Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Who is destroying "Jewish unity"?

by Lurker

In the comment thread on the Rotem bill post, an anonymous commenter has been arguing that for the sake of "Jewish unity", the State of Israel ought to accept all Jewish denominations as equally legitimate. Specifically, she is demanding that any person who converted to Judaism through any of these organizations (e.g., the Reform Movement) should be accepted as a Jew for all legal purposes. She accuses the State of Israel of destroying "Jewish unity" by not accepting these converts as Jews.

Since this issue has nothing to do with the Rotem bill (which is the subject of the post in question), but is still a very important point of Jewish public concern, I have decided to respond in a separate post.

For thousands of years, the mainstream of the Jewish people maintained a unified tradition regarding who is regarded as a Jew, based upon matrilineal descent. Then, 27 years ago, the Reform movement -- which itself had come into existence only a few decades earlier -- came along, and decided to unilaterally jettison those traditions, and create their own, new rules. In particular, they decided to dispense with the universally accepted requirement that the mother be Jewish [CCAR, Report of the Committee on Patrilineal Descent, adopted March 15, 1983].

In the exact same way, the Jewish people had millenia-old unified standards for the manner in which a non-Jew may be accepted into the Jewish people. This includes immersion in a mikveh, circumcision for men, and acceptance of mitzvot. Here too, the Reform movement unilaterally decided to jettison all these requirements [CCAR Yearbook 3 (1893), 73–95; American Reform Responsa (ARR), no. 68, at 236–237, which specifies that converts may be admitted "without any initiatory rite, ceremony, or observance whatever".]

Thus, it was the Reform movement, not the Orthodox, who broke ranks with the rest of the Jewish people by unilaterally abandoning all existing rules and standards that the Jewish people had maintained for centuries. To then follow up this unilateral act by demanding that the rest of the Jewish people now accept their own, newly-invented defintion of a "Jew" is outrageous. To make this demand in the name of "Jewish unity" -- after they themselves shattered Jewish unity by discarding the Jewish people's existing standards, and adopting their own, new, private ones in their place -- is the absolute height of hypocrisy.

Suppose that I and some of my friends were to establish our own, new Jewish organization, called the "Lox and Bagels Club". Suppose further that we were to decide to adopt our own, private organizational definition of who we consider to be a Jew: Let's say that we resolve that we consider anyone who likes to eat lox and bagels to be a "Jew". Would we then be within our rights to demand that the State of Israel adopt our new definition for legal purposes?

If your answer is that our hypothetical Jewish organization should have no right to make any such demand, then why is it acceptable for the Reform Movement to do so? Why should the rest of the Jewish people be expected to accept a brand new definition of "Jew" that violates the Jewish people's fundamental religious traditions, and that a new movement simply made up only a few years ago?

Perhaps you think there's a difference between my Lox and Bagels Club and the Reform Movement. Maybe you would argue that the Reform Movement has a large number of members, whereas my Lox and Bagels Club doesn't -- and that the Jewish people should therefore accept the Reform movement's "new Jews", but not the Lox and Bagels Club's "new Jews".

I would draw your attention, then, to the fact that there are other Jewish organizations who are also vying for recognition, and who have a rather sizable membership. For example, there is Messianic Judaism, aka "Jews for Jesus". They, too, have demanded that the State of Israel and the Jewish people accept them as a legitimate Jewish denomination, with the authority to perform conversions. (Their criteria for conversion, not surprisingly, center around the acceptance of Jesus as one's lord and savior.) Should their demands be accepted too, in the name of "Jewish unity"?

Most Jews -- Orthodox, Conservative, and Reform -- would answer: "But that's different! Those people believe in Jesus, so they're not Jews. That's crossing a red line: Jewish tradition has refused to accept Jesus for the last two thousand years! These people can't come along and violate our fundamental religious tradtions, and then demand that we accept them as legitimate!"

Hmm. Sound familiar?



Do you want $25,000?
Buy a raffle ticket for the Yeshiva Chofetz Chaim 2010 Summer Raffle.
Purchases by August 3rd also enter a raffle for a $500 AMEX gift card.

