Yesterday they were doing it to non-Orthodox Jews in Israel and outside of Israel. Today, they are doing it to Orthodox Jews outside of Israel. Tomorrow they’ll do it to…

A reminder to:
those of us who justified the exclusion of Conservative and Reform Jews from influence over religious life in Israel or acceptance of their rabbis and rabbis’ rulings by claiming that a line must be drawn somewhere with tradition;
those who claimed that if a line isn’t drawn, it is clear that Judaism will wither and die;
those who suggested that it is clear the Orthodox preserve Judaism and have been the only stewards of our traditions to preserve our religion —

— it seems you are now victims of your own claims.

It appears that the Israeli Rabbinate has now determined that this line which determines what is Jewish and what is not rests in Israel with them. In what can only be described as a FUCK YOU to Orthodox rabbis outside of Israel, the Rabbinate has determined that it shall no longer accept their conversions or divorce decrees.

That’s right, you could convert with the strictest Orthodox rabbi this side of the Atlantic, and unless your rabbi is in on the Israeli Rabbinate’s list of fifty pre-approved rabbis, your conversion is worth about as much as a pig’s foot in a kosher butcher shop. If you seek to live in Israel or have your children marry an Israeli Jew, you will have to convert all over again. If you’re a woman who has battled with your husband for years to receive a get (divorce decree that the man has to give a woman), you had better not move to Israel because in Israel you are not divorced yet. You had better start negotiating again – not to worry, you can be sure your ex husband will be thrilled to take you to the cleaners once more.

The other day, people here were justifying how the Israeli Rabbinate was compelling Ethiopian Jews to convert to Judaism despite their having millenia of Jewish traditions and faith as their pedigree. Well, I can only hope that those who were making these claims are not North American Orthodox converts, cuz you’re in for the same treatment.

I encourage the North American Orthodox community to join forces with the Conservative and Reform movements in trying to impress upon Israeli politicians to compel the Rabbinate to change this new policy. The Conservative and Reform movements have plenty of experience, but little heft in Israel. Perhaps the North American Orthodox can add this necessary heft. Another approach would be to urge Israel to remove Israeli Rabbinate control over civic matters in Israel altogether. While that may not help within your communities whenever a North American moves to Israel, it will at least ensure that by Israeli law, your wives, husbands, children and parents are not penalized for being…Orthodox, but from the wrong side of the tracks.

Oh, if you’re in Israel and you’re Modern Orthodox you can rest assured that you’re next. Expect your rabbis to be excluded in a short little while – as soon as some chief rabbi gets it into his head that he can get away with it. After all, there’s a line to be drawn when it comes to preserving Jewish traditions and culture and if we cross that line, Judaism will be destroyed.

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  • It’s a funny thing for the rabbies in Israel to be the most kasher rabbies in the world, regarding the fact they don’t acknowledge Israel for itself…

  • While I agree with the sentiment here, I belive you have something slightly wrong…if converted in the usa, you will still be able to make aliyah (as i dont think the rabbinate controls the ministry of absorbtion), but once you get to israel, the rabbinate will refuse to recognize you as jewish and you will not be able to marry a jew in israel as the rabbinate will refuse to allow “intermarriage.” let me know if im wrong…

  • More Muddled Mastication –

    There is very good reason to rationalize (in the sense of “put in order”) the approval of overseas conversions. Until recently this was handled through informal gentleman’s agreements and on the basis of personal acquaintance between Rabbis in the RCA (Rabbinical Council of America) and the Rabbanut.

    The Rabbanut has valid concerns that not all Orthodox conversions are adhering to a consistent set of standards. So they are taking the first steps in rectifying the situation – by administering a review and test of conversion halacha.

    No doubt the RCA will respond with observations from the field about cultural differences that would influence certain aspects of the conversion – for example, the Rabbanut has sometimes been taken aback at some converts’ less-than-serviceable knowledge of Hebrew, but this is obviously different from the American perspective.

    It’s likely that this move will open up a dialogue with the RCA leading to a standardized set of expectations for conversion. Which is welcome.

    The current process may give current converts vertigo, but in the long run it will be better to have clear standards.

  • … None of this even remotely approaches the come-as-you-are, we-don’t-need-no-stinking-standards approach of the assimilationist denominations…

  • Way to be happy about other Jews’ misfortune. I realize that you feel that orthodox Jews who do not accept non-orthodox conversions deserve it, but I think that there’s something in the Torah about not rejoicing over other’s misfortunes. EVEN when you think they deserve it. Just a thought. The post was oddly… gleeful. Schadenfreude isn’t really a Jewish virtue.

  • middle, the issue is not as simple as you make it.
    Then again, there are also politics at play, what w/ the RCA and the Rasha Tendler.

    But, I know a little about the so called Orthodox Rabbis in America, they’re not always all they’re cracked up to be, so strictly speaking, from a, now don’t crack up on me, integrity point of view, they have to make this move.

  • No they don’t have to make this move. Israeli rabbis should not have say over the right to marriage of halachikly converted jews who make aliyah. this is a clear power play by the rabbinate as they try to push liberal streams of orthodoxy in the us into line with the haredi system.

  • Wow, good thing I already started my conversion process… And my guess with someone who isn’t on their approved 50… haha anyone know how to find this list of oh-so-important Rabbis that are Israel approved?

  • Hey DT, go to hell. Glee? Joy?

    Try disgust. These people are destroying people’s lives and making very good people have to jump through serious, life-changing hoops just so they can lead normal lives. The only difference is that whereas previously there was a particular denomination of Jews that was exempt from this haughty and unfortunate display of power – power granted not through greatness of scholarship but through a secular state’s sponsorship – a significant segment of that group will now find themselves subject to it. You think that makes ME happy? You think I want people to convert only to hit a wall when they get to Israel, or to be told they are not of the faith they thought they were? You think I would want one woman who has had to get a get to go through that hell again? You got the wrong guy here. You see, I’m the guy who espouses views encouraging a tremendous amount of flexibility and open-ness when it comes to acceptance of others or when it comes to unity. If it were up to me, these issues would simply not exist. If you want to find the people with the perverse perspective on things and who take gleeful joy in destroying other people’s lives, maybe you should be looking up the names of certain members of the Israeli Rabbinate.

    Congrats, it takes a little something special to actually make me react like this.

    Ben David, I don’t see what is muddled here. Your comment is merely an attempt to justify what I point out in the post. In other words, you agree with my muddled perspective, you just want to excuse the inexcusable.

  • Anat Hoffman, exective director of the Reform Movement’s Israel Religious Action Center, just highlighted this development in an online blog discussion with Rabbi Avi Shafran, director of public affairs for Agudath Israel of America, and Prof. Steven Mazie of Bard College at http://www.niforum.org.]

  • The Middle –

    Alas, telling me to go to hell will not help anything. I was responding to the idea of people being “victims of their own claims.” You say that you’re all about flexibility and openness, and that may well be true. But it’s harder to be open minded towards those we don’t consider to be open minded in return.

    My problem was with this idea of the non-Israeli Orthodox being “victims of their own claims.” That makes the issue one of inclusion vs. exclusion. But the issue could also be argued on it’s halachic merits, which seems more appropriate as it’s a halachic concern.

    The impression that I got from your post was that the non-Israeli Orthodox were getting a taste of their own medicine; i.e., exclusion is bad, they were being exclusive, and now they are being excluded.

