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December 3, 2016 / 3 Kislev, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘conservative’

Historic Upper West Side Conservative Synagogue Going Condo

Saturday, November 5th, 2016

Congregation Shaare Zedek, an egalitarian Conservative congregation at 212 West 93rd Street in Manhattan’s Upper West Side, is planning to tear down their 93-year-old building, in order to keep the congregation alive. Back in October, Shaare Zedek President Michael Firestone told a community board 7 meeting that the congregation had already signed a contract with a developer, who will build a condo building in which Shaare Zedek will own three floors.

Apparently, Congregation Shaare Zedek just can’t keep up with mounting costs. Firestone says the building is too big and expensive — with a capacity for 1,000 worshipers, the congregation only has about 80 families. In addition, they own and maintain the Shaare Zedek cemetery in Queens, to the tune of $80,000 a year. Firestone told News1 NY the sale would allow the congregation to fund its operations, including the cemetery, indefinitely.

“The synagogue will own the first three stories of the condominium, which will be a modern social hall, a modern sanctuary,” Firestone said.

The move does not sit well with the old synagogue’s neighbors, who hate losing this neighborhood fixture that’s been there since 1923, and are worried about the environmental effect of the new condo building. Some of them have filed a Request for Evaluation (RFE) with the Landmark Preservation Commission, as an emergency measure to prevent the sale. But, so far, the city has no plans to landmark the building.

Former Shaare Zedek president Roz Paaswell told DNAinfo the building is not as important as the congregation. “In Judaism buildings aren’t so important, they are places that we use… but we move, we move a lot,” she said.

JNi.Media

YouTube Versus Conservative Speech

Friday, October 28th, 2016

Last week The Wall Street Journal published an editorial about YouTube restricting access to 16 videos – down from 21 – that were created and posted online by my nonprofit educational organization, Prager University. The subheading read, “YouTube thinks Dennis Prager’s videos may be dangerous.”

The Journal said:

“Tech giants like Google and Facebook always deny that their platforms favor some viewpoints over others, but then they don’t do much to avoid looking censorious.… Dennis Prager’s ‘PragerU’ puts out free short videos on subjects ‘important to understanding American values’ – ranging from the high cost of higher education to the motivations of Islamic State.

“The channel has more than 130 million views.… As you might guess, the mini-seminars do not include violence or sexual content. But more than 15 videos are ‘restricted’ on YouTube…. This means the clips don’t show up for those who have turned on filtering – say, a parent shielding their children from explicit videos. A YouTube spokesperson told us that the setting is optional and ‘based on algorithms that look at a number of factors, including community flagging on videos.’

“PragerU started a petition calling for YouTube to remove the restriction, and more than 66,000 people have signed. YouTube is free to set its own standards, but the company is undercutting its claim to be a platform for ‘free expression.’”

It is a good sign that YouTube’s censorship of respectful and utterly nonviolent and nonsexual videos made it to The Wall Street Journal editorial page. It is a very bad sign that it had to. And it is a very bad sign that it made the editorial page of The Wall Street Journal but not that of The New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times or any other mainstream newspaper that still purports to support the classic liberal value of free speech.

To understand what YouTube, which is owned by Google, has done, it is necessary to briefly describe what it has restricted access to.

Every week, PragerU (the generally used name for Prager University) posts at least one 5-minute video presentation online. These presentations are on just about every subject and are given by important thinkers – some very well known, some not.

The list includes dozens of professors at Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Notre Dame, Princeton, Dayton, Boston College, Stanford, UCLA, Harvard, and West Point, among other universities; a black member of South African Parliament; Pulitzer Prize winners George Will, Bret Stephens, and Judith Miller; Ayaan Hirsi Ali; Arthur Brooks; Jonah Goldberg; Alan Dershowitz; Nicholas Eberstadt; Larry Elder; Steve Forbes; Walter Williams; Christina Hoff Sommers; George Gilder; Victor Davis Hanson; Amity Shlaes; Col. Richard Kemp, former commander of British troops in Afghanistan; and many others. I also present some videos.

Any responsible person, left-wing or right-wing, would have to acknowledge this is a profoundly respectable list of non-bomb-throwing presenters. It’s hardly conducive to censorship.

