The previous post about ritual immersion in Israel raises some interesting questions. It implies that Reform and Conservative Jews are systematically barred from using Mikvehs, or ritual baths, in Israel. This assertion is based on yet another stellar article from YNetNews. The article was vague on details and, as we have come to expect, poorly written. Neither the Jerusalem Post, nor Haaretz have seen fit to run this story.

What is clear is that the implication that Reform or Conservative Jews are barred from using Mikvehs in Israel, or anywhere else for that matter, is patently false. While admission to a mikveh is ordinarily restricted to Jews, there is no test applied – a simple assertion that one is Jewish is enough to gain entry.

Reform Judaism’s governing bodies renounced any requirement for ritual immersion more than a hundred years ago in the Pittsburgh Platform of 1885 which stated: “We recognize in the Mosaic legislation a system of training the Jewish people for its mission during its [ancient] national life in Palestine, and 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.” In 1977 Rabbi Walter Jacob commented that “the custom has fallen into disuse….Ritual immersion has completely ceased to be practiced for niddah and is followed only by a small percentage [of Jews] within the Orthodox community”

Along with circumcision and the acceptance of mitzvot, American Reform Judaism has dispensed with the requirement for immersion in the conversion process. There are some Reform Rabbis in Canada and Israel who do require some ritual and observance, but they are the minority and the situation is the same as it was at the inception of Reform Judaism – converts are accepted “without any initiatory rite, ceremony, or observance whatever.” Thus did Reform Judaism reject outright all the standards of halachic Judaism and compell halachically observant Jews into a state of rejectionism.

Conservative Judaism still officially requires immersion in a mikveh under similar circumstances as Orthodox Judaism. Issac Klein’s A Guide to Jewish Religious Practice contains chapters on the laws of women’s immersion following menstruation and childbirth. Any fair observer will note however that, except for conversions, the practice of ritual immersion is no longer practiced by the vast majority of Conservative Jews.

Both Reform and Conservative Judaism have, of late, seen increased interest in ritual immersion and there are at least 2 Reform built mikvehs – one at Temple Israel in West Bloomfield, MI, and one at the Canadian Centre for Reform Judaism in Toronto. These are mostly used by converts and brides but they are also used (albeit rarely) by women after niddah. Niddah lasts as long as the menstrual flow, about 4-5 days. Orthodox Jews then count an additional 7 days before a woman can go to the Mikveh, whereas many contemporary Conservative and Reform scholars dispense with the 7 day period.

So. Back to the YNet article. The facts are that anyone claiming to be Jewish may use any Mikveh. In Israel, all public Mikvehs are run by Orthodox Jews. They are the ones that build, administer and use these institutions on a daily basis. The only time there is an issue is in the case of conversion. In most conversion rituals, the Rabbis granting the conversion are part of the immersion process. While they don’t directly observe the immersion out of modesty, they are around in order to confirm that the immersion took place.

Mikvehs run according to Orthodox standards take umbrage in allowing Conservative and Reform Rabbis, who do not respect Orthodox standards, to use their facilities. This is similar to not allowing someone who opposes and refuses to follow the rules of kashrut, the use of your kitchen. Nothing, of course prevents Reform and Conservative Jews from building their own Mikvehs. However given how little use such a mikveh would get, and how few Jews in Israel are affiliated with Reform and Conservative Judaism, it is no wonder that none have been built yet.

Also, despite what the YNet article claims, there are alternatives that do not require immersion in the sea. Any body of water will do and Israel is dotted with many little rivers, springs and lakes that are used for such purposes. One needn’t brave salt water in the winter. Granted it’s not as comfortable as a heated indoor mikveh, but if it was good enough for our ancestors… Also, Kibbutz Hanaton, a Conservative Kibbutz, has a mikveh that can be used for Conservative or Reform conversions in Israel. Again, anyone claiming to be Jewish can use any mikveh at any time for any purpose other than conversion.

The YNet article lacks any and all nuance and serves only to incite anti-Orthodox sentiment. As to the question of who dissed who, one group of rabbis formed movements whose raison d’etre is the complete rejection of another group of rabbis cherished standards. Why do they continue to whine and complain about the logical results of such rejectionism? No one is telling them not to practice however they see fit – but they should not expect Orthodox institutions to accomodate practices and values that expressly reject Orthodox standards.

That having been said, whille I fully believe that Ynets quote attributed to the minister in charge of the Religious Affairs, MK Yitzhak Cohen (Shas) was cherry picked and used to create as much offense as possible, Cohen ought to have been a bit less impolitic. His angry response only serves to give ammunition to those who seek to discredit halachic Judaism.