    That’s certainly one way to look at, and I don’t suggest that you go to hell for that viewpoint (I reserve hell murders, etc.) Asking people to go to hell for the crime of disagreeing with you does not fit your discription of “open-ness when it comes to acceptance of others.”

  • Ah, DT, I was actually being kind. My initial written remark, which I edited, was to tell you to fuck off. If you read Jewlicious at all, you would know that I rarely resort to these types of comments.

    You talked about glee and joy on my part for watching others suffer. There was no joy or glee on my part when these things were being done to Conservative Jews and there is none now that it’s being done to Orthodox Jews. However, I was telling a couple of the people here who have defended the Orthodox dominance of Israeli civic matters that they should realize they are next in line. If this was intended to be gleeful at others’ distress, would I have proposed that they seek a solution by joining forces with the Conservatives and Reform who are already involved in this fight?

  • While I appreciate your suggestion for recreational activites, that doesn’t really address the heart of the matter.

    Do you see this as a midah-k’neged-midah situation (I don’t transliterate well – I mean measure for measure)? Are the two situations (Orthos excluding Conservative and Reform, and Israel excluding non-Israel) as morally equivalent? The impression that I got from your post was that you do. In addition, the use of sarcasm implied, to a reader with no personal agenda, that you felt this was deserved.

    This view is confirmed when you write that you objected to “these things” being done to Conservative Jews, and now “these things” are being done to Orthodox Jews. That position assumes that the exclusion of each group from a larger whole was equally invalid in both cases.

    To answer your final question: it seemed to me that you were glad that the Orthodox were getting what was coming to them for being exclusive in the first place. So: yes.

    NB: If a) I am totally misinterpereting you and b) you realize that I have nothing personal against you (not knowing you, after all)… is it possible that your post was not as clear as you thought it was ? Sarcasm is frequently better understood by those who know you and your personal style. While I do read Jewlicious on a semi-regular basis, I rarely pay attention to who wrote what. Even if you in know way feel that the Orthodox deserve this situation, perhaps I am not the only person to have misunderstood.

    I apologize for angering you, because that was not my intention.

  • Establishing standardized conversion guidelines is actually a good thing.

    But whether the Rabbinate is right or wrong in their current action doesn’t change the fact that non-Orthodox converts never have been nor ever will be considered Jews in G-d’s eyes.

  • I understand your concern, but just like, as you wrote, these rabbis say FUCK YOU to the jews from diaspora, Jews from diaspora can say FUCK YOU to the Israeli rabbinate. I live in Diaspora and I am not thinking about moving in Israel. I think Jews from the Diaspora have to learn how to live without Israel. I don’t say “without” in the sense of Ahmadinejad, but “without” as a definition of one’s Jewishness… I can be Jewish independently from what’s going on in Israel, and especially independently from its rabbinate. It’s true that it might be very hard for Jews who converted outside israel to go there and be considered as Jewish. Because i think Jews could flourish outside Israel. Even in Europe. And because I think that the fate of the Jews is not to go and live in Israel, I think that’s this all decision is not a big deal.

  • Shy Guy, let’s by all means create standardized conversion guidelines. I propose we use Conservative conversions as our model.

    Oh wait, you think those won’t be kosher in God’s eyes (I presume you’ve spoken to him about this). Well, Shy Guy, I can only hope that you are a Haredi man living in Israel, because otherwise, your rabbi is probably not considered a true rabbi by the Israeli Rabbinate, and God knows what kind of crap he’s been feeding you all this time.

    Yes DT, I consider the exclusion of Conservative and Reform Jews by the Orthodox, especially the Orthodox in Israel, to be the equivalent of what the Rabbinate is doing to North American Orthodox. Although, if I were to be absolutely honest about this, it isn’t exactly the same because all the NA Orthodox have to do is gain some additional training in Israel to qualify for the right to offer conversions and divorces whereas those rabbis belonging to other movements would have to change their values and systems of faith.

    I repeat, however, that there is no gladness there. Perhaps you are sensing my underlying claim that I have been right all this time (during which you haven’t been reading us regularly) in claiming that exclusion of any form is abhorrent and the same people who were exclusionary are now experiencing the same painful exclusion. That, however, is very different than joy or glee or a sense that somebody had it coming. My perspective is the opposite one – there should be no exclusion and it is extremely unfortunate that people who believe whole-heartedly that they are good Jews, faithful Jews, respectful Jews, are being shunned by others through a variety of artificial powers.

    If my post was unclear, or too strong, what can I say, I’ll try to be clearer next time. Feel free to engage, or not, in the aforementioned recreational activities at your leisure without any sense that I mean you any insult. 😉

  • I agree that the Conservative and Reform Movements should protest excluding Modern Orthodox Rabbinical legitimacy. But of course, it would be improper to demand reciprocation. One is normative Judaism, and the other two are treif to the core.

    On the other hand, give the frummies the keys to conversions. So what? I don’t mind so much. I’ve seen plenty of bogus conversions in my time. They have a point, even with the Modern Orthodox.

    If I marry out, I’ll marry out. No subterfuge, no bullshit.

    So I can’t dunk a shiksa partner in the mikvah and declare her a Jewess, but these guys can’t stop me from taking the back door out–available to a fellow from the dawn of our civilization. And unlike recognizing a dubious conversion, that shit has precedence. And I’m all about tradition.

  • Establishing standardized conversion guidelines is actually a good thing.

    Indeed, this is why our sages did so over 1000 years ago, and recorded those guidelines in the Talmud. There is no such thing as an Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform conversion; there is only conversion that follows those guidelines long ago established.

    Except, that would be too easy for some of our more right-wing friends. That would involve not being able to control – to regulate – such matters, and that thought doesn’t please them at all. It would involve admitting that any group is capable of performing legal conversions as long as they follow those 1000+ year old rules, and that doesn’t please them at all either. It would involve admitting that conversion was NEVER about affiliation with some specific group/tribe/denomination of Jews, and that doesn’t please them at all either.

    Even though a conversion performed by three shomer-mitsvot male rabbis affiliated with the Conservative movement (or unaffiliated “traditional” congregations) may follow those Talmudic guidelines exactly, most of the American Orthodox world will not “accept” the conversion. But now, in a delicious turn of events, the same American Orthodox rabbis that have taken a piss on such conversions in this country are now on the receiving end of the same golden shower courtesy of their “betters” across the pond.

    Now, perhaps, they will understand exactly why no one group can be allowed to police these standards, and why we don’t need anyone “not accepting” conversions performed according to the wisdom of our sages by whatever group. Because, when you’re the one group running the show, it’s all good; but when you’re on the other side of the fence, the grass sure smells like… piss.

  • Kelsey, which is it, are you marrying outside of the tribe or are you having difficulty dating? I’m having trouble keeping up.

    Besides, you missed the point of my post. This isn’t being done to modern Orthodox, that’s just my prediction for the future. This is being done to all Orthodox rabbis in the US save for 50.

  • It is never shamefull to be a Jew and fullfill Jewish commandments and living.

    You asked me if I’ve spoken to G-d about this. And hows about you?! At least I can recall that G-d did speak to all of Am Yisrael at Sinai, trasmitted the written and oral Torah to us through Moshe, for us to obey for eternity. What do you recall?