YouTube placed restrictions on the following videos.

* Two videos on race: “Are The Police Racist?” and “Don’t Judge Blacks Differently.”

* Six videos on Islam: “What ISIS Wants,” “Why Don’t Feminists Fight for Muslim Women?” “Islamic Terror: What Muslim Americans Can Do,” “Pakistan: Can Sharia and Freedom Coexist?” “Radical Islam: The Most Dangerous Ideology” and “Why Do People Become Islamic Extremists?”

* Two videos on abortion (the only two offered): “Who’s More Pro-Choice: Europe or America?” and “The Most Important Question About Abortion.”

* Two videos on Israel: “Israel: The World’s Most Moral Army” and “Israel’s Legal Founding” (the latter video, presented by Harvard professor Alan Dershowitz, was reinstated after much publicity).

* Three videos on America: “Why Did America Fight the Korean War?” “Did Bush Lie About Iraq?” and “What is the University Diversity Scam?”

* One on politics: “Who NOT to Vote For.”

* And one (which I present) on men and women: “He Wants You.”

Think of these topics. Do you see anything you wouldn’t want your minor child to view? The only possible “yes” might be to the video titled “He Wants You.” Though void of any explicit content, it deals with the subject of men looking at other women yet most still wanting their own wives. It has almost 4 million views and has helped a lot of couples.

Obviously, then, the explanation is not that “algorithms” catch violence and sex. Rather, YouTube doesn’t want effective conservative videos to be posted (each video has at least 1 million views). Does that mean that it has left-wing censors looking for every widely viewed conservative video? If so, it doesn’t have to. Left-wing viewers simply flag our videos and others’ as inappropriate, and YouTube does the rest.

I had never devoted a column to PragerU. But I have done so now because if YouTube gets away with censoring as big a website as PragerU – after a major editorial is published in The Wall Street Journal, after coverage in the New York Post, The Boston Globe, Fortune, National Review, and many other places, and after a petition signed by over 70,000 people (which is on the PragerU website) – what will happen to other conservative institutions?

For the probable answer, see your local university.

The question, then, is this: Will YouTube do to the internet what the left has done to the university?

Dennis Prager

Why I Am A Political Conservative

Tuesday, September 27th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s blogsite, The Lid}

The other day I sat through a discussion between Christian friends about conservatism and religion. One commented that some of the conservative theorists’ ideas about man’s imperfections come from the Christian idea of “original sin.”  That’s where they lost me.  Obviously I come at it from a different angle. To Jews “original sin” is the pain we put our mothers through when they are pregnant and give birth to us.  “You should never have that pain!!”  BTW we also believe that life begins when the kids get married and we move to Boca Raton.

Another thing we Jews believe is that we are supposed to enjoy our time on this Earth and the greatest joy one can have in life is connecting with God.  And that’s why I fall on the conservative side the aisle, because Liberalism, and most liberal programs try to put a layer between God and Man. Which is probably why despite the reputation of Jews being liberal, the more “orthodox” ones beliefs and/or practices the more likely they are to reject the stereotype and reject liberalism, and support politicians who are more conservative.

Conservative principals such as limited government, individual responsibility, and traditional morals are all deeply rooted in Jewish tradition. Even the fact that America’s founders intended for the county to be led by people who based their political decisions on religious values (something that scares the heck out of most liberals) complements Jewish tradition.

It starts with the creation narrative in Genesis, which explains that man is created in God’s image.  But we are also taught that our maker has no bodily form, so how can that be?  The Bible is not teaching us that we are all dead ringers for the “big guy upstairs.” If that was the case the pictures on everyone’s driver’s licenses would look the same (and no one would be able to get a check cashed), and all of those TV shows about solving crimes would be very boring because everyone would have the same DNA.

“Created in God’s image” is supposed to teach us that just as God acts as a free being, without prior restraint to do right and wrong, so does man. God does good deeds as a matter of his own free choice, and because we are created in his image so can man. Only through free choice, can man truly be, in the image of God.  It is further understood that for Man to have true free choice, he must not only have inner free will, but he must exist in an environment in which a choice between obedience and disobedience exists. God thus created the world such that both good and evil can operate freely; this is what the Rabbis mean when they said, “All is in the hands of Heaven except the fear of Heaven” (Talmud, Berachot 33b). God controls all the options we have, but it is up to man to pick between the correct or incorrect option.

