I haven’t written for Jewlicious in a bit, but I do still read the blog regularly, and feel I have to comment: Rabbi Yonah’s post on war and Jewish babies was hopefully tongue-in-cheek, but was disturbing either way. Citing statistics on an upswing in the number of pregnant Israeli women following last summer’s war, Rabbi Yonah gets all natalist on us:

“It means that war IS good for children. Isn’t that just silly? Nasrallah’s war actually brought more Jews into the world!”

Adorable. Sort of like how the Holocaust WAS good for the Jews, since in 1948 we got our very own state! Yay!

Enough about “Jewish babies” already. Natalism isn’t Judaism-specific morality, it’s non-denominational social conservatism often enough (though by no means always) propagated by those who themselves are a bit behind in, uh, propagation. It’s asking women to give up dreams and careers for the good of whichever race or nation, and asking men to refrain from putting on condoms when having sex with their wives. Yes, that sounds about fair.

Even as a joke, the idea that last summer’s war was good in some way because it “made” more babies is disgusting. Wouldn’t a peaceful Israel, one in which women could choose whether to have zero babies or a dozen, be a far more worthy thing to get excited about?

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phoebe

56 Comments

  • Trying to see a silver lining in an event does not equate with approving of the event.

    By the way, WWII also led to a baby boom.

  • “Trying to see a silver lining in an event does not equate with approving of the event.”

    The content of the post, along with the cheery baby pic, said otherwise.

    “By the way, WWII also led to a baby boom.”

    No! I had no idea.

  • Sadly, there’s this huge blob of humanity just ahead of us. They got to buy real estate when it was cheap, got all the plum jobs while they were plum, and are now planning to tax us all to death as they get older and need more social services. Baby booms suck.

    Then again, what can one expect after facing one’s mortality face on?

    R. Yonah is clearly joking in his post. You’re over-reacting a little.

  • who care 50000 more Jews in Israel is not going to mean Israelis can run a state better, make peace, etc… it just means more suffering and death for the next war with the neighbors or more disenfranchised youth who homes are not theirs and can be given away for nothing.

  • Phoebe since we have never had the pleasure of meeting — I will totally excuse your dig at me, and forgive you that you do not get sarcasm at all.

    anyway I won’t make a big deal of it. Ill just keep blogggin.

  • I get sarcasm. You’re post was offensive. It’s nothing personal–you’re right, we haven’t met. It’s not a dig at you, but at that post.

  • I don’t see how the post is so offensive. There are little babies out there, right now, who but for Nasrallah’s intervention, would not have been born. From their perspective, assuming being alive is a good thing, said intervention was a good thing. I don’t think Rabbi Yo was advocating warfare as a means of encouraging fertility. Nor is the Rabbi asking women to give up dreams and careers. I dunno Phoebes. You might have over reacted there a bit.

  • Sorry, we need more Jewish babies.

    Although, OK, better Jewish babies in peace, harmony, prosperity and a strong strong Israeli economy with very very very high salaries for all 🙂

  • Hey Nathan – are you single?
    Maybe you and Phoebe can meet, marry, and spend many happy years together finding things to complain about.

    Phoebeleh – lighten up. Or is the pre-Passover cleaning getting to you?

  • Yes all them chemicals. I still dont know what his real point was but it was an amusing post.

  • “Natalism isn’t Judaism-specific morality, it’s non-denominational social conservatism often enough (though by no means always) propagated by those who themselves are a bit behind in, uh, propagation. It’s asking women to give up dreams and careers for the good of whichever race or nation, and asking men to refrain from putting on condoms when having sex with their wives. Yes, that sounds about fair.”

    Oy vey, geez. Chill out. Get real. How many Jewish or Israeli women do you know who have significantly more children than they want?

  • Claiming that the war was ‘good’ is frankly, Jewish. Our belief in God’s providence means that we believe that everything is for the better. While certain things are definitely bad short-term, I think that God has his own accounting about how to make things right again.

    And, yes, we Jews definitely need more babies. In Israel and overseas.

