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September 27, 2016 / 24 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Conservative Jews’

Wasserman-Schultz Puts Stamp of Approval on Intermarriage

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has done somersaults after making a comment noting the “the problem of intermarriage” in the Jewish community and then insisting she does not oppose it.

It is a bit bewildering that Wasserman Schultz, who also is head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), felt the need to retract a comment that should not have raised too many eyebrows.

Her remarks were made at a Jewish Federation event, in which she said:

We have the problem of assimilation. We have the problem of intermarriage. We have the problem that too many generations of Jews don’t realize the importance of our institutions strengthening our community—particularly with the rise of anti-Semitism and global intolerance.

The playback must have sounded too committed to her and anyone, mostly in the Reform Movement, whose idea of “commitment” is not to be committed to anything, such as the Torah, that interferes with the individual as the judge and jury of what is wrong and right.

Here is how she backtracked:

At an annual Jewish community event in my congressional district, I spoke about my personal connection to Judaism and in a larger context about the loss of Jewish identity and the importance of connecting younger generations to the institutions and values that make up our community. I do not oppose intermarriage; in fact, members of my family, including my husband, are a product of it.

Is it guilt that was behind her repentance? Does she feel guilty for saying intermarriage is a “problem” when members of her family are a “product of intermarriage”?

Is it forbidden to say that intermarriage is a problem?

Apparently so.

Wasserman Schultz has implicitly put her stamp of approval on the “problem” of assimilation, which is estimated at 60 percent in the United States.

Reform Judaism does not officially oppose or favor intermarriage, although there is a clear trend of its clergy to officiate at weddings between a Jew and a non-Jew.

Polls show that only 25 percent of children of intermarried couples identify themselves as Jewish, and the term “Jewish” can be understood in its widest and most liberal interpretation that gives a person the self-satisfaction of calling himself a Jew while wolfing down a cheeseburger on Yom Kippur.

The Florida Sun-Sentinel quoted Ira M. Sheskin, of Cooper City, director of the University of Miami’s Jewish Demography Project, as saying, “There’s no question that there’s significant concern in the Jewish community over the percentage of people who are choosing not to marry Jews… From the point of view of a community that wants to see itself around in the next 100 years, it’s not a good trend.”

Wasserman Schultz’ Conservative synagogue Rabbi Adam Watstein told the Florida newspaper that “intermarriage is a feature of the reality of the Jewish community in the United States.”

That is true if the Jewish community accepts intermarriage. It is not true if it does not.

Prof. Sheskin mentioned that there is intermarriage in his own family, but that didn’t stop him from forecasting the obvious result of intermarriage for Judaism.

Wasserman Schultz couldn’t go that far, and her justification of what she admits is a “problem” is one more alarm siren for what remains of American Jewry.

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Knesset Synagogue Bars Reform and Conservative Jews from ‘Mixed Prayer’

Friday, November 28th, 2014

American rabbinical students from the Conservative movement studying in Israel were prevented from holding afternoon prayers with men and women together in the Knesset synagogue, JTA reported.

Haaretz reported that the decision was handed down by Knesset Speaker Yuli Edelstein, and the students were offered alternative place to pray. Reform and Reconstructionist students also were in the group at the Knesset, where the synagogue is designated as Orthodox.

“A lot of the students were very upset and shocked,” said Rabbi Joel Levy, director of the Conservative Yeshiva in Jerusalem, who submitted the request on behalf of the students, told Haaretz. “You’d think that the Knesset would be a place of ingathering of the Jewish people, but actually we learned that it has boundaries that don’t include liberal Jews. Paradoxically, this decision served as an appropriate end to our conversation about religion and state in Israel.”

(One wonders if they are equally as upset and shocked that no Jews are allowed to pray on Judaism’s holiest site, the Temple Mount.)

So here we go again. The Knesset implicitly a place that is not for the “ingathering of the Jewish people” because the synagogue is Orthodox.

Not only that, but “liberal Jews” are not allowed.

The minute they throw around the term “egalitarian prayers,” Orthodoxy has three strikes against it.

