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May 1, 2016 / 23 Nisan, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘orthodox’

St. Peter and the Reform Movement

Sunday, August 18th, 2013

The three articles we ran at the end of last week regarding the notion that the Reform movement now ordains “rabbis” who are not Jewish resulted in a huge explosion of responses, and that’s always a good thing, even if in the process yours truly came across as a big meanie, a racist, an extremist, a divider, a hater, and someone who contradicts the very spirit of the month of Elul.

There is a midrash (homily) about Shimon Kefa, who was none other than Peter the Rock, the first Christian pope. Jewish sources have been doing battle over the veracity of this story since at least the time of Rashi and the Machzor Vitri (earliest cited Jewish prayer book), in the 11th and 12th centuries. There are at least four versions of the same midrash, which vary on specifics, but relate essentially the same story:

The Christians were persecuting Jews and encouraging Jews to join their fold, which they did in droves. The sages were distraught about this, until one of them, a sage by the name of Shimon Kefa (rock in Aramaic) volunteered to go as a Trojan horse into the Christians’ camp and change Christianity forever so it would not look Jewish.

He received the sages’ blessings and went to carry out his mission. In a major Christian enclave, he told the gathered that he is the messenger of Jesus. To prove this, he performed some of the miracles Jesus was famous for: healed a leper and resurrected a dead person. When they were convinced he was truly a messenger of their departed master, he started instructing them—and here each version differs on what he told them to do, except that they all emphasize not attacking Jews any more.

Other than persuading the Christians to leave the Jews alone, in several versions Shimon Kefa—Peter—tells them to move the day of rest to Sunday, to eat all the animals and all the blood they wish, and not to circumcise their sons. And so, in short order, the gap between Christianity and Judaism became so wide, no one in his right mind would suggest they’re the same religion.

What was is it about Christianity that so disturbed the sages? After all, Christians to this day embrace many of the Torah commandments and rely on Biblical verses for practically everything they do and say. Why couldn’t the sages say, well, it’s true that Christianity is not exactly Orthodox Judaism (a 19th century term which I doubt they were familiar with), but at least it keeps them away from paganism.

Because it doesn’t. By placing man at the center of the story, even when it is a god who becomes man through congress with a mortal woman, Christianity is paganism 2.0, promoting the same self-centered ideas but using Biblical verses in the process.

I’m well aware of the scant few sources in the Talmud which defend Christianity as an essentially monotheistic religion which employs pagan concepts. I’m not a scholar and this is not a scholarly article, so I’ll cut to the chase: according to Jewish law, a Jew is not allowed inside a Christian church where Christian icons and symbols are on display (but we are permitted to enter a mosque and even pray—Jewish prayers—there).

Our modern poskim, most notably Rabbi Moshe Feinstein, have already prohibited Religious Jews to set foot in a Reform temple. Rabbi Feinstein rules that Conservative and Reform temples are the same as places of idol worship with respect to both of the following rabbinical notions (source: Institute for Dayanim):

1. Since praying together with a Conservative or Reform congregation is forbidden, the need to avoid the appearance of worshipping in a prohibited manner is applicable to these temples.

2. Similarly, the prohibition on being in the vicinity of a place designated for people with heretical beliefs applies equally to idol worshippers and to Jews who do not accept the fundamentals of Orthodox Judaism. (Orthodox Judaism itself has a broad spectrum of beliefs. For a working definition of Orthodox Judaism we can use the thirteen fundamentals of the Rambam [Maimonides]. All streams of Orthodoxy accept the thirteen fundamentals of Judaism of the Rambam as correct. Anyone deviating from those principles is considered a kofer-heretic).

(There are some who make a distinction between the Conservative and the Reform, in that while the Reform completely removed themselves from rabbinical halacha, the Conservative still consider halacha as their legally binding law, they just interpret it differently. Not my place to decide that one.)

Before we continue, I want you to understand that these supposedly harsh and firm demands, as presented by Maimonides, are broad enough to include a huge variety of Jewish congregations, all the way from ultra-Haredim in the neighborhood of Geula in Jerusalem, to the most left-wing shuls in hip America. They all manage to find themselves inside this tent, and quite comfortably and happily at that (OK, some not as happily as others, can’t win everything).

