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December 20, 2014 / 28 Kislev, 5775
 
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Posts Tagged ‘rabbi’

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.

Two Chassidic Yeshivas Capitulate, Will Teach Core Curriculum

Thursday, August 15th, 2013

An expose in Kikar Hashabbat today reveals that while the entire Haredi public, guided by the clear rulings of many of their leaders, is fighting against the attempts by Israel’s Education Ministry to interject core curriculum subjects, like Math and English, into the Haredi yeshivas, “it turns out that underground the dangerous retreat from the purely holy education has begun, causing a great anxiety and fear among the great men of the generation.”

According to the Haredi website, the first two institutions to surrender have been both Chassidic yeshivas, one, Chidushay HaRim, is run by Gur in Tel Aviv, the other by Nadvorna in B’nei B’rak. Both are in the process of letting the exterior subjects into their study plans.

Both yeshivas have capitulated before the ministry’s pressures, says the website, in order to receive the full, 100 percent funding, like every other Israeli high school.

“In this dangerous precedence, the yeshivas have turned into religious high schools,” warns Kikar Hashabbat.

The legal status of both institutions has been altered by the Education Ministry, from “culturally unique,” the term used for most Haredi yeshivas, to ” recognized but not officially,” the term used for the majority of high schools in Israel (only the first 9 grades in the Israeli educational system are officially sanctioned and fully budgeted.)

The folks at the Gur educational system have attempted to conceal the change, according to Kikar Hashabbat, by renaming their institution “Youth education School” (Beit hasefer chinuch la’no’ar), but its online contact information takes users back to the Chidushei HaRim yeshiva.

Recently, the Education Ministry—which is headed by Rabbi Shai Piron, who is himself a Rosh Yeshiva—has been aggressively promoting the teaching of core curriculum subjects, in order to provide underprivileged, Haredi and Arab students with the needed foundations to become successful later on in life.

The program promotes proficiency in Languages, Literature, Math, Science, Technology, and Physical Aptness. All of these are, obviously, perceived by the bulk of the Haredi leadership as an attack on Torah values.

Rabbi Aharon Leib Shteinman, the most prominent Haredi posek in Israel today, is, understandably, the most vehement voice against the core curriculum plan. Pointing to the questionable achievements of secular Israeli education, Rabbi Shteinman urges his followers—the bulk of Haredi society, at least until the Kikar Hashabbat story came out—to stand as a fortified wall before the new decree and “not alter even by a hair’s breadth the educational path we received and passed on until today.”

Still, if the Haredi establishment fears an all out assault by the government, specifically Minister Yair Lapid’s Yesh Atid party, they’re not wrong. Shahar Ilan, VP of the Chidush, a left wing NGO dealing with issues of freedom and religion, checked out Lapid’s promises to cut severely in the funding for Haredi yeshivas, and, as Globes reported Thursday, discovered that the minister remained true to his words.

The overall budget for Haredi yeshivas and kolelim used to be in the billion shekel range (just under $300 million) annually. This budget cuts it down in the coming school year to 650 million shekel (just under $200 million), and in the following year down to 400 million shekel (just over $100 million).

That’s quite a haircut. Coupled with the severe cuts in child support to large families, it appears that the majority of the Haredi yeshivas will probably buckle under the economic pressure, sooner or later, and with a variety of inventive ways of concealing their shame.

Like every other political issue, the truth is somewhere between the Haredi leadership who refuses to consider even the knowledge of English and Math as information their youths could probably use – and the Yesh Atid brutal attack on the Haredi economy, which includes actually taking bread and milk away from babies.

Argentinian Rabbi Wins Big in Midterm Congressional Primary Vote

Monday, August 12th, 2013

Argentina’s Rabbi Sergio Bergman won the midterm congressional primary elections, his first national test for a seat in the country’s Parliament.

Bergman, who currently serves as a Buenos Aires city lawmaker for the center-right PRO Party, was the candidate who received the most votes for the lower house of the National Parliament in Sunday’s poll, receiving 27.5 percent of the votes. He was followed by the Peronist candidate Juan Cabandie with 18.9 percent.

