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October 31, 2014 / 7 Heshvan, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Reform Jews’

A Yom Kippur Apology to Gwyneth Paltrow and Reform Jews

Friday, October 3rd, 2014

Dear Gwyneth,

Several readers harshly criticized me for my remarks here about your decision to convert to Judaism under the auspices of a Kabbalah-oriented rabbi.

I have nothing against Kabbalah. I have nothing against Reform Jews.

My kosher beef is against fashionable Kabbalah and the Reform Movement industry that turn Judaism into a personal fiefdom based on personal views of universalism that have nothing to do with Torah.

Kabbalah is beyond me. Its mysticism can lead one to a great understanding of God and the essence of God, through the Zohar, the 13th century book that is studied worldwide by many very Orthodox Jews but which also has been hijacked by many as a tool for skipping over the basics.

I termed the conversion process by Reform “rabbis,” and this also holds for many Kabbalists, “instant Judaism.” I also referred to it as “false Judaism,” but quickly deleted the phrase after seeing justifiably angry talkbacks.

I apologize to you and Reform Jews for using both phrases, which I stand by 100 percent but regret having published because it didn’t serve the purpose of performing the mitzvah of “kiruv” – reaching out to bring Jews closer to Judaism based on beliefs of our first Yid, Avraham.

Although you are not Jewish, at least not yet, you do have a centuries-long history of learned rabbis in your ancestry. You discovered that your great-grandfather was a learned sage.

I find it sad that that some have no qualms about teaching their Kabbalah wares to the Hollywood holies, and that the Reform Movement welcomes with open arms anyone who wants to enter the tribe without learning and understanding the religion from the viewpoint of Orthodoxy.  Judaism has survived and flourished for 3,000 years in the face of attempts to destroy our religion through the same assimilation that the Reform Movement accepts be re-defining the term “Jew.”

Our sages, like your great-grandfather, always have discouraged conversion, which is a serious business and is more than “feeling” Jewish, putting on a tallis, eating gefilte fish and delving into the secrets of Kabbalah without having learned Torah.

I had no intention of discouraging you. That is not my business.

I do have the intention of discouraging conversions that reduce the Torah to nothing more than an interesting book from which one can pick and choose what he wants.

You were raised by an assimilated father and a Christian mother, and that says a lot about what happens to Jews when they do not stick to authentic Judaism, falsely libeled as a “monopoly” of the Orthodox.

As I have written elsewhere, certified medical doctors decide who are legitimate doctors. The same is true in dozens of other professions. I don’t go to an “alternative accountant” or “alternative lawyer.”

I often follow treatments in “alternative medicine,” but I never go to someone who calls himself an ”alternative doctor.”

Gwyneth, I won’t dwell on “instant Judaism” because it will only will cause me to apologize again after another argument readers who either disagree or simple feel I should ”leave you alone” and be happy you are searching for your roots. I really am glad you are doing so, and it would be wonderful if you read some translations of your great-grandfather’s books.

I apologize to you, and readers, whom I have offended.

I wish you a happy and good year and will try to lean more towards Kiruv and less towards mockery.

One other item, Gwyneth. Assuming you convert, and through an Orthodox rabbi, don’t forget your Jewish roots go back further than your centuries of rabbis in our ancestry. Your roots, once you are Jewish, are in Israel.

Reform and Conservative Jews Upset over Plans for Robinson’s Arch

Wednesday, February 26th, 2014

Reform and Conservative Jewish groups are upset with a reported draft agreement that would  put the City of David Foundation in charge of the Western Wall’s Robinson’s Arch area, where they can pray in a women’s minyan with a Torah scroll.

The tentative agreement calls for the government to transfer control of the Jerusalem Archaeological Park and Davidson Center to the City of David Foundation, Haaretz reported. The foundation runs the extremely popular City of David tourist site in Jerusalem’s Old City and works to settle Jews in the Silwan neighborhood, across the road from the entrance to the Western Wall Plaza.

Avoid conflict at the widely-visited area of the Western Wall.

Israeli Conservative movement CEO Yizhar Hess told JTA that the draft agreement concerning the Davidson Center caught non-Orthodox groups by surprise.