There is only one fundamental, unwavering rule at the core of all these varied congregations: we all connect to God through the commandments, and we all do this in line with rabbinical interpretation.

This is the core difference between the monotheistic and the pagan: in our tradition, we do the will of God, in theirs, it’s the god who does their will.

Their god provides the beauty of a great singer, the loving kindness of a great teacher, the spiritual wonder of the seeker, the helping hand to the needy, the diversity of all of mankind, the generosity of the human spirit – there are so many incredible things their god does for them. It’s truly lovely, and as a recent comment suggested on one of our articles: “Yori Yanover, listen to the singing one more time. Only THIS time, listen with your 2,000 year old ‘wandering Jew’ neshamah, and NOT with your intellect.”

And that is the essence of paganism. A Jewish relationship with God is anchored in a covenant, a legal document the essence of which we recite twice a day, every day, in the Sh’ma. We accept the yoke of mitzvot and in return we have a relationship with God, we get to be alive and to have national and personal continuity.

It’s wonderful when this relationship results in a lot of beauty and personal satisfaction – why the heck not. But it is there also when He in His wisdom kills us en masse, kills our babies, ravages our fields, inflicts cancer and boils on us – we still hold on to the covenant, and we work hard to love Him, especially when He in His wisdom makes it so difficult.

We don’t do this out of an emotional or spiritual yearning – those are wonderful aspects of our faith, but not the essence of our religion. We do this out of a commitment to the mitzvot as a clear expression of the Will of God. we don’t need to imagine what would God want of us – He came down on Mount Sinai and told us specifically, and empowered our sages to teach us the meaning of His words.

And so, we insist that Jews be made aware that only our places of prayer and study are sanctioned by our Jewish tradition, and that non-Orthodox places are not – despite all the sometimes incredible beauty emanating from them.

An ugly etrog is still an etrog, but a beautiful lemon is never an etrog.

Yori Yanover

Did She or Didn’t She?

Friday, August 16th, 2013

Over the past two days, while the army was shooting into the crowds in Egypt and half of Beirut was lifted by a huge car bomb, and many other awful things were happening, The Jewish Press readership has been dealing with mostly the question of the possibility that a Reform Rabbi named Angela Buchdahl could have attained her high position without the benefit of a Jewish conversion.

It started with an article in The Forward (Angela Buchdahl, First Asian-American Rabbi, Vies for Role at Central Synagogue), that basically suggested Buchdahl was not Jewish according to Jewish law:

But she also engaged Judaism at a time when the Reform movement itself was undergoing dramatic change. Eleven years after Buchdahl’s birth, in a move still hotly debated in all streams of Judaism, including within Reform Judaism itself, the Reform movement overturned more than 2,000 years of tradition that recognized only those whose mother was Jewish as Jews from birth. Others, including those with just a Jewish father, were required to undergo a process of conversion, though this process varied among Judaism’s different streams.

Starting in 1983, as intermarriage advanced steadily among its members, Reform Judaism conferred a “presumption of Jewish descent” on those with one Jewish parent, whether it was a father or a mother. The one condition to this recognition was that it be established “through appropriate and timely public and formal acts of identification with the Jewish faith,” according to the Central Conference of American Rabbis.

In many ways, Buchdahl represents the flowering of this revolution in Judaism, and symbolizes a kind of coming of age of its children.

This was coupled with an article in Hadassah Magazine:

Profile: Angela Buchdahl

Though Buchdahl’s mother did not convert, she wanted her children to find a home in the Jewish community. Her father instilled Jewish pride in his children and gave them a Jewish vocabulary, says Buchdahl, but it was her mother who imparted a sense of spiritual yearning and wonder. Her mother’s Buddhism informs her Judaism, she says, noting that Jewish and Korean cultures overlap in their approach to life, their emphasis on giving back and their drive to succeed and to be educated.

So yours truly, enchanted by the concept of the non-Jewish Rabbi, charged ahead. I still believe all the points I was making were right, namely that the Reform  doctrine of patrilineal descent and the “presumption of Judaism” in the case of a the offspring of a non-Jewish woman married to a Jew were on the money.

