©2005 Janice Rubin, www.MikvahProject.com

That’s right, we don’t want to ruffle any feathers or cause offense to anybody, so this will be a gentle and serious post.

Ynet is reporting that Israel’s Masorti (Conservative) and Progressive Judaism (Reform) movements are petitioning Israel’s High Court of Justice against the National Authority of Religious Affairs to gain entry into tax-payer funded mikvahs into which their entry is being denied.

These non-Orthodox movements often use mikvahs for the same reasons Orthodox Jews use mikvahs: ritual purity, and conversions.

The primary uses of mikvah today are delineated in Jewish Law and date back to the dawn of Jewish history. They cover many elements of Jewish life. Mikvah is an integral part of conversion to Judaism…The mikvah concept is also the focal point of the taharah, the purification rite of a Jew before the person is laid to rest and the soul ascends on high. The manual pouring of water in a highly specific manner over the entire body of the deceased serves this purpose.

Mikvah is also used by men on various occasions; with the exception of conversion, they are all customary. The most widely practiced are immersion by a groom on his wedding day and by every man before Yom Kippur….But the most important and general usage of mikvah is for purification by the menstruant woman.

For the menstruant woman, immersion in a mikvah is part of a larger framework best known as Taharat Hamishpachah (Family Purity). As with every area of Jewish practice, Family Purity involves a set of detailed laws; namely, the “when,” “what,” and “how” of observance…Family purity is a system predicated on the woman’s monthly cycle. From the onset of menstruation and for seven days after its end, until the woman immerses in the mikvah, husband and wife may not engage in sexual relations.

Clearly, mikvahs represent an important and perhaps crucial element of Jewish life.

It seems that the Government of Israel which operates the National Authority of Religious Affairs is practicing religious discrimination against Israeli citizens who are Jewish.

I will repeat that in a kind and gentle non-ascerbic tone that doesn’t mock anybody so that this will resonate clearly. In a Jewish state called Israel created by the Jewish people in their historic homeland to be a home but also a haven from all those places in the world where Jews have experienced discrimination, a government ministry called National Authority of Religious Affairs is preventing Jews from entering tax-payer funded buildings housing a crucial element of Jewish religious practice.

Is this discrimination accidental or random? That would at least explain part of the problem. No, it appears that this discrimination is mandated at the Ministerial level of the Israeli government.

The minister in charge of the Religious Affairs, MK Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) said in response to the petition: “Conversions of reform and conservative organizations are virtual conversions, and they deserve to immerse in a virtual immersion. This is a vexing petition. The only immersion the reform are aware of is Baptism. So they can continue to walk on water and leave the people of Israel alone.”

I don’t want to be contentious and have others accuse me of bias against Orthodox Jews so I’ll have Mr. Cohen of Shas, a Minister in the Government, tell us again what he thinks of Jews who are not Orthodox:

The only immersion the reform are aware of is Baptism.

So they can continue to walk on water and leave the people of Israel alone.

Remember a couple of weeks ago when I suggested that it was discriminatory to make non-Orthodox Jews who wanted communal prayer at the Kotel – the Western Wall – pay for the opportunity and relegate them to a distant corner of the wall? I suspect I miss that day now because that form of discrimination seemed enlightened compared to this story.

(Photo source is The Mikvah Project)

About the author

themiddle

66 Comments

  • Since this is a Jewish state, I see no problem with denying use of Jewish institutions for non-Halachic Jewish cermonies performed by Jews that call themselves conservative and reform.

    BTW, you said:

    In a Jewish state called Israel created by the Jewish people in their historic homeland to be a home but also a haven from all those places in the world where Jews have experienced discrimination, a government ministry called National Authority of Religious Affairs is preventing Jews from entering tax-payer funded buildings housing a crucial element of Jewish religious practice.

    Slightly devious wording. People are not being prevented from “entering” the mikveh’s, per se. They are being forbidden to misuse it, in this case for false conversions.

    In the specifics of false conversions, the reform and conservative are no different than Jews for Jesus. None of their conversions are valid either. Or would you advocate that, too? If not, why not?

    How about Smaritans? How about Ka’rites? Everybody into the pool!

  • 1. Non-Orthodox Jews can use mikavot for taharat hamishpacha without a problem, albeit I suspect that the numbers of non-O Jews that choose to are low.

    2. Rather than petitioning the government, better they build their own mikavot to avoid state control of religion. However, logically, why should the religious authorities support mikavot for (what they view as, but also, in the case of the Reform conversions, the Masorti movement agrees) non-halakhic conversions?

  • Incidently — they also discriminate against different Orthodox groups (there was a recent case about Chabad — although I’m not so sure I disagree with them)

  • I almost forgot:

    Remember a couple of weeks ago when I suggested that it was discriminatory to make non-Orthodox Jews who wanted communal prayer at the Kotel – the Western Wall – pay for the opportunity and relegate them to a distant corner of the wall? I suspect I miss that day now because that form of discrimination seemed enlightened compared to this story.

    These people are welcome to pray at the Kotel, according to accepted Jewish law and custom, with the rest of Klal Yisrael.

    If they chose to deviate from such, they should not be allowed to desecrate the area of the Beit Hamikdash, with or without paying for the privilege.

  • Shy Guy- You’re special. First, Jews for Jesus accept Jesus, they don’t immerse in a Jewish mikvah, they get Baptised in a church. It’s ludicrous and offensive for you to try and draw a parallel between J4J and Conservative Judaism. Shame on you. Seriously.
    Secondly, Karaites don’t require the Mikvah for conversion, so they probably won’t be banging down the Mikvah doors with boatloads of converts.
    Thirdly, Samaritans don’t accept converts.

    You’re invalid. :-p

  • Hi Elon (who is not Jewish, though he thinks he is, though some day he might chose the right step and actually become Jewish and good luck with that).

    If accepting Jesus is wrong, why isn’t denying the divinity of the Torah (reform) or the claim that G-d’s laws can be changed at the whim of people (conservative)? Heresy, no matter which flavor it comes in, is nevertheless heresy.

    What if a Karite jumped in the Mikveh anyway? Would that then magically make him a Jew? Why not? What if he did it in front of 2 reform witnesses?

    Thanks for the update about Samaritans.

    As for your claiming me invalid, Yishpot Hashem Beinee u’Beinechah.

  • you know, i wonder if the feigned sensitivity would have to be there if you spent all your time criticising the part of the world you actually lived in, or a community you were actually a part of.

    Why don’t you start finding all the social ills of say, San Francisco, for a change. Dig deep, there’s plenty there.

  • No, Shy Guy, she was addressing you. It was your feigned sensitivity at calling a devout convert a non-Jew; criticising a part of the world behind the Green Line where you don’t live; and communities you have no clue about, namely Conservative and Reform. Then, based on your excellent English, she assumed that you might have something to say about the profound homeless situation in San Francisco.

    I merely complimented her on her impressive response to you because it clearly addressed this post.

  • Quit joking around, Laya. Tell Shy Guy it was his single-minded rejection of other Jews which represents the thrust of my post that you found offensive.

  • Oh. OK. I’ve mentioned before that I live in Jerusalem. I’ve never even left my heart in San Francisco. So this issue of improper use of mikva’ot taharot in Israel is indeed in my neck of the woods and of general interest and concern to me as a Jew living in Israel. However, this particular halachic issue knows know geographical bounds.

    As for the Green Line, I frequent both sides of it. What’s this sideshow all about?

    I don’t deny anyone’s intentions but even the best of intentions do not a Jew make. Sorry.

    Why do you assume I don’t “know” about conservative and reform communities and what does that have to do with the fact that non-halachic conversion, performed by anyone, are invalid?

    I did not bring up this topic here. You did. There’s a button marked SAY IT at the bottom of every page here. May I suggest you disable comments or force posters to register if you wish to control the responses that appear on this blog?

  • ummm, sorry middle, but a relatively infrequent commentors insensitivity bothers me much less than yours.

    To you we give posting power, and as such you represent me. You represent Jewlicious. And you are the only one that does so anonymously.

    There is plenty to find wrong in Israel, and in Judaism, but I find that you spend a disproportionate amount of your posting and commenting time criticising and sometimes attacking a community and a country that you are not a part of.

    You post’s feigned insensitive was transparent. The intellectual honest of it was also questionable. It is a very unfortunate fact that we have come to expect that triumphant tone of yours whenever, where ever you can find something to criticize about the orthodox, and specifically the orthodox in Israel. People have requested a change in tone, but rather than be genuine about the sensitivity, you were condescending.

