This column by David Breakstone in the JPost has got to be the most completely moronic article I have seen to date on the subject of the Rotem bill:
"Keep Dreaming: When Chelsea wed Marc"
I don't know which part of it I find most offensive:
- Breakstone's nauseating celebration of the Clinton intermarriage as a glorious, shining example of American Jewish assimilation -- a phenomenon that he seems to advocate as an ideal to which we should all aspire.
- His thinly veiled threat in the name of American Reform and Conservative Jewry that they will end their support for Israel unless Israel's democratically elected representatives learn to kowtow to American Jewish demands (instead of serving the needs of their own constituencies).
- His exasperatingly idiotic presentation of "Veronica", his own son's girlfriend, as a case study with which to bash the Rotem bill: "Veronica" -- a halakhicly non-Jewish daughter of Russian olim -- is, in fact, a classic, prototypical type of case which Rotem's bill was directly aimed at solving. Breakstone makes an utter fool of himself by gloating over the defeat of the very bill that would have enabled "Veronica" to convert, and his son to marry her.
After reading that, I almost ignored this other column by Amotz Asa-el that appeared in the same paper a week later. From its title, it sounded like it was going to be yet more of the exact same stupidity. (And to be completely honest, having read other things in the past by Mr. Asa-el, that is what I tended to expect.):
"When Chelsea Clinton met David Rotem"
To my surprise, though, it would appear that Asa-el is one of the few journalists to have written on the subject of the Rotem bill, who took the time to actually read the bill and understand what it is, rather than allowing himself to become caught up in the tsunami of disinformation emanating from the Reform and Conservative movements -- as nearly everyone else (e.g., David Breakstone) has.
A couple of caveats: I am certainly not endorsing all of what Asa-el says in this column. Like Breakstone, he, too, tries to argue that there is a silver lining in the phenomenon of American Jewish intermarriage -- although his argument is not nearly as idiotic and offensive as Breakstone's. And unlike Breakstone, Asa-el certainly doesn't present intermarriage as some sort of messianic ideal that Jews ought to aspire to.
What very much surprised me, though, was that Asa-el explains what the Rotem bill would actually do, rather than regurgitating the ubiquitous nonsense being spouted by American Reform and Conservative Jews, which not only misrepresents the bill, but in fact presents it as the very opposite of what it is.
And he goes even further than that: He argues that the Right Thing To Do for the 300,000 non-Jewish Russian Israelis who wish to convert, is to support the cause of Israeli Modern Orthodoxy against the the haredim who currently control the conversion system in Israel. He explicitly calls upon the Reform and Conservative movements to set aside their petty, selfish politics, and to actively support the Rotem bill:
"American Jews should be equally humble before decrying Israel's handling of its own semi-Jews.Again, I can't say that I support all of what Asa-el has to say here. But I do think that he deserves kudos for having the intellectual honesty and the guts to oppose the pervasive, mindlessly politically-correct groupthink and lies regarding the Rotem bill, and to present it for what it actually is.
"The anguish of some 300,000 partial Jews –- who arrived here voluntarily and have served in the IDF, often gallantly, only to learn they couldn't marry here because of rabbinical nitpicking –- must end.
"...Knesset Law Committee Chairman David Rotem last month introduced a bill that would disabuse prospective converts of the current obligation to convert through the local rabbi [more precisely, the rabbinical courts -- Lurker], no matter how narrow minded he may be, and allow converts instead to shop around the country for lenient rabbis, provided they are part of the Chief Rabbinate. The downside of this [for the non-Orthodox] is that it means formally ruling out Conservative and Reform conversions as options for Israel's semi-Jews; hence the American Jewish outcry.
"The way America's Reform and Conservative movements see it, the battle over conversion in Israel is between Orthodoxy and non-Orthodoxy. Well it isn't. Rather, it's between ultra-Orthodoxy and modern Orthodoxy, and to join this battle, American Jewry must set aside its longer-term agendas and help Israel's modern-Orthodoxy win this battle."
"...ours is... a historically unique moment, one in which thousands who survived a 70-year-long attack on Judaism arrived in our midst. To come to them now with magnifying glasses and make their conversion process a nightmare is not only absurd, inhumane and anti-Israeli, it is also dubious as far as Jewish law itself is concerned, since historically a convert's observance was not reviewed once he converted.
"Here, however, ultra-Orthodox rabbis have revoked modern-Orthodox conversions retroactively, evidently serving ultra-Orthodoxy's sectarian interests, rather than serve the general Jewish interest...
"It would have been nice if Israeli non-Orthodoxy were sizable enough to confront ultra-Orthodoxy’s effort to make 300,000 Israelis Gentile, but the fact is it’s too small. Modern Orthodoxy, by contrast, is sizable, organically planted within the Israeli system, and eager to help Israel's semi-Jews become Jews. What stands in their way is Binyamin Netanyahu's strategic alliance with ultra-Orthodoxy.
"It follows, that on conversion the Jewish nation right now needs a strategic alliance between modern Orthodoxy and non-Orthodoxy. For this to happen, [the] Conservative and Reform movements [must] humbly concede that to reshape the Israeli conversion system they must first get more of their flock to live here. Until then, they would do well to let others handle Igor and Svetlana, while the rest of us leave it for them to handle Chelsea and Marc."
In a letter appearing in this past Friday's New York Times, Israel's Sephardic Chief Rabbi Shlomo Amar chides the American Reform and Conservative movements for their interference in Israel's democratic legislative process, and counters their torrent of canards and disinformation by succinctly describing exactly what the Rotem bill is, and why he supports it:
"The bill, within the framework of Jewish law, would expand the ambit of conversion, prevent the application of unjustified stringencies, and provide more leniency and flexibility in administration. Many Russian Israelis would benefit substantially. In fact, this legislation was proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu -- a secular party -- representing more than a million Russian Israelis."In other words, the Chief Rabbi of Israel is desperately seeking a way to reform and liberalize the existing conversion system -- which is currently controlled solely by the haredi-run rabbinical courts. He wants to wrest control away from those courts, and to thereby allow thousands of secular Russian Israelis to finally convert -- and he is practically pleading with the Reform and Conservative movements to allow this to happen. But the Reform and Conservative movements seem inexplicably hellbent on preventing any such liberalization, and are instead fighting tooth and nail to keep Israeli conversion in the exclusive hands of the haredim.
The irony is practically beyond description.
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