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September 30, 2016 / 27 Elul, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘orthodox’

Analysis: Leftwing Orthodox Rabbis Attack Trump, Cite the Yerushalmi

Saturday, August 20th, 2016

Forty five US rabbis identified with the leftwing of the Orthodox movement — two of them women who received ordination — on Friday issued a statement titled, “Orthodox Rabbinic Statement Against Hateful Rhetoric and Principles,” in which they condemn Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump for his attacks on Mexicans and on Muslims.

“In the current presidential election, we have been deeply troubled to hear proposals that condemn whole groups and which are justified by pointing to evil behaviors by members of that group or religion,” the rabbis wrote. “Wholesale condemnations—such as the proposal to ban all Muslim immigration into the United States—violate the principle of individual responsibility and violate the fundamental religious principle of ‘love thy neighbor as thyself,’ which is one of the greatest commandments of Judaism (see Jerusalem Talmud, Nedarim 9:4). These proposals violate the biblical prohibitions to spread hatred or slander about groups and individuals and violate the oft-repeated biblical command to love the stranger.”

The quote from the Yerushalmi is the famous note by Rabbi Akiva that “Love your friend as you would yourself” is a great Torah principle. It is, but it refers exclusively to Jews, as can be easily discerned from the complete verse: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against the people of your nation (B’nei Amecha), and love your friend (Re’acha) as you would yourself, I am God.” Of course, there are universal interpretations of this verse, but as it happens, the Yerushalmi chapter the group cited actually emphasizes one line earlier the idea of the verse referring to the people of your own nation, meaning Jews.

Frankly, even if one does not support Trump’s xenophobic attacks on “Rapist Mexicans” and “the Muslims,” a group of 45 learned rabbis could have come up with a more convincing, perhaps intellectually challenging argument, especially since they present the Trump proposals on banning—temporarily—Muslim immigration without context, as if the candidate just picked a fight with a billion and a half peaceful people who are minding their own business just worrying about grazing their camels and perfecting their hummus.

The 45 rabbis also say they were “shocked by the disrespect shown to parents who suffered the greatest pain—losing a son who died in the service of our country. The Torah commands us always to comfort mourners. The fact that the parents criticized a candidate does not justify harsh and hurtful retaliation.”

This time they didn’t go to the Yerushalmi to support their “always comfort mourners” point. It’s probably not true, as can be seen in the commandments regarding the beautiful war captive, where comforting her as she is mourning her killed parents is distinctly not part of the Jewish soldier’s obligations.

They also attack Trump for his “authoritarian tendencies” and “personal vendettas that come across as a dismissal of constitutional rights and legal processes.” They’re about a year late in comforting Prime Minister Netanyahu, who suffered from the personal vendettas of the current US president. Maybe there’s something in the Yerushalmi about that.

Finally, the Jerusalem Post ran its report of the announcement with the headline “40 New York Orthodox rabbis condemn Trump’s ‘hateful rhetoric’” illustrated with a picture of Satmar Hassidim, which is probably discussed at length in the Yerushalmi, concerning the prohibition on Gneivat Da’at (intellectual deceit).

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David Israel

Bennett Relying on Orthodox to Lead Israel’s Jewish Identity Project for Diaspora Youth

Wednesday, August 17th, 2016

Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi), Israel’s Minister of Education and of Diaspora Affairs recently announced a wide-ranging effort to “strengthen Jewish identity and the connection with Israel” for Jewish college students in diaspora. With a considerable budget of more than $30 million a year, a third picked up by the Israeli government and the rest by philanthropist groups, Bennett has made no bones about who, in his opinion, should be deposited with the responsibility for enhancing Jewish identity on campus — namely, the folks who are already doing it: Chabad, Olami and Hillel.

The fact that the first two of these organizations is completely Orthodox, while the third varies from one campus to another has irked many, in Israel and abroad. But, according to Bennett’s office, the project does not promote religion. As Bennett himself put it, “The activities on campuses throughout the world are the real answer to the growing anti-Semitism and the delegitimization of Israel on campuses. For the first time since the founding of the state, the State of Israel understands that it’s not just the state of Israeli citizens, but the state of all Jews throughout the world.”

