Tuesday, July 13, 2010

A Draft Conversion Law

Bryan asks me if there's anything to tell about MK David Rotem's proposed law to sort out the issues of conversion to Judaism in Israel. This is a fiendishly complicated story that has been festering since the early 1950s at latest, and will continue to fester well beyond the late 2050s, there's no doubt about it. The story is an expression of the unresolved issue of Jewish identity: an issue which has been open since the 18th century won't go away because the Knesset passes a law.

Yair Ettinger, a competent journalist at Haaretz (there are some of those) has a good summary of the issue here. For those of you who haven't been following the story these past 50-some years, Ettinger's article will probably be only mildly helpful, but it's not a bad place to start.

My two bits about the story are as follows:
1. David Rotem is from the mostly anti-Orthodox Israel Beiteinu (Avigdor Lieberman's party). He's an unlikely person and it's an unlikely party to get American Jewry in an uproar - but that's what seems to be happening.
2. The problem Rotem wishes to solve is the 300,000 non-Jews who have moved to Israel since about 1990, mostly from the former Soviet Union, along with their Jewish family members. They are culturally Israeli Jews, but not halachically, and this causes problems.
3. The direction Rotem suggests going in to resolve the matter is - more or less - to enhance the ability of the state- rabbinate to do conversions. His reasonable assumption is that if lots of state-employed rabbis will have the authority to do conversions, most of them local, municipal rabbis, they will, and the problem will go away. At the moment, only a limited number of rabbis can do conversions.
4. The impediment Rotem is trying to get rid of is the Haredi rabbis, who are not interested in lots of secular Russian Israelis becoming secular Jewish Israelis. Don't ask.
5. It is fascinating, and very revealing, that Rotem's constituents wish the rabbinate to convert them. After all, they could just as easily have chosen to campaign for Reform and (American-style) Conservative rabbis to do so: but they didn't. For whatever reason, they have accepted the position of secular Israelis, that the synagogue they don't go to (because they're secular) is an orthodox synagogue. Fascinating, not obvious, and worthy of additional investigation.
6. In spite of the context, America's Jews or at least their spokespeople are in an uproar: by vesting the authority to do conversions solidly on the state-employed rabbis, a step meant to push the haredi rabbis out of the picture, Reform and Conservitive rabbis will also be pushed out. Funny, isn't it? I expect no-one ever foresaw Reform and Haredi rabbis uniting against the (sort of) modern orthodox ones. But as I said, the Jewish world is a tricky place, and never ever boring.
7. The whole thing probably isn't worth the effort. Netanyahu has apparently stopped the process, and it may well stay stuck for the next generation or three.

Personally, I'd say that any Israeli who lives here speaks Hebrew serves in the army and pays taxes, should be given a little slip of paper saying they're Jews. I've got 2nd cousins in the USA who know nothing from nothing about Judaism and care less, but they're Jews, and these folks aren't? Huh? But that's just me.


Bryan said...

Thank you for the analysis, Yaacov. I especially wonder about the resistance of the Haredim to conversion. Even if some converts who may not be entirely dedicated get through, the majority do want to be Jewish, and why not? This generation's nonobservants might be next generation's baalim teshuvah. Soemone needs to remind the Haredim that you miss 100 percent of the swings you don't make.

But obviously, as a non-Orthodox convert-in-training, I'm biased.

Avi said...

Yaacov, I agree with most of what you said here. I am ex-English Orthodox (it was a different thing then when I was growing up in North London) and have been an active member of a Conservative community here in Jerusalem for the past 25 years.

I agree with you completely about the paradox that our not so distant relatives abroad in the west, whilst being halachicly Jewish are much less Jews in my eyes that the offspring of a mixed marriage now living in Israel and being a fully committed members of the society here.

I disagree with you with respect to the haredim being pushed out of the conversion loop. Everyone in the Orthodox world looks over their right shoulder at the haredim to get their approval. You know as well as I do that this is a cultural thing, not legal or administrative. Anyway, the rabbinate has been taken over years ago by the Ashkenazi and Sephardi haredim.