When it comes right down to it, free will is the divine version of limited government. God picks which is the correct direction and even gives us a guide book in the Bible, but he does not pick winners and losers. It is up to each and every one of us to pick the direction we want to proceed.

“All men are created equal,” means we all have the same ability to be infinitely good or wicked, or to forge a relationship with God regardless of intellectual capability, social background, physical strength, etc. It does not mean, as the liberals ascribe to, that when it comes to talents, predilections, or natural abilities we are all equal. Nor does it mean we all should have the same big screen TV, wireless internet, or savings account balance. We all have the same right to be as successful as we can be with the cards we have been dealt.

Jewish tradition takes a positive view of both the institution of ownership and the accumulation of wealth. It respects economic success, so long, that is, as it is obtained honestly and proper respect is shown for the social responsibility that comes with it.  That social responsibility is an individual duty and a job for the community led by its religious leaders, but not for the government.  That doesn’t mean it’s wrong for the federal government to provide a safety net, but the primary responsibility is the individual and the local community.

The Hebrew word for charity, “tzedaka,” has in its root the word “tzedek,” which means righteous, because we are taught that personally giving charity is one of the keys to being righteous.

The book of Leviticus (25:23) says:

“If your brother becomes impoverished and his means falter in your proximity, you shall strengthen him proselyte or resident so that he can live with you”

Notice it says live with you, it does not say live in a government facility. That’s because the obligation is on the individual. In rare times the community was called on to pick up the slack but it was never the community government, it was the local Rabbi who would lead the effort.

In biblical times farmers were directed to leave some of their fields unharvested for the poor to feed on.

Some of the ancient sages have suggested when God created the world; sparks of his holiness were spread across the earth. Every time that a person makes the choice of performing a righteous act (such as giving charity) one of those sparks is purified and sent back to heaven. Through that process we become closer to God.

Liberal/Progressive governments takes away that free choice given to us by God.  Their philosophy is that left to their own devices, mankind will do the wrong thing (or at least what progressives say is the wrong thing). So these leftist governments do their best to take over the role of God, and take away the free will we were given. Liberalism takes away our personal choice and gives it to the government –thus retarding our spiritual development and most importantly, the opportunity to “pick up those sparks” and get closer to our maker.

Judaism also teaches us that we cannot rely on God to bail us out all of the time, the responsibility to take action falls upon each and every one of us. There is the famous story of Moses splitting the Reed Sea teaches this lesson (Red Sea was a typo made when the Torah was translated into Greek). In Exodus Chapter 14-15 Moses sees the Pharaoh’s troops bearing down on the Israelite nation, who are trapped against the sea.  Moses starts praying to God, but God says stop praying and do something!

And the LORD said unto Moses: ‘Wherefore criest thou unto me? Speak unto the children of Israel that they go forward.

That’s holy talk for “get off your arse and do something!”

The ancient rabbis tell the story that when Moses lifted his staff over the sea, the water did not part.  The Egyptians were closing in, and the sea wasn’t moving. The Israelites stood on the banks of the sea, frozen in fear until a man named Nachshon took the responsibility upon himself to act; Nachshon just walked into the water.  He waded up to his ankles…his knees…his waist… his shoulders, and just as the water was about to reach is nostrils the water parted.

This story teaches us that it’s one thing to have faith and believe God will eventually help us, but we cannot get that help until we take personal responsibility and act on our own. This too is antithetical to liberal philosophy which teaches that government is the first place to look for help rather than looking within one’s self, family, and community.

On the other hand, a Liberal/Progressive government teaches citizens that the government will always bear the responsibility of protecting you; there is no individual responsibility, just the collective bailout. Instead of each one of us assuming a personal responsibility and using our good deeds to gain closeness to God, we become part of an overall group with no responsibility.

