Non-Orthodox News Round Up – The Israeli Edition

The fine folks over at Mixed Multitudes (yup, its actually their news round up not ours) have done a nice post covering some “current events” from the Masorti and Reform worlds in Israel.

Here’s one of the mentioned stories which I found to be truly “anal” but non the less interesting.

Rabbi Dov Lior, chief rabbi of the West Bank town Kiryat Arba, has issued an edict mandating that Jewish scribes should not sell Torah scrolls, tefilin or mezuzahs to Reform Jews. (Ynet)

What a load of rubbish!

Anyhow you can check out the rest their round up over here.

About the Author

Avi aka TG

Avi is a Jew by choice who converted to Judaism in the spring of 2006 after two years of study and participation in Ottawa’s Jewish community. Although he began his Jewish journey as part of a Reform congregation, he now calls the Conservative movement home. Read More

10 Responses to “ Non-Orthodox News Round Up – The Israeli Edition ”

  1. Sigh. Israeli Judaism absolutely boggles my mind. It’s creating this bubble that is thinks it is impervious. The driving away of the Reform Jewish community is a good way to make Judaism last. Right. How many Reform Jews end up finding their way into Conservative or Orthodox movements? I’d like to see the statistics. But either way, if it’s done here, it isn’t done right. Israeli Judaism, I say again, boggles. My. Mind.


  2. “How many Reform Jews end up finding their way into Conservative and Orthodox movements?”

    Are you saying that the Orthodox driving away the Reform community because they could eventually get those Jews into their community is what they are missing out on?

    How about the fact the Reform Judaism is a legitimate expression of Judaism and that should never be qualified with “well, they may come back to the more authentic Judaism eventually?”

  3. Jenny, you make a good point but I don’t think that’s what ChaviJo meant to say or was suggesting. However, (at least to me) the bottom line is that you are right, Reform is a legitimate expression of Judaism. And despite my own leanings, I think it (Reform) has an important role to play in promoting, a healthy Jewish community.

  4. Jenny, I think Chavivah (and please correct me if I’m wrong!) was trying to say that cutting off the Reform movement will not cause them to turn to Conservative or Orthodox communities, but may cause them to become frustrated enough to wash their hands of the whole affair…which could well harm Judaism’s viability in the future.

    I find it sad that Israeli Orthodoxy would cut off *anyone* who is willing to be a practicing member of the Tribe, Reform or no.

    With this, I must sign off…Shabbat Shalom, all!

  5. Shavua Tov Chaverim!

    Here’s the deal. This is one crackpot rabbi in a settlement. Who cares? There are also rabbis who defend Baruch Goldstein, Yigal Amir, and all kinds of other xenophobic crap. The rabbi of Kiryat Arba has as much influence in my life as does the Professional Bull Riding Association. None.

    Obviously this “ruling” is based on hatred, not ahavat Yisrael. It is a scared little man lashing out against a world he can’t understand. That’s his loss, I guess.

    But one thing I have argued for for a long time is for non-O rabbinical seminaries to provide tracks for sofrut so we needn’t always rely on Orthodox sources for “kosher” ritual objects. The laws of sofrut are not a secret, they can be taught, and if we had our own sofrim, the comment from the rabbi from K.A. would have even less relevance than it does now. Maybe JTS and UJ (ahh heck, and HUC and RRC too) should offer electives in these skills so rabbis who want to develop the ability to write STaM can do so.

    kol tuv,

  6. One more thing. This isn’t “Israeli Judaism.” Israeli Judaism is also the Masorti (Conservative) and Progressive (Reconstructionist and Reform) synagogues in most cities of size. Israeli Judaism is also the warm Orthodoxy of Rabbi David Aaron in Jerusalem, and of the late Rabbi Dovid Zeller, zt”l. It is the Judaism of the Shabbat dinner I enjoyed under the stars with friends after erev Shabbat services in Nahariyah. Israeli Judaism is also Rabbis for Human Rights helping poor Jews and Arabs fight for social justice. Israeli Judaism is not one shmendrick in Kiryat Arba who has nothing better to do than hate Reform Jews. If you have a chance to go to Israel and really see Israeli Judaism for yourself, you’ll see as mixed a bag as we have here, with much warmth and much room for growth. It certainly is not all bad.
    kol tuv,

  7. Ok, last bit without a comment from someone else, I promise ;-)! The following links are for stories about non-Orthodox Torah scribes… while this movement is just beginning, it is an important development for combating the stupidity demonstrated by folks like the Kiryat Arba rabbi.

    kol tuv,

  8. Wow, did this random little newsbyte get YOUR blood pressure up! Calm down, people. Rav Lior’s comment is not likely to be heeded by anyone (and I’m not sure who asked his opinion on this matter in the first place). He is not a spokesperson for Orthodoxy or Israeli Judaism, nor is he “a scared little man” or a “shmendrick.” Let’s leave off the name-calling, can we? Time for another page of the Chafetz Chaim, anyone?

