|Volume 6 Number 53||Thu Oct 3 23:55:15 US/Pacific 1996|
From: Simon L. Klein <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Wed, 2 Oct 1996 07:04:52 -0500 Subject: Building a Succah? My wife and I enjoyed reading about others' succahs. She has asked that I write about ours. We live in a townhouse condominium in New England that has a rear deck about 6' x 7.5'. Following regulations, we successfully asked permission to erect our succah on the back deck (about the time another resident sued the association in court for permission to fly an American flag). Our succah is built using 2' x 8' wooden lattice panels, strengthened with 1" x 3" wood strips tacked on each edge. Our house forms one end of the succah. The side panels are lashed to the deck railings with cord. The roof panels lay across the tops of the side panels. There are nine panels in all. We decorate with the usual things, including paper chains made by our 6-year-old daughter and corn stalks, plus chile pepper lights found in Tucson and pumpkin lights found locally. Sunday, 18 people clustered in and around our succah for lunch. But most nights we eat around our card table with no more than one family of living guests present. Off season, the panels store easily in our attic. The cost of wood and brads was about $30. And our neighbors stop by to tell us they think it's beautiful.
From: Alana Suskin <email@example.com> Date: Wed, 2 Oct 1996 12:15:18 -0400 (EDT) Subject: Jews of Color OK, I'm going to chance a joke on this subject, just because. A white, AMerican, Jewish guy was in Japan on business. He went to his hotel desk that Friday afternoon to inquire whether there was a synogogue in the area. To his surprise there was. He went to the synogogue and had a wonderful time. Of course, he for the first time felt really at home as this bit of familiarity surrounded him, even in the middle of the unfamiliar faces. At the end of the service, he went up to the rabbi to thank him. The rabbi looked him over carefully, and said it was nice to have guests, but what caused him to come there? THe man was flabbergasted, "Why? Well, it's friday night, and I'm Jewish...." "YOu're Jewish?" said the Japanese rabbi delightedly, "Funny, you don't look Jewish...." Alana Suskin, Mitnaggedet Mama
From: Julius Lester <firstname.lastname@example.org> Date: Thu, 03 Oct 1996 02:32:25 -0400 (EDT) Subject: Re: Jews of Color Jerry Blaz <email@example.com> wrote: > There is an old saw of a story about a Jew discovering that a Black Jew had > joined the congregation and since in his Shtetl in the old country, he had > never seen any, he went up and greeted the new member and made some small > talk, and finally, he said, "I have a question. In this country it is very > difficult for Black people. Isn't it difficult enough, how come you are > also Jewish?" The point being that suffering anti-Black discrimination is > bad in itself, what need have you of the difficulties of being both Black > and Jewish? > > Like many stories that I relate, it is a very old story. However, it points > up the traditional empathy Jews have felt for Black people.... <SNIP> Unfortunately, this is not an old story. I cannot tell you how many times I have had Jews say those very words to me. They say it with a smile; they are well-meaning and they do not realize that their words are insulting. For me their words do not "point up the traditional empathy Jews have felt for Black people". The words point up that they have negative feelings about what it is to be black, i.e. that being black is a problem. The words point up that they also have negative feelings about being Jewish. My response to them is that I never thought being black was a problem. And being an intelligent person, why would I have converted to Judaism if being Jewish was going to make my life more difficult? What is sad is that they do not know for themselves that racism can make life difficult for a black person, but being black is its own special joy. Anti-semitism can make life difficult for a Jew but being Jewish is its own special joy. Being black and Jewish I feel doubly blessed and in no way cursed. Julius Lester firstname.lastname@example.org
From: Chaim Frazer <email@example.com> Date: Thu, 3 Oct 1996 09:02:02 -0400 (EDT) Subject: Jews of Color In Volume 6 Number 52, Jerry Blaz writes regarding three matters: > In the discussion of race, the problem of Orthodox Jews being standoffish >regarding intermarriage of Blacks into Orthodox communities can be analogized >to racism. This is totally and completely false as a characterization of the Orthodox community. As I discussed in my earlier posts, the community as a whole is not in the least "standoffish" regarding marriage to Jews who are "Black" by American social conventions. Rather, a *small* minority would make this one of a number of possible considerations, and only a minority of that minority would make it decisive. Let me put some numbers on this. After wracking my memory, and speaking to several Orthodox Rabbinical leaders with broader knowledge of the community as a whole, we come up with a total of 8 former African Americans that we know. Two are married to each other, which is not surprising as they both converted while being married to each other. Surely, Jerry does not mean to suggest that they should have divorced and sought other marriage partners as a "test case". (This couple is Chassidic, and their older children (who converted with them) are now marrying Chassidim who are Jews by birth who are "white" by American social conventions.) All the other 6 are married to "white" Jews by birth, 5 of them to Jews from Orthodox families, and 1 to a baal teshsuvah (who became observant because his wife insisted on it). The children of some of these have approached marriageable age, and all expect to marry "white" Orthodox Jews by birth as a normal matter of course (just because that's who tends to be around). Two in particular are in "hot demand" as they excel in Talmud study and personal piety. (The same statistical pattern holds for the "white" converts, of whom we collectively know more than 50. As an Israeli note, the late Rav Amram Blau, Rabbinical head of Neturei Karta in Meah Shearim, was married to a French convert.) This is hardly "standoffish", and the implication that a significant portion of the Orthodox community (let alone all of it, as implied in his language "the problem of Orthodox Jews") ignores Halakhic guidelines because of the influence of American non-Jewish racial attitudes is slanderous (although Jerry may not have meant it that way). My original post mentioned that there are some who do have race as a factor in their "hypersensitivity" because I wish to be very careful in this forum to avoid implications of Orthodoxy claiming moral superiority over any other part of Jewry. Thus I felt it important, even vital, to acknowledge flaws within the Orthodox community, even if they have a relatively trivial overall impact. > In the Orthodox community there is also a standoffishness regarding >intermarriage of baalei teshuvah as well. Here the numbers are much larger, and therfore even clearer. Our consultations resulted in our being able to identify several hundred baalei teshuvah. The huge majority of them are married to Orthodox Jews from birth, and those Orthodox Jews from birth span the entire breadth of our social strata (from a Rosh Yeshiva's daughter, to a Chassidic Rebbe's son and heir, to many Rabbis, to professionals and business owners, to the humblest members of our society-and all points in between). There are two apparent "contrary" factors that we did notice. First, couples married to each other at the time that they became Orthodox stay married to each other. Obviously, this is to be applauded, and is in no way due to reluctance to marry them on the part of those Orthodox from birth. Second, the older a person is at the time of becoming observant (especially over 30), the more likely the person is to choose a spouse not Orthodox from birth. We don't have any hard, "scientific" evidence for why this is so, but we suspect that either or both of the following are at work: (1) the fact that most Jews who are Orthodox from birth tend to marry relatively early, (2) issues of transition may be sufficiently important to older persons such that they would prefer to make a marriage with someone who has similar issues in his or her own life. > The Orthodox, when they look for marriage partners for their children, >often become "social climbers" in the sense that they are looking for >families with "yichus" with a genealogy of scholarship, a rabbinical family >-- oh, to be the great-great grand nephew by marriage of such-and-such rabbi. >The girl in question may be dull of wit and drab of appearance, but such a >"yichus" is treasured. "Yichus" (genealogical relationship) is important, but is usually perceived by contemporary Orthodox Jews in its true sense: namely that a prospective mate from a sound family is likely to have inculcated in him or her the character traits and commitment to Torah that will enable the couple to meet successfully life's (and marriage's) challenges to building a sound family of their own. In the case of a prospective spouse showing these characteristics but lacking the type of "yichus" cited in Jerry's anecdote (such as being from a family not always observant or not Jewish by birth), that lack is almost always overlooked. The people that Jerry describes are numerically quite small within Orthodoxy, and shrinking. Jerry also refers to the situation in Israel regarding Ethiopian Jewry, and grossly misunderstands and distorts the positions taken by the Orthodox Rabbinate there. Responding to this would consume more space than appropriate for this post, and might well be appropriate for a separate thread. I have begun a response to those issues as well, and will send it by Private E-Mail to anyone who requests is. In addition, I hope to submit it to the List as a whole as a basis for a separate thread. Chaim Frazer
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (Richard Flom) Date: Wed, 2 Oct 1996 17:13:47 -0700 Subject: Kohanim In Volume 6 Number 52, Art Kamlet wrote: >Many or most conservative authorities go by the rule that all Kohanim today >are safek (doubtful). > >Since we do not know if a Kohen is truly a Kohen, most conservative >authorities will permit a marriage of a Kohen and a convert. There is an important caveat. As I understand it, the better course among Conservative authorities is to require the Kohen to renounce his Kohanut, for himself and his descendants. The Kohen would then no longer be entitled to the first aliyah, to recite bircat hakohanim, to perform a pidyon haben, or any other mitzvah which is Kohen-specific. He would simply become Israel. This would seem to be in keeping with the Gemara in Gittin (I don't have a page reference), which states that a marriage between a Kohen and a woman forbidden to him (divorcee or convert) was not automatically annulled; it was not considered void ab initio. Rather, the Kohen was forbidden from going up to the altar to perform sacrifices or to partake in the Kohanim's portion until he divorced the woman. In a sense, the Kohen himself (then and now) creates a doubt about himself by entering into the prohibited marriage. I would also note that my experience is that men who take their roles as Kohanim seriously are generally highly offended by statements questioning their lineage. Richard A. Flom - Ziegler School of Rabbinic Studies Hillel omer: ...v'al tadin et chaverkho ad shetagiya limkomo...(Avot 2:5)