Liberal Jews get very worried when they hear a political leader talk about God.  If the political leader is a Christian (as most of them are in America) they see the person as some sort of zealot who will eventually force everyone to become Christian. If the person is a Jew, they get angry the Jew is wearing their religion on his sleeve (like me for example).

In the book of Exodus, it is God who sets up the first Israelite government, he chose to have a political/government leader Moses, and a religious leader Aaron. Even though Moses was the governmental leader, the Torah teaches us that Moses used God’s law and morality to make his “political” decisions. In that first Hebrew government set up by God there was no wall separating church and state. Political leaders were expected to consult with God’s law in making their decisions. In fact each of the Hebrew kings were commanded two write two Torahs during their reign (they weren’t called Jews till much later). If we are taught that a government set up by God was supposed to use the religious laws in their decision set, why is it not okay for a government set up by man.

Americas founding father guaranteed us freedom of religion. But those First Amendment freedoms where not set up to protect the government from religion, they were created to protect religion from government. For Jews that should that the Government cannot prevent us from observing our rituals such as keeping Kosher, circumcision, or covering our heads. But it was never meant to prevent your local mayor from putting out a Christmas tree on city owned property. Nor was it meant for The Little Sisters of the Poor, or Hobby Lobby to pay for birth control or abortion.

In his farewell address, Washington said:

Of all the dispositions and habits, which lead to political prosperity, Religion and Morality are indispensable supports. In vain would that man claim the tribute of Patriotism, who should labor to subvert these great pillars of human happiness, these firmest props of the duties of Men and Citizens. The mere Politician, equally with the pious man, ought to respect and to cherish them. A volume could not trace all their connexions with private and public felicity. Let it simply be asked, where is the security for property, for reputation, for life, if the sense of religious obligation desert the oaths, which are the instruments of investigation in Courts of Justice? And let us with caution indulge the supposition, that morality can be maintained without religion. Whatever may be conceded to the influence of refined education on minds of peculiar structure, reason and experience both forbid us to expect, that national morality can prevail in exclusion of religious principle.

The Jewish picture of God is of a creator who instilled in us a personal responsibility to do the right thing, but he also provided us with the choice to accept that responsibility or not. There is no room in Jewish law for a government that forces their interpretation of the right thing down our throats. There is also little room for a government that does not include religion and morality in their consideration set when decisions. And that goes for Christians as well as Jews.

Political conservatism matches Jewish tradition, because when it comes right down to it conservative principals such as limited government, individual responsibility, and traditional morals are all Jewish principals.

On the other hand, progressive/liberal governments take from their citizens is the greatest joy of all— finding for themselves the path that will draw them closer to God and feeling that closeness get stronger with every Mitzvah. It is the desire to achieve that joy that makes me a political conservative.

 

Jeff Dunetz

Trump Versus Reagan: What Is A Conservative?

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Many of Donald Trump’s supporters have compared him to Ronald Reagan. It is quite instructive that Trump himself picked up the 1980 Reagan campaign slogan, “Let’s Make America Great Again.” Trump speaks positively of Ronald Reagan, and, like Reagan, claims to be a conservative.

Many longtime Reagan conservatives beg to differ. The Trump comparisons make them bristle.

But if Trump insists he is a conservative, then it is incumbent upon him to do something that ought to be fairly simple: explain how and why he is a conservative. He should tell us—as Reagan often did—what conservatism means.

That was never a problem for Ronald Reagan. Reagan remains the prototype of modern conservatism. He is the ideology’s standard-bearer.

So let’s start with Reagan’s understanding of conservatism – a good yardstick with which to try to size up Trump. In fact, to narrow the comparison even tighter, I will go with a Reagan definition of conservatism that he provided prior to the presidency, without the aid of a White House speechwriter scripting him.

On February 6, 1977, Reagan spoke to CPAC, the Conservative Political Action Conference, a venue he would address no less than 13 times through his final year in the White House, not missing a single CPAC during any year of his presidency. (Donald Trump bailed out of CPAC this year.)