So, no religious instruction, but rather opportunities for Jewish students to feel more connected to their brothers and sisters in their home country and in Israel. Which would be a nice switch from the constant, anti-Israel drivel they encounter on so many campuses in the US, Europe, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand. Hillel’s foundation for Jewish campus life is the largest Jewish campus organization in the world, working with thousands of college students globally.

Unlike Chabad, which enjoys an organic network of outreach institutions around the globe and a consistent and reliable Jewish agenda, Olami is more of a a network of local organization focusing on Jewish identity, including, most notably, Aish HaTorah.

Reform Rabbi Rick Jacobs, president of the Reform Movement in North America, complained to Ha’aretz that the Bennett plan in its current scope does not appeal to more than about 20% of Jewish students in America. Another US Jewish official rebuked Israel for pouring its hard-earned shekels on a minority of north American Jewish activists on campus, and suggested it looked like Bennett was trying to export the Israeli disproportionate dominance of the Orthodox.

JNi.Media

Orthodox Jewish Teen Girl to Try for 2020 Tokyo Olympics

Wednesday, August 10th, 2016

An Orthodox Jewish teenage girl from West Hempstead, Long Island says she’s hoping to make the grade for the 2020 Olympic Summer Games in Tokyo, Japan.

Estee Ackerman, 14, is Sabbath-observant, and missed out on going to the Olympics this time around. But she won double gold medals in last week’s Junior Olympics in table tennis competition in Houston, according to a post on The Jewish Week website.

Ackerman failed to qualify for the Rio Olympics, but won first place last week in the Amateur Athletic Union’s Junior Olympics instead. It’s not a bad prequel: The event attracts more than 15,000 athletes and coaches.

Ackerman won in two events: The under-16 girls singles division, and the under-16 girls doubles division, teaming with Amy Lu of Maryland.

The young competitor attends Yeshiva University High School for Girls.

Hana Levi Julian

IDF Appoints Orthodox Officer to Command Education Corps

Monday, July 25th, 2016

The IDF General Staff on Monday decided to appoint Brigadier General Zvika Fairaizen as Chief Education Officer. According to the IDF Spokesperson’s announcement, Fairaizen, an Air Force man, used to command a squadron of unmanned aerial vehicles and his last post was as head of section 40 of the IDF Operations Division.

It should be noted that Brigadier General Fairaizen wears a knitted yarmulke, which constitutes an extremely meaningful change in the IDF’s recent attitude regarding Religious Zionism, following both the transfer of many educational functions from the military rabbinate to the education corps, and the controversy over the appointment of Rabbi Eyal Krim as the IDF chief rabbi.

Fairaizen is a resident of Neve Tzuf in Judea and Samaria, and graduated from a hesder yeshiva in Karnay Shomron. He was the first navigator in the IAF history to be appointed squadron commander.

Chief of Staff Maj. Gen. Eizenkot preferred to appoint Fairaizen, whose background combined combat operations and religious Jewish education, to lead the education corps over the head of the corps’s education department, Colonel Yael Hess, who in the past was criticized for promoting religious pluralism in the IDF. Rabbi Yigal Levinshtein, head of the pre-military yeshiva in Eli, who has himself come under much criticism from the left, has been critical of Hess, who is married to the CEO of the Conservative movement in Israel, for being “a self-declared Reform Jew, who is the number one authority in the IDF today on educating soldiers on faith and ideas.”

Maj. Gen. Eizenkot has recently removed the Dept. of Jewish Studies from the IDF chief rabbinate to the education corps.

