One of our visitors who goes by the name of Katie asked some questions in the mikvah discussion and since I spent a long time writing responses and consider the discussion to have some importance and relevance, I thought they merit a post. I didn’t sit there for days to develop a position paper but I do think my responses represent some ideas and solutions for some of the current problems that exist between movements especially in light of the control over the Israeli Rabbinate and Ministry of Religious Affairs by Orthodox streams. Katie’s questions are in italics.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

About the author

themiddle

67 Comments

  • Why should one deny a positive or pro-active change such as advocating that women be treated as equals to men and deserve the same level of participation in religious society as men?”

    Oh, okay. You’re the more progressive one. Therefore, all Orthodox Jews will now accept whatever the fuck you want them to when ON YOUR TURF. Any other fantasies of accomodation while you’re pointing how you are the more progressive party?

    “Reform Judaism accepts, in certain instances, that Judaism can be passed through the father. This makes sense to me.”

    It’s not about what makes sense to you. It is a theology, not what makes sense to Suburban Egalitarian Soccer Dad guy. When will you understand that? Never, perhaps?

  • Kelsey, try to read a little more carefully before using big words like fuck.

    Nobody asked them to accept other beliefs or modify their beliefs, merely to respect the beliefs of others and act as if that whole business of kol israel arevim zeh lazeh actually means something. If this is a fantasy, so be it. I like to think it’s respect for the other.

    As for your second comment, I’ll just remind you that Reform is also a Jewish theology. It’s irrelevant that you reject them or the Orthodox reject them. It’s also irrelevant whether I agree or not with any part of any Jewish theology. Remember, I’m just a little pisher who writes on a blog where some of the other posters vehemently disagree with me.

    Anyway, to remind you, once upon a time Jewish lineage was passed through the father and even today we still accept this transfer of lineage for Cohanim and Levites. I don’t ask the rabbis to accept or reject this paternal lineage, I recognize they won’t. I do expect the state of Israel not to have conflicting rules about this where they allow Jews in on the basis of this sort of criteria and then allow a government ministry and sponsored Rabbinate to dictate differently. I also am not asking the Orthodox family to marry off their daughter to a Reform man whose father was Jewish and mother was not, I just want the state to keep its hands off this situation and let people and movements decide for themselves – if he needs to “convert” so that he can marry their daughter, that’s his business. It’s not the state’s business.

  • The Kaaraites and the Essense were also Jewish theologies. But their theology wass different than Judaism, and was not accepted as such. So too here.

    I agree with you that the State of Israel’s nonsense about accepting a Nuremberg definition of Who is a Jew is a mistake. Glad we agree.

    But I don’t tell the State of Israel what to do, or freak when they do something out of line with classic Judaism, because I don’t confuse Zionism with Judaism. One guess who does!!!!

  • This is seemingly a continuation of the earlier post about the dispute between the Orthodox establishment and non-Orthodox Jews regarding access to government-sponsored mikvahs in Israel. Though the absence of civility and respect that others have noted is regrettable, the expectation of such qualities isn’t remotely plausible in this circumstance. This isn’t a question of tone, but a conflict of fundamental principals, and is every bit the stuff of which civil wars and schisms are made. It’s approaching thirty years since I was first informed that my religious practice ranges from spiritual compromise to out-and-out heresy, and I’m fucking tired of it. Of course, there are many among the Orthodox – indeed, among my own family – who would be disgusted by such sentiments, or, at the very least, who lack the arrogance and utter contempt for Klal Yisrael to codify that belief as a matter of law. Alas, they aren’t the ones with their hands on the levers of power in Israel’s Chief Rabbinate.

    ck’s repeated argument that this dispute applies only to converts – and is thus of marginal practical consequence – is accurate, but beside the point. The issue here, as with the Law of Return, is one of formal equality under the law, a context in which the absence of broad practical implications is meaningless. Such formal discrimination is intolerable, whether or not the laws codifying it are frequently, or ever, enforced.

    My own frustration is partly a function of the almost impossibly puerile arguments used again and again in support of the Orthodox position. If these arguments aren’t disingenuous (and I suspect they’re not), then it’s hardly the Jewish day school education most desperately in need of urgent attention. Two such arguments are most salient.

    These are variations on the “hoist-on-their-own-petard” argument, examples of which are:

    1. It is hypocritical and discriminatory of the Conservative to demand recognition by the Orthodox, yet to reject the validity of Reform standards of conversions and kashrut.

    2. It violates the freedom of religion of the Orthodox to demand that they “tacitly endorse” Reform and Conservative Judaism by accepting the legitimacy of the latter. Likewise, it is the non-Orthodox that are “rejecting” the Orthodox by demanding a policy of non-discrimination.

    Quite simply, these arguments are thoroughly and unambiguously fallacious. OF COURSE the respective denominations “reject” each other based on their different standards, but there is nothing hypocritical about that circumstance. This issue has nothing whatever to do with insisting that Orthodox share a mikvah with Conservative Jews, eat in their kitchens, or permit women to read the Torah. Personally, if the only standards of practice available to me were those of the Reform movement, I’d never walk into a shul again. The last time I attended such a service was at the wealthiest, most prominent synagogue in San Francisco, which made me feel as though I were attending a bad performance of Cats. Here’s the critical difference, though. Notwithstanding my personal views, IT HAS LITERALLY NEVER ONCE CROSSED MY MIND to pass judgment on the validity of such practices, or to criticize or restrict their acceptance by Jews who feel differently than I do. The seeming compulsion to issue such judgments isn’t a function of Orthodoxy itself, but of those petty Torquemadas – like Shy Guy – who regard themselves as the eternal guardians of ideological and racial purity, in order to root out and extirpate the rising tide of heresy in their midst. Here are some of the terms used by Shy Guy to describe the relationship of non-Orthodox to Orthodox Judaism: “desecrate;” “deviant;” “defile;” “phony;” “heresy;” “rebels;” and “a mediocre and faux version of Judaism.” Finally, he characterizes non-Orthodox conversions as akin to “cooking ham in a kosher kitchen because a swine, too, appears kosher from the outside, having split hooves.” Though the rest of Orthodox Jewry is undoubtedly more tactful in its rejection of the legitimacy of non-Orthodox converts (it would be impossible not to be), such rabid fanaticism is precisely why I’m insistent upon formal equality under the law.

    As to Argument #2, this criticism in no way impinges on the Orthodox community’s freedom of religion. Tolerance – and, for that matter, democracy and pluralism – must accept the legitimacy of all positions, EXCEPT INTOLERANCE. This qualification is absolutely vital. This is why democracy doesn’t require the tolerance of any group that calls for the rejection of the democratic process itself; it is why rejecting the demand by abortion opponents for a gag rule at family planning clinics doesn’t abrogate their free speech; it is why those who call for a prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation are not “doing the same thing” to those who regard homosexuality as immoral. From a practical standpoint, this means that there is nothing inconsistent or hypocritical about Israel’s prohibiting Kach’s participation in elections, Germany’s outlawing Nazi displays, or Egypt’s disenfranchising a candidate that calls for the imposition of sharia. For any group to accept a position that rejects the legitimacy of said group is not tolerance, it is capitulation.

  • The last session I went to at a Tikkun Leyl this morning was called “Controversy in Orthodoxy.” I didn’t go to say anything, but just to listen. I respect and like the Rabbi who was leading the session and wanted to hear what he had to say.

    Almost the entire conversation was about “Who is a Jew?” I liked how he described the current situation: There are those who consider themselves Jewish, who live a Jewish life, who are involved in the Jewish community, but who are not halachicly Jewish for one reason or another.

    It wasn’t about rejection of non-halachic Jews, but about how they fit in the community and what do you do when someone who is actively, but not halachicly jewish, wants to marry someone who is halachicly jewish.

    One answer on the table is to make everyone do a “just to make sure we’re all kosher” conversion/trip to mikvah before the wedding or the year before the bar/bat mitzvah. This lead into a long discussion on Kohans and marraige restrictions and theoretical situations. But I thought it was interesting. Also he said that the individuals would be asked to “pay lip service to putting on the yoke of halacha.”

    I was surprised. A reason I did not do an orthodox conversion was this–it would have been lip service, so what is the point?

    I wish we as Jews would stop worrying and spending so much energy fighting about Who is A Jew and just start doing Jewish. We have a lot to offer, remember that whole “light to the nations” thing? Regardless of stream, you can be a light to the nations. You can do Jewish, even if you aren’t halachicly Jewish.

    Just some Shavuot reflections.

  • DK said: It’s not about what makes sense to you. It is a theology, not what makes sense to Suburban Egalitarian Soccer Dad guy. When will you understand that? Never, perhaps?

    DK, when will you learn that every theologian in the history of human civilization is inventing what makes sense to him or her, then projecting that back to an “Almighty”? It happened in the Sixth Century and it’s happening today. It happens in every single religion. It might feel cozy to pretend the Talmudists were channeling God more than “Suburban Egalitarian Soccer Dad guys” can channel God, but get real. They were channeling accepted social norms of their community. The problem today is that their outdated, ossified norms are now accepted — idolized even — as Divine.

  • EV and TM,

    I never said it has anything to do with God. Stop pretending I am religious.