    What I was suggesting is that maybe you might try digging for and exposing the social ills of a community closer to home, closer to yours. It’s awfully easy to point fingers, and you spend so many of your words here doing so.

    None of this is to say that Shy Guy wasn’t also being insensitive, but fly by night commentors aren’t much of a concern to me (no offense to shy guy).

  • Shy Guy, I was playing with you and Laya. It was clear she meant me and I found her comment to be rude and offensive. It was yet another personal attack that evades the issue.

    Laya, enough already with the hypocrisy. The other day ck made a clear jab at Reform Jews and you said nothing (as did I). It wasn’t the first time and it won’t be the last. When he says those things he does not represent me just as you don’t when you accept the status quo when it is unfair to a particular group.

    This post is based on an article that is currently prominently placed on the home page of one of Israel’s highest circulating dailies. You want to keep it quiet? It’s already out there. Last I looked they were already up to 40 comments when they rarely get over 20 on most topics.

    You know why there are so many commenters?

    It’s not because of me. It’s not because of a genetic bias against Orthodox. It’s because this is an inherently unfair situation where a group of people are experiencing government-sponsored discrimination. It’s because there is a real problem going on in Israel and those who benefit from being the side with power and authority can easily dismiss the problem by dismissing other groups of Jews or attacking the messengers who try to tell the world there is a problem. Stop attacking me personally because you win no debates that way, and open your mind to the possibility that I HAVE ULTRA ORTHODOX FAMILY and TRADITIONAL FAMILY and SECULAR FAMILY living in Israel. My ultra-Orthodox family alone numbers four times the size of your entire family (and many more are coming over the next decade based on pending marriages and babies). If I want to comment about their lives, I will because they happen to matter to me. I could live on the opposite side of the Earth and I can still post about these issues, Laya, because they are relevant.

    How about this. Next time you see a post by me that discusses the Orthodox of any stream, why don’t you take a deep breath and control that first impulse to lash out at me. Continue to control that impulse throughout the discussion and use your sharp intellect (that is a serious comment, you are extremely bright and more than capable of holding your own in a debate, as you have with me and others in the past) to debate the topic.

    Is there something you want to say about this story? Do you agree with the situation? If so, why? Do you disagree? If so, why? Can you conceive of a solution? What is it? Do you have a problem with what Cohen said or not? Why do you or don’t you?

    I’m not interested in your personal attacks and they won’t change what happens in Israel one bit. Sweeping these problems under the rug will also not help much because these are real problems with real life consequences. Or do you think people can go around dismissing the Judaism of others strenuously and vocally for years without the others beginning to feel like outsiders and eventually leaving the fold altogether?

  • Dismissing the Judaism of others? can I once again quote from Reform Judaism’s founding document, the Pittsburgh Platform: “Today we accept as binding only the moral laws, and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject all such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization.”

    Who rejected who? As for my jab, sorry you saw it as such, it was merely a statement of truth. The McDonalds eaters were all members of Reform Temples.

    Now, I would never tell you to shut up. I would simply ask you to follow your own advice, namely “Next time you wish to write a post critical of the Orthodox of any stream, why don’t you take a deep breath and control that first impulse to lash out at them.” There are many ways you could have introduced this topic and while you feigned sensitivity, I know you’re a bright and eloquent guy, and you could have done so in a less antagonistic manner.

    As for Shy Guy’s comments – dude if you would ever meet Elon, you wouldn’t be able to tell the difference between him and any religious settler. We met him in Jerusalem and he was wearing a big ol’ kippah and tzitit. His commitment to Judaism is without question and his day to day life is no different than most members of Orthodox Judaism. He knows how I feel about non-Orthodox conversion, but he has my sincerest respect and any Orthodox beit din ought to be able to convert him in approximately 3 days. To his credit, he has always been courteous to me and respectful of my position. Please refrain from being disrepectful towards him – he’s a friggin tzadik in the making.

  • Simple question: Are these conversions halakhic?
    If not – why would they be denied?
    If so – why are they not recognized as halakhic by the (majority of) the observant community.

    Incidently, and ironically, the Reform conversions aren’t recognized as halakhic by the Conservative standards either.

  • Ck, has the Reform movement’s platform changed since the 1800s? You may wish to check.

    I reject the comment about the antagonistic nature of my post. The tone is fine considering how egregious this topic is; I was being quite gentle considering. The anger at me is directed not at my tone but at the subject matter; at the fact that the post is critical of the Rabbinate and the Ministry that controls them. Read comment 8 again and tell me that it has anything to do with my tone. It is directed at me commenting about Orthodox (or Israel for that matter).

  • CK, I’ve read over the past days what Elon wrote about himself. I’ve also visited his blog. Your description of him is what I had already understood him to be. That is why I said of him: “though some day he might chose the right step and actually become Jewish and good luck with that.” It would be an honor to add another Ger Zeddek to Klal Yisrael.

    However, until that day, he is not Jewish, no matter how Jewish he may externally look and act. All the actors in Fiddler on the Roof aren’t instantly Jewish, either, because of their externals. You know that. This is elementary.

    A non-Jew can practice 612 of 613 Torah commandments and reject one and all the mikvah dunking in the world won’t make him a Jew.

    There is no discrepency in being a non-Jew and a zaddik at the same time. I never said otherwise about Elon’s personality and sincerity.

    Unless Elon makes a conscious decision to become a Jew K’dat Moshe Ve’Yisrael, he isn’t one. That requires additional obligations he refused to accept by opting for a conversion by conservatives.

    As you have pointed out, it was reform that rejected Judaism, not the other way around. Conservative Judaism was simply an offshoot of reform at its inception.

  • Middle, are you now saying that reform converts in the early 1800’s were invalid but now they’re OK?

  • Shy Guy- Boy, you’re horse is high today despite your poor analogies and mis-information.

    Belief in Jesus is heresy because of belief in G-d as three in one, the trinity. This directly contradicts the most basic article of our faith the shema. Conservative theology is heresy because the JTS said it’s ok to drive on shabbos? It’s heresy because….? Well, since only 25% of Jews identify as orthodox (source) there are a LOT of heretics. You can disagree (and I do) with some (or in your case all) conservative movement theology, but to call it heresy and try to draw analogies to J4J or Christianity as a whole, you are way off base. Period.

    If a Karaite jumped in a Mikveh he/she would be a wet Karaite. If you’re asking me about a Karaite convert, no I don’t think that jumping into a Mikveh makes him/her Jewish since rabinnical judaism requires an acceptance of the oral law, the Karaites are Karaites because they REJECT the oral law. Since Karaites reject the entire premise and framework of Rabbinical Judaism, they don’t give a rats arse about being accepted by you, me, or anyone else in the Rabbinical Judaism game. The cheap shot at liberal jews that follows your question is just that, a cheap shot. Good for you.

    My “claiming you invalid” was me joking, hence the rad emoticon. Look at you getting worked up and throwing around hebrew with righteous indignation.

    Ok, well I’m going to go along and play jewish.

  • I started my last post at 10am here and finished it at 2, so pardon my ignorance of the 15 posts in between.
    Also, the last line of my last post was WAY too snarky and is born out of my frustration with the crassness with which some talk about these issues, as if people don’t lie behind them.

    ck-thank you for the kind words.

    shy guy- There is a great difference between you and CK and I will tell you what it is. Despite our disagreement on the validity of my conversion he and laya reached out to help me instead of hitting me with a wicked low blow like you did (and that’s what your little comment was). Says a lot.

  • I never knew that G-d’s laws were determined by a majority of rebels voting against them.

    Ignorance is bliss. Try reading the Rambam’s Sefer Haminim. Here’s some more Hebrew for you: “lo am ha’aretz hasid” – “an ignoramous can’t be pious” (Pirkei Avot).

    If the Rambam is over your head, try reading a Humash with Rashi, covering only those verses that deal with violating Shabbat. And you think some synod gathering in Manhattan to vote any of this down is what Judaism is about?!

    Oh, I forgot. The Rambam can be ignored. What did he know anyway?!

    Here’s a hint, Elon: when and by whom was the term “Rabbinical Judaism” coined?

    If you didn’t understand my prior post’s Hebrew, let me spell it out for you: “G-d will judge between me and you.” Indeed, as it was meant when Sarah said those words to her husband Abraham, so, too, now: “Hashem is my witness.”

