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August 28, 2014 / 2 Elul, 5774
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Change’

Israel’s Chief Rabbinate Facing Heated Calls For Change On Several Fronts

Wednesday, July 11th, 2012

WASHINGTON – The latest battle over religious pluralism in Israel has unleashed a new barrage of criticism and calls for reform aimed at the Orthodox-controlled Israeli Chief Rabbinate.

Unlike major flare-ups in past decades, however, this time it’s not just the Reform and Conservative movements leading the charge – mainstream, consensus-oriented Jewish groups with no denominational affiliations are speaking out, too.

One flashpoint has been the fallout from the Israeli attorney general’s decision to approve government funding for Reform and Conservative religious leaders as “rabbis of non-Orthodox communities” – albeit through the Ministry of Culture and Sports rather than the Orthodox-controlled Religious Services Ministry, which funds Orthodox rabbis.

That announcement drew a caustic response from Sephardi Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar, who in a June 27 meeting urged more than 100 fellow Orthodox rabbis – including Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi Yona Metzger – to pray “in order to stop the destroyers and saboteurs of Judaism [because] they are trying to uproot the foundation of Judaism.”

“There is a natural backlash on the part of American Jews and American Jewish leaders when the Chief Rabbinate issues such statements,” said Steven Bayme, director of the American Jewish Committee’s Koppelman Institute on American Jewish-Israeli Relations. “As we enter the 21st century, the [Chief Rabbinate] needs to be reevaluted in terms of democratic norms and modern Israel’s relationship to world Jewry.”

In response to Rabbi Amar’s remarks, about 50 Reform and Conservative rabbis protested outside of the Chief Rabbinate’s building in Jerusalem. Two Conservative rabbis filed a police complaint accusing Amar of incitement – a particularly serious claim in Israel ever since the 1995 assassination of Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.

The Jewish Federations of North America, which has leaders from across the religious spectrum, but which in recent years has become more vocal on behalf of Israel’s non-Orthodox Jews, was quick to respond.

“It is a fundamental Jewish virtue to ‘love your fellow as yourself.’ We condemn comments that disparage fellow Jews and, in particular, well-established branches of Judaism that represent 80 percent of North American Jewry,” Jerry Silverman, the president and CEO of JFNA, said in a statement. “Statements such as those made by Rabbi Amar only serve to alienate our fellow Jews from our religion, our people and the Jewish state.”

Shortly after that controversy, the board of governors of the AJC – another nonsectarian Jewish organization with no formal ties to either the Reform or Conservative movements – went even further in criticizing the Chief Rabbinate and calling for major changes to the institution.

“In the 21st century, a coercive Chief Rabbinate has become, at best, an anachronism, and at worst a force dividing the Jewish people,” the AJC’s leaders declared in a resolution.

The Chief Rabbinate’s actions “threaten to divide the Jewish people and risk an anti-religious backlash against Judaism itself within the Jewish state,” they wrote. The AJC urged Israel’s government “to undertake promptly all needed actions” to end the Chief Rabbinate’s monopoly over issues of personal status.

The latest wave of criticism comes amid a backdrop of religion-related controversies – tensions between Modern Orthodox rabbis and haredi Orthodox rabbis over conversions; the push for civil marriage in Israel; and the struggle over whether haredi men should serve in the military or continue to be exempt to study in yeshivas.

“Like any human institution, the Chief Rabbinate could use improvement,” said Rabbi Tzvi Hersh Weinreb, executive director emeritus of the Orthodox Union.

“What those improvements would be though requires a lot of thought and a lot of study, and from the OU’s perspective in no way could the Orthodox nature and the halachic nature of the Chief Rabbinate be compromised.”

Rabbi Weinreb stressed that OU congregations and rabbis adhere to the Israeli Chief Rabbinate’s decisions. He added that the process of electing chief rabbis could be refined so that it is “less political.”

The call for radical reform of the Chief Rabbinate was greeted warmly by Reform and Conservative groups.

“It’s a powerful letter from the dead center of the American Jewish establishment weighing in on what the Israeli government and the Israeli public still thinks is a fringe issue,” Mark Pelavin, associate director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, said of the AJC’s position. “It’s a welcome voice in that debate.”