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ck

Founder and Publisher of Jewlicious, David Abitbol lives in Jerusalem with his wife, newborn daughter and toddler son. Blogging as "ck" he's been blocked on twitter by the right and the left, so he's doing something right.

43 Comments

  • Except, and correct me if I’m wrong about this, ck, Israel isn’t Poland or the United States, is it? Not only aren’t they Jewish states, but they don’t give authority over public structures paid for by all tax-payers (don’t worry, I won’t go down the path of who the primary tax payers are) to one particular community which then takes that authority and shuns citizens and other members of different Jewish communities who don’t meet its criteria as Jews.

  • Dude. The Great Synagogue in Jerusalem is paid for by taxpayers too. However, if I wanted to have a bar mitzvah ceremony there officiated by a Conservative or Reform Rabbi, where men and women sat together, I would not be allowed to do so. What’s the big surprise?

    As for your links, nothing justifies violence and individual acts of assault ought not be used to cast aspersions at an entire community. It’s not like Orthodox rabbis have issued a fatwah against anyone. Sheesh.

  • ck, cut it out. You are reduced to besmirching Yediot as a source, accepting the use of Israeli taxpayer money to discriminate openly against Jews who don’t belong to a particular sector of believers, seeking to adjust the reprehensible comments of a minister in a Jewish government who is not only dismissing an entire segment of Judaism but essentially calling them non-Jews, and again, as you did with the Western Wall discussion, accepting the status quo and promoting it even when there is a clear injustice involved. If the ocean and river are so good, let the Conservative and Reform use the government sponsored mikvehs and others can go to natural bodies of water. Alternatively, be decent and give them, say, one day a week or two where they can use the mikveh and those who reject them will know not to come. The alternative is simply to accept the lie that they are not Jews. That’s what this means, ck, that they are not of the same “quality” as those who run things.

  • The logic of “Israel isn’t Poland or the US” can be reversed.

    The US is NOT a Jewish country. Israel is. Hence, at least when it comes to those things whose origins are Jewish, such as synagogues, mikvas, etc., one would expect the government of Israel to support and promote only genuine Jewish institutions.

    Of course, there’s the rub. What constitutes genuine Judaism? G-d knows. Jews knew for 1000s of years. Unfortunately, historical events took place over the last 200 years that have separated millions of Jews from one another, not over miniscule and irrelevant points but rather over the essencial fundamentals of Judaism.

    There is no room in the Torah to ignore or tolerate heresy, especially when intentional and blatant. You can pretend that there is room but that doesn’t change the truth.

    I can easily depict the Israeli government fully recognizing the reform and conservative deviant movements as fully authentic representatives of Judaism. This will further split our people.

    Sadly, I anticipate that Jews will once again begin registering their family lineage in sifrei yuchsin, as they did at the time of Ezra Hanavi because of similar circumstances of introducing non-Jewish spouses into Jewish communities in the land of Israel.

  • umm, after the article ynet wrote about Jewlicious (The article was more full or errors than facts, despite a long interview with ck), I fully believe that besmirching Ynet as a source is totally legit.

  • Oy Middle… I am not reduced to anything. YNetNews is not exactly the New York Times. I mean what the hell does this paragraph mean:

    “Back in 2005 the chairman of the Israel Religious Action Center turned to the Authority of Religious Affairs director, Meir Spiegler, but nothing has changed since.”

    And what of the private mikkvah issue in the next paragraph? can we have some context? As to your suggestion that Conservative/Reform Jews be allowed to use public mikvehs twice a week – again, they can use them any time at all – except for conversions. And they all have a perfectly good Conservative mikveh at Kibbutz Hanaton.

    In any case – no reduction at all. My post was nuanced, informative and certainly fairer than anything YNetNews has presented. You want to call the status quo discriminatory, well then so be it. Religion is not democracy and this is one of the difficult aspects of living in the “Jewish” State. Reform and Conservative Jews are not part of the day to day goings on of the state. Special privileges given to religious Jews upon the founding of the state were given to Orthodox Jews only, reflecting the fact that they were the only ones present (remember Berlin is the new Jerusalem). Israel does indeed discriminate and the level of religious involvement in civil matters is one that if it took place in the US or Canada, I would oppose. But this is a Jewish State. It’s a different situation. Reform and Conservative Jews are welcome to institute change by moving to Israel en masse or lobbying the government. Until there is a large enough mass of such individuals, Orthodox Jews are right to not allow those who do not respect their standards to use their physical facilities. Again, is it discriminatory for me to not allow Reform Jews to use my synagogue and my kitchen? No. I don’t think so.