On this particular date, he acknowledged that conservatism is often described differently by “those who call themselves conservatives.” Nonetheless, differing claims by different people calling themselves “conservatives” does not mean that we cannot identify certain common conservative principles. To that end, Reagan stated:

The common sense and common decency of ordinary men and women, working out their own lives in their own way – this is the heart of American conservatism today. Conservative wisdom and principles are derived from willingness to learn, not just from what is going on now, but from what has happened before.

The principles of conservatism are sound because they are based on what men and women have discovered through experience in not just one generation or a dozen, but in all the combined experience of mankind. When we conservatives say that we know something about political affairs, and that we know can be stated as principles, we are saying that the principles we hold dear are those that have been found, through experience, to be ultimately beneficial for individuals, for families, for communities and for nations – found through the often bitter testing of pain or sacrifice and sorrow.

 

There’s a definition that every self-professing conservative needs to take to heart and mind. It is one you could find in conservative classics, such as Russell Kirk’s The Conservative Mind, or glean from decades of reading William F. Buckley’s flagship publication of the conservative movement, National Review, or from the older Human Events – all of which Ronald Reagan read assiduously.

Reagan had an informed comprehension of conservatism because he devoured these writings. He did the intellectual heavy lifting that facilitated his full conversion from a 1940s New Deal FDR liberal to a conservative trying to save the Republican Party from the Rockefeller Republicans who were not conservatives.

What Reagan said in February 1977 is worth underscoring: The essence of conservatism is to preserve and conserve time-tested values that have endured for good reason and for the best of society. Do not fall for the leftist canard that cruelly caricatures conservatism as merely wanting to preserve anything and everything from the past, from slavery to Jim Crow to women not voting. Quite the contrary; conservatives want to preserve the values and ideals that are timeless and time-tested for the benefit of humanity, not the detriment.

We conservatives cling to and seek to conserve and preserve not just any ideas but worthy ideas. If we merely sought to keep any, say, 19th century idea, then why aren’t we fighting for Marxism or some variant of socialism, as many of our “progressive” friends still do? That isn’t conservatism, regardless of what you heard about it from some liberal professor or clicked in a Google search.

In that same speech to CPAC, Reagan enunciated a number of conservative principles and positions: freedom and liberty, free markets, religious freedom, constitutional rights and protections, anti-communism, smaller government, local government, individualism, voluntarism, communities, families, self-reliance, hard work, common sense, reason, faith in God.

He called for a prudent and just government that spends money wisely and whose stewards act with integrity and honesty. Here, too: we need a nation comprised of outer order and inner order, a virtuous government that is the product of virtuous citizens.

And finally, Reagan told CPAC that the time had come “to present a program of action based on political principle that can attract those interested in the so-called ‘social’ issues and those interested in ‘economic’ issues.”

He wanted a complete conservatism that combined the two core strands of contemporary American conservatism (the social and economic) into “one politically effective whole.”

Let’s pivot to Donald Trump’s explication of conservatism. I’ll consider the two recent occasions where Trump was asked to give a definition.

In New Hampshire during an ABC News debate in February, Trump was asked point blank, “What does it mean to be a conservative?” In response, Trump stated:

 

Well, I think I am, and to me, I view the word conservative as a derivative of the word “conserve.” We want to conserve our money. We want to conserve our wealth. We want to conserve. We want to be smart. We want to be smart where we go, where we spend, how we spend. We want to conserve our country. We want to save our country. And we have people that have no idea how to do that, and they are not doing it. And it’s a very important word and it’s something I believe in very, very strongly.

 

Ironically, this definition (I’ve provided the entirety of Trump’s statement) does not suggest that he believes in conservatism “very, very strongly.” He might believe in conserving money and wealth very, very strongly, which is fine, but that isn’t a definition of conservatism.

There is no sense in Trump’s statement of any grounding let alone a rich or nuanced cognizance of conservative philosophy.

What’s worse, Trump gave that definition with a look of surprise and unpreparedness – with a deer-in-the-headlights look. That is worse because only two weeks prior he was asked the same question in an interview on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” where his response was shockingly dismal. The candidate this time should have been equipped to give a better answer.

