    Speaking as a former conservative Jew, I find this article silly. “The main principle that defines conservative Judaism is our relationship to modern science and scholarship.” No, it isn’t. The main principle that defines conservative Judaism is compromise. They claim to observe halakhah– yet: something like 25% or fewer of self-identified conservative Jews bother to keep kosher; conservative “rabbis” permit driving on Shabbos; the Conservative movement denies the authenticity of Torah (having been persuaded by gentile “Bible scholarship” that the Torah was written by people); and the list goes on. Indeed, one need only look at the intermarriage rate among conservative Jews to see where the movement is headed. Conservative Jews should either return to Torah observance, or start shopping for Christmas presents for their grandchildren. People won’t stay with a religion that is based on evolving scientific notions rather than revealed truth, since it’s always subject to revision.

  6. Judi

    6/16/2005 at 12:53 pm

    Don’t blame the Conservative movement for these problems. I’m afraid it’s actually the fault of our parents and grandparents who ran away from observant Judaism as soon as they perceived that no one was looking.

    Let’s be honest and recognize that the people who populate many Reform and Conservative congregations started out in families that didn’t strongly emphasize Jewish practice. Speaking from my own experience, my parents weren’t at all interested in whether or not I knew who Rambam was. They were only concerned with making sure I had a Bat Mitzvah, and the fact that I was interested in learning beyond that was chalked up to weirdness on my part.

    Oddly enough, my grandparents were largely non-observant (no one kept Shabbos or kashrut), although both sets were very culturally connected. If there had been no “Conservative Movement”, we’d probably have been non-observant members of an Orthodox congregation. I’m not sure how that alternative would have been better.

  7. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 1:01 pm

    (You mention the Saducees. But they clearly lost the debate! The Pharisees clearly won! Yet you mention these two groups as if their debate had ended in a tie. People who, today, decide to give the Saducee method another try, to see if it works this time, are not being reasonable. They are betting on something that already has been plainly seen not to work.)

  8. themiddle

    6/16/2005 at 1:09 pm

    ck and Laya, I’m disappointed in both of your posts.

    Laya, I also grew up within the Conservative system and I was offered gemara classes, not to mention discussions about the Rambam. I purposely posted the materials up there to show that Conservative Judaism is inclusive of Jewish thinking, halacha and the ongoing development of Jewish thinking…which would mean the Rambam is right up there.

    As for you ck, why the triumphant tone? In the other discussion I ask where Orthodox Judaism would be without the support of the remainder of the Jewish community.

    Nobody has responded. We all know why.

    If you check out the Schorsch link I provided, you will learn that Conservative Jews contribute the lion’s share of the funds that are contributed to the Jewish community. In other words, they are partially subsidizing this great renaissance of Orthodox Judaism.

    Perhaps what is most disappointing, ck, is that you focus and seem to take some high-minded pleasure in the failures of the Conservative movement. Yes, they are having problems, but not for the reasons you state. Judi is actually very much on target, in my opinion: the problem is faith.

    You either have blind faith or you don’t. If you don’t, then you have to approach things differently. In this case, the Conservatives differentiate, for example, between a literal reading of Torah M’Sinai (Moses coming down with the tablets and the Torah after visiting with God) and reading it as a metaphor while agreeing that the Torah is divinely inspired.

    Schorsch even attempts to avoid this discussion altogether and states:

    For Conservative Jews, the Torah is no less sacred, if less central, than it was for their pre-modern ancestors. I use the word “sacred” advisedly. The Torah is the foundation text of Judaism, the apex of an inverted pyramid of infinite commentary, not because it is divine, but because it is sacred, that is, adopted by the Jewish people as its spiritual font. The term skirts the divisive and futile question of origins, the fetid swamp of heresy. The sense of individual obligation, of being commanded, does not derive from divine authorship, but communal consent. The Written Torah, no less than the Oral Torah, reverberates with the divine-human encounter, with “a minimum of revelation and a maximum of interpretation.” It is no longer possible to separate the tinder from the spark. What history can attest is that the community of Israel has always huddled in the warmth of the flame.

    What more do you want? I mean, do you expect everybody to believe unequivocally in Torah M’Sinai? Were you satisfied with the answers given in the dinosaur discussion?

    Show some respect, dude, and if you can’t, at least come up with some cogent debating points as opposed to some pie in the sky stories about why the movement is losing people. I wonder how quickly these 10-baby Orthodox families would shrink if resources from the rest of us weren’t forthcoming.

  9. themiddle

    6/16/2005 at 1:18 pm

    David, there are plenty of Jews who also research and publish “bible scholarship.” Quite a few of the leading scholars are in Israeli universities like Hebrew U., by the way. And in the dinosaur debate, nobody gave a satisfactory response as to why the Creation Story and the Garden of Eden stories don’t tell a consistent tale.

    By the way, the Conservatives practice “Torah observance” as I’ve outlined above. That some of their members don’t is true, but then again we have Chief Orthodox Rabbis with families that kidnap and beat young kids who talk on the Internet and want to meet. Should I assume that this is representative of Orthodox Judaism?

  10. ck

    6/16/2005 at 1:23 pm

    Come on themiddle! You know I love all my Jews! What difference does it make who funds Orthodox Jewish institutions? They are, regardless of their personal level of observance, people who see value in Orthodox Judaism. Did I say that Conservative Jews are, what? Useless turds? No. I just don’t think Conservative Judaism is, you know, working. In the last 2 years I’ve taken close to 120 young people to Israel – I would say about 40 of them grew up within a Conservative system and their ties to Judaism were, uh, weak. I know that when our self appointed leaders bellyache about the impending decline in Judaism, they are not talking about Orthodox Judaism. So please, with all due respect, I am going to ask a question and I’d like an answer:

    Conservative Judaism, what have you done for me lately?

    And please, try to distinguish between individual Jews who happen to be members of a Conservative congregation, and the Conservative movement itself. Also don’t tell me what I already know, that there are great and wonderful individual Conservative Jews, Rabbis and Congregations. I wanna know what Conservative Judaism has done for its decliuning congregants and the corpus of Jews.

  11. wine guy

    6/16/2005 at 1:26 pm

    So here is the Torah Israel it is the blueprint for how to live your life.

    What does it say?

    God took the Jewish people out of Egypt and gave them the Torah at mount Sinia…. haha just kidding that really didn’t happen… its a great story though… any takers?

    hmm let me think

  12. laya

    6/16/2005 at 1:27 pm

    TM said In the other discussion I ask where Orthodox Judaism would be without the support of the remainder of the Jewish community.

    Nobody has responded. We all know why.

    Ummm, what?

    Helluva lot of good funds will do as Conservative numbers continue to diminish, and Jews become less interested in giving to Jewish causes, eh?

    You might also ask, where would any jews be without Orthodoxy? Non-existent.

  13. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 1:38 pm

    The Orthodox communities take nothing from the prison budget (OK, almost nothing). They take nothing from the public school budget, although they pay taxes for both. I don’t know how the non-orthodox fund the orthodox?? I am not aware of the UJC and those guys etc doing much for them. Maybe I just don’t know?

    Even if they do, do you think they do nothing for you in return?

    If the Torah was “adopted by the Jewish people as its spiritual font” can’t they just decide to un-adopt it?

    Are you seriously doubting that there is a problem in Conservative continuity? You know the people and their family stories. We always assume problems are just among our unfortunate friends. Right around the corner there are wonderful families who do NOT have these problems. Right.

  14. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 2:01 pm

    The two stories of creation differ because the first one is general and the second one more in-depth and detailed. What is strange about that? I talk that way, too. The first version prepares you. It might have been too much all at once. As it underlies all other stories we have to be let into it slowly.

    I was never much of a student and I am grateful G-d did NOT give us a factually correct scientific geology / biology lecture on Friday night. That would be so prosaic! I love that science but on Friday night I want something transcendental.

    Don’t tell me the rate of acceleration of a falling body when I want to know what it all means.

    As for the Israeli secular bible scholars, what does that prove? You know there have always been unbelieving Jews.

  15. Ben-David

    6/16/2005 at 2:02 pm

    It’s not true that Conservative Judaism has failed!

    Conservative Judaism set out to rationalize Judaism in the light of modern American living. And they’ve succeeded:

    – their children are SO well-adjusted to modern life that they no longer need any Jewish particularity at all…

    – and they’re so well adjusted to American society that they eat, drink, party, rest, and marry just like other Americans…


  16. Ben-David

    6/16/2005 at 2:07 pm

    So middeleh: this time you got taken down by not-necessarily-Orthodox people, people with direct personal experience of Conservative Judaism (which is probably why they couldn’t get through the Profound Exposition of Great Ideas without gagging – because they know how unrelated all this gasbagging is to C Judaism as it is lived).

    So now what? Can’t blame this critique on Orthodox intolerance, can we?

  17. jsirpicco

    6/16/2005 at 2:12 pm

    Wake me when there’s something to talk about!!!

  18. sarah

    6/16/2005 at 2:18 pm

    look, i don’t officially identify as Conservative, but i can tell you that there are many vibrant, powerful, spanktastic Conservative shuls out there that are inspiring kids and adults alike to become more observant Jews. please don’t everyone always insist on basing their comments on their own sorry childhood shul.

    Shuls are started by congregations who share an ideology. At a certain point, many congregations choose to affiliate with a movement, because movements bring nice bennies, like subventions for programming, summer camp funding, a national peer group, lobbying, yadda yadda. Some shuls stay indie. Like mine, for instance. I see this as the wave of the future. My ortho/conservative.conservadox peers in San Francisco don’t seem very compelled by the idea of affiliation at all. We know we want to davven traditionally, we know we are stringently kosher, and we know we want mixed seating. So we’ve made our own little niche. I see more of this on the horizon, not less.

    Some congregations that are amazingly good at being Conservative choose not to affiliate for political reasons. Take NYC’s B’nai Jeshurun which has stayed unaffiliated altogether, for instance, or look at Sha’ar Zahav in SF for an example of a shul that affiliated Reform instead.

  19. judi

    6/16/2005 at 2:22 pm

    I’d be willing to bet that more non-Orthodox Jews fund Orthodox causes than vice versa. Here’s a quick list of a few ways that the general Jewish population contributes:

    the purchase of hechshered products
    memberships in multiple shuls in their communities, even ones they don’t regularly attend
    donations to Yeshivas, Federations, etc.

    All parts of the Jewish community are valuable beyond measure. You do serious destruction to Klal Yisroel when you speak of writing off a segment of the diminishing Jewish population just because they don’t think like you do.

    Also, don’t close your eyes to parts of the Orthdox community that are drifting away. Everything’s not hunky-dory everywhere. The ultra-Orthodox have the greatest rates of retention, but “general” Orthodoxy has lost numbers to other movements (and religions!). How do you think all those Conservatives and Reformers got that way?? You know, there are plenty of Conservative and Reform Rabbis that grew up in Orthodox families.

    Incidentally, Jewish Mother writes that Orthodox communities take little financial support from their greater secular communities. However, in places like NYC, the Orthodox population constitutes the most impoverished Jewish segment. Don’t think those communities aren’t subsidized. And the justice system is no stranger to some groups of Orthdox Jews.

  20. themiddle

    6/16/2005 at 2:23 pm

    What do you mean I got “taken down?” You mean there are former Conservatives who are now Orthodox and bad-mouth Conservative Judaism? Big deal, let them deal with their own issues, positive and negative. Don’t you live in Israel? How do you square with taking funds from a secular state?

    Ck, of course there is a problem in the Conservative movement and nobody said otherwise. But take a look at what Schorch has written and you don’t have to tell us, just tell yourself whether you agree with most of the philosphy he puts forward or not. Conservative Judaism is a very thorough and a very enlightened philosophy if you have to find a nexus between faith and science, respect for our traditions and incorporation of our different value systems into those traditions (take a look at what Rabbi Weiner says about the inclusion of women these days).

    The discussions around here have been about exclusion. For some reason, our Orthodox visitors, and some of our “observant” posters and visitors keep dealing with other streams quite negatively. Here you have a thoughtful philosophical approach to Judaism, which incorporates God, torah, halacha, Israel and Hebrew, and yet the same negative attacks continue. Perhaps the self-righteous should look deep in their heart and ask themselves whether extreme views are healthy.

    And yes, JM, there is a practical angle here. It is hypocritical to take funds from a secular state and then complain about the secular Jews. It is hypocritical to take funds from the UJF or other bodies, which gets a majority of its funds from Conservative Jews, and then spew the garbage we have read in our discussions about Conservative Jews.

    In fact, I would add that every time somebody comes to us with the refrain about how Conservative conversions are unkosher, and Conservative rabbis are epikursim etc., we probably drive away a couple of prospective Jews. “I don’t want to be Orthodox, but if I join the Conservatives, I’ll be treated like dogshit, so why bother?”

  21. themiddle

    6/16/2005 at 2:25 pm

    Oh, ps, didn’t ck tell us about yeshiva bochers surfing porn in Internet cafes (a detail the recent article in the Jerusalem Report about this phenomenon forgot to mention)?

    At least they believe in Torah Misinai…

  22. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 2:39 pm

    But I don’t think much non-Orthodox money flows to the Orthodox.I have never heard of any grants like this.

    The plain fact is that the Orthodox are the ones keeping in-depth Torah scholarship going, by doing it. If other people want to help fund this, that is a mitzvah and very nice of them.

    Israel is not a secular state.

    Conservative Judaism is indeed a very thorough and well reasoned philosophy. But people want religion not philosophy.

    GM is a philosophy scholar. But he doesn’t quote Plato before eating lunch, he just eats lunch.

    He doesn’t “believe in” Plato, he just likes what he had to say. Maybe reading Plate has helped his character. That’s nice, but it is optional. Where are the rules?

    How will we have a good life without rules?

    If you eat a cheeseburger, a puppy will die.
    How? Because dog-fighting to the death is only illegal because of Judeo-Christian values in our legal system. People do it anyway. But at least they can be prosecuted.

    No Oral Law, eventually, no law at all. Just philosophy. PHILOSOPHY HAS NO TEETH>

  23. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 2:42 pm

    About your discovery that the Orthodox do things they should not: you know very well that the existence of a rule is far more important than whether it is always obeyed. At least they would be ashamed if caught, in that internet cafe. There are others who would say, “what’s your problem….. “

  24. laya

    6/16/2005 at 2:43 pm

    TM writes For some reason, our Orthodox visitors, and some of our “observant” posters and visitors keep dealing with other streams quite negatively.

    As opposed to our non-orthodox or non-observant postors and vistors who address traditional Judaism with nothing but constructive criticism and respect, huh?

    There was also something about “triumphant tones” and taking “high-minded pleasure in the failures” of other movements.

    what is it they say about glass houses again?

  25. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 2:43 pm

    We should not be mean to TM. He is MARRIED and has CHILDREN. Am Yisrael Chai.

  26. judi

    6/16/2005 at 2:44 pm

    “The plain fact is that the Orthodox are the ones keeping in-depth Torah scholarship going, by doing it. If other people want to help fund this, that is a mitzvah and very nice of them.”

    If that’s so, why are the classes in the Orthodox dayschools around here hovering at 5 to 12 students per grade while the Shechter school has 30 in next year’s 8th grade class? Why is there only one non-Haredi Jewish high school in all of CT and why does it only have a handful of students?

    Memo to Orthodox: you’re slacking.

  27. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 2:46 pm

    Maybe they just don’t live in Connecticut in large numbers?

  28. equipoise

    6/16/2005 at 2:50 pm

    Know ye that Rabbi Natan Slifkin will attempt to satisfy you, and anyone else bothered by this poingant question, in a speech on this very topic entitled “Confronting the Challenges of Creation, Dinosaurs and the Age of the Universe”, at a Young Israel in Brooklyn on June 29. Rabbi Slifkin, who has written several books on the confluence of Torah and science, is famous–albeit with such fame limited to the ambit of certain circles deeming such things sufficiently juicy to generate fame–for having several of his works banned by certain leading charedi rabbis. see host of intriguing posts regarding the ban and related controversy at http://hirhurim.blogspot.com/2005/01/banned.html)

    Link to a flyer promoting R. Slifkin’s upcoming speech:

  29. themiddle

    6/16/2005 at 2:51 pm

    JM, no need to worry, I can stand up for myself. 😉

  30. themiddle

    6/16/2005 at 2:53 pm

    JM, the reality is that the general funds of the Jewish community subsidize segments of the Orthodox community. There is nothing wrong with that and it’s something I support. It’s when those who receive this largess turn around and attack the benefactors as not being Jewish or good Jews that we encounter a problem.

    And Israel is a secular state.

  31. judi

    6/16/2005 at 2:57 pm

    “Maybe they just don’t live in Connecticut in large numbers?”

    That’s not it at all. There are plenty of Orthodox Jews around here. They just can’t justify spending vast sums of money on a school with fewer resources than many public schools. That, and CT has many fine private schools. So it falls into the lap of the greater Jewish community to support the dayschools. (See TM’s post on Jewish education for a great discussion of these issues).

  32. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 3:08 pm

    I have seen a bit of the grant lists and I have never seen any money flowing from places like UJC or UJA to anything Orthodox, never, ever. Can you be more precise? Is this an urban legend or do you have hard information? Have you looked at annual reports?

    I know TM thinks the greater US Jewish Community SHOULD help out with the high cost of Day Schools but I am not sure this is going on already. And certainly nothing Orthodox.

    Jewishness is so strong people think they can not worry about it too much, that it will take care of itself, it has a life of its own. But a car can only run on momentum and fumes for three, or perhaps four, generations.

    Every Jew is perfect, says Chabad, and I agree.

  33. themiddle

    6/16/2005 at 3:09 pm

    Thanks Equipoise. I can’t make it to that talk, it’s a bit far for me.

    I’m a little disturbed by this ban on his books. Ban? Cherem? That’s insane. Are they afraid of him? If so, why, considering that any library already has a multitude of books about science that any Haredi child could easy borrow and read.

  34. themiddle

    6/16/2005 at 3:12 pm

    JM, look at the UJF. They do not differentiate between day schools and yeshivas.

  35. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 3:18 pm

    You don’t even get the initials right. It’s UJA-Fed. Do you really know whom they fund and how?

    I think I know who you mean, the guy who attacks the Torah’s “science”. But why should he care if he is banned? He doesn’t believe, so he doesn’t need the love and approval of all those fools who do belive. He will be happy in his new life. Nobody is putting him in jail. What’s it to him if other people are wrong? Where is his TOLERANCE?

  36. judi

    6/16/2005 at 3:19 pm

    TM- failedmessiah.com had an extensive discussion of Rabbi Slifkin’s controversy.

  37. esther

    6/16/2005 at 3:31 pm

    JM, just for peacemaking sake, I wanted to point out that the federation goes by different initials in different regions. In NYC, it’s UJA-Federation. In Chicago, it’s JUF. And the overarching umbrella organization is UJC (United Jewish Communities). So let’s not quibble over regional semantics, ok? Clearly there’s enough else here to “altercate” about.

  38. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 3:35 pm

    Not altercating, just wondering what the annual reports say about real money flowing from non-Orthodox to Orthodox, which I have tremendous trouble believing really happens. Assertion is not enough for me. People here seem very sure it flows. The annual reports are public. It has to be on paper to be real. From what I see and hear ….. no way.

  39. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 3:44 pm

    A serious look at these public reports might help TM in his efforts to address the high cost of Day Schools. All non-profits must publish them.

  40. judi

    6/16/2005 at 3:44 pm

    Having worked the phone bank on Super Sunday in support of my kids’ (Orthodox) dayschool, I had a “factsheet” that gave the division of allocations. There certainly was an educational budget that helped to support the schools. In addition, most of the people I called (and all of those who pledged for me) were definitely not Orthodox.

  41. themiddle

    6/16/2005 at 3:47 pm

    *sigh* JM, I don’t have time to do extensive research, so I’ll just provide one of the first links I googled:

    Click Here

    You can see a table that breaks down the community contribution to each school in Denver including the Orthodox schools, as well as the subsidy per child.

    I’m confident that if I did deeper into different communities, I will be able to show you how other funds are allocated. Don’t become so upset, it’s perfectly fine that Orthodox institutions are receiving funding. It’s just that it would be nice if we could stop hearing about how Conservative Jews and other non-Orthodox Jews are somehow lacking in Jewishness.

    Note from ck: long links make baby jesus cry. And Rami Watid.

  42. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 3:48 pm

    Great! I did not know that. I stand corrected.

  43. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/16/2005 at 3:51 pm

    Judi sounds right. I don’t know east coast reality. I know here on the west Coast most “orthodox” heavily rely on “NON-orthodox” sources of money. By heavily, I mean most sources go that way I bet.

  44. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/16/2005 at 3:53 pm

    Hey, no bussiness like Shnorr bussiness I know…Every Rabbi doing Hollywood knows that.

  45. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 3:56 pm

    OK. A Jew is a Jew.

    But philosophy still has no teeth. It can’t prosecute those who fail its ideals.

  46. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/16/2005 at 3:58 pm

    Speaking about the west coast shtick….there just was an earthquake. It didn’t seem like a big one, but things swayed

  47. equipoise

    6/16/2005 at 4:03 pm

    Thanks, right Judi. In connection with that, I for one refuse to reference any “Bnei Brak Flat Earth Society” t-shirt, such as one bearing the slogan “The World Is Flatter Than A Potato Latke On Your Bubbie’s Griddle. You don’t believe us, chas vesholom?!?” Um, “Just say nayn to science”?

    and I will certainly not provide a handy link, such as this

  48. Elon

    6/16/2005 at 4:06 pm

    Brian: Excuse me. Are you the Judean People’s Front?
    Reg: Fuck off! We’re the People’s Front of Judea

    Not even really that relevant to the conversation, but it’s a funny film and i’m growing weary of both sides banging their collective heads against the wall on these issues.

  49. esther

    6/16/2005 at 4:08 pm

    Elon, welcome to the Jewish people. Aren’t you glad you joined us?

  50. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/16/2005 at 4:09 pm

    5.3 100 mi northeast of LA. Not enough to mangle buildings, Thank G-d

  51. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/16/2005 at 4:13 pm

    The earthquake got major breaking news on local fox TV. I wasn’t watching tv when the earthquake hit. But I turned on the TV and saw the news exhaustively replayed….

  52. Elon

    6/16/2005 at 4:16 pm

    Esther – Yes of course 🙂 Where else would i get to participate in such rousing and intellectually stimulating debate? And at that a debate about whether or not i’m actually one of the Jewish people! I got nothing but love though.

  53. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/16/2005 at 4:17 pm

    I think I am going back to Israel where its safe!
    And don’t tell me there are earthquakes there…I know there are… but don’t tell me anyway.

  54. grandmuffti

    6/16/2005 at 4:39 pm

    “The partisan, when he is engaged in a dispute, cares nothing about the rights of the question, but is anxious only to convince his hearers of his own assertions.”

    Time for some lunch!

    Just kidding. This wrangling is awfully funny. Laya, you’re pulling Shtremiel’s old trick and gneralizing off a personal experience. Muffti went to a zionist/reform hebrew day school when young (he was actually, ironically, the most religious amongst his peers back then!) He then went to a basically conservative jewish high school (where, admittedly, he was far from the most religious.) And he knows who the Rambam is. Rashi too. Conservative education can suck, or it can be great. Local variation doesn’t seem to show anything all that interesting.

  55. Jewish Mother

    6/16/2005 at 4:51 pm

    I know less than anybody here about Judaism.

    I think the purpose of Jewish studying has changed. You guys are very well informed but you have been studying for different reasons than in times past.

  56. themiddle

    6/16/2005 at 4:55 pm

    JM, we study for the same reason: enjoyment. Some enjoy it because they fear God and some do it because they love God and some do it because they love the tradition. The hope is that nobody gets excluded, but I realize that’s a bit of a vain hope.

  57. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/16/2005 at 5:07 pm

    It seems that that more then anybody else, the
    Conservative seem amongst the most difficult to
    define. In my experience, there is tremendous
    regional variaince that I am begining to find
    interesting. I am begining to pick up West Coast
    UJ conservative has its divergence with JTS and
    Israeli Masorati. I have heard from Israeli Masorti that they distinguish their policies and
    philosophies from the American Conservative in
    major areas. One area is the cooperation with the
    Israeli Rabinate. Another world of bewildering
    divergence is the concept of “Progressive
    Judiasim” practiced as named so in Australia,New
    Zealand and Europe. I have no idea as to where
    conservative and reform blend into the definition
    of “progressive judiasm.” I am not sure that the
    real advocates of any of the above mentioned
    exhaustiveness even know themselves.

  58. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/16/2005 at 5:20 pm

    I have always known of the large regional difference in West and East coast jewish cultural view. Its a no brainer that the East coast practice a more “conservative conservative…..” Even the Reform in the East Coast is often more conservative then West Coast Conservative. That is old news to me. What I am trying to learn is how that is from the top down, because I think a lot of that is due to the leadership.

  59. Me

    6/16/2005 at 9:14 pm

    Themiddle: thanks so much for your article. It summarised my own belief system better than I could have done…
    My dad has considered me an “apikores” (or the feminine equivalent) since I started university and had all these free-thinking ideas about the role of the torah in science and archaeology (as you can probably gather from my Flood posts). Difficulty is, there’s no conservative movement in Australia. There is a conservative rabbi or two brought out from the States, but they head congregations which are “Reform” or “Progressive”. Here, you are either Orthodox, or you are Reform. That’s it.

  60. sarah m

    6/16/2005 at 9:40 pm

    i grew up orthodox, and am now gabbai of a conservative minyan. I wonder why so many newly-orhtodox are taking such a triumphalist tone. DO you know how many day school kids never set foot in anywhere religious as soon as they get to college? How many orthodox Jews eat non-kosher out when no one’s looking? How it is not the newly orhtodox but restrictions on birth control adn pressure to marry early that is keeping the numbers up? How NCSY (ortho youth group)got the shabbat thing going strong, but often lets chesed (acts of loving kindness/service) fall through the cracks?
    Orhtodox rabbi Yitz Greenberg once said “I don’t care what denomination you belong to, as long as your ashamed of it.”
    conservative Judaism has a long way to go, but so does orthodoxy, adn I for one am glad to live in a community where people who call themselves religious dont go around saying that women belong in the kitchen, or that its ok to steal from non-Jews, and where no one acts as if the kitzur shulchan aruch (string hungarian summary of Jewish law) was given at sinai.

  61. themiddle

    6/16/2005 at 10:17 pm

    Me, check out any Sephardic synagogue. They are observant, but in a nice way. Kinda like ck. 😉

  62. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/16/2005 at 11:05 pm

    dear themiddle,

    Do you find all this Progressive, reform, reconstuction, conservative, conservadox, masoriti labels confussing and amorphous? Where does one begin and another end?

  63. Joe Schmo

    6/16/2005 at 11:18 pm

    Me, you have never answered my questions in that flood post.
    You better prove your father wrong by backing yourself up or risk him being right.

  64. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 12:08 am

    Yo bro Joe Schmo,

    How was Shavuot by you?

  65. Nathan

    6/17/2005 at 1:58 am

    Well, I slack reading for a day or two and now I see the wife has gone off on a wild crusade in support of the Conservative Movement. Egads, I wonder if this will get out kids thrown out of their Orthodox/Community day school? 😉

    Our home base is a shul affiliated with the Conservative Movement that encourages Shomer Shabbat/Kashrut and yes, even puts in the yearly plug for the community mikveh. However, I also twitch every time a gabbai calls a bat-cohen for the first aliah (please, I beg you, just call rishon), and I’m sad when there is no birkat cohanim for similarly ridiculous political reasons. The Conservative Movement appears to be a broad movement with many different flavors of rabbinic leadership that evolved over the past hundred years; the two Conservative shuls in our area couldn’t be more different if they tried. Many people walk to our shul on Shabbat, in part because it’s possible to do so given its location in a quiet part of a small city. The sidewalks make walking a safe possibility; the other Conservative shul is located in a country-suburban setting on a secondary highway which makes walking more difficult and dangerous, as if most of the Mercedes/Lexus crowd would walk anyway.