  • Condoms generally not allowed under Orthodoxy unless the man knows he will pass on a life-threatening disease to his wife, passing jock itch to her is not enough.

  • Josh– ’til I read your post, I’d thought that World War II, for example, was a bad thing. Good to know it was all God’s will. Besides, Hitler had a rough childhood, which puts it all in perspective, doesn’t it?

  • My complaint is more about the constant trope of “we need more Jewish babies” than it is about Rabbi Yonah’s post specifically. We have to acknowledge that these babies, like the vast majority of babies of all races and (as absurd as this is when discussing babies) creeds, will be primarily the responisibility of women, and that a demand for “more jewish babies” is inherently sexist unless accompanied by a demand for a society in which men and women make as equal sacrifices for child-rearing as biology will allow. For those with “traditional” values who see no problem in this, think about it for a moment, what it would mean in terms of the sacrifice to Jewish contributions to any number of fields, in the US and elsewhere, if we all spent the years from 18-40 procreating.

    As for themiddle’s comment, “Kinda hard too have more babies when all of these young Jewish women would rather not have them”–which young Jewish women are you referring to?

  • Yeah, but I just see it as such a theoretical discussion, since women (around the world but including hard-headed Jewish women) who have access to contraception pretty much produce the number of babies they are interested in producing. The baby bust in Europe and Japan is driven by women, but so is the crazy race for more kids in the ultra-Orthodox sectors.

    And in the less extreme cases of secular or modern Orthodox families my anecdotal evidence shows it’s usually the wife, not the husband going for that third or fourth or fifth kid. (Let’s not talk about the kick in the pants the guys usually need to settle down and START having kids in the first place — hmmm, sound like anyone we know?)

    The guys can demand all they want, but rhe Jewish baby-making is not happening unless the women are interested.

  • Well, Phoebe, two of the three active female bloggers on Jewlicious have expressed either a distaste for babies or a distaste for the impact of babies on women, which is not that different.

    As someone who moves around in married with children circles, I can tell you that many women are relieved to be able not to work and focus on raising children. This has to do with the fact that not all jobs or careers are interesting, but also with the fact that many women feel fulfilled by staying home with children. Of course, they only know this once the children arrive. This isn’t part of a plot against women and is something that is often led by women.

    This is on the personal level of people’s lives and everybody makes decisions based on their needs, wants and goals. However, the community’s view of these decisions is and should be a different one.

    The community, and in this case I refer to the Jewish community, wants to see more children so that it can both serve further constituents and also continue to survive. Seeking to serve and survive isn’t a crime, nor is it evil and it is also not presented as a burden or an obligation to individuals such as yourself who are focused on generating a career. It is presented as a hopeful option. The community’s view is merely a macro view of a situation, and a fairly natural one especially in light of the commandment to be fruitful and multiply.

    While I don’t suspect those members of the community who speak of survival and reproductive rates are thinking of commandments, they are probably thinking “What is my life about and what will happen to the things in which I believe and that I hold so dear if there is no one to preserve them once I’m gone.” The obvious answer is to encourage those who are able – namely young men and women and young families – to have children and bring them into the fold.

    Some people in the community are able to be generous and will encourage this activity by subsidizing education or community life participation by young families, and others go a little deeper and encourage singles groups and trips like Birthright to encourage young Jews to meet prospective Jewish partners and spouses. It makes sense and it is not personal at all, although you seem to take it as an affront. Advocates of this sort of things are not evil people, they would just like to see their project of continuity succeed.

  • I only have a distaste for being pressured into having more babies than you can physically, emotionally and financially handle.
    This is as distastful for Orthodox Jewish woman as it is for unwed black teenagers. I am pro-birth control for any individual choses the method that is healthiest for them.

    I am anti the belief that anything more than a 2 year heter for birth control effectively makes you a goy in the eyes of the community.

    The decision to have a child has to be based purely on what the woman believes she can cope with, not on what her husband or Rabbi say. I also believe that single women who believe they can handle the challenge should have children, whether by adoption or turkey baster.