    Rav Lior’s comment, voiced for whatever reason, is consistent with the Orthodox outlook. Reform Jews by birth subscribe to a version of Judaism officially viewed by Orthodoxy as heresy. And Jews by choice who enter via the Reform camp are not halachically Jewish. But you knew that already. So why the fuss?

    The thing that makes me saddest when reading comments like the ones above is the pain and anger that come through them from not being accepted in the Orthodox world. As liberal-movement Jews, you either believe you’re Jewish, or you don’t. If you do, what’s the problem? Rav Lior’s comments should roll off your back. But if you don’t think you’re Jewish unless the Orthodox accept you, you have a crisis of identity. Sitting at the computer and typing vitriolic comments about a silly newsbyte printed completely out of any context (even if the context wouldn’t provide any reassurance!) is a bitul Torah.

    I heartily agree with Yair’s plug for anyone to be able to write a sefer Torah. Writing a sefer Torah is the last mitzvah in the Torah, and there is a tradition that for major life events (such as being saved from certain death) or to commemorate someone, one writes a sefer Torah. Many choose to pay to have someone else write it, but imagine the experience of completing this mitzvah yourself! This means learning the skills, putting in the time, and coming out at the end with a glorious holy object. And anyone can do it.

    Please don’t read isolated tidbits like this and use them as a jumping-off point to bash Orthodoxy, Israeli rabbis, or the settlements. It’s unproductive, violates the laws of speech, and MUST be bad for your health. Find ways to appreciate Judaism by educating yourselves, delving into new experiences, and building yourselves and your community.

  9. Shimshonit:

    You bring up some valid points and for the most part I agree with you. Also just as an FYI, I for one am well beyond needing Orthodox validation. Of course having said that there was a time when I wasn’t so confidant. I going to assume that your comments are more aimed at some others and not so much at me or the original post. Having said that let me clarify a little on why I included this one snipit of info, as well as the purpose of the post. First off, I really just meant to FYI our readers about (what I thought would be interesting) news from Israel. Secondly I didn’t want to copy and paste the entire MM post, so I just picked one little tidbit to give people an idea of what was on the other blog. I as for me calling it anal, what can I say, I think it was. I agree (with you) and can even accept that (some of ) Orthodoxy really doesn’t like the Reform/Conservative movements. However, I think it’s wrong and short sighted to push “bans” and more importantly it is unnecessary, because there is room for both tolerance and even (in some cases) cooperation (and I believe Rabbi Hartman would agree) between the denominations.

    Take for example the bris I attended yesterday with my wife at a local Conservative Shul. I watched an Orthodox Rabbi/Mohel perform the old snip, snip on a baby born of two conservative converts at
    a ceremony led by a Female Rabbi who is herself a JBC. He even referred to her (the Rabbi) as “Rabbi” during the ceremony. Add to this that I was one of the few “Jews” at the event and so drafted as the guy who was to feed the baby some wine (presumably because I am a Jew in good standing, at least by conservative standards). I’m not suggesting that I, the parents, the baby, or even the Conservative Rabbi are ever going to count as part of a minyan at the Mohel ‘s shul, but this (IMO) shows that there is indeed room for tolerance on the part of Orthodoxy and that bans like the one described in the post above, are not the only way to go.

    Hope that makes sense.

    Ultimately you are right, this one rabbi is not representative of all of Orthodoxy, but in all fairness, we do hear more stories about these anti-non-orthodox rabbis and their shenanigans than we ever seem to hear about people like, the Mohel I mentioned above. And thats in part why, I think non-orthodox Jews (sometimes) seem frustrated and are prone to knee-jerk reactions. Not that this is an excuse but it must play a role.

    Be well.