“We were negotiating the final details of how it would be managed,” Hess said. “It was never mentioned that the City of David Foundation would be the one to actually run the place.”

Hess said that the Reform and Conservative do not take a stance on the foundation’s political leanings, which they claim are decidedly rightwing, but explained that if implemented, the draft agreement would depart from a compromise on the Western Wall outlined by Jewish Agency for Israel Chairman Natan Sharansky last year. Sharansky’s outline proposed creating a pluralist council to manage the site.

Avigdor Lieberman Warns US Jews ‘You Are Facing a Catastrophe’

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

American Jews are facing nothing less than a demographic catastrophe, Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman asserted on Tuesday in a speech at the Jerusalem meeting of the Conference of Presidents of Major Jewish Organizations.

He quoted recent surveys that show that there are 6.1 million Jews in Israel and slightly less than 5.5 million in the United States, not including those who claim affiliation or identity with Judaism.

Lieberman emphasized that no Jew – whether in the Diaspora or in Israel and whether Reform Conservative or Orthodox – “is illegitimate and should be placed outside of the tent,” but he added. “There is a significant rise in those who have little or no Jewish content in their lives, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish.”

He pointed out, “The intermarriage rate has reached a high of 58% for all Jews, and 71% for non-Orthodox Jews, a huge change from before 1970 when only 17% of Jews intermarried.”

Attachment to Israel is markedly higher among older Jews, with only 32% of respondents under the age of 30 sharing the idea that “caring about Israel as an essential part of what being Jewish means to them.”

Lieberman then put the cards on the table and categorically stated they are stacked against the Diaspora.

“For many years, Israeli officials have called on our brothers and sisters in the Diaspora, like many of you gathered here tonight, to donate your time, energies and funds to Israel,” he said. “However, I turn to you today and say that, while we are enormously and forever grateful for your assistance, we believe it is now time to concentrate on the challenges facing your own communities, especially those emanating from the dangerous trends in the Jewish community demonstrated in the recent survey.”

Lieberman was being kind. He could just as easily have said, “You American Jews sit as armchair generals for Israel, undermine our government’s struggle by deciding how we should deal with the Palestinian Authority and the Arab world while you don’t see that the ground in the Diaspora is crumbling under your feet.”

In more diplomatic language, he said, “Above all discussions on Iran and the Palestinians, your discussions with the Israeli Government and the Jewish Agency should be focused on saving future generations.”

Lieberman stated that education is the key to fighting “assimilation, intermarriage and disengagement” but that “Jewish children are being kept from the Jewish classrooms because of the exorbitant and prohibitive costs of Jewish education in the United States.”

“On my last visit to New York, I met with a Russian Jewish family in Brooklyn,” Lieberman told his audience. “They told me that for their three children to attend good Jewish schools it would cost them around $100,000. They simply could not endure such costs. They are not alone. This situation is being replicated across the Jewish world, whether in the United States, Russia, France, Argentina, or elsewhere. If this situation persists, we will lose another six million Jews in a generation or two.”

He said that most Israeli diplomats abroad shun local Jewish schools and instead send their children to learn at international schools because the standard is higher.

“Sadly this is also reflective of the general Jewish population in places like the United States, where only around 12% of Jewish children attend Jewish schools, and when the Orthodox children are removed from the equation; it drops down to no more than a few per cent,” he added.

Lieberman proposed the creation of a global network of Jewish schools with a superior standard, and he committed the Israeli government to budget $365 million a year in matching funds for the project.

He also is looking forward to massive aliyah “The creation of an international network of Jewish schools is only the first part of my vision,” Lieberman declared. “In addition, my goal is to bring an additional 3.5 million Jews from the Diaspora in the next ten years so that the Jewish population in Israel will exceed 10 million.”

Jews are undoubtedly a major influence in American life, but the number of Jews who are Jewish “in name only” spells a dismal future for the Diaspora.

One of the most self-serving ways to deny the future is to accept the definition of a Jew as anyone who considers himself Jewish. That kind of identity is temporary, at best.

Jewish institutions and organizations maybe boasting larger numbers, but the meaning of Jewish is becoming emptier.