    I see more women walking around this town that look exhausted, drained, over-burdened, stressed, and miserable than I care to count. It shows on someone’s face right away if they are happy, healthy, glowing and their life is in balance vs. when they are just “hanging on”. I know women here who have 6 or more that look great, and I know women who have 3 who look like they can’t handle one. I

    I also know a Rebbitzen from Queens who had at least 5, if not more, miscarriages in between her multiple children. Miscarriage is nature’s way of saying “you’re body can’t do this right now”.

    Again, Jewish women have enough stresses on them today without the added pressure of having to make up for the Holocaust. Each individual should do what’s right for them and Hashem will take care of the numbers in the long run.

    Jews have a mission to be a light unto the nations. We have a goal of QUALITY not QUANTITY. Leave quantity issues to Arabs and rats. We Jews have proven over and over again through history that our small numbers and faith in Hashem can defeat even the largest armys. Right? Of course right!

  • Allison,

    When an Ultra-Orthodox husband says that he desires another baby (perhaps he has 5 daughters) his wife has 3 choices:
    1)deny him sex/ lie about her niddah status (forbidden)
    2) use birth control without his knowledge (forbidden)
    3) appeal to his Rabbi for permission to wait, in which case she is still subject to a man’s decision.

    Therefore, your statement that “it’s not happening unless she is interested” does not apply to ALL Jewish women. It applies ONLY to Jewish women who practice “new age” Judaism which is “doomed” in some people’s opinion.

  • Phoebe wrote: …a demand for “more jewish babies” is inherently sexist unless accompanied by a demand for a society in which men and women make as equal sacrifices for child-rearing as biology will allow.

    Well, I’d like to make a plea for both more Jewish babies and a demand that men share equally in the burden of raising the little tykes.

    Are we cool now?

  • Umm ‘yer all crackers. But first to our lovely, funny Chutzpah. Biology and yes, demographic history tells us that in most western societies women do indeed basically dictate family size. There are rare exceptions to this, but even in very conservative religious communities which strictly outlaw contraception of any kind, women do not approach having ‘all the children they are capable of having’. There is no evidence for any society where as P says ‘in the US and elsewhere, if we all spent the years from 18-40 procreating’. It simply just does not happen like that any more in most advanced societies. There are many reasons and supposed ‘mechanisms’ for this well known demographic fact, but suffice it to say that most (NOT ALL) husbands will not usually physically punish their wives for refusing to have sex with them. And even in the most regressive societal situations where this practice is even tolerated, most women manage to stop having children well before menarche.

    So the considered answer to Chutzpah’s question on #25 above is that women can and do effectively control their own family size. They’ve been able to do this for 100’s of years, and yes mere ‘avoidance’ seems to be the most popular, long lived and cost effective answer the world over.

    Now onto cleaning up the rest of the field, shooting the wounded, prosecuting & blaming the survivors & such…

    TM: It’s clear that Phoebe is scared almost witless here by the general prospect of babies, and you tell her that she can survive by only wanting 1/2 or 1/4 of a loaf. Or in finding a nice Mr. Mom to settle down with. And it almost went down so easy too. The 2 AM feedings, the pre-school battles, the lost work time, all the dead & dying pets, all the way up until the wrecked Beemer at 17 and the college expenses that finally broke the bank. Just simple. Really!

    And Phoebe! This is more like the combative, no nonsense, (no shaving either!) Chicago gals I knew way back when. This sentiment; ‘…that a demand for “more jewish babies” is inherently sexist unless accompanied by a demand for a society in which men and women make as equal sacrifices for child-rearing as biology will allow’ is something that’s been written about and campaigned on for almost a full 100 years in America. To little avail. Until WW11 BTW, when the government had mandatory day care for all women defense workers. Yes, Rosie the riveter had better benefits than you do. (They were Unionized too!) This quite successful system was summarily dismantled after the war, and promptly forgotten. It contributed immeasurably to the war effort by everyone’s accounting though.

