|Volume 6 Number 19||Thu Aug 1 0:10:12 US/Pacific 1996|
From: Your Moderator <email@example.com> Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 21:20:34 -0700 Subject: Administrivia: Intermarriage Discussion in this Issue (v6n19) Note: The bulk of this issue consists of a interchange between Yaakov Menken, Moshe Shulman, and Chaim Frazier. The issue is the extent to which intermarrieds are accepted by Orthodox congregations, and some confusions that arose from Chaim's original posting. Why, you may ask, am I publishing this discussion? After all, this is the LIBERAL Jewish mailing list. Well, Liberal Judaism teaches us to learn about Judaism, and Orthodoxy is one aspect of Judaism about which Liberal Jews often only know stereotypes. I learned a lot reading this discussion--primarily in the extent to which intermarrieds and intermarriages are actually accepted (and the children too, when the mother is Jewish according to Orthodox halacha). Reading postings on soc.culture.jewish, one would believe that any child who intermarries is considered dead by the Orthodox community. In this discussion, I've learned that what we see is not always reflective of the reality. I hope readers of this list explore this discussion with that attitude in mind. Daniel
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Moshe Shulman) Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 15:04:34 -0700 Subject: Intermarriage Julian Yudelson <YUDELSON.JE@a1.rit.edu> writes: >As a member of an Orthodox congregation, I must express my dismay at the >position expressed by Chiam Frazer (July 29) that the child of a Jewish >mother, who's father had not converted "should be barred from formal >membership in Orthodox communal institutions." on the presumption that >Taharat HaMishpacha had been violated. This is a clear expression of the >mentality that would lead to describing the Black Hat yeshiva world as being >guilty of "crimes against Judaism." He speaks for an element who would cast >aspersions on any Jew who does not meet its "holiness code", but he does not >represent the Orthodox world I know. Treating every offspring of an >intermarriage as a mumser (product of an immoral act) is not likely to lead to >increased Jewish commitment and growth. Sorry people I did not see this before. Chaim is 100% wrong. There is NO halachic reason to exclude any Jew who is halachically Jewish from being a member of any Orthodox institution. (The only are of wquestion regards if a Baal Tshuva could be a shochet.) Being a 'ben-niddah' does not cause exclusion for anything. In this case where the mother is the Jewish partner of the intermarriage, the child is Jewish and can take part. (He could even become a Rabbi.) Moshe Shulman email@example.com
From: Yaakov Menken <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 13:51:35 -0400 Subject: Intermarriage In v6n17, Julian Yudelson writes: >As a member of an Orthodox congregation, I must express my dismay at the >position expressed by Chiam Frazer (July 29) that the child of a Jewish >mother, who's father had not converted "should be barred from formal >membership in Orthodox communal institutions." on the presumption that >Taharat HaMishpacha had been violated. This is a clear expression of the >mentality that would lead to describing the Black Hat yeshiva world as being >guilty of "crimes against Judaism." He speaks for an element who would cast >aspersions on any Jew who does not meet its "holiness code", but he does not >represent the Orthodox world I know. Treating every offspring of an >intermarriage as a mumser (product of an immoral act) is not likely to lead >to increased Jewish commitment and growth. I don't know - I think I read the same post, but I still have no idea which brand of Orthodoxy Mr. Frazer represents, nor do I believe that he said what Mr. Yudelson _thinks_ he said. At the outset - lest anyone think otherwise - let me say that the description of a "Black Hat yeshiva world" position and/or attitude offered above is 100% untrue, wrong, off-base, unreal, etc. etc. etc. [add your favorite expression for "wrong" here]. To start at the beginning, the laws of Taharat HaMishpacha apply only to relationships between Jews. There is no violation of Taharat Mishpacha when a Jew and non-Jew have relations! Nor is it correct to assert that any couple that does not observe Taharat HaMishpacha is in _any_ way ineligible for membership in any Orthodox communal institution of which I am aware. All the more so is this untrue for their children. It is also incorrect to state that children of a non-Jewish father and Jewish mother are ineligible, because they are fully Jewish according to Halacha. That is - to the best of my knowledge - the position of the "Black Hat yeshiva world," about which - considering the fedora lying on the empty