What Lieberman essentially told the Jewish leaders in Jerusalem Tuesday was, “Wake up. It’s later than you think.”

MK Who Excluded Reform Jews from Judaism Was ‘Misunderstood’

Thursday, February 6th, 2014

Reform Jews really are not another religion after all, says Likuid-Beiteinu Knesset Member David Rotem, who claimed on Thursday that his reported remark to the contrary was “misunderstood.

There is no video available to see and hear what MK Rotem, an Orthodox Jew, really said at the Knesset Constitution, Law and Justice Committee that he heads.

He was quoted on Wednesday as having stated, ““The Reform movement is not Jewish … they are another religion,” during a discussion on a bill concerning adoption.

Such comments are par for the course in Israel, where the remark was duly noted as another moment of entertainment for the Israel public between soccer games. The Reform Movement in Israel, of course, was furious, but most secular Israelis have too much respect for Jewish tradition than to consider the Reform idea anything more than a curiosity, if not one of those strange concoctions that could succeed only in the United States and , lest we forget, pre-Nazi Germany.

“I have never said belonging to the Reform Movement makes anyone less Jewish,” Rotem wrote on Facebook Thursday. “While as an Orthodox Jew, I have theological differences with the Reform Movement’s perspective, I maintain the greatest respect for all Jews, regardless of their denomination and background. I apologize for any misunderstanding and all offense generated by the content of my comments yesterday.”

His quick apology was smart, much smarter than his faux pas. Many if not most  Reform Jews indeed are Jews by any definition of the term. But a disturbing number of Reform Jews are far from Jewish under Jewish law, and some of them are even “rabbis.”

The whole question of whether a Reform Jew, or any other person, is  a Jew or not brings into focus the entire problem with the reform Movement, parts of whose theology often appear to be not a stream of Judaism but a stream apart from Judaism.

Like the Biblical Korach, it has decided that their leaders whom they call rabbis can decide just as well as Orthodox Jews who is a Jew and what is Jewish law. It is somewhat like a natural health therapist calling himself a doctor. Why study medicine for six years, and why study Torah for many more years,” when you can take a shortcut through McDonald’s, eat a cheeseburger on the way to Yom Kippur prayers, and call the congregants Jewish because they like being called that?

Regardless of the theological problems with Reform Judaism, Rotem made a big mistake by saying that fellow Jews belong to another religion just because they are Reform.

“I hope that this clarification can generate the necessary debate on how to further unify the Jewish People, both in Israel and the Diaspora, around our shared vital interests and concerns, rather than limiting it to the differences that exist among us,” Rotem added on Facebook.

Israeli politicians like Rotem who are Israeli from top to bottom have no knowledge of the Diaspora. They don’t realize that Jews outside the country, especially in the United States, may be armchair Zionists  if not armchair Jews, but that doesn’t mean they should be shunned as “non-Jews.

The Anti-Defamation League (ADL) called Rotem’s comments, although he later said they were misunderstood, “inappropriate, offensive and unjustified.”

Abraham H. Foxman, ADL National Director, wrote MK Rotem, “We are deeply disturbed by reports of comments attributed to you about the Reform movement ‘not being Jewish.’ Such views are inappropriate, offensive and unjustified. The suggestion that Jews throughout the world who identify with the Reform movement are somehow not a part of the Jewish people is an unacceptable characterization of a proud, highly engaged and committed group of Jews.

“Among many U.S. non-Orthodox Jews, rejectionist rhetoric of this kind fosters divisiveness and feelings of alienation towards elements of Israeli society. As someone who has long been engaged in the issue of Jewish identify, we are surprised and saddened that you expressed these views. For the sake of Jewish unity and in the spirit of the pluralistic ideals of our beloved Israel, we call on you to retract your comments and issue a quick and unequivocal apology for your statements.”

Rotem has apologized, and whether he actually said what was reported makes no difference. The damage was done on two fronts.

He wrongly wrote tens of thousands of Jews out of the pale and he also missed an opportunity to characterize the Reform Movement as one whose roots in the United States are strongly pro-American and blatantly anti-Zionist and which claims an increasingly larger following by redefining the term “Jew.”