  • Oh, man, he did? I don’t remember that…I mean, I must have been there…shit…the cobwebs of 3200 years or so of history…uh…let me think…oh, hold on, it’s starting to come back…yes! Yes! I was making out with some other “spirit of a future Jew” chick over behind the bushes. Why, did we miss anything, like, important?

  • I have a profound and deep recollection of God telling the Israelites to wear garb resembling Polish elites from the 16th Century.

  • Ohhhh, waaaiiiittt, it is coming back now. I have a clear recollection of God telling the Israelites that those who are sinners among them should build a state, pay taxes and fight in wars. Those who are believers but of the wrong variety because pre-marital sex is a topic of conversation, may go and fight and pay taxes as well. Those excellent believers who do right by God will be able to hang back and enjoy life studying Torah. No fighting in wars or tax worries for them. The really good ones will have the added bonus of lots of kids subsidized by the state.

  • Clearly, your memory is faulty. God would never allow for the establishment of a Jewish state. But then again, what would I know? I wasn’t paying attention.

  • Your answers speak for themselves.

    BTW, I’m a retired IDF reservist, self-employed tax paying Israeli citizen, just in case you thought otherwise.

    Whether I wear a shtreimel and a bekeshe on Shabbat and Chagim should be irrelevant. BTW, I don’t.

    As Ray Charles used to sing, you don’t know me.

    Apparently Judaism is one big joke for you, so of course anyone should be allowed to convert. It’s just like joining the Mickey Mouse Club, ain’t it now, Annette?

  • Man, oh Manneschevitz! The Middle is right on here. This has been a disgraceful power play allowed to go on for far too long. There IS no legitimate authority to do this. No, not really, as others have noted. But let’s ask ourselves to what end does this policy see as it’s result.

    1.) It will anger and aggrieve the vast majority of Jews who DO live in the diaspora. Again. Deliberately. Needlessly. All in the name of politics of one stripe or another. That’s disgraceful. Really.

    2.) It further divides a community that is in desperate need of unity, all for the sake of what amounts to about 10% of the total population of Jews. Does this make rational sense to anyone?

    3.) It actively Encourages outmarriage, thereby perpetuating and furthering the very problem it seeks to prevent. Why belong to a club that a.) Does not recognize you as a ‘real’ member, EVER and b.) is constantly moving the goal posts on this finding so that you’re never sure that no matter what you do, you’ll ever be seen as worthy by these exclusionary autocrats. Conversion will no longer be much of an issue if it’s been cut down to a few spare dozen a year who can run this gauntlet

    4.) It (again) invites Jews from the diaspora to think of Israel as NOT a pleasant place to visit or invest their time and energy building or caring about, because MOST of the people investing their hard earned dollars and volunteer work from around the globe for Decades on this project called Israel would NOT be considered Jews or even ‘good Jews by these esteemed Rabbi’s!! (Think about that!)

    Intermarriage is only part of the problem. The fact that most Jews in the US no longer feel connected to Israel is another Huge issue that people ignore at their peril. It’s this very issue, played out over and over again down through the decades that has given the whole conversion process this embattled aspect that turns off far more people than it will ever attract. It’s this whole ‘Masada complex’ of enshrined zealots that has no real place inside a modern western state.

    They have no real authority to do this other than those granted by the state. And the state was & is wrong to do so. Then as now this is a manifest and shameful abuse of power. IMHO. Cheers, ‘VJ’

    [No that’s not my real email].

  • Actually, Shy Guy, I’ll respond seriously now to your hubris. To your holier-than-thou comments about me and about those converts to Judaism whom you dismiss without knowing anything about their faith or practice.

    My memory is that of millenia of a people attempting to find a way to connect with God through worship and practice. Most tried to be faithful and most tried to find a way to live as Jews in a world where the foundations of their faith – their Israelite, Temple-based faith – were pulled out from under their feet.

    My memory is of a people wandering through the world, maintaining certain traditions such as learning and studying the story of their coming into being; trying to keep the shabbat; trying to act in good ways that maintain the laws they found in the Torah.

    I remember that over time their leaders found ways to resolve the dichotomy between being a people of faith based on a place and a covenant and a people of faith who had lost their place and their partner in covenant.

    Over centuries, the rabbis changed their opinions many times and customs were modified to suit the new homes and countries. What didn’t change was a worship of the Book, of the shabbat and of their ancient homeland.

    But many customs did change and so did habits and customs. For example, some said that Passover foods should exclude X and Y. Others said that Passover foods included X and Y. Some said Hillel and some said Shammai. Most groups agreed, however, that Passover should be celebrated with foods and tales reminding the people of their origins.

    I remember clearly when the enlightenment came and suddenly the world had to contend with information that undermined some faith-based claims. People had a crisis. People did not know what to believe any more. Some found false messiahs. Some found funny looking clothes and customs. Some found they could reject and leave Judaism. Some found other ways of expressing their sense of belonging to these ancient customs, their belonging to an ancient place and their belonging to this large and varied group.

    I remember my respect for the faith of so many and I remember that many even died for that faith. I remember clearly that when a nation came and decided to exterminate us, they did not bring up the issue of who was at Sinai and who believed or remembered the written or oral Torah. Nope, they just needed to know that one grandparent or more was Jewish to consider one a Jew. If someone had converted to Judaism, they were also considered a Jew. Nobody asked what the credentials of the converting rabbi were. They took all kinds of Jews away from their homes to death and work camps. They took the most secular Jews and the most Orthodox Jews. They didn’t care.

    I remember my father in law, a traditional Jew who belongs to the Conservative movement, raising his family with strong roots and traditions embedded in Judaism. To this day I am touched and humbled by the way in which he stubbornly sticks to his father’s traditions. An Orthodox Jew wouldn’t eat in his kosher home because his home would not be perceived as kosher. But his home is fully kosher. His affiliation with Judaism is complete. His respect for traditions is great. And yet, to the Orthodox, he is not a good Jew.

    His rabbi, Whom I recall very well, and who is a great rabbi by any measure, would not be seen as fit to marry, divorce or convert people if he were to live in Israel. This rabbi’s divorces and conversions are ignored in Israel despite this man’s strong devotion to Judaism, to educating Jews and converts, to bringing the passion of his faith to others. You would reject this TZADDIK. But I remember his sermons, his prayers in the synagogue, his loyal congregation who found him charismatic enough to modify their lifestyles to become more observant because of his encouragement. Most of their children, even though they live outside of Israel, have married Jewish spouses or converted spouses and are raising their children as Jews.

    Back to parents. I remember growing up with my secular and yet very traditional parents living their lives in a way that reminded me every day that I was Jewish, even when it was unsaid. Even when people like you would deem them to be violators of “Torah miSinai.”

    To think that you or these rabbis or anybody else would define for me or for our parents what our faith is about is reprehensible. For you to tell me that the rabbi I choose as the rabbi of my congregation is not really a rabbi and certainly is a person without authority under Jewish law is abhorrent. Pure and simple.

    I say to you that you have no authority. That your belief in our inferiority to you and your faith is incredibly disappointing and rejects the memory of the millenia my ancestors shared with yours.

    You want to know who makes a mockery of Judaism? It’s not me, Shy Guy. It’s you with your disrespect for fine Jews who worship in a way that meets their perception of the world. My practice and faith come from a deep and abiding respect for Judaism. Does yours? Or is it that you’re a member of a herd who will do what he is told, even if it means rejecting people who are devoted Jews because somebody else told you their rabbi isn’t a good one?