    In any society, you have, as a starting point, that of the Status Quo Theorem. Certainly in Judaism. And for change in Judaism, you need not only a perceived need for change, but the authority to ratify any given change.

    Not only do some of us disagree with that need, but even those who do agree that many have such a perceived need still see a lack of authority by those proposing change (or claiming change was made already) to legitimately enact it. In fact, they premept it. They are usually known Lefties, activists, and non-Orthodox rabbinical students. Not exactly the Rambam or Rebbeinu Gershon, gentlemen.

    And this is why all proposed theological changes for the Jewish people coming from the deviant movements will not be absorbed by the Orthodox. Even the Secular Orthodox.

  • No one has asked the Orthodox to absorb anything, nor have I ever met anyone who wanted them to do so. Of course, you could always drag out the rotting corpse of the argument that insisting on equality for the non-Orthodox constitutes a denial of equality for the Orthodox, by compelling their “tacit endorcement” of the former’s standards. As discussed in my previous comment, clever but specious.

  • As to point 2 addressed by Middle: in American terms, this illustrates the tension inherent between the “establishment” and “free exercise” clauses (the “religion clauses”) of the First Amendment of the Constitution. If in the “free exercise” of my religion, I claim that permitting other religions to engage in certain practices violates my faith, I’m not entitled to make this a matter of civil law– for this would amount to an “establishment” of religion, i.e. privileging one faith over another, impermissibly favoring one faith by limiting the freedoms of other faiths.

  • Tom, where were you when I was composing my responses? To think we could have actually had some sophistication in there.

    I know, I know, I can’t afford you. 😉

  • Shockingly – I actually AGREE with the Muddled One!!!

    He wrote:
    I guess my ideal would be that when you come to my house, please respect my customs even if you don’t partake. When I come to your house, I’ll do the same.
    – – – – – – – – – – – – –
    Exactly. While diaspora Jewry rails and rages about this issue, it is a blip on the screen for most Israelis.

    Most Israelis – even the secular – want whatever IS Jewish in their lives and in their country to be Jewish according to the authentic Judaism of the ages – what the Reform and Conservative movements tried to box off under the antiquated label of “Orthodoxy”.

    These “progressive” movements developed in the Diaspora as a direct response to the cultural conflict Diaspora Jews experienced. And in fact, these movements have largely played out as trajectories of cultural accommodation and assimilation – something that even secular Israelis see quite clearly.

    Overseas Jews who have Re- or deformed Judaism to make their lives in another culture easier should not be surprised to find that in Israel, things are different – and as the Middle has said, they must respect the house rules.

    The other option would be for them to move here in large numbers, and start voting – but oops! that would require actually valuing one’s Jewish identity over one’s American identity. Not likely given the current sad denouement of these assimilationist movements – which only make the strident calls for respect more pathetic, and ironic.

    While we have not yet worked out completely the relationship between the state’s Jewish character and its democratic mechanisms, it’s clear the the Rabbinate, and authentic Torah Judaism, have broad support. To that extent, Israel most definitely IS a working democracy – can “progressive” Jews respect that, and respect that most Israelis do not agree with them?

    – in the spirit of *plurality*, ya know…

    There is enormous hypocrisy/disingenguousness in the calls for “pluralism” coming from people who are, in the average Israeli’s eyes, using the Supreme Court and other instruments to impose their minority opinion on the majority.

  • Ben David, how is it you continuously misinterpret everything?

    Democracies protect the rights of minorities and give them equal voice even if they don’t give them equal power unless they win it in the ballot box. The function of the courts is not to impose minority opinions, it is to protect minority rights and equitable treatment of said minorities even when other forces in society push things in other directions. The Court is intended to serve as a memory bank for the foundational ideals of the state, the developments of these ideals into practice over time and the application of those ideals in the present time when there are conflicts that play out. In doing so, it also sometimes ensures that even when a society or government want to change things, they must do so within a larger context.

    This translates to, for example, a court that remains steadfast in, say, protecting settlers and their rights even if you have a government that seeks to subvert those rights because it ran on such a platform and received a majority or plurality of votes. Yes, sometimes things go against what YOU would like to see, but that has nothing to do with hypocrisy.

    One of the tenets of Israel’s formative Declaration of Independence states:
    THE STATE OF ISRAEL will be open for Jewish immigration and for the Ingathering of the Exiles; it will foster the development of the country for the benefit of all its inhabitants; it will be based on freedom, justice and peace as envisaged by the prophets of Israel; it will ensure complete equality of social and political rights to all its inhabitants irrespective of religion, race or sex; it will guarantee freedom of religion, conscience, language, education and culture; it will safeguard the Holy Places of all religions; and it will be faithful to the principles of the Charter of the United Nations.

    I realize that you would like that to mean “Orthodox” or “real” Judaism, but what it actually says is that it doesn’t matter what your faith or sex might be, you will be treated equally. Obviously, if you have certain Jews being prevented from using state facilities because their practice differs from other Jews who were given control of certain government functions pertaining to religion, you are in breach of these basic foundational elements in Israel’s charter.

    Furthermore, you are in breach when you discriminate by segmenting part of them at the Western Wall or causing separation between men and women and certainly when you deny their right to use a government funded and built facility.

    You are also violating the rights of Jews who belong to other movements because you refuse to acknowledge their conversions as valid, and I would guess that since the government is backing the rejection of the authority of their Masorti and Progressive Judaism rabbis to convert, it is in violation of the rights of these rabbis as Israelis as well.

    That was one.

    Two: most Israelis are really Conservative Jews but don’t know it. Most are traditional in their observance, believe in God, respect the Torah and halacha as the source of our culture but also drive on Shabbat, have barbecues at the beach on Shabbat and holidays, don’t worry about the level of kashrut of their food, etc. On the other hand, in contrast with Conservative Jews, most Israelis have little exposure to Torah study or attending regular services at the synagogue and not in small part because the powers in government which are, of course, Orthodox, that control religious affairs do not care whether secular Israelis receive solid exposure to Jewish texts and religious instruction. They seem to be far more concerned about other things.

    If there is support for “Orthodox” Judaism among Israelis, it is in large part because of two key factors: the state has given such authority to the Orthodox that it’s simply foolish to not roll with the punches; and, the other movements have been attacked vociferously and ferociously by these same powers even while they use their status as government representatives to supposedly protect and serve all Jews.

    If you need evidence that you are mistaken about the support of the average Israeli of the status quo, how do you explain that over 20% of marriages between Israelis take place on Cyprus? 20 percent!!!! If that’s not rejection, what is?

    If anything, the “assimilationist” movement is the rejectionist one. The one that says to many Israelis, “You may not marry this way,” and “You must behave this way,” and “You must worship this way,” and “You pay the taxes, we’ll use them to improve our school systems which are different than your school systems,” and “You may risk your lives to protect us and when you decide it’s bad for the country we’ll call you yefei nefesh (beautiful souls) sarcastically or, you know, er, Nazis,” and when the state wants to impose its laws like when a father allegedly kills his baby boy and admits to it or the state wants to conduct an autopsy on a baby’s corpse, some might say “You, the state, have no right to judge us or usurp our internal doctrines and we will do what we can to prevent you from doing so.”

    That, my silly and confused friend, Ben David, is the reason so many Israelis turn their backs on faith and Judaism. It is rebellion and disgust. They respect our foundations and our history. They live within its culture. But they aren’t stupid, Ben David, they just don’t have other options because the status quo allows one large group to dismiss other groups and their customs. That is the reason that pretty much whenever you see Israelis who move out of Israel, they usually do not keep any contact with the religious aspect of their Judaism. Talk about assimilation. I have a feeling they would react differently had they been allowed to consider other movements that can offer them very different options.

  • Good God… I have to say that I am perplexed that clearly non-religious Jews have decided to come out of the woodwork in order to defend halachic Judaism. I’ve been off the internet since Thursday night and so I can’t even begin to absorb all that’s been written. I trust everyone’s had a good yom tov and a peaceful sabbath…

    So a few minor points are in order I suppose. First of all, notions like the separation of church and state relate to the American democratic model and have no applicability to a country that was founded as a Jewish State. We discriminate in favor of Jews and even people with Jewish relatives who aren’t themselves Jewish. Our flag has a magen David on it. Hatikvah cites the yearning of a Jewish soul. Could you imagine such a thing in the US? Could you imagine giving Christians priority in matters of immigration over non-Christians coming to the US? No. Because the US is not Israel. Both states were founded under completely different circumstances. Using American standards within an Israeli context is pointless. The debate as to whether Israel ought to be a Jewish State or a State of Jews is one that is ongoing in Israel. The government has tried thusfar to steer a course somewhere in between the two. I doubt we’re going to resolve the situation but it is subject to the whims and vagaries of the democratic process. Hence my tiresome refrain – if you don’t like the situation, move here and vote against the “politically strong, politically connected, wealthier, or those given power through historic accidents.” Or use the power and wealth of diasporah Jews to effect change. If AIPAC can lobby on behalf of Israel in the US then surely this mass of offended Conservative and Reform Jews can create a similar body in Israel to lobby the government and support candidates and parties who oppose Orthodox control over the ministry of religious affairs.