Netanyahu Tells Reform Jews that ‘Peace Is not One-Way Street

Sunday, December 15th, 2013

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Union for Reform Judaism Biennial 2013 conference in a video address Sunday, “Peace is not a one-way street. It’s a two-way street” in his efforts for a peaceful solution to the Iranian and Palestinian Authority issues.

He also praised recent efforts to find a compromise solution to interdenominational conflict at the Western Wall and thanked the Reform movement for its efforts to strengthen Jewish identity and American Jews’ connection to Israel.

In large part, the speech repeated the principal points of Netanyahu’s address to the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly last month in Jerusalem. Netanyahu began by reiterating his frequent message that the best way to stop Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons is through maintaining economic sanctions alongside the threat of military attack.

Netanyahu said that Iran’s repression of civil rights at home, as well as its support for terror abroad; belie the friendly diplomatic posture its leaders have struck recently. “It talks the talk, but it walks the walk of death every day,” he said.

Addressing ongoing Israeli-Palestinian peace negotiations, the Prime Minister repeated his call for Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas to recognize Israel as a Jewish state. He also emphasized the need for an agreement that will ensure Israel’s security.

Reform Sell Half of Its HQ to Raise Cash for Youth Programs

Friday, December 13th, 2013

The Union for Reform Judaism has sold off half of its headquarters in New York and is investing $1 million from the proceeds to overhaul its youth programming.

The sale of one of the union’s two floors at its midtown Manhattan headquarters closed on Wednesday; Rabbi Rick Jacobs, the movement’s president, announced the sale in his speech Thursday at the Reform biennial in San Diego. He said $1 million from the sale would be used to supplement major foundation grants awarded to the union to reshape its youth engagement strategies.

Among the new initiatives Jacobs announced are the expansion of the Reform youth movement, NFTY, the National Federation of Temple Youth, to include sixth through eighth graders; a new partnership with the Ruderman Family Foundation to help make Reform institutions more open to people with disabilities; and a deepening of the union’s ties with Hebrew Union College.

Promised Land? Earn $50,000 and Be a Jew in Rural Alabama

Tuesday, October 15th, 2013

Jews are not a common sight in many southern rural towns, such as Dothan, Alabama, but a local businessman Larry Blumberg has a solution.

He has been offering Jews elsewhere $50,000 to move to Dothan to help keep the Jewish community alive. His condition for the grant is that families stay for five years.

His $1 million fund has brought six families with 18 people from New York, Florida and elsewhere, and the once-dying Jewish community now is alive and vibrant.

Now that $900,000 has been paid out to bring Jews to the rural south, the community soon will be on its own to draw more families or reproduce quickly, unless Blumberg has more money to invest in the project.

One of the newcomers is the small city’s new Reform congregational leader, Lynne Goldsmith. She moved from Connecticut to Alabama to lead the reform Temple Emanu-El about a year before the program began and thinks the idea could spread to other towns.

But Dothan is special.

Its name is the Hebrew word in the Book of Genesis (Bereisheit). It is the area where  Joseph’s brothers heeded their sheep before they kidnapped him and threw him into as pit, the event that put into gear the 400-plus year process that resulted in the aliyah of Jews from Egypt to Israel, with a 40-year layover in the Sinai Desert.

What does Dothan have to offer Jews?

It is the peanut capital of Alabama and hosted the National Peanut Festival every year, complete with beauty pageants, agricultural displays, and an arts and crafts show, amusement rides and plenty of non-kosher food stands.

There also is the Press Thornton Future Masters Golf Tournament in Jul and the annual Tri-State Barbecue Festival, pork ribs and all.

Goldsmith told CNN soon after she moved to Dothan “If you need a robust Orthodox community, we don’t have it. But if you want a community where your neighbors are friendly; where people smile at you in the grocery store even if they don’t know you, then Dothan’s for you.

That sounds like Israel.

Maybe Dothan, Alabama is the American Jews “Joseph’s pit,” 400 years before they move to Israel and live in the original Dothan, located in the area of the Jezreel Valley between Beit She’an and Afula

Didn’t Blumberg every think about moving to Israel and offer Jews $50,000 to make aliyah?

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/promised-land-earn-50000-and-be-a-jew-in-rural-alabama/2013/10/15/

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