    Is Torah true? As I’ve written before, I think there is a strong case to be made that this debate can never be settled due to the disaster of the first temple destruction. R. Ezra – or someone – left their redaction all over the text we have today. The text contains sections written in different language styles indicative of hundreds – perhaps, thousands – of years development over time. Believe what you want – no one can prove anyone else wrong without older sources. Now, how perfectly divine is that? Perhaps, the question is therefore not “do you belive that every crown on the letters was crafted by haShem”, but rather, “since it’s not in heaven (Torah), what good will you do with it on earth?”

    It would be hard for any honest person to deny that there are learned legal scholars at JTS, an institution which I’m told has one of the premier Judaic libraries in the world. The question is, how is it that they seem to have come up with a way to allow anything at all that the pro-egalitarian crowd demanded? I think they might have more academic credibility if they had offered some “no” as well as “yes” answers to these tough questions. I’d rather they concentrated on blowing up obviously sexist legal barriers such as “kol isha” and racist barriers like “kosher wine” rather than looking to put female rabbis on every beit din possible just to make a point.

    So, when I get driven crazy enough, we spend some time visiting friends at the various Orthodox shuls in town. Then I’m cheerfully reminded that we all have our share of wonderful as well as foolish ways. Ah, what a glorious and colorful mosaic of a people – when they’re not wasting time cutting each other down and declaring one another bad/fake/not Jews.

  66. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 3:05 am

    Sometimes when I approach the “conservative,” I
    get encouraged by what I see or hear. I have
    been through the dorms at the UJ – Univesity of
    Judiasm in LA, and see all the shomar shabat light
    guards over the light switches, the stacks of neatly pre cut toilet paper in the public bathrooms, the cute little Hillel club room with all the judiaca and sedurim. That is impressive in some ways for me. In a lot of ways that looks better then what I remember my Yeshiva dorms looking like. Then there is a darker side of the story. The part that takes me a while to see. The one yearly time I remember going to the UJ over the years was a Kosher fair on the campus. That fair was a lot of fun, it had boothes from local kosher restaurants, lots of interesting fabric and judiaca displays etc…
    In the last 3 or so years that has stopped. I heard the reason why was that student body leadership decided it was to religious and the council wanted to phase it out. I knew a student of UJ who tried to put together a daily minyan that counted men only. That minyan was banned on UJ campus and posters advertising the minyan was forbidden by authority of the student council and University policy that permits egalitarian only. I heard the guy who tried to make the minyan had enough men. I was willing to help. As I got know more and more students at UJ I heard more and more stories that got more and more outrageous.
    A kind of “anti” attitude prevails. I don’t totally understand it. Then sometimes I will meet students who really want to learn or who are very fine and accomadating. So its a real up and down ride for me. The Rabbi I am most close to has discouraged me from spending as much time and
    doing as much as I want there. So I most of what I
    have felt at the UJ is disappointment.
    The same is so for many of the “conservative”
    synagagues I have dealt with over the years.
    Often they look impressive. I have met good
    people there. Then after awhile I see and hear
    stuff they do that I can’t deal with.

  67. Joe Schmo

    6/17/2005 at 6:59 am

    I had a nice shavuot Natsach.

    Nathan stop blabbing like TM does and give specifics. What about ‘rav ezra’ what different languages. Say something someone can answer otherwise I consider it more BS propaganda the conservative puts out to make themselves able to deny what they want to deny.

  68. esther

    6/17/2005 at 8:36 am

    Firstly, the library at JTS is simply astounding. Not just for the volumes of text that are there (amazing enough to draw shtreimel-wearing, non-woman-talking-to, chasidim) but for the rare book room, which always has some sort of overwhelmingly impressive exhibit on medieval lithographs, or the like. People arrange for tours. So clearly, the library itself is not “Conservative” and people get out of it what they seek from it.

    One of the overarching themes that I’m hearing here is: “I like X movement, until they do something that drives me crazy or that I can’t stand anymore, and then I get fed up. When that happens, I go over to Y movement, which makes me less crazy.” And believe me, as someone who feels marginalized by (most) Orthodox synagogues (but sees the value of tradition and education) and too traditional for (most) Conservative synagogues (but appreciates the more relaxed, inviting and inclusive aspects of that approach), believe me when I say I understand this issue pretty darned well. And actually, it’s quite a struggle for me on a daily basis. The search for self, where do I belong: in a community where I might be more intensively educated in certain respects than the rabbi (this isn’t the rule, but it has happened) or in a community that doesn’t necessarily value the entirety of my mind because of my gender…

    Even if you’re going to say that “Orthodoxy is authentic,” which kind? If you’re going to use the word, you need to consider what authentic really means. If it means becoming Karaites or Pharisees, are you proponents of authenticity willing to give up your Shabbes clocks and sit in the dark?

    Every movement’s got its propaganda. Otherwise they wouldn’t have PR departments, which I’ve worked in at two major Jewish universities. If you’re looking for a perfect, authentic movement that doesn’t in any way incorporate modernity, then good luck to you. You might have to found your own. And if you have a good Shabbat morning kiddush, let me know. That is, if you can still talk to me, with me being a woman and all.

  69. David M. Frost

    6/17/2005 at 8:56 am

    Regarding comments about non-Orthodox Jews funding Orthodox activities, good for them. Obviously, they can see who is preserving Judaism. This is hardly a justification for the existence of the liberal branches of Judaism. People need not belong to a synagogue that justifies and rationalizes their non-observance in order to donate money to Judaism. Were it not for those synagogues, the people in question could donate the same money– and, when they did attend a synagogue, at least they’d hear a message with some substance.

  70. Jewish Mother

    6/17/2005 at 9:09 am

    My own private take is: every crown was crafted by Hashem. So, why different language styles? Same reason as different butterfly styles, and different bunny- rabbit styles, in nature. He likes variety! He knew the Torah would be speaking to many ears in the future, in many language styles, and put these notes in the music, so to speak.

    Religion cannot be deduced into existence by reason and also cannot be deduced out of existence by reason.

    If someone said to me, “I am so glad I have a personal tradition of loving you” I would wonder what was wrong. That sounds like “I used to love you”, not “I am presently madly in love with you”.

    We are not in Eden and things can’t be perfect.

  71. Judi

    6/17/2005 at 9:13 am

    That’s a mighty wide brush you’re painting with, DMF. Careful you don’t drip too much on the floor ’cause the paint you’re using is a b*tch to clean up later.

    Are you basing your statements on personal experience?

  72. Jewish Mother

    6/17/2005 at 9:32 am

    As far as I understand, Pharisees don’t make you sit in the dark. The rabbis say, we can make arrangements so we can have hot food and light on Shabbat, by using times and crock-pots etc. The Oral Law and rabbinic rulings are part of the Pharisaic legacy, I thought. But I have never attended a Jewish school, just taken some adult classes, so maybe I don’t know what the Pharisees were about?

  73. esther

    6/17/2005 at 10:03 am

    My point was, if yanyone found truly authentic Judaism, it would probably not allow for crock-pots and Shabbes clocks. There are always “rabbis who say…” and because we are in a society with choices, we have to choose which rabbis are the ones who we listen to.

    If you’re going to say that authentic Judaism allows for crock-pots and Shabbat clocks, then you’re dealing in the same kind of “working within halakhah” or “dealing with the truths and realities of contemporary religion” that CJ does. It’s all loopholes, and whether or not you accept those loopholes as being inside or outside the realm of the acceptable.

  74. David M. Frost

    6/17/2005 at 10:15 am

    Yes, I am.

  75. Jewish Mother

    6/17/2005 at 10:17 am

    Sorry I don’t see why a fully, totally Orthodox Judaism can’t allow for timers and crock-pots when it’s right in the Tanach itself that G-d gave us two days’ manna on Friday. He invented the first crock-pot, so to speak. The people didn’t stuff themselves on Friday and starve on Shabbat. It stayed good overnight.

    You are right about the need to simply trust the rabbis. While first having decided on which one is a good one. After that initial evaluation, you trust. That’s because we are a nation of free people and nation of priests who all were present at Sinai and heard the original giving of revelation personally. We have a caste system and at the exact same we do not have a caste system in another sense. This isn’t a contradiction, it is a dynamic. The world runs on dynamics. We can deal with that, with practice. We have free will. Take that, Spinoza. He should have stuck to lens grinding. (No free will, Spinny old boy? Can I steal your wallet and say my theft was pre-ordained? No?) But discussing free will itself demonstrates free will, ha ha.

  76. Ben-David

    6/17/2005 at 10:18 am

    Bottom line: when middle and others start talking about “acceptance” and “plurality” and “tolerance” – they are setting a sweetly worded ideological mousetrap.

    It then becomes impossible for an Orthodox Jew to disagree with the Conservative take on halacha without the label of “intolerance” crashing down on their heads.

    In other words: the talk of “tolerance” is really an arm-twisting way of NOT TOLERATING other opinions.

    But inconveniently, those other opinions:
    – have more historical weight in Judaism
    – have proven more successful in modern American society than all those attempts to “reconcile” Judaism with American society.

    Sorry – you can whine all you want about “intolerance” and “exclusion”. But here, now in 2005/5765 it is perfectly valid to bring up the evidence of “progressive” Judaism’s failure – the evidence o statistical collapse, the evidence that most C Jews and congregations are not living anything near Schorsh’s vision, with nothing near the committment that it demands.

    This is not 1950 when the Jews were first moving out to the suburbs, and Reform and Conservative Judaism could boast great promise. It is a half-century on – and the landscape through which Jews must travel in fellowship is marked by two major features: the smoking ruins of R and C Judaism, and the renaissance of the Judaism of the Ages, which we had been confidently told would go the way of the dinosaur.

    To claim that pointing out this truth is “exclusion” is disingenuous. It’s typical victimology politics – to cover one’s inability to answer valid criticism, divert the conversation to how “nasty” the questioner is being.

    Sorry – we have already hemorrhaged too many Jews for us to take this whining seriously. Pointed questions about what has worked, and what hasn’t are integral – and even central – to any modern discussion among Jews.

    I wish that middle and others would stop trying to bluff their way out of the reality we all know and must live with.

  77. Jewish Mother

    6/17/2005 at 10:32 am

    There is a real difference in sensibility between Orthodox and all other non-Orthodox Judaisms. It’s not just mere “my spaghetti sauce recipe is better than yours, nah nah”.

    The difference is deep and serious. It can’t be “toleranced” away. It is worth pondering. It is not just about customs.

    I liked the way somebody above said that when they get fatigued and confused they need an occasional dose of Orthodox religious atmosphere even though they are not Orthodox.

    THAT MEANS SOMETHING. That contains the point.

  78. esther

    6/17/2005 at 10:54 am

    JM, that contains A point. Not THE point. When I tired of being treated like a second-class citizen who had little to contribute to Judaism until she became a married babymaker (even if she was equally or more educated than the men in question), I went the other way. Perhaps if I’d been married at 22 like many of my HS classmates, I’d be ensconced in a religious community in Teaneck or somewhere, playing happily with my babies and preparing for Shabbat. Then, my husband would come home from work and sing Eshet Chayil to me, and I wouldn’t be offened. But clearly, that’s not where I am.

    Not that CJ has held all the answers, and that’s part of my personal struggle. I think there are many people, not just Dr. Schorsch, who would say that the “driving to shul on Shabbat” rule was a major misstep. But I also understand that it was a bow to the realities of progressive Judaism in America.

    Progress is a bitch–sometimes I think that no one who questions can ever be happy with his or her lot.

  79. tzipi

    6/17/2005 at 11:00 am

    There really should just be one never-ending thread for this debate, and if anyone says anything new we can have a celebration.

  80. Jewish Mother

    6/17/2005 at 11:49 am

    Is there a female analog to Joe Lieberman, the Orthodox senator? You be it.

    Does being an Orthodox woman with children (ok, not twelve children, but a few, anyway) HAVE to preclude intellectual life and work? OK, it might make a dent, but must it totally eliminate intellectual life, writing, work?

    There need to be helpers from the old, such as mothers in law and grannies, and nice neighbors.

    Maybe with all the electric gadgets in the kitchen and the electronic communications in the office, it could be managed. There seem to be men, husband material, who will lend a hand. But there are still male and female roles.

    Ashet Chayil can upset modern women, but I think it is basically the way life is. It plainly says she gets to make business decisions, and have money in her own name, at the end. The domestic angle is just true. If we really don’t want that kitchen thing, well, we can order out.

    But then ….

  81. Jewish Mother

    6/17/2005 at 12:00 pm

    Orthodox families can come in different flavors as long as they are completely Torah-compliant IMHO. And the food can be simpler.

    Home made food does not have to be complicated especially when there are small children.

    Granny can bring the Shakshuka. She will love it.

    A freezer and a microwave… and a crock pot and I am considering a pressure cooker.

    And a good pediatrician close by. A maid. Your own washer-dryer even if it takes up a lot of space. A laptop, and wireless everything.

  82. Jewish Mother

    6/17/2005 at 12:01 pm

    Don’t forget the Cuisinart food processor.

  83. Jewish Mother

    6/17/2005 at 12:15 pm

    I realize there is still the problem of the (intellectual) separation of the sexes and not giving testimony.

    I have no answer for that.

    It looks to me as if these things are unfortunately necessary. When the restrictions are removed, the results are not lovely, in my opinion, so it seems like a lesser of evils.


    I can only report that there is nothing dull about raising children. Maybe that helps.

  84. Yisrael

    6/17/2005 at 12:52 pm

    Esther, I like a lot of what you have to say. You explain the Conservative position well. I react negatively to certain proposals I hear at Conservative shuls. However, in a community where people are free to think freely, that will always be a problem. Orthodoxy requires submission to rules to which I cannot agree, and Conservatives sometimes want to reach out a little too much to the less observant (by condoning their actions). However, I have to be in a place where everyone can tolerate what is happening. I would discourage the less observant in their lack of observance, but ultimately, I can readily pray in their company. I cannot readily pray in a place where women are segregated. My community does not even have an Orthodox shul, and I mostly do not want to live in places where Orthodox shuls within walking distance. These issues are far more problematic than merely having to tolerate people who are talking about how Conservatives can be more progressive.

  85. Jewish Mother

    6/17/2005 at 1:06 pm

    People are very emotionally open when they are praying. Prayer is very personal. I think women need the privacy provided by the Mechitza (the barrier between the sexes). I think men need this too. Women and men are very interested in each other and the separation helps them think about difficult abstract concepts.

    That goes for both men and women, and it doesn’t imply inferiority of anybody.

    I hate standing up for the Amidah prayer and the mechitza (barrier) isn’t high enough, it’s only shoulder height, and there’s Joe in my face. Hi, Joe. I don’t know you, I don’t want to know you, but I am supposed to close my eyes, screw up my face, and pray in front of you. Right.

    Go away, Joe.

  86. Jobber

    6/17/2005 at 1:31 pm

    For intense concentration, you can close your eyes. Not always are you ‘into’ davening. Myself, I am bored in Shule most of the time. I recently prayed in a Conservative, mixed, minyan at a Shiva call. It didn’t feel strange at all, I wasn’t looking around. I was the same as always, minding my own business.JM, where do you daven in Orthodoxy that you feel such inspiration. I see no inspiration in the ordinary prayers cycle. Maybe a bit on the holidays that is all.

  87. Jobber

    6/17/2005 at 1:35 pm

    Most Orthodox people get very little from Prayer services, who are we fooling. They complain about how long it is, they start smaller minyans in side rooms that will finish ten minutes earlier, please I live there. I applaud the efforts of all movements to add some pizazz and inspiration to our prayer services.

  88. themiddle

    6/17/2005 at 2:10 pm

    JM, the inferiority of women is conferred by their learning limitations. How many Orthodox female rabbis are there? 3? 5? When you go to an Orthodox day school and you’re a girl, do they let you study talmud?

  89. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 2:19 pm


    Who isn’t talking to you because you are a women?
    In reality, who really isn’t dealing with “modernity” what ever that means? Even those “going back to medievel” maeh sharim extremists seek to be modern in all kinds of hypocritical ways, if you really bothered to get to know them…

  90. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 2:32 pm

    Apparently, some people here are reading what I
    am saying. So what we can see, however the hell
    “orthodox” is defined, because I dont’ really care, is that this

    “orthodoxy” has no MONOPOLY on


    The fact that “orthodox” as a label is equally or
    more hard to define then “progressive” is no
    surprise to anyone. All that kind of labeling is kind of crap to me. In the long run, nobody else gives a crud anyway.

  91. judi

    6/17/2005 at 2:32 pm

    Um, TM- my kids go to an Orthodox dayschool and the girls study Talmud. But of course, since we belong to a Conservative shul, we are directly contributing to the destruction of the Jewish people. And add to that the idea that my girls shouldn’t be studying Talmud anyway ’cause their little feminine brains’ll explode. It’s really hard being such an enigma. Thanks God it’s Shabbos (Shabbat/ Sabbath for all you non-Orthodox types ;-))

  92. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 2:35 pm

    dear themiddle,

    Who isn’t letting girls learn talmud…?

  93. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 2:37 pm

    From my experience,
    this “girls don’t learn talmud” is an urban legend….

  94. judi

    6/17/2005 at 2:54 pm

    At the haredi school they used to go to, Girls. Don’t. Learn. Talmud. Period. Not an urban legend.

  95. judi

    6/17/2005 at 2:56 pm

    Sorry to double-post, but I wnated to mention that at their current school, girls are given the option of taking a halacha class instead of gemarra.

  96. Jobber

    6/17/2005 at 3:03 pm

    The fact is that many women are dissatisfied in the Orthodox movement, no dancing around that issue. Some as Esther said are content on their role, but many are not. It would be better if this could be embraced by the Orthodox rather than ridicule those efforts that are being made in a couple of Egalitarian Ortho. minyans.

  97. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 3:09 pm

    What do you mean by don’t. Like is it forbiden?…ok, no clasees… Where is the mind exploding BS from?

  98. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 3:21 pm

    I don’t use my hostility with “orthodox” as a
    passport to get access for “conservative”
    approval. Because if I would, I would be treated
    like royalty there. I am really tired of that. The vice versa doesn’t hold. I don’t get brownie points for talking shit about the latest outrageousness from such and such denomination abomination, such talk is too cheap and NO ONE HERE CARES

  99. judi

    6/17/2005 at 3:22 pm

    NSN, When I (naievely) asked, I was told that except for learning relevant passages, the study of gemara is not “necessary” for girls; it takes up valuable time when they could be learning things that are relevant to the lives of women. It was a “men’s thing” and women really weren’t supposed to be trespassing on that turf. And it was also told to me that a woman’s mind does not know how to properly process the information.

  100. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 3:30 pm

    Do you feel less naive now?

  101. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 3:34 pm

    I have heard that before…OTO SEPUR. Women still learn and always have and always will. Little rabbis have thier little priorities… what do you want? What do you expect?

  102. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 3:47 pm


    The problem is like this. Its not the women “who’s head will explode” when you talk about learning… its the boys and the men, they can’t handle it. When the issue of turf is spewed out, thats the bottomline. You can see that can’t you?

  103. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 3:49 pm

    Do I need to more specific?

  104. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 4:04 pm

    As I see this, the system isn’t built around Men’s supiority… its really the oposite. I think anyone who can see through the bullshit will realize that.

  105. Wine guy

    6/17/2005 at 4:29 pm

    There are Orthodox communities for everyone even those wo like to play around with gender roles a little bit

  106. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 5:13 pm

    yeah, its amazing on what kind of funny things are out there. Its always way to kasher something because some “orthodox” did something. Another way to see labels like “orthodox” are empty of meaning.

  107. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 5:17 pm

    Its getting a little to close to Shabat even in the West Coast here to rant and rave. So have a good Shabat, however you all deal with it. Although Shabat is arriving at just about latest if not the latest. I have almost 5 hours to mess around here if I wanted.

  108. esther

    6/17/2005 at 5:28 pm

    I learned Talmud in high school. But most of the time, it wasn’t anything relevant. That pigeon racers not being allowed to give testimony thing is proof of that. Plus, most of us spent our classes listening, occasionally taking some notes, and always crocheting kippot in class. And no one cared.

    Like it or not, there is an intellectual gender bias in effect, not just in religious areas. But in the domain of religion, it is definitely palpable, and sometimes even visible. As always, it’s a question of access and value. Yes, I have access to the same tefilot that men do–I learned the Hebrew, what they meant, how to sing them. But then I was taught that although I’m not required to be at mincha by Jewish law and even though my presence “doesn’t count,” I have to go anyway because the principal says so.

    And, if in the rare circumstance I DO have a spiritual moment in shul, in the Orthodox world as a whole, I can’t even sing, because G-d forbid, I might accidentally seduce a guy with the mellifluous tones of my Aleinu, even though my karaoke exploits have never themselves seduced the male members of the audience. (Although maybe that’s the Guns and Roses talking.)

    I mean, what kind of motivation does that provide? What kind of imperative should I feel to pray, or be part of the community that says I literally “don’t count”?

  109. themiddle

    6/17/2005 at 5:32 pm

    What Judi said. Around here, the girls are told they can’t study talmud. Un-fucking-believable, but true.

    And let’s not forget this whole aliyah and torah reading issue, not to mention the difficulty in getting smicha to be a rabbi if a woman so chose.

    Some women are very happy in their roles and some are not. I’m not trying to be critical of the movement, but I do wonder about the exclusion of women from such basic foundations of the society in which they live. At the school I attended, some of the finest students of talmud were the girls. Seems a bit of a waste…

  110. themiddle

    6/17/2005 at 5:34 pm

    Esther, I heard your mellifluous tones in prayer and was immediately distracted.

  111. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/17/2005 at 6:46 pm

    I just to had to chime in here…. I wanted some
    time to get off this crud, but I dont feel right. I am seeing that you fools are not listening. How does it go in the IDF?. The IDF does not deploy the women for prolonged combat role. This is even in contrast to US policy. Yeah, women are effectively used for local security, and Women make excellent trainers in all matters of implementing war within the IDF..The reason is clear, when MEN hear womens voices scream THEY GO NUTS and Men lose unit cohesiveness….. That is a built in Male response. I find youre babyness and crying intolerable, thats why I am not a Rabbi, and maybe never will be one, because I can’t tolerate such whining, I hear youre screaming and I go NUTS….. The same priority type of thinking goes into why some little rabbis in little shuls or yeshivas don’t want to inspire women to come out with learning in such a way. The Rabbis are trying to teach the men under thier command to learn and live without the dangerous distraction. I find insensitivity to this annoying to say the least. One
    of these days you all will learn, if not now, When?

  112. esther

    6/17/2005 at 7:27 pm

    Netsach, you sent me very thoughtful birthday wishes and I’m very appreciative. That said, your endless sensitivity to the rabbis and your clear annoyance for women or anyone who voices dissatisfaction is part of the problem. If you men can’t control your responses to women, that’s your problem, so hands off my spirituality, my education, my self-expression and my wardrobe. Or at least maybe you men with nice voices would agree to stifle your own mellifluous tones so that we women could concentrate on our kavanah, thank you very much.

    To call this kind of discussion “whining” is to display a lack of respect for the way observant Judaism can make some women feel. And that disturbs me.

    And with that, I begin another Shabbat in my home, wondering which shul will be disappointing me tomorrow.

    Shabbat shalom.

  113. laya

    6/18/2005 at 3:36 pm

    just for some perspective lets remember that the idea of women having equal rights in ANY part of society is an extreamly new one. We’re talking about an ancient religion catching up to a movement that is barely 50 years old. Women’s roles in Judaism are evolving, just at a slower pace than the rest of society. It’s an easy place to get frustrated, but a little perspective is a good thing. And btw, women sing at every orthodox shul or shabbat table I go to.

  114. grandmuffti

    6/18/2005 at 5:26 pm

    Actually, the idea of women having equal rights in ANY part of society is a fairly old one. Even megillat Esther has a classic patriarchal statement of concern. Mary Wollstonecraft’s ‘A Vindication of the Rights of Woman’ was published in 1792, a whopping 213 years ago. The movement is at least as old. Orthodox Judaism’s treatment of women is similar to its treatment of homosexuals: purely traditional and inflexible.

  115. Dave

    6/18/2005 at 7:56 pm

    Hi, folks, it seems like all we’ve been talking about on this thread is power- every faction of Judaism seems to want to influence or exert power on everyone else, through control of the religious agenda. Very unfortunate. Look, there are so many things that we do agree about. Can’t we just be happy, trust in Hashem and lead moral lives. That’s more than enough.

  116. Joe Schmo

    6/18/2005 at 9:34 pm

    There is nothing wrong with woman getting involved and studying or anything else.

    The only difference is that men must study Torah, pray daily and do many of the Mitzvot. The reason is that the fact is (maybe unfortunately) that they are more in control in this world and therefore they have the responsibility to transmit and enforce Judaism.

    Not that Woman can’t just that they don’t have to.

    Unfortunately the conservative movement and others have used this issue and other issues (such as ‘rabbis’ and ‘oral law’) to deny the Torah itself and to deny what happened on Sinai.

    Had they not done that they might have had some say – You have many religious who discuss different topics and there is variety – yes people do have opinions and do think.

    — but because these are all excuses to attack Judaism itself there can be no compromise with these groups.

  117. Elon

    6/18/2005 at 10:48 pm

    Joe Schmo- And women in conservative shuls still don’t have to do any of the things you talked about, but if they want to they can. To say that because women aren’t obligated to study torah, pray daily, and do many of the mitzvot does not equate to a negative effect for them doing so. That’s not an attack on Judaism itself, that’s common bloody sense man. So if you are going to keep women from qeri’at ha-Torah then at least be willing to come out straight and say why: Women are not considered equal to men in your world.

  118. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 12:15 am

    Shavua Tov,

    You know Joe Schmo is right. I have in the past underestimated the extent of damage done by those who perpetuate the “Anti” Sinai delusion. I say that at this point regardless of how you define that… conservative, reform, reconstructionist, progressive or any other — USELESS label. Joe Schmo, refer to my Shavout learning time in last weeks themiddle’s Shavuot learning blog #70 I think.

  119. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 12:20 am

    I have read pieces of this “manifesto” that the middle conjured up here. I find it bewildering and dangerous as anything I have seen. I have to admit, I simply don’t have the tools at my disposal at the moment to take on this.

  120. Nathan

    6/19/2005 at 12:25 am

    How does it go in the IDF?. The IDF does not deploy the women for prolonged combat role. This is even in contrast to US policy. Yeah, women are effectively used for local security, and Women make excellent trainers in all matters of implementing war within the IDF..The reason is clear, when MEN hear womens voices scream THEY GO NUTS and Men lose unit cohesiveness…..

    Tell that to Sgt. Leigh Ann Hester of the Kentucky National Guard, who was just awarded the Silver Star for kicking some serious ass in Iraq. I’d take her as my gunner over most of the tough guys posting in this thread any day. She can even sing to me, if she wants; I like mountain and bluegrass music…

    The award

    The battle

  121. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 12:49 am

    I really don’t have much more to say on military policy. I certainly wouldn’t stupid enough to suggest that US policy and the deployment of women there is wrong in a general sense or can be compared to the IDF… I don’t have expertise in thses matters. I do know that the IDF does deploy women differently them the US. That is a simple statement. The reason I bring this up is because it doesn’t take much time to bump into IDF women in Israel. Sometimes here in the US the situation is different. It is just different.