Wherever I am, my blog turns towards Eretz Yisrael טובה הארץ מאד מאד

58 comments:

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
NormanF said...

The point is there are rules to follow. Judaism means nothing without them.

The only authority that can revise conversion standards is the Sanhedrin and it does not exist today.

I suppose I could stand to benefit from Reform's patrilineal standard because I have a Jewish father. But that is completely irrelevant since it would not be fair to those who followed the rules.

And that's important when we seek to discuss what is fair. Reform and Conservative Jews do not have the authority to revise halacha today even if they think it is a good idea. Or people will no longer know what informs the "who is a Jew" question. On that subject there should be no debate.

NormanF said...

Anonymous, Orthodox and haredi Jews do not recognize conversions not performed according to halacha. Every one, including the convert, must follow proper procedure. Your Reform rabbi didn't. That is why an Orthodox rabbi will insist it be done in the proper manner. No one is seeking to discourage conversion. There are people like myself from mixed marriages whom the Jewish people may not want to lose. The greatest rabbis of Jewish history were themselves either converts or the descendants of converts. Its a shame that on Tisha B'Av you had to engage in kinat sinam against your fellow Jews. Try to understand and love them and not go around spreading hate against them. In our age, Jewish unity is an absolutely vital imperative to Jewish survival.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
NormanF said...

If the conversion was done according to halacha, it cannot be annulled later. Once you are a Jew, you are a Jew, period. No rabbi can "cancel" it. Jewish nationality, whether you have by birth or through conversion as far I'm aware, cannot be revoked. And you say you have this issue - you should take it up with a bet din. This is your right as a Jew.

Palestine4ever said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lurker said...

Some anonymous Nazi: I was one of these Reform Jews who you cockroaches don't consider Jewish, so I did one of your racist Orthodox giurs... You Orthodox Jews are the lowest form of human life... We're going to wipe you filthy cockroaches off the face of the earth.
...
Orthodox Jews are a cancer not only on the Jewish people but on the whole world... I am through defending you cockroaches who seek to exterminate or enslave all the gentiles. You are going to pay. You and your children are not going to die of old age.


Fascinating. A Nazi who claims to have converted to Judaism.

NormanF said...

Like you Arabs have any. Name me one contribution you have made to mankind in the past century apart from oil.

We're still waiting.

NormanF said...

Lurker, if he really had an issue with his conversion, he should take it up with a bet din. A Jew would do it and get his day in court. If he is that full of hatred for his fellow Jews, you wonder who taught it to him. I am sure no Orthodox rabbi would.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
NormanF said...

I've never heard of a Jew describing his people in such terms. But anti-Semites do so as a matter of habit. So who taught you the Jew is like a cockroach? Do tell us! I'm sure it wasn't a rabbi!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Kovi said...

lol norman im not really getting the whole you-explaining-this-to-anon-patiently thing. Was it not evident from his first post that he's just a posing nazi/terror sympathizer, most likely even one that we are previously familiar with under a different name? lol I'm really hoping its concerned spectator, back to tell us more about DryNites (tm) disposable adult diapers!

Kovi said...

oh yea also: excellent post. spelled it out plain and clear.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I have to sympathize with the Reform movement. Having a state-sponsored religion is divisive and stupid enough, and tossing out some of the sillier requirements sounds productive. Who knows, maybe "Jews for Jesus" could be good enough one day...

The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

Anon 2:13
Tisha B'Av barely 4 hours behind you and laying it on thick with the Sinat Chinam. Not exactly a credit to EITHER rabbi who oversaw your conversions.

________

In the exact same way, the Jewish people had millenia-old unified standards for the manner in which a non-Jew may be accepted into the Jewish people. This includes immersion in a mikveh, circumcision for men, and acceptance of mitzvot. Here too, the Reform movement unilaterally decided to jettison all these requirements [CCAR Yearbook 3 (1893), 73–95; American Reform Responsa (ARR), no. 68, at 236–237, which specifies that converts may be admitted "without any initiatory rite, ceremony, or observance whatever".]