  • Mikvehs run according to Orthodox standards take umbrage in allowing Conservative and Reform Rabbis, who do not respect Orthodox standards, to use their facilities. This is similar to not allowing someone who opposes and refuses to follow the rules of kashrut, the use of your kitchen.

    Yeah, sure, but your kitchen is a private area that you can administer as you see fit. The government doesn’t subsidize your kitchen (well, it may subsidize YOURS for all Muffti knows…) It’s a fairly specious analogy so far as Muffti can tell.

    You are right to point out that all sorts of religious organizations get special funding (for no good reason) from their government. So the real question is a deeper one: when should public funds be given to organizations that use the funds and discriminate against members of the public (who help pay for those funds)? The usual answer is that it is ok when the discrimination is beneficial for the whole: we pay for public hospitals but Muffti can’t go and demand a blood transfusion for fun becuase the organization benefits the society as a whole and Muffti would be abusing the organization. CAn any similar sort of justification be mounted here, for letting a certain group have public funds and then allow them to bar certaiun practices?

    Perhaps it can; but Muffti takes it that that justification is the real question lurking here.

    And Laya is right; Ynet besmiriching is legit for the time being as far as Muffti can tell. Especially after the all out war launched on the Jerusalem Post by members of this site!

  • OK muffti – remember my synagogue in Chomedey? Tax payer money went into building it. The government also supports it by allowing donations made to the synagogue to be tax deductible. Despite that, our synagogue has rules and no one, not even a member, can violate those rules. Consequently, one cannot have a service there officiated by a Reform Rabbi with mixed seating and serve or prepare food that wasn’t strictly kosher. The same applies to any synagogue in Israel that receives government funding. In both cases, aggrieved parties cannot claim that they are being discriminated against. In fact, any attempt to impose more egalitarian access would be considered an infringement on the right to practice one’s religion.

    Reform and Conservative Jews in Israel have other options. They can use the mikveh at the Conservative kibbutz Hanaton for conversions. For more regular uses, all public mikvehs in Israel are open to anyone claiming to be Jewish. You don’t have to present a membership card. You do not need to be referred by a Rabbi.

    Honestly, the Conservative and Reform movements should really focus inwardly rather than charge at windmills. Who really gives a shit about nidah and mikvehs? The vast majority of my Reform and Conservative birthright kids hadn’t even heard of a mikveh. I think they ought to focus on providing a better quality of Jewish education to their charges. I understand why they don’t though. I know dozens of young Jews who were taught at day schools and who, once freed from the shackles of the insipid and lacklustre education they received, left their movements and became more Orthodox. I’m sure there’s a lesson in there somewhere…

  • ck,

    The “lesson” in there is not to extrapolate globally from personal anecdotes. I know formerly Orthodox yeshivah bachers who run around town desecrating every halacha you can think of — but I’m not making global conclusions on Orthodoxy as a result (okay, maybe a little bit…).

    If you have statistical evidence to show that most Conservative day school students become Orthodox — and that they became Orthodox despite, not because of, what they learned about Judaism in day school — then show it. I’d be curious to see whether those numbers exceed the numbers of Conservative day school graduates living committed Jewish lives outside Orthodoxy.

    I’m actually surprised you’re going off on day schools, one of the few successful Jewish educational institutions in North America. Going off on after-school Hebrew school or “Sunday school” is fine, but day schools? Come on.

  • I’ve stopped and started to respond about four times today. I’ve enjoyed a fairly positive online life wrt being a convert and having converted in the reform movement.

    I can only speak from what I’ve seen in Chicago at my shul.

    1. Every convert I know went to mikvah. We are welcomed at the conservative mikvah in town. Before it was built, we were allowed to use one of the orthodox mikvahs–but every convert was told by the attendant and by a sign that their conversion didn’t count.

    2. I know that I won’t change the minds of any orthodox about whether or not their recognize my conversion or respect my shul. If 100 years of learned rabbis can’t, how will I? Doesn’t mean I haven’t gone head to head with an orthodox rabbi, but I have more important things to do than fight a hundred year old fight with another jew.