    You haven’t even passed Judaism 101.

  • Elon, about your last post, which came in between my last post, I will not mince the truth. And after seeing your post thinking that mankind can null and void G-d’s laws, this is all the more so apparent.

    Whether you believe me or not, I feel sorry for you. You are out to achieve something great and you’ve settled for a mediocre, faux rendition of Judaism, concocted by a few Jewish intelectual rejects about a century ago.

  • ShyGuy- The conservative movement hasn’t to my knowledge CHANGED any laws. They haven’t the authority, neither do the Hareidim or the Orthodox or anyone else. Their interpretation of some articles of the law is different. Two supreme court justices can disagree on the interpretation of a constitutional law, it doesn’t mean that one is attempting to DO AWAY with the constitution all together.

    The rest of your post is based on this basic premise. You are putting out ideas, attributing them to me and then putting me down for those ideas, even though they aren’t mine. Anyone reading my posts can see that. Why can’t you stay on point even with your own tangents?

    And dude, I live in Berlin, how many conservative shuls do you think there are here? How about none. I go to an orthodox shul. All the Torah related things I read are from Orthodox yeshivot, I daven out of the ArtScroll, etc. *sigh* this ish makes me tired, it’s always the same spiel.

    Anyhow, it’s almost time to head home from work. Enjoy the rest of your day in Jerusalem.

  • Wow, Reform and Conservative “Jews” are actually . . . Christians?

    Middle, we’ll take you in a heartbeat. Let me know and I’ll give Fr. Jack or Fr. Brian a ring.

    (Can you really walk on water?)

  • Seriously, the ferocity with which you guys tear at each other over this issue always amazes me. It’s far, far beyond what Christians do to each other. Catholics wouldn’t think of claiming that Methodists, say, or Presbyterians, aren’t Christian. (And we’re supposed to be the hardasses of western Christianity!)

    The Orthodox position seems to be, follow us to the nth degree, else we won’t consider you a Jew at all, but a Christian. Y’all are joking, right?

  • Tom, for clarification, a Jew’s always a Jew – orthodox, conservative or reform. The argument here is specifically on converts.

  • Shy Guy, that’s good to know (#31). Wouldn’t want poor Middle to have wasted the past couple of years of his life on this site. Here’s what Middle needs (if he’s going to forego baptism, that is): some lefty types, Tikkun magazine subscribers and the like, with whom he can form tactical alliances, and compared to whom he gets to seem like a conservative hardass. The poor guy must get sick of being flayed at infinitum (and ad nauseum) by the likes of ck, laya, and your own self, shy one. If he’s got any pals on this site (apart from moi-meme), they’re not the type I’d want to share a foxhole with.

  • middle – a criticism about your tone and content is not a personal attack, you need to understand that. I suspect that anything I say to you at all will be viewed in the harshest of ways. Next time you read a comment by me, why don’t you stop, take a deep breath, reread it, and consider with an open mind whether it is about you the person, or the tone, content or intellectual honesty of the piece.

    As for the “standing by silently” about reform kids at McDonald’s, what did you want me to say? sure, ck may have been a bit too impolitic, but he stated a fact he witnessed, nothing more.

    It seems that in your life, you have decided that orthodox Jewry is wrong. That is your right, and your decision is respected.

    Be careful, however, that you don’t then flippantly brush aside the needs and sensitivities of the orthodox community, while simultaneously criticising them for not properly considering the needs and sensitivities of conservative and reform jews.

    It might be perceived as the pot calling the kettle black, ya know?

    Also be careful that you are extending the same consideration and sensitivity to others as you ask for yourself.

    Oh, and PS, Elon, on most days, you are a friggen better Jew than me. Keep it up boy.

  • “The anger at me is directed not at my tone but at the subject matter”

    It is the tone. People who care about you are telling you. Consider it.

  • Laya superciliously claimed:

    To you we give posting power, and as such you represent me. You represent Jewlicious. And you are the only one that does so anonymously.

    Ummmn…sheesh, Laya, what the fuck?
    a) the Middle is vitually a founding member. Who is this ‘we’ you refer to?
    b) How can you go around claiming ‘anarachist collective’ in one comment and then in your next, err, breath claim that each voice speaks for the others?
    c) Muffti also claims for himself a fair degree of anonymity. So what of it?
    d) Most importantly, why shouldn’t the Middle write about the foibles of the orthodox community if that is his particular topic of interest and enmity? For one thing, he is an extremely active poster and posts on all sorts of topics. For another, he’s right: the reform and conservative do come in for a beating on this blog (even from Muffti on occassion). Why shouldn’t he point out the dark side of a community that has a lot of power in Israel and that acts in ways that affect members of groups that he is actually a part of? Especially when they are taken, almost without question, to be the standard to which all other forms of judaism are to be compared?

  • the we, muff, is ck and I, who started the blog, run the blog, and have the most invested in it.

    The Middle is no founding member. Though he has been around a long time.

    It was ck who called it an “anarchist collective” and somewhat jokingly I might add. I simply repeated it by way of explanation.

    And as I have said to the middle time and again, its not the content, it’s the tone. There is certainly what to criticise about orthodoxy i have never denied that, but if he is positively unable to do so without the insensitive and triumphant tone, it is better to post about something else.

  • The Middle is no founding member. Tho he has been around a long time.

    That’s why Muffti said ‘virtually’.

    It was ck who called it an “anarchist collective” and somewhat jokingly I might add. I simply repeated it by way of explanation.

    yes, well, when you use something as an explanation it is presumably because you think it is TRUE. So what are you getting at?

    Finally, you’ve said it time and time again. Middle posts as he sees fit. So why don’t you stop saying it time and time again like a goddamned broken record? He obviously knows how you feel and he posts as he sees fit. And Muffti, for one, appreciates someone who takes a slight more ascerbic tone towards orthodoxy…

  • wow, all this makes one more appreciative of the separation of church and state we have in the U.S.A. What a mess, everyone involved should take a bath!

  • Themiddle having opinions that differ from ck and laya is a good thing in my opinion. It’s healthy dialogue and makes Jewlicious a blog worth reading. I don’t come here to read nothing but random MO complaining. When the two founders pull rank when themiddle says something they don’t quite like, it shows the flaws of the people. If themiddle made a “humorous” anecdote about orthodox like the one ck did about reform, he’d be shouted down and told to change his tone. I understand your feelings about reform and conservative movements, but to attack them with such vigor is the wrong approach. When you insult the people of such movements, it makes them defensive. You can’t get any points, right or wrong, across to those people in such instances. You create divisions and debate for sake of debate. This is something that both sides need to learn, and you the posters of a major jewish blog should be careful about.

  • So laya and ck are the Framers of this site? Guess that makes Middle something of a Justice Scalia.

    Shy Guy, you’re absolutely right about America. I shot a couple of people to death this morning, then, out of boredom, started a race riot an hour or so ago.

  • TM wrote: “…has the Reform movement’s platform changed since the 1800s? You may wish to check.” I have and I have no indication that the sections of the Pittsburgh Platform that i quoted from have been abbrogated. Of course Reform Judaism itself has evolved – particularly, in the post-holocaust era, the notion that “Berlin is the New Jerusalem.”

    TM added: “I reject the comment about the antagonistic nature of my post. The tone is fine considering how egregious this topic is; I was being quite gentle considering.” So are you saying that your tone was indeed harsh? Was that because of the impolitic statements of MK Yitzhak Cohen? or was it because of the notion that no C or R Jews could use any Mikvehs in Israel? Cohen’s comments ought to have been a little more sensitive. And C and R Jews can use any mikveh in Israel. The only issue of “discrimination” arises wrt to the use of mikvehs for conversion purposes. C and R Jews have safe and comfortable alternatives in Israel. It took me 5 minutes to find those – the writer for YNet however implied that the only other choices they have is immersion in the Mediterranean.

    But forget all that. No need to rehash issues that I dealt with in my post on the topic. The article raised a debatable issue. Do you think your tone and indignation encourages anything close to enlightened and positive discourse? You implied that the Orthodox position is beneath contempt – not worthy of any sort of discussion – this being a position we ordinarily reserve for others. So yeah you can say your post wasn’t antagonistic, yet why do so many otherwise reasonable people feel antagonized? No one denies that Orthodox Judaism may be subject to criticism, but if we’re going to criticize, shouldn’t we at least do it in a productive manner? These comments also apply to GMs criticism of laya’s reaction in comment #39. No one is saying that TM ought not criticize Orthodox Judaism. The issue is with his tone. If ne’s comment isn’t going to lead to dialogue, then what’s the point? I know TM has much invested in Jewish life both in the diasporah and in Israel. His critical eye is greatly appreciated. But given the existence of ultra Orthodox members in his family, I woul ask, is this the way you would discuss this issue with them?