chair in my office - I believe I can speak with some authority. What _I_ believe Mr. Frazer said was simply that intermarried couples should be "barred" from Orthodox communal institutions. This too is not absolute; I know of one particular man who was very assimilated, but then became very involved with Jewish learning - but has been married to a non-Jewish woman for 30 years. Despite that, he was recently honored for his participation and support by an Orthodox institution (and a "Black Hat" one, at that). His case is hardly unique - it sounds like Robin Cohen Anderson's background is quite similar. What bothers me here is the "rush to judgment," or even more the "rush to condemn." It sounds no different coming from Mr. Yudelson, "a member of an Orthodox congergation," than it did from Reform Rabbi Sherwood. I honestly believe that Mr. Yudelson misunderstood Mr. Frazer. Regardless, nowhere did Mr. Frazer reveal his chosen brand of Orthodoxy, and whenever he stated his impression of the "Orthodox community's general practice," he seemed to make it clear that he was speaking about all of Orthodoxy. So on what basis did Mr. Yudelson decide that his (mis-)understanding of Mr. Frazer's position demonstrated the "mentality" of "the Black Hat yeshiva world" or some subset thereof? Which unique "element" has created a "holiness code" that goes well beyond any conceivable Halachic standard? Who treats "every offspring of an intermarriage as a mumser?" None that I know of... One thing is clear: the needless and groundless defamation of Jewish groups leads only to Sinat Chinam, and is "not likely to lead to increased Jewish commitment and growth." Yaakov Menken
From: Chaim Frazer <76615.3275@CompuServe.COM> Date: 31 Jul 96 20:50:33 EDT Subject: Intermarriage In Volume 6:17, Julian Yudelson writes: >As a member of an Orthodox congregation, I must express my dismay at the >position expressed by Chiam Frazer (July 29) that the child of a Jewish >mother, who's father had not converted "should be barred from formal >membership in Orthodox communal institutions." on the presumption that >Taharat HaMishpacha had been violated. I am even more horrified that Mr. Yudelson rebukes me for something that I did not say, and would never have said. Here is my original text: >Throughout all these endeavors, when we had individuals that violated halacha >(whether in ritual, marital, or business law), we did not and do not condone >that deviance. Rather we have tried to retain the individuals within our >community while hoping that the array of institutions through which their >children would become educated and socialized would reclaim those children >for full observance. In using the term "marital law", I had in mind the well-known fact that many otherwise observant Orthodox Jews do not observe Taharat HaMishpacha (Laws of Family Purity, which govern sexual activity between husband and wife). How has Orthodoxy responded to these people? Exactly as I described above, and I am certain that Mr. Yudelson would agree with that. Robin Cohen Anderson, in a subsequent post reproduced in relevant part below with the heart of my reply to her, assumed that when I used the term "marital law", I was referring to acceptance of intermarried Jews as full members of Orthodox communal organizations. She was puzzled because a few pages later, near the end of my post, I seemed to regard intermarriage as unacceptable as far as full membership in the Orthodox community was concerned. Her feeling, based upon that misunderstanding, was that my earlier description of retaining individuals who violated Halakha contradicted my firm stance against including intermarried individuals as formal members of Orthodox communal institutions. Robin: >>At one point, Mr. Frazer makes clear that the Orthodox community should not >>and would not reject this 1 in 200, saying "Throughout all these endeavors, >>when we had individuals that violated halacha (whether in ritual, marital, or >business law)...we have tried to retain the individuals within our community >>while hoping that the array of institutions through which their children >>would become educated and socialized would reclaim those children for full >>observance." Therefore, the assumption must be that the individual has >>_chosen_ to be "permanently lost" to Judaism because his or her non-Jewish >>spouse does not convert. Me: >Oops! I ambushed myself, inadvertantly, at "Assumption Gap". When I wrote >"marital law", I had in mind specifically Taharat HaMishpacha (usually >translated as "Laws of Family Purity", and governing sexual activity between >husband and wife), and assumed that this would be clear to everyone. In fact, >I do firmly believe that the "1 in 200" in which no conversion occurs should >be barred from formal membership in Orthodox communal