    3. I considered all movements when deciding where my conversion should be supervised. Why reform? I felt the conservative movement’s program was too cookie cutter and wedding focused. As a single jew with no particular timeline, that didn’t appeal to me. Also, there seems to me to be more of a “wink wink” attitude in the conservative movement. I didn’t choose orthodox b/c at this point in my life, I can’t commit to an orthodox life. Why start my jewish life with lies to a beit din? “Yeah, sure I’ll keep a kosher home. NOT.” I chose reform because it places responsibility on understanding jewish law and tradition on me. I study and decide where I’m at in relation to halacha. Yeah, I said it, halacha.

    4. The mikvah is one of the most meaningful experiences in the whole conversaion process. Not an issue of purity, but a question of signing a contract. Of separation from my past, but not cutting myself off from my past. I blogged all about my mikvah experience here as a way of sharing with other people converting in the reform movement.

    5. Occasionally I wonder if I’ll convert again, many people do over the course of their lives. At this point, I don’t think I will.

    6. One of the best stories/lessons in our tradition is “not yet.” Do you lay teffelin? Not yet. It leaves room for us to change and grow in our Jewish observance.

  • EV,

    Conservative Day Schools are awful. They are centers of JAP culture, and G-d help you if you are a middle and working class kids among them. Trust me, I know. They should do everyone a favor, and only accept students from the very wealthiest Jewish families. For everyone else attending, it is hell. The absolute very worst composite of all possibilities American Jewish culture has to offer.

  • I think ck really misses the point. If the Orthodox want a mikvah, they can build it too with their own money. These are supposed to be public institutions. To make such a statement is to act in a sinfully prideful manner.

    To lambaste the “handpicking” of a certain quote as irrellevant, and then bring out your own quote from a rabbi in 1977 is rather ironic.

    Continuing, I would be impressed to see the quote, from Reform Religious SOURCES that says explicitly states that circumcision is no longer a requirement of Judaism. Though I am conservative (and as soon as you read that, you’ll likely not read anything else I write because you look down upon me), I was raised reform and have never heard of Anything like that.

    How do you promote religious and spiritual growth by exclusion? Why do you think so many Israelis are turned off by the religious? It is exactly CK’s attitude toward the “secular” Jews that causes such strife and separation. As I said, I am reform from birth, and growing. I may someday end up fully “observant” but I would never cast myself as Orthodox, because just as secular means to Orthodox “heretic,” Orthodox to me means “xenophobe.”

  • DK,

    I agree that the economics aspect sucks terribly, but that doesn’t speak to the educational quality.

  • Leah, in case you care, I became kosher-eating in middle age and it is not hard.

    The rabbi who koshered our oven said, “eventually, His will becomes more important than your will”.

    Eating kosher is an all-the-time reminder or tickler that you “know before whom you stand”. With every nosh, I think a bracha, the right bracha for the food, which is not hard to learn, and I remember before Whom I stand. I send a “thought-arrow to Hashem”.

    Yes, it becomes a little awkward to hang with people who do not eat kosher, though not quite impossible, but it does draw a line between you and them. That can be overcome by just having coffee and Entenmann’s cake, arriving after dinner. They get hurt, but they also respect you. And, the point is to meet, and marry one of, the people who are in the Torah-serious,-even-when-it-is-inconvenient, life.

    The same goes for chilling on Saturday and not turning on electrical things. It’s just not that hard, not with today’s gadgets to keep food warm, timers, etc. You plan a little. Big deal. And the peace inside is worth it. I find it reasonable that I would have to exert myself to attain that peace. It is logical to me to have to work for something good. You get out of it what you bring to it.

    The Orthodox mentality has G-d right there with you, every ordinary day, all day, in a way not like the other streams. It is something you never “master and go on from”. You never come to the end of it, there is always a level of insight and study above you, and I find that interesting.

  • DK, post 14, oy. Sympathy.

    People should not be fancy. They should just be cute and use fresh cilantro and dill in their cooking and not hate men. The marriage proposals will pour in to those who tidy up a little, don’t wear sneakers ALL the time, and simply: do not hate men. Nobody likes to be hated. Surprise, surprise.

  • The “educational quality” fits in perfectly with the Conservative Movement’s bullshit, except it is intensified, and therefore much worse.

    1) Never ending urgent claims about being “traditional” AND egalitarian

    2) The beauty and compassion of liberal, elitist Jews teaching their students way past ad nauseum about the March of Selma, and portraying that and Heschel specifically as a junior partner of Martin Luther King jr. He was not. They were not partners. They make it look like he was a much bigger player than the gypsy role he actually performed.