    But no, do not expect a nice favorable social revolution to be effected for the glorious presence of your own child, much as we would wish this miracle for anyone. We all recognize this is quite tragic, extremely unfair, and very well un sporting too. For too many reasons to count, really. So too is the miserable by completely predictable fact that when confined to small spaces alone or in groups and despite being in peril for their very lives, many people, (perhaps even most), will prefer to screw like rabid rabbits if at all possible. We know too that this is supremely distressing to some, who’d much rather be discussing good books over a glass of sherry or port saved for just such an occasion, but there’s no telling from the tastes of the masses.

    Rabbi Yonah knows this, cause he’s got a sick & well developed sense of humor. He has to it almost comes with the job description. There now, have I insulted almost everyone? Thanks, it’s been a trip… Cheers & Good Luck, ‘VJ’

  • Geez, My mistake this should now read in the first paragraph: “…most women manage to stop having children well before menopause”. Sorry about that. Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • VJ, everybody finds a way to do it.

    What is this discussion about? Phoebe has a problem with community members saying that it would be good if some Jewish women have kids? Her response is to complain that because women are mothers and carry a greater burden than men that can slow or harm careers, that because of this people shouldn’t bring up having kids to perpetuate the Jewish community?

    Gimme a break. Talk about sexism. Hey Phoebe, do you think men just impregnate their wives, give themselves a thumbs up in the mirror and head off to work in a suit and tie? Wrong.

    Wait, while we’re at it, let’s not just reject the really messy business of having kids, let’s also reject relationships altogether. After all, they require compromise and sacrifice. What? It’s better to have a career than worry about things like maintaining continuity of our traditions. Those pesky forces in the Jewish community who want me to marry a Jewish spouse are asking me to give up too much. I have to give up my dreams and career to be with a Jewish woman when I could just find a local non-Jewish woman who wants to be a homemaker and relax with a Christmas tree this Christmas? How selfish of my community to hope to have me find a Jewish spouse so they can then hope to have me conceive a Jewish child so they can then push that child when s/he grows up to pay synagogue dues. Everybody out there is just so self-centered and focused on their lousy community and culture and history, instead of thinking about me and my career and my needs.

  • Avoidance and denial of sex or using birth control without permission gives an Orthodox man the legal right to divorce his wife, even if she wants to stay married. He can give her Get, two chickens and a set of bed linens and cast her OUT. That’s the Torah law.
    Under Civil law, in States which require “grounds” for divorce, avoidance of sex are valid “grounds”.

    Women do use “avoidance” so as not to have the number of children their body can or can’t handle before menopause, but by doing so they forfeit not only their own sexual pleasure, but put themselves at risk of divorce. Given that they may not have the financial ability to incure this risk, they can’t use avoidance until menopause.

    Ultra Orthodox females have the same rights over their bodies as feral female cats on the street. The Tom Cat is not going to withdraw or use a condom. She can try to run away or try to scratch his eyes out, but ultimately she will wind up having litter after litter until she winds up dead from malnutrition or bleeds out during a delivery. And the kittens, oy…they’ve got fleas and not enough to eat. How they envy the spayed house cat who sits in the window watching them as she is fed tuna from a silver spoon.

    Other religions which prohibit birth control usually prohibit divorce as well, so the man is stuck with consequences of his actions; whereas under Torah law, divorce is a Mitzvah (positive commandment of action which is required) if she’s not putting out. Patriarchal and oppressive? Maybe just a tad bit, huh CK?

  • so its a matter of using birth control, w/ or w.out his knowledge, thats all. imo u have to be insane to have more babies than you can handle financially and emotionally. Maybe you should push yourself for one more than is comfort zone, that is the max.

  • As far as the putout part, yes but practically div. is not going to help in that dept. for some time u have to wait what w/ the shidduch crisis so that dont pay.

  • For those with “traditional” values who see no problem in this, think about it for a moment, what it would mean in terms of the sacrifice to Jewish contributions to any number of fields, in the US and elsewhere, if we all spent the years from 18-40 procreating.

    Er, think about the Jewish contribution 50 years hence because women decided career war more important than children. For Jews to make a contribution, there need to be Jews.

    We have to acknowledge that these babies, like the vast majority of babies of all races and (as absurd as this is when discussing babies) creeds, will be primarily the responisibility of women, and that a demand for “more jewish babies” is inherently sexist unless accompanied by a demand for a society in which men and women make as equal sacrifices for child-rearing as biology will allow.