Once Judaism is defined by secular values, it becomes a monopoly of the liberals, who are tolerant of everyone who accepts them and then close the doors on anyone who challenges their power.

Power is what the argument is all about. It is the same issue that is behind the Women of the Wall movement, which gathered hundreds of thousands of supporters in the United States but which in practice cannot come up with more than a few dozen people –perhaps 100 on a sunny day – to demonstrate,  whoops – pray,  at the Western Wall once a month.

So here comes the Masoriti movement to the Knesset, where it wants their students to have a real spiritual experience and pray – men and women together – in the legislature’s synagogue.

When the Orthodox Jews set the rules, it is called a monopoly.

When the “liberals” set the rules, it is called democracy.

It would be interesting to know if the students at the Knesset have an afternoon prayer service every day, or is it only when they visit the Knesset?

And if they do, why cannot they respect the sanctity of the lace where there is a minyan of Jews every day, three times a day, instead of grabbing headlines for their “egalitarian” agenda that they think is “modern” and superior?

Okay. We gave them their headlines, just like we did with the Women of the Wall.

I wish the students an enjoyable visit in Israel but ask, “Why is it that Orthodox Jews make up such large numbers of those who move to Israel?”

Do the Reform and Conservative Jews visit Israel and go “home” because there is no mixed seating in the Knesset synagogue?

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Haredim Dominate US Jewish Day School Enrollment

Sunday, November 2nd, 2014

Jewish day school enrollment in the United States is up 12 percent from five years ago, primarily due to growth in Haredi schools.

Then numbers present a scary picture of the future of non-Orthodox and non-Haredi-Hasidic American Jewry, who seem to be the only ones who seem to be able to attract parents to keep their children in a Jewish educational surrounding.

Nearly 255,000 students are enrolled in 861 Jewish day schools from the pre-K level through 12th grade, according to a new census of the schools conducted by the Avi Chai Foundation.

The day school survey, which has been conducted every five years since 1998-’99, found 59 more schools and 26,437 more students since the last study, in 2008-’09. Previous surveys found enrollment growth rates of about 11 percent in each five-year period.

The primary drivers of growth have been Hasidic students, whose enrollment has increased by 110 percent since the first census 15 years ago, and Haredi non-Hasidic yeshiva schools, which have grown by 60 percent since the 1998-’99 survey.

The challenge is “whether there will be sufficient resources to provide adequately for the growth in these two sectors,” said Marvin Schick, who conducted the survey for Avi Chai.

The Avi Chai survey counted the following approximately numbers:

—  82,000 students in 137 Hasidic schools;

— 76,000 students in 282 yeshivas;

—  46,000 students in 160 centrist or modern Orthodox day schools;

—  20,500 students in 97 community day schools;

—  12,600 students in 80 Chabad schools,

— 9,700 students in 39 Solomon Schechters;

—  3,700 students 13 Reform schools;

—  2,400 students in 19 immigrant/outreach schools;

—  and about 2,100 students in 34 special education schools. A few of the schools counted in the survey include non-Jewish students.

Overall, 60 percent of all Jewish day school students in America are Haredi.

By contrast, enrollment in non-Orthodox schools is declining.

Reform day school enrollment is down 19 percent from five years ago, to 3,704 students nationwide; enrollment in the Conservative movement’s Solomon Schechter schools is down 27 percent from five years ago, to 9,718 students; and non-denominational community day school enrollment has slipped by 2 percent, down to 20,413 students, according to the census. Together, these non-Orthodox schools have just 13 percent of all day school students. In 1998, the proportion was 20 percent.

The number of centrist or modern Orthodox students has stayed flat since 1998, at about 46,000 students. The survey divided those schools into two groups: modern Orthodox schools, which are generally co-educational and have about 27,000 students across 83 schools, and centrist Orthodox, which are generally gender-segregated and have about 19,000 students spread out over 77 schools.

In the 15 years since Avi Chai’s surveys began, Conservative day schools have taken the largest tumble. The number of Solomon Schechter schools has dropped to 39 from 63 in 1998, and the number of students has shrunk 45 percent, to 9,700 from 17,700 in 1998.