    3) Holocaust, holocaust, holocaust, and then, Out of the Ashes, kinderlach, it’s

    4) Zionism Time! Hey — let’s learn about the importance of the kibbutz movement. Pleeeeease, can we please learn about it again? One more time? Pleeeeeease?

    It is not for most American Jews, EV. It is for a very limited group of suburban rich Jews. Even educationally. even if many American Jews do not disagree with these platforms, they don’t want to delve into it over and over again at the expense of other educational opportunities.

  • We could home-school a little. Bring back tutoring at home by yeshiva bochers.

    But if I post too often Michael will get mad so I will shut up.

  • DK, I agree. There is socialism (more or less dead) and Judaism (eternal). No, they are not the same. It is ok we helped the African Americans, but quite rightly, they took that onto their own shoulders, and invited us to go back to our own concerns, such as: Mommy, what is a mikvah? Have you ever been to one? Does it hurt? Eeeewh. MEN go to a mikvah too? Really????? Er, why?

  • That wasn’t my experience. I learned Hebrew ‘n chumash ‘n rashi ‘n shit. And it was Conservative. Once again, your letting your misogynistic, racist rage cloud your childhood memories, DK my boy.

    And really, I’m sorry if your Conservative day school allowed black women to cut the tip of your penis off. But you’ve gotta let it go.

  • Home schooled kids are weird. It’s no secret. Kids need to be socialized very early, otherwise they are creepy mama’s boys and daddy’s girls or whatever other permutation thereof. And yea, day schools are pretty limited in their scope and torturous, from what I’ve heard.
    Jewish Mother, don’t censor yourself. There is a time and place for pearls of wisdom about fresh cilantro.

  • I don’t see why you can’t socialize homeschooled kids by having a network of families who get together regularly, throwing their children into one place and keeping an eye on things vaguely, all different ages. Yes, you would have to work at it. It wouldn’t be done for you, as at a school.

    I don’t hate schools. A good one is great. A home-schooling mentality can supplement a school. There are simply some people who just do not jolly well HAVE the money for certain kinds of schools and might HAVE to figure out a Plan B and it might not be so very terrible! Yes, it would take grit and consitency. Well, you are earning the un-spent tuition money. So sweat. Guidance is probably available. I mean, is it? Serious Jewish-content homeschooling materials?

    You need a serious, scheduled day, and mutual enthusiasm between parent and kid.

  • (Some kinds of socialization are better off done without, perhaps. Fill in the blanks.)

  • EV,
    I don’t doubt the veracity of your anecdotal evidence. Allow me then to respond with substantive points.

    United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism executive vice president Rabbi Jerome Epstein once publicly admitted that “many of the most committed products of our movement end up joining Orthodox synagogues.” Conservative in practice allows convenience and popular sentiment to trump the halachic standards it pays lip service to. Many committed to Conservative Jewish ideals can’t help but notice the difference between theory and the reality on the ground.

    According to the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey, a mere 29% of Conservative Jews buy only kosher meat. Only 15% consider themselves Sabbath observant (even by Conservative standards). A 1996 JTS study noted that a majority of young Conservative-affiliated Jews polled said that it was “all right for Jews to marry people of other faiths.” Nearly three-quarters of Conservative Jews said that they consider a Jew to be anyone raised Jewish, even if his or her mother was a gentile—the official Reform position, rejected by Conservative leaders as nonhalachic. Only half of Conservative Bar and Bat Mitzvah receptions were kosher, by any standard. Add to that recent statistics that show a 38% intermarriage rate amongst Conservative Jews – and then tell me I am being unfair.

    It’s not news that the Conservative movement is in trouble. Most of its harshest critics come from within their own ranks. There’s nothing new in anything I said.

  • ck,

    Stay on topic. You brought up day schools, and I responded about day schools. Now you’re talking about the movement in general. I’m not in the mood to get into a larger discussion re. Conservative Judaism or re. your determiners of Jewish commitment (all of them Orthodox-based criteria, therefore syllogistic) b/c it’s nice outside and I wanna go to the gym and get BUFF. But as for day schools, a minority — the highly committed (and admittedly financially secure) minority — of Conservative Jews attend them. If day schools were somehow made universal, the Conservative movement would be in less difficult straits today. But day schools themselves — the institution you brought up — are largely a success.