  • Sorry for the double post, but someone here does have my email should someone seek it for a respectful opinion. Just saying… Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • We lost our partner in our covenant? Really? Were you in shul this past Shabbat? Recall:

    44. But despite all this, while they are in the land of their enemies, I will not despise them nor will I reject them to annihilate them, thereby breaking My covenant that is with them, for I am the Lord their God.
    45. I will remember for them the covenant [made with] the ancestors, whom I took out from the land of Egypt before the eyes of the nations, to be a God to them. I am the Lord.
    46. These are the statutes, the ordinances, and the laws that the Lord gave between Himself and the children of Israel on Mount Sinai, by the hand of Moses.

    As for me being “holier than though” I never said such such a thing. This has nothing to do with more or less holy. This has to do with what changes a Neshama, a soul, from a gentile one to a Jewish one.

    Your comments about Passover food and Hillel and Shamai are simply innacurate. They are also irrelevant to the Halachas of conversion and the question of who is a Jew.

    Just as no one has a monopoly on holiness, neither do you have a monopoly on emotional remembrance of martyrs who died for being Jewish. And what’s your point now? That if someone who was killed by the Nazis had a great-great-great-great grandfather who was Jewish, that makes him a Jew? Since when did Hitler and Eichman implement decisions for us as to who is a Jew?!

    Regarding your father-in-law, I do not wish to go into Halachic detail why a Torah observant Jew could not eat in his house but that was you FIL’s (or his ancestor’s) choice to deviate from Judaism. Yet whether his home was kosher or not has relatively little to do with you FIL being a good Jew or not. I do not dare judge any Jew as being better or worse than another, yet at the same time, if a Jew does something wrong, it does not become right because of all the other good things he does or achieves.

    I, too, am a violator of Torah MiSinai. Who does not sin?! Yet you miss the point of what qualifies converting someone to Judaism.

    If you wish to shun G-d’s authority, so be it. But don’t go calling “worship as you please” Judaism. It never was. It never will be.

  • Shy Guy, if you’re a Jew living in the second Century of the Common Era knowing that your Temple is in ruins, Judea is no more and you are in exile, your perception is going to be that the covenant is broken.

    What changes a neshama from a gentile one to a Jewish one is not a rabbi who is caught snagging special hotel deals or another who tries a power play with the Orthodox Jewry outside of Israel.

    My comments about Passover food are accurate. My father will not eat some of the foods my mother considers allowed during Passover. Why? Because they come from different places with different customs that seem to arise from the physical location of their homes. Keep telling me there weren’t significantly diverging schools of thought among rabbis over the centuries. I’m sure if you repeat yourself enough, you might convince somebody. Remember though, if they disagree so much, is it possible that the oral law is man-made?

    Good point about Hitler not deciding who is a Jew. You don’t decide either and neither do those rabbis who claim to decide. They have power from a secular state that gives them authority to rule over others. Without that artificial authority, we’d be having a different discussion. Either way, they are irrelevant because they have made themselves so to the majority of Jews. The only way they can overcome their irrelevance is by manipulation of this artificial authority or by compelling their followers to reject the vast majority of Jews.

    As for my “monopoly” over the remembrance of Jewish dead or martyrs, who said I had one? You asked me whether I remember Sinai and I told you what I remember.

    My father in law must be a better Jew than you. After all, he doesn’t reject you or consider himself superior to you. He would never shame you by refusing to eat in your home. He doesn’t judge you, as you judge him. He lives his life according to his Jewish faith. He is a humble and good man who would never stoop to judging you based on your practice or faith.

  • So if the covenant is broken, all bets are off? Or was G-d lying in the verses I quoted? Or there is no G-d? Or we’re under no obligation – 30 day money-back guarantee perhaps?

    You’ve lost me. Jews that went into exile, both times, built vibrant loyal Jewish communities throughout the world, keeping Judaism as best as they could.

    Your barbs against the chief rabbis are very cute. Now tell us what does indeed make a Jew out of a non-Jew?

    You passover food comments are inaccurate because the customs of kitniyot and gebrokt originate as customs and not as laws, though a custom can eventually become a law but not vice versa.

    The diverging schools you are referring to did not argue on the tennets of Judaism. They argued on halachas or methods to inspire Judaism without breaking Jewish law.

    Regarding whether the oral law is man-made, so are you now placing yourself with the Tzedukim? The Ka’arites? The Essenees? The Shomronim perhaps? You’re just proving my point of past historic examples of deviant offshots of Judaism that are not accepted as Judaism.

    If you’re not and you’re merely asking a question, may I recommend some basic reading, such as Anvil of Sinai and Challenge of Sinai, both by Zechariah Fendel.

    You are indeed right that the Chief Rabbinate is an artificial authority and in many ways irrelevant. That still has nothing to do with the fact that non-Orthodox converts are not Jews.

    As for your final paragraph, I have no reason to suppose that you FIL was not a better Jew than me. Let’s assume he was (though look who’s playing the “holier than thou” game now!). I have no concepts of superiority. I have concepts of right and wrong and obligations to adhere to. Without making a direct comparison, would your FIL have also not shamed a non-Jew who invited him to dinner?

    I didn’t judge your FIL. Don’t put words in my mouth. I judged a Jew’s obligation to decide whether he could eat in your FIL’s house or not.

    Read carefully next time.

  • How impressive are the Middle’s Meandering Muddled Manifestos!

    O Muddled One: Have you finally learned touch typing, or are you just no longer moving your lips as you write?

    You presented this move by the Rabbanut as an overreaching power play – and compared apples and oranges in your attempt to bring in non-halachic streams of Judaism.

    I (and others) supplied the rational justification for such a move.

    You’ve supplied nothing but drivel and tangential invective in reply.

    As Israel becomes the epicenter of the world’s Jewish population, the Rabbanut is not just justified in replacing informal arrangements with clear standards – it should be applauded for doing so.

    None of this relates at all to the non-halachic movements, which as we all know are non-starters as far as the Rabbanut is concerned. What you call a “power-play” is a dialogue between groups that are basically on the same Halachic and Hashkafic page – and exchange completely different from the issue of Reform or Conservative conversion.

    Irrespective of your personal rage about people not eating in your FIL’s house.

  • That still has nothing to do with the fact that non-Orthodox converts are not Jews.

    First of all, the designation, “Orthodox” Judaism, came into usage too recently to be part of the package at Sinai. Moshe Rabbeinu was not a member of the RCA.

    “Orthodox”, whether beginning with a big or little “O”, is a made-up term, used mostly in North America. It doesn’t officially specify a single Jewish movement (although it was co-opted as part of “modern orthodox”, but that’s a description, not a title). The term, when used to describe a religious theology, actually has Christian origins. Read whatever you want into that last bit.

    Neither the O-U, the RCA, YU nor anyone else has a patented right to the word “Orthodox”, and therefore it can be used to mean whatever one wants it to mean- since it usually refers mostly to what it’s not: not Conservative, not Reform.

    Therefore, someone can’t really be an “orthodox” Jew. There’s no such thing (as even Chabad will tell you). If someone’s mom is Jewish, they’re Jewish- no matter how many times SG says they’re not. A Jew can be more or less observant, but that’s not as politically divisive a distinction as some seem to desire.