    It might be inherently sexist, but it primarily about ensuring there are Jews to argue about this sort of thing in the future.

  • TM, I generally liked your answers, and I was just enjoying giving you a hard time. I know, it’s just evil of me, but I don’t have cable. Chutzpah, you’re always an incurable romantic, right? Even the Ultra-Orthodox have ways of avoidance w/o direct ‘avoidance’. There’s as many ways to go about this as there are women. It just takes some invention & some slight determined deception, something all adults are perfectly capable of, including most wives & husbands. There are many ways to remain ‘pleasing’ & enjoying and yes sharing physical pleasure with out exposing yourself to the risk of pregnancy. Again, something that’s been happening for a very long time.

    Be it resolved: Having kids usually demands sacrifices from everyone involved. Certainly, The Parents. The family. The community. The nation. If it’s to be a priority for any of these, people must act to see that the interests of children are advanced, and that policies and acts are done or put in place to make them as healthy and well educated as possible so that they might survive & thrive to be adults. Unfortunately in recent memory, this proposition spelled out as a political goal has always lost resoundingly in favor of lower taxes or loving war in the US. Perhaps we’ll live to see this change. Perhaps some of us can help to effect this much needed change. But don’t bet the farm on it happening in your life time. Me, I think the polar ice caps would melt sooner than the majority of the population would come to agree to sacrifice on behalf of children. Especially ‘other people’s children’. And BTW, the whole issue of our dedicated inaction on the issue of Global Warming can be seen as a subset of this larger societal refusal & shameful neglect for the well being of future generations. Now who’s for kids!? It’s a good question. Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • Dude, get cable. New seasons of Sopranos and Entourage are starting soon. I am now in mourning over the conclusion and cancellation of Rome.

    Please note that these shows are broadcast after my son goes to bed.

  • Sometimes it is not in the best interest of an individual or society for people to have a large number of children.

    Poor people, for various cultural and social reasons, tend to have more children than rich people. And a family’s standard of living declines with each child born — they are expensive, after all. From a national perspective, fewer children also means less consumption or resources. The richest countries in the world are those whose women have children at or near the replacement level of 2.1 per woman.

    I say this, of course, with the caveat that I do love children — and I hope to have at least one or two in the future.

    On a related note: I wonder if the charedim in Israel would still have the number of children they do if the government would cut them off of the public trough, force the men to work, and make families pay for everything themselves.

    On a religous note: We all know that God commanded humanity to “be fruitful and multiply” to fill the earth. Well, I think that mitzvah has been fulfilled — there are more than 6 billion of us, after all.

  • VJ,
    You don’t seem to understand Ultra-Orthodox sex. Men are forbidden from masterbating, withdrawing, anal sex, fellatio and probably every other type of ejeculation outside of the vagina.
    Sam,
    “Be fruitful and multiply” is a mitzvah only for men and many hold they have filled it after having one girl and one boy.

  • I think you have to be brought up w the idea of getting married at a young age and having a bunch of kids. I see this in the Orthodox world mostly, that they do observe for the most part, the no sex rule and thus, one could say, this influences to some extent that big push to get married at 19-21. It’s a good life, but I don’t think that those not brought up in that community will get it at the same kind of level, even a BT. I cannot explain how it works, but the kids are very happy w/ the whole situation.

  • Shalom,
    I completely agree with Steves Rick above. This whole debate assumes that childless women pursuing careers and making valuable contributions in their respective domains are superior to women who marry around 19-21, have lots of children, and generally enjoy their roles in the family and in society, although no one will quite admit that. If a Jewess has a choice between having zero or twelve children, between getting married or not, between keeping all the mitzvot or not, I wonder which she will choose? It is easy to think just of one’s self and one’s own financial situation rather than the community as a whole and the community’s needs. No children, no husband, no mitzvot, no problem. But there comes a time, and I’m pretty sure that we’ve arrived there, that one has to start thinking not about personal preferences, rights, and liberties, but about personal obligations to the community, rather than just crying “sexism.” Jewish continuity depends upon many factors, including valuable contributions in many domains and especially the contribution of moral children raised in a strong family structure.