    TM wrote: “So, for example, a Reform rabbi would be allowed to conduct a ceremony or there could be a Reform event at the Great Synagogue, but they may not use any food that would be considered unkosher, a microphone on shabbat or holidays, etc.”

    etc.? How about mixed seating? How about allowing individuals not considered Jews by halachic standards to officiate or read from the Torah? How about using liturgy that accepts the belief that God doesn’t exist? How about not having one’s head covered?

    TM wrote: “so isn’t it simpler and more fair to allow the free “marketplace” to determine how people get married, worship, etc.?” Uh…. isn’t that how it works now? I mean correct me if I’m mistaken but all the Religious parties were democratically elected. Those completely opposed Religious parties in Government could have voted for Meretz or Shinui or any of the other parties who had such a platform. Clearly, the market spoke and the market voted for the continued presence of religious parties in the government. Sorry if that’s inconvenient, but that’s reality. IKt’s a funny thing about Israelis. Many may be secular, but whenever they have dealings with religious institutions there’s a notion that they want it to be “authentic” and hence they choose to attend Orthodox synagogues and support Orthodox Rabbis. Reform and Conservative Judaism have made very little headway here because they are viewed as foreign – speaking to the American religious experience and not resonating with Israelis. Israelis don’t really know from synagogues without kippahs and choirs. I’m not passing judgement here – just making observations.

    TM: “The criterion that the mother should be Jewish is not the one the state of Israel uses for the right of return.” For policy reasons. The state does not want to prevent a halachic Jew from availing himself or herself of the right of return if it means that his or her non-halachically Jewish kin can’t also come along. The right of return thus applies to Jews and their non-Jewish immediate family. Any Jew who rejects the Judaism of an individual whose mother was Jewish or who was halachically converted is violating halacha, plain and simple.

    TM wrote: “Who granted the Rabbinate the power to decide this? The state. Why? Historic accident.” Historic accident?? You mean the historic accident of Reform and Liberal Judaism at their inception being vehemently anti-Zionist? Or do you mean the historic accident of millenia-old Halachic Judaism? What historic accident are you talking about?

    TM wote: “Reform Judaism accepts, in certain instances, that Judaism can be passed through the father. This makes sense to me. After all, if half the genes are mine and you’re going to go by genetics, then why shouldn’t the child be considered Jewish.” Because religion has been passed on by the Mother and tribal affiliation via the father. No one ever said anything about genetics. That’s the way it’s always been done and if Reform Jews want to change that they have to accept the fact that Jews who have never accepted that before won’t just change their ways based on Reform Judaism’s say so. Instituting this change without trying to get all major Jewish denominations on board creates a rift. Reform Judaism created this rift, not the Orthodox. In fact, by simply rejecting the primacy of matrilineal descent, some have said that Reform Judaism severed the united peoplehood that linked all streams of Judaism.

    Look, there’s evidence that in pre-Rabbinic times, patrilineal descent was accepted, and given the current state of DNA testing, paternity is easy to detrmine, but it’s not for me to make those determinations vis-a-vis halacha and it’s not for Reform Judaism to make that decision either absent general agreement by all movements. Going that route without consensus created the schism.

    TM wrote: “You can’t impose faith on people, they either have it or they don’t. If you reject them for belonging to other groups that don’t subscribe to your beliefs, however, their resentment combined with the unbridgeable gulf in faith will cause them to seek to leave the fold. In this respect even those whom the Orthodox consider Jewish, those who are born to Jewish mothers for example, are more likely to leave Judaism and assimilate. Rejectionism hastens assimilation.”

    Allow me to repeat that last line. “Rejectionsim hastens assimiliation” Hmmm. Let’s see. 58% of Reform Jews intermarry. More than half of Conservative Jews aged 18-35 polled said that it was ok to marry outside your faith. So you’re telling me that this is the fault of the Orthodox? Seems to me that what hastens assimilation is affiliation with a Non-Orthodox branch of Judaism. Again, not making value judgements here – just looking at the facts.

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

    In that respect I take my lead from my Rabbinic authorities who feel that it’s better to be Reform or Conservative than nothing at all. Non-Orthodox practice is better than complete assimiliation. There’s a group called Edah made up of Rabbis from the Rabbinic Council of America and their mission statement states that “The Vision of Edah is an Orthodox Jewish community in which we, as members, leaders, and institutions….reach out to and interact with Jews of all the movements as well as non -affiliated Jews as an expression of the wholeness of, and in an effort to strengthen, the entire Jewish people.” So nothing that I do is that remarkable. in my daily life I strive to look for the things that unite us rather than self-righteously focus on the things that divide us. It’s only when I feel under attack that this ever becomes an issue. I mean, its not like I don’t have issues with the Rabbanut and with Orthodoxy. The Rabanut’s recent rejection of RCA conversions makes no sense. The Orthodox record of dealing with child molestors is appalling. The situation of agunot needs to be addressed. The trend towards laying humras on top of humras and shifting even more to the right also makes no sense. Look I could go on and on, but whenever I discuss these issues, I do so from a position of respect, not rejectionism. And I can’t even begin to discuss these issues when fundamentals are always disregarded. I accept that most non-Orthodox Jews are not going to become Orthodox any time soon. Consequently productive discussions will naturally focus on issuues we share in common. With respect to those issues we don’t see eye to eye on, it’s best to tread extremely carefully or not to discuss them at all.

    TM wrote: “Reform has clearly gone through an evolution with respect to a number of issues (Israel, for example), while the Orthodox have not.” That’s simply false. There have been numerous efforts by the Modern Orthodox to bridge divides and work with other streams of Judaism. They may have met with mixed success, but the examples are numerous: The (now defunct) Synagogue Council of America, CLAL (The National Jewish Center for Learning and Leadership), the New York Board of Rabbis, The Hartmann Institute, The Pardes Yeshiva and the aforementioned Edah.

    TM wrote: “I don’t expect an Orthodox Jew to accept mixed seating, but I reject his view that mixed seating is sinful.” It’s at the very least sinful for him. Thus he can’t attend a service where mixed seating is allowed. How is it that you don’t understand that? Having such a service prima facie rejects Orthodox participation. So great, a really determined Orthodox Jew can go to a wedding but not participate in the service, or eat the food. But really, he or she are otherwise totally welcome. Really. Other than not being able to participate in 98% of the activities, they are welcome to pop in really quick, wish the bride and groom a mazel tov, and leave. That’s so inclusive and pluralistic. Wow. But please, don’t be side tracked by my flip tone. Do you not see the divisiveness created? Is it really all the fault of obstinate Orthodox Jews?

    Anyhow, I think I’ve said my peace here. I hate this topic and I don’t know how it is that you, of all our non-Orthodox posters, have a special talent for inspiring such rancor. I said that MK Cohen’s comments were impolitic – no one got pissed off at me. I have stated my disagreement with numerous aspects of Orthodoxy, no one seems hurt. What is it about the way you present your opinions that pisses so many people off? You might want to think about that. I mean sheesh – non-religious people are jumping to the defense of the Orthodox, what’s that all about?

  • themiddle, two things:
    One – though I am one of those Israelis you describe who has huge problems with the Haredim that often cross over into the realm of “disgust” (though I must say them’s fightin’ words), I must agree with Laya. No way in hell are “most Israelis” Conservative Jews who don’t know it. Yes, there are varying levels of observance, but yours is a huge and hugely mistaken generalization. Also, as someone else pointed out on another thread, you really might want to stop targeting the “Orthodox” in general. There’s Haredim, and then there’s Orthodox. Not always one and the same.

    Two – “…pretty much whenever you see Israelis who move out of Israel, they usually do not keep any contact with the religious aspect of their Judaism.” WRONG!! During the first ten years of my life in Israel, I saw the inside of a synagogue maybe five times. That’s even a stretch. Upon moving to the United States, my family started going to the synagogue almost every Shabbat. Same goes for the other ten or fifteen Israeli families we knew in Florida. In Israel it’s easy to feel Jewish (and your assessment that most Israelis have little exposure to the Torah is also wrong – Israelis learn Tanach for years in public school). Once away from Israel, it’s been my extensive anecdotal experience that Israelis in the galut become more religiously active in order to stay close to other Jews. So… while I sympathize with many of your frustrations, you’re bringing a lot of your own baggage to the argument and it doesn’t always hold water.

  • ck, I don’t have time to respond right now, but allow me to remind you that we’ve also had guests leave our site permanently for the exact opposite reason, that is, the strength and vigor of comments made by some on here in opposition to other, non-Orthodox, movements.

    One more thing: the term “non-religious” does not describe me or Conservative or Reform Jews.

  • Yes. TM is right. Most Reform Jews are very pious. They observe the High Holidays of Martin Luther King Day AND Tu B’Shvat, right? Hey — that beats me! I don’t usually bother to do squat for either of those High Holidays. Cause I’m secular. I keep kosher at home, but big deal. Sometimes I think that if the Reformed ones were serious about Tu B’Shvat they would take a more serious approach to mass transit, but I guess as long as they play a song on the guitar, that’s a meaningful start. What do I know. I am a Shaigetz.

  • I also want to assure CK that I love the American Conservative and Reform pressure on Israel as much as I love AIPAC.