  10. Shimshonit,

    Ok, calling Rabbi Lior a schmendrick was a little off base, so I apologize. I shouldn’t have. That was lashon hara. Thanks for reminding me… kol Yisrael areivim zeh l’zeh. But I still think his ruling is fear-based, and irresponsible.

    I couldn’t help noticing that you may have missed some of my points. I argued that Rav Lior IS NOT the face of Israeli Judaism or Orthodoxy. I was defending both from the impression in a previous comment that he is a stand in for either of those. I didn’t say anything negative about the settlements, just that the opinion of the Rav of a settlement has no authority over me as an American Jew. Maybe if I lived in Kiryat Arba I’d be affected, but not here.

    His ruling was reactionary (so was my response… hmmm…) though, don’t you think? Reform Jews shouldn’t fulfill ANY mitzvah, because they are heretics to him? A Reform Jew is not able to fulfill the mitzvah of tefillin without kosher tefillin, and Rav Lior clearly thinks they shouldn’t have access to them. Philosophically that is no different than refusing to sell Shabbat candles, mezuzot, sifrei Torah, or kosher food to any Jew that isn’t Orthodox. I can’t ever respect that idea, no matter whose authority it is given in. It’s just divisive and nobody who stands by it can claim concern for every Jew, only for every Jew like them.

    You mentioned (in paraphrase :)) that a non-Orthodox convert should either a) recognize we don’t count for Rav Lior and be fine with that, and anything he says, or b) realize we have an identity problem. This suggestion seems to assume a couple of things which I think are false, and I will write briefly about them below:
    1) Everyone who wants to convert to Judaism has the option of an Orthodox conversion, so in effect, non-Orthodox converts openly choose to be rejected.
    2) Non-Orthodox converts are not impacted in any way by their rejection by most of Orthodoxy

    This issue does touch a nerve for me for several reasons. Like many converts, I lost a LOT when I converted: relationships with close friends, family members, and much of my former identity. I knew what I was getting in to, and for me, it was worth it: I was at Sinai, as I’ve written before, and so I really was coming home. And yet the fact that my Jewishness is openly rejected (and lets face it, often mocked) by most of Orthodoxy – which I respect very much – is a bitter pill to swallow sometimes. Letting it “roll off my back” is very difficult, because, frankly, I very much admire the seriousness and openness of Modern Orthodoxy (of the Yeshivat Chovevei Torah / Rav Avi Weiss / Rav Yitz Greenburg / Rav David Hartman variety). Anyway, I am happy to get in to more detail with you via email if you want, but suffice it to say it isn’t always a black and white (:-)) choice between Orthodoxy or non-Orthodoxy for converts, and it certainly wasn’t in my own experience…

    Non-Orthodox Jews are VERY much impacted by Orthodox rejection, and most especially in Israel. The power to deny Jewish identity is an enormous one (really, think about the importance of your Jewish identity to you), and it gets wielded with total disregard for the consequences by some people within the Orthodox world. As I wrote about above, this ruling by Rav Lior, if carried out to its logical conclusion, would mean no non-Orthodox Jew would be able to do really ANYTHING requiring kosher Judaica/food, etc… what are the consequences of such a reality? Certainly it would suffice for the Rav to simply forbid his sons to marry my daughters, and to not count me in a minyan. Why does he need to deny me (or, for literal accuracy, others like me) the ability to live a Jewish life? How does my laying tefillin hurt him? Worst case scenario for him, I’m a goy laying tefillin, but since tefillin are one of the signs of the Covenant, and the Covenant is between G-d and Israel, wouldn’t G-d know I’m not “really” part of the deal? Is he worried I’ll confuse G-d, God forbid? But his ruling was about ALL non-Orthodox Jews, not just coverts, meaning he is depriving those he even considers Jews the ability to perform mitzvot. I just can’t imagine what, other than knee-jerk hatred for non-Orthodox Judaism, is driving his ruling, and I it seems that this may be taking a more important place than ahavat Yisrael in his estimation.

    Anyway, I’m happy to continue in greater detail via email if you want, as I am not sure more of this on the discussion board is necessary. Thanks again for the reminder, I’ll try to remember that in the future when I am writing while frustrated. Hopefully some of my arguments here make sense.

    BTW, I think your points about writing the Sefer Torah were great! I like to do Hebrew calligraphy now, but as much as the idea of writing my own Torah is appealing, I would be mortified to approach that task without some serious training… such holy work. Maybe some day…

    kol tuv,

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