  • Muffti’s criticism was of a different nature. But perhaps he should stop airing his dirty laundry out in public, as Jewish Mother might put it..

  • FWIW, I liked TM’s tone just fine.

    Its nice to get a bit of life in this blog.

    Too much agreement is BOOOOOORING.

  • What I mean is that TM’s tone does not seem any more offensive than his usual tone, so I really didn’t get that complaint.

    Also, the story seems relevant, timely, and is reported in a major newspaper. You might quibble with the source, but its still legitimate news.

    Lastly, I don’t think criticizing a specific government policy that is backed by the Israeli Rabbinate is the same as “bashing Orthodoxy.”

    By this logic the rabbinate should never be criticized!

    It seems a bit like saying any criticism of the pope is unwarranted hostile bashing of catholicism.

    I think there is a difference between criticizing specific policies of the Israeli Orthodox Rabbinate and criticizing the fundamental tenets of the movement (or the people in the movement) and TM tends to stick to criticizing specific policies which to me is not Orthodox bashing.

  • I used to visit Jewlicious all the time Steve. I stopped specifically because of themiddle’s incessant anti-Orthodox jabs. I’m not even that Orthodox but I hated being lumped in with extremist elements within Orthodoxy, I hated the smug self-righteousness that accompanied his diatribes. I concluded that he had no interest in constructive criticism or dialog and I was tired of seeing things I cherished bashed mercilessly. I visited today after clicking on a link from another site and I see things haven’t changed at all. I am not suggesting that themiddle ought not criticize Orthodox Judaism. I’m not suggesting that Jewlicious ought to only reflect a single opinion. I too enjoyed the give and take between people of differing opinions. But themiddle comes off as if he hates the Orthodox. I can’t abide by that and I am glad I stopped visiting.

  • Just simply disgraceful all around. We are witnessing the death of Israel at the hands of zealots who refuse to relinqish their hands from around the neck of a once great secular state. Some factions will not be happy until it looks more like Iran than any place else. Really! Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • VJ, spoken like a true rabid firebreathing secular anti-semite. I say anti-semite because obviously Judaism is a waste of your time. Who needs it! Come to think of it, who needs Israel or Jews! There’s no god. The Torah is nonsense. Let’s pack up and leave. Who wants gefilte fish every Friday night anyway!

    Regards to Aleph Bet Gimel Daled Yehoshua.

  • I’m not at all Orthodox. If I had to define myself I’d say I was post denominational. My Jewish practice is not what I would call remotely traditional. The closest thing I have to a Jewish community is this blog, even though I have never commented before. I do define myself as a critical thinker and I have to ask myself what the fuck is going on here? Why all the pussyfooting on one side and why all the righteous indignation on the other?

    Why do Non-Orthodox Jews crave acceptance by Orthodox Jews when their version of the Jewish religion outright rejects Orthodoxy? Why do they get so upset when Orthodox Judaism does not accept the validity of their practices, institutions and leadership when they themselves advocate practices that go against core Orthodox beliefs?

    I see no reason why an Orthodox Jew should accept as valid the conversion administered by a Reform or Conservative Rabbi when that self same Rabbi advises his or her parishioners that its OK to drive on the Sabbath, its OK to not eat Kosher, its OK not to believe in the divinity of the Torah, etc. etc. With respect to this post, wouldn’t the Orthodox people who use these ritual baths be tacitly approving a conversion they didn’t believe in if they allowed Reform and Conservative Rabbis to use their facilities? So why the smarmy tone themiddle? A ritual bath is a religious facility, not a public swimming pool.

    I’ve been to Israel. I’ve seen the huge conservative yeshiva complex in Jerusalem. Why haven’t they built a ritual bath there? Perhaps because Conservative Jews never use it except for conversions? Speaking of Israel, maybe you were set off by MK Yitzhak Cohen’s gruff response to the petition. Are you sure you’ve lived in Israel themiddle? Cohen is speaking in a language typical for Israeli politicians. Even outside the realm of politics, have you heard some of the things said by Reform and Conservative leaders about the Orthodox? In 1997 Rabbi Ismar Schorsch, the Chancellor of the Jewish Theological Seminary called for the disintegration of Israel’s chief rabbinate and its network of courts. Why? because Orthodox Jews do not recognize the authority of a Rabbi who tells prospective converts that its ok to drive on the sabbath. Duh! Rabbi Eric H. Yoffie, head of the American Reform movement, has called the Israeli Chief Rabbinate “[e]xtremist and radical and fanatic…a medieval chief rabbinate that is a disgrace to the Jewish people and its religion”, described Haredi Judaism as “ghetto Judaism”, referred to “utterly fanatic ultra-Orthodox Jews in Israel who are becoming more extreme every day” and has accused “the ultra-Orthodox” of having “abused Torah for their own selfish purposes and brought it into disrepute,” and in a 1998 article for New York’s Jewish Week, described haredi insularity as “nothing less than a betrayal of America.” Simeon Maslin, past president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (Reform), has stated that Haredi Jews (who in his words “pray rapidly in sing-song Hebrew, pore over the Talmud in segregated yeshivot, and buy from glatt kosher butchers”) have forfeited the right to be called “authentic Jews.”

    Wow. No reputable Orthodox leader has ever said that Reform or Conservative Jews are not authentic Jews.

    I’m sorry themiddle. But your posts about Orthodoxy come off as smug and smarmy. In this respect you do not live up to your nom de plume. Those Orthodox critics of yours are right to feel spiritually offended and I myself feel intelectually offended. You really ought to reconsider what it is you wish to accomplish with your posts. Thus far I see no evidence of the balanced approach your name implies.

    Sorry for the rant, but I had to get that off my chest. Toodles!

  • Welcome Katie. Please stick around, for my cilantro and dill recipes, my homilies about finding a husband, and my exhortations about getting married and even having a baby.

    TM is ok: he is married, with a child!! Are you? He does have attitude, but he is a particularly intelligent example of his viewpoint and he is willing to talk. Most are not.

    Now GM, I never said anything about not airing dirty laundry in public. Air away.

    Katie has a point. The tolerance people aren’t tolerant. How could they be? It is a conflict! There is a lot of fear. Fear number one: powerlessness. Powerlessness resulting from drawing back from full engagement in secular society because of Kosher eating and Shabbat observance, different-ness, ghetto-ization, being led away with raised hands. Fear number two: poverty. Poverty resulting from the expense of child-raising. Meaning, mostly, the expense of having the man work for two, and the woman not working. These are real concerns.

    So, how to forge ahead is discussed here.

    (If Kosher and Shabbat are medieval mumbo-jumbo, how come an Orthodox mikvah is different from any other pool of water??? When the non-Orthodox need a really big thing, like turning a non-Jew into a Jew, they go running to the Orthodox for the jolt of heavy-duty religious power. It’s inconsistent. But I love everybody.)

    Happy Shavuot.

  • Katie, you are indeed a very critical thinker as I can see by your cut and paste job from Wikipedia.

    Do some Orthodox Jews call other movements non-Jews? I guess so: http://www.adl.org/PresRele/Mise_00/2937-00.asp

    That took all of 10 seconds on Google to locate. I’m sure if I wanted to provide plenty of other examples, I could. Your point is, however, to contrast what Cohen said with what leaders of other movements said. You can do that as long as you ignore that he is speaking as a minister in the Israeli government. This is a democratically elected government for all Israelis and using a ministry simply to advance one group’s agenda is immoral and unjust. By the way, you might want to read the contents of the talk Schorch gave in 1997 to understand the context in which he called for the dismantling of the Israeli rabbinate. He makes a lot of sense.

    Your statement that other movements “inherently reject Orthodoxy” is flat out false since especially Conservatives but Reform as well show a great deal of deference and respect to the Orthodox.

    Your comment that Orthodox Jews can reject other streams is perfectly valid even if it is an unfortunate practice. Yet, you miss the point of this discussion which is that what they do in their community is their business but what they do under the auspices of government authority with tax payer funded buildings or ministries is of public importance and they may not, in a democracy, use these resources to discriminate against other Jews, especially not in a Jewish state.