Some of those departing students were lost to community day schools, which since 1998 have grown by 22 schools and increased enrollment by about 5,500 students.

The figures were self-reported by every known Jewish day school in the United States, according to Avi Chai. In all, 37 states and Washington, D.C., have Jewish day schools. The primary concentration of Jewish schools is in New York and New Jersey, where day school students number 190,195, roughly 75 percent of the nationwide total.

The states with the next-largest day school populations are California, with 15,270 students, Florida with 9,248, Maryland with 7,556 and Illinois with 5,248 students. No other state exceeds 3,200 day school students.

JTA

Reform and Conservative Jews Upset over Plans for Robinson’s Arch

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Reform and Conservative Jewish groups are upset with a reported draft agreement that would  put the City of David Foundation in charge of the Western Wall’s Robinson’s Arch area, where they can pray in a women’s minyan with a Torah scroll.

The tentative agreement calls for the government to transfer control of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park and Davidson Center to the City of David Foundation, Haaretz reported. The foundation runs the extremely popular City of David tourist site in Jerusalem’s Old City and works to settle Jews in the Silwan neighborhood, across the road from the entrance to the Western Wall Plaza.

Avoid conflict at the widely-visited area of the Western Wall.

Israeli Conservative movement CEO Yizhar Hess told JTA that the draft agreement concerning the Davidson Center caught non-Orthodox groups by surprise.

“We were negotiating the final details of how it would be managed,” Hess said. “It was never mentioned that the City of David Foundation would be the one to actually run the place.”

Hess said that the Reform and Conservative do not take a stance on the foundation’s political leanings, which they claim are decidedly rightwing, but explained that if implemented, the draft agreement would depart from a compromise on the Western Wall outlined by Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky last year. Sharansky’s outline proposed creating a pluralist council to manage the site.

JTA

Avigdor Lieberman Warns US Jews ‘You Are Facing a Catastrophe’

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

American Jews are facing nothing less than a demographic catastrophe, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asserted on Tuesday in a speech at the Jerusalem meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

He quoted recent surveys that show that there are 6.1 million Jews in Israel and slightly less than 5.5 million in the United States, not including those who claim affiliation or identity with Judaism.

Lieberman emphasized that no Jew – whether in the Diaspora or in Israel and whether Reform Conservative or Orthodox – “is illegitimate and should be placed outside of the tent,” but he added. “There is a significant rise in those who have little or no Jewish content in their lives, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish.”

He pointed out, “The intermarriage rate has reached a high of 58% for all Jews, and 71% for non-Orthodox Jews, a huge change from before 1970 when only 17% of Jews intermarried.”

Attachment to Israel is markedly higher among older Jews, with only 32% of respondents under the age of 30 sharing the idea that “caring about Israel as an essential part of what being Jewish means to them.”

Lieberman then put the cards on the table and categorically stated they are stacked against the Diaspora.

“For many years, Israeli officials have called on our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, like many of you gathered here tonight, to donate your time, energies and funds to Israel,” he said. “However, I turn to you today and say that, while we are enormously and forever grateful for your assistance, we believe it is now time to concentrate on the challenges facing your own communities, especially those emanating from the dangerous trends in the Jewish community demonstrated in the recent survey.”

Lieberman was being kind. He could just as easily have said, “You American Jews sit as armchair generals for Israel, undermine our government’s struggle by deciding how we should deal with the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world while you don’t see that the ground in the Diaspora is crumbling under your feet.”

In more diplomatic language, he said, “Above all discussions on Iran and the Palestinians, your discussions with the Israeli Government and the Jewish Agency should be focused on saving future generations.”

Lieberman stated that education is the key to fighting “assimilation, intermarriage and disengagement” but that “Jewish children are being kept from the Jewish classrooms because of the exorbitant and prohibitive costs of Jewish education in the United States.”