  • That cat-lady who left was by any reasonable standard, totally unreasonable. I bent over backwards to explain my position in the kindest and most understanding way possible, and she just continued to go nuts. The only way she would have been satisfied would have been if I altered my belief system. I take no responsibility for that. I can’t help it if people are out and out unreasonable. I’m almost embarassed,at how accomodating sensitive and sympathetic I tried to be…

    Vis-a-vis “non-religious” I didn’t mean you. I meant Kelsey and Katie who defended the Orthodox position while posting on the Sabbath and Yom Tov. From a Reform or Conservative perspective, I understand it’s quite acceptable to use computers on the Sabbath and Yom Tov, hence you are not “non-religious.” Both Kelsey and Katie described themselves as non-religious.

    With respect to this notion that most Israelis are Conservative and don’t know it… try telling that to an Israeli and see what he/she says. I know that many in my Orthodox synagogue back home drive and work on the sabbath and don’t keep strictly Kosher. Many are former Israelis too. But for some reason, they have absolutely no interest in Conservative or Reform Judaism. They see those branches of Judaism and their services as being as foreign to them as a Church service. The same applies for most Israelis. They either don’t give a rat’s ass about any religious expression, or look cock-eyed at the way Conservative and Reform Judaism manifest themselves. What can i say, American-style spirituality just doesn’t resonate with them.

    Interestingly, you cite a figure of 20% of marriages in Israel taking place in Cyprus. This is one of the figures you cite in support of the notion that Israel is really a society of Conservatives who don’t know it. Haaretz reported on a poll in the paper’s Shavuoth edition that stated that 72% of Israelis believe in God and that 23% do not. I doubt that 23% would be considered good candidates for Conservative affiliation. Also, of those who described themselves as secular, nearly half maintained a belief in God. For every Israeli who believed that man was descended from Monkeys, 2 believed that man was created by God. Pretty whacky no?

    Anyhow, as I mentioned before, there’s a reason why Conservative and Reform Judaism haven’t taken root in Israel. Both are quite foreign and most of their adherents here are expats. But please, by all means – move here. I for one would welcome all y’all with open arms. I wouldn’t vote for you, I couldn’t marry your converts, attend your synagogues or eat your fish sticks, but I’d welcome you nonetheless.

  • Hi, I just got back from the Jewlicious trip to Israel where Dave and Laya were our guides. This has been quite a debate! Dave and Laya were fantastic leaders and in case anyone is worried, they never made us feel bad about our Judaism. They really made our trip the amazing experience that it was. Neither hid the fact that they were Orthodox and they spoke frankly about what that meant without alienating any of us. In fact I’d have to say that Friday night at the western wall and Saturday lunch with Orthodox families were highlights of the trip.

    Just as they were frank with us, I guess I can be frank on Jewlicious. Most of us on the trip had pretty typical backgrounds. Whether we were raised Conservative or Reform, very few of us actually do anything Jewish. Many of us belong to Jewish sororities or fraternities, we’ve gone to Jewish camps and most of our friends are Jewish but we don’t keep kosher and we don’t do anything special friday night. In that respect I guess I’d have to say that we’re not very religious at all. We attend services when we’re home on holidays, but that’s pretty much it.

    That Cohen guy sounded mean, but the truth is I had to look up what a mikva was. Most of us are far more familiar with a Baptism than we are with Jewish ritual immersion. I guess one of the things I’m coming away from the trip with is that maybe I should do more and learn more about the Judaism that I am so proud of. I know a few of us are going to start lighting candles and maybe have a nice dinner together on friday nights. Also we totally love Israel and are definitely coming back. I have to add that 10 days with Dave and Laya has been more inspiring than all my bat mitzva lessons and all my synagogue services to date. This is one Conservative Jewish gal who totally appreciates your perspective!

  • rmeister, glad you posted. I’m really thrilled to hear yet again that Dave and Laya did a great job with the trip and with presenting themselves and their beliefs in a joyful and respectful way. Since this has been the case in the past, I had no doubt that this would be the case again.

    And as for this continued “discussion,” I’m literally nauseous.

  • Re: the “accident of history” or whatever we called it way back in the early responses… actually, it was Ben Gurion’s mistake. Seems that he decided to give power to the ultra-orthodox because he felt bad for how many of them perished in the holocaust, and – get this – because he figured their lifestyle wouldn’t survive to the third generation. It was pity power. Too bad he read the cards wrong.

    (check it out in the book “Real Jews: secular vs. ultra-orthodox and the struggle for Jewish identity in Israel)

  • CK – your point about America and Israel being different says it all – the Middle is inadvertently revealing what we all know: the most extreme version of western left-liberalism has replaced the Judaism of most “progressive” Jews – to the point where they insist on a totally inapplicable notion of church-state separation in Israel.

    Muddeleh: Israel’s declarations about equality were meant to insure equal treatment for its Muslim and Christian citizens – it wasn’t intended to allow false and deceptive representations within Judaism, just as it doesn’t allow missionary activity as an exercise of religious freedom.

    Again – the most effective way to bring us smelly, backward DIBs up to snuff would be to move here…

  • While I don’t wish to enter the foray here, I do want to point out a possitive in the direction of dealing with Agunot. (A point CK raised as a legitament issue in Orthodoxy that needs to be addressed.)

    My friend started an organization, ORA – The Organization for the Resolution of Agunot, Inc.

    They have been growing steadily and have been achieving quite a lot of success. It is my hope that through publicity of the organization, their message and impact will spread.

    Please check out their website at: http://www.getora.com/index.htm

    If it interests you at all there are also links to volunteer and to donate to the cause.

    Let’s work on building bridges and solving problems, there is already enough divisivness in our community, we don’t need more.

  • For every Israeli who believed that man was descended from Monkeys, 2 believed that man was created by God. Pretty wacky no?

    Pretty wacky yes!
    Muffti is literally nauseous. And he can’t spell naseuos. Coz he’s too nasueos.

  • ck,

    Not sure if I understood your implication there, but I think Conservative and Reform Jews believe in God too.

    Also, since you brought it up, I should add that I know several people who stopped coming to this site because of its heavy-handed and dismissive attitude towards differing religious or Zionist beliefs.

    Please stop attacking TM. I don’t see anything wrong with his tone. It’s the content of what he’s saying that his attackers find disagreeable. But without him, you’d be much more of a ba’al teshuvah kiruv site, which I don’t think is your intention.

  • Muffti has a suggestion: why don’t we quit talking about whose been driven away from the site and who hasn’t. We’re not crowd pleasers and we aren’t here to make sure that everyone is comfy and happy.

  • Ben David, reread what you wrote. Correct me if I’m wrong but you’re actually claiming that by equality, the founders of the state merely meant Christian and Muslim equality to Jews, not that all citizens, including Jews, should have equal rights.

    But I’m the muddled one?

    Perhaps I’m muddled but from now on let’s call you pretzel.

  • middle,
    Benda is Israeli so call him a beigala!

    Sorry to rehash one main assertation here, but the seperation of judaism from Israel equals justifying Israel’s illegitimacy.

    Shavuah tov y’all.

  • EV: Reform Jews do not need to believe in God. For example, in an article titled “The Prayer Book of the People” that appeared in Reform Judaism Magazine, describing Reform Judaism’s new prayer book, the author says:

    Second, Mishkan T’filah values inclusivity. Reform Jews like to ask “Who’s in?,” not “Who’s out?” We know, for example, that some people have doubts about God. So, hoping to welcome them “in,” we offer prayer and poetry that speak to the human condition without referencing God.

    I don’t think I ever attacked TM. I believe that some of his assertions are wrong or misplaced and I do strongly believe, as has been stated by other commentors, that if his interest is in fostering dialog and understanding, he may want to moderate his tone a little and present his ideas in a less offensive manner. I myself have presented several of my critiques against the current state of some within the Orthodox camp. So far no one has reaacted badly to those points. Where there’s smoke there’s fire and if several people have expressed offense it may be that, despite your most sincere efforts, you’ve acted offensively.

    WRT to baal tshuvah kiruv, I’m not BT by any means, but if every person who reads this site lights sabbath candles or does kiddush next shabbat, I’d be a very happy guy.

  • I also agree that in this discussion ck has not attacked me personally, somebody else did. In this discussion, ck has been debating information and positions which is all I ask.

    Ck, the fact is that it’s my positions that disturb those posters who are complaining and it’s my positions causing some of our guests to complain. My tone is nowhere near what it could be. In the Cohen post, I am mildly sarcastic on the basis of attacks on me a couple of days earlier. Considering the violations involved, that’s very mild. In the last bout, somebody complained about my off-the-cuff fly-on-the-wall analogy saying it’s insulting. I proved to them that this is a standard view of many, including Orthodox. Prior to that I posted about how certain rabbis in Yesha were refusing to host IDF officers because of the disengagement and while I was hard on them, the point of the post was reconciliation. You’ll note that 20 rabbis from the Yesha movement got together over the chag and came out with…exactly the same type of proclamation. Prior to that I was attacked because I posted about that soldier who dissed the Chief of Staff. Yes, I was very critical of him and he deserved it, as did the Ultra-Orthodox who burned all kinds of containers on the streets of Jerusalem. Yup, I was harsh there. Do you think I shouldn’t be?