Except that it turns out Buchdahl may have converted to Judaism after all.

Thanks, first, to our reader Vicky Glikin of Deerfield, Illinois, who wrote:

It is highly unfortunate that your facts and the very premise for this article are plain wrong. Rabbi/Cantor Buchdahl underwent an Orthodox conversion, a fact that you would have easily discovered had you actually been trying to write an intelligent work of journalism.

So I went looking for the misrepresented conversion, and found the following line in the Times (Defining Judaism, a Rabbi of Many Firsts), hidden among long, familiar paragraphs like this one:

Her first reaction was to think about a formal conversion to Judaism, but a second impulse quickly followed: Why should she convert to prove something, when she had been a Jew her entire life? In traditional Jewish law, a Jew is defined through the mother’s line. But over roughly the last 40 years, the Reform movement in Judaism accepted descent through the father’s line as legitimate for Jewish identification, so if a child has a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother who affiliates as a Jew (the mother need not convert if she is involved in synagogue life), the child does not need to undergo a conversion to become a Jew.

But then, the Times revealed: “Eventually, at 21, she did undergo a conversion ceremony, but she prefers to think of it as a reaffirmation ceremony.”

Another clue was in something David Ellenson, President of Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, wrote in his letter today (Hebrew Union Pres. Pulls Fast One in Non-Jewish Rabbi Debate):  “you assume an article that was written in another newspaper and upon which your author draws for his piece reveals all the facts about her life. ”

Meaning, Ellenson may have known Buchdahl had converted in an Orthodox ceremony, but to concede this would mean that he agrees that it takes an Orthodox conversion to turn even the child of a Jewish father into a real Jew — as shown by the very poster child of patrilineal descent, the subject of our attention these past two days.

I still find the entire affair more than a little bizarre: why should someone who did convert in an Orthodox ceremony be sending out all the signals that they didn’t and that they’re proud they didn’t. Perhaps we’ll find out in the next chapter of this very strange story.

Yori Yanover

12 Plaintiffs Join $380 Million Sex-Abuse Suit against YU

Thursday, August 8th, 2013

Twelve former students joined a $380 million lawsuit against Yeshiva University for covering up sexual abuse at its high school.

The new plaintiffs’ names came out in court papers used in a hearing Tuesday in U.S. District Court in White Plains, N.Y., according to the New York Daily News, and bring to 31 the number of plaintiffs in the case.

Rabbi George Finkelstein and Macy Gordon, former staff members at Y.U.’s High School for Boys in Manhattan, as well as a youth volunteer, Richard Andron, have been accused of sexual abuse. Some of the cases allegedly took place as far back as the 1970s.

Finkelstein left the high school in 1995 and took a post at a Jewish school in Florida before moving to Israel. Gordon also lives in Israel and until recently was a teacher at the Orthodox Union’s Israel Center. Both men deny the charges. Andron has not issued a statement on the accusations.

The suit also names top members of Y.U.’s former administration, including Norman Lamm, its former president and chancellor.

Although the statute of limitations has passed on the cases, the alleged cover-up could negate the restrictions, according to Kevin Mulhearn, the plaintiffs’ attorney.

JTA

New Republic Article on Feminism from Zion Is All About the Stakes

Monday, August 5th, 2013

The new issue of The New Republic cover story (The Feminists of Zion An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism) is about us. It is about Haredim, modern Orthodox, and women. These are things we discuss regularly online and at our Shabbos tables, and in our coffee rooms. The story is remarkably accurate and balanced, displaying a very deep understanding of the issues in Israel today. I recommend reading the article immediately.

Imagine a spectrum of religious fundamentalism in the orthodox Jewish community. On one end you have extreme Haredi sects and on the other end you have completely secular Israelis. On most things and for most of time the people in the middle, let’s call them modern orthodox, skewed their allegiences toward the Haredi side. Orthodoxy is the great uniter. The assumption is that any two orthodox people will have more common interests than an orthodox and a secular Jew. This is how things were.