  • JM, if by “some kinds of socialization” you mean sex, drugs, and Hip-Hop, I beg to differ. It’s all part of the growing up experience, plus it’s fun. What you are suggesting is not only impracticable for many families with two income households, it sounds totally boring. I think for a child to meet a new teacher and some new classmates every year sounds much healthier and more interesting. Even if you have a group of families you socialize with, it gets old. Socializing with certain people is for the playground and for the weekend barbecues. Kids need to be away from their parents after a certain point. I say this as a kid, not as a parent.
    And, I dunno, your suggestion that home schooling is the alternative to private school is a little elitist. I am the product of 12 years of public schools and I turned out just fine. I loved the diversity of my high school class. If I had been insulated in a Jewish community my whole life, I might have gone nuts.

  • Mikvehs run according to Orthodox standards take umbrage in allowing Conservative and Reform Rabbis, who do not respect Orthodox standards, to use their facilities. This is similar to not allowing someone who opposes and refuses to follow the rules of kashrut, the use of your kitchen. —

    No, it’s not similar at all. Does the immersion of a Reform or Conservative Jew treyf the mikvah, the same way a ham sandwich would treyf a kosher kitchen?

    In the Chicago area, most Reform do require mikvah immersion and the conversions are such that Conservative will accept. Many Reform women are beginning to add the mikvah (there is a Conservative one in the northern suburbs) to their practice.

  • Suzanne-

    The conservative mikvah is lovely. Carol is the most caring woman and makes every trip meaningful–which is what going to mikvah is really about anyway.

  • Suzanne, the comparison between Mikvahs and a kitchen is that showing any form of legitimacy to phoney conversions is like cooking ham in a kosher kitchen because a swine, too, appears kosher from the outside, having split hooves.

    Baptising Christians in a mikvah also doesn’t “treyf” up the mikveh.

    Irregardless of whether my comparison is accurate or not, either case of such intentional misuse of a mikveh is a Chilul Hashem – a desecration of G-d’s name.

    Boker Tov to all and Chag Sameach to the Jewish posters here. 🙂

  • I see no reason why there can’t be Orthodox Day Schools that cater to secular kids. Aleph Bais has value, and so do the classic Commentaries. There could be a strict line between secular and religious studies, and secular Jewish courses as well as religious ones, particularly for the older students.

    There is no reason for these deviant movements. Most of the people I know have no problem finding deviation on their own.

    I was taught in my music education that we interpret the same piece of music differently, according to our own interpretation. But the score remains the same.

    This made sense to me in religion as well.

    But then I would be handed a siddur with all these cheesy new edits, and told that it was now a good thing to daven differently– in an egalitarian setting, with upbeat new blessings, etc.

    I found it disrespectful, disrespectful in a terminally boring way. I still do. It amazes me anyone finds that stuff compelling. And sure enough –most don’t. Not very. They get their kid bar/bat mitzvahed, and that’s it til the next lifecycle event.

    Where is the gain promised to so many? Of greater affinity for Judaism with all these changes?

    Nowhere. Not for most. There is no gain. Only loss.

    So bring in the guitars. Bring in the change. Bring in the inclusion.

    And then fool yourselves that the little chevra there on a Friday night is the norm, and signals something much larger than what it really is, particularly when you eliminate all the families preparing for their kid’s bar/bat mitzvah.

    Judaism is about inner struggle. When it instead becomes a springboard for integration of the dominant secular culture with a solution oriented approach to eliminate the friction, there is no reason to continue. Some call it progress, but it is surrender. And surrender is not the most compelling of legacies. Not when you are a small minority.

  • Suzanne – see how confusing that article was? No one said that Reform or Conservative Jews couldn’t use Orthodox run Mikvehs. Anyone can use the mikvehs. The only issue is the use of Mikvehs by Conservative or Reform Rabbis in conversion ceremonies. If the Orthodox allowed their institutions to be used in such a way, they would be implicitly condoning Conservative and Reform Rabbis and their standards – which they don’t. It would be like saying it’s ok for a Jew to drive on the Sabbath, its ok to not believe in the Oral law or Torah Me Sinai. For an Orthodox Jew, such things are anathema. That having been said, Conservative and Reform Jews may individually use the mikveh in any way they see fit.

    EV – please note, the standards I mentioned were Conservative standards hence not syllogistic. Conservative Judaism requires a certain measure of kashrut, does not encourage mixed marriages, requires the maintenance of family purity laws, believes in patrilineal descent etc. Those are Conservative values. Conservative Judaism claims to be halachic, so I’m just calling a spade a spade.

    I’m not opposed to Conservative day schools. I just think they need to do a better job educating their charges. I mean how do you go through any Jewish Day School and not know what Massada is? Or what a mikvah is? Or teffilin? Or even the most basic rudimentary facts of Jewish history?