    Toodles.

  • To the Great Powers of Jewlicious who have come forth and revealed themselves as our leaders:

    1. I didn’t even comment when you made a remark, ck, in a post, about Reform kids. There have been previous discussions where you came out very harshly against non-Orthodox streams and not just their conversions but the streams themselves, and you were treated respectfully by me as I debated you. Right?

    2. Please don’t tell me how to write. I don’t tell you or anybody else how they should write. I feel I’m a little beyond writing lessons or instruction on tone, not to mention thematic editorial direction. On the other hand, I always welcome grammar and punctuation tips.

    3. I didn’t realize we weren’t all equals and that some of us were granted powers of posting. Wow.

    As far as I recall, there was once a friendly phone conversation and a request from one of our leading lights for me to join some writers on a blog you had launched. Nobody mentioned hierarchies, superiors, careers, money or how things should or shouldn’t be written. This was a place for Jewish voices and you thought I would provide an interesting addition. That was all there was to it, right?

    4. When people want to communicate with Jewlicious, the email and contact info leads to you and not to me and since my anonymity is important to me, this has worked out fine for both of us. If somehow this has made this blog affect your lives and work in other ways, please let me know what is happening and I will take it under advisement when I post anything.

    5. The San Francisco comment was not okay since I have asked that my identity remain private. Couldn’t Laya have written Peoria? I suspect, however, that if the personal attacks would stop, the mention of cities or other information about me will also end. Personal info has little to do with these posts, as you well know. It’s almost as if I’m being challenged to offer personal info that I have expressly requested remain private.

    6. This was a mild post, even if it alludes to all the other times that I get personally attacked for pointing out serious issues with matters relating to Orthodox Jews. The story in the post represents a venal problem and I treated it with kid-gloves. I realize, thanks to this event, that I have come to be a self-censoring writer because this story merited a much more aggressive post, but I truly held back because I’m always attacked for these posts about the Orthodox. Hello, the Orthodox are in control! Should discrimination on their part BY A GOVERNMENT AGENCY not be mentioned on Jewlicious? Or is the problem that there are a number of ongoing stories that related to different Orthodox communities and since The Middle reports on them (because I believe they undermine Israeli and Jewish society), it’s open season on TM?

    Somehow everybody else on here can write what they like (including about Orthodox, Conservative and Reform streams) and other posters don’t tell them they have a problem with certain groups of people. Just little old The Middle gets this treatment. I guess I should be flattered that I’m having this favorable impact but I can’t accept that I’m treated differently. Muffti writes what he likes and doesn’t get attacked. So does Michael as do you (right now you’re busy attacking Conservative day schools for not teaching about tefillin or Masada and I don’t see anybody from Jewlicious coming after you, we need the poster from the other site to do that) and Laya. (Rabbi Yonah and Esther, of course, only write nice things so nobody has cause to attack them).

    Somehow I have become the punching bag of our Glorious Leaders whenever I speak about the Orthodox. How about those who disagree speak to the point of the post instead of my personal views or “tone?” The information is there and you can even call the relevant parties to ask whether the article’s information is correct.

    As for my “tone,” it seems that I misjudged. There I was being all defensive about the non-stop attacks on me for writing critical posts about Orthodox Jews and what do I get for my gentle reposte? I get blasted for being unfair to Orthodox Jews. What the fuck is going on here?! There is an Orthodox Ministry preventing Jews from using public buildings to pursue their faith and a Minister who is identifiably of one particular Orthodox stream who belongs to that ministry who dismisses their practices as bogus and Christian and you guys complain that I write about it and include comments suggesting that I’ll be attacked for it?

    That’s right, we don’t want to ruffle any feathers or cause offense to anybody, so this will be a gentle and serious post.

    Wow, that was really harsh, especially in light of the attacks on me a couple of days ago. How smarmy of me.

    I will repeat that in a kind and gentle non-ascerbic tone that doesn’t mock anybody so that this will resonate clearly.

    Wow, what a horrendous tone. I am clearly insulting Orthodox Jews everywhere.

    I don’t want to be contentious and have others accuse me of bias against Orthodox Jews so I’ll have Mr. Cohen of Shas, a Minister in the Government, tell us again what he thinks of Jews who are not Orthodox

    Seems to me like my tone in that sentence reflects two things: the ongoing attacks against me every time I bring up something they don’t like; allowing the Minister to place the noose around his own neck…so that I won’t be attacked for it.

    So the problem with my “tone” seems to stem from all the previous attacks, mostly personal, that I have received for pointing out issues with the Orthodox community and their ongoing battles with other streams or with the state of Israel.

    Had I not been on the receiving end of those personal attacks, my guess is this would have been a far more forceful post and there wouldn’t have been this defensiveness in the writing where I’m essentially apologizing for telling you this shitty story about what is being done to Reform and Conservatice Jews in Israel.

  • Tom, the only reason Shy Guy can speak with such pious forcefulness and simply dismiss Elon is that he is in with the group that wields power and even governmental authority.

    Israel was founded as a state for the Jewish people. It was founded by secular Jews who had sufficient respect for Orthodox Jews to entrust Jewish civic matters to them. After all, a Jewish state should have a Jewish conscience and should have fundmamental elements of its civic life represent our ancient traditions. By the way, the state vested other religions in Israel with similar powers to have their religious authorities control their civic needs.

    This has taken on an entirely different meaning over time, however, with essentially an abuse of these powers to the benefit of those who control Jewish civic life. The secular state that was created as a haven and home for all Jews suddenly has become a state where an observant group wield keys OF EXCLUSION to other groups that it disrespects. Since these powers are vested by the state, in essence, this is nothing less than state-sponsored discrimination. Egregiously, this is a Jewish state’s discrimination against other Jews.

    This is a complex issue with many facets because there are different streams of Orthodoxy so that if I put ck in a room with a settler from Hebron along with my Ultra-Orthodox family, there would be significant differences among them.

    There is an element of destructiveness here. While some here have attacked me for attacking Orthodox Jews in my writing, I say to you all that I merely write on a blog. I happen to write on the same blog as people who dismiss, quite thoroughly I might add, Reform and Conservative Jewish practices, education and practitioners as well as their converts.

    Thus, I reject that it is mw who is destroying unity here. Rather, I would suggest the destruction is coming from the rejectionism practiced by many Orthodox streams, especially because it is buttressed and has real “teeth” because they have sponsorship of the state of Israel.

    To put into perspective: I merely write on a blog. Those who criticize me think that my words are as destructive as the prevention of certain streams of Judaism from going to mikvahs for conversions? That’s like comparing an ant to an elephant.

    Stop justifying this for religious reasons for a moment and just consider this objectively. If you were prevented access to a place of worship that is state controlled and funded, because of your beliefs and practices, wouldn’t you feel alienated and hated? Wouldn’t this be destructive to your relationship with the state and with the Jewish people in general?

    Just think about that because that’s what this post is about. That’s what the other posts are about as well. You think it matters what I write on a blog when leading rabbis from the territories are advising their students to ignore the IDF or its leadership? Ant. Elephant.

    If a government minister dismissed your faith and equated it with another faith altogether, would you wish to have any connection to this people, this government or your faith? Isn’t this destructive? All those young people you just hosted on Birthright would simply prefer not to be involved in a society that excludes them, don’t you think? Don’t you agree that Jewlicious @ the beach works and you are effective in your programs because you are INCLUSIVE? Why then do you support this horrible exclusivity?

    I am the destructive one because I wrote about this?

    An Orthodox minister in the government of Israel is attacking some of its citizens as invalid Jews. And you worry that I have some mild sarcasm in my post? I’m talking about something inherently awful about how some Jews are treating other Jews. In the Jewish state.

    Destructiveness. I have a feeling the decline in Conservative Judaism wouldn’t be this steep if such a visceral and hateful rejection of the movement didn’t exist by Orthodox streams. The rejectionism, by the way, does not exist in the other direction which is part of the problem. As ck points out, certain devout Conservative Jews end up Orthodox. Then again, that could well be because the Orthodox have the power of a state behind them and can close numerous doors to these devout Conservative Jews. Suddenly, to be Conservative, if you’re devout, means having to have a battle with people who have power to control aspects of your faith and it may be easier to simply Conservatives are very close ideologically to the Orthodox but this form of aggressive dismissal – which is clear in this shameful display by Shy Guy (misnomer or what?) – makes it easier for the devout to simply “become Orthodox” while those of lesser commitment or faith end up disgusted and alienated.