    I think I speak to the point and if it’s harsh, then you can beat me to it by posting about it yourself. You did it with the mikvah story. Surely you had an opinion about the charedi riots or the soldier refusing to shake the Chief of Staff’s hand? My tone is fine, ck. In fact, I am censoring myself. Otherwise you would have already seen the Holon story in Ha’aretz about the Ultra-Orthodox converting teenagers to “baalut tshuva” without informing the parents. How about you cover that story and let’s see what your tone is like.

  • no big deal, i was just commenting that you are right about the Holon story, it is unbelievable. and i was inquiring whether anyone else was having trouble viewing the ha’aretz webpage, because i can’t access either the english or hebrew one.

  • For every Israeli who believed that man was descended from Monkeys, 2 believed that man was created by God. Pretty wacky no?

    Pretty wacky yes!
    Muffti is literally nauseous. And he can’t spell naseuos. Coz he’s too nasueos.

    interesting to note that nauseous is to nausea as sickening is to sick. and rightfully so. not only do i believe that god created man as is i also believe the sun goes around the earth.

    also interesting to note is the remarkable ability of the revered poster, as an avowed conservative (correct me if i am wrong), to give a completely unbiased report about the orthododx. (and yes, i am being sarcastic). why does it always seem that the relationship of other jews to orthodox jews is similar to the relationship of non-jews to jews?

    also mentioned was the “fact” that rejection hastens assimilation. this must be why orthodoxy is the only strain (if one can call it that) that has lasted throughout the centuries. minus of course 276 karaites.

    last and certainly least, i saw mentioned that reform accpets anyone claiming to be jewish because of their focus on ahavas yisroel. doesn’t the fact that the term is called ahavat “yisroel” mean anything?

  • hmmmm i smell control of the media. when an orthodox one apologizes, his apology gets removed. must not think those orthodox peeps can be nice. o no.

  • ck,

    First of all, notions like the separation of church and state relate to the American democratic model and have no applicability to a country that was founded as a Jewish State.

    Really, you want a theocracy?

    We discriminate in favor of Jews and even people with Jewish relatives who aren’t themselves Jewish. Our flag has a magen David on it. Hatikvah cites the yearning of a Jewish soul. Could you imagine such a thing in the US? Could you imagine giving Christians priority in matters of immigration over non-Christians coming to the US? No. Because the US is not Israel. Both states were founded under completely different circumstances. Using American standards within an Israeli context is pointless.

    I quoted from Israel’s Declaration of Independence, dude. You can claim whatever you wish but it’s right there in black and white and none of the Basic Laws change what is there. What you are proposing, a religious state, is absolutely not what Israel’s (mostly secular) founders had in mind.

    How about mixed seating? How about allowing individuals not considered Jews by halachic standards to officiate or read from the Torah? How about using liturgy that accepts the belief that God doesn’t exist? How about not having one’s head covered?

    Um, if it’s a government sponsored building, it needs to address all of Israel’s citizens. Simple. But if you really want to get into logistics, then have different worship times for different streams and you can even require that in order to use the building, Group R must do X, Y, and Z while Group C must adhere to A, B and C. Otherwise, build your own Great Synagogue.

    Uh…. isn’t that how it works now? I mean correct me if I’m mistaken but all the Religious parties were democratically elected. Those completely opposed Religious parties in Government could have voted for Meretz or Shinui or any of the other parties who had such a platform. Clearly, the market spoke and the market voted for the continued presence of religious parties in the government. Sorry if that’s inconvenient, but that’s reality.

    That’s wonderful but you changed the topic a bit. The Rabbinate is controlled by the Orthodox because of a deal Ben Gurion cut with them when the state was being formed. This has nothing to do with majorities but in fact has a great deal to do with minorities. The issue isn’t that more voters want religious parties in there than not, the issue is that in a parliamentary democracy such as Israel’s where every single government ever formed has been a coalition government, small parties such as the Orthodox parties have wielded outsized power. This is legitimate, by the way. Where it becomes illegitimate is that it is illegal and immoral to take those powers and leverage and violate laws as well as the spirit of the laws.

    It’s a funny thing about Israelis. Many may be secular, but whenever they have dealings with religious institutions there’s a notion that they want it to be “authentic” and hence they choose to attend Orthodox synagogues and support Orthodox Rabbis.

    Yeah, well, it’s either that or your marriage is invalid. Or your divorce is invalid. Also, don’t underestimate the power of controlling the Rabbinate. If you want a kosher wedding hall, what do you do? If you want to have a wedding at a kosher wedding hall, what do you do? Don’t make it out to be “choice.” Very often it’s a lack of choice.

    Reform and Conservative Judaism have made very little headway here because they are viewed as foreign – speaking to the American religious experience and not resonating with Israelis.

    True. Then again, the bully pulpit and all the key religious organs of the state are controlled by people who compare these movements to Christianity or to the destruction of Israel. You hear this enough (it’s been several decades now) and even if you don’t believe it, why would you chance it or dare to offend your cousin Dave who might come to your wedding?

    Israelis don’t really know from synagogues without kippahs and choirs.

    Neither do Conservative synagogues. But you knew that, of course. So what was this dig about? Would you like a dig about Orthodox practices or would you be offended if I bring it up? As for Reform, I have seen kippahs at those services I’ve attended and acoustical guitarists who accompanied the congregation. I guess you go to real Reform services, not the fake ones I’ve attended. Then again, I now recall going to a Rosh Hashana service at a Reform synagogue and it had a choir. Shit, they must be the destruction of Judaism.

    I’m not passing judgement here – just making observations. 🙄

    The state does not want to prevent a halachic Jew from availing himself or herself of the right of return if it means that his or her non-halachically Jewish kin can’t also come along. The right of return thus applies to Jews and their non-Jewish immediate family. Any Jew who rejects the Judaism of an individual whose mother was Jewish or who was halachically converted is violating halacha, plain and simple.

    You may be right, but those are not the reasons given historically by the state for those whom they accept as Jewish. There is a conflict between the state and Rabbinate on this issue and the Rabbinate tends to win out because they control the relevant administrative mechanisms. That is not, however, the position of the state and you know it. By the way, the problem lies in that even if you don’t meet the criteria and want to convert, the Rabbinate will only accept their own Orthodox conversions. If you don’t believe as an Orthodox Jew does, you have to lie and live a lie for a long time to be accepted and even then it’s a big question mark whether you will.

    Historic accident??…What historic accident are you talking about?

    Just for you I posted that other post, my man. Read it and realize it was just politics. Had the Yishuv been stronger, had Ben Gurion felt more secure, had he known the long-term implications, he would never have bargained away a monopoly over civic matters to the Ultra-Orthodox. Face it, it’s a historic and historical not to mention hysterical (considering that secular, Socialist Leftists gave away everything to people they had rejected as part of their ideology) accident.

    Because religion has been passed on by the Mother and tribal affiliation via the father. No one ever said anything about genetics.

    If it’s not genetics, why care about the mother? If you give a Jewish woman a one day old baby with Christian parents and she raises this baby to become an Orthodox rabbi, is he Jewish? Of course not, he needs to convert. Genetics are it. As far as I know, this mother-passes-religion business came about because of rapes and potential rapes that established a serious question mark about paternity.

    That’s the way it’s always been done

    No, it wasn’t done this way before the first couple of centuries of the Common Era.

    and if Reform Jews want to change that they have to accept the fact that Jews who have never accepted that before won’t just change their ways based on Reform Judaism’s say so. Instituting this change without trying to get all major Jewish denominations on board creates a rift. Reform Judaism created this rift, not the Orthodox. In fact, by simply rejecting the primacy of matrilineal descent, some have said that Reform Judaism severed the united peoplehood that linked all streams of Judaism.

    Fair criticism and probably true. However, the other version didn’t make things right and for you to tell someone who is and isn’t Jewish based on the criteria of one group also isn’t right IN A STATE. It’s okay to do it within your community, but not if you’re affecting a law that affects all the citizens of a state. I’m not arguing theology and my personal beliefs on this issue are inconsequential.

    Look, there’s evidence that in pre-Rabbinic times, patrilineal descent was accepted, and given the current state of DNA testing, paternity is easy to detrmine, but it’s not for me to make those determinations vis-a-vis halacha and it’s not for Reform Judaism to make that decision either absent general agreement by all movements. Going that route without consensus created the schism.

    There we go. We agree. The problem is that we’re talking about a state, not just what movements believe.

    Allow me to repeat that last line. “Rejectionsim hastens assimiliation” Hmmm. Let’s see. 58% of Reform Jews intermarry. More than half of Conservative Jews aged 18-35 polled said that it was ok to marry outside your faith. So you’re telling me that this is the fault of the Orthodox?

    No, not directly. I didn’t say the Orthodox cause assimilation. There is plenty of blame to go around for that and non-Orthodox streams bear a tremendous amount of responsibility for this. Why don’t you create a post about this and we can discuss that issue, by the way?

    But I stand by the comment that the Orthodox shutting the doors on other Jews, rejecting their religious leaders, rejecting their ceremonies and rules, and voicing this dissent aggressively and loudly, have definitely weakened the authority of the leaders of these other movements.