What I do not understand, or rather believe, is how stupid David Rotem really is. I have nothing good to say about Yisrael beytainu, but they just went along and proved my prejudices correct again about the fact that they do not have the first idea of what democracy is about. They know how it works and to work the system, but the cultural understanding is not there.

I would also lay to rest the red herring about how if they want things changed, the Reform and Conservative Jews should come here and vote. I agree that they should come here, but no normal people are sectoral like the haredim. They would vote for different parties because although the religious stream questions are important, there are even more important questions for all of us to decided politically and it is on that basis that they will vote, not as a monolithic community bloc.

RK said...

You and Ettinger don't mention this, but I believe that Rotem, despite being from Yisrael Beiteinu, is Orthodox himself.

Israelis tend to have funny ideas about what makes one Jewish. I remember when Tommy Lapid came to the U.S., he had an outburst during an interview where he declared that (quoting from memory) "as someone who lives in Israel, speaks Hebrew, and has the Bible as my guide I am the most Jewish Jew who has lived in the past 2,000 years. Certainly more Jewish than some Yiddish-speaking, anti-Zionist Satmar Hasid in Williamsburg." Not that one should turn to Lapid for a fair assessment of haredi Jews, but it reflects the notion common among Israeli Jews that even the hilonim are leading some semblance of an authentically Jewish life, just because they speak modern Hebrew and get holidays off.

There are, after all, American citizens who don't know from Thomas Jefferson or the Civil War, while the greatest scholar of American history in the UK will have to jump through the hoops to become a U.S. citizen. Them's the breaks, in life as in religion. It's true enough that as several scholars have pointed out, conversion standards and procedures have changed over the centuries. But it's still necessary, I think, for conversions today to satisfy the broad consensus of contemporary halakhic opinion, while trying to avoid the awful scandals and revocations we've seen in the past few years. This bill seems to be a good step in that direction. (There, even a Meimadnik like me can say something good about Yisrael Beiteinu.)

Finally, the specific measure here does nothing to prejudice the rights of Reform and Conservative converts abroad, so I really think the fuss is unwarranted.

RK said...

Just a side note, Bryan, the plural of "ba'al teshuvah" is "ba'alei teshuvah". The first word is in smikhut (the construct state).

NormanF said...

Reform and Conservative Jews don't give a f*ck about Israel. Who moves there? Orthodox and haredi Jews. Until they emulate observant Jews and pay their Zionist dues, they should sit down and shut the heck up!

Lee Ratner said...

NormanF, I disagree entirely with your assesement that most non-Orthodox Jews don't care about Israel. Most non-Orthodox Jews that I know care immensely about Israel and there are ways to care about Israel without actually moving there. They are active or passive defenders of Israel and Zionism outside of Israel. Many of the Haredi Jews moving to Israel aren't particularly ardently Zionist and would be happy as dhimmis as long as they get to live in Eretz Israel and have moderate level of access to Jewish holy places. They don't work or serve in the IDF either.

RK, I believe that a plurality if not a slight majority of Jews are Hilonim or at least about as religious as the average Diaspora Jew. Still, Mr. Lapid does have a point. There are public celebrations of Jewish holidays in Israel in ways that don't exist in the Diaspora, purim parades, dancing with the Torah on the streets on Simchat Torah, lighting bonfires on lag b'omer, etc. If you combine some public celebration of Jewish holidays with the average Diaspora level of divergence and Hebrew speaking than you get a certain level of observance that is uncommon in the Diaspora.

Lee Ratner said...

I have to somewhat disagree with you on point 6, Yaakov. I know more than a few non-Jews that would be bored to death by the battle over who is a Jew raged in the Jewish community. Most atheists that I know would simply wonder why Jews bother being Jews when its all religious nonsense that caused Jews a lot of pain.

I've always been bothered by some of the atheist response to Jew-hating. Most of them seem to believe that Jew-hating can be stopped if the Jews simply stopped being Jews. It never really worked this way, Jews who no longer identified as such got killed when ever the anti-Semites thirst for Jewish blood was unsatisfied. See Trotsky or the New Christians in Spain. Even if it did work, why should Jews have to stop being Jews? We are not the ones with the problem.

Bryan said...

RK, thanks for the correction. I wrote my comment in a rush on the way out of work and I realized my mistake right as I left the office, but I had neither time nor inclination to fix it.

