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January 22, 2017 / 24 Tevet, 5777

Posts Tagged ‘Orthodox Judaism’

Chief Rabbinate to List Rabbis Approved for Conversions Abroad

Friday, December 9th, 2016

Israel’s chief rabbis will meet next week with the members of Israel’s supreme rabbinical court and the board of the Chief Rabbinate, to decide on a list of Orthodox rabbis in the US and elsewhere in diaspora whose conversions are acceptable in Israel, following more than a decade of confusion and infighting that caused much anxiety and suffering to many converts. The most famous such convert recently has been Ivanka Trump, President-Elect Donald Trump’s Jewish daughter and mother of his Jewish grandchildren.

Sephardi Chief Rabbi Yitzhak Yosef and Ashkenazi Chief Rabbi David Lau issued a statement saying they intend to reform the system of communication between their organization and parallel organizations abroad, in order to end the complaints about annulling conversions done by ‘unapproved’ rabbis from Orthodox Jewish communities abroad.

According to the chief rabbis, the plan is to create a system whereby the conversions done by rabbis who meet the chief rabbinate criteria would be approved.

In 2015, converts in Israel and the US were horrified by a chief rabbinate ruling that disqualified the conversion of an American woman living in Israel who, before making aliyah, was converted by Modern Orthodox Rabbi Haskel Lookstein from New York, who converted Ivanka Trump. When she appealed the rabbinical court’s decision she was browbeaten into undergoing a second conversion right there and then, which she did and was only then allowed to marry in a sanctioned Orthodox ceremony.

Now, the chief rabbis stated, conversions by rabbis like Lookstein would be recognized in Israel, no questions asked. “Under this proposed new plan, in which only the identity of the converting rabbi is to be checked, [Ivanka Trump’s] conversion would be validated with no further examinations required.”

The new reform could take some time to institute, as the chief rabbinate’s current list of recognized foreign Orthodox rabbis is far from complete, as turned out last April in Jerusalem District Court, during a hearing on a suit filed by ITIM, an NGO helping olim in their struggles with the chief rabbinate. Perhaps now, motivated by the call from the top for reforming the system, we’ll end up with a current list of rabbis who are approved by the Israeli rabbinate directly, rather than via local rabbinical groups abroad.

JNi.Media

Diapora Yeshiva T’shuva Movement Pioneer Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein Dead at 82

Friday, December 2nd, 2016

Rabbi Mordechai Goldstein, of blessed memory, dean of the Diaspora Yeshiva on Mt. Zion, Jerusalem, passed away Thursday following a debilitating illness that had him confined to a wheelchair in recent years.

Rabbi Goldstein, an alumnus of the Chofetz Chaim Yeshiva in Queens, and a colleague of the late Rabbi Shlomo Carlebach, was one of the pioneers of the T’shuva (return) movement, and for some 50 years his was among the primary yeshivas for returnees.

Rabbi Goldstein founded The Diaspora Yeshiva in 1965, in western Jerusalem, attracting young, largely secular followers from Israel and the US. Two years later, after the 1967 Six Day War, the yeshiva moved to the liberated Mt. Zion.

Unlike traditional Orthodox academies, Rabbi Goldstein’s yeshiva appealed to students who identified with the nonconformist beatnik and hippie subcultures, adopting a neo-Chasidic approach. Students were encouraged to keep their long hair and their musical instruments. Many students were professional or semi-professional musicians, and several musical collaborations were spawned in the yeshiva dorms.

In 1975, with Rabbi Goldstein’s support, Avraham Rosenblum, yeshiva student and rock guitarist who had started his own band in New York in 1970, founded the Diaspora Yeshiva Band. The band became an outreach instrument, using Jewish music in its rock n’ roll metamorphosis to draw young secular Jews into the milieu of Torah study.

David Israel

Responding to Meretz Petition, State Tells Court Rabbi Karim Does Not Believe in Raping Enemy Women

Tuesday, November 22nd, 2016

The State on Tuesday responded to a petition served by Meretz against the appointment of Rabbi Eyal Karim as IDF Chief Rabbi, saying the Chief of Staff has picked Karim believing he is the right man at the right time for the job — based on his abilities, knowledge and military background.

Col. Rabbi Eyal Moshe Karim, head of the Rabbinate Dept. at the IDF Military Rabbinate, also served as commander of the paratrooper division’s special forces. In July he was picked by Chief of Staff Gabi Eizenkot to become IDF Chief Rabbi. But then the Israeli media discovered a few “controversial” legal opinions authored by Karim in the online Orthodox news website Kipa. Written as halakhic responsa, Karim’s passages included a reference to the status of a captive enemy woman in time of war, which the Torah deals with from within the socio-political milieu of the second millenium BCE. He also discussed the halakha’s view on women’s military service and on homosexuality.