    They have also created a situation where if you’re a well meaning average Jew of some faith and even practice, you are considered to be less than a good Jew and you probably feel it. Do you think people don’t absorb this? Do you think their kids don’t absorb this as they’re growing up? A significant stream of people who believe in God and who practice our ancient religion are shouting from the rooftops that “your rabbi is worse than scum,” “Your marriage is only valid because other states deem it so,” “The upbringing and customs you provide your family are unkosher and an abomination before God.”

    What do you think will happen? Will that Conservative family or person think to themselves, “Gee, let’s spend the equivalent of the cost of a year at a private college every year to send our two kids to Hebrew Day School so that their education and our customs can be dismissed.” Or maybe they’ll say, “Yeah, it’s true that we didcelebrated yet another seder/rosh hashana/yom kippur but since we didn’t do it exactly as we should, it really was meaningless before God, wasn’t it?”

    Seems to me that what hastens assimilation is affiliation with a Non-Orthodox branch of Judaism. Again, not making value judgements here – just looking at the facts.

    Again, I wasn’t denying the faults in these other movements, but this doesn’t change the fact that Orthodox rejection of other Jews and their leadership hastens this assimilation.

    Just as an example, I know people who went to the Kabbalah Center (of all places) but they arrived relatively ignorant about many Jewish religious practices. The Kabbalah Center, while having many flaws, did provide many lessons on how to perform certain blessings, how to celebrate certain holy days, etc. Suddenly, you had many more people engaged and engaging their family in these practices. Why? Because this was a true form of outreach and inclusion. You know I have no love for that group, but the fact is that this is the model for interaction with other streams of Judaism and it is decidedly not the model practiced by the Israeli Rabbinate or by many non-Israeli Orthodox. It’s interesting to see Shy Guy attack Chabad when this form of outreach is something they do as well.

    In that respect I take my lead from my Rabbinic authorities who feel that it’s better to be Reform or Conservative than nothing at all. Non-Orthodox practice is better than complete assimiliation. There’s a group called Edah made up of Rabbis from the Rabbinic Council of America and their mission statement states that “The Vision of Edah is an Orthodox Jewish community in which we, as members, leaders, and institutions….reach out to and interact with Jews of all the movements as well as non -affiliated Jews as an expression of the wholeness of, and in an effort to strengthen, the entire Jewish people.”

    Edah is indeed a model for the way things could be done. I don’t know how effective they are, and they, like all Modern Orthodox in North America, are about to feel the real pressure coming from the Israeli Rabbinate. This article is old but seems more valid than ever.

    So nothing that I do is that remarkable. in my daily life I strive to look for the things that unite us rather than self-righteously focus on the things that divide us. It’s only when I feel under attack that this ever becomes an issue. I mean, its not like I don’t have issues with the Rabbanut and with Orthodoxy. The Rabanut’s recent rejection of RCA conversions makes no sense. The Orthodox record of dealing with child molestors is appalling. The situation of agunot needs to be addressed. The trend towards laying humras on top of humras and shifting even more to the right also makes no sense. Look I could go on and on, but whenever I discuss these issues, I do so from a position of respect, not rejectionism.

    Yes, well, I did say that I respect the way you interact with other streams of Judaism. However, you do not post about the above problems; that is left to me or Muffti and sometimes Michael. Do you mean by “respect” that we should be silent while shitty things go on? Or does it mean that if an egregious wrong is taking place, whenever particular groups are involved, when we write about it we need to be sure the “tone” satisfies everybody?

    And I can’t even begin to discuss these issues when fundamentals are always disregarded. I accept that most non-Orthodox Jews are not going to become Orthodox any time soon. Consequently productive discussions will naturally focus on issues we share in common. With respect to those issues we don’t see eye to eye on, it’s best to tread extremely carefully or not to discuss them at all.

    Oh, so you do prefer silence or a diffident approach to writing. A Minister in Israel approves discrimination and attacks other Jews and somehow the problem in reporting this was “tone” or reporting it at all? You want to have a blog where elephants in the room are ignored? You want a blog that misrepresents truth? Are we afraid of truth suddenly?

    TM wrote: “I don’t expect an Orthodox Jew to accept mixed seating, but I reject his view that mixed seating is sinful.” It’s at the very least sinful for him. Thus he can’t attend a service where mixed seating is allowed. How is it that you don’t understand that? Having such a service prima facie rejects Orthodox participation. So great, a really determined Orthodox Jew can go to a wedding but not participate in the service, or eat the food. But really, he or she are otherwise totally welcome. Really. Other than not being able to participate in 98% of the activities, they are welcome to pop in really quick, wish the bride and groom a mazel tov, and leave. That’s so inclusive and pluralistic. Wow. But please, don’t be side tracked by my flip tone. Do you not see the divisiveness created? Is it really all the fault of obstinate Orthodox Jews?

    Sorry, but the food in every Conservative synagogue I’ve ever attended is kosher. In fact, in virtually every one I’ve heard of you MUST use a kosher caterer. I agree that at Reform synagogues, this is a more significant problem for the Orthodox guest.

    The Orthodox guest can stand in the back of the room if he can’t bring himself to sit in the same row or even next to a woman. It is horrible to claim that the onus is on the host to force the majority of their guests to subscribe to a way of life that is rejected by them in order to please one group over others. The guests should be respectful of the wishes of the bride and groom and their families and attend their simcha as a guest like all others. If he chooses not to eat the food, dance or sit in mixed seating, those are his choices but they have nothing to do with being welcome. The fact remains that Orthodox Jews are a significant minority even among the Jewish population and there are bound to be far more non-Orthodox guests at most non-Orthodox weddings.

    Anyhow, I think I’ve said my piece here. I hate this topic and I don’t know how it is that you, of all our non-Orthodox posters, have a special talent for inspiring such rancor. I said that MK Cohen’s comments were impolitic – no one got pissed off at me. I have stated my disagreement with numerous aspects of Orthodoxy, no one seems hurt. What is it about the way you present your opinions that pisses so many people off? You might want to think about that. I mean sheesh – non-religious people are jumping to the defense of the Orthodox, what’s that all about?

    It’s my charm, what else?

    I think it’s a number of factors. First, it’s that I am the primary poster on many of these issues. You see, you may criticize Cohen gently, but it’s only after my post forces you to confront the topic in the first place.

    I also recall being a lightning rod during the disengagement. Why? Because we’re dealing with issues of faith and tradition and many feel that critical posts challenge matters of faith and tradition that are valuable to them or others. Moreover, it’s because people are afraid. They’re afraid to lose what they have because it’s important to them. If I post something negative about Orthodox Jews, then theoretically I could cause harm to a way of life or how people view this group and thereby cause some harm to that way of life (yes, it’s absurd to think that anybody could have this kind of impact, but I do think we all react this way to some degree).

    In addition, why not acknowledge that the system is far from perfect and it hurts to read negative things about ourselves. Do we not recoil when someone mentions a mistake or something bad that is done, say, in Hebron, in our name? Do we not feel a bitter taste when somebody says, “Israel does this” and the “this” is something we know Israel should not be doing? Some people accept this type of comment as the premise for a debate and discussion, including one where Israel might be criticized. Others might find fault with the critic or the criticism. If you see it often enough by the same party – John Brown, anyone? – you begin to question whether it’s good for anybody to continue to see this crap and then attack. Some attack the comments, but you also see attacks on the commenter. But ultimately, it’s about losing what we have or the feeling that there is an injustice in the comments.

    In both cases, isn’t it better to address the comments? Was this debate where you have now expressed your viewpoint at length and very clearly and in some cases with strong logic, detrimental or was it helpful in expressing your point of view to others?

  • What do you think will happen? Will that Conservative family think to themselves, “Gee, let’s spend the equivalent of the cost of a year at a private college every year to send our two kids to Hebrew Day School so that their education and our customs can be dismissed.” Or maybe they’ll say, “Yeah, it’s true that we did yet another seder/rosh hashana/yom kippur but since we didn’t do it exactly as we should, it really was meaningless before God, wasn’t it?”

    a school must follow a certain way. i mean, how else can one teach anything. if one must take everyones feelings – about every little minhag and halacha – seriously, how is one to teach anything? might as well stay in public school.

  • It’s Monday, Middle, and i’m still waiting for my retainer check. 😉

    At the risk of making you nervous, by virtue of this and related posts– I conclude you’re papabile. Let’s contact Frank Gehry and start planning your pontifical digs.

  • Papabile? Is that a word?

    Gehry would not be my choice. Hmmmm…you know, now that I think about it most of today’s big names don’t excite me very much. Is it me, or is architecture trying to find its way these days?