David Israel

8 Women Receive Orthodox Ordination in Largely Political Endeavor

Thursday, June 9th, 2016

On Tuesday night, according to a report by Ynet, eight women received certificates of Orthodox Jewish ordination in Jerusalem and selected for themselves various equivalents to the commonly used “Rav” or “Rabbi” by males: some picked “Rav,” instantly making the title unisex; others went with “Rabba,” which would be the female conjugation of the male title, although the term is not in everyday use; some went with “Rabbi,” which in the genderless English grammar has been a common title for Reform and Conservative women clergy for decades.

One preferred to go with “Doctor,” possibly recalling the shamanist attributes for which some Jewish scholars were once renowned. Or more simply, because she has a PhD, but no ordination.

No one went with the prevalent “Rebbetzin,” presumably because to become a Rebbetzin one doesn’t need to study, just marry well.

The ordination was given personally by Rabbi Daniel Landis, a YU graduate who is the head of the Pardes Institute, an open, co-ed and non-denominational Jewish learning community, based in Jerusalem and operating programs worldwide. Landis is also a senior member of Rabbi Shlomo Riskin’s Center for Jewish-Christian Understanding and Cooperation (CJCUC).

In his message to the freshly ordained Orthodox female rabbis, Landis explored the fact that his graduates are different from ordinary ordained Orthodox rabbis not merely because of their sex, but in their emphasis on Jewish studies, and on any studying at all for that matter:

“I very quickly abandoned the ambition to achieve only rabbinic expertise, and moved on to the more important initiative of promoting you as creative scholars, with integrity, sensitivity and courage, who have access to the members of their generation,” Landis said.

“Yes, but can they pasken on a chicken?” you might ask. It appears that ruling on the mundane needs of rank and file Orthodox Jews was not the top priority of this ordination, which is not a comment on the quality of scholarship of the graduates. They simply appear to put a different emphasis on their future roles in the Jewish community:

Rav Avital Campbell-Hochstein, one of the graduates, said at the ordination ceremony: “Receiving the ordination is not merely a score for knowledge. Ordination, or permission, like halakha itself, is focusing on human beings, on the image of God. Human beings must be seen and heard. The halakha and the Torah are sensitive to the slimmest signs of humanness.” And so, she continued, “in order for halakha, which is an emanation of the will of God, to be relevant and applicable, we must first and foremost be attentive. Human dignity is our driving force. Halakha can be a divider and it can be a meeting ground. It can be a wall and it can be a bridge. Choosing between those component depends on the human beings who use it, and who represent it.”

So, basically, no paskening on chickens for now. Instead, there was a lot of talk about advancing the status of women in halakha and in Orthodox society. You may have to rely on someone else for your kashrut decisions, but in areas of marriage, conversion, and burial, these ordained female rabbis will make sure, as Rav Naama Levitz-Applbaum put it, “that women will be counted, in the full meaning of the word, and to feel as full partners along the path.”

Perhaps as the number of ordained Orthodox female rabbis grows and as each ordination ceases to be viewed as a revolution and starts to be more commonplace (as has been the case in every profession women have entered over the past two centuries) we’ll start hearing about women Orthodox rabbis who are not so heavily invested in the feminist politics of their role but in caring for their congregations. At which point we should be able to assess this fledgling but growing movement not based on our political views but instead on the concrete scholarship and the halakhic contribution of these female rabbis. Because, let’s face it, Orthodox Jews need rabbis to interpret halakha for them. They have plenty of social workers doing everything else.

JNi.Media

Orthodox Shul Will Keep LGBT Shabbaton Despite Neighborhood Rabbis’ Objection

Friday, June 3rd, 2016

The members of the Stanton Street Shul community on Thursday night received an email from their board announcing that the inclusive event of hosting Orthodox LGBT in an Eshel Downtown Shabbaton. This despite a warning letter from neighborhood Orthodox rabbis who declared that “No Jewish institution that allies itself with such a group can rightfully claim to be Orthodox.” (See: Lower East Side Rabbis Hint at Excommunicating Orthodox Shul for LGBT Shabbaton)

The Stanton Street Shul board wrote: “We want to take this opportunity to affirm our commitment to hosting the Eshel Shabbaton this Shabbat and to being an Orthodox shul where all Jews can feel safe praying, learning Torah, and finding fellowship with each other — a place where all are welcome and all feel welcome. We are proud of our members, our rabbi, and the Sixth Street Community Synagogue for fostering the kind of inclusive community that respects the dignity of all people, recognizing that we are all created b’tzelem Elokim, in God’s image.