Needless to say, Karim’s opinions, written some 14 years ago in the context of a discussion involving Orthodox readers, did not go down well with Israeli leftwingers such as Meretz Chairwoman Zehave Galon. Meretz appealed the appointment to the Supreme Court, which suspended it pending an explanation regarding the differences between Israel 3,000 years ago and today.

In its response on Tuesday, the State noted that Rabbi Karim’s responsa were prefaced with a proviso that these are not his legal rulings but rather his review of rabbinical law. Regarding the fact that the Torah permits nonconsenting sex with a captured enemy woman in time of war, the State assured the court that Rabbi Karim does not espouse this as a policy to be followed by IDF soldiers nowadays.

MK Motti Yogev (HaBayit HaYehudi) told Israel Radio on Tuesday that the Supreme Court once again overstepped its boundaries by rudely intervening in IDF appointment decisions. Yogev noted that so far the court has fought the legislative and executive branches and now has added the IDF to its list of targets. Yogev called on his colleagues in the Knesset to find way of stopping the court from uninvited interference in halakhic discussions.

Rabbi Karim is expected to start serving as IDF Chief Rabbi on Thursday, unless the court continues to block his appointment.

David Israel

Report: Trump Connected to Hasidic Court Whose Founder Lived in Gold Palace

Thursday, November 10th, 2016

If you had to find the one Hasidic Rebbe that would attract President Elect Donald Trump’s attention, it would have to be Reb Israel Friedman of Ruzhin (1796-1850), “Der Heiliger Ruzhiner.” The Ruzhiner Rebbe lived in a palace with splendid furnishings, rode in a silver-handled carriage drawn by four white horses and with an entourage, dressed like a nobleman, wore a golden yarmulke and clothing with solid-gold buttons, and was attended by servants in livery. This very unusual manner was actually accepted and even praised by many of his contemporaries, who believed that the Ruzhiner was elevating God’s glory through himself, the tzadik.

Turns out that of all the ultra-Orthodox leaders Trump could connect with, he picked an heir of the Ruzhiner, the Rebbe of Boyan, Rabbi Nachum Dov Brayer, an American Rebbe who made aliyah as a teenager and has been leading the Boyan movement since 1985. According to the website B’Hadrei Haredim, Donald Trump has been a heavy donor to the Ruzhin-Boyan Tiferet Israel yeshiva in Jerusalem.

The President Elect, whose daughter Yael (Ivanka) is possibly the most renowned convert to Orthodox Judaism in recent years—and visited the Lubavitcher Rebbe’s graveside on the Saturday night prior to the election, has maintained his own ties with the Boyanner Hasidim, including attending their events, donating to their appeals and buying up pages in their journals.

Hadrei Haredim on Wednesday cites a Boyan Hasid who said that it is clear Trump is “connected to the heart of the Jewish people and there’s no doubt he is one of the righteous among the gentiles who will bring only good things to the nation dwelling in Zion.”

It should be noted that, despite his reputation for a palatial life, Der Heiliger Ruzhiner was known for his ascetic personal demeanor. A famous tale relates how one winter night, after standing outdoors to sanctify the New Moon wearing his solid-gold boots studded with diamonds, the Ruzhiner’s Hasidim noticed blood on the snow where he had been standing. They discovered that the extravagant boots had no soles, and so, when the Rebbe walked outside, he was actually barefoot. This is when people realized that the Rebbe’s lifestyle was meant solely for the sake of Heaven.

JNi.Media

Jewish ‘Pluralists’ Rage as Rabbi Riskin Gives Only One Finger, Not Entire Hand

Thursday, November 3rd, 2016

Leftwing writer Judy Maltz on Wednesday offered a living illustration of the popular adage “give them a finger, and they’ll take the whole hand.” Reporting for Ha’aretz on Rabbi Shlomo Riskin, spiritual leader of Efrat in Gush Etzion (Rabbi Riskin’s Unwelcome Message to Fans of Jewish Pluralism), who this week told the Jewish Agency Board of Governors that he objects to their idea of an alternative conversion court, Maltz noted that she and other advocates of the Reform movement in Israel were disappointed. After all, Riskin has been “a driving force in promoting greater roles for women in Orthodox communities in recent years, and has also advocated for greater acceptance of the LGBT community in Orthodox congregations.”

And so, employing the logic of “you gave me your finger, why not the whole hand,” Maltz wrote: “By breaking with traditional Orthodox views about women and homosexuals, Riskin and his cohorts were seen as natural allies for the Reform and Conservative movements in their struggle for greater religious pluralism in Israel – especially after daring to challenge the Chief Rabbinate not only on conversions, but also on marriage laws. Hence, the disappointment following Sunday night’s gathering.”