  • Maria: I don’t think Phoebe disputes what you’re saying (if I may jump in Phoebe). That having been said there are other things to consider which you may have touched upon but bear further repeating. The responsibility for Jewish continuity if the family realm ought not rest exclusively upon the shoulders of women. The man in this equation ought to bear an equal share in the burden of raising the children and said burden ought not end at merely providing income. Moral children will most likely happen when a strong and loving relationship is established with both parents.

    Strong consideration ought to also be given to the mental and physical well being of the woman in the family. She ought to be seen as more than just a baby making factory and such consideration ought not be viewed as a threat to the continued viability of the Jewish people. Better to have 3 children raised by a fulfilled and content mother than 6 raised by a woman who has completely lost her identity and constantly harried by domestic chores, struggles with her sense of self worth.

    It’s an issue of balance and decency and consideration. I think Phoebe was responding to one extreme of the equation and you were responding to the other extreme. The ideal however, is probably somewhere in between.

  • Maria,

    That kind of yes or no thinking at the root of the sick pathology of the tshuva movement.

    Women don’t have to make a choice between zero or 12, or keeping all the mitzvot or not. Hashem gave us FREE WILL to decide for ourselves which mitzvot to do and how many children to try to be blessed with.

  • To call something sexist is to say that it discriminates according to sex. Any demand for “more babies” is inherently a demand for a greater sacrifice on the part of women than on the part of men, unless the world were to change radically and, perhaps, biologically. CK’s demand for more Jewish babies AND a greater paternal responsibility for them is not a demand I share, but indeed gets around the problem of sexism.

  • So CK, post 39 is in agreement with my post 23, so how do reconcile your statement with the prohibition against male birth control in Orthodoxy? Where does God expect you guys to put all that extra sperm?

  • Lipservice to greater paternal responsiblity does not cure the sexism of thousands of years of male leadership.

    The story about the Rabbi who took out the garbage every erev Shabbat and was not embarrassed by getting his hands dirty used in kiruv circles does not fix a SEXIST legal system which denies women the right to make choices about their own bodies.

    The only thing that “gets around the problem of sexism” is a CHANGE IN THE LAWS.

  • How can you change a natural Law? there is nothing = to the one who has to near the preg. and deliver it. There is yes an inherent inequality in the equation that nothing can = out. Most cases the children want the Mother more anyways.

  • Ugh. Dear Phoebe,

    I am familiar with the definition of sexism, thanks, but I’m afraid that I meant exactly what I said, that this definition que vous venez de partager avec nous is never an excuse for not having children. Women have been blessed with the capacity to carry and nourish future generations, and rather than pretend that we are all men, wouldn’t it be better to just embrace our nature?

    The team of husband and wife cannot be separated without harm to each of them, without the exploitation of women and the deprivation of those unwelcome future generations. We’d be wise, it seems, to stop and think about the ills of today, and how many of them can be credited to this one-sided thinking: the spiraling value of marriage, the weakening family structure, the killing of unborn children…

    The idea that we can somehow overcome our responsibilities and natures, that men can be “just paychecks” and neglect their family, that women can be childless if they so desire, it *sounds* so pleasant but it just doesn’t stand the test. I think CK hit the nail on the head: women and men need to work together to make the Jewish people stronger, by having babies and by making the world a better place for those babies to live in whatever ways they can.

    And to Chutzpah, it’s not quite clear what sort of yes or no thinking you’re talking about. I wasn’t advocating that women make a choice between zero or twelve children. I was trying to explain how I think it is one of our shortfalls to take the easy way out. I think it’s great to have any number of children, to keep mitzvot or not, as one sees fit. But it just seems like such a waste to live a prosperous, intellectual life and not invite another soul to share in and enrich that life. I guess I adhere to the philosophy that what one can do, he must do, in order to make the world a better place for everyone. Anything less is just a shame.