  122. Nathan

    6/19/2005 at 12:52 am

    This is not 1950 when the Jews were first moving out to the suburbs, and Reform and Conservative Judaism could boast great promise. It is a half-century on – and the landscape through which Jews must travel in fellowship is marked by two major features: the smoking ruins of R and C Judaism, and the renaissance of the Judaism of the Ages, which we had been confidently told would go the way of the dinosaur.

    Great prose, but it’s somewhat out of touch with the reality of American Judaism outside of larger cities. The Conservative movement is indeed shrinking, but in part that may be due to a renewed focus over the past 10(?) years on strongly encouraging its membership to observe Shabbat/Kashruth/Etc. As one high-ranking NYC Conservative big shot told me, we’re going to be a leaner, meaner movement in the future. That means they’ll likely bleed off some folks to the Reform movement.

    Around here, the most thriving shul is the Conservative shul we attend; one MO shul is doing almost as well on its best days, and the two other Orthodox shuls are struggling to barely hang onto life. I’d like to see them all thrive on their own merits, but that’s not what has occurred over time, like it or not.

  123. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 1:02 am


    Impressive articles. I personnally admire the courage of that soldier. I don’t really understand the dynamics of the women deployment issue in the IDF or US. Certain aspects of the issue seem superficially obvious, But there is a lot to the story. I have seen many great contributions and stories of heroic Jewish Women have made in the US in the latest round of War in that region. I have seen a few of these Valiant Women Honored by the most Religious of the Religious and I even know a very Observant Women who is a highly decorated Inteligence Officer in the Navy.

  124. laya

    6/19/2005 at 1:42 am

    muffti said: Orthodox Judaism’s treatment of women is similar to its treatment of homosexuals: purely traditional and inflexible.

    I disagree on both counts, but then I have the advantage of seeing many changes from the inside that won’t make it to the mainstream for years. That’s one of the things I love about living in israel; being in the epicenter of Jewish thought.

    See books like Wrestling with God and Men about homosexuality and Judaism or Expanding the Palace of the Torah very hot right now, about women in Judaism. The ideas and issues are being talked about and dealt with. Even though the solutions may take some time, it is certainly a process to be encouraged.

    But yes, I stand corrected, the Idea of women’s rights is not new, but the implementation in western society is. During the time of Charcot (circa 1880) women with psychological problems were treated as science experiments. We’ve come a long way, quite quickly since then.

  125. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 1:50 am

    Why are we talking about women soldiers suddenly? The IDF and Israel were founded with plenty of brave female soldiers. If you’ll recall, the secular movement of Zionism was intent on creating a new “Jew” that was very different from the “Jew” of Europe prior to Zionism.

    All of that is meaningless, since we’re talking about religions and different streams in Judaism. I can’t wait for Ben David to chime in and tell Joe Schmo that he’s playing the victimization card because he’s complaining that non-Orthodox bring up the inequality of women as a significant flaw in the Orthodox practice and life.

    Joe, what is this bullshit about women not having to do it while men do? I have a feeling there are plenty of women, Orthodox women, who would love to read the Torah in your shul next shabbat. What is the likelihood of that happening?

    I’m sure there are a bunch of women who would like to be counted in your next minyan. What is the likelihood of that happening?

    I have a feeling there are a bunch of women who would like their husband to remain home and tend to the kids while they go to yeshiva to study. What is the likelihood of that happening?

    I’m sure there are a bunch of Orthodox women who would like to give a dvar torah next shabbat at shul. Or better yet, to lead the congregation as rabbis. What is the likelihood of that happening?

    In other words, in every facet upon which your tradition places great value and emphasis, women do not receive any opportunity. I don’t mean that there’s mild inequality, I mean they are shut out.

    By the way, based on the capabilities of the Jewish women who studied gemara in school with me, you folks are losing some serious chochma and bina by excluding women.

    Stop bitching about divisiveness. You and the other ba’alei teshuva keep bringing home the point that all these other streams aren’t genuine Jews, their rabbis aren’t genuine rabbis (or worse), their converts are not Jewish, etc., etc., etc. Then you whine about those streams causing divisiveness among Jews because they bring up the strident inequality that exists in your movement. Agunot anyone?

  126. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 1:53 am

    Laya, are there any mainstream thinkers who would espouse even a small portion of the views of this woman author and homosexual author?

  127. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 2:17 am

    Dear themiddle,

    The primary focus of what I am emphasizing isn’t
    the lack of contribution to women to the IDF. I
    can’t see anybody being such a DUMBASS to say
    anything like that.

    Dear themiddle,

    You must think I am pretty stupid, like I got
    manure for brains….. What I am emphasizing is
    that Men under high stress from real have a
    weakness towards Women. I have reason to
    believe that the IDF understands has a certain
    understanding of this, which I don’t know if you
    do…. I have also reason to think the US Military has a different understanding of this issue, what that is, I don’t know, but I do RESPECT it.

  128. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 2:28 am

    G-d forbid to say that Jewish women lack bina in Gemorah study. I wouldn’t be stupid enough to say something like that. There may be folks out there who do, what can I say…. I have NO desire to protect the “orthodox, shmorfodox, or any dox…. Those labels are the true definition of MEANLESSNESS

  129. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 2:30 am

    I should correct some spelling goof ups. That is meaninglessness….

  130. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 2:33 am

    Can we at least aggree that labels are the in the category of useless and meaningless?

  131. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 3:03 am

    Can we agree to post once, maybe twice if we forget a thought, instead of 4 or 5 times in a row?


  132. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 4:16 am

    dear themiddle,

    I will try to trim my posts based youre respected opinion in this matter.

    I don’t consider you a “DUMBASS.” The “dumbass” I was refering to was the idea of someoning not recognizing the contribution of Women in the IDF. That wasn’t you nor myself, thank you….


    You didn’t answer the question….

    Do you find it in youreself to aggree that labels are useless and meaningless?

    I am not just going to ask you, themiddle, this. It is a general point I have been after.

  133. Ben-David

    6/19/2005 at 5:12 am

    Great prose, but it’s somewhat out of touch with the reality of American Judaism outside of larger cities. The Conservative movement is indeed shrinking, but in part that may be due to a renewed focus over the past 10(?) years on strongly encouraging its membership to observe Shabbat/Kashruth/Etc. As one high-ranking NYC Conservative big shot told me, we’re going to be a leaner, meaner movement in the future. That means they’ll likely bleed off some folks to the Reform movement.
    – – – – – – – – – – –
    In other words, they are returning to a more Orthodox vision after making the calculation that it’s the best way of retaining the flock that remains.

    Oh, and by the way – how has the local Reform presence fared?


    Around here, the most thriving shul is the Conservative shul we attend; one MO shul is doing almost as well on its best days, and the two other Orthodox shuls are struggling to barely hang onto life. I’d like to see them all thrive on their own merits, but that’s not what has occurred over time, like it or not.
    – – – – – – – – –
    What was the situation 30-40 years ago? Were there so many Orthodox shuls back then? Were there additional Reform and Conservative shuls – or larger member bases?

    What is the net change – the trend over time? Does it match the statistically confirmed trend towards concentration of affiliated Jews at the Orthodox/halachically serious Conservative end of the spectrum (which is what it sounds like)?

  134. Ben-David

    6/19/2005 at 5:26 am

    muffti said: Orthodox Judaism’s treatment of women is similar to its treatment of homosexuals: purely traditional and inflexible.
    – – – – – – – – – – – –
    uhhhh, last time I checked being female was not an abomination.

    And thanks-but-no-thanks for the suggestion that those poor backward Rabbis *couldn’t* have done any better – after all, women’s suffrage is so modern… talk about a backhanded compliment!

    A few facts:

    While the rest of the world – including Greece and Rome – were treating women as chattel, Jewish law recognized women as citizens capable of holding property (including land), inheriting it, bequeathing it, trading in it, and otherwise amassing and distributing wealth independentaly of any male kin.

    Women were also considered independent citizens in all matters of tort law – damage against a woman’s person or property was as actionable as damage against a man.

    The ONLY distinction between men and women was in several limited areas of “ritual” law (that’s in quotes because Judaism does not traditionally distinguish between religious and secular areas of law) and religious obligation.

    In almost all these cases, the difference amounts to a man being commanded to do something, whereas it is only optional – NOT prohibited – for a woman.

    Several centuries before old Mary W. Shelley issued her manifesto, we already had well-published cases of women taking on these optional mitzvot when they felt it furthered their spiritual growth and service of G-d. The most famous are the grandaughters of Rashi, who wore talit and tefilin and studies Talmud (France/Alsace in the 12-13th centuries).

    Today many Orthodox seminaries teach Talmud to women (note to Esther: men also study the “irrelevant” parts about pigeon traders adn gamblers) and Orthodox synagogues support women’s prayer groups for women who wish to take a more active role in communal worship. All this “innovation” has required negligible “revision” of existing halacha – all the precedents are already in place.

  135. laya

    6/19/2005 at 7:01 am

    Middle: re: mainstream, i think i already answered that in my comment where i said I have the advantage of seeing many changes from the inside that won’t make it to the mainstream for years. no?

  136. esther

    6/19/2005 at 10:13 am

    No offense, Laya. But I don’t understand why you’re such an insider, just because you live in Israel. Is Israel such a paragon of religious tolerance and innovation? I mean, we know they can create a great, Chametz-free viagra substitute, but how is Israel paving the way as far as creating positive change? And if you have seen such changes that would create optimism, why not share?

    As to pigeon racers, Ben-David, I didn’t mean to say that those were the only sections I learned. But my point was that if the purpose of education was to light a quest for Gemara knowledge like a torch to blaze our inquisitive future and to launch a thousand chevrusas, in most cases, it didn’t succeed–in most of my “non-legally-minded” female peers, it created a feeling that Talmud was mostly irrelevant. Considering this now I’m wondering if that was the purpose all along, to weed out those of us who weren’t serious with mostly-irrelevant decoy texts…

  137. laya

    6/19/2005 at 11:15 am

    Esther, by living in Israel, especially Jerusalem, one does not even have to try to get involved in interactions with severly interesting people, authors, archeologists, explorers, teachers movers and shakers etc. and to hear about the ideas being worked on thought about and discussed. It is simply part of the culture and the pulse of life here.

    Is Israel a paragon of religious tolerance? hells yah. Ask a Bahai, their world headquarters are here. or a Gypsy, or Armenian, or any other group that has sought refuge here.

    How is Israel paving the way for positive change? Think about it darlin, if you are working with Jewish thought, philosophy, law, whatever, then this is quite simply the place to be. Just like if you want to be a Broadway star you go to Manhattan, right?

    Any girl graduating from Midreshet Lindenbaum knows more torah than almost any reform rabbi. There are egalitarian minyans springing up in several places, and women are now studying to be a part of courts that decide Agunot cases. While certainly there is a long way to go, if positive change is going to happen in the torah keepin jewish world, its gonna happen from here. Feeling like I’m privy to, and in some ways a part of that change and evolution, is a large part of why I live here.

  138. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 11:45 am

    We all have had lousy teachers in the past. I think much of institutionalized education, with whatever silly label, in whatever form is a crappy surrogate for fatherhood, mentorship, motherhood or friendship and support. I did have a Rabbi who I thought knew how to teach properly. I remember showing up for my first day Gomorah class after a few days of chavruta learning. I had my nice, shiny new Gemorah sefer and was looking bright eyed and bushy tailed ready for class. The Rabbi looked at my Gemorah and said something like, “This sefer looks like you didn’t use it, it creaks open and has that new smell and I dont see any notes scribbled all over it. You look like you barely know youre chavruta and I don’t see you tired from really
    working hard at learning. All the time you were
    sitting in the Bait Midrash, I didn’t hear much noise from you guys learning.” This Rabbi would
    sometimes enter the Bait Midrash and cackle,
    “what’s its so quiet here? Its like a morgue; are
    you guys learning or what? We would laugh at
    this, but its so true. I have had precious few other Rabbis that can put spark under asses to learn like that. The proper way to learn Gemorah is with sharpness and fierceness and putting actual physical effort into the process. Chairs and tables should be rattling. The idea is to put blood, sweat, tears and guts into it. The gemorah sefer should be smeared with notes, drops of sweat and spit and even blood if necessary. I have seen fights, wrestling and mass hysteria when learning. That is when you know there is real learning going on.

    Grab a chavruta, learn the crap out of a Gemorah.
    Have catfights. Throw books at each other.
    Scream bloody murder. If you be female you can
    still learn with another guy. We are not little kids here. Who here is under somebody’s thumb for
    chinuch purposes? Okay, many yeshivas don’t
    encourage mixed learning. They have thier
    reasons…. What does it matter? So what? Find
    places that do . Find somebody who will be
    chavruta be they male or female…
    It could get ugly…
    but thats beautifull….
    No limit
    no fear to do this and
    no excuses.

  139. Liora

    6/19/2005 at 11:59 am


    Thanks for writing such an excellent article and for saying what desperately needed to be said.

  140. Jobber

    6/19/2005 at 12:13 pm

    Laya, many people who left after making Aliyah, weren’t able to travel abroad, and this was a factor in their leaving. That is because most people who live in Israel, need and use a quick break to Chul, often in their year.

    This is a preferable way to live their imo.

    I am very happy with your posts and perspectives, and I only can encourage you to consider hiring an agent who would represent you to many types of publications, that would be interested and this includes places in Utah and other such states, where, on a typical evening, I heard several discources about the exacting Israeli Political analysis, on more than one AM statiion.

    I do maintain a blogspot.

  141. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 12:15 pm

    Any girl graduating from Midreshet Lindenbaum knows more torah than almost any reform rabbi.

    What gall.

    Next time you’re in my part of the country, give me a call and we’ll go have a chat with a reform rabbi or two. One of them might even be a…girl.

    Liora: thank you for thanking me, but this time it was mostly cutting and pasting of others’ writings. I’m just a messenger.

  142. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 12:20 pm

    Ben David,

    When was the last time a woman led your prayer services, taught you some torah, was your study partner, was called a talmidah chachama by those who study around you, etc.?

    Nobody is saying that Judaism is a lousy religion or that women are treated worse or better than other religions. What is being discussed is their inequality and limited range of options within the Orthodox fold.

  143. laya

    6/19/2005 at 12:36 pm

    TM, next time you’re in mine, we’ll organize a square off between any Hebrew Union College student and any M. Lindenbaum 1st year gal. Any one wanna place some bets?

    We’ll let Rami Watid keep score …

  144. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 12:57 pm

    Why change the parameters? You said “rabbi.”

  145. laya

    6/19/2005 at 1:32 pm

    we’ll now I’m talking student vs. student. the HUC dude can even have a year or two on the M. Lindenbaum chick. you got a problem with that? you wanna take this outside? 😉

  146. Ben-David

    6/19/2005 at 1:35 pm

    When was the last time a woman led your prayer services, taught you some torah, was your study partner, was called a talmidah chachama by those who study around you, etc.?
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Although my student days are long gone, I have taken courses given by women, and have met women who are commonly recognized as talmidot chachamot.

    I don’t have a female study partner, nor would most “talmidot chachamot” seek a male study partner – assuming they have actually internalized the Torah’s moral and ethical teachings, rather than treating them as an intellectual exercise.

    I don’t have to satisfy the expectations of an external standard of “equality” between the sexes. Judaism is its own system. Which brings us back to the main point of this thread: Jewish sects that felt the need to nosejob Judaism to accommodate external value systems are now failing to retain their membership – or their “halachic” standards.

    You write:

    Nobody is saying that Judaism is a lousy religion or that women are treated worse or better than other religions. What is being discussed is their inequality and limited range of options within the Orthodox fold.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    However “limited” Orthodoxy’s range, it is retaining more young, well-educated Jews than Conservative Judaism – and even drawing the best, most dedicated Conservative youth.

    That is: undiluted Orthodox Judaism is the stream that has actually succeeded in the free market of ideas – and its “limitations” appeal to many well-educated Jews who know well the taste of secular liberty.

    You are unable to admit this – and unable to answer the most obvious and pressing question facing us today: After a century of experimentation, what works and what doesn’t?

    So you have spent the rest of the thread swinging almost blindly, hoping to strike any blow against Orthodoxy you can – from the Chief Rabbi’s hooligan son, to how chauvinistic those awful “Rabbis” are. This thread has most definitely turned to a whine about “what a lousy religion” Orthodox Judaism is.

    Gone in a puff of smoke is the Deep Respect For Our Traditions with which you started this thread – have you stuffed Dr. Schorsh back into his box? By what Halachic or Talmudic precedent were women allowed into the Conservative rabbinate – or is that now revealed as a sham, the halacha twisted to make Judaism match an external culture’s norms?

    Yes or No: Has Conservative Judaism succeeded in its mission?

    Yes or No: Has CJ remained true to its starting values?

    Yes or No: Has CJ served most of its adherents well – and preserved even baseline connection to the Jewish people?

    Yes or No: Has CJs vision of the Torah’s authority remained intact, or drifted with the external currents of moral relativism?

    After almost 100 years of experimental substitute Judaism, after a century of tinkering and Houdini-like struggles against the bonds of the covenant –

  147. grandmuffti

    6/19/2005 at 1:38 pm

    Laya, what you say is interesting, though all Muffti sees are book names, not ‘solutions’ as one might have it.

    In any case, the problem is more fundamental. If Muffti or Middle says ‘boy, the Orthodox have a stance on some phenomenon P and we think it would be better if they didn’t’, we get Ephraim, CK etc., (with variying degress of humour and ascerbicness) saying ‘This is Orthodox Judaism and fuck you if you don’t like it. We ain’t gonna change to accomodate your [insert your favourite pejorative term here. If it’s BenDavid, it’s probably some knee jerk mention of ‘victimization politics’, If ck, it’s probably some crap about shrimp encrusted fish sticks] views that conflict with ours.’

    OK, now, let’s transport that on to issues invovling women and gays. We say ‘Boy, Orthodox judaism relegates women to a secondary position of sorts.’ What do we expect to hear back? ‘This is Orthodox Judaism and fuck you if you don’t like it…’

  148. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 1:56 pm

    Laya, I was thinking of people I know. Since I don’t know any students over there, I have to pass.

    Ben David, you are so swaggering in your confidence and yet have not answered some basic answers about the viability of the Orthodox community and its growth without the material support of the non-Orthodox. If you remove that support, are you still growing as quickly? I don’t think so.

    As for the Conservative decline in numbers, I don’t disagree. However, Reform is growing, so that eliminates the theory that a non-Orthodox stream is unable to thrive.

    Conservative is in decline, in part, because their standards have become more demanding. Many of their rabbis have rounded back and determined that they do not wish to have a movement with people who are not as committed to traditions. As a result, you have people moving to Reform, and you also tend to have a larger proportion of more devout congregants and the remove from Orthodox is not so great and some people will make the move for many reasons.

    As to your questions, yes, I think Conservatives have remained true to their mission. Their movement, by its nature, calls for reconsideration and evolution, so if that takes place as they assess their values, that is acceptable and fine.

    CJ has served its adherents extremely well. I say this from personal knowledge. As for “baseline connection,” it has done far more than that.

    CJ’s vision of the Torah’s authority has always been strong. If anything, they have become more stringent with respect to halacha.

    As to what works and what doesn’t? Well, of course unquestioning blind faith will work better. Not all of us possess it, however.

  149. laya

    6/19/2005 at 2:27 pm

    muffti, nowhere do i say that solutions have been come to. All I am pointing out is that these are things that are being discussed in a serious manner within the orthodox world, which i think is pretty cool, and the forum from which solutions may come.

    As far as your last paragraph, I’m not sure if your saying you expected to hear that and didn’t or did? Besides, if you expected to hear something and then didn’t you’d probably criticize me for being inconsistent anyway.

    have it your way middle. Still, next time you’re in Israel, we can still give it a try, just for fun.

  150. grandmuffti

    6/19/2005 at 2:37 pm

    hehehe…fair enough, ck/laya(?). You did say:

    I disagree on both counts, but then I have the advantage of seeing many changes from the inside that won’t make it to the mainstream for years.

    So Muffti supposes he was asking about the ‘changes’ rather than the ‘solutions’, foolishly equating the two. Yeah, it’s great that things are getting talked about seriously. But the point remains: orthodox judaism is committed to not-changing in the face of external changes. Ben-david said it best above, Muffti thinks, with:

    I don’t have to satisfy the expectations of an external standard of “equality” between the sexes. Judaism is its own system.

    That’s the ‘fuck you if you don’t like it’ Muffti was mentioning. Muffti ironically ‘heard’ it before he asked for it! As for your second last paragraph, Muffti confesses to being at a total loss as to what you mean. Muffti did expect to hear something. and probably would have considered it inconsistent to give one type of response to calls for change in one area but then get all excited about changes in another. One ‘fuck you’ to rule them all seems consistent unless there is reason to do it in some area and not another.

  151. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 3:10 pm

    Laya, can’t we find more enjoyable activities? For example, we could visit the Center for Conservative Judaism and if it still exists, hang out at the Alliance Francaise next door right afterwards (great place to meet women, guys).

  152. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 3:46 pm

    To complain about Women not getting aliyas, not
    learning, not able to learn, not alowed to lead a
    minyan is to show fear. This ranting is another
    excuse to feel inadequate and offer up excuses to
    fail and cry “It was thier fault, those, whatever
    labels, be they orthodox, chasidic, whatever stupid labels….”

    dear themiddle,

    you are indeed a good man to pander to with
    these phobias. I know if I had something to
    complain about in some synagague, yeshiva or
    you are the man…
    I would expect a slap on the back in
    encouragement and a sound amen ve amen and
    hear about the superiority of the content of this
    “conservative” manifesto.
    Don’t expect this yenta treatment with me. Thank
    G-d not everybody gave me slack to behave this


    Who is stopping you?

    If some people don’t like how you do things…
    find people who do, don’t be wimps and yentas.

  153. Joe Schmo

    6/19/2005 at 5:19 pm

    Laya thank you for your posts,

    TM you see when Esther or Laya bring up a point that makes sense to me. She might be right in certain circumstances and wrong in others. There’s what to talk about.

    But when you bring up any of these points I know that its all a mask for to attack Judaism and Sinai. I told you before I have a great Uncle who was the head of the ‘university of Judaism’ in California so I know how they operate. When I was in California he took me and my sister out to a Kosher restaurant – and he made a point of mentioning about women Rabbis and that some girl who was in the restaurant was studying to be a Rabbi. It was clear to me that he was saying it for the sake of my sister. I understand how both he and you operate. That is why I find it disingenuous when you speak and we the honest religious who care about G-d – we will discuss it and come to some conclusion.

    Like our fathers said to the Samarians who offered “to help” – the same ones who also send warning letters to the King of Persia not to allow us to build the Temple.
    http://www.mechon-mamre.org/e/et/et35a04.htm [Ezra chapter 4:3] ‘Ye have nothing to do with us to build a house unto our God; but we ourselves together will build unto the LORD, the God of Israel, as king Cyrus the king of Persia hath commanded us.’

    -So I tell you we will discuss any feelings of unfairness amongst ourselves but not with the destroyers from the outside.

  154. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 6:11 pm

    I agree Joe. Since you are actually accusing me of attacking Judaism and Sinai, and then proceed to mention that one should not speak to the “destroyers,” it’s best if you ignore us and seek places where your input has greater resonance.

    You are welcome to leave Jewlicious if you feel that we are destroyers of Judaism. I’m sure there are hundreds of other sites where your input would be welcome.

  155. laya

    6/19/2005 at 6:35 pm

    muffti says “orthodox Judaism is committed to not-changing in the face of external changes” I disagree.

    If we were an unchanging religion, then only torah law would do, which is oddly, what some here seem to prefer. The whole thing about the oral law is it it DESIGNED FOR CHANGE. Torah needs to change to meet the needs of every generation. That change may be happening slower than we’d like right now, but it’s what the system is designed for.

    Besides, i think the orthodox Rabbi Yo, with his WiFi enabled house and fancy gadgets gets offended when people imply backwardness of the orthodox. We’re not Amish you know.

    But no matter what other commentors of the torah keeping persuasion may say, please don’t paint us all with one giant ‘fuck you’ brush. Allow me to say that to you personally 😉

  156. esther

    6/19/2005 at 6:48 pm

    Commentary like this makes me want to leave, not just Jewlicious, but Jewish discourse and observance in general. I have more anger, fear and sadness inside of me, but that way, the Dark Side lies. I’m tired of the lack of respectful discussion, the use of a “f**k you” brush of any size or diameter, the calling of names like “whiners,” “yentas” or “destroyers of Judaism,” and even the “come on, baby, I’m gonna change, just stay with me and everything will get better” approach to trying to satisfy those of us who aren’t having our needs met by our communities or by the current interpretation of halakhah…

    But what am I supposed to do? Leave 14 years of yeshiva education behind? Move to another city? Stop posting here or on my blogs? Become a Catholic? An atheist? Maybe I’m already on my way. At this point, I’m not sure of anything and am unwilling to delve further in this venue. Because let’s face it, this has devolved into a respect-free zone, and that’s no place for a sensitive girl like me to announce a major lifestyle change.

    So I’m just opting out of this discussion, and from there, will consider what else to do. Because right now, I’m kind of hating us all.

  157. grandmuffti

    6/19/2005 at 6:52 pm

    Laya, Muffti thinks you are misinterpreting him. Perhaps deliberately. Muffti didn’t means to suggest that the Orthodox were backwards or scared of technology. What he said was that on issues of halacha Orthodoxy (as represented by teh orthos of Jewlicious at least) are inflexible. And proud of it.

    What is an example, by the way, of the oral law accomodating the needs of recent generations?

    As for painting with ‘fuck you’ brushes…if the colour fits…

  158. grandmuffti

    6/19/2005 at 6:54 pm

    errr…sorry Esther 🙁 Muffti will behave.

    (though, if you are doing lifestyle changes, the atheists will embrace you with open arms.)

  159. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 8:13 pm

    The Jewish character isn’t wimpy or Yenta. We
    were often taught such weakness in the
    myriads of apathetic schooling we were
    brainwashed with, whatever dorky label given.
    Some of us encountered an individual or a
    certain crew of some kind that pushed us
    beyond our own mushagass. I have seen
    when a Jew gets proper leadership he/she
    becomes a Lion/Lioness, unafraid of anything.
    I myself endured extreme physical training in
    extreme conditions. I am glad I did. I even
    overcame injury that kept me from walking
    several months well after I Chozer betchuva.
    Thank G-d I did have a good Rabbi or two
    later in life who knew what he was doing and
    was tough. I have seen life and death in front
    of me in amazing ways.
    I don’t know anybody personally here.
    Whatever contact I have had so far doesn’t
    tell me much about anybody. After more then
    40 years on this planet, How could I squeze all
    that in a few posts?

  160. esther

    6/19/2005 at 9:39 pm

    The Muffti is not the problem here–the disrespect is. The Esther, she is reminded of that pesky old “sin’at chinam” thing. Now, what happened with that?…oh yeah, the Temple was friggin’ destroyed.

    And I know atheism would embrace me. Don’t think I don’t know about your recruitment strategies: I know you get a free toaster for every one of us you sign up.

  161. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 10:02 pm

    Uh, Esther, you have no reason to leave. Let them leave, those who are on the attack here.

    You stay, you are very much wanted around here.

    Oh, and one more thing, if you join a Conservative shul, it’s very unlikely you’ll hear anybody accuse somebody else of being a destroyer of Judaism.