    If you look at the origins of the usage of the term “Orthodox”, you’d find that it popped up when American Reformers started stealing congregants away from the old-world shuls. During this time, the Conservative movement wasn’t really on the “Orthodox” S-list (wait- it’s coming) because Conservative Judaism still looked like “Orthodoxy” (because in most cases- IT WAS!!!). It wasn’t until those crazy Conservative intellectuals started looking around and noticing that halacha, which had previously been a dynamic process, had turned into a stagnant museum piece. And that’s when Conservative Jews officially joined Reformers on the Bad Jews list.

    When this actually turned into a contest to see who wouldn’t eat at whose house, I don’t know. But this latest pissing contest (thanks, Nathan, for the inspiring visual) is not legitimate Judaism, no matter how you slice the kugel.

  • Judi, do you really want to know who coined the term “orthodox” for Torah observant Jews? It was the German reform movement. Before them, there was no such distinction since the time of the Saducees.

    I would be very happy to have never had the need for such distinctions.

    If you really want to nitpick on semantics, let’s do it correctly. There are words like “Jew” but there’s also “Apikores” and “Mumar”, both having Halachic implications. If those words sound better to you than reform and conservative, I can live with that.

    Historically, Conservative Judaism evolved from reform and not the other way around from orthodox Judaism. Halacha never was the “dyanamic process” the Conservative movement claim it to be. The term to use for such opinions is “Am Aratzut” – big time.

    I suggest you delve deaper and read up on the history of how the reform and conservative movements evolved. The fact that the Conservatives have veered more and more away from reform and semi-mimic Torah True Judaism (I like the sound of that better than “orthodoxy” any day) does not legitimize Conservative Judaism’s doctrines, which allow for clowning around with G-d’s commandments based on a majority vote, attended by similar Apikorsim and Am Aratzim.

  • There are words like “Jew” but there’s also “Apikores” and “Mumar”, both having Halachic implications. If those words sound better to you than reform and conservative, I can live with that.

    Aside from the base name-calling you’ve resorted to (awfully bold for one who claims to be shy), those words are applicable, no matter how observant one publicly claims to be. There are apikorsim among the highest ranks of your “Torah True Judaism”, whatever that is. Recently, those institutions are being forced, publicly, to clean house, and it’s about time.

    Historically, Conservative Judaism evolved from reform and not the other way around from orthodox Judaism.

    Sorry, but you’ve got it wrong. In the last part of the 19th century, the genteel Reform had a problem: the huge influx of immigrating “Am Haaretz” was threatening to overwhelm their neat, tidy houses of [quiet and proper] worship. So, yes, they donated $$ to set up a new movement- but that was the extent of their influence. The new movement, Conservative Judaism, was led by yeshiva-educated, G-d-fearing men from Europe. Men with great, big beards, if you know what I mean. In no way whatsoever did Conservative Judaism evolve from Reform; in the beginning, seating was separate, dvars were in Yiddish, only men could serve on boards…

    …which allow for clowning around with G-d’s commandments based on a majority vote, attended by similar Apikorsim and Am Aratzim.

    Relate that statement to my first point and you’ve just summed up the entire problem.

  • Sounds like some of you guys have decided, now that a few thousand years have gone by, that you need a pope. Cool. Catholic-Jewish relations have improved- maybe Rome can help out.

    At a minimum, you’ll need a vast public space for funerals and displays of mass devotion. Bramante and Bernini aren’t available, alas, but I’ll suggest Frank Gehry (whose wife is a practicing Catholic, perhaps with connections) or Richard Meier (who designed a church for the last pope).

    You’ll never have to have a discussion like this on Jewlicious ever again (which will delight at least some of you).

  • Judi, if a Torah Jew is an Apikores, he is no longer a Torah Jew. Again, I’m not interested in playing semantics here. However, that’s what the Halachic issue boils down to and why it’s not taken lightly by us whatchamacallit Jews. The words are harsh. Unfortunately the shoe fits. This all does not negate the concept of “Tinok Shenishbah” but that does not excuse invalid conversions performed by such Jews.

    As for Conservative Judaism’s history, I am not interested in whether Solomon Schechter and Isaac Wise did or did not have beards or kapels. I’m referring to what their goal was and who they were trying to attract. See this mini bio on Schechter.

    Tom, I’d be curious to know what made you conclude that we would want anything like a Pope.

  • TM,

    I absolutely hate to admit this, but I do share some of your concern that the Haredim in Israel will seek to use the medina’s apparatus as a way to increase attacks on Modern Orthodoxy on many levels, just as fundmentalists clerics attack traditional religious attitudes throughout the middle east when they attain power.

    Another example of how we are so wonderfully very similar to other tribal middle eastern and North African peoples, and yet another shining achievement of the Zionist goal of normalizing the Jewish condition.

    Hip hip Hooray!

  • Well, Shy Guy, my comment (spurred involuntarily by a ethnic predisposition to mordant irony, termed by geneticists Jonathan Swift Syndrome) has to do with the ‘who decides’ aspect of the discussion. You say a Jew has green eyes; Middle says blue. You and B-D appear to argue that someone has to sort this out definitively. B-D contends that it’s natural that Israel and its rabbis will assume this role.

    I understand Middle to say that a diversity of viewpoint, and an age-old dialectic around religious practice, inheres in Judaism. You seem to disagree. You appear to yearn for the certainty and finality of a ‘buck-stops-here’ central authority.

    There’s a lot to be said for a pope. Just ask my brothers and sisters in faith, the Anglicans. Whether it’s the pope, a baseball umpire, or the US Supreme Court, finality has its benefits.

  • I’m not looking for central authority, as much as I am for concensus among the orthodox rabbis. I disagree with the Rabbinate’s methods, not its goals of acceptable standards.

  • Ben David, I was going to read what you had to say but it started off with a personal attack so I ignored it.

    In answer to your question, Shy Guy, my father in law would probably not shame a gentile who invited him to dinner. This is a guess but I would think that he would just eat salad and some bread and come up with a polite excuse about the rest.

    I don’t have to be a Karaite in order to accept that Halacha evolves.

    The issue of covenant is a difference you and I have that relates to basic faith. We are not going to come to terms about this. Let’s just say, however, that after 1939-1945, you have a great deal of faith to believe in a covenant. Covenant has nothing to do with building vibrant Jewish communities. Faith does. A shared history and sense of purpose do. These are things that exist in movements outside of Orthodox.

    My barbs against the Chief Rabbis are more than cute, they are telling. Should I bring up rabbis who have violated laws and are Orthodox? According to you, they are superior Jews to Conservative rabbis who haven’t. It can be a real upside down world sometimes, huh?

    Your distinction as to what differing schools of thought were debating makes my point for me. Conservatives also believe that they are worshipping within the confines of Jewish law but hold different views from yours because they believe halacha evolves.

    Your concept of right and wrong is fostered by the mistaken view that you are on the side of what God wants. As if you or a Chief Rabbi would know. You don’t know any more than our atheist friend Grandmuffti does. You just hope you know. You don’t mix meat and cheese because you hope that this is what a verse means. Doesn’t it make more sense not to mix meat and cheese because you know that two thousand years of Jews preceding you didn’t and you wish to respect their customs and memory? It’s not as binding as fearing the wrath of god, but it sure makes some nice clean sense, doesn’t it?