institutions, and I >believe that this has been our general practice. Never did it occur to me >that anyone would think my position (or the Orthodox community's general >practice) was otherwise. Please note that the "1 in 200" refers solely to the Jewish adults who intermarry despite coming from Orthodox families and completing both a Jewish Day School and Yeshiva High School education. (Copy of the second section to which Robin referred reproduced from my original.) Me: >We do have losses even now, of course, since all individuals possess free >choice and no network of communal institutions can be effective for every >single person. In terms of intermarriage, the latest statistics show that for >those of our children who go through Yeshiva High Schools, 1% ultimately marry >non-Jews, and about half those eventually result in the conversion of the >non-Jewish spouse. (It should be noted, however, that the majority of Orthodox >converts have no marital considerations when they come to join us.) >Make no mistake, 1 in 100 or (1 in 200) constitutes a genuine tragedy for the >individuals and their families In my reply to Robin, I pointed out the source of the confusion (my original unclarity), and stated that I do firmly believe that participants in an intermarriage should be barred from formal membership in Orthodox institutions, and that this has in fact been our general practice. I still believe that both those statements are true, and am convinced that Mr. Yudelson would agree. Nowhere, in my original post or in the correction note, do I say anything that could be interpreted as barring Jewish CHILDREN of such marriages from full participation and membership in ANY of our communal institutions or organizations (assuming, of course, that the CHILDREN are not themselves intermarried). More to the point, in terms of Mr. Yudelson's post, nowhere do I ever even hint that children of marriages in which Taharat HaMishpacha is not observed (which would include many *Orthodox* families) should be "penalized" or denied ANY right of participation in ANY Orthodox institution or organization. Such a denial would be absolutely contrary to Halakhic practice and values. I am truly mystified and startled that he could possibly have reached the completely erroneous conclusion that I (or anyone else) supported such sanctions, and I fervently hope that no one else erred in similar fashion. For the record, I supervise one of the largest National Council of Synagogue Youth (Orthodox Union Youth Movement) Chapters in the country, am quite familiar with NCSY's Rabbinic guidelines regarding membership, fully agree with and endorse them personally, and follow them scrupulously in carrying out my responsibilities (as do my counterparts throughout the Orthodox Union world in North America). Those guidelines relevant to this discussion are as follows: 1. All Halakhically Jewish children are entitled to participate in all NCSY activities and to be members of all Chapter, Regional, and National NCSY organizations. 2. In cases of a child's doubtful Halakhic status, each case is handled individually, with great discretion, with the goal of being maximally inclusive; paying great attention to the child's and his or her family's sensitivities, comfort, dignity and privacy; and utilizing those Halakhic flexibilities with which the Chapter's local Rav is most comfortable. 3. The Halakhic practice or lack thereof of any of any NCSY Members or Participant's parents or other relatives is totally and completely irrelevant in terms of the child's eligibility to full membership in NCSY and all its constituent bodies, and to the child's right to his or her full comfort and dignity as a Member or Participant. 4. All children, especially those from Non Orthodox families and from intermarriages, shall be taught to fulfill the mitzvot (Biblical and their Rabbinic extensions) of Honoring and Reverencing their parents. I am personally aware of many cases involving "doubtful Halakhic status", constantly have to make and implement decisions regarding them, and can assure all List Members (and anyone else who is interested) that great care is used to make those children and those families, in addition to the children who are unequivocally Jewish in terms of Halakha but whose personal practice (the child's and/or the family's) does not meet usual Orthodox standards, feel personally comfortable and welcomed, as well as formally accepted, to the maximum extent possible. Although I am part of the Orthodox Union framework, List Members and readers should know that the Outreach Youth Movements of Agudat Yisrael (the "Black Hat" Yeshiva World) follow essentially the same Rabbinic guidelines. Here is Mr. Yudelson describing me: >He speaks for an element who would cast aspersions on any Jew who does not >meet its "holiness