In essence, the article argues that while naturally aligned with their fellow orthodox Jews, women from the modern orthodox community in Israel are finding themselves aligned with secular feminist Jews in Israel. The collective pain that is felt due to the oppressiveness toward women in the extreme and not so extreme Haredi world is taking a toll. Women have been attacked physically, verbally, and psychologically for a long time and it is starting to create a negative reaction.

Several times the article mentions signs that tell women how to dress. We have become accustomed to these signs. But the women in the article argue that the signs give license to thugs who want to make a statement to women. To them, the signs mean much more than “Please be sensitive to our religious beliefs.” Part of that is because these standards are entering the public sphere and are no longer just limited to the private insular neighborhoods. But the other part of it is that the signs are somehow justifying the negativity and violence toward women.

What has happened is that women who feel hurt and abused are turning to secular and Reform Jews for salvation. Feminism is a dirty word in many orthodox communities, even in some places within the modern orthodox community. But it’s becoming a necessary evil for modern orthodox women who are not feminists at all to ask for help from feminists. It’s odd when orthodox people are funding they have more in common with secular and very liberal Jews than fellow orthodox Jews. But that is what is happening.

The article also talks about modern orthodox women who sympathize with the Women of the Wall. I wish they would be more vocal but i was heartened to hear it.

Last week I wrote about finding common ground and room for dialogue between modern orthodox and yeshivish Jews in America. (See:
Maybe Rabbi Birnbaum Has a Point: A Solution) I think what we are seeing in the article in TNR is what will happen if we can’t work together. If the people in the middle start to feel like the liberal and secular Jews are more sympathetic to their way of life, the great split that has been predicted for years, will finally happen. Modern orthodox Judaism will become an independent group.

Some might say, what’s so bad about that? Well there are plenty negative consequences to mention. But I will mention the two biggest issues. First, the Haredi institutions will fall without modern orthodox support. Some might say that’s not so bad either. I disagree. Their services are necessary, as is their trap door into engagement with society. On the other side, without a connection the Haredi community, the modern orthodox community will be hard pressed to support its own institutions for lack of qualified teachers and rabbis.

It’s not in our best interests to see a formal split. It might happen in Israel and it might happen in America. I think we should do everything we can to prevent it. The first thing we need to do, is get together and talk.

Visit Fink or Swim.

The Feminists of Zion An unlikely alliance between Orthodox and progressive women will save Israel from fundamentalism

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

Let’s Call Them Modern Chasidim

Tuesday, June 11th, 2013

Yesterday, in an article in Newsday, the world was introduced to the term Tuna Beigel. Now it’s time to retire it.

A little Googling will yield plenty of results for the term and almost all of them are negative. It’s used to describe people born to chasidic families who modernize. They keep many of the exterior elements of chasidishe life but lead lives that are not insular at all. They are familiar with popular culture, they have less rigid ideas about modesty, and they live outside the chasidic enclaves. However, I would say that these people are by and large orthodox. If they leave orthodoxy they leave this group.

For non-chasidim, these people can seem odd. They don’t speak English well, they are under-educated, they have chasidishe foibles and tendencies. Because of these barriers they don’t really integrate perfectly into the mainstream yeshiva world or into the modern orthodox world. Hence, they have their own group and their own name. The separate name and their lack of integration are an indictment of the frum world. Non-chasidim must do a better job of welcoming those who left insular community. Titles that mock their difficult choice would not a good way of doing this.

The problem is that Tuna Beigel is a pejorative. It is used to mock their Yinglish and I am told that many people use it derisively and many feel derided by the word. Of course there are many people from this group that use the word proudly. They are not insulted by the word at all. But too many people find the term offensive for it to be used in civilized conversation.

Personally, I compare it to using the “off the derech” to describe someone who left orthodox Judaism. I try very hard not to use that description because I think it is offensive. It tells those who left orthodox Judaism that they are off the path which implies that they are defective. While it’s true that orthodox Jews believe there is a path and those who left are not on the path, calling attention to that is implicitly offensive. Now, some people who fit into that category don’t find it offensive. That’s cool. But it doesn’t mean that we should use it. You’ll not find a single mention of that phrase on this blog unless I am quoting or paraphrasing someone else. That’s because I find it offensive.