  • Ref. to #40, Dear Lord, what is Chutzpah poster talking about?
    We have saved so many lost souls numbering in the tens and hundreds of thousands, counting so many beautiful Yiddishe Kinderlach!

  • Kiruv which encourages people to give up every aspect of their former self is not healthy i.e. “those that go mixed swimming are not “frum”, they are not on a “madreaga” to be considered “one of us” yet”. Kiruv which teaches Jewish thought and law as an option to incorporate into one’s life much different. I could discuss this with you from today till tomorrow Rabbi, producing clones is not the same as “saving souls”.

  • This has dissolved into areas that I’ve got very little experience with. No I ‘don’t seem to understand Ultra-Orthodox sex’. I’ve never claimed this. I do understand gross (forgive the term) fertility, total or completed family size etc. These stats show that no human group currently examined approaches ‘full (hypothetical) fertility’ for either women or families. Not even close in most places. So ergo, something intervenes to prevent women from ‘having all the babies sent to them.’ This something is human behavior and human intervention. Again this has been well documented for centuries. So I’ll also insist that there are indeed very few ‘natural laws’ here. So I’ll also agree with Chutzpah’s thought that our very Human laws need to be changed first to try and cope with some of these issues. Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • The laws that I was talking about are the Torah prohibitions against birth control which take away a woman’s choice. Orthodox would argue that “re-interpreting” this laws in light of medical advances in birth control constitutes “new age revisionism”. I’m just saying that if they are not going to revise their approach to Divorce nor Birth Control they are effectively practicing sexism.

    Maybe you should read this
    http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/17838128/from/RS.5/ story about a Mexican woman who abandoned 3 infants in 3 years in California. “NO JEWISH WOMAN WOULD EVER DO THIS” we all cry!
    Maybe or maybe she just claims “Sudden Infant Death” when t number 8 or 9 is found dead in his crib in the morning….

  • Just one thing Chutzpah, what you said about Orth. women not doing anything in bed besides the one position, that should not be looked at on such a negative level, but one should celebrate that he is at least getting this. I know many single men, who never have a woman at all at any level, so they would gladly sign for only that, for the rest of their lives.

    OTOH, then, what do you say to a married man, who’s wife becomes more frum, and then will not do those other things that she used to because ‘ she can’t’. Is it not morally justified for this man, to find such comfort on another woman’s company?

  • Ricks…really, you’ve been addressing my posting a little more than I appreciate. I didn’t make any comments on positions, that was Michael.

  • Here’s a risably impertinent question: How many Jews are enough? At what point do folks get to relax and conclude that the threshold’s been reached, and there really is no danger that Jews will vanish? Is it 10 million? 15? 43.7?

    Stated differently– in what sense does it matter whether there are, say, 20 million Jews worldwide, and not 22? What’s at stake here theologically?

    There are ostensibly over a billion Catholics worldwide. If that number turned out to be grossly wrong– very high or very low– I’d be hard-pressed to view the matter as having any substantive content.

    It would mean . . . nothing.

    If Jews fall away from the faith in significant numbers– that’s a concern, I get that. But is there any content in the pure abstraction of total numbers?

    And is this fruitfulness/multiplication discourse (as Phoebe suggests elsewhere) a product of the Holocaust? Perhaps the fraught, anxious nature of such discourse is distinctively modern.

    Just wondering.

  • Good question there Tommy. The current generation of commited Jews is saddled by the losses so that influences the thinking. THe losses of the Holocaust, of terrorism, and assimilation. Also the losses of divorces, the singles who cannot hook up w/ someone.

  • (Cross posted in Phoebe’s other post “The New Right“)

    Tom, the Enlightenment did nothing to prevent the Holocaust. The Enlightenment did nothing to prevent Dreyfus. The Enlightenment did nothing to prevent signs in parks and hotels that said “No Jews Allowed” or in some cases that I heard about Canada, “No Dogs or Jews Allowed.” The world today still gives us antisemitism and in fact at times gives it to us in a far more sophisticated way that what we had seen a few hundred years ago. As I read recently, these days one sees antisemitism driven by the educated class and political leadership. I point you to the Muslim world where you have heads of state and media outlets which are often organs of the government vilifying Jews using classic antisemitic canards. In fact, we see it on the Left today as well. My point is that “Western pluralism” has significant limits.