Lurker,

There's this tough thing about Reform Judaism . . . The fact that it does not REQUIRE halachic conformance does not mean that an individual Reform Rabbi need exclude it. I know many Reform rabbis who demand of their Giyurim Mikveh, Circumcision, and an acceptance of the yoke of heaven. Now the first two of these are emirically observable (and there is no sense in comparing Mikveh to baptism, or whatever 'messianics" when it generally takes place under Orthodox auspices with traditional requirements fulfilled). Now as to the matter of the Yoke of Heaven, things get a lot stickier. The problem that this bill was drafted to combat emerged as a consequence of two problems, the first is that a Chareidi's subjective interpretation of what this means was in conflict with R' Druckman's subjective interpretation of what this means. The second is the idea that a conversion can be anulled on the mere basis of that interpretation.

I think the Rotem bill is well intentioned and goes to great lengths to repair problems of process, but where it fails is that even within orthodoxy, "Jewish Law" remains a vague term. What we American Liberal Jews see in this bill is a mechanism by which everything depends on the Chief Rabbi's understanding. If the Chief Rabbi is of MO/Dati Leumi kind of Haskafah or if he is more like Elyashiv can determine the outcome of the process. (The Rabbanut/Badatz kashrut comment on the other thread illuminates this). Now, MK's aren't poskenim, but nonetheless, one could hope for a bill which sets limits on how machmir one must be not to be at risk.

The back of the hill said...

some of them only shower once a week right before Shabbat

Good lord, how very European of them! I remember being appalled by the stench of Euries for several years while living there - occasionally they would dab at their pits and crotch with a wet hanky, or wipe their faces and hands - but, by and large, Europeans did not wash more than once a week, and many did not wash until you could see the filth. Probably had something to do with the lack of central heating and efficient indoor plumbing in most of the country districts.......

We were the first family in that town to have both central heating and hot and cold running water. The natives thought we were decadent. Filthy bastards.

The parish priest, before he retired, devoted an entire sermon to "the coddling of the flesh evinced by that new family". We heard all about it later.

He was a real old-school seminarian. The town improved immeasurably after his retirement.

Someone who has had it up to here (lower lip) with the Jews said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

Jameel,

Can you track IP Addresses on the comment threads? A lot of countries have laws on the books against making some of the utterances I'm seeing from anonymous posters here.

Concerned Spectator said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
NormanF said...

A nazi accusing Jews of being Nazis and obsessed with "racial purity." And the rest of it is very childish. I'm sure this is not what Lurker intended by a rational debate on conversion. There it began and immediately went downhill!

Oy vey!

jono39 said...

While I am not an ardent defender of Reform you are describing a caricature of their reality. Retaining the Orthodox approach to conversion and recognition will turn the Jewish people into a caricature of Islam. We need an openhearted and even-handed approach to Jewish life, encouraging people to join us because Jewish practice rooted in Tanakh is powerful, moving, equalitarian. Defending the Orthodox power grab is self-defeating and demeaning.

DittoKing said...

What we American Liberal Jews see in this bill is a mechanism by which everything depends on the Chief Rabbi's understanding. If the Chief Rabbi is of MO/Dati Leumi kind of Haskafah or if he is more like Elyashiv can determine the outcome of the process.

Sort of like if the US somehow ended up with a radical socialist as president who wanted to redistribute wealth, nationalize private banks, insurance firms and corporations, not to mention, socialize medical care, insert government intervention into even the smallest private transaction, and replace job creation with extended unemployment benefits (welfare)...


Oh.

DittoKing said...

We're going to have to start calling your blog "the voice of reason"

NormanF said...

You know why JoeSettler had to do it. People sometimes show us who they really are and its not pleasant - I mean when one is a troll.

Good riddance!

Nachum said...

A few points:

1. I don't have much sympathy for Reform and Conservatives in Israel. They could be demanding total separation of "synagogue and state." Instead (perhaps because they're left-wingers) they merely want a piece of the pie.

2. A dirty little secret: Conservatives don't recognize Reform conversions. But they're willing to ignore that, for political reasons.

3. Another dirty little secret: "patrilineal descent" actually means "if either parent is Jewish *and* you want to be." Thus, Reform doesn't recognize as Jewish people that Orthodoxy does. But probably nobody makes a big deal because the people affected don't care.