    The rejectionism, combined with authority vested by a state government, is a dangerous mix and one that is causing a great deal of damage to Jewish communities inside and outside of Israel. Writing about it may expose parts of the issues, as if that even matters, but the problems, consequences of these problems and the overall direction of the Jewish world will end up harming all of us. Orthodox Jews do not number more than 2-3 million people worldwide. That is the practical side of things. The moral side, affected by accepting or participating in this rejectionism, is just as problematic, in my opinion, and is simply very sad.

  • That’s right Muffti, I am an egalitarian Zionist Soccer Dad who lives in Peoria and posts lengthy and annoying posts about Orthodox Jews – and 17 million other things.

    By the way, here is what Schorsch said in 1997:

    Rabbi Ismar Schorsch

    To visit the grave of Yitzhak Rabin is to stare at the abyss which engulfed him. The tombstone bears the shape of an unfinished semi-circle, two curved stones separated by empty space in the middle. As if to underscore their apartness, one stone is white and the other, black. The tombstone is a monument to a nation grievously divided. Many of Israel’s Orthodox citizens could not bring themselves to commemorate the first yahrzeit of their fallen prime minister.

    The recent statement by the Union of Orthodox Rabbis in North America stigmatizing Reform and Conservative Jews as religious heretics seems to be an ominous replay of the events prior to the assassination of Mr. Rabin. Before Yigal Amir pulled the trigger, a number of Orthodox rabbis had stretched medieval Jewish law beyond all reasonable limits to classify Mr. Rabin as a “pursuer,” whose life could be taken in self-defense. The same body of medieval law explicitly sanctions the killing of Jewish heretics as the Union of Orthodox Rabbis surely knows. To publicly denounce Reform and Conservative Jew as apikorsim in the current highly charged atmosphere is to incite unwittingly some unbalanced young fundamentalist either in Israel or America to carry out the letter of the law. Have we not learned anything from the calamity of Mr. Rabin’s murder?

    It is, of course, transparently clear from the timing of this reckless statement that it was hatched in Israel, a diabolical attempt to discredit and delegitimize Reform and Conservative Judaism which represents 84% of synagogue affiliated Jews in America. But the conversion crisis wracking the Israeli government is not the result of a 1995 Supreme Court decision showing that the Chief Rabbinate enjoys no monopoly on conversion as it does on marriage and divorce. On the contrary, the crisis is rooted in the Law of Return passed by the Knesset in 1950.

    At the heart of that noble piece of legislation lay two distinct definitions of Judaism, one dictated by Jewish law and the other by the history of the Holocaust. The law gives voice to the Zionist ideal – that every Jew born of a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism has the inalienable right to settle in Israel. But this law also takes cognizance of those non-Jews who were swept up in the murderous dragnet of the Nazis by virtue of marriage or descent and suffered the fate of a Jew. Hence the law admits to Israel the spouse, children and grandchildren of a Jew, including their spouses, as long as they are not a member of another faith community.

    What kept these two definitions of Jewishness (by faith and fate) from flying apart was a Zionist Chief Rabbinate that made conversion easy. Today , unfortunately, the office and its rabbinic courts have fallen into the hands of the ultra-Orthodox, who ruthlessly conspire to do everything in their power to obstruct passage from one status of Jewishness to the other (witness fewer than 350 conversions in 1996). A few years ago, a number of Russian Jewish families approached the Conservative movement in Israel out of desperation to convert their adopted non-Jewish children, which was duly done. Despite the parents’ fervent wish to create a Jewish household, no official rabbinic court would lift a finger without extracting a promise that these families become strictly Orthodox.

    The supreme irony of Zionist history is that the founders of Israel who fled an intransigent Orthodoxy in eastern Europe ended up relinquishing all control of Judaism in the Jewish state to that self-same Orthodoxy. The only difference between the Union of Orthodox Rabbis and the Israeli Chief Rabbinate is that the former dared to state overtly what the latter believes covertly. No Chief Rabbi visiting the U.S. would ever set foot in a Reform or Conservative synagogue. Yet Israel will never remain the center of world Jewry, as it should, if the state becomes exclusively identified with but one denomination in modern Judaism. To play that role responsibly, the state must be Jewish, not Orthodox.

    A total separation of synagogue and state in Israel is neither conceivable nor desirable. What the present unseemly strife calls for is a distancing of the two, a reversal of the denominalization of the state. Towards that end I propose the following four point action plan:

    First, Reform and Conservative Jews should stop funding all ultra-Orthodox organizations and institutions for whom religious pluralism is anathema. No more guilt money. No more support of ideologies that we would not want to see our own children live by. No more contributions to people who privately treat our religious beliefs with disdain and derision.

    Second, the promotion of religious pluralism in Israel for Jews must become a top funding priority for UJA-Federation. The concept is alien to Israel because the country was founded and settled by Jews from eastern Europe and the Middle East who had never gone through the emancipation experience. Religious movements are the inevitable consequence of political freedom and social integration. The communal structure of American Jewry is predicated on religious pluralism because the Jews who built it hailed from central Europe where emancipation had already begun to take root. The appropriate Jewish political model for Israel should be the pre-Holocaust Einheitsgemeinde (unified community) of central Europe in which the official community supported equitably the personnel and institutions of all three religious movements. In that spirit (perhaps a harbinger of things to come), the faculty of Tel Aviv University decided recently to build on campus a panoply of three synagogues (Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox) rather than a single, exclusively Orthodox synagogue.

    Third, the time has come to dismantle the Chief Rabbinate and its network of courts. Sustained by a political alliance between cynicism and fundamentalism, the system is today without a scintilla of moral worth. In 1994, 20% of the Israelis getting married went abroad to circumvent the monopoly of the Orthodox establishment, often to undergo only a civil ceremony. I am not calling for the abrogation of legislation for religious purposes (kosher food, Shabbat, autopsies, archaeology, the prohibition on raising pigs) or for religious privileges (the local religious councils and education), though in each instance fundamental changes are in order, but rather for decoupling the state from a dysfunctional ultra-Orthodox rabbinate. The first two types of legislation express the Jewish character of Israel, the third governing rabbinic jurisdiction makes it narrowly Orthodox.

    Finally, this campaign against the stranglehold of ultra-Orthodoxy must be carried out irrespective of the peace process. One thing is sure, the minions of Shas, Agudah, Degel ha-Torah and even the National Religious Party will not be deterred in advancing their cause openly and surreptitiously no matter how tortured and protracted the reconciliation with the Palestinians may be. At stake is the ultimate nature of the Jewish state. Israel will not long survive wholly secular or sectarian. Its welfare begs for a religious center for whom piety and sanity are not polar opposites.

    The unity of the Jewish people is an indispensable condition of our chosenness. Divided and fragmented, we bring no glory to God’s name. The world is cluttered with saving remnants that are no more than a curiosity. At this Passover season of national birth and renewal, let us recommit ourselves to the goal of achieving a religious unity beyond (and not instead of) our diversity that will be worthy of our monotheistic faith and universal mission.

  • Wow. Who could disagree with that? Surprisingly (for you) many secularists. Even the NY times and the secular Jewish Forward balked at his “without a scintilla of moral worth” statement.

    Awful stuff.

  • Shy Guy,
    America is not “a do what you want country”. It is a democracy with a constitution and legal system. The separation of church and state prevents people from having to pay taxes to support ideologies with which they may not agree . The Constitution may not have been divinely inspired like the Torah, but the Founding Fathers had incredible forsight to take into account that this great country would be made up of people of differing religions, some of which might conflict , but that they should be protected with equal freedoms within reason. It is unfortunate that the Orthodox in Israel can’t be as considerate of their fellow non-orthodox Jews, to help it to be “one Jewish Nation, under G-d, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all” like the Founding Zionists hoped it would be.

  • themiddle: The quotes I used are all valid regradless of their provenance. There’s nothing wrong with Wikipedia, you guys use it all the time. Please stick to substantive criticism and spare me your belittling sarcasm. You have an amazing talent for ignoring points that are difficult for you to answer and then flooding your opponents with a massive avalanche of self-righteous indignation such that debate with you becomes tiresome to follow.