    Phoebe, in fact, points to those limits when she expresses the hope of being able to be Jewish in the sense that one would point to an American and say, “She’s from Wisconsin.” It may give you a broad idea of how/where that person may have grown up, but for all intents and purposes, she’s like you, an American.

    I don’t discount for a minute that Phoebe is extremely bright and articulate. The question is whether she’s saying something new and I don’t believe she is. Consider, for example, that John Kerry and Madeleine Albright (and ex-Senator George Allen) discovered that their parents essentially sought to have them completely assimilate by eliminating any connection to Judaism. Consider movements where Jews were quite active such as Communism and Socialism that obliterate differences between people and strive to eliminate religious dogma from the lives of people. Consider simply the large number of Jews who have become not only secular but entirely unaffiliated with the Jewish community so that in essence they live their life with virtually no identification with their Jewish roots and certainly their spouses or descendants carry no such knowledge or sense of affiliation.

    On the contrary, what Phoebe is saying is all too familiar. I’ll tell you what it means to me. It means that my son will live in a world with far fewer Jews. He will live in a world where, whether he does them for cultural, historical or faithful reasons, the traditions he wishes to preserve will be far more difficult to preserve because the resources available to him will be greatly diminished, beginning with the number of potential spouses and including the number of synagogues or schools for his children or other cultural artifacts such as community centers, concerts, courses of study at universities, etc. I seek to preserve these things not just for myself, but for others including my son as well as our friends and their children. Phoebe belongs to the ranks of those who will not only make the overall pool of people and resources smaller, but by actually advocating such an outcome, may be convincing others to follow suit as well. Isn’t that reason enough to challenge her assertions?

    Look, you asked the question in her other post about “Natalism” about what numbers of Jews are enough and whether the numbers even matter. This is an interesting question because many Orthodox Jews today will tell you they don’t care about the numbers if it means that they have to accept converts who weren’t converted by Orthodox rabbis. In fact, some go as far as to reject other streams of Judaism altogether. Of course, they then proceed to have many children themselves which suggests a desire to grow the population base of at least the “right kind” of Jewish people.

    However, if you ask me, the issue is a pertinent one for non-Orthodox Jews for the reasons I mention above with respect to providing a large enough community to our children that they can enjoy a robust social environment as Jews, have opportunities to marry other Jews and raise children as Jews, have healthy communal services and functions, and be able to maintain traditions and a link to a valuable and ancient culture. This is difficult to do when your birthrate is below replacement levels and your educated population is marrying only half the time (stats similar to the general population where 50% aren’t married), and when they marry, half of them marry non-Jews and of those non-Jews about 80% retain their original faith.

    You asked in the Natalism conversation whether the Holocaust plays a role in the hope to maintain numbers. I’m sure it does to some. However, to me, it informs more than influences. There were 19 million Jews in the world in 1939 and about 13 million in 1945. Today, in a world where the population has at least doubled since then, Jews represent about 14-15 million. That indicates serious challenges to future stability outside of Israel. To you this may not be meaningful because you belong to a group that counts 700 million adherents and continues to proselytize even as its members are surrounded by a large number of others who either share the same faith or a variant of that faith. However, we, as Jews, not only don’t have the numbers, but are surrounded by you folks from these other faiths, in a society that orients itself around this faith. We meet you folks in school, university, jobs, etc. and it’s much more likely when we’re surrounded by 97 of you to every one of us that we will find common interests with one of those 97 than one of the other 2.5 to 3 individuals who share our faith. In other words, it becomes even more challenging for us to maintain a connection or end up with a partner who cares about our culture, faith or traditions.

    Does it matter? It matters to me. I find our traditions to be valuable and beautiful. I want to preserve them and would like to preserve a link to our ancient culture. Obviously, I do it from a secular perspective, but I am who I am because of those traditions and the values instilled in me by my family and community and believe it is critical to pass them on to my son and to have him pass them on as well.