code", but he does not represent the Orthodox world I >know. Treating every offspring of an intermarriage as a mumser (product of >an immoral act) is not likely to lead to increased Jewish commitment and >growth. I invite all List Members, the Moderator, other Members of the List Editorial Board, and all those who have sent Private E-Mail to me or received it from me to review this post as well as my previous ones in full, and/or my Private E-Mail communications, and to form their own conclusions as to whether I speak for "an element who would cast aspersions on any Jew who does not meet its holiness code'". I have no idea as to what Orthodox world Mr. Yudelson belongs, but I would suggest that if he also reviews this post and all its predecessors in their entirety, he will find that we probably do belong to the same one, or at least to similar ones. For the Halakhic record, a "Mamzer", or Halakhically illegitimate child, is not the product of an immoral act, but the child of two Jewish parents whose sexual liason was one of Biblical incest, or adultery involving a married Jewish woman and a Jewish man not her husband. The following are sometimes INCORRECTLY assumed to be "Mamzerim", but in fact are NOT: 1. A child born to unmarried Jewish parents, but not involving Biblical incest. 2. A child born to a Jewish parent and a non Jewish parent (under any circumstances). 3. A child born to parents prohibited to marry Halakhically, but whose marrriage is nonetheless valid and therefore requires a religious divorce to dissolve. An example would be a male Kohen (member of a priestly family) married to a female divorcee. Since the possibilities of error are endless, the above is not an exclusive list. In actual practice, we utilize every conceivable Halakhic leniency to remove the status of "Mamzer" from any particular person. Many of our greatest and noblest scholars have devoted much time and effort, sometimes whole careers, to finding Halakhically-acceptable methods of doing just that. Finally, a "Mamzer" is fully Jewish (indeed, can only be fully Jewish), and thus eligible to join any of our communal institutions or youth movements on the same basis as any other Jew-and would be welcome anytime in my NCSY Chapter, my synagogue, and my study groups. Chaim Frazer
From: Ruth Heiges <email@example.com> Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 19:15:37 +0300 (IDT) Subject: Liberal Judaism in/and Israel Regarding "Reform and Orthodox", Rabbi Sherwood wrote: > All of us who have discussed this issue have been attentive only to the > situation of Reform Judaism in Israel. In reality, there will be no change > in that situation until after peace is a reality. At the present time, > every Israeli must deal with the overriding issue of survival amid a still > hostile set of nations. Thererefore, religious change is, at present, > necessarily, very low on the Israeli priority scale. As we read in the > Talmud, "Gam zu ya-avor. This too shall pass.", and when it does, we will > have a lot of time and energy to educate the Israelis to the fact that > there is a lot more to religious Judaism than orthodoxy, and that modernism > and Judaism are not in conflict. I find it impossible to accept this stance and fail to see the linkage between the development of Liberal Judaism in Israel and the peace process. Please permit me to make my observations via personal anecdotes. During the late 1980's, when I was handling media relations for the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, I was talking with a journalist whom I'd known for many years during the World Zionist Congress. He knew I'd been raised in the United Synagogue, while he belonged to Poalei Agudat Yisrael (Orthodox movement). This was the congress during which Dick Hirsch (Executive Director of the World Union for Progressive Judaism) was elected to the WZO executive, so the journalist and I were talking about the Reform/Progressive movement on various levels. I asked him whether he preferred my daughter be on the beach on Rosh Hashana or in a Reform synagogue. His reply was (and I believe I remember it 95% verbatim): "You're not going to like my answer. I prefer she be on the beach, because that means there is still hope for her. If she's in a Reform synagogue, then she's lost to the [orthodox] religion." Now, fast-forward about a decade to Tel Aviv during the week after Itzhak Rabin's assassination. Like countless others, I went to the site where he was cut down. Aside from the memories of that horrible experience, which are irrelevant here, I am still haunted and deeply troubled over what I saw there. The media made much of what the young people of Israel did during that week in the square which has been renamed Kikar Rabin. They sang. They wrote grafitti. They lit candles. They made