    Allow me to make it easy on you. I’ll ask you a couple of questions, questions that have been asked before on Jewlicious, and you try to reply to them as succinctly as possible. This shouldn’t be too difficult for you given what a cream puff I am and given how smart you are.

    1. If Israel is a Democracy then ought all publicly funded Jewish religious institutions and facilities be open to any members of any Jewish denomination? For example, as previously mentioned, ought a Reform Jew be allowed to have a mixed service, officiated by a Reform Rabbi and serving food prepared according to Reform dietary standards at The Great Synagogue in Jerusalem? How about if the example changed and we substituted Reform for Liberal or Humanist Jews?

    2. If Israel is a Democracy that cherishes freedom of religion, is it not possible that forcing Orthodox Jews to tacitly acquiesce to the validity of Reform and Conservative standards a violation of Orthodox Jews’ freedom of religion?

    3. When you talk about Orthodox rejectionism, do you mean that Orthodox Jews reject Reform and Conservative Jews or are they rejecting Reform and Conservative Judaism (pay attention, there’s a difference)? Do the Orthodox accept anyone as a Jew whose Mother is Jewish, regardless of affiliation?

    4. Do Conservative Jews accept the validity of all Reform conversions? If not then why not? Wouldn’t that also be kind of discriminatory?

    5. Is there no difference between Haredi and Modern Orthodox standards with respect to dealings with Reform and Conservative Judaism? If there are differences, is it fair to paint both with the same brush?

    6. When the founding document of Reform Judaism explicitly uses the term “reject” with respect to values and beliefs held by Orthodox Jews, who is rejecting who? When a Conservative Rabbi tells a convert that it’s acceptable to ignore traditional standards and drive on the Sabbath, when a Conservative Rabbi agrees to officiate at a wedding or bar/bat mitzvah that isn’t kosher and has mixed seating thus effectively excluding Orthodox Jews, who is rejecting who?

    I’m obviously not Orthodox. Today is a high holiday and here I am posting things on the Internet. But the intellectual dishonesty displayed by those in Reform and Conservative Judaism when it comes to Orthodox Judaism is something that I find both appalling and laughable. Talk about creating divisiveness! So please, themiddle or anyone else for that matter, please feel free to concisely and honestly answer these questions. I look forward to any honest response.

    Toodles!

  • Not having a dog in this fight: I think all of you folks are aggressive advocates of your respective points of view. Why gang up on Middle? It’s hard not to distrust complaints about someone’s ‘tone’: ‘it’s not what you say, it’s how you say it.’ This sort of thing often amounts to thinly-veiled rejection of his viewpoint and resentment of the effectiveness of his advocacy.

    Those of us who visit and comment here would, I’m sure, find any censorship, self-inflicted and otherwise, a threat to what makes this site so compelling. Have at it, guys.

    And without addressing the merits of Orthodoxy v. Conservative/Reform on conversions and other issues (lacking any competence to do so), isn’t Middle right that the issue here isn’t so much Judaism, or the Torah, but Israel? How will the Jewish people’s recovery of their homeland shape how ordinary religious matters are addressed- isn’t it inevitable that some people will try to centralize power in this regard? And what are the implications for the Judaism shaped these past centuries by the diaspora? An intriguing set of issues, with resonance for Christians, who with mixed, even tragic, results, grapple with similar issues of power and authority.

  • Here’s an interesting article about the new Reform siddur that might help explain the Reform outlook. If you are not Reform, it will also likely give you shpilkes. 🙂

    For me it’s the “taxpayer-funded” issue that is the crux of the matter. In the US, if it’s taxpayer-funded, any American can go. It seems unusual to many Americans that another country could have taxpayer-funded facilities that are allowed to bar entry to certain religious groups (see Church and State, Separation of).

    Having grown up Reform I can honestly say I received mixed messages about Israel – both that it is my homeland (said my Rabbi) and that I wouldn’t be treated equally if I ever moved there (said the Israelis and Orthodox and Conservative Jews I have met since my Confirmation). Confusing? You bet.

  • Katie, sorry but you presented yourself as a critical thinker and then proceeded to use quotes from what seemed to be a biased article on Wikipedia without providing any context for those quotes. Then, you also claimed, incredibly, that Orthodox leaders don’t deny the Judaism of other movements. There was little critical thinking there. There’s also little critical thinking in your point that I don’t respond directly to issues:

    1. If Israel is a Democracy then ought all publicly funded Jewish religious institutions and facilities be open to any members of any Jewish denomination? For example, as previously mentioned, ought a Reform Jew be allowed to have a mixed service, officiated by a Reform Rabbi and serving food prepared according to Reform dietary standards at The Great Synagogue in Jerusalem? How about if the example changed and we substituted Reform for Liberal or Humanist Jews?

    1. The state of Israel should not be involved in religion. To the extent that there is a Ministry of Religious Affairs, it should simply deal with ensuring fair, free and safe practice of any religion within Israel.

    The complexity of navigating through the various movements within Judaism means clearly that the politically strong, politically connected, wealthier, or those given power through historic accidents will use the ministry to advance their movement’s objectives to the detriment of other movements.

    The government should stay out of religion. Since this is Israel, perhaps we could all agree to certain base-line restrictions that would relate to Jewish culture, such as ensuring that any publicly owned or controlled, or quasi-owned bodies such as bus transportation or shops would not be operating on shabbat and holidays.

    Historic religious sites should be under the auspices of the government because of their historic nature – the Kotel being example #1 – and the government should ensure that all citizens (and non-citizens) have fair and equal access. One way to get around the issue of how to deal with certain practices such as breach of kashrut might be to restrict worship or practice in the relevant buildings to a baseline standard that acknowledges historic and ancient traditions. So, for example, a Reform rabbi would be allowed to conduct a ceremony or there could be a Reform event at the Great Synagogue, but they may not use any food that would be considered unkosher, a microphone on shabbat or holidays, etc.

    2. If Israel is a Democracy that cherishes freedom of religion, is it not possible that forcing Orthodox Jews to tacitly acquiesce to the validity of Reform and Conservative standards a violation of Orthodox Jews’ freedom of religion?

    2. Perhaps. I can see how they might feel that way. That is why the state should stay out of the situation. It has no business being involved in conversions, marriages, divorces or the religious aspects of death. In the US and Canada there has been a problem similar to that of the Mikvahs in Israel. The Orthodox have refused access to other movements in some places. The Conservative movement ended up building their own. In Israel this becomes complicated because you’d be discriminating between two groups since one would receive government funding so isn’t it simpler and more fair to allow the free “marketplace” to determine how people get married, worship, etc.?

    In this way, the Orthodox are not forced to acquiesce to anything.

    Since one difference between Israel and outside of Israel is that communities raise money and disperse it outside of Israel, you might end up with a complex funding problem for many institutions if you were to remove government altogether. What I would propose is that the government earmark a certain amount annually dedicated to supporting Jewish religious life. The money would be placed under the control of unaffiliated professional government employees and will be divided based on official requests from groups and some sort of complex set of rules that ensure everybody gets some. That’s how the UJA and UJF do things today, and this blind government trust would emulate them. There is room here for hanky-panky or usurpation of the rights of some to the benefit of others, but in theory you could have watchdogs and in practice I’m guessing things will more or less work properly.

    Alternatively, you could simply eliminate any funding at all. You wouldn’t do this overnight because some school systems and yeshivas would be destroyed, but you could do it over a period of a couple of years.

    3. When you talk about Orthodox rejectionism, do you mean that Orthodox Jews reject Reform and Conservative Jews or are they rejecting Reform and Conservative Judaism (pay attention, there’s a difference)? Do the Orthodox accept anyone as a Jew whose Mother is Jewish, regardless of affiliation?

    3. Both. I’ve heard and seen both types of rejectionism. The criterion that the mother should be Jewish is not the one the state of Israel uses for the right of return. This conflicts with the Rabbinate and their authority. Ethiopian Jews have been practicing as Jews for millenia, yet somehow when they get to Israel, the Rabbinate refuses to acknowledge their Jewishness and they are forced to have conversion-lite. Are their mothers Jewish? You bet. But not according to the Rabbinate. Who granted the Rabbinate the power to decide this? The state. Why? Historic accident.

    Reform Judaism accepts, in certain instances, that Judaism can be passed through the father. This makes sense to me. After all, if half the genes are mine and you’re going to go by genetics, then why shouldn’t the child be considered Jewish. Of course, the Rabbinate rejects this.