That other Trump definition, offered to CBS in January, was at best a stream of consciousness, with occasional disconnected outbursts of random policy observations. Here is (verbatim) what he told CBS when asked for his definition of a conservative:

 

Well, I think it’s a person that doesn’t want to take overly risk. But I think that’s a good thing. I think it’s a person that wants to – in terms of government, I’m talking about – a person that wants to conserve, a person that wants to, in a financial sense, balance budgets. A person that feels strongly about the military, and I feel very strongly about the military. And, you know, you have some of these people they don’t even want to focus on the military, our military is falling apart. I feel very, very, and I have always felt very, very strongly about the military.

By the way, if you look at vision, when you look at the word “vision,” I was the one that said, “take the oil,” I’ve been saying that for years, and I said, “take the oil, let’s take the oil,” and nobody would listen, then all of a sudden after Paris they started saying “maybe that’s right, we’ll take the oil.” They still don’t do it the proper way. You know, I was – which is a little bit different than a normal conservative – but I was very much opposed to the war in Iraq. A lot of these guys were all for the war in Iraq, look what that’s got us: We spent $2 trillion, we lost thousands of lives, we have nothing, we’re now handing Iraq over, just handing over to Iran. Iran is going to take over Iraq, and I said that was going to happen.

I said that years ago, in 2003-2004, that Iran will take over Iraq with the largest oil reserves in the world. And that’s not a conservative position. When I was, you know, saying, don’t go into Iraq – I’m a very militaristic person, I’m very much into the military, and we’ll build our military bigger, better, stronger than ever before, but – and that’s safe, that’s actually the cheapest thing to do, opposed to what we have right now, but I was opposed to the war in Iraq. Most conservatives were gung-ho. I mean, these guys, every one of them, wanted the war in Iraq. Look where it got us.

 

Here again, what I’ve quoted is the entirety of Trump’s response. My transcript leaves out nothing.

Trump’s “definition” is, in short, anything but a picture of conservatism. To the contrary, what you just read is a picture of a non-conservative exploiting a conservative movement in order to try his hand at getting elected president via the Republican Party – the party of Reagan conservatism.

This definition from Trump is confusing, incoherent, and incomprehensible, and it is a vindication of legitimate concerns by true conservatives that Donald Trump as the GOP’s new standard-bearer is poised to do enduring damage to the modern conservative movement that Ronald Reagan did so much to advance.

Is Donald Trump a Reagan conservative? Certainly not by any definition he has hazarded to try to give.

Dr. Paul Kengor

Likely Compromise Found in Coalition Rift over Reform, Conservative Mikvahs

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) on Monday morning presented a compromise solution for the problem caused by last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling siding with the demands of Reform and Conservative petitioners for equal access to state-run mikvahs-ritual baths. Last February, the Supreme Court ruled that local religious councils must make state-run mikvahs available for conversion ceremonies run by Israeli Reform and Conservative clergy.

Last week, the Knesset Interior Committee debated a bill proposed by Shas and UTJ, the two ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, determining that the use of public mikvahs in Israel will be conducted strictly according to halakha and under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate.

Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) for his part on Friday announced that he plans to submit the bill in order to prevent the implementation of the court’s ruling. This would be in keeping with the coalition agreement between UTJ and Likud, which says that each time the Supreme Court issues a ruling that jeopardizes issues close to the heart of the Orthodox-Jewish party, the government must submit a bill to bypass the court.

Gafni, who argued that the court’s new ruling violates the national status quo on issues of religion and state, also cited the coalition’s obligation to maintain the same status quo.

Judge Elyakim Rubinstein, an Orthodox Jew who was part of the unanimous decision in favor of the Reform and Conservative petitioners, suggested in his ruling that the religious council in question, in Be’er Sheva, illegally segregated against Israeli citizens. “From the moment the state has constructed public mikvahs and made them available to the public — including for use in conversions — it cannot practice inequality in their usage,” Elyakim wrote. Rubinstein added that “the state’s decision not to supervise dipping in the mikvah that is conducted as part of a private conversion does not justify preventing it.”

One of the other two judges on the panel was Salim Joubran, a Christian Arab. Chief Justice Miriam Naor was the third judge. It should be noted that while last week Ha’aretz complained about a decision by Judge Rubinstein favoring the Chief Rabbinate, implying he should have recused himself from deciding Orthodox Jewish issues because he wears a yarmulke (sic), the same paper did not make a similar complaint in this case.