4. The real issue here is non-halakhically-Jewish olim from Russia, who aren't champing at the bit to convert with a non-Orthodox rabbi. Reform and Conservative are just making political hay out of this.

5. More political hay is somehow threatening Israel, at a time of such danger to it, of a loss of support from American Jews over something that's been around since 1948. Another dirty little secret: Most non-Orthodox American Jews (again, the leftism thing) don't really care about Israel or have actual negative feelings towards it, and recognition of non-Orthodox conversions won't really change anything. Oh, and most American Jews are neither Reform or Conservative anyway: It's about 50% unaffiliated (if you press them, they may give "Reform" or "Conservative" for various reasons, but it's just not true), 20% each Reform and Conservative, 10% Orthodox. All of a sudden, the non-Orthodox movements don't look so big, and Orthodoxy not so small, eh?

NormanF said...

I suppose not. I am a Jew by Reform's criteria but am a non-Jew by every one else's. So what would happen under the Rotem bill stand to affect me personally? No, it wouldn't. It doesn't affect any Jew's status in American life. Again, I fail to see for the life of me how the uproar over it (seeing that Israeli law has no practical effect abroad) really affects the unity of the Jewish people.

The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

A dirty little secret: Conservatives don't recognize Reform conversions.

Another dirty little secret - in some cities, Reform and Conservative rabbis work together to establish conversion procedures that will be acceptable to both streams. ;)

Jameel @ The Muqata said...

Reform Baal Teshuva: And you didn't know that Israel is trying to do the same thing here, with Reform, Conservative and Orthodox TOGETHER working on a conversion procedure?

btw - I appreciate your comments here, they add a lot to the discussion!

Anonymous said...

One thing that you decline to mention is tha the vast majority of americ an jews identify as reform or conversative which makes your jews for jesus or bagel club comparison inappropriate

Anonymous said...

The vast majority are secular non-observant. Of those many do go to a temple twice a year and send their often gentile kids to the bnai mitzvah mills.
of those subset of non observant maybe 1-5% are actually observant of the reform/conservative "halacha" -l'havdil".
There are likely more "frum" messianics than "frum" reform

Lee Smith said...

I have to agree that the Reform movement did a horrendous disservice to the Jewish people by allowing Patralinial lineage -- as damaging to the Jewish people as the Haredi approach. What is needed is to lock leading Orthodox, Conservative, Reform and Reconstructionist Rabbis in a room and not let them come out until they have come up with a common approach to conversion that all movements can agree to and respect. It may take a few decades (maybe add, no shaving so all will have long and respectable Rabbinic beards for the group picture when they come out) but until then all movements should agree to a moratorium on unilateral decisions.

michal said...

It's worth pointing out that only the American Reform Movement (granted, representing a huge percentage of people) accept patrilineal descent. The Liberal Movement (Reform Judaism in the UK and elsewhere) does not.

While halachic conversion is important, there is room within halacha for leniency, and I share the concern that this bill could lead to religious strictures that disenfranchise thousands of genuine gerim, in ways that could alienate them that reek of chillul hashem. To pretend otherwise in the face of the fact that there are only a handful of American Orthodox rabbis who are on the RCA/ Israeli "approved" list to perform conversions (including one prominent rav who is somehow on the approved list but does not even participate in conversions, so clearly the list is politically rather than halachically motivated) is incredibly short-sighted.

This is probably the first time in history (certainly in modern history) that there are significant numbers non-Jews actively choosing to become Jewish out of love for Torah. That Judaism and Jews are no longer so vilified that becoming one of us is seen as an acceptable choice. There has to be a middle way. Am Yisroel only gets stronger when we welcome the people who truly wish to join us.

Amihai said...

Michal,
you should not forget that we DON'T want people to join us. We want to teach them. To be a light among the nations - not to "light" them.
If they truly love the Torah, they should start by applying the bne noah' laws.
We can't and certainly shouldn't accept everyone because they want to join us.

I have nothing against converts (my own mother is a convert !) but in the same time, judaism is not proselyte at all.
Nonetheless, reforms act as if it was the case.
In my opinion, this is the fastest way to be like islam.

The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

And you didn't know that Israel is trying to do the same thing here, with Reform, Conservative and Orthodox TOGETHER working on a conversion procedure?