    Boomer – my quote wasn’t meant to deride anyone. It represented a concise statement by a leading Conservative Rabbi on the state of immersion in Conservative Judaism. That the vast bulk of Conservative Jews rarely if ever make use of a mikveh is simply a statement of fact. As for circumcision, I never mentioned anything relating to that but for the record most Conservative and Reform Rabbis support circumcision with a small percentage of Reform rabbis allowing for an alternative Brit Shalom ceremony for those Jews who do not wish to circumcise their sons.

    As for my attitude towards secular Jews, well, my many “secular” friends and acquaintances will tell you that I am many things, but xenophobic and exclusionary are not terms that will come up. I never pussyfoot about my opinions but I respect everyone.

  • Oy Shy Guy. Why do you insist on being so confrontational? Perhaps your command of the English language is not so great so allow me to say my peace. When you use the term phoney conversion, you are implying that the Conservatiive or Reform Rabbis officiating are insincere – ie they know that the conversion is illegitimate and they are pulling a fast one on the convert. While I have issues with such conversions I would never deny the sincerity of those involved. Consequently I also feel the use of the term Chilul Hashem is grossly inapropriate.

    Are you trying to engage people you disagree with in productive dialogue or are you simply out to bash anyone that disagrees with you? Which way do you feel the Torah would have you go? Which way best represents the values of derech eretz? or veahvta lreacha kamocha? Or ahavat chinam? How are we ever going to rebuild beit hamikdash with attitudes like that? I don’t mean to sound harsh but perhaps you may want to consider that over the holiday. Chag Sameach!

  • ck, my command of English is sufficient enough. When I use the phrase “phoney conversion”, I mean the conversion is phoney. I am not referring to the people involved, who may very well be the most sincere and wonderful people around – both the converters and the convertees.

    However, as I said yesterday, good intentions do not a Jew from a non-Jew make. I hope that clarifies for once and for all that I am not referring to the personalities of any persons involved.

    As for Chilul Hashem, any false conversion, whether performed in an orthodox managed mikveh or in one similarly owned by non-orthodox Jews or in a river, for that matter, are all Chilulei Hashem.

    I love my fellow Jews – all of them – but I will defend the Torah from those that defile it. In matter that blatantly go against the Torah, such as the heresy of the reform and conservative movements, I will not hesitate to point it out.

    While there are no nice words to say about deviations from Judaism (other than pity, shame, etc.), there’s plenty of wondeful things to say about all Jews, and plenty of non-Jews, for that matter.

    I would love for nothing more than the unity of us all. That is how we encamped at Har Sinai, Keh’Ish Echad B’lev Echad, like one person with one heart, on these very days before receiving the Torah at Har Sinai over 3000 years ago.

    Some of us Jews have clung to G-d’s commandments to us at that time through thick and thin. Only 200 and 100 years ago, did a group of first class heretics tear our nation apart, with disasterous consequences.

    I’ve already mentioned that almost everybody today who have followed these heretical movements most likely have a din of a “tinok-shenishba”. At least I sure hope so. I sincerely feel sorry for them all. There is no sin’at chinam here for any person on my part. There is sinah betzedek for the sects that have led them astray.

    If I were a blog author, the last thing I would like to deal with are such topics. But if someone else begins to delegitimize Judaism, I will respond.

    For the record, there’s tons wrong with the orthodox Jewish world, from Israel’s political parties to this and that rabbi’s personal scandals.

    I would gladly participate in constructive criticism of such matters for the bettrement of Judaism but not when the goals of those that join in the chorus is to destroy authentic Judaism to justify their own deviations.

    Must be going – to the mikveh actually – Erev Yom Tov.

    Yitamu Chata’im Min Ha’aretz U’reshaim Od Einam, Barchee Nafshee Et Hashem Haleluya.Chata’im” velo “Chot’im”, said Chazal. That day will yet come. May it be in our lifetime.

  • You’ll note I haven’t commented on this thread, or much at all lately, because for all the talk of “respectful” and “gentle,” all it takes is a two-minute read to understand that there’s dissent, elitism, contentiousness and inter-denominational resentment at work. It’s like saying “no offense, but everything you believe is a waste of time.” (“No offense” is ALWAYS followed by something offensive; similarly “with all due respect” is seldom followed by the promised respect.) It hurts my heart to read threads like this one, where everyone believes they’re right and feels free to deride others for their differing beliefs…it ceases to be productive as a discussion, so I opt out.

    That said, I have to respond to this.