  • Glaringly absent from this thread is any substantive discussion of the underlying issue upon which this whole dispute is based. Conservative Judaism claims that its theology and practices are consistent with halachic requirements, but that such requirements are adapted to circumstances that neither existed nor were even conceivable when the Torah and Talmud were recorded. What is it, then, that renders Conservatism a deformed and deviant heresy, while Orthodox Judaism is deemed legitimate? The best explanation I’ve read – or at least the most entertaining – is that Orthodoxy is the “authentic Judaism of the ages?” ahhhh; dazzling as that is, I couldn’t help wondering, what is it that makesit authentic? Well, it’s because it “has lasted through the centuries.” Oh, how clever; really, really adorable. But even crippled by my day school education, it’s clear to me that concluding that something is “legitimate” by claiming it’s “authentic” is an especially trite tautology – as brilliant as proving it’s “true” because it’s “valid.” As importantly, the same Rabbinate that rejected Reform and Conservative conversions has denied the legitimacy of conversions by the Modern Orthodox as well. Accordingly, Modern Orthodoxy is not “traditional,” is not “Torah Judaism,” and is not the “Judaism of the ages.” It is – at least according to the Chief Rabbinate – every bit as “faux” as Reform and Conservative Judaism. Or perhaps someone could explain how the Rabbinate is a source of unimpeachable authority with respect to the latter, but just plain wrong about the Modern Orthodox.

    The complaints about relentless attacks on the Orthodox strike me as not merely groundless, but mildly paranoid. Can’t we all just get along? No, we can’t. Mutual respect is neither possible nor warranted when the position of one group – no matter how politely expressed – disavows the legitimacy of the other. For those who claim there’s something derisive or condescending about The Middle’s posts, could they please, PLEASE cite a single example? From what I’ve observed, the man not only eschews gratuitous personal attacks, but is positively scrupulous about offering criticism that is measured in tone and grounded in fact. Perhaps the sensibilities of some readers are too delicate for a discussion of contentious political issues, and they ought to focus on latke recipes and instructions for knitting kippahs.

    I love how the defenders of Orthodoxy clothe their subjective preferences in the garb of historical inevitability. They want Conservatism to disappear, and accordingly adduce mountains of statistical data suggesting its imminent demise, just like the running dogs of capitalism. I’d be happy to discuss the basis of my preference for Conservative practice in another context, but it’s utterly irrelevant to the question of whether the government of Israel should be engaging in formal discrimination against non-Orthodox Jews.

    Speaking of attacks, there’s something a bit churlish about the smug consignment of the decadent assimilationist heresy to the dustbin of history, with “authentic” Judaism triumphant eternal. Maybe so; but for the last 2000 years of that eternity, the Jews remained in perpetual exile. It was the liberal Western secularists that disproportionately built the State of Israel with their blood, sweat and treasure, while the Orthodox davened really, really hard.

    Finally, several participants noted – as they invariably do – that this matter of concern for the psychologically integrated Jews of Israel, not the effete, diffident Jews of the Diaspora, with their crippling neuroses and chronic self-hatred. Mind your own Goddamn business, in other words. That strikes me as a perfectly valid position But I hope those who embrace it have, for the sake of consistency, written to the leaders of their political and religious institutions, asking that they no longer degrade themselves with continued visits to the Diaspora, appealing for my allegiance, my sympathy and my money.

  • d. smith – you are clearly coming into this with an agenda. That may impede you from seeing the danger in a statement like this one:

    “Mutual respect is neither possible nor warranted when the position of one group – no matter how politely expressed – disavows the legitimacy of the other.”

    I know you want that to justify intolerance towards the orthodox, but how does it not simultaneously justify orthodox intolerance towards movements whose very basis was the complete and utter rejection and invalidation of everything they hold dear (ie, reform?).

    maybe the “golden rule” is a better paradigm than attempting to justify intolerance, but only to those you want to be justified being intolerant to.

  • d. smith is correct in a certain sense at least. reform does gives room for orthodoxy. one is doing nothing wrong (in the eyes of reform) by keeping the torah the way the orthodox do. orthodox on the other hand doesn’t and can’t make room for reform. however mtual respect by the partcipants of any group to the other does not and cannot be limited to what the group as a whole agree to. to be blunt, i do not respect reform as a religious base. at all. however that does not diminish my respect for reform people in any way. if reform as a group endangers orthodox as a group on any way then orthodox must fight that with all they’ve got. but they are fighting the group not the people.

  • Very well reasoned and reasonable Middle. I feel sorry that you have to play joust with some of these fools who just can’t manage to come up with good enough arguments to support their positions. Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • I don’t think it’s well reasoned at all.

    The state of Israel should not be involved in religion.

    There goes your immigration law that allows Jews to immigrate easier than non-Jews. It also takes away Jewish holidays. If the state wasn’t involved in religion, it would just be another democracy, like the US or Australia…. the only difference is that it would have a lot of Jews. Is that really what you want?

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

    They’re going by the religion dummy!

    I only read the first few paragraphs……. I have more important things to do…. like earning a few more hundred thousand dollars to give to Yeshivas.

    Sucks, doesn’t it?

  • Laya,

    I honestly can’t figure out why you bother to answer. I thought this was a discussion board, yet you make accusations without responding to a single point I outlined.

    I know you want to justify intolerance toward the Orthodox.
    Do you actually believe that constant, droning repetition of that accusation somehow makes it more true? It doesn’t. Here – one more time – is precisely the argument I made in response to that claim:
    this criticism in no way impinges on the Orthodox community’s freedom of religion. Tolerance – and, for that matter, democracy and pluralism – must accept the legitimacy of all positions, EXCEPT INTOLERANCE. This qualification is absolutely vital. This is why democracy doesn’t require the tolerance of any group that calls for the rejection of the democratic process itself; it is why rejecting the demand by abortion opponents for a gag rule at family planning clinics doesn’t abrogate their free speech; it is why those who call for a prohibition of discrimination based on sexual orientation are not “doing the same thing” to those who regard homosexuality as immoral. From a practical standpoint, this means that there is nothing inconsistent or hypocritical about Israel’s prohibiting Kach’s participation in elections, Germany’s outlawing Nazi displays, or Egypt’s disenfranchising a candidate that calls for the imposition of Sharia. For any group to accept a position that rejects the legitimacy of said group is not tolerance, it is capitulation.

    You are clearly coming into this with an agenda.
    Do you mean it’s clear that I have an opinion? Yes, I do. Is there anyone you know that doesn’t? Unless you’re aware of some specific bias I’m hiding, there is never a circumstance in which that statement isn’t utterly meaningless.

    how does it not simultaneously justify orthodox intolerance towards movements whose very basis was the complete and utter rejection and invalidation of everything they hold dear (ie, reform?)
    I generally confined my comments to the rejection of Conservatism because I was convinced by ck’s argument about patrilineal descent. I think a patrilineal standard makes more sense, but in the absence of consensus the Orthodox and Reform positions are, indeed, mutually exclusive, and the Orthodox establishment cannot accept Reform conversion THAT is a legitimate argument. The claim that Reform Judaism is per se a “complete and utter rejection and invalidation of everything [the Orthodox] hold dear” IS NOT. I don’t know why you lack the ability or willingness to distinguish the two.

    It seems to me you could have the respect and simple courtesy to articulate what about my argument you find factually wrong, or intellectually dishonest, or irrelevant, or – if nothing else – what specifically about it leaves you unpersuaded. That’s what makes it an argument as opposed to self-indulgent whining.

  • hey d. smith. thanks for the constructive dialogue. You’ve really brought interdenominational discussion to a higher standard. You’ve fully understood the point that attacking people, not to mention being condescending, is not going lead to good healthy debate. Thanks for adding so much to this here site.

    You sure are a pillar of wisdom!

  • D. Smith asked:

    Glaringly absent from this thread is any substantive discussion of the underlying issue upon which this whole dispute is based. Conservative Judaism claims that its theology and practices are consistent with halachic requirements, but that such requirements are adapted to circumstances that neither existed nor were even conceivable when the Torah and Talmud were recorded. What is it, then, that renders Conservatism a deformed and deviant heresy, while Orthodox Judaism is deemed legitimate? The best explanation I’ve read – or at least the most entertaining – is that Orthodoxy is the “authentic Judaism of the ages?” ahhhh; dazzling as that is, I couldn’t help wondering, what is it that makesit authentic? Well, it’s because it “has lasted through the centuries.” Oh, how clever; really, really adorable.

    Part of the answer will be found in this article:

    The Conservative Lie: Proclaiming fealty to Jewish law, Conservative leaders have trampled it

    A good percentage of the article consists of quotes from Conservative leaders themselves, admitting that Conservative Judaism is no less a sham than is Reform.

    I agree with you that I’m sure they didn’t teach you that in your day school days.

  • Re #53– is someone prepared to make the case that Israel would, in fact, be better off as “just another democracy” rather than a state with an “established” religion? Isn’t there a good argument that Israeli Jews would be just as well-off– if not indeed better served– by an officially secular government along Western lines?

    Christians can tell you that involvement in government as the official, state-sponsored religion has almost always come to grief. It arouses minority resentments and corrupts religious authority, increasing secularization, rather than impeding it.

    And as a practical matter, what do Jews (constituting, what, 85% of the Israeli population) have to fear from a secular, religiously-blind constitution? Won’t it remain a Jewish state in any event?

  • Middle, ‘papabile’ an Italian word meaning, literally, ‘popeable’.

    Agree with you about our ‘starchitect’ culture. I prefer a softer, more self-effacing style. Renzo Piano, for example.

  • Tom, while I look forward to the day, Israel’s people at present are not ready for a religious Jewish state.

    However, it should at minimum, be a Jewish State, which it certainly does not behave like in numerous ways, especially within the last 2 decades.

    Browse through Manhigut Yehudit’s site for a discussion on this subject.