I would like details on this, if you have a link.

btw - I appreciate your comments here, they add a lot to the discussion!

And I appreciate your attention to the Signal/Noise ration on the thread, thank you for attending to that.

JoeSettler said...

It was the National Conversion Authority headed by Rabbi Druckman

http://www.jewishmediaresources.com/956/a-new-conversion-scandal

The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

I can always count on you, Joe.;)

Jameel used the present tense, so I assume there is something happening that is not as defunct as Druckman's career. I was hoping for info on that.

Anonymous said...

Firstly, the Reform Movement is well over over 100 years old and if you judge by some of the changes implemented in Germany circa 1810-1820 you might say that the roots of the movement are over 200 years old. I agree that they have made changes to the standard of conversion but they are merely following in the footsteps of Hillel (whose school we are all supposed to follow). If you decide to look at Mishne Torah or Shulchan Aruch or other Acharonim you will notice that there is considerable room for leniency in conversions. There is for example, no requirement that a convert keep all of the mitzvot or even know all the mitzvot. Rather the bar is set very low indeed.

Rambam states (Issurei Biah 13:17): "A proselyte who was not examined [as to his motives] or who was not informed of the mitzvoth and their punishments, and he was circumcised and immersed in the presence of three laymen-is a proselyte. Even if it is known that he converted for some ulterior motive, once he has been circumcised and immersed he has left the status of being a non-Jew and we suspect him until his righteousness is clarified. Even if he recanted and worshipped idols, he is [considered] a Jewish apostate; if he betroths a Jewish woman according to halakha, they are betrothed; and an article he lost must be returned to him as to any other Jew. Having immersed, he is a Jew."

Your statement that there was a broad agreement that "acceptance of the mitzvah" has always been a central feature of Giur is simply not true.

Ironically, the fact is that the Reform Movement is older than the trend towards stringency in conversion.

Anonymous said...

Could you read for us what the Rambam states in Issurei Biah 13:4 about acceptence of the mitzvoth as an a priori for conversion?

Or Issurei Biah 13:12 where acceptance of the mitzvoth is clearly stated as the first step?

Or Issurei Biah 13:15 about not accepting Geirim during a period where it is clear they most likely have other motivations?

Or Issurei Biah 13:18?

Anonymous said...

13:4
Similarly, for [all] future generations, when a gentile desires to enter into the covenant, take shelter under the wings of the Divine presence, and accept the yoke of the Torah, he must undergo circumcision, immersion, and the offering of a sacrifice.

13:12
When a servant is freed, he must immerse himself a second time in the presence of three men during the day, for through this act, his conversion is completed and [his status] becomes that of a Jew. It is not necessary for him to accept the mitzvot and [for the judges] to inform him of the fundamentals of the faith, for they already informed him when he immersed himself for the sake of servitude.

13:15
For this reason, the court did not accept converts throughout the reign of David and Solomon. In David's time, [they feared] that they sought to convert because of fear and in Solomon's time, [they feared] that they were motivated by the sovereignty, prosperity, and eminence which Israel enjoyed. [They refrained from accepting such converts, because] a gentile who seeks to convert because of the vanities of this [material] world is not a righteous convert.

Nevertheless, there were many people who converted in the presence of ordinary people during the era of David and Solomon. The Supreme Sanhedrin would view them with skepticism. Since they immersed themselves, they would not reject them, but they would not draw them close until they saw what the outcome would be.

Anonymous said...

Could you read for us what the Rambam states in Issurei Biah 13:4 about acceptence of the mitzvoth as an a priori for conversion?

Yes, Issurei Biah 13:4 states the following "To become a proselyte one must undergo immersion and (for a man) circumcision, and when the Temple exists, bring a burnt-offering. When a person wishes to become a proselyte an inquiry is conducted to make certain that he is not doing it for ulterior motives. He is then warned about the difficulty of observing the Torah; if he persists in spite of this he is accepted."

Nothing about agreeing to accept all the Mitzvoth. Rambam was meticulous, he could easily have formulated this so that it says what you believe it to mean. He didnt say it therefore he didnt mean it that way.