    Back to rejectionism. While the Orthodox accept any Jew who is born to a Jewish mother or who had an Orthodox conversion as Jewish, they completely reject the religious practices of other movements, their religious leadership as having any authority – and by extension authority over civic issues – and those Jews such as those who are born to a Jewish father or converts in those streams. That leaves many out in the cold. This rejectionism translates into facts on the ground. There are no Conservative government-sponsored schools in Israel but there are such Orthodox schools. There is access to the Kotel that satisfies one stream but not others. The Rabbinate can and does delay Ethiopian “conversions” for years or demands that converts become Orthodox even if their faith is not of an Orthodox nature.

    I do not expect to change Orthodox rejectionism since it is based upon their faith and practices. I respect their faith and practice and believe they should be free to practice what they believe. I merely want to surgically remove them from the government (and all other religious groups as well) so that they can’t affect people’s lives through government authority.

    I also hope, and this is a hope not a demand, that the Orthodox will understand that it’s better to have Conservative Jews and Reform Jews than no Jews. Rejectionism causes people to ask why the hell they should bother if they are going to be derided and belittled.

    The issue, in my opinion and despite many accusations from Orthodox Jews, isn’t that other movements are corrupting Jews. The issue is that history, science, enlightenment, greater mixing and ability to mix with other cultures are causing people to relate to God – AKA the supernatural – in ways that are critically different than, say, 500 years ago. You can’t impose faith on people, they either have it or they don’t. If you reject them for belonging to other groups that don’t subscribe to your beliefs, however, their resentment combined with the unbridgeable gulf in faith will cause them to seek to leave the fold. In this respect even those whom the Orthodox consider Jewish, those who are born to Jewish mothers for example, are more likely to leave Judaism and assimilate. Rejectionism hastens assimilation.

    4. Do Conservative Jews accept the validity of all Reform conversions? If not then why not? Wouldn’t that also be kind of discriminatory?

    4. They don’t. Yes, it is discriminatory. They also don’t run the Rabbinate or the Ministry of Religious Affairs and never will.

    5. Is there no difference between Haredi and Modern Orthodox standards with respect to dealings with Reform and Conservative Judaism? If there are differences, is it fair to paint both with the same brush?

    5. Misleading question. In some matters they resemble each other and in some matters they don’t. Sometimes they are painted with the same brush and sometimes they are not. On the issue of conversions, who is a Jew, mikvah use for conversions which is what this post covers, I think the two groups (broken down into many other groups) are very similar.

    I do think, however, that their manner of treating these issues differs and as ck shows in his life and actions, despite his hardass criticisms of non-Orthodox Judaism, a modern Orthodox Jew can certainly find ways to straddle the divide and find bridges with other streams.

    6. When the founding document of Reform Judaism explicitly uses the term “reject” with respect to values and beliefs held by Orthodox Jews, who is rejecting who? When a Conservative Rabbi tells a convert that it’s acceptable to ignore traditional standards and drive on the Sabbath, when a Conservative Rabbi agrees to officiate at a wedding or bar/bat mitzvah that isn’t kosher and has mixed seating thus effectively excluding Orthodox Jews, who is rejecting who?

    6. This is what the Reform say today: We are committed to the (mitzvah) of (ahavat Yisrael), love for the Jewish people, and to (k’lal Yisrael), the entirety of the community of Israel. Recognizing that (kol Yisrael arevim zeh ba-zeh), all Jews are responsible for one another, we reach out to all Jews across ideological and geographical boundaries.

    We embrace religious and cultural pluralism as an expression of the vitality of Jewish communal life in Israel and the Diaspora.

    I don’t think there’s a question that Reform and Orthodox were at odds with each other, but Reform has clearly gone through an evolution with respect to a number of issues (Israel, for example), while the Orthodox have not.

    As for your other two comments in question 6, I fail to see their meaning and think you’ve been changing the topic in questions 4 and 6 and to some extent 3. Are we talking about customs now? Because, you know, the other day the Israeli Rabbinate rejected the customs of North American Orthodox rabbis. It seems those North American rabbis don’t know what they are doing.

    The issue in this post isn’t rejection of customs, it is rejection of people and movements by a state sponsored group.

    To address your point, however, I guess my ideal would be that when you come to my house, please respect my customs even if you don’t partake. When I come to your house, I’ll do the same.

    To go a step further with respect to rejectionism, I don’t think that the Conservative rabbi considers his advice to be rejectionism. On the contrary, he will view it as pro-active and a part of Judaism no less valid than Judaism of 1000 years ago. He doesn’t deny Judaism from 1000 years ago, but posits that it can evolve. You or an Orthodox Jew might disagree that it can evolve, but that does not make his action one of rejection.

    I don’t expect an Orthodox Jew to accept mixed seating, but I reject his view that mixed seating is sinful. Can’t I respect him as a Jew and respect his customs when I’m on his turf? If he’s on my turf, he is welcome to respect my customs. If he chooses not to respect my customs, that does not mean my customs are a rejection of him or his.

    Why should one deny a positive or pro-active change such as advocating that women be treated as equals to men and deserve the same level of participation in religious society as men? Isn’t that actually overcoming exclusivity with inclusiveness. Why can’t an Orthodox guest attend a celebration and not partake of the food or request special food, or bring his own food. Isn’t the important part of the event that two people are being married or that a person is joining Jewish adulthood? Should I reject attendance at an Orthodox wedding because they only serve Aaron’s Best Kosher meat which I dislike for their slaughter and labor practices? I’ll go and partake of what I can and enjoy the wedding.

    If you have any more comments about intellectual dishonesty, let me know.

    Ta ta.

  • For the sake of accuracy: somebody claimed the Samaritans don’t accept converts. That’s not true. The fact is they accept only Jewish converts and so far more than 20 Jewish women have converted to Samaritanism since 1924 in order to marry Samaritans. At least two Russian speaking Jewesses from the former USSR were accepted into their community in recent years. In principle they accept also male Jewish converts, but since this involves a very difficult and protracted studying and adaptation process, no Jewish male is willing to go that path.

    Don’t take my word for it. Everything I’ve said here can be verified through The Samaritan Update’s issues. That’s the official Samaritan website’s e-newsletter.

  • aight some facts we should get off our chests before looking at what’s going on:

    Fact 1) Israel wouldn’t exist without support of Conservative and Reform Jews.

    Fact 2) Most of Israel is in fact secular in nature.

    Fact 3) Orthodox Jews are a parasite on Israel. They produce nothing.

    Fact 4) Even what the Orthodox Jews do is arbritary. Their interpetation of the Torah is just more stagnant than that of the Reform and Conservative movements.

    So as a result, forget what they think. If you’re a Conservative or Reform Jewish convert you are just as valid as they are. If they don’t think you are, then who cares, most of Israel thinks differently. Hopefully the high courts of Israel rule the same way.

  • As a longtime Israeli I’d like to say that labelling all Orthodox Jews in Israel parasite in a blanket manner is an enormous misrepresentation of reality. There are two categories to account for here: ultra-Orthodox (“Haredi”) and “mere” Orthodox (“Dati”).
    Within the ultra-Orthodox sector, we must distinguish between the majority that doesn’t do military service and doesn’t participate in the work force on the one hand, and those ultra-Orthodox who do perform military service and actually work for their living in non-religious specific professions on the other.
    The Orthodox “Dati” sector invariably contributes to Israeli society in both ways.

    As for the way Orthodox Rabbis interpret the Torah, or rather the Talmud, in some senses it is still evolving with each prominant rabbi from every stream occasionally adding rulings onto their predecessors’, though I wholeheartedly agree their rulings have a proscriptive bent that unnecessarily overburdens the lives of ordinary Jews. This nonetheless isn’t IMO a compelling reason to choose a Reform or Conservative (or Reconstructionist or Renewal) mode of observance. If you strive to adhere to the Torah the best you can, you should seriously consider the Karaite option. They believe in a patrilineal lineage too and ignore all the Orthodox strictures that have no actual foundation in the Torah, e.g. meat and dairy separation, discrimination of women, daily Tefilin binding. This path is certainly not the convenient way to go but rather the correct way. I’ve read someone’s account of his transition from Reform to Karaite. It’s doable. Conversion to Judaism the Karaite way is easier and a much shorter process than Orthodox conversion and can be done in the US and easily gain recognition from a Karaite certification authority. Karaite immigrants to Israel are recognized as Jewish by the State of Israel just the same as Orthodox Jews.

Leave a Comment