“On my last visit to New York, I met with a Russian Jewish family in Brooklyn,” Lieberman told his audience. “They told me that for their three children to attend good Jewish schools it would cost them around $100,000. They simply could not endure such costs. They are not alone. This situation is being replicated across the Jewish world, whether in the United States, Russia, France, Argentina, or elsewhere. If this situation persists, we will lose another six million Jews in a generation or two.”

He said that most Israeli diplomats abroad shun local Jewish schools and instead send their children to learn at international schools because the standard is higher.

“Sadly this is also reflective of the general Jewish population in places like the United States, where only around 12% of Jewish children attend Jewish schools, and when the Orthodox children are removed from the equation; it drops down to no more than a few per cent,” he added.

Lieberman proposed the creation of a global network of Jewish schools with a superior standard, and he committed the Israeli government to budget $365 million a year in matching funds for the project.

He also is looking forward to massive aliyah “The creation of an international network of Jewish schools is only the first part of my vision,” Lieberman declared. “In addition, my goal is to bring an additional 3.5 million Jews from the Diaspora in the next ten years so that the Jewish population in Israel will exceed 10 million.”

Jews are undoubtedly a major influence in American life, but the number of Jews who are Jewish “in name only” spells a dismal future for the Diaspora.

One of the most self-serving ways to deny the future is to accept the definition of a Jew as anyone who considers himself Jewish. That kind of identity is temporary, at best.

Jewish institutions and organizations maybe boasting larger numbers, but the meaning of Jewish is becoming emptier.

What Lieberman essentially told the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem Tuesday was, “Wake up. It’s later than you think.”

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Israeli Government Pays Salaries of 4 Reform Rabbis

Wednesday, January 1st, 2014

Israeli government money was transferred for the first time to the Reform Movement in Israel to pay the salaries of four community Reform rabbis.

The transfer of the more than $86,000 on Wednesday comes 18 months after Israel’s Supreme Court approved an arrangement to enable non-Orthodox spiritual leaders who lead congregations to receive state salaries like Orthodox rabbis.

The money was paid by the Culture and Sport Ministry instead of the Religious Services Ministry, according to the Times of Israel.

Under the agreement, the Reform and Conservative rabbis in Israel’s regional councils, but not in large cities where most serve, will be recognized as “rabbis of non-Orthodox communities” and will receive wages equal to those of their Orthodox counterparts. In addition, the rabbis must work full-time and be present at their congregation for at least 40 Sabbaths per year. Only rabbis of congregations with at least 250 members can receive full-time pay; those leading congregations of 50-250 members may receive half a salary even though have to work full-time.

Prior to the agreement, sparked by a lawsuit filed in 2005 by Reform Rabbi Miri Gold, only Orthodox rabbis received state funding.

“This is a historic and important step in the long struggle toward pluralism, religious freedom and the recognition by the State of Israel of all branches of Judaism,” Rabbi Gilad Kariv, director of the Reform Movement in Israel,” told Haaretz. “The Reform Movement will continue to act to redefine the relationship between religion and state in Israel and to separate the religious establishment from the authorities; however, as long as the state continues to fund religious services and the salaries of rabbis, we will make sure that this is done on an egalitarian basis.”

JTA

White House Briefs Reform and Conservative Rabbis on Syria

Thursday, September 12th, 2013

Nearly 700 rabbis and other Jewish communal officials were briefed by a top White House aide on President Obama’s Syria plans.

The call Tuesday with Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser, was organized by the Reform movement’s Religious Action Center and the Conservative movement’s Rabbinical Assembly and attracted 691 callers from all religious streams, according to Rabbi Julie Schonfeld, the RA’s executive vice president.

She said that rabbis were eager to be briefed on Syria so they could better discuss the issue in their Yom Kippur sermons.

Rabbis on the call pressed Rhodes on the moral underpinnings of striking Syria, distinctions between responses to the use of conventional weapons on civilians as opposed to chemical weapons, what the administration’s endgame in Syria was, and on how its Syria considerations affected its relationship with Israel.

JTA

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/white-house-briefs-reform-and-conservative-rabbis-on-syria/2013/09/12/

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