  162. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 10:29 pm

    A lot of what I read of this convaluted
    manifesto of “Conservitive….” here is an attack
    on many core aspects of the most Holy of
    Holies of Israel. I Challenge those who take
    this piece seriously. I am trained in this art of
    taking these issues to a fight. I am not alone
    here. I am considering bringing in back up. I
    have been impressed by many of the arguments made. Many have said eloquent
    aruguments much better then I could. I look
    foward to fighting here, because this
    manifesto is fighting words to me….

    Dear themiddle,

    You were the one how conjured this Manifesto
    up to inspire debate? How come now you are
    displaying pure fear by wimping out again in
    the face of opposition? Are you just looking for
    a choir to sing Amen ve amen to this. Are you
    looking for the panderers to cry on youre
    shoulder and look for approval. Are you
    affraid of some of these Chozer betchuvas
    who hurt your feelings? Why don’t you fight
    like a man, like a Jewish man instead of a
    wimp. I want to see youre teeth. You are Jew
    right? Fight like one then.

  163. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 10:31 pm

    Netsach, honestly, I haven’t a clue what you’re talking about.

    For those who keep complaining, I guess I should remind you that this post was meant to be informative. Here’s how it began:

    It seems that we’ve been going over and over the same debate about the streams of Judaism. It is not only tiresome, but it is demoralizing to watch the unfortunate but undeniably negative perceptions of other streams that we’ve been reading on Jewlicious. As Rabbi Aviner of Ateret Cohanim Yeshiva has pointed out, we are brothers and one nation, and that should be one of the values that drives our discussions. While debates such as these have a long and prominent history (Saducees and Pharisees, anyone?), I couldn’t help but feel that perhaps it might improve matters if people actually had some information at their fingertips.

    Unfortunately, the very people who were supposed to perhaps learn from this post and consider a different approach are the ones who are on the attack. I suggest you think carefully about Rabbi Aviner, who is a very smart, very devout Orthodox Jew who is also an educator.

  164. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 11:00 pm

    dear themiddle,

    Now you are talking. We are getting to you….
    You could have just ignored me like you used to doing.

  165. Joe Schmo

    6/19/2005 at 11:47 pm

    I apologize TM but the truth must be told.

  166. themiddle

    6/19/2005 at 11:49 pm

    Joe, why do you continue to interact with us? Go off and find a place where they don’t destroy Judaism. Please.

  167. Joe Schmo

    6/19/2005 at 11:53 pm

    By the way it doesn’t mean that I don’t like you personally – I do and I care about you
    – its the conservative and reform movements that I refer to as the destroyers of Judaism and and I notice that their proponents, which you are one of, are very sneaky and couch their denial of Sinai with other political issues- exactly as politicians who want the masses to follow them do.

    I am calling you on that – I won’t let you or anyone else get away with such deceit.

  168. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/19/2005 at 11:55 pm

    Dear themiddle,

    Do you really want us to just stay out of this?
    There you go again… Is the only thing you
    value of this is to just convince us of the
    worthiness of this manifesto…. Don’t you
    realize a Jew who holds by the

    Torah Tsivah lanu Moshe Morashat Kehilla

    Wouldn’t buy this Manifesto?

  169. Nathan

    6/20/2005 at 12:10 am

    Several centuries before old Mary W. Shelley issued her manifesto, we already had well-published cases of women taking on these optional mitzvot when they felt it furthered their spiritual growth and service of G-d. The most famous are the grandaughters of Rashi, who wore talit and tefilin and studies Talmud (France/Alsace in the 12-13th centuries).

    Today many Orthodox seminaries teach Talmud to women (note to Esther: men also study the “irrelevant” parts about pigeon traders adn gamblers) and Orthodox synagogues support women’s prayer groups for women who wish to take a more active role in communal worship. All this “innovation” has required negligible “revision” of existing halacha – all the precedents are already in place.

    If only that were true in practice as well as theory among more Orthodox congregations, there might be a viable alternative to the Conservative movement. I would be at such a minion in a heartbeat. There are all too few “liberal Orthodox” groups that are willing to take a chance and struggle to work within halacha and give women a shot at leading psalms, receiving aliot or leining Torah while leaving men the obligation of forming the minion quorum and the privilege of acting as the Sh’liach Tsibur.

    Look, even getting Orthodox friends in this part of the world to recognize the concept of a women’s mezuman (when 3+ women but less than 3 men, women lead and answer the invocation), heaven for fend participate in one, has at times been like pulling teeth. Why bother when we can instead sit at a table of men and women from our Conservative shul and sing zimroth and pray with gladness without caring who is leading? Besides, our more lame Orthodox friends mostly stop singing after hazon eth hakol. Totaling boring.

  170. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 12:42 am

    Joe, why are you still here? With the destroyers of Judaism?

    You want truth and the truth is women are not equal to men in your world.

    I guess the truth is that I don’t think you seek truth. I think, truthfully, that you are seeking to deflect any serious look at the paucity of your argument by going on the offensive (a personal offensive, I might add) and claiming some mythical high road as the “defender” of Judaism.

    Spare us the violins. Or the deceit, if you prefer.

    It’s a simple truth. You can call it politics. You can call it sneaky. You can call it whatever you like, but it’s the truth. Some women want to be part of it, and some do not but cannot do anything about changing or escaping their world. Your world. You can call this whatever you like, but it’s the truth you so fervently seek.

    For some reason, when this is mentioned as a significant flaw in your system of belief – it does affect 51% of your population, after all – you consider this to be a destructive attack on Judaism.

    And yet, when you exclude 5/6 of North American Jewry from what you consider Judaism, in your mind that’s not a destructive attack on Judaism. Who do you think you’re kidding?

    As I said earlier on, it is people like you who are excluding yourselves from the rest of us. Just like a ba’al teshuvah who embraces rabbinic Judaism more than his parents by refusing to eat in their home, and thereby causing a greater sin (remember the relevant commandment?), I think sometimes fervent faith can cause people blindness that makes them miss opportunities to act as their faith demands of them.

    In other words, you’re missing the forest for the trees. Fortunately, there are many Orthodox Jews with different views than yours.

  171. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/20/2005 at 1:05 am

    Yo Bro Joe Schmo,

    I bet you know a lot of good people who
    affiliate with some synagague because they
    like the Rabbi or the chevray in the
    congregation. Most of those folks don’t care
    much for whatever label shtick the
    Synagague holds thier flag. Often these fine
    jews in such a place would have dual
    membership or cassually frequent whatever
    label of other Bait Keneset…

    We all know that.

    The place is just thier way of hanging with
    other jews and showing appropriate respect
    for the tradition at whatever level they could
    deal with at the time.

    What we have here in the form the themiddle’s
    attitude is a bonafide believer in this
    “conservative” manifesto like it was “Torah M’
    Sinai” like equal to or greater.
    Any Jew who has even the most basic
    understanding and apprectiation of

    Torah Tsivah lanu Moshe Morashat Kehilla

    Will see the obvious and see the nudity of
    such an attitude for what it is. I hold by Moshe
    Rabbeynu obm, not the framers of that

  172. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 2:16 am

    Um, Netsach, I am not affiliated with any movement. Sorry.

  173. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/20/2005 at 2:44 am

    Then why did you conjur this manifesto up
    and refer to it with such authority? Youre
    language indicates a constant attempt at
    persuation when you refer to Masorti people
    in Israel and other contacts you know. You
    constantly refer to this manifesto when you
    think somebody somebody doesn’t
    understand youre position. Do you expect me
    to believe what you just said based on
    everything that I was posted here?

    I don’t really know you then….

    For sure you have a lot of vested attitude and
    something you must take very seriously
    wrapped in this document you posted.

  174. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 3:02 am

    Uh Netsach, I brought it up for the reasons stated in the post. As for the seriousness with which I take the “manifesto,” consider the manifesto to be taken seriously by the Conservative movement. It isn’t some lighthearted paper Schorsch wrote one day.

    I researched before posting, seeking sources that I believed best explained current official positions of the movement in both lay and spiritual terms. It was a learning process for me as well.

    Having said that, I know many Conservative Jews, including some in my family.

    My primary goal – the opposite of which was achieved, it seems – was to make some of these hard-core haters of the non-Orthodox consider an alternative position. I thought bringing up the movement closest to them would do the trick.

    As we can see, this may have been naive because faith can sometimes be blinding to the point where it brings up all sorts of bile.

    My secondary goal was simply to provide all of our readers with a deeper look at one of the key movements in Judaism today. I have a feeling most people don’t really know much about the movements, and I believed some might find a synopsis about this one useful. I certainly found it useful.

    My third goal was to personally learn something. That was accomplished. I learned about Conservative Judaism, I learned about Orthodox views of Conservative Judaism, about the role the debate over women plays in the dialogue between movements, and about people and the way they behave in certain circumstances.

    All in all, a worthwhile trip, if disappointing in some ways.

    Yours truly,

  175. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/20/2005 at 3:20 am

    Dear themiddle,

    You really don’t have to start in the dumbass
    tittle. I didn’t give you that.
    I was actually begining to hear youre out untill
    then. I still hear you. I was begining to
    suspect you were some kind of closet clergy
    amongst some synagague or something.

    Well, what can you know from a few postings.

    One thing I hope you learn or have learned is
    the extent of the intensity of Jewish faith in
    general. I don’t know if you like the idea of
    the concept of Jewish faith, but it is there. And
    I hope you eventually see that Jewish faith is
    not a naive expression of just blindness.

  176. ck

    6/20/2005 at 3:59 am

    Themiddle wrote: Joe, why are you still here? With the destroyers of Judaism?

    I dunno. Given the fact that this is really a public forum where we allow, nay encourage, pretty much anyone to post, is this a question that needs to be asked? I know that for my part I have taken offense to comments directed at me or at things precious to me and I have responded in kind, but never have I suggested that anyone fuck off. Having said that, for whatever its worth, my vote is that Joe Shmo stay and post to his hearts content – free marketplace of ideas and whatnot.

    Themiddle added: You want truth and the truth is women are not equal to men in your world.

    Uh, having had the benefit (some would say misfortune) of having dated a Harvard educated Women’s studies major for a number of years, I know that women are not equal to men in the secular world either. And ya know what? You don’t need any great expertise to realize that.

    Y’all are slinging mud around and talking trash and getting esther all upset. In the meantime, we have serious problems to deal with… blah blah blah …

  177. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 4:13 am

    ck, of course Joe is welcome to stay, but why would he want to remain among the detroyers of Judaism? Surely we are all familiar with forms of deceit hypocrisy and would like to avoid them if possible. No?

    Your second point about the secular world is absolutely absurd. There’s an article in today’s Ha’aretz about Sherry Lansing (Jewlicious) who headed up Paramount Studios. Carly Fiorina headed up HP. Both Senators from California (Jewlicious) and one from New York are female – these being the two richest and most influential states. Two Supreme Court justices are women. A former PM of Canada is a woman. The list goes on, but I’m too lazy. Let’s be honest about the role of women in Orthodox Judaism. Some of them and maybe most, are perfectly content with their roles. To suggest, however, that they are like secular women in their opportunities (or lack thereof) or that somehow they are at the beginning of some long movement like the Suffragettes, or that they will have similar opportunities to participate in the full range of Jewish life as do non-Orthodox women, etc. is false. They don’t and they won’t.

    Baruch she-lo asani isha. Right?

  178. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/20/2005 at 4:34 am

    dear themiddle,

    whats bothering you? I was begining to hear you out and finnally get a chance to a point of reasoning and get a picture of where you are coming from. I think I should take it easy with you. I think you have had enough…

  179. ck

    6/20/2005 at 5:55 am

    Baruch Sheh-asani kirtsono
    That’s what I say every morning. But really? Being a woman is not an easy thing. Your laundry list of powerful women makes me laugh – I mean uh… Indira Ghandi was PM of India. Benazir Bhutto was PM of Pakistan. Are you suggesting that by dint of that, the lot of women in India and Pakistan is peachy keen? Puhleeeze! Seriously now, WHO is being absurd? Our highly evolved secular world still has quite a way to go with respect to how women are treated and you do not have to be a radical feminist to realize that.

  180. esther

    6/20/2005 at 9:46 am

    I still encourage everyone to post; the diversity of opinions is still something I find encouraging, if delivered sans vitriol and avec le respect. It’s all the holier-than-thou crap that amounts to “Jane, you ignorant slut,” but without Dan Aykroyd’s matter-of-fact comedic timing or intent.

  181. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 10:04 am

    We like to say our piece in public but the other sphere, the private sphere, we are not investing enough of ourselves in. It may feel more dangerous to us, or the rewards may not justify the risks for us: you just don’t get a parade if your husband loves you. Nobody cares. It has to be enough in itself.

    There are two mysteries: G-d, whom you can’t see, and the other gender, who you engage by marrying one, and whose wierdness is endlessly fascinating.

    Greenbeans first, ice cream afterward. Duty first, fun afterward. Make a home and a kid, then write deathless prose.

    Men have their burdens, too.

    Do women still exist? Do men still exist? In the old sense?

    Many things are interesting but nothing, no nothing, is as interesting as the arrival of a new person whom you get to assist as they unfold. That is child rearing. I used to PITY the men who oonly did stuff like run the “world” all day. There is another more fundamental world in the nursery, and I ran that one.

    Back when I was on active service.

  182. Steve

    6/20/2005 at 11:33 am

    Well I’ve actually enjoyed these recent debates.

    On a previous topic someone mentioned in passing “The Documentary Hypothesis.” Well it was the first I’d heard of it so I did some googling and found these links:

    There is much much more out there of course and obviously this is nothing new to the cognoscenti but it was interesting to me.

    Now, I don’t expect this to change anyone’s faith and I haven’t read all the counter arguments but to me the evidence they have lined up based on linguistics, history and the repetitions in the text seems pretty convincing.

    Still based on my (admittedly meagre knowledge) I don’t believe this poses a major problem in Jewish or Christian theology(unlike say the existence or non existence of G_d).

  183. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 11:57 am

    Men have more religious duties because they need to refine themselves more, being closer to roughness, the animal. That is why Adam was named Made-of-Dirt. Chava was named Life, an intangible energetic quality, the most complex thing in the universe.

    Men have to give thanks every day that they are not women, because it has to be drummed into them to be glad they are men, because very, very secretly, some of them (not all) think women have a better deal. Or, a misguided spiritual ambition makes them wish they had women’s higher nature. But no. They have to be what they are, and work very hard for refinement; what is instinctive for us is very hard for them.

    Women don’t win wars (even if they contribute to the war effort.) Therefore, they can’t lose them. Military defeats are not blamed on women. Military defeats are a heavy burden for men and women can’t see this; it is like a dog-whistle, the frequency is not available.

    It is not necessarily always wonderful to be a man, particularly if one is not tall, strong, brilliant and young. But men don’t tell women about their defeats, so women are fascinated by the nice parts of being a man. But wait til the copier breaks or someone wants to hurt us. We invoke our rights in a flash.

    We women want a man who is not cranky. But they are all cranky, because nobody is taking care of them. They twitch, whimper and walk with a limp. But we want them to be fine before we are interested. But, if they were fine, they wouldn’t need us. It’s circular.

    We all have to get back to duty. Men have a duty to marry and to be faithful to their wives so their wives can do their job. Women have a duty to marry and do the job. We have a duty to stop coveting each other’s privileges (10th commandment) while ignoring each other’s burdens.

    Everybody has a job to do.

    There ARE rewards and the alternative is worse.

  184. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 12:12 pm

    JM, everything you’ve said is fine. But the women should also get to study and be like the men.

    Ck, cut it out. Over 50% of graduate students in North America are women, including in medical, law and accounting programs. This is not Indira Ghandi being elected, not in small part, because of a famous last name. The glass ceilings in our society are breaking down very rapidly. In fact, in my experience, and you know I have a bit, it is the challenge of being a mother and a career woman that hinders a career the most in North America. That is unfair, but it is not the same as saying that talmud is off limits or you can’t have an aliyah or you can’t be counted as part of a minyan.

  185. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 12:17 pm

    The documentary hypotheseis is silly. Why shouldn’t the same story be told two or three times? The Tanach is not a pamphlet about how to use your Cuisinart, subject to clear editing and concision to avoid wasting paper. (The TIMES is endlessly carrying on about how the US is losing the war, which isn’t true, – THEY feel free to tell the same story over and over.) Why shouldn’t G-d be referred to more than one way? Gee Whiz. We can’t say, Mom, Mommy, Mama and Mother? Later you get yet another name, Grandma. Not allowed?

    It’s not a term paper or a doctoral thesis, to be edited for consistency, with extra credit for nicely formatted footnotes.

    The Tanach is a gift to people, so it speaks to the way they think and live, and therefore contains repetitive, and evocative, variations, just like life!

    My mama sure had to tell ME the same thing twice, thrice and more. And not always in the same exact way.

    As for the Edomite Kings, G-d knew all about them before they were born. He knows all things, remember? And He is entitled to vary his writing style, too. Or should we give him an F? Ha ha ha

  186. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 12:25 pm

    Women can too study anything they want. Until the copier breaks or somebody wants to hurt us.

    A painful truth is still better than a sweet lie.

  187. wine guy

    6/20/2005 at 12:43 pm

    Under the Hupa the Bride walks around the Groom 7 times my friend was recently at a wedding where The Bride walked around the Groom 3 times the Groom walked around the Bride 3 times and then they walked around together the 7th time although I don’t support this practice I gotta admit it’s awfully cute

  188. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 1:15 pm

    I reject that, Wine Guy. The woman should always walk around the guy the full seven times. After all, he is the center of attention. 😉

  189. esther

    6/20/2005 at 1:30 pm

    JM, some of us have learned how to fix the copier on our own. The war stuff, I still leave up to the men. But if they need a brochure about the war to be edited, I would do that.

    Thank G-d that the one area that I can see evolving somewhat is increasing roles for women at weddings. I even did a story on it for the JW.

    An excerpt:
    True or false:

    The mesader kiddushin (one who officiates) must be a rabbi.

    The ketubah (marriage contract), being a legal document, cannot be changed.

    The bride must walk around the groom seven times or the wedding is not kosher.

    The groom’s declaration to his bride under the chupah may not be personalized in any way.

    The answers to all: false.

    Surprised? So were attendees at “Toward a More Egalitarian Orthodox Wedding Ceremony,” a workshop at this year’s Edah conference last month.

    As workshop participants learned, contemporary Orthodoxy actually presents many ways to involve women at weddings, from increased participation for the bride to honors for women friends and family.

    For what it’s worth, this was a reported piece, not an opinion column, and still provoked a letter to the editor from a guy who said that “radical feminists like Esther Kustanowitz” were destroying Jewish life. Right.

  190. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 2:08 pm

    Esther, you’re also destroying Jewish life?! Welcome to the frate, er, soror, um, er, group.

  191. Elon

    6/20/2005 at 2:11 pm

    I’m glad the “radical feminist” Esther Kustanowitz does what she does. Pen is mightier by the sword, or so they say. A lot of the gender role arguments i’ve heard i respectfully disagree with. ck your argument about women’s roles in secular society is true, women still earn less for the same job as men, etc, but is that any excuse for limiting their role in terms of the Orthodox Jewish community? Sadly, the secular society is still leaps and bounds ahead of most orthodox religious societies (Muslim, Christianity, Sikh….Jewish) in terms of womens equality. Clearly some women don’t wish for that equality (JM) and that is their choice, and that should be part of the discussion, my thought is just that those that wish to, and wish to still be in the orthodox community should be able to.
    That being said, i was shocked by how nasty some of the arguing got….we really can get a long you know, I even went to an orthodox minyan friday night and had a great time!
    In closing, I’m reminded of something i was saying earlier today:
    oseh shalom bim’romav hu yaaseh shalom aleinu v’al kol yisrael, vim’ru amen

  192. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 2:14 pm

    Thank you, Elon.

  193. grandmuffti

    6/20/2005 at 2:19 pm

    A few comments:
    a) NSB said:

    You really don’t have to start in the dumbass
    tittle. I didn’t give you that.

    hahahahahahah…Middle, you have to earn the title dumbass from NSB before you go about using it! And watch out or NSB is going to bring his backup and THEY will call you a dumbass. Sheesh.

    b) CK, while there is no doubt that equality has not been achieved outside Judaism, that isn’t really to the point. The point is (as Muffti said a while ago) that orthodox Judaism not only holds women as unequal de facto, they are committed to it in principle. The godless, Judaism-destroying rest of us are committed to equality as an ideal to work towards.

  194. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 2:23 pm

    Show me your birthrate, Elon.

    I am anybody’s equal.

    The pen is only mightier than the sword sometimes. My esteemed, admired colleague and editor, Esther, leaves warfare to men, even though she can fix the copier.

    There is no more pressing task for an advocate of full social participation for women than proving that it is not an evolutionary dead-end. Which alas it is becoming. Get to work!

    There are a lot of nice young people here. Are any of you going to follow each other around under any chuppas?

    To me the seven-times circling is a powerful, possessive female statement that says “This man is MINE,” but then I am a tough chick from way, way, way back.

  195. grandmuffti

    6/20/2005 at 2:25 pm

    By the way, the atheists no longer give out the toasters Esther was talking about. Of any group that has a dogma, we are the fastest growing and can no longer afford presents for embracing the truth.

  196. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 2:27 pm

    Women and men are equally valuable and cosmically significant but not identical or interchangeable. What is so hard about that? If they really were interchangeable, we would not be spilling all this ink insisting they were. We do not affirm in ringing tones that the sun comes up in the morning. What is true does not have to be defended endlessly.

    Why not work with what we are handed.

    How about some results?

    When is Marry Your Girlfriend day again?

    Shalom to all. You are all sweet.

  197. wine guy

    6/20/2005 at 2:29 pm


  198. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 2:31 pm


    Netsach did call me a dumbass. I was flattered.

    I don’t know that I accept your version of “truth” either. Just like Schmo et al cannot prove the existence of God, you cannot prove his/her/its inexistence.

    I kinda like being…you know, somewhere in the middle.

  199. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 2:39 pm

    Our community needs Suitor-Screening process. You know, that he is not already married, means well, regular chap, that stuff. How could that be managed? Not his politics, just his honor.

  200. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 2:40 pm

    Netsy did not mean any harm. He just gets excited.

  201. esther

    6/20/2005 at 2:47 pm

    And I just realized that with that last post, “Wine Guy” became “Whine Guy.” Although one good thing about walking around Wine Guy would be that after your last lap, you’d probably be able to sip some really good vino under the chuppah.

  202. ck

    6/20/2005 at 2:49 pm

    Muffti wrote: orthodox Judaism not only holds women as unequal de facto, they are committed to it in principle.

    Shocker! Dude. Men and women are not equal!

    Open your eyes – men and women are different. There are things women can do that men can’t and vice versa. Orthodox Judaism isn’t about promoting a pro-male agenda as it is about, you know, reflecting reality. See post 134.

    Having said that, yes there seem to be some eggregious and anachronistic elements that cling to traditional Judaism despite having nothing to do with or being in contradiction to the stated and underlying values. I’m not saying Orthodoxy is perfect, but your statement is a tad, errr irrelevant. In my humble opinion.

  203. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 2:52 pm

    Well you wanted one with humor. Humor and wine sound ok.

  204. grandmuffti

    6/20/2005 at 2:55 pm

    hehehe…Middle my friend, it’s only a dialectic that’s gone very wrong where people are required to prove the non-existence of things that people have aboslutely no reason to believe in in the first place. Prove to me that everytime you get a headache, it isn’t caused by little green aliens that evade all current and future methods of detection and reveal themselves only through pain in your head. Find yourself unable to prove the non-existence of them? Well, then, perhaps you should suspend your disbelief until you can! As far as Muffti can tell, that’s teh sort of challenge given to the atheist. Non-existence in general is impossible to prove: how could you possibly prove that something doesn’t exist when it is stipulated to be even beyond your comprehension?

    But you don’t suspend your (dis)belief about little green aliens causing your headaches. You say that its a stupid explanation. Only a similar methodology can provide positive evidence for the atheist. Us in that camp are under no illusions that theism is hard to disprove: we just think that as an explanatory theory, we’ve got better ones.

  205. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 2:55 pm

    Baloney. Orthodox Judaism seems to work for the Orthodox. If our men are afraid of foisting this awful oppression on our women (who are not harmless) NO WONDER they don’t marry.

    “Go forth and oppress somebody”. Yeah, right.

  206. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 2:59 pm

    Religion is not an explanatory theory.

  207. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 3:02 pm

    No, Muffti, I am more concerned about the issue of intelligent design. Could be little green aliens and it could be God. But gosh-darn it, the world sure has lots of interacting elements, as does my body, and I have to wonder how they got here.

    Ck, I’d love to see the comment numbers, but they still appear cut off and illegible on Internet Explorer. Needs fixin’.

  208. grandmuffti

    6/20/2005 at 3:17 pm

    Can you tell me exactly what is the ‘issue of intelligent design’?

  209. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 3:19 pm

    Intelligent design? While we have 1/3 unmarried at age 30? What is intelligent about that? Is that a design?

  210. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 3:23 pm

    Well, let’s see…

    As I type on this keyboard, my body is functioning in numerous and quite amazing ways, as is my brain. Every key on which I type is made up of molecules arranged in a particular order. Somebody was able to create plastic and stamp it with white lettering because they were able to figure out numerous scientific challenges that provided the information necessary to put these keys together. The honey I had with my tea this morning was produced by bees that interacted with flowers. The flowers interacted with soil, water, bugs, and gardening shears. The water came from the sky after an incredibly complex process, and when it did come, it was preceded by lightning and thunder.

    I guess what I mean is that you have to explain all of this to me without some sort of intelligent force guiding this universe of coincidences. If you agree that something put these things together, how do we know that something doesn’t have a character or personality?

  211. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 3:25 pm

    Oh, and JM just reminded me that a male of the species fits quite well into the female of the species, who is then impregnated in an incredible feat of two cells coming together, incubates a fetus, and pops out an offspring. Wow.

  212. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 3:45 pm

    But does He have a sense of humor and wine? Is he married? Michael says Shakshuka proves all is well. Is HE married?

  213. wine guy

    6/20/2005 at 3:49 pm

    The Gateway seminar has a very intersting 3 day lecture called the Fingerprints of Divinity, it focuses on the analysis of the Torah as a Historical and Divine document. The program presents some incredibly compelling evidence to support that the Torah is of Divine origen and completely unique unlike any other document.

    I know it makes things easier to believe that all orthodox Jews(The Male Chauvanist attention hogging entity) are closing their eyes to science and rational logical thought but I’m afraid thats not the case, we don’t need to reform Judiasm to make it compatible with science.

  214. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 3:49 pm

    Out pops an offspring if the suitor passes Suitor Screening. THAT is not naturally occurring. How would GM design such a screening process? Our women have been having trouble doing it themselves because they have been both actor and arbitrator and that gets awkward. It is entirely normal to need help.

  215. grandmuffti

    6/20/2005 at 3:58 pm

    That’s the problem? Evolution guaranteed the interaction you see: non-interacting environments would kill off the participants.

  216. wine guy

    6/20/2005 at 4:03 pm

    LOL very cute esther I will most certainly have some very good wine at my wedding

  217. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 4:04 pm

    Exactly! There are too many non-interacting environments!!!! It IS killing off the participants, GM old bro!

  218. wine guy

    6/20/2005 at 4:06 pm

    No JM I’m not Married and I don’t have a girlfriend so I probobly will not be getting married on Marry your girlfriend day either

  219. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 4:07 pm

    When is the chuppa wandering? It is easier if one person stays stationary but anything to get some cute little Jewliciouslings!

  220. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 4:09 pm

    GM, that didn’t convince a single brain cell of mine.