    Judi provided you with some more worthwhile information. I don’t expect that much will change in your opinion, but you should know that there are many Jews who think it is shameful.

    Tom, can I be the pope for a little while? There are a few things I’d like to, uh, fix.

  • Thank you, Middle, for admitting that, in your opinion, Jews for 3000 years had no inkling of what G-d wanted from them but you know better. Obviously, G-d spoke to you, very recently, too, so it would seem.

    I’ve replied to Judi’s “worthwile” information but facts appear not to be to your liking when they get in your way. Hence your practice of Judaism as you see fit and not as we are obligated.

    Indeed, a Mickey Mouse Club. Just put on some ears and you’re in!

  • One more clarification: I never stated that Orthodox Jews are “superior” to non-Orthodox Jews in the eyes of G-d simply by affiliation or by definition.

    Hence it is false to state that I hold that “sinning” Orthodox rabbis are superior to “non-sinning” non-Orthodox ones, just as I have stated that I have no reason to assume I am a better Jew than someone’s non-Orthodox father in law.

    Each Jew is judged individually.

  • but that does not excuse invalid conversions performed by such Jews.

    How can you make such a blanket statement? You have no proof that a conversion done by any Rabbi that you do not know personally, has no halachic validity! As you, yourself, said- each Jew is judged individually. See? We agree on something.

    We just don’t agree on who should be the judge.

  • Um, I didn’t say I know better.

    I respect your right to practice as you do for the reasons you choose. You don’t respect my right or the right of the convert.

    You want to believe that God spoke to us at Sinai and that our traditions are directly descended from that moment in an unbroken chain of fine leaders and rabbis. Fine. I cannot disprove your thesis.

    On the other hand, I prefer to acknowledge that the destruction of the Temple threw things into a lurch, forced a reconstruction of many traditions and that halacha is a man-made construct that has evolved. I’m not sure why my personal opinion matters in a discussion about larger movements, but my sense is that Conservative Judaism places a strong emphasis on the presence and spirit of God within our traditions, if that matters to you.

    Ultimately, you have a deep faith and hope that you are living as you should be. Just don’t tell me that you know. You hope you know. You have no evidence. Essentially, your claim about 3000 years of Jewish history merely confirms my point that practicing Judaism out of respect for our traditions and collective history makes sense. That’s why you do it, right? I mean, your presumption is that our ancestors created our customs because they communicated indirectly with God and my presumption is that our ancestors established traditions. Either way, we end up respecting traditions. Where we differ is that you give the weight of God – although you have no evidence of his existence other than what you’ve been told by others – to your practice, whereas I involve man and cannot be sure of God’s presence.

    As for your claim that you deny superiority over other Jews, I will simply point you to virtually every comment you’ve made in this discussion where you’ve disparaged the Jewish practice of others either as mickey mouse practice or as make-it-up-as-you-go or all the other negative comments you’ve made to indicate that the practice of movements other than Orthodox are invalid. I mean, this coming Yom Kippur, I hope to see you here apologizing for dismissing these other fine Jews.

    Each Jew is judged individually. Good. So why do you get to choose whether their faith is valid and their practice is right? Why are you refusing the Judaism of so many?

    The sad thing is that the other day I learned that a Jew by birth who converts to messianism remains a Jew, while the devout Jewish convert to Judaism who has converted with a Conservative rabbi is considered a non-Jew. Amazing how ridiculous things can get, huh?

  • I think that a majority of Israelis want the Rabbis, the traditional Orth. to run things as they have been doing.

    This may be non-progressive, and it may have to do w/ the Diaspora connection that many were so eager to throw away like that moron AB Yehioshu.

    That Israelis do sense this deep connect to the past.

    Regrettably, in this paradigmn, there is little room for substantive changes.

    Two problems in the US, one is this Rabbi Avi Weiss and the legitimacy being given to many new changed in Synagogue standards, the Edah crowd.

    The Orth. establishment is drawing the line right there.

    The other thing is all the recent scandals you have in Brooklyn regarding obscense and horrific stories of Rabbi abuse w/ boys and such.

    There is a general feeling, that things are getting out of control in the Orthodox world in the USA.

    So they want to ensure something.

    Perhaps they will tackle the Russian non halachik Jewish thing also.

  • How can you make such a blanket statement?

    Open up the Rambam’s Mishna Tora and Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah (I believe). Read the requirements for 3 dayanim to be in attendance during conversion. Then look up what qualifies a person to be a dayan.

    More blatant is the fact that by definition, any gentile accepting the heretic viewpoint of non-Torah Judaism, as preached by reform and conservative, can not be a Jew.

    See how easy that was?!

    This has nothing to do with “proof”. It has everything to do with prerequisite requirements which are already well defined.

    Just because each Jew is judged individually does not mean that everyone else around is to ignore other Jew’s violations of Halachah. Some things are nobody else’s business. Other things are. False conversions are the business of the Jewish community in general and its leaders in particular to prevent and certainly not to accept within the Jewish community.

    At the rate things are going, we’ll soon have to resort to documenting our family lineages, as they did at the time of Ezra the Prophet, when Jews came back from Bavel with there non-Jewish spouses. Then, too, there was no hocus-pocus-presto magic conversions.

  • Middle, I just saw your post now.

    You obviously don’t accept the fact that G-d gave the Torah to Moshe at Sinai. So is the Torah lying? If it is, what do we need Judaism for? A big happy fraternity that gets us killed in progroms and holocausts? What ever for?!

    You say that the Temple’s destruction “threw everything into a lurch.” What do you mean?

    You seem to be implying that Oral law and Rabbinical commandments evolved after the Temple’s destruction. This is historically ficticious. Almost any Yeshiva student can tell you that the Mishnaic tractates were only codified in writing, after generations of being learned orally, by Rabbi Yehuda Hannasi (Rebbi), who lived at the time when the Temple was still standing. And the Gemorah is the same, compiled after the Temple’s destruction by Ravinah and Rav Ashi.

    And anyone who learns Gemorah will clearly see that the greatest academic institutions of Torah learning arose in Bavel, in the diaspora. And much of what is discussed and argued about goes back to the times of the Tanaim, way before the Temple’s destruction.

    They were extremely well organized and not in a lurch, at least when it came to maintaining existing Jewish laws, religious institutions and customs.

    Sorry to spoil your day but Torah observant Jews do indeed know that they are doing the right thing. Does that mean that there cannot be a mistake in the Mishnah, Gemara, Rambam or Shulchan Aruch? Of course there can be. But the Rabbis bent over backwards arguing about what is the truth in the most minute detail.

    I highly recommend reading the books Anvil of Sinai and Challenge of Sinai for an explanation of how we have carried the Torah from Sinai with us to this very day.

    Regarding this superiority complex you constantly accuse me of, I’ll repeat that I’m merely pointing out blatant right from wrong. I do not “dismiss other fine Jews”, as you put it. I dismiss false beliefs and practices. I do the same for Jews for Jesus. I will have no need to apologize for the essense of this come next Yom Kipur, though I may need to make amends for the way I imperfectly stated it, causing certain misunderstandings.

    We do not get to “chose” whose faith is valid or not. The conditions for valid faith ideologies are dictated to us by what G-d and Chazal have handed down to us, much of it in clear legal terms. Once again, if you don’t believe, then Judaism is one big game anyway, so everthing goes!