“We encourage you to show your support by coming to shul this Shabbat for services and for the Shabbaton programming, and we welcome your feedback, questions, and notes of support.”

However, the Stanton Street Shul website’s page announcing the Eshel Shabbaton has been removed.

For its part, the Eshel organization, whose mission is to integrate Orthodox LGBT in the community, started a petition online titled: Support Rabbi Bodner and Rabbi Bellino (the spiritual leaders of the Stanton and Sixth Streets shuls). The petition reads:

“Dear Rabbi Bodner and Rabbi Bellino,

“We are Orthodox LGBTQ Jews, parents and family members of LGBTQ Jews, and allies. We believe in inclusive Orthodox communities that welcome LGBTQ Jews and their families.

“We are disheartened to learn that both of you have been attacked for hosting Eshel in your synagogues. However, we want both of you, and your synagogue members, to know how much we support you and appreciate your efforts on our behalf.

“We thank you, Rabbi Bodner and Rabbi Bellino, for giving us hope with your commitment to Hachnasat Orchim (welcoming guests). We thank the leadership and membership of both synagogues for agreeing to host us. You are a model for what warm, compassionate, and inclusive leadership should be.”

As of Friday morning, the petition has received 259 signatures.

In our original story, JNi.media referred to the local Lower East Side rabbis’ letter as hinting excommunication of the “erring” shul. But in the reality of a diminishing Orthodox Jewish presence on the Lower East Side, which comes with the weakening of the Orthodox “establishment” in the neighborhood, it’s hard to imagine what steps the local rabbis might take to make good on such a threat. The relationship between the shul and the neighborhood Orthodox leadership (as opposed to the neighborhood rank and file Orthodox Jews) has always been tense, with the Haredi leaders being critical of the Stanton Street Shul’s egalitarian policy regarding women (the shul maintains women’s minyanim several times a year; shul women dance with the Torah on Simchat Torah; the shul invites women scholars in residence for Shabbat lectures). The dispute over the LGBT Shabbaton may just fizzle away without any tangible negative consequences. At the same time, as has been expressed several times in online debates over the story Thursday, there’s also little chance of an honest dialog between the Stanton Street Shul community and the neighborhood rabbis over the serious issues facing the declining Orthodox community on the Lower East Side.

JNi.Media

Lower East Side Rabbis Hint at Excommunicating Orthodox Shul for LGBT Shabbaton

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

If things go according to plans, the Stanton Street Shul, which has been hosting Jewish worshipers on the Lower East Side since 1913, will be participating in the Eshel Downtown Shabbaton this coming Shabbat. According to the shul’s email, received by JNi.media, Eshel’s mission since 2010 has been to create community and acceptance for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender Jews and their families in Orthodox communities. The theme of the Shabbaton is Creating Welcoming Communities.

This event has been denounced in benign but clear language by local Orthodox rabbis, and as things stand, should the Shabbaton take place, the Stanton stands to be cut off from the mainstream Orthodox community, with possibly devastating consequences.

A later email from the shul reflected the discomfort some congregants may have felt regarding the Shabbaton. It read: “In preparation for the Shabbat, we would like to invite you to an open forum tonight, May 31st at 7:30 PM at the Stanton Street Shul on the topic of ‘Why we are hosting the Eshel Shabbaton.’ At this time, we will hear from [shul Rabbi] Rabbi [Aviad] Bodner what the goals of the Shabbaton are and why we are hosting it. This will be an opportunity to express support, voice concerns, and ask questions.”