  221. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 4:12 pm

    Ah! But you can still pass the Suitor Screening, which is a first step toward getting one, a good one worth you time and wine. You will pass in a minute I am sure. No fair giving out free wine to the screeners.

  222. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 4:13 pm

    Suitor Screening is like a burial society, but probably more fun. Like a Bet Din but more fun.

  223. wine guy

    6/20/2005 at 4:20 pm

    Does this mean they check for tatoos?

  224. esther

    6/20/2005 at 4:21 pm

    Phew. And we’re back on “marry off the single people before Jews become extinct…”

    And I was worried we’d hopelessly derailed into “your kind of Jews suck and mine rule.” Good to be back, folks, good to be back…

    BTW, they already have a kind of suitor screening which is supposed to work, but hasn’t for me. It’s called Saw You at Sinai. Tonight, MJE, where every day is “Marry Your Jewish Girlfriend Day.” You’d love it, JM…

    I’ll give everyone’s regards to the pimp daddy himself.

  225. grandmuffti

    6/20/2005 at 4:21 pm

    errr…sorry to hear TM. That doesnt’ convince you but ‘some master planner who watches over everything and takes the time to make sure that bees can make honey for your tea all the while killing thousands in tsunamis and the like’ does convince some of your braincells?

  226. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/20/2005 at 4:30 pm

    dear themiddle,

    I didn’t call you a dumbass, maybe I was thinking smartass… but then there is very fine line between smartass and dumbass.

    Really, I never called you a dumbass and don’t consider you one. About my backup legions… I have never given them issue for naming you that either. Although in our officer headquarter meetings we did think of that…In fact I am even sorry if I implied whatever you think I implied. Mochal lee?

  227. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 5:05 pm

    You are not getting my point. The woman cannot do this for herself, as she is an actor. She cannot at the exact time be 1) right in the middle of the story and 2) an objective evaluator outside the story.

    This cool-headed function used to be performed by one’s parents, back when parents were of use, but your parents, no offense, clearly are no use in this way. Your friends are the new family, so they who must do this.

    I am not talking about MATCHING people. I am talking about SCREENING them. By men who like you, but are not in love with you themselves. Any male friend not willing to do this for you is not much of a friend.

    Obviously their views are non-binding.

    But they will still have to look at you as a friend, so they won’t mess up.

    It’s not “Is he nice”. His personality is not the issue. It’s just “Is he NOT married and basically cool, meaning not a jailbird, or in big debt or lying about himself”.

    Nothing more intrusive than when applying for a job; checking the CV for truth. And maybe even a credit report, which is done a lot these days. I am NOT talking about finding a perfect man, just a truthful one, who is worth taking seriously by a woman who wants to found a family and not get burned.

    A proper man will understand in a minute and submit to the screening. The people are his age after all. He just has to send his resume to them and maybe social sec number and the price of the credit report.

    Too much of a muchness? Whew! Glad we eliminated that one. Not very mature.

  228. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 5:10 pm

    I still miss the Father. He was more trustworthy than the Brother. But he seems to be gone.

  229. grandmuffti

    6/20/2005 at 5:13 pm

    NSN, seriously, what the hell are you talking about?!?

  230. Joe Schmo

    6/20/2005 at 5:20 pm

    Tm wrote: “Just like Schmo et al cannot prove the existence of God, you cannot prove his/her/its inexistence.”

    TM thats not true.
    Just because somebody keeps saying: “I don’t accept you didn’t prove it”- might simply mean that that person, ie mufti, has an
    emotional block on accepting what he doesn’t want to accept.

    If I show someone that the three angles of any triangle will equal 90 degrees and someone says ‘I don’t accept’ even after all your solid proofs does that mean it wasn’t proven?

    I believe that any rational person without any emotional baggage will immediately understand that nothing can ‘just happen’ and that includes
    a. all objects that exist
    b. the magical and amazing laws of nature
    c. thinking and living beings

    Its really as simple as focusing on any simple natural event. I’ve used magnets before and its a good example.

    Why should metal here ‘know’ and be attracted to a magnet somewhere else? Think of any compass.

    To me, and I think to any honest person, it is clear that something that spans the area of both objects must be affecting those two objects to know of each other’s existence.

    Only an irrational person or someone with an issue can possibly say ‘it just happens-without cause.’

    You see once someone says something like that- the person is in fact saying ahead of time that
    ‘any proof you will give me that G-d exists I will not accept’
    -because whatever you say he will just answer well it just happens by itself!!!

    -Mufti has already announced his intention never to be convinced no matter what you can show.

    Now its everyone’s job to ponder these things and to think and not just listen to the foolish atheists who talk in the name of ‘rationality’
    – but who are in fact as irrational as they come.

  231. themiddle

    6/20/2005 at 5:21 pm

    Netsach, no problem.

    Muffti: errr…sorry to hear TM. That doesnt’ convince you but ‘some master planner who watches over everything and takes the time to make sure that bees can make honey for your tea all the while killing thousands in tsunamis and the like’ does convince some of your braincells?

    Nope, doesn’t convince me either. Which is my point. I’m not convinced that he exists, nor am I convinced that he isn’t. But, how can you be so damned sure?

  232. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/20/2005 at 5:29 pm

    Perhaps the Muffti is taking this to seriously
    and not see the facetiousness of the way I am
    putting things. Perhaps the Muffti has in his
    head has some image of a “Grand imperial
    Army” of little chozer bechuvas all neatly
    cloned to say, Hashem Hu Elokim!!!
    Its easy to see the Star Wars shtick in
    anything these days.

  233. ck

    6/20/2005 at 5:34 pm

    I recall one really cool scientifikal concept: No such thing as abiogenesis. Hmmm….

  234. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 5:43 pm

    Hmm is right. Hmm.

    ABIOIGENESIS?? We are not doing THAT badly. Gee whiz.

  235. Jewish Mother

    6/20/2005 at 5:59 pm

    Is the GM saying that until there is G-d who is too nice to have wierd nasty things like Tsunamis kill people who are minding their own business, he will stay with unaware molecules? I could understand that.

    He wants to save G-d’s reputation as a nice guy. He is being protective of G-d.

    That is entirely outside normal religious thinking as I understand it, yet it is religious. The GM thinks like a Jew, no matter what else is going on. For instance he very correctly pointed out, in a very Jewish mentality, that great age or utility prove nothing at all, and he was right. Go GM.

  236. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/21/2005 at 8:20 am


    Please refresh me on Star Wars Lore. I don’t have real bukias in that field. Although I have now seen all six episodes and do research every now and then, I don’t know a lot of the girsa baal pe.

    Is Abioigenesis the Cloning procedure used to “grow” the clones to make the “Grand Army of the Repulic” from Star Wars II?

  237. Jewish Mother

    6/21/2005 at 11:25 am

    I just figured out that MJE means Manhattan Jewish Experience.

  238. grandmuffti

    6/21/2005 at 3:59 pm

    That’s some nice speech making, there, Joe Schmo. Muffti announced no intention not to believe in God; he’d be happy to be a theist if ever given a goodreason. Yours have been total crap as far as Muffti can tell: jumping up and down that eveyrthing must have a cause and that God must be THE cause of everything if you follow back the chain is not an argument. It’s an assertion and it doesn’t take emotional baggage to see the confusion you are making. In fact, let’s look again at your own words:

    I believe that any rational person without any emotional baggage will immediately understand that nothing can ‘just happen’ and that includes
    a. all objects that exist
    b. the magical and amazing laws of nature
    c. thinking and living beings

    OK, Muffti will ask you the question one last time: the theist thinks that God exists. By your principle, everything that exists doesn’t just happen, it has an external cause. OK, so, now tell me why your argument doesn’t commit you directly to God having an external cause?

    The obvious answer is that you don’t really believe your principle. You believe that God is somehow self-causing, or it is simply primitive that he exists. Muffti claims that once you admit the principle is false, then your argument is no good since one of its premises are false.

    That’s basic logic, dude.

  239. GrandMuffti

    6/22/2005 at 3:51 pm

    Hey ck, good point about abiogenesis: though it’s far from a fact that abiogenesis never happens. It’s actually (without great reason) the assumed model of how life began, though the evidence for it is admittedly kind of scant.

  240. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/22/2005 at 4:36 pm

    I guess I am just going to have to look up abigenisis in a dictionary or something. poor me…

  241. Eric

    6/23/2005 at 10:32 am

    “Abiogenesis” means the creation of life from non-living things. In modern science this term refers to the theory that life on Earth arose from the combination of organic (but technically non-living) molecules. Don’t feel bad about not knowing that one–it’s not a very common word!

  242. Pingback: Jewlicious » North American Chai-dol: Chancellorquest 2006

  243. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/23/2005 at 6:14 pm

    Thanks Eric,

    Now that I know the proper definition,
    I may use this as another excuse to see Star Wars II, Attack of the Clones again; at least that Chapter where Obi Wan Kenobi checks out where the Clones are grown.

  244. grandmuffti

    6/23/2005 at 6:26 pm

    Yeah, sorry NSN, though ck is the one who used it and didn’t define it 🙂 ‘Abiogenesis’ is a problem for those who think that life was neither brought about by God’s will nor that living material has simply always been around. The basic problem is that no one (to Muffti’s knowledge) has given a plausible model of abiogenesis. The religious contingent has latched on to this and tried to provide evidence that abiogenesis is so improbable as to be considered impossible.

    You can look here for some anti-creationist responses to claims that abiogenesis is remarkably improbable. You can look here and many other places (google ‘abiogenesis‘ for many, many sites devoted to the topic.

    By the way, CK, where the f*ck are you?!?

  245. Eric

    6/23/2005 at 8:37 pm

    You’re welcome, NSN. Glad to be of service!

    I though I might weigh in with my perspective on this (apparently rather contentious) discussion. I am a convert–the “backstory” to this is not particularly important, but suffice it to say that I converted deliberately and not as a formality to get married or similar circumstance. I spent a considerable amount of time studying Judaism (although certainly not nearly to the extent of anyone who has undergone a traditional religious education) before beginning to study with a rabbi, and this included spending time in synagogues of all sorts and in reading about the various movements. For me, the philosophy of the Conservative movement has been the best fit. I realize that some feel negatively about the movement, even insulted by it, and that some would not consider me a Jew as I my conversion was not performed by an Orthodox rabbi. I can accept this.

    To my view, I feel that the philosophical and/or spiritual positions of the Conservative movement are challenging and stimulating, but are by necessity nebulous and as such ask a great deal from the average congregant. This is where I have seen some difficulty for the movement–it is not easy for a synagogue to get these ideas across in a way that makes sense. Just my two cents…


  246. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/23/2005 at 10:48 pm

    That is a fair assessment of the situation Eric. I would think that just a synagague is only a very small picture of what is going on. You seem to have things to say. Please ask anybody here, including me, any questions. Of course, you may not get consistant answers with all the different spins. I don’t represent Jewlicious in anyway, I am just suggesting that.

    In the last four years I have had experience with three good friends I know who have gone through or are going through what you are dealing with and are in thier mid-early 20’s and are graduates or graduating soon from the University of Judiasm, a conservate run College in LA. I can talk about how my friends are doing after knowing them for about 4 years or so. It is interesting to note those three are coming from a different place.

  247. themiddle

    6/23/2005 at 11:14 pm

    Eric, it’s contentious because it’s not reasonable that you are not considered Jewish in the eyes of certain Jews.

  248. Ikea

    6/24/2005 at 3:49 am

    “Women today are fully integrated in society, are educated, hold positions of power and share equal rights. The halacha grew in an age where none of this was true. ”

    To be perfectly blunt, this comment is clearly one of someone ignorant of Jewish lore.
    In multiple instances within the Tanach we see women “taking control” of the situation, “acting out” and, oftentimes doing that which no man was capable of. The talmud contains a number of stories, particularly those involving Bruriah (the wife of a famous sage), in which she sets her husband right and prevents possible injustice. Women in those days were “fully integrated” into society, perhaps on a deeper and in a better-adjusted manner. I’m not saying that a woman cannot (or should not) have a career, be highly edjucated, successful, etc.
    Women are absolutely equal to men. Oftentimes they are more than equal to men.
    BUT there is a very BIG difference between being EQUAL demanding that women be EQUIVALENT. There are two “halves” to the human whole for a reason; because they are both equally needed and equally important in their own capacities, and not for their ability to replace one another.

  249. Ikea

    6/24/2005 at 4:17 am

    sorry about the boldfacing at the end. my html skills are decidedly rusty.

    On topic with the actual postings, I still have yet to see actual present scientific theory that disagrees with even the most ancient of Jewish beliefs.
    (btw, i am a self-made religious jew: my choice, my beliefs, and my learning entirely my own and not because others selected them for me.)

    For perhaps a very interesting example, take a look at the second chapter of the Talmudic tractate cHaggigah (i can’t remember the exact page). When discussing the initial verses in Genesis, it gives a rather odd description of the ‘world’ from which our present reality was created:
    In the beginning of the creation, the entire world was compressed to the size of a mustard seed, and it was like a lamp (or torch) which emanated darkness (instead of light).
    Now, considering the vernacular of the time, could there be any more accurate description of the concept of a singularity contained within a black hole?
    Man crawled out of the Protean slime (or fashioned thereof, though this doesn’t necessarily take into account other things, such as divine transcendence of time, but that is a discussion for later) Be it through physically shaping of the hand of a god for whom we declare there exists no physicality or through the actions of the tool of Nature, evolution is not outside the bounds of even Orthodox Judaism.
    Regarding belief in god (or God or G-d or “the Closet,” whichever term you choose to peruse), there is truly no manner to present logistical proof, though many have struggled in vain for many centuries to do so. What can be accomplished, albeit unconveyable (is that a word?), is knowledge of his existence through experiential proof. True, I can’t prove to you that I don’t have an invisible purple (ultraviolet) unicorn dancing on my head, but I also can’t really prove to you that I have a headache. It just is. Whether YOU believe in it or not is your choice.

  250. Ikea

    6/24/2005 at 4:28 am

    As Eric comments, the ideas of the Conservative movement are “challenging and stimulating… but nebulous by necessity.” A movement, designed purely to break away from a system rather than realize that all of life can really work within it, must by necessity be nebulous. It defines itself purely in the ways which it DOES NOT resemble the former system which, though it might work, doesn’t fully fit what they want to ‘believe’ about life. (is this a record for run-ons?)
    In terms of conversion, I would be most interested to hear what exactly deterred you from Orthodox or Reform systems of belief, and what exactly you found so compelling about Conservative Judaism. Ultimately, I believe that rebellion for its own sake is just as ludicrous as conformity for its own; it is not WHAT one believes, but WHY one does (or doesn’t).
    Logically held views are understandable, even respectable. I have more respect for the atheist Jew who knows why he eats pork on Yom Kippur than I do for the Haredi who neither cares nor understands what importance his actions have.*

    *mind you, I didn’t say I AGREE with his actions, simply that I have more respect for him, dispite the fact that I would much prefer the observance of Jewish Law even in ignorance.

  251. Ikea

    6/24/2005 at 4:35 am

    One more thing…
    If the authority of the Torah and the ensuing tradition stems not from its origin, but from its “communal consent,” then what gives them the authority to abrogate those same traditions adopted originally by all? The abnegation of accepted halachic authority of previous generations is a direct profaning of that very ‘sacred’ and ‘inverted pyramid’ that forms the basis of their religious beliefs. If they truly view the Torah and its accompanying “commentaries and texts” as being divinely inspired at least (if not divine directly in origin), how can they then deny the divine right for religious legal ruling directly handed to the rabbinic scholars by that very same ‘sacred’ document?

  252. themiddle

    6/24/2005 at 4:37 am

    Ikea, a cursory look at our Conservatice Judaism discussion might disabuse you of the notion that it defines itself in the ways in which it does not resemble the “former system.”

    With respect to rejection of “texts,” they are explicit in saying they accept those texts as part of our canon. However, they believe these texts and halacha are part of an ongoing process and not locked in, say, the 4th Century A.D.

  253. Ikea

    6/24/2005 at 4:50 am

    I apologize for being unable to peruse all comments to the related article(s); it has been a long night.
    Despite having personally gone through all three systems in turn (reform, conservative, and orthodox) and asking those who have grown up and remained in the system, I have never managed to accquire a clear and definitive answer as to why (or what) the conservative movement must exist outside of the orthodox one.
    I too believe that these texts are part of the ongoing process of halachah. Not that we are here to debate whether the Gemara/Talmud was completely off track, but rather to find these rules and apply them to the modern situation in which we find ourselves. Even in Orthodoxy, it is an ongoing process, and this is precisely why we have rabbis of halachic authority and intensive learning writing scholarly (and yes, I mean scholarly, such as those on bioethics, cloning, and other scientific modern phenomena) works addressing these issues in their proper legal and moral framework. However, these are all addressed in a sound framework of much more ancient origin than “modern understanding” with a deep legal history of thousands of years.

  254. themiddle

    6/24/2005 at 1:46 pm

    By the way, the Israeli head of the Masorti movement was let go today, as have been several employees in the past weeks. They haven’t been able to raise sufficient funds from the US to keep going, so the official branch of the Conservative Movement in Israel is effectively broke.

  255. Liora

    6/24/2005 at 4:34 pm

    Shabbat Shalom, all. Getting my first aliyah tomorrow morning. As nervous as I am (can’t help it), I’m so grateful for the freedom.

  256. themiddle

    6/24/2005 at 5:04 pm

    Mazal tov!

  257. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 1:46 am

    I have a belated comment here, having lurked for a while. I converted Conservative. I accept that I am not considered Jewish under most Orthodox auspices. It has not been an issue for me and I haven’t cared about the O opinion. I made an informed choice after exploring all the options.

    From reading these posts, many of which I find appalling I want to say the following:

    1. My heartfelt gratitude to TM for presenting a fair picture of Conservative Judaism and converts. You make my day every time I read you.

    2. ck- I like you as a person, but I find your views incredibly bigoted. Actually I find the views of most of the commentators bigoted.

    3. It is distressing to come upon a site that ostensibly seeks commonality among all Jews, yet ends up being smug about their Jewishness. I give you credit for allowing dissenting opinion- yet, largely, the Jewish world according to Jewlicious remains narrowly defined, except for the porn.

    4. As someone who converted under C auspices (and had good reason to do it), I find your dismissal of Conservative Judaism ill-informed, irresponsible, triumphalistic, demeaning, shallow, and sometimes, hateful. It is easy to demean something you are not willing to take seriously or understand. What makes you different from the previous generation, in your quasi-openness? Do you have any idea who is reading this? I feel heartsick.

    I have really been taken aback by the shallow understanding, the smugness, the easy and cheap shot. “The Middle” offered a serious explanation and a serious position for Conservative Judaism and some of you (who actually claim to be open- minded) took the easy way out and took a cheap shot. So, what makes you different from those who went before you? Do you think you are saying something new? Do you really think you have a greater love for klal Yisrael than those who went before you?

  258. ck

    6/30/2005 at 7:25 am

    Barefoot Jewess wrote: ck- I like you as a person, but I find your views incredibly bigoted. Actually I find the views of most of the commentators bigoted … As someone who converted under C auspices (and had good reason to do it), I find your dismissal of Conservative Judaism ill-informed, irresponsible, triumphalistic, demeaning, shallow, and sometimes, hateful.

    Yikes! Look, I do not begrudge you the right to choose whichever spiritual path you like. Pray at whatever synagogue moves you, choose whichever conversion process you feel most attuned with. That’s all cool. I can even appreciate your interest in Judaism and admire the efforts you’ve no doubt made to be part of the community. Believe me, my heart goes out to you.

    However I too have beliefs and aspirations and I am, like many others WITHIN the Conservative and Reform movements, critical of certain aspects of said movements.

    Do you begrudge me the right to maintain and cherish my beliefs? Said beliefs having been passed on to me by my parents and their parents before them etc. etc.? I mean is that so wrong?

    Along comes Reform and Conservative Judaism, making some very contentious changes to Judaism, and now I am bigoted for simply not agreeing? Please refer back to the shrimp encrusted fish sticks – you want to call them kosher? Go ahead, but please do not be offended when I tell you that I cannot eat them, and definitely do not call me a close minded reactionary when I refuse to allow them into my kitchen.

    Having said all that, let me add with complete sincerity, that I do not believe that my belief system and way of life is neccesarily any better than that of anyone else’s. But it is mine, and I have the right to believe whatever I like and express whatever idea I wish and live by whatever standards I choose.

    Part of the reason this site exists is to hopefully foster some sense of commonality and expose people to different opinions. Sometimes different values clash, and I would hope people can remain civil. To whatever extent I haven’t been civil or have hurt your feelings, I sincerely apologize.

  259. laya

    6/30/2005 at 8:14 am

    Jewess, if you think people were offensive and hateful here, you should see how certain people talk about heredim and settlers!

    I never felt any sense of joy in a conservative shul on shabbat, and I’ve been in a few. Very few places have a thriving conservative “community”. And even though you can drive to shul, the parking lots on saturdays are often empty. Like I said way up above, Con. Judaism sounds lovely on paper, but sadly it just doesn’t seem to be keeping people interested very well.

  260. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 11:58 am

    Barefoot, thank you for your comments. They are well made and right on target. I also think there is some deep hypocrisy in claiming openness while treating good Jews as non-Jews or bad Jews.

    What you should keep in mind, however, is that stridency doesn’t make them right, merely strident. I value your decision to become a Jew and consider you no less (or more) a Jew than anybody else here. I think many – in fact most – Jews feel and believe the same.

    I shared an experience recently with ck over the phone where I told him about a gathering of Reform Jews from a certain temple that was full of Jewish life and love. These were families raising their children Jewishly and in a beautiful way. They would be rejected by some of the posters here.

    The best way to put this is to say that family members are flawed but we also feel a sense of closeness to them because they share many things with us. Is it disheartening? Yes. This discussion turned out to be a debate about the very things that my original post negates. My sense is that it stems primarily from their insecurity. They whip themselves into a froth declaring others lesser Jews, but in reality they are saying to each other, “Come on, our beliefs must be true. It cannot be that others can be good Jews and not observe all of the rituals that we have convinced ourselves are the only ones that matter.” But the history of Judaism – always an evolving religion – proves them wrong. Rest assured that an Israelite from the Second Temple period would be astounded to see what observant Judaism of today has become. I sincerely believe s/he would find themselves much more at home in a movement like Conservative Judaism.

  261. ck

    6/30/2005 at 12:04 pm

    Alls I have to say is “shrimp encrusted fish sticks.” Why is that so difficult to understand?

  262. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 12:24 pm

    Because by saying this over and over – despite the fact that you’re the only person to have ever seen such a thing – you negate the Jewish life and values of millions of good Jews. Why is that so difficult to understand?

    How about you read my post again, then click on the links I provide and read the source material.

    And then, why don’t you provide a slightly deeper critique of the Conservative movement than “shrimp encrusted fish sticks?”

    Go ahead, it won’t kill you.

  263. ck

    6/30/2005 at 12:47 pm

    Look I do not wish to judge who is a good Jew and who isn’t. Like I’ve said zillions of times before, do whatever you like! But just like I cannot eat the very real “kosher” shrimp encrusted fish sticks, I also cannot marry a Conservative convert. I’m sorry if this upsets you or anyone else. But why is that so hard to understand?

    I simply cannot do it. It goes against my beliefs. You wanna be Conservative? Go ahead! I’ll even go so far as to say that following Orthodox Judaism does NOT prima facie make you a better Jew than someone who follows Reform or Conservative Judaism or even an atheist.

    But for better or for worst, Orthodox Judaism is the standard I follow, some times better than others, but it is my standard, and I resent being told that that’s somehow wrong, bigotted, reactionary whatever. I also resent the notion of the non-Orthodox believing they have a monopoly on progress and evolution! Yes the history of Judaism clearly demonstrates a continuous evolution – and it has managed to do this quite well thank you WITHIN the confines of Orthodox Judaism. Conservative and Reform Judaism, from a historical perspective, are recent blips. So please, don’t talk to me about progress and evolution!


  264. laya

    6/30/2005 at 1:15 pm

    oy, people, it is not a matter of good jew vs. bad jew. Please get that out of your heads.

  265. laya

    6/30/2005 at 1:23 pm

    In other news, can I say that open mindedness implies an ability to CHANGE one’s mind, ie, an ability to admit what was wrong. Have we found an instance where the champion of open mindedness has done that yet, TM? Listen, we all have the things we gravitate towards and get more sensitive about, and that’s fine, but you’re not always a glowing example of tolerance or love for all Jews and Jewish belief systems, so please lets not be so smug.

  266. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 2:36 pm

    Laya, this discussion is not about me. Or you. For some reason, in these discussions, you always bring it to some personal battle. If you have some argument to make, take a look at the source material and argue on that basis because your personal attacks contribute…nothing…to the discussion.

    But you’re right, I am not a glowing example of tolerance or love for all Jews and Jewish belief systems. I have a particular aversion to exclusiveness that denigrates others and will continue to say so for as long as there are those who claim other Jews are somehow inferior to them. And yeah, spitting on a person because they’re in short sleeves is simply another way of telling somebody that they’re a destroyer of Judaism.

    Getting back to the topic here.

    This discussion is about Conservative Judaism, but it has evolved into a discussion over whether Conservative Jews are legitimate Jews – not just good Jews or bad Jews, although it is clear that many of our commenters were saying that Conservative Jews are bad Jews.

    What do you think ck is saying when he says he would marry a Jewish woman but he would not marry a Conservative convert? In his eyes, she’s not Jewish. In his eyes, the values presented in my post above quoting Schorsch, are not Jewish.

    It’s his own value system and he’s entitled to it? Sure. In fact, that is the basic premise of Reform Judaism – one’s autonomy as a Jew. So maybe ck actually wants to be Reform. I dunno. But he’s saying more than that, as are Ben David, Schmo and you. He’s saying it is an unacceptable form of Judaism. A form that isn’t true to Judaism the way that Orthodox Judaism is. Different commenters in this discussion have had different reasons – most focusing on how Conservative Judaism “doesn’t work” and is causing a dwindling number of Jews. But they are stating clearly or obliquely that Conservative Jews are not true Jews. Oh sure, if they have a Jewish mother then they will agree that this person is a Jew who is a betrayer of Judaism, but they will not, for example, eat at his house even if he keeps glatt kosher. Right?

    Ck has given us another reason for the difficulty with other streams of Judaism: shrimp encrusted fish sticks. Now these fish sticks cannot possibly affect Conservative Jews, and in fact are unlikely to affect Reform Jews since the Reform do not do hechsher. But, ck uses this as his example for the supposedly deteriorated state of non-Orthodox streams. What can I tell you, I know what he means in that there are non-Orthodox Jews who eat shrimp. But what is he going to say to my Conservative father in law who has never eaten anything forbidden by the torah or halacha?

  267. laya

    6/30/2005 at 3:07 pm

    sigh. For one that is so sensitive, you consistently have no problem dishing it out, middle. Think about it next time.

    Personally I think of conservative Jews as “real jews” to the core, and not at all “betrayers of Judaism” and even if a non jew keep glatt kosher i would have no problem eating at his house. I also have no problem with woman having an aliyah, singing or putting on tefillin.

    I dont think what shul you pray at matters much, but i do have a problem driving there, or to the mall for that matter on shabbat. I have a problem cooking food on shabbat too. Here’s the problem with what you have cut and pasted about conservative judaism; Its all philosophy, which is beautiful, but at the end of the day judaism is not a religion of philosophy, it’s a religion of action and deed.

  268. esther

    6/30/2005 at 3:32 pm

    I’m not too sure how to say this. But Judaism is more than just action. It is also philosophy. It is also a certain moral code, not just over what we do, but what we think, which in turn becomes behavior. We certainly don’t hold to the approach that every impure thought requires not just repentance, but some sort of tefillah-oriented penance.