The MK Bitan compromise will suspend the application of the Mikvah law for nine months, during which time two to four mikvahs would be built for the Reform and Conservative public. The Jewish Agency is expected to bear the costs of construction. Meanwhile, the coalition would work on a softer version of the Shas-UTJ bill, which would skirt the Supreme Court ruling but not actually bypass it. The first draft was scheduled to be presented to the Interior committee Monday morning.

According to MK Bitan, “We are not planning to pass a Supreme Court bypassing law, but instead to find solutions to the problems raised by the court’s ruling. According to the understanding, we will build between two to four mikvahs in various locations in the country for the Reform and Conservative public so they can dip there according to their method.” Bitan stressed that “we must maintain equality for everyone in spending resources.”

A Haredi party source that spoke to JNi.media on the condition of anonymity said the Bitan compromise will most likely be accepted since it does not actually compel religious councils to share existing mikvahs with the Reform and Conservative, but allocates to them new mikvahs. Nevertheless, the Haredi coalition parties are likely going to be subjected to attacks from the Haredi media, which see the very idea of allowing the two non-Orthodox movement a foot in the door as ushering disaster. Some in the Haredi media, such as Ha’peles, would like to see the Haredi parties using their critical role in Netanyahu’s small coalition to extract deeper concessions regarding the non-Orthodox mikvahs.

JNi.Media

Survey: 95 Conservative Rabbis Say They Would Conduct Intermarriage Weddings

Friday, October 23rd, 2015

(JNi.media) An organization named “Big Tent Judaism” which seeks to embrace intermarried families in the Jewish fold (presumably without the expectation of a conversion of the non-Jewish spouse down the road), sponsored a survey of 249 Conservative rabbis which found that 38 percent— 95 rabbis, would officiate at the marriage of a Jew and non-Jew if the Conservative movement lifted its prohibition on these unions. This sample corresponds to roughly 15% or the Rabbinical Assembly’s approximately 1,700 members.

The survey finds that intermarriage is part of the daily reality addressed by Conservative rabbis and Conservative congregations. Eight in ten respondents have an intermarried family member; seven in ten work with an intermarried volunteer leader in their congregation. Four in ten respondents have attended interfaith weddings, usually of close family members; a handful already officiates at interfaith weddings under some conditions.

On the whole, according to the survey, Conservative rabbis will not marry a person of patrilineal Jewish descent to another Jew, citing halacha, but the survey suggests “their views on Jewish identity are nuanced, as many distinguish between Jewish identity and halachic status.”

In the hypothetical scenario that the Conservative movement’s policy would change, just under four in ten rabbis would officiate at interfaith weddings. Also, according to the survey, almost half of Conservative rabbis interviewed feel that some discussion of their movement’s position on interfaith marriages, recognizing patrilineal descent, and admitting intermarried rabbinical candidates is warranted.

Respondents in small Jewish communities are more likely (45%) to see themselves officiating in interfaith weddings if RA rules changed, compared with respondents in large Jewish communities (33%). Female pulpit rabbis are almost twice as likely to change their practices if RA rules changed (56%) when compared to male rabbis (35%).

Here’s a counter-intuitive discovery: when comparing respondents by age and ordination date, the survey found that respondents over 50 years old and those ordained before the year 2000 are slightly more likely to officiate at interfaith weddings. The authors suggest that the difference can perhaps be explained by the fact that older, more seasoned rabbis have “softened” their attitude toward interfaith weddings after having had to repeatedly turn away intermarried couples.

The survey’s presentation is rife with opinion, not to the point of skewing the results, but certainly to add spin to the numbers. The line in the above paragraph, explaining why older Conservative rabbis are more likely to conduct an intermarriage wedding, actually says the differences are explained “by the fact that older, more seasoned rabbis have “softened” their attitude toward interfaith officiation after having to repeatedly turn away intermarried couples, many of whom would have created Jewish homes.”

Paul Golin, Big Tent’s associate executive director, says the group isn’t advocating that the Rabbinical Assembly change its policy, but rather that it should open a conversation on it. But God—and advocacy—are in the details.