Though the election was a primary, there was no opposition within each party, so the referendum is a harbinger of the October 27 midterm elections. In Buenos Aires city, the PRO Party is one of the most prominent parties running against the national Peronist government lead by Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner.

The rabbi, a member of the Buenos Aires municipal Legislature, will lead the ticket for the center-right PRO Party in Argentina’s national elections as its candidate for the National Lower house. He is the first rabbi to lead a national ticket in Argentina.

Bergman, the senior rabbi of the traditional Congregacion Israelita Argentina, is the founder of Active Memory, a group that demonstrated every Monday for a decade seeking justice for the victims of the 1994 bombing of the AMIA Jewish center in Buenos Aires.

Haredi Settlers Push Back: Rebbe’s Dad Was Pro-Settlements

Monday, August 12th, 2013

In response to the Sunday report about the unrestrained attack by the visiting Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Halberstam, the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe of Borough Park (Grand Rebbe Attacks Settlers, Compares Israeli Media to Nazis), a local movement of pro-settlements Haredim known as Halamish (acronym for Haredim for Judea and Samaria) published considerably different statements on the same issues by Rabbi Halberstam’s father, the late Grand Rabbi Yekusiel Yehudah Halberstam, the First Klausenburger Rebbe and the author of “Shefa Chayim” and “Divrei Yatsiv.”

The Klausenburger dynasty was founded by the late Rabbi Halberstam in 1927, when he became the Rav of Klausenburg, capital city of Transylvania, Rumania. The Klausenburger Rebbe was the great-grandson of Rabbi Chaim of Sanz, founder of the Sanz Chasidic dynasty.

According to Kikar Hashabbat, which quotes from the Halamish messsage citing what the late Rebbe has said in 1976 about settling Eretz Israel:

“When we look at the map today we are ashamed that, because of our numerous sins, Eretz Israel looks so shriveled, compared with the black, threatening balloon. And when you need to write ‘Jerusalem’ on the map, the word ends up somewhere abroad and you’re unable to write ‘Jerusalem’ within the map. And they want to take that, too, away from us, that, too, they won’t have the charity to give the Jews, that, too, they wish to divide, God forbid, may God wipe out the names of the wicked and the terrorists with whom Jews are collaborating…”

In fact, when it came to comparisons with the Third Reich, it appears the first Klausenburger Rebbe had his priorities straight: “There are Jews, may we be spared this, who join up with the Arabs, who are worse than the cursed Nazis,” he said.

In 1984, according to Halamish, the Klausenburger Rebbe made another WW2 comparison: “To our chagrin, there are Jews who join up with the terrorists and try to appease them all the time, and they hate the Jewish faith, especially the press and the media who curse the Jews and glorify the haters of Jews.”

The Rebbe was an enthusiastic supporter of the Haredi town of Imanuel, established in 1983 in Samaria. It was growing and flourishing initially, but the Oslo accords discouraged new investors and the town declined to only a few thousand residents today.

But in 1984, the Rebbe said proudly, during a visit to the Haredi town: “Praise and thanks to Hashem Yisborach that I merited to participate with a group of Jews in the prominent city in Israel, Immanuel, and even though there are some who try to discourage the founders of the city, saying it’s dangerous to live in it because of its vicinity to Arab settlements—but according to us this only means that because there’s the possibility of danger involved, the reward for this mitzvah would be greater in the world to come.”

And then, as if in a direct rebuke to his son, who actually said last week that the National Religious teach that “for the sake of settling Eretz Israel we should uproot all the 613 mitzvahs of the Torah,” the first Klausenburger Rebbe said:

“The mitzvah of settling Eretz Israel is among the biggest mitzvahs… and he who bought a parcel in Eretz Israel it’s as if he bought a share in the world to come.”

On a personal note: my original article, Sunday, received mostly supportive comments, but there were a few who accused me of promoting hatred against Haredim. And, of course, there were the usual calls to get over my apparent penchant for Sinas Chinam-baseless hatred, for which, according to our sages, the second temple was destroyed.

I must say that, in my opinion, those very calls for inhibiting an honest discussion of our values as religious Jews, under the bizarre guise that any reporting of the truth might somehow add to hatred, is in itself the most blatant expression of baseless hatred to the value of Truth.