If ever there were clear proof to the danger of a slippery slope in the tolerance of non-halakhic Jewish movements by Orthodox Jews — Judy Maltz has just provided it. Mostly because she fails to perceive Rabbi Riskin as a halakhic person, preferring instead to view him as someone for whom—like herself—his politics is his faith.

Halakhic Jews, whether they are black-clad Haredim or Liberal Orthodox in running spandex, live their daily lives through their commitment to the yoke of the sages. Our standards may differ on absolutely everything, but we all base all our decisions on our interpretation of Jewish law, whether independently or by consulting our halakhic authority. Which is why when Liberal Orthodox rabbis support a more egalitarian approach to women in the synagogue, or embrace LGBTs, they anchor their decisions in Jewish law as they interpret it — not their personal preferences. Of course, their interpretation of halakha would certainly be influenced by their personal biases, everyone’s does, but in the end they follow the law. This is also why Haredim who object to yeshiva students’ military service anchor their opposition in their interpretation of Jewish law.

Maltz does not get it. She makes the argument that since ultra-Orthodox Jews already view the modern Orthodox as Reform Jews in disguise, the question is not whether or not they are inclined to defy Jewish law, but rather “how far are liberal Orthodox Jews willing to push the envelope,” as she puts it.

In other words, since Rabbi Riskin has already said that Reform Jews should be allowed to have their section of the Kotel, for instance, why won’t he recognize the legitimacy of Reform conversions?

A year ago, Rabbi Riskin responded to a report in Haaretz, that a Beit Din conversion panel was asking converts only to declare a general obligation to Judaism, without declaring that they would observe the commandments and live according to Jewish law, as prescribed by the Rabbis. Riskin was mentioned as favoring this approach, and he responded urgently that he is ” all for observance of the commandments and the genuine and meaningful process that leads to it.” He added that “construing my position in any other way is misleading and a simplistic interpretation that ignores the many layers and nuances of the issue.”

There are three fundamental requirements of a male convert, two of a female, according to Maimonides: acceptance of the yoke of the sages through the observance of the commandments, circumcision, and immersion in a ritual bath (Hilkhot isurei Bi’ah 14:5). No matter how loving and accepting of Reform Jews Rabbi Riskin may be, expecting him to violate these clear rules and to side with a Reform conversion that denies the rule of halakha is an insult. And it should be a lesson to Liberal Orthodox Jews who fail to make a distinction between embracing the other and embracing the other’s subversive ideology.

Maltz cites Rabbi Steven Wernick, chief executive officer of the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, who expressed his disappointment that Riskin was not inclined to use his influence and stature to promote greater acceptance of non-Orthodox Judaism in Israel. “He is doing great things for pluralism in Israel, but only from within Orthodoxy,” he said.

Rabbi Riskin tried to put a leash on this cat and take it on a walkie when he told Maltz he would accept Reform conversions should the Reform agree to the requirements of “immersion in the mikvah, circumcision, and basic knowledge and practice of Judaism.”

In other words, just as soon as hell freezes over…

David Israel

Liberal Zionist Rabbis Support ‘Mixed’ Kotel Section While Reform Kotel Activists Attack Zionism [video]

Wednesday, November 2nd, 2016

For the first time in more than 25 years, three Israeli National-Religious Orthodox Rabbis: Shlomo Riskin, Benny Lau and Ronen Lubitsch, have called on the Netanyahu government to implement its decision to establish a special section of the Western Wall where Reform and Conservative Jews would be allowed to practice “mixed prayer” of men and women together, Israeli media reported Wednesday.

On Wednesday morning, a large group of non-Orthodox Jews marched carrying Torah scrolls to protest restrictions on non-Orthodox prayer at the Western Wall. Members of the Israeli Reform Movement, Progressive Judaism and the Women of the Wall, they held prayers marking the start of the month of Cheshvan. They also protested the Netanyahu government’s delay in implementing its decision to create an egalitarian prayer section at the Wall.

The Liba organization, which is dedicated to fighting intermarriage in Israel, pointed out that many of the leaders of the Reform struggle to gain access to the Kotel as a movement are also extreme left-wing activists, such as Reform Rabbi Idit Lev, who led the “egalitarian prayer” at the Kotel on Wednesday, and is a senior official of Rabbis for Human Rights, which provided testimonies for the Goldstone report.

Against this very busy background, Rabbi Riskin has stated that Judaism as a whole and the Western Wall in particular are too important and precious to be left in the sole possession of Orthodox Jews. A video of his and his two colleagues’ statements was produced by Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, a religious Zionist movement whose stated mission is “to forge a more open and tolerant discourse in Religious Zionism, one that integrates a halakhic lifestyle with active engagement in Israeli society, in order to strengthen tolerance, equality, and social responsibility on the national level.”

Rabbi Lau added, on the same video, that “we must give everyone a feeling of being at home [at the Kotel].” The Kotel is not sectarian, it is the heart of the Jewish people, he argued, and so every single individual from the Jewish diaspora must find a home there.