And I agree with pretty much Lee said. Norman, if Orthodox Jews care so much about Israel, why do the majority of them not contribute to the defense of the state? In my opinion, some nonobservant Jew from Philadelphia who doesn't really know anything about Judaism but makes aliyah and serves in the IDF cares much more about Israel than some hasid who flies in just to sit down and sap tax dollars studying.

Saul Lieberman said...

Yaacov -- apropos of your 2nd cousins, see this article from Rav Amital: www.traditiononline.org/news/article.cfm?id=104414

NormanF said...

Lee, you're free to disagree. Those who move to Israel are the ones who end up influencing it. The entire point of aliyah is to end the Galut. This is happening faster than any one has anticipated. Within a generation or two, there will be few non-Orthodox Jews left. And Israel is well on the way to becoming the only real center of Jewish life with a future. We mortals see things from the short span of our lives. In a century, things will look very different.

zj said...

dear bryan,

if you want to be jewish, why don't you convert the orthodox way?
just a question....

Bryan said...

zj: I actually went to the Orthodox rabbi at my school first and jumped through a bunch of hoops, only to be told he would not convert me based on what I believe to be a matter of small theological importance. I don't personally subscribe to God appearing in corporeal form to Moshe on Sinai, but that does not change my belief in the divinity of Moshe's revelation or the Torah, so I thought it wouldn't really matter. I was wrong, and that rabbi directed me to a Conservative rabbi, with whom I am much more comfortable.

But in hindsight, I do have serious disagreements with the Orthodox and this is better for me.

Moreover, the Orthodox are not the only "real" religious Jews, and by treating them like they are, we only marginalize Jewish religious groups outside of Orthodoxy. If the Orthodox don't choose to recognize me as a Jew: who cares?

My apologies for rambling.

zj said...

i whish you a lot of sucess,

nb: "I don't personally subscribe to God appearing in corporeal form to Moshe on Sinai,"
i hope the orthodox rabbi you saw does not do so...

Sylvia said...

"I don't personally subscribe to God appearing in corporeal form to Moshe on Sinai"

I am astonished. Orthodox Judaism's third basic principle of faith is precisely that "God is incorporeal", coming right after "God exists" and "God is One".

Anonymous said...

Bryan -

That is truly a strange statement from an Orthodox rabbi! Are you sure you understood each other? Your blogger profile says you are in Boston. You should get in touch with Rabbi Ben Greenberg at the Harvard Hillel (www.bengreenberg.org). I knew him when he was a rabbinical student at Yeshiva Chovvei Torah. He is very intelligent and perceptive fellow.

Anyway, I wish you much success (hatzlacha or, as they say in Brooklyn, hotzlucho) in your spiritual journey wherever it takes you.

I really liked Yaacov's definition of a Jew as anyone who embraces the Jewish story as his own. I place myself in the progressive wing of the Orthodox camp. But if I had to convert today, they wouldn't take me because I wear pants and I don't cover my hair and I go mixed swimming and I dance with my husband. (Issues of great spiritual significance!) Maybe I am just in it for the kiddushes! ;)


Bryan said...

The booze at shul certainly helps, Nycerbarb. Thank you for the recommendation for the rabbi, but I'm already working with one, and he came highly recommended (both by the rabbi who rejected me and by my Jewish Studies professor who knew him in rabbinical school), so I'm quite satisfied.

I may have misinterpreted what the rabbi said, but as it was rather traumatic, I may not be remembering it correctly.

Anyway, this isn't my blog, so sorry about derailing the comments thread.

Anonymous said...

Bryan -

Do you want to continue the discussion at your blog?


Anonymous said...

can any of you throw any light on why Jeffrey Goldberg frames it like this? It confuses me


Yaacov makes it sound like the latest attempt of a government getting an age-old problem a bit straighter without breaking too much glas and Goldberg makes it sound like it is a major insult to American Jews.

Is there a connection between the 2 views?

and as much as I wish Bryan lively traffic for his blog, could you please continue this fascinating discussion here so that hopefully all participate and I can learn
- I can't imagine that Yaacov would mind


Bryan said...