    But what does it mean, really, to affiliate with a movement or a community? Is it a function of what you do, or where you go to shul? Is it ideology? Behavioral codes? Level of kashrut? Tikkun olam activities? Wearing a kippah? Skirts down to your ankles? Community of people in the same stage of life?

    Within the Orthodox community, some people will eat dairy out in non-kosher restaurants. On Shabbat, some will go to the gym if it’s in walking distance (or go running or play ball if it’s not) and take an elevator to Shabbat lunch if it’s more than seven flights up. And if asked, they’d all say “I’m Orthodox.” Not “I go to an Orthodox shul.”

    You guys know me. I’m not trying to make trouble and I just want everyone to get along. So maybe for the good of the community, we should ban the words “shrimp-encrusted fish sticks” from our vocabularies. Invoking those words has only caused pain and suffering. Let us agree that they are not kosher, no matter what kind of ketchup (or other sauce) you dip them in.

    One last note: The Destroyers of Judaism will be performing at this year’s Lollapallooza Concert Tour, sharing songs from their new album, “Shrimp-Encrusted Fish Sticks.”

  269. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 3:50 pm

    Laya, you have yet to see me “dish it out.” If you consider my gentle rejoinders to you or someone like Mobi to be “dishing it out,” perhaps you’re being a tad sensitive.

    As for Judaism being action not philosophy, I have to wonder what all those rabbis were doing when they were discussing what ultimately became our gemara. I mean, you think they were jogging while discussing these matters, because that’s a form of “doing.” Or do you think they were lounging back in the reb’s front room while the wife brought over some fruit and a snack to nosh over? I guess chewing is “doing.” Or maybe it’s philosophy. I don’t know, maybe Muffti can tell us whether what he does is not doing but “doing” of a philosophical kind.

    Philosophy is actually not what Schorsch was “doing.” He was providing a reading and evaluation of how one can live as a Conservative Jew, and then he provides examples from real life of Conservative Judaism’s institutions that take these core beliefs and put them into practice.

    Which, by the way, is exactly what you do when you choose not to drive on shabbat. You are taking somebody’s philosophy and living it in your life. Or do you want to find me either a source in the torah or oral law that discusses driving a car?

    Esther, stop being cute with your peacemaking efforts. 😉

  270. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 4:07 pm

    Esther, I agree with you that the “shrimp encrusted fish sticks” have had their day. Frankly, I find that a trite example, anyway.

  271. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 4:15 pm

    Barefoot, it’s not only trite, but I cannot understand how a Reform rabbi could do a hechsher, since kashrut is not something the movement has been concerned about historically. The only reform rabbi I know who does hechsher is an American Orthodox trained rabbi who heads up a big Reform congregation in Brazil.

  272. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/30/2005 at 4:16 pm

    I am glad I got this opportunity here at
    Jewlicious to vent my issues. However, I would
    like to restate, I have no editing position
    whatsoever at Jewlicious; I am not even sure I
    would want such a job.
    I do feel that the people who have published
    here do take responsibility for what they have
    wrote and that is to thier credit.

    I don’t know yet if I have learned tolerance;
    however, I did learn to calm down a bit over
    the weeks I have been online and throttle
    back my hostility. I am glad that people
    here seemed to tolerate me for some reason.
    Esther and themiddle, Ck etc….
    I have reason to believe I have been kind of

    Truthfully, I have a lot of bad feelings towards
    all the so called branches and movements or
    whatever they are called; because I have a
    vast library of bad experiences with them all,
    without exception. Not only that, I feel I have
    been personally and critically let down at
    important times, many times by many who
    represent those labels-orthodox, conserative,
    reform even chasidic. I have such intense
    feelings about what I am talking about, I have
    lost all respect for such labeling.

    I have read a lot of what has been written here
    at Jewlicious and find it amusing or worthwhile
    at times. When ever the word “orthodox,
    conservative, reform appears…. its like a big
    space of nothingness is just there as far as I
    am concerned. That doesn’t mean the whole
    content is so vacant… its just those terms are
    to me.

    I appreciate themiddles effort to post this bit
    of oppinion here for us to debate. That does
    not mean have to find the content
    authoratative nor do I have to take it seriously.

    The battle over who and what is authoratative
    has barely started. Just because the folk here
    have cast characters in terms of loyalties
    doesn’t mean that much to me seriously. We
    don’t know what is going to happen. I find
    predicting behaviour very difficult.

    I do look at Jewish life as having order and
    law; therefore teeth in terms of power and
    authority not just belief. I can only talk so
    much about the issue of who is a jew or not.
    The reason is that I don’t have this authority.
    I can see that many would like to make the
    “who is a jew” an issue. I am not a Rabbi or a
    boss of a synagague or Bait Midrash. I would
    refer anybody with such questions to those
    who do make such decisions.

    I don’t place my faith in this “C” manifesto nor
    does it have teeth.

    I do place my faith in:

    Torah Tsivah lanu Moshe Morashat Kehilla

    This I learned from Chabad.
    Sometimes I feel I have to be an apologist for
    Lubavitchers, because the Chabadniks have
    been just as much of a kvetch as everybody

    I love the Rebbe and a lot of Chabad attitude
    and action is something I appreciate. If there
    is a label or flag or whatever I go by. .. Chabad
    – Lubavitch. I feel a need to take responsibility
    for that. Althougth the Mashichist shtick I have
    my doubts about, especially the way I see
    some folk in Chabad carry on. I apologize —

  273. ck

    6/30/2005 at 4:16 pm

    Why is it trite? I did some research btw, it was a tablet k hechsher – unnacceptable to most Orthodox Jews but acceptable to most Conservative and Reform Jews. So why is it trite again? They say its kosher, I am horrified at the notion of eating them, almost accidentally DID eat them, and yet I’m the close minded one? I don’t feel y’all have fully understood the implications of my shrimp encrusted fish sticks example, trite as it may be. Y’all are being way too dismissive.

  274. laya

    6/30/2005 at 4:17 pm

    you either have a terrible memory or are one of the least self effacing people I have ever known.

    you know, things like calling ezra a “prince of baffoons”
    tryng to force a commentor to leave our blog several times over,
    calling me “a very poor judge of people and their character”
    almost any time you talk about settlers
    i could go on, and on, but i wont.

    but dude, car = spark plugs

    and clearly, philosophy plays into it but tachlis, what we do defines who we are.

  275. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 4:25 pm


    I never felt any sense of joy in a conservative shul on shabbat, and I’ve been in a few. Very few places have a thriving conservative “community”. And even though you can drive to shul, the parking lots on saturdays are often empty.

    I hear ya, sister1 My experiences have been mixed, but I have had amazingly good experiences, so I’m thinking our respective experiences cancel each other out. I am just sorry that you didn’t really have good ones and I think it is so wonderful that you didn’t give up but rather, moved on to where you have found home. For me, I have found home in C Judaism especially because I can leyn and be counted in a minyan, make a difference, you know? And for a whole lot of other reasons, essentially having to do with learning and participating- religious expression.

    I have found that often C Jews do not make it shul, and that is distressing (for the sake of G-d), and an ongoing challenge,though I would say your assertion is apocryphal, and not necessarily factual any more than mine is. I have also seen O Jews who make it to shul and chant without kavannah. I think this is a difficulty for all streams of Judaism. Some may feel more obligated than others, some may keep mitzvot according to a lifestyle (rather than a way of life).

    As for C Judaism keeping people interested: it is my opinion that if there weren’t the pressure to conform, the “Shabbos police” etc, O Judaism as a life style (not a way of life), that you might find more people being a little more lax. I don’t think the devotion is necessarily out of choice as it is for you (which I do applaud).

    I am not playing us against them. I think human nature is a little more complex in description than the artifice of dividing O from non-O.

  276. laya

    6/30/2005 at 4:29 pm

    Btw, there are some cool orthodox egal places in Jtown where I’m pretty sure you can leyn and be counted in a minyan as well.

    But now, could you define what you mean as the difference between lifestyle and way of life? I’m not clear.

  277. laya

    6/30/2005 at 4:36 pm

    to clarify, women arent counted as part of the men’s minyan, but there must be 10 men AND 10 women there for services to begin.

  278. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 4:36 pm

    Yes Laya, telling somebody who visits our site and comments that I am Destroyer of Judaism that it’s hypocritical to continue to use our site seems perfectly benign to me. Think what I could have called him, if I were so inclined. I also suggested that he leave very politely. I was a very good host, don’t you think?

    Calling a person a buffoon because he compares the IDF or Israel to Nazis as a result of the disengagement is valid and correct. Jewish or not. Settler or not.

    And calling you a poor judge of character…well, I guess some things hit home. Sometimes it’s unpleasant when a personal attack is directed at us, isn’t it? Still, that seems gentle to me and nothing like “dishing it out.”

    Car = spark plugs?

    Are spark plugs mentioned anywhere in the Torah or Oral Law? Where?

    You follow a philosophy, Laya. That’s why you are talking about spark plugs. The difference between you and Conservatives is that according to you, your philosophy was given to us directly by god at Sinai, and everything that we understand about our laws – the Oral Law – comes from there as well and must be addressed as such.

    Your example of the car and spark plugs exemplifies the point, however, that we are all governed to some degree by different philosophies. Since it is on that basis that you rejected what Schorsch writes, you may wish to review your reasons for rejecting it. Rejecting it because it’s “philosophy” just doesn’t cut it as an argument. Neither do “fish encrusted fish sticks.”

  279. ck

    6/30/2005 at 4:43 pm

    What? Dude – it’s simple, Conservative and Reform Judaism advocates things I don’t believe in. It’s not like the difference between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewry, the differences are fundamental. So please, go ahead and do whatever you like to do. But please, do not be offended if I choose not to share your beliefs. And to whatever extent you ARE offended, that only serves to emphasize your narrow mindedness, not mine.

  280. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 4:45 pm


    Why is it trite? I did some research btw, it was a tablet k hechsher – unnacceptable to most Orthodox Jews but acceptable to most Conservative and Reform Jews

    C’mon, ck! Anything with shrimp is not acceptable to C Jews. Any conscious C Jew with half a devoted brain gets it. Halacha is so blessedly simple on this point, considering it is d’oraita. It doesn’t take mensa brains to understand this. The word “shrimp” equals “treif”. Literally.

    This goes beyond the silly hechsher. Or do all Jews simply accept whatever is proposed to them if there is a stamp of authority? I imagine you do not think this to be true. So why do immediately ascribe idiocy to others? Though I am sure some ignorance does occur.

    For example, what do you think of the cholov Yisrael hechsher?

  281. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/30/2005 at 4:52 pm


    Do you feel a need to apologize to Joe Schmo for what you said?

  282. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 4:54 pm

    Netsach, the one owed an apology is the one called a Destroyer of Judaism.


    The “Tablet K”, Religious and Kitchen Supervision
    Lawrence, NY
    Tel: 516-569-9081 or 718-835-3595
    Rabbi Rafael Saffra

    There ya go. Call him and ask.

  283. laya

    6/30/2005 at 4:55 pm

    uh, no, middle, i dont think you were a good host, you were shooing the guy out the door, and I dont think that is very nice or appropriate here

    Calling a person a buffoon because he compares the IDF or Israel to Nazis as a result of the disengagement is valid and correct.

    see what I mean? what, is it not an insult if you’re so sure you are right.
    That’s convenient.

    and no, my personal philosophy wasnt given to me at sinai, now was the philosophy of Judaism, which was developed over time. Please dont put words in my mouth.

    it does say in torah this bit about lighting a fire on shabbat, remember, starting a car engine lights a fire. I dont understand why that is so difficult to understand, except that maybe its nice to be able to drive on shabbat, and we dont want to have to give that up.

    Now please. Understand this. Philosophy has great value. If you saw my bookshelf you would know how much I love it. It helps us guide our lives. But what we DO is what defines our lives. My critique on your post was that it was ALL philosophy, and that only tells you part of the story.


  284. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/30/2005 at 4:58 pm


    I am not speaking on behalf of Joe schmo. It seemed he was offering opinion when he was speaking. He wasn’t telling you to get off… You have editorial position here I believe. Was that a fair way to put things knowing what you do here?

  285. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 4:59 pm


    Conservative and Reform Judaism advocates things I don’t believe in. It’s not like the difference between Ashkenazic and Sephardic Jewry, the differences are fundamental.

    You may not believe but in that lack of belief you do not stand for O Judaism and yet that is the way you come across. What you are actually asserting, is a personal belief, which, btw, I find bigoted.

    And yeah, some of your beliefs are offensive. That sense of offense is not a choice. It is a response. Some of your beliefs, IMO, have little to do with religion and a whole lot to do with culture, but you use religion to justify them.

    It’s okay – your beliefs. Just don’t use religion to justify them.

  286. ck

    6/30/2005 at 5:10 pm

    Barefoot Jewess: Bigoted? I admit that I am partial to my own people, but I am very tolerant of others. Like I said, do whatever you want to do, believe whatever you want to believe, but don’t call me a bigot if I respectfully disagree.

    As far as the personal belief vs. religious belief thing? Orthodoxy is simply something I strive for. It’s my ideal. I’ll never say that Orthodoxy approves of scantily clad photos of Paris Hilton. Anyhow, you’re not really dealing with any of the issues I brought up. This conversation is getting hella-repetitive. I think I’ve pretty much said what I needed to say (over and over and over again). Feel free to reread my comments if anything remains unclear.

  287. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 5:14 pm


    I did not know about the R hechshering deal, that there are no rabbis to do this given the views of R.

    Majorly cooool! This makes perfect sense. It makes the whole Reform hechshering shrimp encrusted deal even more suspect and kinda, yes, trivial, and a BAD, not to mention, intellectually dishones,t example.

    Though I guess I would have been majorly aggrieved to see such a hechsher. I’m thinking if I were willing to give my fellow Jews the benefit of the doubt, even Reform Jews (who are waaaay too easy to trash), I would think that this is some meshuganah thing happening and not load it with mucho import. On a good day.

  288. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 5:17 pm


    I am willing to address what is important to you. I guess I failed in sussing it out. I am a ready ear.

  289. Michael

    6/30/2005 at 5:18 pm

    Why is it offensive or bigoted to state that something conflicts with one’s religion when said thing actually does conflict with one’s religion?

    Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism are in conflict with Orthodox Judaism. One could be a Reform Jew, a Conservative Jew, an Orthodox Jew, or a Jainist for all I care and realize that.

    As far as religion and culture, they are inextricably intertwined in Judaism. Jewish religion is in itself a culture, at least when practiced according to Jewish tradition — it wasn’t until German secular Jews wanted to assimilate without converting to Christianity and thus created Reform Judaism that the concept of “be a Jew in the home and man in the street” arose. And like it or not, the Orthodox tradition, while subject to evolution, is much older than either Reform or Conservative, which were reactionary movements whose theological justifications were composed post facto after their respective schisms.

    Anyway, if Conservative or Reform or whatever Jews think that they have the true version of Judaism, should it really bother them what Orthodox Jews think? If one doesn’t believe that Orthodox Judaism is necessary, why should one go around seeking acceptance from Orthodox Jews?

  290. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 5:24 pm

    No Laya, you are avoiding the topic. My post was not all about philosophy and goes much further. Even if it were all philosophy, what is your claim that this philosophy is false? Would you marry a Conservative convert? If not, why not?

    And Laya, I didn’t say I don’t insult, I said that you have no idea what it’s like when I “dish it out” because I have been very polite on Jewlicious. The reason I’ve been polite, btw, is to prevent the strife caused by personal attacks.

    Now, I may have missed it, but what did you say to Schmo when he called me a Destroyer of Judaism?

  291. ck

    6/30/2005 at 5:35 pm

    Good post Michael! I wholeheartedly agree.

  292. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 5:41 pm

    Michael, this discussion is not about asking anybody for acceptance. It is about opening people’s eyes to the ideas behind other streams. What is apparent, however, is that few of the people who continue to dismiss these other streams have actually read or evaluated what I posted.

    Your comment about how Reform and Conservative are a product of their time is correct, but so is rabbinic Judaism as a whole. What makes decisions made in the 4th Century more valid than those made after it was proven that the world was round? Why do you think the laws of the 4th Century Judaism are more applicable than laws that relate to the 20th Century?

    Do you say the Amidah? Why? If they created the Amidah and synagogues to react to the fact that the Temple was destroyed, how can you give that greater credibility than a knowledgeable rabbi of a different movement reacting to our changed understanding of the world.

    Do you think that women are equal to men in front of god? If so, why can they not be part of a minyan? Do you think that this has anything to do with our current understanding of women as equals to men? Isn’t this an example of something that times influence?

    As to your final point about acceptance by the Orthodox, don’t you find it disgusting that a person could convert to Judaism, love Judaism, live as a Jew, practice as a Jew, perceive oneself as a Jew but be rejected by many Jews as a non-Jew? Perhaps you’re not disgusted, but you can be sure that the convert is going to be personally hurt. And yes, this rejection of the convert could have other repercussions on that person’t life. Fortunately, other streams of Judaism do offer a robust institutional and Jewish life and they can live just fine without the Orthodox. It’s a shame that this division exists, but I guess even posting information showing how close movements can be isn’t enough to bridge the problem. It would be nice, however, if those who reject these other streams stop taking resources from those who are not exclusive of others.

  293. laya

    6/30/2005 at 5:46 pm

    i dont believe I said anything in that instance, I figure you can handle your own battles.

    And what issue exactly am i avoiding dear? cause I’m sick of repeating myself. I’m relatively ok with conservative judaism IN THEORY. I’ve said that. It’s the in practice that doesn’t work for me. I’ve said that too. I CAN’T marry a conserv. convert for the simple fact that no orthodox rabbi would marry me.

    and wow, if jewlicious sees your polite side, I feel sorry for anyone who has seen your wrath, eh?

    but well said michael. good posts on your blog too, and where the f are you these days? call me!

  294. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 5:46 pm


    Btw, there are some cool orthodox egal places in Jtown where I’m pretty sure you can leyn and be counted in a minyan as well.

    But now, could you define what you mean as the difference between lifestyle and way of life? I’m not clear.

    I did find that at Shira Chadasha in Jerusalem. It was so amazing. It confuses me. I loved it. The singing was out of this world from the women’s section and the men’s. Such kavannah. I could wear my tallit. Women leyned, carried the Torah (on the women’s side).

    Did the drash. Had aliyot, along with the men. It was a choir of angels. If that were Orthodoxy, there would be little difference between that and C Judaism, except for the fact that we don’t agree on the misinai thing.

    Thank you for being curious about Jewish “lifestyle” v “way of life” thing.

    I have noticed that born into frum Jews especially just live the life that Mordechai Kaplan has described as “religious civilization”, without the evolving part. Which means you get up in the morning, and there a prescribed rituals until you go to bed, and G-d doesn’t enter into it a whole lot as a personal connection, just more so as an artifact. And your immediate society keeps you going, validates your conformity, and even may pressure you into it. Society is great for the outward essentials that identify you as belonging to a certain group.

    As for “way of life”- well that is Torah and halacha- structures that surround and validate belief- belief, not acquiescence or surrender- a devotion- a path that someone follows willingly not out of culture, but out of decision and understanding, as I imagine you have chosen- it centres arounbd belief, weird as that may be for Jews to hear

    Fact is, I find people observing from choice rather than from conformity in C. However, I can’t deny that there are people like you who put a lie to the idea of conformity and “life style”.

  295. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 5:46 pm

    Barefoot, you can learn more about Reform here.

    and this will be a useful exegesis.

  296. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 5:48 pm

    “and wow, if jewlicious sees your polite side, I feel sorry for anyone who has seen your wrath, eh?”

    Correct. 😉

  297. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/30/2005 at 5:48 pm

    gee themiddle,

    You are right, I didn’t spank Joe schmo when
    he called you what he did.
    You did tell him to leave in so many words….
    was that so?

    I am not trying to be an authority here. I am
    just suggesting as a course of my opinoin that
    it is not becoming of an editor of a Jewish site
    that promotes open mindedness.

    I have tried really hard at seeking forgiveness
    for “dumbass” things I have said. I have said
    my share of wrong things that I regret.
    But I am not an editor or whatever here… so I
    am just offering opinion.

  298. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 5:50 pm

    Oh, btw, ck, since the Jewlicious email doesn’t work any more, and since I don’t know where you are, I have no way of reaching you to schedule things.

  299. laya

    6/30/2005 at 5:50 pm

    Fact is, I find people observing from choice rather than from conformity in C. However, I can’t deny that there are people like you who put a lie to the idea of conformity and “life style”.


  300. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 5:51 pm

    Netsach, he has posted numerous times since I asked him why he was still posting here on a site promoting the Destruction of Judaism. It was fairly hypocritical of him to do so.

  301. ck

    6/30/2005 at 5:52 pm

    ck at jewlicious dot com works. I just haven’t set up the other accounts yet. Sorry! Email me. The eagle lands sunday afternoon at 1 pm. So does the muffti. Govern yourselves accordingly – lock up your daughters and hide your silver away….

  302. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 5:55 pm


  303. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 5:55 pm

    Yes, TM, you are right, the convert is hurt.

    I think what I find most astounding is the belief that because I am not really Jewish to some, it is open season. Simple human empathy suggests a rather more sensitive approach. Jewishly, that approach carries even more weight, about the stranger. IMO, keep your bigotry to yourself if you actually care to tread that narrow bridge.

  304. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 5:57 pm


    Apart from your “huh”, care to address the rest of the comment?

  305. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    6/30/2005 at 5:59 pm


    If you like that gay parade stuff, I can refer you to lots happening things locally here…

    Just Joking…

  306. laya

    6/30/2005 at 6:00 pm

    sure, mind clarifing that so i know what you mean?

  307. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 6:01 pm

    Barefoot, as I’ve said in this discussion before, the ones who reject you as a Jew remain a minority and even they are unable to answer why you should be treated any differently than Ruth.

  308. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 6:02 pm


    Why the links? Your point is what? I admire Reform. Some of the most amazing Jews I have met are Reform. I don’t want to read another link. Care to enlighten me?

  309. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 6:03 pm


    It means you chose.

  310. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 6:06 pm

    Aw, TM,

    Thanks. I get it. It just hurts and pisses me off sometimes to hear it over and over and over and over and over again. Other than that, everything is copacetic :).

  311. ck

    6/30/2005 at 6:08 pm

    Geez barefoot jewess. i think you’re keen and would be thrilled to have you over for shabbat dinner, I’d be super happy to invite you to my synagogue on shabbat. I have no problem with you at all. We just have some differences of opinion and I’m cool with that. I respect your opinions and your right to hold them – how does any of that make me intolerant or a bigot??

  312. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 6:08 pm

    The point of the links was just to provide a resource on Reform. I’d say more, but I have to save it up for the day when I do a Reform Judaism post….

  313. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 6:09 pm

    ck, you’ve been emailed.

  314. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 6:15 pm


    ’m relatively ok with conservative judaism IN THEORY. I’ve said that. It’s the in practice that doesn’t work for me. I’ve said that too. I CAN’T marry a conserv. convert for the simple fact that no orthodox rabbi would marry me.

    What am I missing here? There are C Jews who practise.

    And also, no O rabbi will marry you to a C Jew? So, on what do you base your decision? Some rabbi, or a deeper belief? Because if it is only due to the rabbi then what thought have you put into your reasons for not marrying out of Orthodoxy? What will that rabbi be telling you that resonates for you?

    I am curious.

  315. Michael

    6/30/2005 at 6:15 pm

    T_M, while evidence indicates that probably the Amidah and certainly the synagogue predate the destruction of the Temple, I see what you’re trying to say. My problem is this: when the post-Temple additions to Judaism were made, they were made with the idea in mind of sustaining the Jewish people in the face of a great theological/spiritual crisis, and also looking back on Jewish text and tradition to find a way to cope with this crisis; the idea that prayer was acceptable in the place of sacrifice is in the Prophets and was in fact supported long before the destruction of the Temple by certain Jews. Whereas Reform Judaism and to an admittedly lesser extent Conservative Judaism were created essentially because Orthodox Judaism was hard and created a stumbling block towards assimilation. Their theology came later. That is the difference.

    So, to simplify, 2000 years ago, the Pharisees sat down and said, “The locus of Jewish worship is gone. How can we continue to serve G-d in a valid way? Let’s study our texts and tradition.” So they came up with the prayer service as we know it.

    Whereas with modern Jewish offshoots, it went more like this: a group of secular German Jews sat down and said, “We want to become assimilated into European society. Our problem is that our religion is too foreign and Eastern. Let’s get rid of the Hebrew and put in an organ and get rid of those dietary laws so we can not only look like German Protestants, but eat with them too.” So they did that. Then, awhile later, after the fact, somebody sat down and hashed out a theological justification for it.

    And it is condescending and wrong to assert that the rules of Orthodox Judaism are from the 4th century and that rules pertaining to the 20th are all a product of Conservative Judaism or Reform Judaism. For example, as we all know, Orthodox Jews do not drive on Shabbat. This is a 20th century law. Orthodox Judaism is just as flexible as Conservative Judaism, it merely refuses to let certain precepts be violated out of convenience. If cars had existed in Babylon 1600 years ago, I’m sure you wouldn’t see Rav Pappa or whoever behind the wheel on Shabbat.

    I do believe men and women are equal in front of G-d. Women aren’t counted in a minyan because they are not obligated to do the whole three-times-a-day-group-prayer thing. Should we also count boys in under 13 in a minyan to preserve their feelings?

    And no, I don’t find it disgusting. If I love Zimbabwe and perceive of myself as a Zimbabwean, am I one, or am I not really one until I move to Zimbabwe, become a citizen according to the law, speak the language and participate in the culture? And if I find something unappealing about Zimbabwean culture and decide to make up my own definition of what being a Zimbabwean is, would it be disgusting for the true blue Zimbabweans to reject me? (Man. Zimbabwe. What a great name.) If they rejected me, would it hurt my feelings? Sure. Would they have every right to, as it’s their culture and their prerogative to make the rules? Yes.

    T_M, posting information about how close movements can be won’t solve the problem if there are still major fundamental differences. I mean, hell, Judaism and Islam are similar in many ways, but pointing that out to the Ayatollah probably won’t get him to stop pointing those missiles at Israel.

  316. laya

    6/30/2005 at 6:17 pm

    jewess, Not everyone gets to be a convert or a baal tshuvah, but that’s not their fault. It dont mean your brainless just cause you grew up with it you know?
    You end up conforming a bit to any kind of social circle you are in, be it orthodox and secular. There are people in every way of life/lifestyle who go thru never questioning their choices or beliefs.

    Of course its better to choice, and examine and have kavana at all times, i dont think we disagree.

    I dont quite know what you wanted me to address, but maybe I’m just too tired. it is after 2am here, and i do need to be going to sleep.

    RE: marriage. I live and function within an orthodox stream here in jerusalem. It is a way of life for me, and one I want to continue when I am married. Its a way of life i believe in. cool?

    in practice, C doesnt work for me. clear?

    I am so going to bed now

    good post michael

  317. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 6:36 pm

    Michael, any prayers that replace sacrifice came after destruction of the Temple. You will recall there is another Temple destruction and a centuries old exile before the Pharisees came along.

    But you did acknowledge what I had hoped you will acknowledge, which is that much of what you observe as an Orthodox Jew is created by men.

    Why would a Jewish man, rabbi or woman, be a better indicator for you of how you should practice, than somebody who has read what they knew and has added the 2000 years of additional knowledge to their base of knowledge?

    I think you are being condescending when you claim that Reform or Conservative are merely reactions because “Orthodox is too hard.” Do you really believe that?