Or Issurei Biah 13:12 where acceptance of the mitzvoth is clearly stated as the first step?

Or Issurei Biah 13:15 about not accepting Geirim during a period where it is clear they most likely have other motivations?

It doesnt say that anywhere. What it does say is "Whenever any of the gentiles convert and accept all of the mitzvot in the Torah44 or a servant is freed,45 they are considered as Jews with regard to all matters". It never states that it is a precondition of conversion.


Or Issurei Biah 13:18?

Doesnt deal with this issue.

Anonymous said...

For me the bottom line is that there are many individuals that are Halachically Jewish but not observant. It is crystal clear that they remain Jewish so it is also crystal clear that degree of observance post conversion cannot be the bar since it would effectively be setting up a two tiered version of Judaism, one for Converts and one for Natural Born Jews. The way out of this is simple; when someone chooses to convert to Judaism and are converted they take upon themselves the responsibility of adhering to the Torah. Let God be the judge of them and not other people. That is the way of humility, it must be the way of Torah.

Just because the reality of the situation is that the Jewish people seem to be unable to learn the cardinal lesson that it is vital to love ones fellow Jew, does not mean that it is not the ideal to do so. In some sense, the constant insistence on holding others to higher standards of observance betrays a lack of faith in Hashem. True faith holds that there is a God above who will judge each and every human being. We need not step into his shoes (nor are we capable of doing so). If someone who is Halachically Jewish by birth or becomes one through conversion chooses not observe one or many of the Mitzvot, it is for God to judge. By setting ourselves up as the arbiter of what is and what isnt proper service or "for the sake of heaven" we act as if we don't believe that there is a God who will take these things into account. Yes, Rambam said that we must rebuke one who does not follow the law, but he specified that it be a personal rebuke made with love, not the kind of blanket dismissal of whole classes of people without any knowledge of their personal struggle.

Is it naive to believe that God above can handle the job? Perhaps it is. It is the essence of faith nonetheless.

Anonymous said...

The Rambam was meticulous with his words - your English translation is not. It's missing entire sentences. It has carelessly mistranslated entire sentences. This is how you have reached your erroneous conclusions.

Try this translation, it's far more faithful to the actual wording of the Rambam.

http://www.chabad.org/library/article_cdo/aid/960661/jewish/Chapter-Thirteen.htm


Oh, and "Lo bashamayim hee". It is our job to be arbiters.

Anonymous said...

"Try this translation, it's far more faithful to the actual wording of the Rambam."

I used that translation exactly!!! My reading is correct.

Let me point out Halacha 17 as written:

"When a court did not check a [potential] converts background and did not inform him of the mitzvot41 and the punishment for [the failure to observe] the mitzvot and he circumcised himself and immersed in the presence of three ordinary people, he is a convert. Even if it is discovered that he converted for an ulterior motive, since he circumcised himself and converted, he has departed from the category of gentiles and we view him with skepticism until his righteousness is revealed.

Even if afterwards, [the convert] worships false deities, he is like an apostate Jew. [If he] consecrates [a woman,] the consecration is valid,42 and it is a mitzvah to return his lost object.43 For since he immersed himself he became a Jew. For this reason,44Samson and Solomon maintained their wives even though their inner feelings45 were revealed."

Seems pretty black letter to me, and from your very own source.

As for it being our job to to be arbiters, I don't think you are arguing for a subjective reading of the sources are you?

Anonymous said...

As a side point, there have been Reform Rabbis who have actually said that belief in Jesus should not be a problem and Messianic Judaism is just as legitimate as Reform. So yes it has gone that far.

The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

Anon 1:13, what is your source for your aside?

The Reform Baal Teshuvah said...

Some reosources:

American Reform guidelines for conversion may be found at:

http://data.ccarnet.org/glgerim7.html


As for Patrilineage see

http://data.ccarnet.org/cgi-bin/resodisp.pl?file=mm&year=1983

Hopefully, possession of the actual documents will increase the light and reduce the heat of the discourse.

Sabba Hillel said...

I think that you might find this post interesting as a comment on your post and the various comments here. It gives a good analogy.

http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2010/07/clem-kadiddlehopper-and-conversion.html

Sabba Hillel said...