    CK said: I’m not opposed to Conservative day schools. I just think they need to do a better job educating their charges. I mean how do you go through any Jewish Day School and not know what Massada is? Or what a mikvah is? Or teffilin? Or even the most basic rudimentary facts of Jewish history? I agree that if this is true, this is appalling. But I doubt very much that it is true of Conservative Day Schools. Once or twice a week Hebrew schools–Orthodox, Conservative or Reform–are inherently flawed as a system, but if a child is going to Solomon Schechter, I assure you that he or she knows what tefillin is, what happened at Masada and what a mikvah is. S/he might not know all the Talmudic discussion of niddah, but I would say most Orthodox day school grads don’t know (or don’t retain) that info, either. To generalize about what Conservative schools do or don’t teach without experiencing it is ignorant. No offense.

  • Seriously, ck. Please back that up about Conservative day school graduates not knowing what Massada/mikveh/tefillin are. I really don’t know what Conservative day school you’re referring to. Please, at least send me the address and phone number. They deserve a call!

  • Ofri, post 29, I only meant that Jewish Education Plan B Homeschooling was something that might be useful, some of the time, for some people, maybe. I do not hate schools at all, including public schools. In fact, if your kids are in public school, and you want them to have Jewish knowledge, and you don’t like or can’t afford formal Jewish training such as Hebrew or Sunday schools, well, you are going to have to home school, after regular school.

    Trying to replace an institution is no joke. But some people may still do that, for their own reasons. Who has thirty grand a year?

    It is beyond belief what you can teach children at home, especially by not teaching, but just by talking, doing, putting up imagery on the walls at their eye level, and above all, “LEAVE IT LYING AROUND”.

    A print-rich environment, with stuff left strategically lying around: the child picks up whatever reading material catches his eye, and you say, later, oh, is that intersting? Then you let him teach YOU with shining eyes, while you say, blank faced, Really! Oh. Hmm.

    They learn best that way, when they don’t even know they are learning. Stay out of the way!

    Oh, raising kids is so much fun…..

    I did not mean to be elitist. We must wiggle the best we can. Everybody is terribly poor today and does not know it or want to admit it. That is terrible.

    A household with one overworked man and a domestic woman has a higher gross income than the same people both employed. Why? Because when they are both working, he doesn’t work til he drops, and she needs to look nice, and get to work. Clothes and transportation. And, they order food in because she is too tired to cook.

    Look at the immigrants from poor countries … they buy a house in five years. And that is how they live. The woman as moral/cultural/educational base camp was and still is a very real thing. The lack of that is huge. Her salary does not bring it back.

    THAT may be the hidden reason why school costs thirty grand a year. That is what she was worth, when she was home.

    Did I say life was perfect? We are not in the Garden of Eden.

  • Jewish Mother-

    I agree that the bulk of Jewish learning has to come from the parents. I love the families I see in my shul with kids who love their judaism, who continue to chant torah after their bar/bat mitzvot. Then I visit their homes and I see why. The homes are fantastically Jewish. Judaica, books, mezuzot (yep, in lots of the reform households we have ’em.)

    I wish all adult jews could go through the learning I went through leading up to my conversion. I learned at 27 what everyone else (typically) stopped learning at 13. I have an adult relationship to judaism as an adult and they have a child’s relationship to judaism as an adult. My born Jewish friends jokingly, but not so much joking, that they won’t send their kids to Hebrew school but to study with me.

    I think the key is “Do that you might learn” and not the other way around. Just do Jewish and eventually, you’ll (the kids) learn Jewish.

    (Um, so, this is me agreeing with JM in case that was confusing.)

  • JM, that’s an interesting take on single income households. I bet ther is a lot of truth in what you say, but I doubt it holds true for households of parents with no formal education. Also, as much as I love the idea of being a full time stay at home mother, it’s not for every woman. It should be her choice, and she shouldn’t feel guilty for choosing a career, although most invariably do (feel guilty).
    As for home schooling kids, every parent should home school their children outside the framework of their institutional education, no? Children should always be learning something. Incidentally, at home is where I believe all the Jewish education should take place. And in beit hakneset, if the family is so inclined. Otherwise, if it’s so important to have a full time Jewish education, move to Israel and raise your kids there. Just my opinion. And for the record, I do think American public education is in shambles, but I personally had a very good public education.

  • Thank you for saying that, Leah. For all the convert bashing going on here, it’s fairly well known (in my community at least) that those who come into Judaism in adulthood have a much deeper understanding of and relationship with all that Jewish stuff than many of the born Jews who go through the motions.

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