    Reform developed because of the enlightenment, not because Orthodox was too hard.

    Conservative developed because many felt that Reform had rejected tenets of Judaism which deserved to be maintained, even though it was also important to acknowledge that the world had changed. Those are philosophical differences and not differences of convenience. You obviously disagree with these philosophies, but that doesn’t mean they have less merit than those philosophies born in the 4th Century, the 1st Century or during the Babylonian exile.

    Your faith that Rav Pappa wouldn’t be caught behind the wheel of a car in the 4th Century is merely conjecture. The fact is that science as we know it, the enlightenment, the Reformation and various movements that followed the 4th Century would have changed the talmud, mishna, gemera and any “Oral Law” if these civilization-changing changes had come about before the 4th Century.

    I find your answer about the minyan to be a little disingenuous. Boys who are younger than 13 know they will be counted one day in a minyan. Yet girls know they will never be counted. If they are equals, then why not? They’re not obligated to pray 3 times a day but men are? Why? They’re equal after all. Right?

    As for Zimbabwe, that is a good example. Except that I don’t recall electing Orthodox as my government representatives. They seem to be self-appointed.

  318. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 6:50 pm


    C doesn’t work for you. Why does that mean you have to trash it?

  319. laya

    6/30/2005 at 6:54 pm

    where did i trash it dear?

  320. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 6:54 pm


    Judaism wasn’t “hard” as you say, and “created a stumbling block to assimilation”. That wasn’t the reason for the split from the Judaism of the day. I find it disingenuous of you to cite that as if those were the reasons and the truth. All your arguments are invalidated by that premise.

  321. laya

    6/30/2005 at 6:56 pm

    then please, enlighten us.

  322. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 6:56 pm


    You trashed it in offering your own experience as truth and fact and a reason that C Judaism was not viable.

  323. laya

    6/30/2005 at 6:57 pm

    no, i offered that AS MY EXPERIENCE.

  324. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 7:02 pm

    then please, enlighten us.


    If this is addressed to me, I will cite Mitzrayim and the futility of the Israelites’ labour, the futility inherent in the labour. You either know the reasons for the split, or you don’t. But I am not here to enlighten you about it as a futile gesture. Read up on it yourself if you don’t get it. If you cared, you wouldn’t be so intellectually lazy about it.

  325. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 7:06 pm


    If you offered it as your own experience, then I would have known it- there would have not been any confusion. Clearly, I didn’t get it. My mistake.

    Okay, so you are saying C is not for you and that though you have no problem with C people you would have a problem with marrying a convert, right?

  326. Barefoot Jewess

    6/30/2005 at 7:10 pm

    BTW, laya, you have not really answered any of my questions.

  327. Michael

    6/30/2005 at 7:13 pm

    No, that was in fact the reason for the split. German Jews wanted to participate in gentile society without converting to Christianity. That is where Reform Judaism arose. Judaism is hard, and it is a stumbling block to assimilation. That’s the point. So it had to be overhauled in order for Jews to participate more fully in their non-Jewish surroundings. And, as T_M said, Conservative Judaism was formed in reaction, because some people thought the reformers went way too far. And even if I wasn’t right (even though I am), I don’t see how that invalidates every argument I make.

    To quote Rav Marley: “If you would know your history, you would know where you’re comin’ from.”

    T_M, I admit the Mishna and Gemara would be different if they were written in 1997 instead of 400. But certain principles of Judaism, like, for example, the clear prohibition against lighting fires on Shabbat, are just not broken, and the Enlightenment does not change that.

  328. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 10:37 pm

    No Michael, it wasn’t about the hardship of Orthodox practice. It was about the congruence of science and universalistic ideas that caused Mendehlsohn to create Reform. And just to point out that you’re mistaken, he remained observant and a practicing Jew throughout his life. So “hardship” was not the issue.

    The issue revolves around a changing understanding of the world through developments such as science and developments such as the enlightenment. What Reform offered was a way to marry these new developments with Judaism, an ancient religion.

    And yes, Conservative Judaism emanated from the fact that many Jews rejected the “extreme” lengths to which the generation that followed Mendehlson took Reform, but don’t be too smug because Orthodox Judaism has no shortage of its own streams, sub-streams and even cults that diverge in philosophy.

    Now I want you to consider carefully, Michael, that you acknowledge that the Mishna and Gemara would be different today and combine that with your comment earlier acknowledging that the laws we have in Rabbinic Judaism stem from a period of spiritual flux and concern after the destruction of the Temples. Orthodox Judaism gives the weight of divine authority to these writings. They are considered as valued as the Torah and its divine authority.

    Consider the following: if you believe that men wrote these important writings (not the Torah – all other aspects of Rabbinic Judaism), then why would they have equal weight to the torah given to us divinely? Can’t we respect and value these sources, but also acknowledge that they are authored by men and therefore men today might have similar intellectual capacity to modify these traditions and customs accordingly?

    Think about it. We Jews don’t elevate men to be gods. So why would we give these men, regardless of how brilliant or knowledgeable they may have been, god-like authority?

    As I understand Conservative Judaism, it posits that we share in the ability to contribute to this authority. Obviously this makes a great deal of sense to many people.

    By the way, it’s nice to have you join us as a poster. Welcome.

  329. themiddle

    6/30/2005 at 11:05 pm

    To Shem-tov –

    At least according to the Internet, Conservative Jews views on Cohanim stem from the following:

    Rabbi Isaac ben Sheshet (14th century) differentiates between authentic Kohanim of ancient times, and those who carry the title today. He rules that today’s Kohanim, lacking documentary evidence of clear right to the priestly title, owes any privileges and obligations not simply to halakha (law) but rather to the force of minhag (custom). [Sefer Bar Sheshet, responsum 94, Lemberg, 1805].

    Rabbi Solomon Luria (16th century) rules that because of the frequent persecutions and expulsions of Jews throughout history, Kohanim lost track of their genealogy.

    The Magen Avraham also rules this way, and Rabbi Jacob Emden ruled similarly.

    One could argue strongly that the point of the Orthodox amidah is to keep the people together while other streams use the amidah to tear the people apart. That is, in fact an absurd statement since other movements have prayers. More strange, however, is the notion that the amidah was created to end what the Romans began 2000 years ago. The amidah was created to replace the Temple. Period. By creating rabbinic Judaism and allowing prayer in synagogues (mini-Temples) and prayer in general (sacrifice replacement), rabbinic Judaism was re-interpreting Judaism to suit current circumstances. In how many places does it say in the Torah that one may not perform sacrifices away from the Temple? The rabbis innovated according to the requirements of the time. For some reason, we treat their modifications in the same way we treat the Torah, but when a modern movement comes along and modifies again to acknowledge recent changes in our understanding of the world, somehow they are seeking to assimilate.


  330. Purim Hero

    6/30/2005 at 11:15 pm

    Minhag Yisrael K’Mo Halacha. But that aside, extend your argument out. Any rules based on something whereby we are no longer absolutly certain, liniage, tumah/tahor, and many other things would be out the window. Marital Purity, whatever, doesn’t matter, Temple Mount, who cares lets all go up in an impure state. Just because rules no longer apply potentianlly D’Orita (from the Torah) does not mean that we shouldn’t still try to follow them. I mean, why be jewish at all, you can’t be certain your ancestors were actually jewish right, and convertion won’t work since we don’t have any real rabbis, so guess we’re all just goyim, the jews are extinct, now let’s all go out and have one big pary because non of it matters.

    Personally, I’d rater view the whole thing as one big relationship, our relationship with G-d and with other people, and for that matter, all other created things. It’s dynamic, it’s got to come from some place pure, but we’ve also got to respect the other partner. We wouldn’t want a marrige absolved just because we couldn’t seem to be certain about the date of its aniversery. We need to recognize the give and take, but keep the other persons feelings and intentions to the best of our ability. So we went to the store to pick up roses for our wife, she likes the red ones, but they were all out, do I take no flowers? Or do I get her the pink ones knowing she’ll understand.

  331. Shem-tov

    7/1/2005 at 1:12 am

    On Cohens, Conservatism and “recent changes in our understanding of the world.” A recent scientific discovery powerfully underscores my earlier point that we should be very careful about abandoning tradition based on what we think is modern certainties. So the Conservative movement thinks, according to themiddle, that honor to Cohens is somewhat passe because the chain of descent is hopelessly broken (it is my impression that there is also a democratic, anti-elitist element to their position).

    However, in recent years scientists have isolated a “Cohen gene.” It is a Y-chromosome genetic market possesed by something like 97% of Jews who said they were Cohens, and by far far fewer people who said they weren’t. It is a unique and unsual genetic market, and based on it, the researchers extrapolated that all the Cohanim — picked from both Sephardic and Ashkenaz populations around the world — were all descended from a single male anscestor who live 3,300 hundred years ago.

    This is not obscure religous zeaolot fantasy — it was published in Nature, so its as scientific as it gets (sample size was admittedly small).

    So if the Conservative movement is so scientific, and if their oposition to honoring Cohanim stems solely from doubts about heredity, surely they would respond to this “new understanding” by honoring Cohens?

    Well, at least the last time I went to a Conservative schul for shabbat (maybe six months ago?), there was no duhaning by the Cohanim.

    The broader point, themiddle, is that just because its old doesn’t mean its bogus. Consider the amazing coincidence of our tradition as to who is a cohen and the scientific evidence confirming it. Those Pharisees got it right, the proof is in the pudding. Our tradition has transmitted to us unbroken the beating heart of our people, halachah. I admit the accomplishment is so stupendous, it is easy for us rationalists to doubt. But that is because Hashem’s gifts to our people, Torah and the law we have developed from it, is just so perfect it almost defies belief.

    A final note. Synagogues are NOT “mini-temples.” One of the aspects of Reform practice I most object to is actually naming their schuls “Temples.” The inevitable consequence of this practice is complacency: if we have the Temple now, why work on creating the kind of world in which we can build the real one in Jerusalem?

    Halachah of course realizes that schul is not a Temple, and to the extent it treats it as such, it is only in a metaphorical way, ie as practice. This is evidenced by the fact that one need not be ritually clean to walk into a schul. If it really partook of the essence of the Temple, this would be impossible.

    By the way, themiddle, I’m indebted to your collection of the Conservative’s primary sources on treatment of Cohanim. Very interesting.

    And I apologize for my very very long comments, though if you’ve read this far, I hope you found it interesting.

    It’s Like Birthright. But just because it sounds to good to be true doesn’t mean it is.

  332. themiddle

    7/1/2005 at 3:11 am

    Purim Hero, are you taking writing lessons from Jewish Mother?

  333. themiddle

    7/1/2005 at 3:21 am

    I’m adding this comment of Shem-Tov’s as well:

    I agree with you, themiddle, that the Amidah is designed as a replacement for the Temple. But it is a replacement in the way that a government-in-exile is a replacement for the normal government. It is meant to tide us over until the Temple is restored. This is evidenced by the fact that one of the things we pray for is the restoration of the Temple! And when that happens, it would be nice if everyone knows more or less what to do; or to put it differently, it won’t happen unless everyone knows in advance what to do. All these issues are still relevant today; consider the fact that we still can’t go up to the area where the Holy of Holies was. Of course we don’t know quite where that is; this information gets lost over time and the Amidah serves the function, among others, of encoding some basic Temple practice in our collective conciousness.

    Why treat older innovations with more respect? For one thing, they’ve stood the test of time. Keeping a people together for 2000 years of exile is an accomplishment so stupendous that we should be utterly confident of our wisdom before we tinker with it. For example, “our understanding of the world” changes every year: one year the physicists say the universe is expanding, next year its collapsing. One day its round, the next day its spiral shaped. Or something like that. I’d wait ’till we were certain of something for hundreds of years before I proposed it as a basis for rethinking the slightest detail of halachah.

    But the real question is what has changed that makes the halachik system unsuited for our times or our modern understandin? I can’t think of anything, but I may be blinded by my religious beliefs.

    But I think we’ll agree on the bottom line. Halachah aside, the question is, has the Conservative movement presented an approach to Judaism that will in practice have the extraordinary cohesive and preservative powers of traditional Judaism? Is this new system a vision for the future, or just for today? Of course its to early to tell, but the Conservative intermarriage and fertility rates suggest that whatever they’re selling, people aren’t buying.

    I take no joy from this fact, or from the plight of any Jewish denomination — I’d be much happier if Conservative Judaism had enough force to keep itself going. I don’t think Jews should be Orthodox or nothing; I’d rather have them as Jews. But as it is, I don’t think the Conservative approach is a long-term stable equilibrium for the Golden Galut of America.

    **comment by Shem Tov**

  334. themiddle

    7/1/2005 at 4:25 am

    Actually, the Conservative movement seemed to have been using 14-16th Century rabbis as their authority. According to everybody here, these would be observant rabbis of the traditional vein, so you can’t really complain. Also, if we are to believe that the genetic marker is valid science, how do we interpret the old dinosaur vs. Adam & Eve question again? (That was a darn good discussion before Schmo and Muffti started duking it out to see who could prove the unprovable existence/inexistence of god).

    Anyway, if I recall, it wasn’t a 97% rate, it was closer to 80% and they found it in another population group that ostensibly should have had nothing to do with the Middle East.

    But in any case, if you, like me, have taken a look at Cohanim in recent times, some have red hair, some have blonde hair, some have dark eyes, some have blue eyes. I don’t see this as a big deal, but it seems to me that Conservative Judaism may have taken a more pragmatic approach to the whole Cohen/Temple issue.

    When you say that Halacha is a “perfect gift,” what can I say? If you believe that, I respect your belief. Sometimes, even faithful adherents of Halacha stray a bit – I presume you’ve heard of Shabtai Zvi and those Lubavichers (not all, but some) who have convinced themselves the Rebbe was the Messiah – which suggests that it’s a darn good “gift” but perhaps not perfect, but I acknowledge that’s my personal bias. You have lots of faith, I lack some.

    As for synagogues, I believe the issue is not clear cut. Some scholars believe the early synagogues were part of a larger cultic Israelite system with the Jerusalem Temple at its heart. Others, however, believe they were competing with the Temple and eventually came to replace it. While your claim that if synagogues were mini-temples, people would be ritually clean before entering makes some sense, I believe it falters on the front of pragmatism, but also of the nature of synagogues in that they replace not only the Temple, but its close surroundings. In other words, we can claim that the bima represents the Temple, the aron kodesh is the holy of holies, and the areas for seating, areas for study, and areas for festivities such as wedding halls, represent the outer portion of the Temple where congregants who were not Cohens or Levis would congregate. This becomes especially crucial once the Temple is destroyed.

    I appreciate your final two paragraphs mentioning the decline of the size of the Conservative movement and your lack of joy as this happens. It is something negative that affects us all.

    I don’t know whether Conservative or Reform offer long term stability for the Jewish community in America. The fact is that we are assimilating and people have gravitated to these movements because they either don’t know enough to be Orthodox, or they know enough that they choose to avoid Orthodox Judaism. If one’s sense of god is not of the same strong faith as that of the Orthodox, it’s a little hard to pretend, and much harder if one considers the restrictiveness of an Orthodox lifestyle.

    But one cannot invent faith. It either exists or not. It either comes to one or it doesn’t. As I said earlier, the key then is to make the institutional life of a congregation compelling, vibrant and offering positive interaction with others. Combined with traditional practices and a sense of sanctity or even divinity that practitioners could experience, this would strengthen the bonds. Children are also a great tool for encouraging parents to participate more.

  335. laya

    7/1/2005 at 4:43 am

    Barefoot, first you say to michael Judaism wasn’t “hard” as you say, and “created a stumbling block to assimilation”. That wasn’t the reason for the split from the Judaism of the day. I find it disingenuous of you to cite that as if those were the reasons and the truth. All your arguments are invalidated by that premise.

    then i ask you to enlighten us otherwise, rather than just disagreeing and you say

    If this is addressed to me, I will cite Mitzrayim and the futility of the Israelites’ labour, the futility inherent in the labour. You either know the reasons for the split, or you don’t. But I am not here to enlighten you about it as a futile gesture. Read up on it yourself if you don’t get it. If you cared, you wouldn’t be so intellectually lazy about it.

    really honey, i don’t think you’re making much sense, but please, don’t accuse me of being intellectually lazy just because you’re not explaining yourself so well.

  336. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    7/1/2005 at 5:21 am


    Did you make up this phrase?

    “Golden Galut of America”

    in youre #333

    That is one of the best lines I have seen on Jewlicious yet….

    That was almost as fun as good ole RSO

  337. laya

    7/1/2005 at 5:27 am

    That was actually a comment by Shem Tov, I think maybe it wasnt clear, that the middle moved here from another post.

  338. Netsach Shebe Netsach

    7/1/2005 at 5:31 am

    Buried in all this junk I guess, huh…either way it is a cute shebe cute line

  339. themiddle

    7/1/2005 at 10:37 am

    And a comment by Judi that is pertinent to this discussion:

    Let’s be honest here, guys. I was reading something by Max Diamont (The Jews in America, 1979) that said (to paraphrase) that people generally “observe” at a level just below the shul they attend. For example, many people who attend Reform temples are not attuned to the tenets of Reform Judaism; they just want a place to go for their kids’ B’nei Mitzvot and the HH’s. Likewise, most Conservative Jews could care less about the actual basis for the Conservative movement, they just feel that Reform is below them and they’re intimidated by Orthodox. As for Orthodox: don’t tell me that everyone who goes to an Orthodox shul keeps as many of the 613 as they should. At any O shul I’ve ever seen, there are cars parked around the block, women in non-tsnius clothing (and without hair covered on a daily basis), and a significant percentage of the congregation who doesn’t eat strictly kosher or use the mikveh. Max Dimont argues that they’re actually Conservatives, and I’d be inclined to agree.

    I hate to have to keep saying this, but there are people who belong to Conservative shuls that look and behave the same way as those who go to Orthodox shuls. As a third-generation CJ shul-goer, I’d have to disagree with the assessment that CJ is a death sentence.

    As an aside, Rabbi Natan Slifkin was here last night and our audience was the largest he’s spoken to- more people than Flatbush, even. The majority of those attending belong to the Conserv shul here. Tell me again how we’re a dead-end street?

  340. Shem-tov

    7/1/2005 at 1:04 pm

    Ah, sorry, that last comment was in response to T_M’s last post, not Judy’s. But while I’m at it — I want to revisit our debate on whether the shul is or is not a Temple. I said it was not because you can enter it ritually impure; you said that means nothing because it is just the Ark that corresponds to the Beis Hamigdash. But my point still stands, as one can open the ark, put one’s hands in side, even if one is ritually impure. Not like the Temple at all. But good practice for it.
    Interestingly, while its the Reform who insist most on calling their shuls “Temples,” it is the Orthodox who TREAT there shils more like the Temple by washing before davening. (Yes, I know, not all Orthodox do this, but it is a comendable practice.)

  341. Tom Morrissey

    7/1/2005 at 1:40 pm

    I don’t have a dog in this fight, so feel free to ignore this post, but I find the discussion quite interesting. The substantive content partly escapes me (I presumptively side with Middleman)–but it’s fascinating as an example of folks dealing with difference.

    Here’s a question for whomever: is Jewish unity a widely-shared goal? And, if it is, is it best promoted by coercing agreement, or by marginalizing those who disagree? Or by acknowledging difference, conceding the integrity of other points of view, and stressing common ground?

    Other faith communities have tried the first approach. With grievous results, alas.

    OK, I’m off to try to find a Lutheran to hug today….

  342. Elon

    7/1/2005 at 2:11 pm

    I’ve been reading all the posts over the last few days and i felt lik commenting:

    Micheal- your Zimbabwe example was not bad, but not exactly accurate. You assume that all converts that do their conversion under the auspices of a Conservative Rabbi are not dedicated to living Zimbabwean lives. Some of us keep shomer zimbabwean shabbos, eat kosher zimbabwean, and try every day to keep the zimbabwean mitzvot. This is why it hurts, and i say from experience it hurts, when the “true blue” zimbabweans still look at us as non-zimbabweans.

    I brought up an example earlier of why this view is a bit complicated. If I, as a convert of a conservative rabbi (albeit halachicly sound) were to be in a position were for instance where i lived in a city with no Conservative shul, and wanted to daven sacharit, things would get complicated. If it were discovered at an Orthodox shul that my conversion was not done with an orthodox rabbi, they may be offended when I as a non-jew in their eyes, don tallis and lay tefillin but for me it is keeping mitzvot. How do we consolidate these views?

    For ck, laya, michael, etc… I don’t think as some have said that your views are bigoted, not at all. I think you have every right to hold your opinion, and shouldn’t be called bigoted or ignorant for holding them, just as those in CJ shouldn’t be called destroyers of Judaism for holding theirs.

    Can’ we all just get along? 🙂

  343. themiddle

    7/1/2005 at 2:46 pm

    Tom, good to see you again, I was wondering whether our content has been lacking in quality causing you to waste your time working instead of reading our pablum.

    I believe unity is a goal, and perhaps survival is as well – it is probably hardwired into our DNA that we could be, uh, snuffed out any time and there are many who wouldn’t mind seeing us snuffed out.

    I think there are a couple of issues here. One, can you achieve unity with one key group seeking exclusiveness? Two, is the group seeking exclusiveness correct that their way is the only way to avoid extinction.

    I don’t believe we have an answer but both sides have strong feelings, obviously. It seems absurd to me that the exclusive group excludes another group that is actually fairly close to them (Conservatives), but they do and they will. Is it disastrous? Probably not. The system is self-enclosed and does not make it easy to leave the fold without losing access to everything you’ve grown up with. For now they can have lots of babies and this also assures rapid growth over the next couple of generations. But the one key problem remains modern life and its encroachments. Somehow the Orthodox will need to figure out how to address this brave new world and they also may need to figure out how to survive if all their dire predictions regarding the demise of the non-Orthodox are true. It won’t be as easy as they think.

  344. Purim Hero

    7/1/2005 at 2:55 pm

    Elon, I recognize your feelings, and sympathize with you. My cousin found out that her marriage was not going to be allowed to happen in Israel. Why? As it turned out, her mother had converted through a Conservative Rabbi, and the state wouldn’t recognize it. It hurt her a lot, but she was committed to Judaism anyway, having grown up her whole life believing she was Jewish, and having no reason to dought it. Anyway, to make a long story short, she ended up converting through an orxthodox Rabbi, the process was fairly easy as she had been raised Jewish, was farmilier with everything already, and already fast on her was as a Balat T’Shuva long before this even came up. Upon reflection she commented that it wasn’t Israel’s fault for not allowing the marriage, and not recognizing her mothers conservative convertion, rather she felt that it was the fault of the conservative movement for having made her mother feel that a conservative convertion was valid completely. Had she been told up front that it wasn’t going to becognized by everyone she probably would have converted orthodox in the first place. A person converts to Judaism because they care about it, or at least that’s the way it should be. That being the case, we should make every effort to welcome those ernest converts into the community by removing all burdens, if this means only recognizing orthodox convertions because they are the only ones that are universilly recognized then so be it. (that’s Halachik concerns aside.) For someone to whom being Jewish means enough to them to convert ernestly, then it shouldn’t be such a stumbling block, but rather a possitive educational spiritual experiance. While I appretiate the conservative and reform movments intentions in adopting their own convertion standards, (the desire to enable people to live happily together in marriage – Shalom Bait is increadably important, their method serves as nothing more then a cruch upon which people become dependent, requireing large amounts of phisical and spiritual therapy to remidy in the long term. If nothing other then a huministic desire to make peoples lives easier, the best thing they could do would be to direct potential converts to a source universaly recognized. It in fact borders on criminal in my opinion to mislead people into believing that their convertions are valid without first educating potential converts to the fact that their desision to convert through them not only would cause problems for them, since it wouldn’t be recognized by everyone, including the state of Israel, but would effect their children and families for generations. Those people who convert through non-orthodox means are not to blame, it is those who let them believe it’s ok who are criminal.

  345. Shem-tov

    7/1/2005 at 3:01 pm

    T_M, you’re so right, it won’t be easy, it will be horrible. I’ll stress again I take no pleasure in the disappeance of any kind of Jews. If attendance at Conservative shuls doubles tomorrow I’d be as happy about it as yuo would be. And I will be very happy if my dire predictions are not realized.

    Again, I might be missing something, because I see no tension between halachah and modernity. (Though I’m at the liberal end of the orthodox continuum, so may not be representative, i.e., I believe in dinosaurs as well as the divinity of Torah.) There is a tension between some of our values and the values of the surrounding society, ie our emphasis on ethnic exclusivity. But there has always been tension between our beliefs and those of everyone else; that is not new.

  346. themiddle

    7/1/2005 at 3:13 pm

    Um, Purim Hero, Conservative conversions are 100% valid and kosher. If there is a “crime” here, it is that the Orthodox won’t recognize them.

  347. Tom Morrissey

    7/1/2005 at 4:14 pm

    Middleman, sorry for the absence– vacation on the Vineyard to blame. And thanks for the thoughts.

    My own faith is a kind of orthodoxy. (One of its self-indulgent conceits is the phrase ‘the One True Faith.’) It took several hundred years to grudgingly acknowledge that Protestantism wasn’t going to go away. Doctrine is one thing, self-love another, and the price for the latter has been weakness and discord when unity was most required (see, e.g., Christians under Hitler).

  348. themiddle

    7/1/2005 at 4:21 pm

    Our fellas here are definitely doctrinaire. It is actually fairly complex in all its permutations, but at its core is one impassable chasm and it is faith. I don’t mean practice, although that is what the focus of the discussion seems to be, I mean faith.

  349. Purim Hero

    7/1/2005 at 7:11 pm

    themiddle, there is a lot more to observances then following the step by step guide and going through the motions. A deli might serve kosher meat, have only kosher ingredients, ect, but if it’s open on shabbos it’s not kosher. I mean no disrespect to the conservative movement, I had a conservative bar mitzvah, and learned a lot of things while in conservative hebrew school, however, just like kashrut, certain things need to not only be done right, they have to be done by people who are universally trusted as a whole. In order to trust the Kashrut of a person they have to follow all the rules of shabbat as well as the rules of kashrut, as well as many other little integrated tidbits. It’s not that they are doing it wrong, or that they aren’t effective, it’s because the people overseeing it arn’t recognized as a whole, that we can’t have faith in the process. Just as a women who wants a Get needs to make sure everything is done correctly, even down to the spelling of the name and who is allowed to witness it, the same goes for conversion, weddings, and any other Jewish legal process. Otherwise, it isn’t that the process doesn’t work, it’s worse, the process is in suffaik, it might have worked, it might not have, and because of the dought the it creates a virtual Agunah, leaving the person, once again clearly a victom not the victomizer, in a worse place then when they started.

  350. Barefoot Jewess

    7/10/2005 at 11:16 pm


    Geez barefoot jewess. i think you’re keen and would be thrilled to have you over for shabbat dinner, I’d be super happy to invite you to my synagogue on shabbat. I have no problem with you at all. We just have some differences of opinion and I’m cool with that. I respect your opinions and your right to hold them – how does any of that make me intolerant or a bigot??

    I am sure you could say the same to your non-Jewish friends. You are not bigoted in that respect. But your views are still, bigoted. They have nothing to do with a difference of opinion, as your posts indicate.

    Knowing what I know now, I would not accept an invitation from you for Shabbat (actually I’m torn because of that Torah thing about community, ya know).

    However, ANYTIME, I would be happy if we studied Torah together.

  351. Barefoot Jewess

    7/10/2005 at 11:26 pm


    Um, Purim Hero, Conservative conversions are 100% valid and kosher. If there is a “crime” here, it is that the Orthodox won’t recognize them.