Diagnosing Mental Illness: How DSM-5 Will Change the Rules

Thursday, May 31st, 2012

Mental health specialists tend to speak about their patients according to a classification referred to as the DSM, which stands for the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders. This classification system was first published in 1952 by the American Psychiatric Association as a method to classify mental disorders and develop a statistical baseline through which disorders can be understood, studied and treated. It is not the only classification system available: the International Classification of Diseases, published by the World Health Organization, contains mental health diagnoses that parallel those of the DSM, but the DSM is most widely used in the mental health field, especially in the United States.

All classification systems evolve over time, and we are about to receive the latest iteration of the DSM in 2013. To understand why changes are made, one need only look at the changes made in each of the DSM revisions in the past. In the first DSM, which was based primarily on soldiers’ reactions to the stresses of World War II, all of the 106 diseases listed were termed reactive, or caused by reactions to social or environmental factors. This limited classification to traumas and environmental stressors.

In the DSM II, which contained 182 illnesses, the word reactive was removed, allowing for a broader approach to understanding possible biological or genetic contributions and other non-stress induced disorders.

DSM III, published in 1980, formulated a system that included a description of 265 diagnostic categories without any suggestion as to cause, unless it was very well documented, and conformed to very specific diagnostic criteria.

In 1994, the DSM IV added and deleted a variety of categories based on the research available at the time. In that version, which was further revised in 2000, only symptoms that caused clinically significant distress or impairment in functioning were included. Definitions of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorders and Autistic Spectrum disorders were expanded, and all of the disorders had a checklist of specific diagnostic criteria that had to be met in order to apply a diagnosis. This gave both clinicians and researchers a measurable way to classify their patients, the goal of which was to help find empirically validated treatments.

Every revision of the DSM causes a reaction among professionals and the public. Changes are often attributed to political considerations rather than research that supports the suggested changes. For example, in 1973, the DSM declassified homosexuality as a disorder, and the diagnosis was replaced by the category of Sexual Orientation Disturbance (SOD) because research failed to identify a specific abnormality caused by this sexual preference. Over the years, SOD has been modified and expanded to include a wider variety of sexual disorders and paraphilias. Some individuals still believe that gay activists advocating for their own agenda brought about this change, although that is highly unlikely.

The task force working on the DSM-5 was initially sworn to secrecy. This caused an uproar in the scientific community, which rightfully demanded an open process. Once the revision process was publicized and the recommendations for change became available, critics of the DSM-5 voiced three primary concerns. These include lowering of diagnostic thresholds that would increase the number of individuals who fit a diagnosis, introducing new disorders that are currently considered normal behavioral patterns, and questions regarding the scientific validity of certain categories.

If the DSM-5 goes forward as proposed, it could include changes such as a significantly broader definition of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity disorder; an Attenuated Psychosis Syndrome which would allow the diagnosis of individuals without a psychotic disorder to be classified as having one; and the categorization of shyness as a pathology.

Another proposed change would be a complete overhaul of the category now referred to as personality disorders. Perhaps the greatest concern of the scientific community is the neuro-biological emphasis of the DSM-5, and what some are calling the “over-medicalization” of disorders that are clearly a combination of biological, psychological, and social stressors. This is of great concern because it would provide justification for wider use of psychotropic medications, many of which have questionable utility, in vulnerable people who might benefit more from psychotherapy or counseling.

The need for practical interventions that are proven effective should be the primary motivator, but financial considerations are a pragmatic driving force. In the end, there is a great fear that the new criteria proposed in the DSM-5 will favor medical interventions, which may be seen by insurance companies as cheaper than therapy.

Change and Renewal: The Essence of the Jewish Holidays, Festivals & Days of Remembrance

Tuesday, May 8th, 2012

Title: Change and Renewal: The Essence of the Jewish Holidays, Festivals & Days of Remembrance Author: Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz Publisher: Koren Publishing

Breathe deeply. You’ll need maximum physical and spiritual power to absorb the uplifting lessons in this book. Page 249 explains why some Jews are praised as “fish on dry land,” a phrase that describes Moshe Rabeinu. Am Yisrael began to appreciate his depth of character at kriat Yam Suf, realizing that “he lived in the revealed world as though he were in the concealed world.” Take another breath. You’re in for a spiritual treat as you learn how to do that.