Similarly, the term for modernized chasidim should not be offensive. In fact, I believe they should be celebrated and embraced. They are heroes. They are choosing our life. And it’s even more impressive that they are staying within the confines of orthodox Judaism even after having left the insular community. That’s the interesting thing about the article in Newsday. It’s a growing phenomenon and we hope it continues to grow.

In my private life I don’t use the word Tuna Beigel. In my public life I do not want to use it either and I don’t want others to use it. Try Modern Chasidim if you need a title. That’s what I use and I think it is a respectful and accurate description. (Modern Orthodox doesn’t work because that group stands for Torah U’Mada, excellence in secular education and high professional accomplishment. Hopefully the next generation of Modern Chasidim can grow into that.)

Let’s stop using this ugly term to describe Modern Chasidim. Let’s do a better job of helping them integrate into the non-chasidic world. If I offended anyone by my association with the article in Newsday, please forgive me. I admire the Modern Chasidim (and you ex-hasids too) and did not intend to hurt anyone. I hope we can work together to end the use of this term and create a brighter future for those who choose not to stay in the insular chasidic community.

(Also, I think the article is interesting. I was quoted a few times too.)

Visit Fink or Swim.

Rabbi Eliyahu Fink

‘Caged Women’ – Never Happened

Sunday, June 9th, 2013

The Women of the Wall proved today that it’s not about the prayer, but about the politics.

While they were praying, they were also busy sending out tweets from the official Women of the Wall account (I guess they have some Kavana issues).

a horrible feeling. what a shanda to encage women at the kotel

what a frustrating, painful feeling. women in a cage at the Kotel.

When I heard, “women in a cage,” I rushed to check out the photos.

With a turn of phrase like that, I knew what I was expecting to see. Needless to say, I was disappointed, when it turned out to be nothing even close…

Let’s see what’s really going on.

Here they are at the main Kotel itself, being allowed to pray according to nearly any alternative lifestyle demands they have been promoting — with direct access to the wall at the plaza, so they can also touch the same section of the wall as everyone else can while they pray, and all the tourists can watch them.

WoWCage

Yet they are using SENSATIONALIST, exaggerated terminology, tweeting to the world that they were put in cages.

Put in cages!

At first I thought it was just them being whiny, but, you know what? It’s just straight out lying.

As you can see from their own photo, that it is not the case at all.

The women’s section has been divided by a standard police divider, so that part of the women’s section is designated for those women who want to pray in the traditional Jewish manner as they have been doing at the Kotel every day, and the other part dedicated to those who want to pray in their alternative fashion, wearing male accouterments, as they do once a month.

And since the Women of the Wall have been demanding to be allowed to pray at the main Kotel plaza in their non-traditional manner – and they were allowed to do so, this argument should pretty much be over.

But that obviously is not what the Women of the Wall want (that the argument should be over).

It’s not enough that they have forced their alternative method of prayer into the Kotel.

Here’s the truth of it, based on their own tweets.

They want to force their method of prayer onto to the other women at the Kotel too, including onto those who don’t want to pray that way – whether those women want it or not.

As part of their performance politics, the Women of the Wall are demanding that everyone else be subject to their methods of prayer, while they simultaneously prove that they won’t tolerate the way the other women (or men) at the Kotel want to hold their traditional prayers.

It’s a one way street for the Women of the Wall.

I am sure that within a month or two, they’ll get their way, too, and Orthodox (and non-Orthodox) women who want to pray undisturbed in the Jewish traditional manner will be made to feel very uncomfortable in their place of prayer.

And it won’t end there.

Because, as their tweets prove, this obviously isn’t about their wish to pray at the Kotel in a manner that deviates from tradition — after all, they’ve already won 95% of that (and I’m 100% convinced they’ll get permission to read from the Torah next month).

Next we’ll see petitions to the Supreme Court to completely remove the Mechitza, and allow egalitarian (mixed prayer) prayer groups.

How long until some IRAC-connected Reform rabbi demands to be allowed to play guitar on the Sabbath at the Kotel as he or she “traditionally” does in his or her Reform Temple?

This isn’t a battle about some women wanting to dress up as men like Yentyl and pray at the Kotel.