    Regarding a Jew who becomes a believer in other dieties, it’s not so clear-cut. Yet the general Halachic rule of thumb is “Yisrael, af al pi she’chot’im, Yisrael hem” – “Jews, even though they sin, are still Jews.”

    It’s past my beddy-bye time. Leila tov from Jerusalem.

  • One last thing. I’m sure you’re all aware that the Conservatives themselves do not accept reform conversions. They must be supremists!

  • A year since my conversion process ended and my conclusion:
    The convert, Orthodox/Conservative/Reform will always be the “elephant in the room” of the Jewish community. We will always be the reason mom and dad have fights in the living room that get just a little too rough whilst we sit in the stairway flinching everytime daddy screams too much. It’s a pathetic joke, and it always makes me sad and angry when these arguments pop up.

  • Elon, I know you’ve told us before so please forgive my forgetfulness, but can you tell us again about your conversion.

    Here’s a tip though: worry about making the woman like you, not her father. 😉

  • I am about to write a very emotional post in reaction to several comments here, so I apologize in advance. I don’t not mean to offend anyone here, particularly those who are Jews by birth.

    I am a convert through the Reform movement. I am a Jew.

    I spent nine years researching various religions to help me determine what I believed. But the moment that I attended my first Shabbat service, I knew — knew! — that I was home. Whenever people have met me for the first time throughout my life, they have always asked if I was Jewish (even long before I converted). I can’t explain it, and I don’t know why. Call me crazy, but I think I always had a Jewish soul that was first in a Gentile body. Perhaps I had Jewish ancestors and never knew it. But that’s immaterial now.

    I spent the last two years of my life studying Judaism, and I will continue to do so until the day I die. I’m getting a master’s degree part-time in Jewish Studies even though I’ll probably never use it. I want to study Judaism for Judaism’s sake.

    I don’t mean to brag, but I must make a point. I know more about Judaism than most Jews-by-Birth at my temple. They ask me about the meanings of certain things. I’m learning modern Hebrew. No one else can speak a word of it. Few even give a crap about Israel. But, no, I’m not good enough because I’m not really a Jew!

    Most Jews that go to my temple are there for the food and to meet girls or guys. I go there to embrace Shabbat.

    I keep kosher to a greater extent than most Jews I know. I observe Shabbat. I only date Jews because I want to marry a Jew. I want to ensure the continuity of the Jewish people. I love B’nei Yisrael.

    I also love Eretz Yisrael. If Israel is ever attacked or invaded, I will be the first one on an El Al flight there to volunteer with the IDF. But I always pray for peace in Jerusalem.

    I chose to enter the Covenant. That is more important than blood. I believe that, somehow, my soul was there on Sinai with all of you.

    So I didn’t convert in accordance with the man-made rules of halacha. I don’t give a damn. The Torah and Tanakh are more important than the Talmud. Ruth converted simply by saying, “Your people shall be my people and your God my God.” She didn’t have to jump through bureaucratic hoops. Abraham circumcised himself, and that’s all he needed to do. The Written Law was created by men in the first couple centuries of the Modern Era. Well, what did converts have to do before then? Who knows, and who cares. If only Jews-by-Choice who follow that strict process are real Jews, what about Jews who converted before that process was created? It’s illogical. If you’re a non-thinking slave to a set of man-made laws, I’d call that idolatry.

    I studied incessantly for two years and had my rabbi quiz and question me to make sure I was ready. I passed a beit din of three knowledgable, wise and loving clergy. I immersed in the mikveh and said the prayers. I learned how to cook some Jewish food (as a guy, this was no easy task). I debate Middle Eastern politics. I read Israeli newspapers.

    I devoted myself to the Jewish people, and I’ll be damned if I let some rabbis who value bureaucracy and tradition much too highly to let them take this away from me. I would die to protect a fellow Jew (or even a Gentile). I would die to protect Israel. Whenever neo-Nazis come to Boston to rally at the city’s Holocaust Memorial, I’m there to defend it. Because they are attacking ME.

    I just got back from a Birthright Israel trip. I went to the Holocaust Museum. For the first time, I knew that the pictures of Shoah victims were MY PEOPLE. As I looked at the pictures, I knew that I could have been them. They could have been me. It was heartbreaking. I almost had a nervous breakdown.

    If you were an Orthodox rabbi, who would you rather have in your synagogue: a Jew-by-Birth who doesn’t give a crap, or a Jew-by-Liberal-Conversion who is passionate about Israel, Jews and Judaism?

    I am a Jew. I chose to be a Jew. I live as a Jew. I will die a Jew. I love God. I love the Jewish people. I love Israel. I love the Torah. I study.

    But you still think I’m not a Jew? Then fuck you. I don’t need anyone’s validation. Anyone who claims to speak for God is a lunatic or an egotist. We laugh at Pat Robertson when he claims to speak for God. Well, some Jews do it as well.

    Your people are my people, and your God is my God. All the rest is commentary.

  • Shy Guy,

    Fact check. Some Conservatives accept Reform conversions, and some do not. You’re painting with too broad of a brush.

  • One other note, since circumcision is an important tradition in Judaism.

    I was circumcised when I was a baby. But before I converted, I had to have a mohel give me a second, “symbolic” circumcision.

    So I could become Jewish, I had to have a needle jammed into my member so blood could be drawn.

    How’s that for devotion?

  • TM-I converted after 18 months of study with two Conservative Rabbis. I began in the largest city in my home state and while I didn’t live there, I started my conversion process by driving two hours every thursday to attend conversion classes. After that I moved to this city in order to study with a Rabbi. At this time I began going to shabbos services regularly. I was then in Rome for about 4 months, which put a halt to my formal studies, but which did not put a halt to my conversion process. After I left Rome I unded up in New York City. Here I found a new Rabbi and began taking up my formal conversion process again, really trying to integrate myself into a community and truly finding myself as a Jew. Later on, during this time, I was declared ready to go through with the final steps of the conversion process and did so, going through the beis din, bris, and mikva almost a year to this very day.

    I am Jewish, or I am the most foolish goy on the planet. I daven daily with Tefillin, I go to shul on shabbos, etc. I’m not perfect, I don’t have a community here in Berlin and I am no talmud scholar, but I am learning hebrew and as of yesterday have started my Fulbright application to study in Israel for 9 months. I’m all ’bout the am yisrael…as master P would say, I’m bout it bout it. Word.

    Is that enough info? If not, as Michael knows, my blog is SO IMPORTANT and can be read anytime.

    And TM about the last part of your comment, I don’t think I’ve met too many, if any jews, from reform to ultra-orthodox that haven’t liked me. The woman is sold, the father is hesitant 😉

  • More blatant is the fact that by definition, any gentile accepting the heretic viewpoint of non-Torah Judaism, as preached by reform and conservative, can not be a Jew.

    See how easy that was?!

    Of course it was easy: you started with an accurate paraphrase of the halacha and then added you own definition of the criteria for a kosher dayan.

    You’ve cleverly framed this discussion as Orthodox vs. Conservative, and TheMiddle and others have gleefully followed you down the path to silliness. I commend you on your use of blogging aikido to divert the energy of your opponents toward the ground face-first.