Rabbi Adin Steinsaltz points out in his preface to Change and Renewal: The Essence of the Jewish Holidays, Festivals & Days of Remembrance that ‘shana‘ means both year and change. Page 44 depicts that dynamic by explaining the Malkhuyot tefilot of Yom HaDin. “There is meaning to the Jewish People’s unique existence as long as it is aware of the function of its existence, as long as it regards itself as a witness,” Steinsaltz comments. “The existence of a chosen people is meaningful only when it is a people of choice.”

The choice is made with a deep understanding of Judaism’s purpose. Page 224 describes generations’ worth of misguided Jews. The first batch and their ideological descendants chose and choose bondage in idolatrous Egypts because of what they idealize: “… exile and life among the nation… to continue being… a servant to the nations and to their values… the blows and suffering inflicted upon us by the nations cease to be something to be complained about… For some Jews, these, too, have become part of the Jewish People’s ‘mission’ – to be exiles… carrying the burden of other people’s lives and work.”

That resignation to suffer from goyim while going through superficial motions of religiosity seems to facilitate assimilation. The abandonment of Jewish values, though, is actually self-inflicted punishment for losing sight of HaShem‘s goals for Am Yisrael. Jews who reject the aliya imperative seem to be included in this indictment; they’re extraordinarily alienated from the Divine mission to live solely to fulfill HaShem‘s will. Preceding paragraphs indict the overall hametz/hunger for assimilation as the cause for other nations to resent the loss of a workforce, hence the rationale for some Jew-hatred [yg: there are others].

The chapter concerning Shavuot may resonate with Torah-aligned Jews. It cites “two decisive elements in the Ten Commandments that turn… their revelation into the great, irreversible turning point.” The first is the giving of the commandments, the second “… is the removal of life’s ideals and supreme values from the realm of the neutral to the realm of serving the Creator.”

Change and Renewal closes with comforting thoughts about teshuva, Jewish life as a do-over. It is justified hope for spiritually-charged futures. Steinsaltz writes that tzidkut rests not on achievement “but on something far greater… the very nature and very existence” of heroes and heroines among the Jewish people, “….attainments are merely extras.”

Succeed as sensible Jews. Read this 432-page hardcover.

http://itsmycrisisandillcryifineedto.blogspot.com/

The Wheel of Change

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011

Dear Readers:

The Torah revolves around one simple concept – treating others in the way you would want to be treated. The following poem gives a glimpse as to why.

The Wheel of Change

I saw you standing at the check-out line,
Your cart seemed empty compared to mine.

You came in after me, but were quickly done,
Not many groceries are needed
When you shop for one.

I saw you walking alone from shul.
You smiled wistfully at my little girl.

I rushed past you, as usual, in a hurry,
Afraid my Shabbos guests would arrive early.

I heard you davening on Rosh Hashanah,
Your voice trembled softly
As you davened withkavanah,
I meant to approach you,
And wish you a good year,
But distracted by friends,
I didn’t come near.

We never got to speak, you and I,
I never made the effort – and you were too shy.

I saw you quite often; I knew you were there,
But I was too self-absorbed to truly care.

The days turned into seasons,
The seasons into years,
Bringing moments of great happiness,
And others full of tears,
Life is like a wheel -
What is up can go down,
Mazel can smile upon you,
And just as easily frown.

I no longer have a husband,
I’m on my own,
My children are away.
I’m all alone.

You too, had changes
To the status quo in your life.
You’re no longer single,
You’re a mother and a wife.

And as I walk alone from shul,
To a solitary meal,
I finally understand,
How you used to feel.

Please don’t follow my bad example,
Don’t take a cue from me,
To look at those around you,
But not bother to see.

I was smug and self-centered,
Arrogance led to my apathy,
The shoe is now on the other foot,
Please be moichel me.

Chronicles Of Crises In Our Communities – 1/30/09

Wednesday, January 28th, 2009

Last week’s column featured an overview of Light In The Closet: Torah, Homosexuality and the Power to Change, a recently released publication by Arthur Goldberg (Red Heifer Press).

In the interest of fair-mindedness, we present the following transcript of an interview with a (frum) SSA male who congenially shares his own personal perspective of the book. (For the record, our guest has no connection, nor has ever had any contact with Mr. Goldberg or with JONAH.)