  • Popeable indeed! I’d be a truly Zionist pope.

    d. smith, fwiw, I thought you elevated the discussion. Feel free to correct my grammar any time.

  • Shy Guy,
    So, the authoritative article on Conservative Judaism you’re talking about is the one that appears on TrueJews.org.? The one that says,
    despite their brazen usurpation of the titles “Judaism,” “Jewish Heritage,” “Jewish Tradition,” “Jewish Continuity,” Reform and Conservative are not Judaism at all, but another religion which is repugnant not only to Torah Judaism, but also to common morality.
    Boy, that sure is persuasive stuff, a model of dispassion and reasonableness, but something just barely holds me back from jumping in with both feet. You’re quite right, they left this out of the curriculum at day school, but then again, we didn’t have our own Grand Inquisitor on the premises. Not surprisingly, the article addresses none of the points I raised, and relies on methodologies to which I explicitly objected (most prominently, the historical inevitability claim that Conservatism is dying, and Orthodoxy just beginning its triumphant reign.) Since you feel so passionately about the issue, why don’t YOU take a crack at responding?

    If either barthalomew or ck read this, I’d love if either could explain something. Both of you state – quite credibly, it seems to me – that you harbor no disrespect for Reform Jews, but do not respect and cannot accept Reform (and presumably Conservative?) Judaism per se. My own assessment of Reform is, I think, the same; I find its theology totally unconvincing, and find its practices to be alien and without any appeal whatever. But as I pointed out earlier, it has honestly never occurred to me to take a position on the validity of the movement for its adherents. I certainly don’t mean to suggest I’m any more tolerant by temperament, so I’m left wondering what it is about a belief in Orthodoxy that apparently compels a rejection of Reformism not only on behalf of oneself, but on behalf of the world at large.

    Laya, just for the sheer fun of it, I can’t help trying one more time:
    It seems to me you could have the respect and simple courtesy to articulate what about my argument you find factually wrong, or intellectually dishonest, or irrelevant, or – if nothing else – what specifically about it leaves you unpersuaded. That’s what makes it an argument as opposed to self-indulgent whining.

    Middle,
    Thanks, I appreciate it. I didn’t think I was the one degrading the discussion with attacks and sarcasm, but meeting with the identical response again and again momentarily makes me wonder if I’m hallucinating. (BTW, did I correct your grammar? I don’t recall, but perhaps I did so in the midst of my feeding frenzy). In any case, I honestly have no idea how you do what you do here. I’ll have to assume it’s because knowledge, research, good writing and clear thinking are their own rewards. Cause you sure seem get a hell of a lot of grief in return for your efforts.

  • Ah, yes, my rewards. It’s kinda like having a child: you love’em to death, but sometimes you ask God why it’s so darned difficult and whether you are going about things all wrong. I am especially pleased, by the way, when both sides of a debate attack me for my views, because then I can trumpet my Middleism. Maybe I should be attacking Humanistic and Reconstructionist Jews in this discussion so that I get it from both sides. I appreciate your underhanded compliment regardless – it seems that you and that devout (presumably red-headed) Catholic, Tom, are my last friends on Jewlicious.

    You didn’t correct my grammar, but you have officially been sanctioned as Writer With The Best Grammar, Punctuation and Spelling on Jewlicious (I am the sole judge). As such you may feel free to correct me any time.

  • d. smith said: My own assessment of Reform is, I think, the same; I find its theology totally unconvincing, and find its practices to be alien and without any appeal whatever. But as I pointed out earlier, it has honestly never occurred to me to take a position on the validity of the movement for its adherents. I certainly don’t mean to suggest I’m any more tolerant by temperament, so I’m left wondering what it is about a belief in Orthodoxy that apparently compels a rejection of Reformism not only on behalf of oneself, but on behalf of the world at large.

    huh? judaism is not a “maybe im right, maybe im wrong” hypothesis. if it was, then one may rightly say that some other hypothesis does not make sense to me, but that does not give me a right to say it is wrong. in hebrew it would be “ein de’osehen shovot”, different minds don’t work the same way.

    however, any religion, and especially judaism, are based on belief. when one believes something, that belief excludes all other beliefs. whether one is consciously aware of it or not.

    as to the inevitable comment about “once you are talking about belief, then whats the point of arguing?” i give you the talmud. the talmud takes a set of 613 laws given to them, whether the reasons are understood or not, and argues the appliance, rationaly. science does it all the time. there are laws of science. no one understands the reasons or the essence of these laws. they are just there. (gravity for one). yet the appliance is argued all the time.

    G-d is eternal and his Torah, with all its laws are eternal. i believe that. therefore a group that argues against that is, in orthodox’s eyes in valid.

    Is conservative a movement based solely on the fact that it makes sense (i’m not sayign it does or doesn’t)? or is it a belief system. if a., then theres where we differ. if b., then d. smith, you are only fooling yourself. and the inability to follow through to the end of your belief, is just plain wrong.

  • D. Smith said:

    So, the authoritative article

    You asked for a “substantive discussion of the underlying issue.” The article relates to that. I have no idea what the relevance of your belittling use of the term “authorotative” has to do with the legitimacy of sighting the article in response to your question. If you wish to dismiss the article without explanation, by all means do so. But don’t waste our time by asking questions and then “unsubstantively” mocking the answers.

    Rewind:

    So, the authoritative article on Conservative Judaism you’re talking about is the one that appears on TrueJews.org.?

    If you Google for the article, you’ll see it is reproduced on numerous sites. Nevertheless:

    The one that says,“despite their brazen usurpation of the titles “Judaism,” “Jewish Heritage,” “Jewish Tradition,” “Jewish Continuity,” Reform and Conservative are not Judaism at all, but another religion which is repugnant not only to Torah Judaism, but also to common morality.

    Why they threw in the words “common morality” beats me. The rest, however, is downright elementary.

    Boy, that sure is persuasive stuff, a model of dispassion and reasonableness,

    While I did see that page, too, I didn’t point it out here as a basis to respond to your question. This is flimsy sidelining on your part.

    but something just barely holds me back from jumping in with both feet. You’re quite right, they left this out of the curriculum at day school, but then again, we didn’t have our own Grand Inquisitor on the premises.

    So has anyone advocated boiling anyone else in oil or a stretch on the rack? More empty mockery and deflection.

    Not surprisingly, the article addresses none of the points I raised,

    Your words: “What is it, then, that renders Conservatism a deformed and deviant heresy, while Orthodox Judaism is deemed legitimate?”

    The article answered your question by pointing out numerous instances where Conservative Judaism pays lip service to upholding Halacha while breeching it in the most elementary ways, with some of Conservative Judaism’s own advocates quoted verbatim, confessing that following Halacha is not obligatory.

    I suggest you learn Torah as it has been learned for 1000s of years. The detailed answer to your question will become most apparent after you realize that the backbone of the Jewish code of law is divine, given by G-d at Sinai, with very detailed rules and regulations on how to learn and understand the laws and what obligations we have to follow the “Rabbinical” laws (in quotes because many of these same laws were enacted by prophets and kings of Israel), with very specific standards and conditions specified to be able to modify such laws, which neither Orthodox, Conservative or Reform Jews are entitled to do.

    and relies on methodologies to which I explicitly objected (most prominently, the historical inevitability claim that Conservatism is dying, and Orthodoxy just beginning its triumphant reign.)

    That is not the point of the article at all and is irrelevant to your original question.

    Judaism isn’t a popularity contest. Should the majority of Jews not believe in G-d or violate G-d’s commandments, that does not change our obligations in any way.

    Since you feel so passionately about the issue, why don’t YOU take a crack at responding?

    I already did. Try reading articles beyond the headline print.

  • Mr. Smith; you will find that on this site that I don’t engage the nutters in conversation. I have found that no good will come out of rational discourse with irrational people.

    Similarly, although less steadfastly, I don’t engage people who I sense are not out for conversation, but simply to belittle anyone who doesn’t see the world just like they do .

    The utterly condescending language you used towards me from the beginning raised my “anonymous Internet asshole” red flag. My apologies if I have misunderstood you, but I really don’t sense you are interested in what I have to say, but rather interested in belittling me. As such, what is the point of answering?

    I don’t have a dick, so I can assure you, yours is bigger.

  • Laya,

    You say my “utterly condescending” language suggests I wasn’t interested in what you had to say, but only in belittling you.

    I’ve directed two comments to you. First, after you said I came to this issue with an agenda and wanted to justify intolerance toward the Orthodox. I stated that you hadn’t responded to my arguments, and asked that you tell me what you disagreed with. You then called me a pillar of wisdom and thanked me for the constructive dialogue, and I repeated the identical request. There wasn’t a single word of derision or condescension.

    With respect to the rest of your comment, I don’t know what a “nutter” is, so that insult went over my head. Anonymous? My name is david smith, I provided my email address, and I stand by my comments. Nothing anonymous about it.

    As to calling me an irrational asshole, well, your mother and Rabbi must be very proud of you.

  • sheesh mr. smith. we use the term nutter here frequently. don’t get your panties in a bunch! you may have not meant to sound derisive or condescending, but well… you really kinda were. But don’t take it too badly. It’s just my opinion.

Leave a Comment