    But it won’t work with me, my Jerusalem friend. This discussion is about some Orthodox rabbis not accepting other conversions from, among others, American Orthodox rabbis. It’s about conversions performed by unaffiliated Orthodox and Traditional rabbis not being accepted by the RCA, and about where that approach to Judaism can lead. In this case, it’s lead to a slap upside the head for the RCA. They re now experiencing being on the receiving end of the same type of power play that they’ve cheerfully pulled in America.

    A kosher dayan for a conversion beth din is a shomer mitsvot male rabbi that accepts all of the mitsvot as obligation, even if there are various reasons why some are not performed today. By that definition, many Conservative rabbis qualify.

    There are no Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform conversions. There are only conversions that are performed in accordance with the halachot. Such conversions may be performed by any and every movement if they work within the rules.

  • So I didn’t convert in accordance with the man-made rules of halacha. I don’t give a damn. The Torah and Tanakh are more important than the Talmud. Ruth converted simply by saying, “Your people shall be my people and your God my God.” She didn’t have to jump through bureaucratic hoops. Abraham circumcised himself, and that’s all he needed to do. The Written Law was created by men in the first couple centuries of the Modern Era. Well, what did converts have to do before then? Who knows, and who cares. If only Jews-by-Choice who follow that strict process are real Jews, what about Jews who converted before that process was created? It’s illogical. If you’re a non-thinking slave to a set of man-made laws, I’d call that idolatry.

    Sam, my friend and fellow ger, you may not be giving nearly enough credit to how important the process of the evolution of halacha is to Jews. We start with Torah/TaNaKh, but that’s not nearly enough by itself to run the show. With only Torah for halacha we couldn’t have warm food on Shabbat, we would literally punish people with measure-for-measure and eye-for-eye, and we would be pouring the deadly waters of Sota down the throats of Jewish women. We needed an oral tradition to fill in and adjust the details: this is the Mishna, gathered by R. Akiva and transmitted through R. Meire – A CONVERT – to R. Judah the Prince. We needed to be able to tweak the steering wheel along the way: this is the Talmud including its commentators and codifiers. It’s the slowing down / stopping of this process of halachic evolution after the expulsion from Spain and the debacle of the false messiah Shabbetai Tsvi that has laid the groundwork for an orthodoxy that has trouble adjusting to social and cultural changes in the surrounding world.

    The Book of Ruth is a favorite of mine, but you might want to study it from a critical approach to understand its political importance in helping to setup David to be king. I would offer the thought that there may be plenty of literal truth in it, but it may be written with an agenda as well. I wouldn’t declare it to be the literal law regarding the requirements for conversion, even though I certain second the emotion you’re voicing.

  • For Nathan and others with certain misconceptions of Jewish history: What is the Oral Torah?

    Even Wikipedia, an often dubious source, documents this more accurately than Nathan’s “revised” explanation, devised by the very same Jews who needed to justify their rejection of Judaism as it was for 1000’s of years.

  • Shy Guy,

    Thanks for that historical background from Aish HaTorah. Whenever I’m looking for historical background, I head straight to Aish! This was on the Aish page:

    When the Jewish people stood at Mount Sinai 3,300 years ago, God communicated the 613 commandments, along with a detailed, practical explanation of how to fulfill them.

    Mmm, I love me some Aish “history”!

  • EV, excellent question. Rashi alluded to the answer ages ago. Details here.

    (Darnit! Another Aish article!)

  • Rashi link isn’t coming up. Perhaps just on my Apikoris web browser?

  • Well based on Orthodox guidelines I am jew.

    Lets here a yell out to my direct maternal Great Great Grandmother Anna Polkow who’s family was from Poland!

    Based on Reform guidelines I am to be welcomed back to the covenant after growing up secular.

    I guess I have double indemnity!

  • Elon, thanks for your response.

    So how does it feel? To be Jewish as opposed to whatever you were before, I mean. Are you fulfilled, are you different, are you happy?

  • Well, if Aish writes it, it must be true. I know this because I’ve met several people “taught” the “truth” by Aish classes, and they told me so.

    So there – I’m put in my place. Really.

    For our next debate, Shy Guy will explain the “truth” to me about the references in Mishna to the “First Mishna” that contains some different versions of the “Oral Torah”. No doubt, this was yet another clever test of faith laid into the Torah by haShem to smoke out trouble makers such as myself. Then, Shy Guy will explain the various examples of the halacha changing over time and how that’s exactly what haShem meant for them to do; we’ll start with the time of the evening Shma’, and then work our way to the waters of Sota, and then, we’ll then it will really get fun.

    Gotta catch some sleep before the early minyan…

  • Nathan, most of what Aish mentions in that article are nothing new. As it quotes its sources, you can go to any Beit Midrash and look them up yourself. If you wish to point out any errors in the article, please do so.

    I’m afraid I do not understand your question with regard to the “first mishna”.

    As for troublemakers, that’s your bechirah and that’s what a Jewish life is all about – making decisions.

    I’m afraid I again do not understand your point about Shmah, Sotah, etc. However, better than argue with me, why not seriously confront someone who is qualified to debate this with you. I can give you lots of practical medical advice but if you really needed it, I assume you would be consulting a qualified doctor.

    I am not a qualified Torah scholar and there’s only so far I can go in pointing out relatively basic concepts of Judaism. So, if you have complex halachic or philosphical questions, there are enough rabbis around who can answer them, if not on the fly, then with some quick research and getting back to you in due time.

    In fact, why not contact Aish HaTorah or Ohr Sameach with you questions. You seem to think negatively of them. See if your contact with them confirms your reason for negativity. (NOTE: I have no affiliation with either of these organizations).

    But that, of course, assumes you are seriously interested in hearing views contrary to what’s been spoonfed to you by Jews who created a deviant sect to conform to their personal conveniences slightly less than 2 centuries ago or much less.

  • TM-
    In regards to your questions:
    It feels right, it feels like I’m at home. Even the in-fighting makes me feel at home. Am I fulfilled? Absolutely, I need not go anywhere else for my spiritual fulfillment. There is still so much in Judaism to explore, and here I have only a lifetime to explore it all. As to whether or not I am happy with my decision almost 3 years ago to start a conversion? Yes. Absolutely. Of course, it’s like I said, being a convert does often make one a second class citizen. And I don’t even mean myself particularily. Orthodox converts are treated this way as well, just ask an Asian Orthodox convert who hasn’t converted FOR marriage how they get along with the family of their Ashkenazi loved one. We have all heard the stories. It is frustrating at times, but it hardly keeps me down or makes me want to leave the fold. Have I thought about getting a Modern orthodox conversion as soon as I settle in a city for more than 5 months and find a community? Yes. I’m not a “conservative” Jew, I’m a Jew. I feel equally at home at a Modern Orthodox shul as I do in a more observant Conservative shul. Doing so will put a part of me at ease, while undoubtedly create whole new issues (like i mentioned above), but I’ve weighed both sides and I think it is worth it.

    I’m rambling. I hope that answers your question, and I hope you had a wonderful shabbos!

  • This conversion controversy spells the end of Judaism. The different “denominations” (this word sounds so Christian to me) in Ashkenazi Judaism have become so polarized that the Ashkenazi version of the religion, ALL OF IT, suffers. Won’t God step in and help ? Oh right, He’s not supposed to get involved; the Torah is not in Heaven. Wave goodbye to reasonable Orthodoxy, it’s GONE.