    You are so right, yeah they are valid and kosher. It’s our rabbis that are not considered so. This is politics, imo, nothing else.

    And recently, there is the issue of someone who converted under O auspices in Israel, and yet, according to the esteemed R’ Sacks, she is not a Jew. How to reconcile that?

  352. Barefoot Jewess

    7/10/2005 at 11:29 pm


    I thought that when you used the word “dear” that it was a warm endearment. Then I just read the way that you used the word “honey”, and realised it was condescending. Given your penchant for dissembling, and perverting endearments, I would say there is no longer any reason for me to respect your words. Not that you’ve done anything but insult, anyway.

  353. Barefoot Jewess

    7/10/2005 at 11:45 pm


    Somewhere, you posted that it was all about faith. I can’t find the post. Still, that really made me sit back in wonder because I did not expect that.

    Having given it a lot of thought, I agree with you.

    I think that first of all, a big chunk of faith has been lost with the Shoah. The fear of assimilation looms so large, given that the Shoah unconsciously looms so large, that people think that circling wagons is the only way to go. That is a fear response. And so, that fear is transmitted from generation to generation. I see it here.

    I also perceive “faith” as the distinction between the O view of “Torah miSinai” v divinely inspired.
    And never the twain shall meet. However, I am not convinced, that those like ck believe this, yet it may be that they use O nevertheless to draw the line between the superior “us” and “them” which has nothing to do with RAMBAM’s principles. I’m not saying this is true of ck but neither am I saying this is untrue. IMO, it is something to ponder. Because regardless of how cool or whatever this seems to be, I am thinking, how much are you mimicking your elders and tradition and how much is really due to your own discernment?

    One other thing: I think that there seems to be a huge difference between the response regarding the seminal article you posted and the sociological argument that has raged. O does not seem to care about the halachic/theological position of C. In their view, the battle is waged on sociological ground. They don’t care about halachic reason.
    It’s ethnocentric. And, therefore, bigoted.

  354. Barefoot Jewess

    7/10/2005 at 11:55 pm

    Purim Hero,

    A deli might serve kosher meat, have only kosher ingredients, ect, but if it’s open on shabbos it’s not kosher. I mean no disrespect to the conservative movement,

    Yes you do mean disrespect. You set up a maliciously implied scenario, one which does not happen with any serious C Jew.

    Shame on you.

  355. ck

    7/11/2005 at 12:03 am

    Hey Barefoot Jewess, OK, I think we’re descending into semantics here. You can think I am bigot, it’s your right. I’m a little sort of taken aback by how it is you cannot understand why I am precluded from agreeing with you. But whatever, at least you’re being civil, which is cool.

    As far as synagogue services go, our friday night services are pretty lively, I’m sure you’d enjoy them (Moroccan services are always fun, except on yom kippur when they are pure torture). As for Torah study, again, any time.

  356. Barefoot Jewess

    7/11/2005 at 12:08 am



    Barefoot, as I’ve said in this discussion before, the ones who reject you as a Jew remain a minority and even they are unable to answer why you should be treated any differently than Ruth.

    I don’t care about their rejection. But I do reserve the right to question. 🙂

  357. Barefoot Jewess

    7/11/2005 at 12:11 am


    You are not “precluded”. You have made a decision. Argue the decision.

  358. Barefoot Jewess

    7/11/2005 at 12:15 am


    As for Torah study, you say “again, any time”. No, not “again”. I take Torah study seriously, as a Jew. I love it, wish for it, live for it, immerse myself in it. So, are you up to the challenge?

  359. Barefoot Jewess

    7/11/2005 at 12:32 am

    Purim Hero.

    . Upon reflection she commented that it wasn’t Israel’s fault for not allowing the marriage, and not recognizing her mothers conservative convertion, rather she felt that it was the fault of the conservative movement for having made her mother feel that a conservative convertion was valid completely. Had she been told up front that it wasn’t going to becognized by everyone she probably would have converted orthodox in the first place.

    And the reason for converting O is what? To belong, to be “authentic”, to be a “real Jew”?

    C belief is so very different from O belief. C believes in divine inspiration of Torah, NOT that Moses gave us the Oral and Written Torah. Don’t ya think it is just a little suspect that someone could switch from C to O in that way?

    I’m thinking I would not be using that case as an example for anything.

  360. esther

    7/11/2005 at 12:38 am

    …how much are you mimicking your elders and tradition, and how much is due to your own discernment?

    I think this is such an important question, one that anyone in search of solid personal faith (as opposed to an inherited collective unconscious) should ask him or herself. The problem is, asking this is sometimes akin to “going into the Pardes,” if you catch my drift; questioning can lead to doubt, and differing opinions, and sometimes, the unofficial credo Jewish community is like Ghostbusters, “we mock what we do not understand.” (Sorry, you know me with the pop culture references.)

    Barefoot Jewess, I’m regularly impressed by how devoted you are to discovering your place within Judaism. I hope that the community rises to your level and respects your process enough to learn from the obvious wisdom you have to offer.

  361. ck

    7/11/2005 at 1:02 am

    I am TOTALLY mimicking my elders. I am Jewish thanks to the collective efforts and wisdom of my elders. Why should I try to second guess them? They’ve been pretty darned successful so far. Not only that but they’ve provided me with a model for continuity that works. They’ve provided me with a model for a way of life that is fulfilling and a great thing to aspire to. I know they would not approve of Conservative or Reform Judaism and who the hell am I to question that? You want me to question Torah meh Sinai?? Well, I have and I concur with my ancestors. Judaism made me what I am today. The values espoused by Conservative Judaism mean nothing to me. They do not speak to my Jewish identity or experience, they do not resonate and I am sorry, but I simply do not believe in it.

    Does my belief system neccessarily make me a superior Jew? No. Am I neccessarily better than anyone? No. Am I neccesarily closer to G*d? No. And yet despite the fact that I repeat this over and over again, still I am branded a bigot.

    Barefoot Jewess – you identify with Conservative Judaism? OK great! You know that Orthodox Jews have issues, legitimate issues (even if you disagree) with Conservative Judaism. Try not to be offended bc it can’t be any other way.

    As to your “challenge” I don’t get it. Where’s the challenge? You want to study Torah with me? There’s hardly a day where I don’t study some measure of Torah – you’re free to join me or vice versa.

  362. Barefoot Jewess

    7/11/2005 at 1:20 am


    You have agreed to following tradition. It works for YOU, yes? You have not explained what the attraction is, the personal, how it works for you.

    I think anyone can question anything, such is the way of the modern world. Yet, not for you. Why, not for you? I imagine you must have questioned to come to your decision. I would like to understand you decision.

    As for the Torah “challenge”. I withdraw it.

  363. Barefoot Jewess

    7/11/2005 at 1:36 am


    The values espoused by Conservative Judaism mean nothing to me. They do not speak to my Jewish identity or experience, they do not resonate and I am sorry, but I simply do not believe in it.

    What values do you not believe in beyond “Torah miSinai”? Have I missed something? Are you talking about ALL C values?

  364. Barefoot Jewess

    7/11/2005 at 3:42 am

    Having given this some thought, I’m leaving this forum.

    I think that ck’s final assertion, that “the values espoused by C Judaism mean nothing to me. They do not speak to my Jewish identity or experience” pretty well put the nail in the coffin of Jewish unity as espoused by this site.

    It makes me wonder what ck thinks Jewish identity consists of- the Orthodox viewpoint and way of life? Is one not really Jewish unless those values are espoused? Cause ck, that is surely what you are saying and that is what makes your views bigoted.

    And you are a person who is showing young Jews around Israel while in your heart the only real Jew is an Orthodox Jew. Because as long as you reject the “values” of C Judaism (your blanket statement, not mine) and by default, R Judaism, there are not many Jews left whose values you respect and not many Jews who can be identified as true Jews. This is given the fact that most Jews are not Orthodox.

    You proclaim this site to be contemporary but it really is not. It is a throwback to previous generations, no matter what your respective ages. The fact that people like the middle also post does not mitigate the essential thrust of your views, in the end.

    Your wholesale rejection of C or R converts basically tells most Jews and those who are seriously religious but not O that their worship is invalid, because you find their converts invalid. That what other Jews believe and value is invalid.

    What makes you different from those who have gone before you?

    Most of all, this site espouses Jewish unity. You want all Jews to live in peace, you want to promote commonality among Jews. How? If you reject the religious values of other Jews, what have we all left in common? Opinions? Music? Clothing?

    What? Do we no longer have the Torah in common according to your view? What is left, then?

    I really like all of you who post. I take pleasure in your smarts and wit and heart. But I have said my peace, now, and it’s time to go.

  365. themiddle

    7/11/2005 at 4:12 am

    Barefoot, wait a minute before you go.

    I take personal offense to this. I post freely and with the same authority as ck. So does Muffti, who has more or less given up on the notion of god existing, much less being the god of the Hebrew Bible. We are not kids here who have just woken up and determined that today we belong to this movement or that. We are adults with a sense of camaraderie and belief that these types of dialogue will bring about greater numbers of people to consider their attachment to Judaism. Beyond that, I believe we are friends and share the same love for Judaism, its traditions and values, and for Israel.

    This site provides what I believe is a dialogue our community has to have. And it is a microcosm of the Jewish community. Despite my frustration and disagreement with the closed-mindedness of those who reject Conservative Judaism and those converts who did not have an Orthodox conversion, I see the value of a dialogue and believe it is very important for all sides involved.

    While it’s true that ck hopes those people will approach Judaism from an Orthodox perspective, he has every right to seek this outcome. My hope is that people will remain attached to Judaism, or will seek to deepen their knowledge – and I hope by coming here and reading interesting discussions, they will form opinions and feel a greater sense of attachment to people who share a concern for the Jewish people and their fate. I care far less about the direction or stream to which they belong, but in all fairness to ck, I have never seen him treat anybody without warmth and openness. On the contrary, he probably does more to bring people back to the fold, or to attach them to Israel than most Jews – and I’m including people who are paid by institutions to provide this type of service. He does it for no money and selflessly regardless of people’s backgrounds.

    By leaving, you are essentially saying that because some people do not accept one aspect of Judaism, you do not wish to interact with other aspects either. Ck may have launched this site, but his ideas, posts, comments, etc. are not dominant here and I consider all the posters equals. I don’t ask him what I should post, and he doesn’t ask me. When we meet in person, the debates you read here move into our person to person discussions. Does that mean he disrespects me because I don’t keep shabbat like an Orthodox Jew? Does that mean that I can’t communicate with him? We find common ground and share it. And there’s plenty of common ground to share. I read the Torah a certain way, and he reads it a certain way. Ultimately, however, we both respect it and recognize it as a source for our culture.

    What I’m trying to say is that your rejection of me because you have a problem with ck is not okay with me. Your voice is an important one, even if it is angry. You should be heard because what you bring to the table is clear proof that these fools people who stress the superiority of one movement over another are wrong.

    You do not have permission to leave. Ever.

  366. Barefoot Jewess

    7/11/2005 at 4:23 am

    Oops, scratch some of the above. I want to be fair. The only real Jew according to ck’s views seems to be Orthodox (including converts) and born Jews (even though their values may be insignificant) and does not include converts who are not Orthodox.

  367. themiddle

    7/11/2005 at 4:27 am

    So what? Virtually every Orthodox Jew believes that. Does that change how you believe or practice? Excuse me, but instead of leaving and giving them the run of the playground, you can also say, “fuck’em,” and continue to show them that you are a fine Jew.

  368. Barefoot Jewess

    7/11/2005 at 4:39 am


    I apologise. I did not mean to offend. You are right. I also apologise to Muffti whose often dispassionate perspective I always enjoy even when I don’t agree.

    I think you are correct in a lot of what you say, that it is not just the O Jew show. I’m not leaving because I am angry. I’m leaving because I am tired and disheartened.

    You bring sensibleness (is that a word) and level headed balance to the debate. I have always felt you to be my champion when such appalling things were said.

    However, I think I am better off sticking to places where I don’t have to endure so many comments that appall and shock me. Out of all the places on the net, I have found Jewlicious the most appalling (these are comments over time, not present ones). I think that is because there is so much good here as well. But that’s only my perspective.

    I don’t see myself making much of a difference.

    But thanks so much, TM. You and Esther have really made my day. Oh wait, given the state of the internet, make that, year. 🙂

    Kol hakavod.

  369. themiddle

    7/11/2005 at 5:01 am

    I hope you change your mind and that we continue to see you.

    I don’t think you should let anybody tire you out. If what you read here appalls you (as it appalls me sometimes), rest assured that many people who are appalling you are also being appalled by what I post or by what Muffti posts.

    That’s what I mean about this site being a microcosm of the community.

    Also, you are letting many people who are ba’alei teshuva (our verson of the born agains) color your views. Trust me, they are trying to justify for themselves the significant changes they have made in their lives. The irony being, of course, that born Orthodox Jews, particularly haredim, will not marry them or marry their children to them because they don’t consider them good enough. Appalling, no?

    On this site, not too long ago, a person called me a Destroyer of Judaism. So what? He is welcome to leave here any time instead of adding content to a Destroyer of Judaism’s website. And yet, he returns regularly because he believes his voice is important. You are proving him right, because that voice is among those tiring you out and making you want to leave. That is his goal.

    I’m telling you, Barefoot, tell them to stuff it and don’t be afraid to speak up. And don’t be afraid to read them either, they only think they know the truth but they also know it’s just optimism and hope on their part. At the end of the day, they just hope they’re right, and the defensiveness you see is the result of insecurity more than anything. Read the flaws in their beliefs and you’ll better understand your beliefs. You’ll see that if ck ever responds to your question above, he will only be able to say, “Because that’s what I believe.” Faith is not about reason or logic.

    I hope to see you return. Really, it’s not okay that you’re leaving and it’s not okay that you’re letting them beat you. I repeat again that you are not only a Jew, but set a fine example for all Jews – not just converts – of devotion and faith. The majority of Jews are on your side.

  370. Darchei Ha Mishmash

    7/15/2005 at 8:43 pm

    It is obvious that you are dedicated Yid and want the best for the Jewish people. Have you heard that the conservative rabbinical religious committee has said that it is permitted to breastfeed in the sanctuary during services?
    However, the articles did not state, and this is a matter for authorities, in light of this enlightened responsa,
    can a woman Rabbi breastfeed on the bima? If yes, does this include during the bat-mitzvah speech? Does a nursing mother get an aliyah if she is the middle of nursing, or must she wait? Can men breastfeed in the sanctuary too? Can a women breastfeed twins in the sanctuary ? Since it is often the case that there are several women in the sanctuary at a time that want to breastfeed, is there a nursing row or do women breastfeed where they want? Can a woman breastfeed another persons baby in shul or does it have to be hers? Can a women use a bottle to feed her baby in the sanctuary , although we do not suck torah from bottles but rather from breasts (you must see the deep rabbinical reasoning for the “teshuva” to get this last question). Can a transgender Female Rabbi use a fake breast to breastfeed her child in the sanctuary on shabbat? There are so many questions, and so few experts.

    Can a non-Jewish women breastfeed in the sanctuary even one who has no intent on converting? (again one must refer to the original teshuva to get this). Can a teenage mother, who is unmarried, breastfeed in the sanctuary ? Can a woman stand and recite the amidah while breastfeeding, or must she wait? What about the shma and the kedusha? Can a woman who is not able to suckle her child use electric breastpumps in the sanctuary and use that milk in a bottle in the sanctuary on Shabbos?

    I hope you can be of some help someone out there.

  371. Shmuel Arieh

    7/17/2005 at 5:07 am

    The actual title of this article is in it self an oxymoron, becase conservative and reform “judaism” is not judaism at all as they do not hold by the FUNDAMANTAL beleifs set out by our holy Torah.

  372. laya

    7/17/2005 at 7:18 am

    well, thats arguable. clearly.

  373. esther

    7/17/2005 at 7:51 am

    And by “arguable,” I would say, meaning “expect people to argue with you,” as such a claim negates the belief and identity of more Jews than you’ll ever encounter; this even goes beyond saying “you’re not Jewish enough for me,” into “you’re not Jewish, period.” Obviously you’re entitled to think that. But I obviously have trouble thinking that everyone whose Judaism is outside the bounds of Orthodoxy is not Jewish at all.

    And seriously, with that, I’m off to the Hadassah Convention–2000 Jewish women talking about Jewish issues. Except, you wouldn’t consider 97 percent of them Jews. Don’t you think there’s something wrong with that?

  374. michael

    7/17/2005 at 7:55 am

    Esther – will there be pictures? ‘Cause something about 50 year old Hadassah ladies in sensible pantsuits just really gets me hot under the collar.

  375. esther

    7/17/2005 at 8:26 am

    50? Hadassah should be so lucky. I’m disturbed, Michael, but I’ll see what I can do…

  376. ck

    7/17/2005 at 8:46 am

    Please please please esther send our regards to the Hadassah ladies and do tell what REALLY goes on at one of those conferences.

  377. themiddle

    7/17/2005 at 11:03 am

    This would be the annual Haddassah sex toy and kitten heel convention?

    Why do I have a feeling Jewish Mother might be there?

  378. Barefoot Jewess

    7/17/2005 at 7:53 pm


    Since this is a relatively old post, people aren’t seeing it

    Clearly, not true. Just not answering it. Why? I can only go by my own experience- Feh! Why waste my time when there are better fish to fry? Like, this will matter once it descends down the post line.—

    Still, I find it interesting that Jewlicious stands for the New Jew, yet actually is only “new” in verbal speak but not in reality. Although, to be fair, they do allow alternate opinions without deletion, though they may not continue to answer.

  379. michael

    7/17/2005 at 7:58 pm

    Why do people keep making up their own idea of what Jewlicious stands for and judging Jewlicious against that standard? How can a blog with six regular bloggers who all have different thoughts and opinions on life, the universe and everything stand for any one particular thing?

    Nobody besides you has ever said Jewlicious stands for “the New Jew.” It says Jewlicious on the screen, not “Alteneuland.”

  380. Barefoot Jewess

    7/17/2005 at 7:58 pm

    well, thats arguable. clearly.

    In response to post #377- laya, your response is so ambiguous.

    I have not a clue as to what you mean. Would you care to explain the point that you are making and your reasoning behind it?

  381. Barefoot Jewess

    7/17/2005 at 8:00 pm


    Okay, I can accept that there is nothing new under the sun.

    So, is it all about image?

  382. michael

    7/17/2005 at 8:13 pm

    No, as far as I can tell, having read Jewlicious since the beginning, it’s about a group of writerly-minded Jews at different locations and different points in their lives writing about Jewish issues that they find important or amusing or interesting. If there’s any greater overarching purpose, I guess it’s that it’s good to be proud of Jewishness, because we all are.

  383. ck

    7/17/2005 at 8:39 pm

    Oy barefoot Jewess. How many times do I have to answer th same questions over and over and over again? Oznayim lahem veh lo yishmaoun. Also, you posted your comments and questions on the sabbath. I don’t spend shabbat on the Internet, I spend it at shul and with my family so forgive me if I missed your words.

    So once again, allow me to reiterate. I follow the Orthodox stream. Your espousal of Conservative Judaism is a rejection of Orthodoxy – why are you surprised that the Orthodox don’t embrace you?

    Yes, sabbath observance aside, your lifestyle may be more Jewish than most, maybe even more Jewish than mine, but so what? It’s Conservative and its just not something I believe in. I concede that you may be closer to G*d than me, you may be more spiritual, you may be a better person but I do not accept the authority of your Rabbis, just as you chose not to accept the authority of mine.

    But all this is not a big deal. I still consider you dear to me. I’ll fight for you to have the right to practice as you wish, to believe what you wish etc. etc. I will even contribute money to the Federation that subsidizes your synagogue.

    I am not better than you. I just have certain beliefs that were passed on to me by untold generations of my ancestors and I will not be bullied into rejecting them. Seriously, I wish you well – why not extend to me the same courtesy and consideration that I extend to you?

  384. Purim Hero

    7/17/2005 at 9:10 pm

    CK… if necessary we teach someone 400 times… even 401… come on, it’s in the gemarra…

    And Conservative Judaism was a rejection of Reform, Reform was a regection of Europe… Orthodoxy was itself a means of reconsiliation of the reform and conservative movment. Before Reform in Germany everyone was just well… Jewish

  385. Barefoot Jewess

    7/17/2005 at 10:00 pm


    Oy barefoot Jewess. How many times do I have to answer th same questions over and over and over again? Oznayim lahem veh lo yishmaoun. Also, you posted your comments and questions on the sabbath. I don’t spend shabbat on the Internet, I spend it at shul and with my family so forgive me if I missed your words…

    Yes, sabbath observance aside

    The fact that you use that execrable excuse for self-righteousness disappoints me. Actually, I am on the west coast of North America, but if you want to make a big, self-righteous deal out of it, feel free to check the times. Regardless, even if I posted past the time of sunset I believe it is very bad form for any Jew to point it out.

    So once again, allow me to reiterate. I follow the Orthodox stream. Your espousal of Conservative Judaism is a rejection of Orthodoxy – why are you surprised that the Orthodox don’t embrace you?

    You perceive it as a rejection. You give no explanation for your beliefs. Neither have you addressed the issues TM has set before you. I don’t care about Orthodoxy embracing me given the criteria. I do care that your views are bigoted.

    Yes, sabbath observance aside, your lifestyle may be more Jewish than most, maybe even more Jewish than mine, but so what? It’s Conservative and its just not something I believe in. I concede that you may be closer to G*d than me, you may be more spiritual, you may be a better person but I do not accept the authority of your Rabbis, just as you chose not to accept the authority of mine.

    You are well within your rights, although what you expressed, religiously speaking, sounds really nasty. And don’t be so condescending to stuff you so clearly do not understand because you don’t care to check it out with any gravity nor to argue. Meanwhile, for me it is not about accepting or rejecting authority of any rabbi, of any sort. It has to do with reason and justice and conscience and integrity. Well thought out. Not as simple as you make it out to be, though perhaps authority is all you think it takes.

    Funny how you talk about bullies. I am gonna guess that you made your choice with a lot of thought as I did, for me. On this we can agree.

    I have great consideration for you. I think that you are someone who I would enjoy knowing, and I love your passion for being Jewish. I just object to the ill-informed crap aimed at Conservative Judaism on this site. Because when it comes down
    to new generations, how things are different, I don’t find a difference. And regardless of all of the glib talk, it seems that converts are the line drawn in the sand. In the end, you are no different from those who went before you. Your spin is just more palatable. But it still doesn’t prevent your views from being bigoted.

  386. Barefoot Jewess

    7/17/2005 at 10:06 pm

    One other thing, ck.

    You could have answered way past Shabbat. You answered something else today. I think you were here.

  387. themiddle

    7/17/2005 at 10:30 pm

    Uh, uh, ck, you don’t get off so easily. Your rabbis aren’t being rejected. Yet you and other Orthodox reject Conservative rabbis and practice. There is no equivalence here.

    Purim Hero, before there was everyone Jewish, there were streams as well. Hassidism is not a modern stream? Israelites and Jews aren’t different? The Ethiopian Jews whose customs we learn about today aren’t different than those of 17th Century Jews when everyone was “well…Jewish?”

    Ck and I were sitting at dinner and an Orthodox rabbi told us that yes indeed, Judaism has always been evolving. So the question becomes what is it that makes one version more legitimate than others? I understand setting a certain minimum standard, but some people here want that minimum standard to be Torah MiSinai. All well and good if you believe it. But what if you have doubts, or have doubts about what really happened? So then you continue to avoid turning on your car on shabbat because somehow that makes you a better Jew? Sure it does, but it also makes you someone who is living on the basis of a lie – you don’t really believe in what you’re practicing. How is that of any value? Does being a non-believing but Orthodox-observant Jew make you a good Jew?

    We’re not going to change perceptions of Judaism with this discussion, but those of you who read this and are Orthodox should look hard in the mirror and ask why you’re making certain choices about who is a “good” Jew. Jus’ saying.

  388. Purim Hero

    7/17/2005 at 10:30 pm

    Barefoot… I think I see the problem. It appears, and perhaps I’m wrong, that you have a very personal feeling of rejection from anyone who upholds halachic standards as ourlined by “orthodoxy”. It’s understandable, as after all, if they hold by orthodox standards there is an implicit unacceptance of the standards by which you’ve chosen to accept, even if it’s not personal it’s there. More so, because they don’t accept the standards for conversion as practised by the conservative movement, there is an implicit rejectiont to your personal status as a Jew, and for someone as committed as yourself to Judaism, that’s very very painful. Regardless of the fact that most of those people who implicitly reject you are not even aware of your existence, just knowing how they would react to your case is enough to cause great amounts of pain.

    It’s very hard to remove the personal sting involved in all this, because it involves real people and real emotions. It’s very hard to understand in that possition that those who choose to follow an “orthodox” lifestyle also feel in a way rejected by those who negate their beliefs saying they are invalid and antiquitated.

    When dealing with real and powerful personal emotions as we are, there really can’t be an expectation that one side can convince the other of their argument and possition is correct and the other flawed or incorrect. Rather, the best we can hope for is a possitive dialoge where each side is heard, and we agree to disagree. At that point it is important that each side metaphorically hug. By embracing each other as people with valid emotions who deserve to be respected as such we will be stengthend to be able to deal with other problems that are possibly larger and more immediate. Problems that face all of us equaly.

    Time will provide the tools of resolution, not individual battles amongst those who should be friends, over issues that aren’t going to be changed. Only then can we begin to heal. And we have a lot of healing to do.

    All of us would do well to remember the words of Hillel, V’Ahavta Lareyacha Kamocha, Love each person as ourself. Achdut (Unity) is the answer. The Emes, the truth, will come out on it’s own through our acceptance and Ahava (Love). You reach someone and Embrace them by loving them unconditionally. While we don’t have to love each others actions, we can hate them in fact, it is of the upmost importance that we love each other. Hate the Act, the ideoligy, but not the person. And show each other the unconditional possitive regard that we all deserve

  389. themiddle

    7/17/2005 at 10:35 pm

    Purim, can you blame a devout convert to Judaism for being offended? Those who reject her should be ashamed of themselves.

  390. Purim Hero

    7/17/2005 at 10:38 pm

    theMiddle, When I said that everyone was well… just Jewish, I didn’t mean that we all observed the same way or believed the same thing, rather, the label system was not in place. The one thing that has probably hurt us as a people the most, and styfled dialogue the most, was the creation of labels and titles for Jewdaism. Observance was not ments to define people into sub-catigories. It’s provided the mechanism to split the Jewish people perhaps more then any phisical barrier ever separated the ashkinaz from the Sfaradi, or from the Ethiopians. If I had the power, I would abolish the lable system, but unfortunatly the damage has already been done.

    Since the beggining of Jewdaism we’ve had different approaches to relating to G-d amongst different people. Each of the tribes of Israel had their own prayers, their own practices, and their own customs, what made us a people was that we shared a common ancestry and belief in certain basics.

    Differences amongst Jews isn’t a problem, it’s beautiful, and should be embraced. We each should walk our own personal path towards a fullfilling relationship with G-d, but once again, the only thing that unifies us a people and makes us special is the fact that we can trace ourselves back to the same starting place, and the same basic tenates of belief.

    The goal today should be to bring us back to a people who are Just Jewish, in all of our various shapes, colors, styles, and practices.

  391. Purim Hero

    7/17/2005 at 10:46 pm

    TM.. did you read my post? I don’t blame her for being offended, I understand it completely, and wish I could find a way to console her and make her feel whole and universally accepted again for who she is and what she chooses to believe. That does not mean that I feel that those who don’t accept the views of “conservative” Judaim should be ashamed of themselves. They have the same right to pursue and pract