Although many of its regulars reside in the Grand Street Co-Ops near the East River in downtown Manhattan, and are part of the Orthodox community there, the Stanton Street Shul since the 1990s has charted a somewhat different path than the largely Haredi community south of the Williamsburg Bridge. The Stanton is located north of the bridge, in the hip/Hispanic community of Alphabet City (named after its north-south Avenues A, B, C, and D). As such, the Stanton, which at some point was salvaged by its congregants from being sold and converted into a church, caters to the unaffiliated Jews scattered in the neighborhood. On the high holidays and on a few other key dates during the Jewish year, the Stanton is packed with Jews, from Israeli NYU students to fallen Hasidim, to secular folks who miss that bit of traditional sweetness in their lives.

Needles to say, the Stanton Street Shul has also been more accepting and tolerant than most. Shabbat morning services often start at 10:30, Friday night kiddush includes a sampling of quality whiskeys, and the congregation has integrated several gay and transgender members with the kind of ease one doesn’t easily find outside New York City and Tel Aviv. The LGBT Shabbaton was another step in that direction of affiliating the shul more with uptown than with the Lower East Side.

On its website, Eshel writes that “through community gatherings Eshel helps LGBT Orthodox people pursue meaningful lives that encompass seemingly disparate identities while also fulfilling Jewish values around family, education, culture, and spirituality.” On that part, regarding the definition of Jewish values through the spectrum of the LGBT lifestyle, the Stanton Street Shul received its stern rebuke from the local rabbis.

The signatories at the bottom of a letter titled “An important Message to the Community” are well known beyond the Lower East Side: Rabbis David and Reuven Feinstein, the sons and spiritual heirs of the late Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, the universally accepted halakhic authority in North America; Rabbi Yeshaya Siff, of the Young Israel of Manhattan, possibly the sweetest and easiest going man of the cloth in downtown Manhattan; his son, Rabbi Azriel Siff, whose Chasam Sofer synagogue stands next door to the Stanton, but is well to the right of its hipster neighbor; and Rabbi Zvi Dovid Romm, whose Bialystoker synagogue hosts the largest congregation this side of 42nd Street.

“All Jews, whatever their challenges or levels of observance, are welcome in all of our shuls,” write the exulted rabbis. And they’re right, for an ultra-Orthodox community, the Lower East Side is probably the most open and accepting on the planet. Some have suggested that the reason for the sense of comfort that is so typical of this community has to do with the nature of the co-op apartments: everybody in the neighborhood is living in the same Soviet-style, square, low-ceilinged apartments — there are no secrets, no really rich and really poor. Things may have changed since privatization, people have been buying up and connecting strings of apartments, but the community is still humbler than most. But we digress.

“However, the basic mandate of the Orthodox synagogue is to promote fidelity to our Torah and our mesorah,” the letter continues. “Sadly, Eshel demands that we change the Torah’s timeless standards to accord with prevalent secular attitudes.”

Notice how instead of saying they’re furious, the rabbis stress their sadness, many times: “We are saddened that the Stanton Street Shul and the Sixth Street Community Synagogue have unilaterally chosen to associate our community with an organization which we cannot consider to be Orthodox, one whose stated aims are at odds with the verses of the Torah itself.”

Next, the rabbis deliver the only threatening line in their letter. It may not sound like one, but it’s a herem, an excommunication, as unmistaken as the herem that was imposed on Baruch Spinoza and Uriel da Costa in 1656 by the Amsterdam rabbinical court: “No Jewish institution that allies itself with such a group can rightfully claim to be Orthodox.”

That’s heavy. It means that many of the committed Orthodox members of both shuls, who preferred them over the Grand Street shuls for a variety of political and emotional reasons, are likely to leave. Excommunication is serious stuff. The letter calls on both shuls to disassociate themselves from the Eshel group and cancel the Shabbaton. We’ll keep you posted, if we can.

JNi.Media

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/les-rabbis-hint-at-excommunicating-orthodox-shul-for-lgbt-shabbaton/2016/06/02/

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