Rachel: What was your initial gut reaction to [the existence of] the book, before actually reading it?

Anonymous: Frankly, I was absolutely stunned that such a book existed – especially with so much detail on every aspect of the topic. Before I even leafed through it, I wondered if it had a solution to such an impossible dilemma. I was also surprised at the size of the book. I never realized that so much could be written on the subject.

Being well read and well versed in the topic, and a professional writer to boot, was there anything about the volume that can have actually impressed you?

Believe me, Rachel, as a gay person, I did not want to be impressed with this book. I was leafing through it, desperate to find material that would be laughable and ridiculous – and found nothing of the sort. I continued to leaf through it, hoping to find that the author was narrow-minded, ignorant and bigoted. That is what I was HOPING to find. Instead I found a well-researched, sensitive analysis of a subject. This book, without a doubt, will become THE definitive work on the subject of changing sexual orientation.

I was also impressed that the author did not insult gays. The book was not at all demeaning. In fact, there seemed to be genuine respect for gays as human beings. That’s not what you would expect from what some would describe as a Bible-thumping perspective.

Of the 500 plus pages, would you say that most, some or little held your interest?

The entire book held my interest. The section on the causes of homosexuality was chilling. The religious prohibitions were explained in all too vivid detail. Initially, I thought the whole socialist gay agenda was a tad over the top. But the author buttresses his case with plenty of information.

I must say, however, that he seems to be overly concerned about gays having a positive self-image. There are many out there who are quite happy with their lot, and they are not necessarily promiscuous. In some cases, they are celibate.

Having acquainted yourself with the book by happenstance [I introduced him to my copy], would you seek to acquire it for your personal library, use, or the like?

Yes, without question. I would like to own the book for reference purposes, and . . . there were some parts of the book that were hauntingly accurate….

What kind of reader would be most likely, in your opinion, to benefit from the information in this manual?

I personally believe that this book would be of great benefit to anyone, in his 20s, 30s or even 40s, who is unsure, unhappy and ill at ease with his sexual orientation.

How do you think this publication would benefit the heterosexual reader?

It would help to demystify the conflicted gay man or woman. It would do nothing to inform them about gays who have come to terms with their imperfections.

It is important to add that the book will enrage many SSA individuals who will not appreciate being told that they are mentally ill and suffering from arrested development. The reason that they will be so upset is because it will ring true and they just don’t want to go through the anguish of once again questioning themselves and losing the self-esteem that was so difficult to build in a hostile and unaccepting environment.

Had this book been available for your consumption 30 odd years ago…

I would have laughed it off. In my 20s, I often said that if there were a pill that could turn you straight in one day, I would refuse to take it. Now I feel different and more mature. Less selfish… less interested in instant gratification. I would take that pill . . . as I am starting to grieve at never having had children or grandchildren.

What did you note, in your humble opinion, to be the most valuable aspect of Light in the Closet?

It was the section that deals with developing a loving and intimate relationship with a male in a non-sexual context. There seems to be something so amazingly satisfying, fulfilling and comforting about that possibility.

Anyone would agree that the author invested a tremendous amount of work and time in this painstaking project. Do you see him reaping the fruits of his labor?

Was it worth it for the author to do all this, you ask? Yes. It will help his organization and it might make a real difference in the lives of those who don’t want to be gay. But like weight loss and alcoholism, the success rate will never be what the author would like it to be.

If you would need to describe the book in three words, which three would they be?

Sensitive, caring and powerful.

Dear Readers,

It is our sincerest hope that our column has helped promote a clearer understanding of one of man’s most daunting challenges, and that those plagued by SSA (same sex attraction) will strive to overcome rather than succumb to their physical inclinations and thus distance themselves from Yiddishkeit – only to lament having done so in their later years.

We are most grateful to our guest for graciously sharing his insightful evaluation of Light In The Closet with the readers of this column

And last but by no means least, Mr. Goldberg is to be congratulated for his monumental achievement, which is sure to illuminate the lives of many. We wish him much hatzlacha in all his noble endeavors.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/sections/family/chronicles-of-crises/chronicles-of-crises-in-our-communities-136/2009/01/28/

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