The section headed, “Half of Conservative rabbis believe discussion of some RA rules is warranted” is dizzyingly biased:

“The survey asked Conservative rabbis for their view on whether three specific issues should be opened for discussion among members of the Rabbinical Assembly: allowing officiating at interfaith weddings, recognizing Jews of patrilineal descent, and accepting intermarried rabbinical candidates to Conservative seminaries. Four in ten (39%) respondents agreed that the RA should open for discussion among its members the issue of officiating at interfaith weddings; a third (33%) agreed that the RA should open for discussion the issue of accepting patrilineal descent; and one in seven (14%) agreed that the issue of admitting intermarried or inter-partnered rabbinical candidates should also be opened for discussion. Half (51%) of the respondents disagree with all three statements and think that none of these issues should be open for discussion.”

JNi.Media

Analysis: New Pew Report Has Seen the Jewish American Future and It’s Orthodox

Thursday, September 3rd, 2015

(JNi.media) The Pew Research Center has issued a further analysis of its 2013 survey of US Jews which, at the time, shattered some people’s long held beliefs about the Jewish community in America. The 2013 survey found that Orthodox Jews comprise 10% of the 5.3 million Jewish adults (ages 18 and older) in the US, but, as the new report puts is, “a survey is a snapshot in time that, by itself, cannot show growth in the size of a population.” What the new report is showing, based on the same findings, is that Orthodox Jews are likely “growing, both in absolute number and as a percentage of the US Jewish community.” In the race to dominate the Jewish community in America, the Orthodox are miles ahead of everyone else:

• The median age of Orthodox adults (40 years old) is better than a decade younger than the median age of other Jewish adults (52).

• More than two-thirds of Orthodox adults are married (69%), compared with less than half of other Jewish adults (49%).

• The Orthodox get married younger and bear at least twice as many children as other Jews (4.1 vs. 1.7 children ever born to adults ages 40-59).

• The Orthodox are more likely than other Jews to have large families: almost half (48%) of child bearing Orthodox Jews have four or more children—a mere 9% of other Jewish parents have this size families.

• Finally: practically all Orthodox Jewish parents (98%) say they raise their children Jewish, compared with 78% of other Jewish parents. Orthodox Jews are much more likely than other Jews to have attended a Jewish day school, yeshiva or Jewish summer camp while growing up, and they are more likely to send their children to the same programs.

That’s a strategy for domination. The numbers may not show it today, but one generation at these respective rates of growth could wipe the distance between the Orthodox and the other denominations.

And as competitions usually tend to go, as the Orthodox “threat” continues to loom, attacks on every aspect of the Orthodox, especially ultra-Orthodox lifestyle, will be forthcoming from a fast shrinking non-Orthodox community, as well as from unaffiliated Jews.

The Pew analysis itself already uses the kind of belligerent language US Orthodox Jews should expect from traditionally liberal to left-wing Jewish publications: “Indeed, in a few ways, Orthodox Jews more closely resemble white evangelical Protestants than they resemble other US Jews,” notes the new Pew report, carelessly blending the religious Jewish tradition with a tradition Jews consider repugnant for some of its “pagan” values.

The new Pew report states: “For example, similarly large majorities of Orthodox Jews (83%) and white evangelicals (86%) say that religion is very important in their lives, while only about one-fifth of other Jewish Americans (20%) say the same.” But the term “religion” means very different things to Orthodox Jews than to other communities: to Orthodox Jews, religion means adherence to a complex set of laws and a lifetime engagement in studying those laws as an intellectual pursuit for its own sake. Also, to many Orthodox Jews, their Jewishness is not so much a religion as a familial connection to their own ilk, to being a link in a historic chain, and to remaining socially isolated from non-Jews. To the evangelicals, “religion” might mean the reverse of that: a literal adherence to biblical law, rather than an interpretive approach; and spreading and expanding their faith among as many strangers as they can. Both communities practice “religion” the same way both gazelles and lions practice running–for very different reasons.

JNi.Media

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/analysis-new-pew-report-has-seen-the-jewish-american-future-and-its-orthodox/2015/09/03/

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