To the Anonymous who quoted the Rambam. I should point out that the conversion spoken of is before a valid bais din and before people who themselves still keep the Torah. There was no such thing in his day as "Reform". The closest thing would be to consider what he would have said if the "converting" group had been apikorsim (I do not like the translation "heretics" - anyone with a better word?) who told him that he did not have to keep the mitzvos. The main point being made is that the Reform statement that the mitzvos are optional would annul the conversion at the beginning. The Rambam is speaking about a case in which the convert agreed to keep the mitzvos and then reneged. That is a completely different case.

Anonymous said...

Saba. The conversion spoken of by Rambam is by a valid beit din which can be made of three observant laymen (one of whom is knowledgeable about the laws of conversion). This is a far cry from today where we have a panel of Rabbi's who see their sole job as enforcing Jewish purity. In other words, according to Rambam we can entrust this task to ordinary people who may be inclined more towards compassion and less towards drawing lines in the sand. There is no ideological purity test of the members of that Beit Din.

They can be lenient or stringent.
They are supposed to use their best judgment based upon their understanding of the laws of conversion and their life experience. The critical point is that once they have spoken the conversion is irrevocable.

NormanF said...

A conversion is irrevocable even if it later discovered there is a mistake in how the conversion was performed. Once a person has become a Jew, it cannot be undone. And whatever the flaws of the process undertaken to admit a convert to Israel may have been, the rest then is between him and G-d.

Sammy Finkelman said...

The claim of the Reform movement that I've read, is that they are the majority - therefore the person who objects to their standards for Judaism is the person who is interfering with Jewish unity. So this is the point that needs to be addressed.

Sometimes this carries with a mild or not do mild threat that there will be a lot fewer supporters of Israel in the United States.

Michal said...

Amihai -

I could not disagree more. We do not seek converts and we do not encourage them. But that is not the same as "we DON'T want people to join us." As the son of a convert, you should understand this distinction - it is one thing not to be recruited or sought out. It is another thing entirely to be told you are unwelcome or unwanted.

That is sinat chinam in the simplest possible terms.

Jack said...

Frankly much of the debate over this is moronic and not solely based upon halacha but power.

Feeble minded idiots argue over who is a Jew while our enemies slaughter us with glee.

We can go back and forth about this narishkeit or we can get beyond it.

Friar Yid said...

I think the big issue is not whether Orthodox Jews or rabbis recognize non-Orthodox rabbis or converts as legitimate, but whether Israel, which purports to be the homeland of, and for, all Jews, is going to have an open government policy on Jewishness, or continue to support the Orthodox monopoly over the state.

I have yet to hear a convincing argument as to why Israel cannot create civil marriages and separate someone's legal status as a Jew vis-a-vis the state from one's halachic status. If members of the frum community don't want to count Reform converts in their minyanim or let them marry their daughters, so be it. But the state should not be doing their dirty work for them by keeping them in legal limbo.

And yes, I would potentially extend this argument even to Messianic Jews. If they are loyal Israelis and support Israel as a Jewish state, the STATE should not give a fig as to whether they are atheists, Christians, or something in between. If the rabbis want to care, that's their prerogative. But there is no reason to give Orthodox opinion legal backing, particularly when a large majority of world Jewry is not Orthodox.

Anonymous said...

Friar Yid:

1. The "monopoly" you speak of over the definition of Jews is generally accepted by about 80% of Israel's Jewish population.

2. Civil Marriages will happen in Israel at some point; the same party that is pushing the conversion bill is also pushing for civil marriages.

3. Reform Judaism split from mainstream Judaism by accepting patralineal descent, so saying "All Jews" must be accepted by Israel is simply your own view, not that of the vast majority of Israels.

4. Messianic Jews are Christians. You can call them Jews all you want, but that doesn't make them Jews...and again, Israelis recognize that.

What people fail to realize is that "secular" Israel is not a denomination like Reform Judaism -- being "secular" it is the absence of religious practice. They don't want to pray in Reform Temples...they don't want to pray.

When they do, 80% want to go to an Orthodox shul.

Search the Muqata

Loading...

LinkWithin

Related Posts with Thumbnails