From: Ruth Levenstein <RuthEllenL@aol.com> Date: Fri, 4 Oct 1996 00:14:06 -0400 Subject: On being an 'Other' Tatjana states: >It is strange, though, that we feel safe inside OUR group, although there are >bad and vicious people there, who could harm us also. This fact has always fascinated me. Unrelated to Judaism I participate in a couple of different hobbies (namely biking and camping) that bring me and my family around others we don't know but who are fellow hobbyists. I am impressed with the extent to which we and others allow ourselves to be vulnerable. (leaving equipment out all day at our site or not locking up the bikes) We have never had anything stolen or otherwise been taken advantage of and have had many helpful exchanges with people. (borrowing equipment, or closing up a "neighbor's" tent when a thunderstorm hits) I realize that this is only possible because people assume they have something in common with the others around them and that leads to a kind of camaraderie that isn't present in other situations. We learned this the hard way by discovering that we couldn't leave ANYTHING unattended while picnicking in some of the nicest city and suburban parks. Related to Judaism, I have had two starkly different experiences as the non-Jewish (but Jewish practicing) spouse in an intermarriage. At one synagogue I feel I was regarded as an "other," like I was someone who needed to be watched or kept in check, definitely not "one of us." If I said or did something that someone didn't agree with or didn't like they would be likely to attribute it to me not being Jewish or if they spoke to me about it they might say, "You wouldn't understand as you were not born Jewish as I was." At my new synagogue I am definitely considered part of the community. It feels safe and comfortable and I don't feel like I have to worry about every little thing I do or say. Robin speaks for me as well when she says: "I love being part of the Jewish community where my similarities to others are more important than my differences. I revel in that feeling of being just like everyone else as much as I celebrate the unique path I took to get there." It fascinates me that people who don't know each other will respond to each other with camaraderie or with suspicion depending on their expectations about what they have in common. I guess this is just the way the world works but I can report it is very painful when you think you are 'one of the crowd' and the crowd thinks you are an 'other.' Ruth Levenstein
From: Your Moderator <email@example.com> Date: Wed, 2 Oct 1996 08:46:42 -0700 Subject: Pikuach Nefesh: Helping to Save Lives A recent submission from Benny Kate <firstname.lastname@example.org> highlights the importance of something everyone can do to help save the lives of others. Benny sent me a reference to a web page appeal for bone marrow doners for Copy Levi, a Jewish child in Teaneck NJ (if you want specifics, you can check out http://www.angelfire.com/pg0/savecoby/index.html). However, I think the appeal should be more general: there are many Jewish individuals looking for bone marrow matches. Social action (from the Liberal Jewish perspective) is more than just being active in the political arena; it is also being active to help individuals in the community. We collect food for food banks, help the homeless, visit AIDS patients, and so on. One of these activities should be a regular registration drive for the National Bone Marrow Registry. The folks who work at your local blood donation center should be able to provide you with more details, or you can contact the registry at 1-800-MARROW2.
From: Emily Grotta <email@example.com> Date: Wed, 2 Oct 1996 12:06:33 -0400 Subject: Press Release: Mideast Peace Summit (UAHC) Rabbi Eric Yoffie has written to President Clinton to express our support for his efforts to resolve the Mid-East crisis. The press release and full text of his letter follows. FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE LARGEST JEWISH ORGANIZATION WRITES PRESIDENT CLINTON IN SUPPORT OF CONVENING MIDDLE EAST PEACE SUMMIT NEW YORK, October 2, 1996 -- Rabbi Eric Yoffie, President of the Union of American Hebrew Congregations, wrote today to President Clinton to underscore the Reform Jewish movement's support for the peace summit now being held in Washington, DC. "We believe that the Middle East Peace Process needs American support," Rabbi Yoffie wrote, adding that "continued progress on the Peace Process is as imperative as it is difficult." In his letter, Rabbi Yoffie also took issue with "those who have suggested that convening the summit is contrary to Israel's best interest," arguing that "convening the summit is acting in Israel's best interest, since she, and the entire region will be best served by peace." The full text of the letter follows: Dear Mr. President, I am writing today, on behalf of the 860 synagogues and 1.5 million congregants of the Reform Jewish movement, to express our firm support for your efforts to bring peace to the Middle East. We know, of course, that the current summit between Middle East leaders has just begun, and that it is too soon to know what results, if any, it will produce. And that is why we are writing now. Regardless of its outcome, we deeply appreciate your leadership--and that of your Administration - on peace process issues. We know that such leadership - and especially the current summit - is not without political risk, but we believe that the Middle East Peace Process needs American support. And we believe that continued progress on the Peace Process is as imperative as it is difficult. There will soon come a time, after the summit, to assess its success or failure. We will, of course, hold our judgment on the substantive results until we can evaluate the summit's accomplishments. But we are dismayed at those who have suggested that convening the summit is contrary to Israel's best interest and, by definition, will lead to "pressuring" Israel. We could not disagree more. We believe that convening the summit is acting in Israel's best interest, since she, and the entire region, will be best served by peace. We recall that the U.S. is a signatory to the Oslo Accords and, therefore, has a special responsibility to act when problems arise in their implementation. Mr. President, in this challenging hour, please know that we are appreciative of your efforts to bring peace to an area which has known all too much war. Respectfully, Rabbi Eric Yoffie cc: Secretary of State Warren Christopher
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