patterns of the memorial candles: Stars of David, peace symbols, flags. They were literally the keepers of the flame. But I saw something else. I saw kids who probably have made great grades in Jewish History, Tanakh and the Oral Tradition, which they learn as subjects like all the others in their secular Israeli schools -- but who didn't know how to pray ... who didn't have to "tools" to express their grief in a spiritually meaningful way. So, they gathered together, often in the rain, and created their own rituals in the absence of religious knowledge and experience. My daughter, by contrast -- the one who wasn't on the beach at Rosh Hashana -- phoned me and asked me what was being done at our synagogue, Beit Daniel. During the past decade, the Liberal streams of Judaism have made great progress in how they are perceived by the Israeli public. This progress has been achieved through the efforts of the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel, via PR, the Supreme Court and growing participation in or exposure to our celebrations and ceremonies; in spite of whichever party was in power and not because of, and without any connection to the peace process. Yes, we have been told by the best and the brightest of the major parties that they would unhesitatingly sell us out for the sake of a coalition (and, in the case of the Labor Party, yes, for the sake of peace). There is no direct linkage, however, between progress in the peace process, or lack thereof, and the advancement of Liberal Judaism in Israel. There is a real thirst among young Israelis for religion. I witnessed this just several months ago at my granddaughter's naming ceremony. Between the young parents' friends and my son-in-law's airforce buddies, most of those attending were in their 20's to early 30's; all sabras and a total mix of Ashkenazi and Sephardi. They were overwhelmed and delighted by our modest ceremony, and we still are fielding phone calls, some five months later, as to how to contact the rabbi (and dealing with the disappointment over the fact that he is not recognized for performing wedding ceremonies). This is only a microcosm of what happens every time Israelis are exposed to Liberal Judaism. Why should we suspend our efforts? Ruth Heige firstname.lastname@example.org
From: Emily Grotta <email@example.com> Date: Wed, 31 Jul 1996 09:20:03 -0400 Subject: Press Release: Court Review of Christian Coalition Activity FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE REFORM JEWISH MOVEMENT LAUDS FEDERAL COURT REVIEW OF CHRISTIAN COALITION POLITICAL ADVOCACY WASHINGTON, July 30, 1996 -- The Commission on Social Action of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations and the Central Conference of American Rabbis, representing 1.5 million Reform Jews and 1700 Reform rabbis throughout North America, today welcomed the decision of the Federal Election Commission to file suit against the Christian Coalition for violating federal election laws by engaging in partisan political activity. Mark J. Pelavin, Associate Director of the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism (RAC), expressed hope that the review will lead to a "much-needed clarification of the legal restrictions on partisan political involvement by religious organizations." Pelavin urged, however, that the Government -- including the IRS, which is conducting a review of the Christian Coalitions tax-exempt status -- proceed with "the utmost respect for the Constitutionally- protected right of religious individuals and organizations to engage in political activity." Rabbi David Saperstein, RAC Director and Counsel, commented that "many in the religious community have had concerns about the Christian Coalitions seemingly partisan political activity." While the Constitution "protects the theoretical rights of religious organizations to endorse specific candidates and parties in partisan activities and elections," Saperstein added, "such involvement tarnishes religion by linking the integrity and morality of religion with that of the candidate it supports and undermines democracy by bringing religious coercion and authoritarianism into the voting booths of our nation." Saperstein also emphasized that "above all, such political activity by religious groups must be done in accordance with the election laws and tax codes of the United States. The Christian Coalition has seemingly forgotten the distinction between the traditional prophetic role of religion in being a moral goad to the conscience of our nation and that of being a booster of one political party." RELIGIOUS ACTION CENTER OF REFORM JUDAISM 2027 Massachusetts Ave., NW Washington, DC 20036 Phone (202) 387- 2800 Fax (202) 667- 9070 Contact: Ian Marinoff or Mark Pelavin (202) 387-2800
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