Rabbi Lubitsch, leader of Ne’emanei Torah Va’Avodah, also supports a solution to the needs of non-Orthodox Jews at the Kotel, even though, as he puts it, “It would have been better had they recognized everybody from the start.”

The movement’s campaign will be launched next week, on the 7th of the month of Cheshvan, which marks a unique point of cooperation between the Jews of Israel and diaspora. Even though the Jewish rainy season began on the holiday of Shmini Atzeret, at the end of Sukkot, the rabbis ruled that prayers for rain be suspended for two weeks, to allow the pilgrims who celebrated the holidays in Jerusalem time to return to their homes in Babylon.

Reform Rabbi Gilad Kariv, CEO of the Israeli Reform Movement congratulated the rabbis on their courage and sense of responsibility, and told Ynet that he has no doubt that “a large religious Zionist majority supports their approach, rather than the severe and separatist approach of the Haredi establishment.”

JNi.Media

Left, Right, Agree: Intermarriage Marks Demise of US Jewish Community

Sunday, October 30th, 2016

There’s a strange air of delight in the manner in which Steven M. Cohen describes the failure of the attempts over the past several decades to embrace the intermarried families (Welcomed, but uninterested: America’s intermarried Jews reject Jewish outreach, Ha’aretz, Oct. 26, 2016). The entire article feels like a death announcement delivered via a singing telegram. Cohen’s facts are sound, his conclusions are absolutely on the money, but does he have to sound so happy?

It comes down to this, Cohen states: 72% of non-Orthodox American Jews marry non-Jews, and over 20 years, the community’s attempts to embrace those intermarried families have failed completely.

The bulk of non-Orthodox Jewish institutions have “radically revised their policies, practices, and ethos to invite the intermarried,” writes Cohen, including in the same effort all kinds of non-traditional families, such as the LGBTQ Jews and “others who challenge the legacy notions of engaged Jewish families and individuals.” According to him you can’t throw a stone at a Jewish institution website on your computer screen without crashing the words “diverse,” “welcoming,” and “inclusive” somewhere in there. But they’re not interested, apparently.

Using the great, eye-opening Pew study of 2013 (A Portrait of Jewish Americans), Cohen points out that the signs of Jewish life in intermarried Jewish families are fast diminishing. 80% of non-Orthodox Jew+Jew couple with children belong to synagogues — only 16% of Jew+goy do. On High Holiday services, 92% of J+Js with kids show up for the services, only 32% of J+gs do.

Only 26% of J+g parents say being Jewish is very important to them — compared with 75% of J+Js. 13% of J+gs feel very emotionally attached to Israel, as opposed to 45% of J+Js. 33% of J+gs say they fast on Yom Kippur, 90% of J+Js do. 4% of J+gs light Shabbat candles, 60% of J+Js do. And 85% of J+gs have a Christmas tree at home, only 6% of J+Js. Only 31% of J+Gs give their children a Jewish education, compared with 90% of J+Js.

In short, once a Jewish person marries a non-Jewish person, there’s no stopping the process by which he or she and their offspring will move outside the Jewish community and into the community at large. It’s interesting to note in this context that the departure from the Jewish timeline does not have to do with faith, nor with observance. Those are more likely to serve as social markers than as dependable tools in preventing the religious drift. The only thing that virtually guarantees that one’s children remain connected to the Jewish community is one’s spouse.

Here is where Cohen’s astute and fearless observation is finally trapped by his political beliefs: “Those who seek to increase the participation of the intermarried in Jewish life need to stop importuning the institutions, and turn their sights elsewhere,” he concludes. “We need to recognize that few of the intermarried either attach to Jewish institutions or care very much about them.” Instead, he insists, Jewish families are where new Jewish families are grown: “Rabbis, committee chairs and educators can help,” he points out, “but parents and grandparents are critical to fully integrating their intermarried family members in Jewish life.”

It’s a sweet sentiment, and Cohen probably knows a handful of cases where the loving and non-judgmental family of the Jewish spouse made a difference in keeping the children in the Jewish realm. But the reality of the figures he cites suggests that in most cases, the most loving and accepting parents have also failed to make a difference — unless you would suggest that those 96% of families of mixed couples that don’t light Shabbat candles have all sat Shiva over them, an unlikely notion.

What works for the Orthodox in avoiding the sad drift of intermarried couples is the fact that the community and the families do not tolerate this possibility at all. The very idea of intermarriage is repulsive to Orthodox Jews, and the entire community is organically set up around the idea of the J+J exclusive union. If Conservative, Reform, and Reconstructionist communities kept all their religious differences except for the tolerance of intermarriage, they, too, would still be with us in fifty years.

JNi.Media

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/left-right-agree-intermarriage-marks-demise-of-us-jewish-community/2016/10/30/

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