The language Rabbi Shmuel Dovid Halberstam, the Sanz-Klausenberger Rebbe of Borough Park, used in his speech in Beit Shemesh, was violent, brutal, uncivilized and rife with self pity. Reflecting the worst in modern haredi punditry, it accused religious Jews of the worst possible motives–that their goal is to eradicate Torah, for heaven’s sake–and compared to Nazis the non-religious Jewish journalists critical of the Haredi society in Israel. That was not civilized language, and the notion that an inspired Chassidic leader who influences many Jews would use this language is saddening and, frankly, scary.

I come from a family of Gur Chassidim, I wrote a book about a great Rebbe and I davened many years with Chassidim. I never imagined this kind of speech coming from a Rebbe. I don’t know the man, I don’t wish him any harm, God forbid, but as a lover of Chassidism and Chassidic Jews, I had to voice my personal objection.

Is the Lab-Created Burger Kosher?

Friday, August 9th, 2013

By Yehuda Shurpin

Question:

Scientists have recently demonstrated that they can now take stem cells from a cow and build them into hamburgers that look, feel and (almost) taste like the real thing. What does Jewish law have to say? Is this considered real meat? Is it kosher?

Response:

This is a fascinating question that needs to be studied carefully by expert rabbis when the issue becomes more practical and Petri-dish burgers become an affordable option. But here are some preliminary thoughts on the subject to give you some perspective.

Meat from Heaven

What makes this question so intriguing is that this is an example of how those seemingly fantastic Aggadic tales in the Talmud are nowadays becoming a starting point for new halachik questions.

There is actually a discussion in the Talmud about whether meat that does not come from an animal is considered kosher, although the origin of the meat in this case was even more miraculous:

A story of Rabbi Shimeon ben Chalafta, who was walking on the road, when lions met him and roared at him. Thereupon he quoted from Psalms: “The young lions roar for prey and to beg their food from G‑d,”1 and two lumps of flesh descended [from heaven]. They ate one and left the other. This he brought to the study hall and propounded: Is this fit [for food] or not? The scholar answered: “Nothing unfit descends from heaven.” Rabbi Zera asked Rabbi Abbahu: “What if something in the shape of a donkey were to descend?” He replied: “You ‘howling yorod,2’ did they not answer him that no unfit thing descends from heaven?”3

Miraculous meat appears again in the Talmud, although this time it was man-made:

Rabbi Chanina and Rabbi Oshaia would spend every Sabbath eve studying the “Book of Creation”4 by means of which they created a calf and ate it.5

In discussing this story, later commentators debate whether such an animal would require shechitah (kosher slaughter) in order to be eaten.

Rabbi Yeshayah Halevi Horowitz, known as the Shelah, writes that it is not considered a real animal and does not need shechitah.6

Others write that while a technical interpretation of Biblical law may not require such an animal to be slaughtered, the rabbinical prohibition of “marit ayin” (not engaging in acts that look misleadingly similar to forbidden activity) would necessitate slaughter–lest an onlooker think that ordinary meat is being consumed without shechitah.7

Test-Tube Beef

So far we have discussed “miracle meat” that came from heaven or was created by spiritual means. Some commentators defined this meat as miraculous because it did not come from a naturally-born animal. But do we consider any meat that does not come from a naturally-born animal to be “miracle meat”? Or does it need to come through an actual miracle? How about test-tube meat, which does come from actual animal cells? In this case the dictum that “no unfit thing descends from heaven” obviously would not apply. Here are some of the issues that will need to be explored:

The Cells The scientist extracted the cells of a real animal and used them to grow the tissues in a Petri dish. If, and that is not a small if, the mere cells are considered substantial enough to be called meat, this may present a problem. In addition to the prohibition of eating a limb from a living animal,8 there is an additional injunction not to eat any meat that was severed from a live animal.9

This is an issue for non-Jews as well as Jews, since Noahide law dictates that non-Jews may not eat even a minute amount of meat that was separated from a living animal.10

For Jews, if the cells are considered real meat, then presumably they would need to be extracted from a kosher animal that was slaughtered according to Jewish law.