There’s no question that many of the backers of the Women of the Wall see the obliteration of Torah Judaism in public places in Israel as their ultimate goal.

The Kotel is just one of their battlefields, and the more SENSATIONAL they can make the battle sound, and the longer they can keep it going, the better it is for their camp.

JoeSettler

Two Religious Girls Box-Kick Their Way to World Champions (video)

Monday, May 13th, 2013

Two religious teenagers, one a convert from India and the other born in Baltimore, have won the world championship in Thailand-style kick-boxing for their weight class.

Officially known as Muay Thai, the combat sport is known as “the art of eight weapons” because of the use of fists, elbows, knees, shins and feet.

One might expect that world champs in the kick-boxing sport would be huge gorillas from the Amazon, but two winners in the girls’ championships held in Thailand recently are none other than two religious girls from Israel.

One is Nili Block, who was born in Baltimore and moved with her family to Israel around 15 years ago. The other is Sarah Avraham, whose family was close friends with Rabbi Gavriel and Rivka Holtzberg, two of the six victims of the Muslim terrorist attack in Mumbai in 2008.

Having already been acquainted with the Jewish religion through their association with the Holtzbergs, they decided to convert and move to Israel after the terrorist attack.

Nili and Sarah train five times a week at Teddy Stadium in Jerusalem, attacking a punching bag to sharpen their skills under the supervision of a coach. Their rigorous regime paid off in Thailand, where they were crowned champions after Nile defeated her Bulgarian opponent in the flyweight class of 112-118 pounds, while Nili beat her British opponent in the 125-138-pound class.

Nili is an all-round athlete. Before flying to Thailand for the championships, she ran in the 6-mile Jerusalem Marathon in March and win first place in the women’s 16-19 age group, finishing ahead of 500 runners in her category. Later the same month, she won the 10th Amateur-Pro Muay Thai Championships in Bangkok.

“Nili is amazing − slim and tall, she’s built for this sport, and she possesses quite an array of weapons. She can devastate an opponent with her hands, knees and feet, and she has perfect technique,” said Shuki Rozensweing, an Israeli boxer who won the World Muay Thai Association and World Muay Thai Federation unified title in April 2011.

He told the Thai BigChili website, “She is a complete fighter with a high IQ for the sport…. A fight is not only won on strength. Nili won all three rounds against the Bulgarian girl, who was physically stronger, by virtue of her superior technique.”

She is in the 12th grade and has to decide this year whether to enlist in the IDF or serve in “Sherut Leumi,” national service.

The IDF would love to have her in its ranks. She says she is not sure if she wants to miss out serving as a regular soldier and suspend her boxing talents, but Shuki thinks she has a good chance to receive the IDF’s special athletic status, which would allow her to continue to train.

Besides that, let’s see what happens if an Arab terrorist starts up with her.

Nile discovered Muay Thai through her other after the family moved to Israel.

‘‘My mother was at that time a volunteer police woman attached to the Jerusalem police department and she was looking for some kind of martial arts which would be beneficial for her work,” said Nili. “I went with her as she looked for a Muay Thai training camp and I started to train with her. I stopped training for two years while going to school and resumed when I was 13.” Her father, a dentist, supports and encourages her to box.

So much for stereotyped-orthodox families.

The most thrilling moment in the Thai championships was hearing the Israel national anthem Hatikvah two times, once after Nili won her gold medal and the second time when Sarah won.

Sarah’s story is no less spectacular than Nili’s.

Her father is a doctor and was the family physician to the Holtzbergs, who ran the Chabad House in Mumbai.

Sarah was 14 years old when the family converted and then moved to Kiryat Arba, where she learns at a religious “ulpana” high school.

Hevron resident Michael Pollack spotted her talent and put her in touch with Thai boxing coach Eddie Yusopov.

Keeping in mind that Abraham and Sarah were buried in the Patriarchs’ Cave in Hevron, Pollack told the Times of Israel last year, “She draws her strength from where we live in Kiryat Arba. That gives her an inner strength that explodes in the ring.”

Tzvi Ben-Gedalyahu

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/two-religious-girls-box-kick-their-way-to-world-champions-video/2013/05/13/

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