Another consideration is that there is a halachik concept, “the product of non-kosher is itself not kosher, and the product of that which is kosher is itself kosher.”11 While at first glance this would seem to imply that the cells need to come from a kosher source, it is not clear whether the above rule would apply to microscopic cells that were extracted from an animal.

Madrid Jewish Community Denies Rabbi’s Anti-Gay Statements

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

The Jewish community of Madrid denied the authenticity of quotes attributed to its chief rabbi in which he reportedly called gays “deviants” who need “re-educating.”

The interview was “distorted,” Ziva Freidkes, a spokeswoman for the Madrid Jewish community, told JTA on Wednesday, referring to the interview of Rabbi Moshe Bendahan published last week on Religion Digital, a Spanish-language news website.

Freidkes said Bendahan never made the negative references to gays and that the interview was “inaccurate and took things out of context.”

The rabbi was quoted as saying, “Homosexuality is a deviation from nature. It’s an anti-natural tendency and a sin. Contemplating allowing, consenting to what is known as ‘gay marriages,’ would be a monstrosity.”

In a statement published Tuesday on Religion Digital, the community said, “For a very long time now, we have been supporting the gay community’s fight against discrimination.”

Religion Digital, one of the country’s major news portals on religion, released its own statement on Tuesday reaffirming the veracity of the quotes. The journalist who interviewed Bendahan, Antonio Aradillas, was described as having “undeniable prestige and decades of experience in covering religious affairs.”

Guilty: Rabbi Motti Elon Convicted of Sexual Assault

Wednesday, August 7th, 2013

Three years after the scandal exploded, shaking up the Religious Zionist movement, a magistrate court in Jerusalem found Rabbi Motti Elon, scion of an exulted family of scholars and public servants, and himself a charismatic teacher and leader, guilty of sexual assault on a minor.

The indictment against Rabbi Elon charged him with indecent assault and indecent assault against a minor using his position as the victim’s mentor.

Another young man who initially wanted to testify about crimes committed against him recanted during the trial, and the State Attorney was forced to delete some of the charges against the defendant.

The prosecution said in the indictment that the alleged acts were perpetrated against a young man in distress, but Rabbi Elon said he did not recall any such a meeting and argued that even if there were such a meeting, all he must have done was hug the young man and stroke his face with affection, the way he used to hug all his students, and not because of sexual stimulation.

The affair was being managed initially by the Takana forum, a group of rabbis and politicians dealing with incidents of sexual irregularities in the National Religious population. Its purpose is to investigate problematic cases before they mushroom into big scandals, and to employ education and social pressure to bring a halt to cases that could end up in the headlines. But lest the habitual attackers of religious Jews start crying cover-up, according to Takana, they acted in the case in complete cooperation with the Attorney General’s office, as early as 2006, and the A.G. gave his blessings to their attempt to avoid media attention to a case that had a chance to be resolved quietly.

And so, in 2010, Takana came out with a public report about complaints they had accumulated, attributing events to Rabbi Motti Elon contact of a sexual nature, over several years, with young people who sought his counsel. According to Takana members, Rabbi Elon confessed before them the acts that were attributed to him, and undertook to retire from public life and go into exile from Jerusalem to the Migdal community near the Kinneret, because of “acts that are contrary to the values ​​of sanctity and morality.”

The Takana Forum message that revealed the entire affair came after Rabbi Elon had broken his commitment to them and continued to counsel young people. Takana decided to publicize the allegations and the complaints, shocking a public that only remembered the good rabbi from his pre-Shabbat show on Friday afternoon, and recalled his brother the MK and his father the Supreme Court Justice.

Attorney General Yehuda Weinstein ordered the police to look into the allegations against Rabbi Elon, who denied everything.

“Any attempt to argue as if I ever admitted such an act is a despicable lie,” was Rabbi Elon’s initial response to the Takana Forum allegations.

Almost a year after the affair was exposed, and after Rabbi Elon refused a plea bargain, an indictment against him was filed which included two charges of sexual offenses committed against two complainants, both minors, in 2003 and 2005.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/guilty-rabbi-motti-elon-convicted-of-sexual-assault/2013/08/07/

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