Well, my blog is entirely dead and if I do revive it it will only be as a daily journal for language practice. So I suppose we could continue here so that Silke can participate and learn.

As for Jeffrey Goldberg, it seems that the text of the bill is unclear, and it could be interpreted as the end of Reform and Conservative conversions being accepted in Israel (as Goldberg does) or it could be interpreted as a coup to push out the Haredim (as Yaacov sees it). So the Americans are freaking out because they want the bill clarified to make sure their (our) conversions will be recognized, while Israelis aren't freaking out as much because it's seen as more of a power play against the Haredim. At least, that's the way I see it.

And to continue the discussion we were having, I have no regrets about not being an Orthodox convert because there are several practical aspects of Orthodoxy with which I disagree, the two most important being the intolerance of homosexuality and the mechitza. I know people who like and feel comfortable with the mechitza, but I do not, and the feeling of claustrophobia and separateness that it invokes ruins my prayer experience.

Anonymous said...

Silke -

Ok. I will take a stab. Although I am not sure my information is 100% accurate. Maybe someone is reading and will correct me.

First of all, I don't believe Reform or Conservative conversions outside of Israel are accepted right now. Second, the law doesn't really change anything, except to institutionalize the current situation.

The problem is that with the Russian immigration came hundred of thousands of people who are not Jews, but eligible to come to Israel, under the law of return, as spouses or children or grandchildren. The FSU community is very inter-married. (No surprise - given the attitude of the USSR towards religion.)

So wouldn't it be great if we could get all these Jewish related non-Jews to become Jews? After all, they like being Israeli. They serve in the IDF, they speak Hebrew, they don't have an alternate religious identity, etc. Maybe the problem is that there aren't enough rabbis to perform conversions. So let's authorize more rabbis. The bill gives blanket conversion authorization to any city Orthodox rabbi.

But is it a solution? Is the problem that there aren't enough places to convert, or the non-Jews don't find Orthodox practice appealing? (I believe the latter.)

Jewish conversion is not simply a matter of study, undergoing ritual and declaration of faith. The rabbis must be satisfied that you are committed to all ritual practices. (Like not dancing with your husband.) So, I don't think this bill, will significantly change the number of conversions performed in Israel.

So, why should American non-Orthodox care about the bill? Because it is insult. It further institutionalizes the rejection of Conservative and Reform and other flavors of Jewish practice from the mechanics of the state. Also, Netanyahu promised that no conversion bill would be introduced before discussion with the Diaspora community.

A marriage performed in Israel a by non-Orthodox rabbi is not recognized.
Non-Orthodox synagogues do not get state funding. I don't think a non-Orthodox convert from abroad without at least one Jewish grandparent or a Jewish spouse, is eligible for citizenship under the Law of Return.

The bill is politics at its worst. It does nothing to solve the problem. It only serves to strengthen ties between Rotem's party and the Orthodox parties.


Anonymous said...

Bryan -

>>there are several practical aspects of Orthodoxy with which I disagree, the two most important being the intolerance of homosexuality and the mechitza. I know people who like and feel comfortable with the mechitza, but I do not, and the feeling of claustrophobia and separateness that it invokes ruins my prayer experience.<<

I agree with you 100%. And as I have only sons, it is lonely for me. I want to sit with my family.

Unfortunately, once you leave the college or camp community. It is difficult to find non-Orthodox communities that are fully committed to practice and community in the way that the Orthodox communities are.

I wish that weren't so, but I have found it to be true.


Bryan said...

Oh, well, Reform and Conservative conversions are not recognized by the Rabbinate, that's true.

But Nycerbarb, I was under the impression that Reform and Conservative converts are eligible for the Law of Return, but their conversions are not recognized by the Rabbinate. So they can become Israeli citizens, but they are still not eligible to have a Jewish wedding or be buried in a Jewish graveyard in Israel, leaving them in an ugly legal limbo. To my understanding, the Israeli Supreme Court ruling of March 2005 that all conversions b'chul would be recognized for the purpose of immigration is still in effect.

Anonymous said...

it got all too long, so I split it in two:
part 1/2

Nycerbarb and others

thank you very much for letting me pipe in

I have no knowledge of Judaism as a religion apart from having enjoyed the Rabbi-books by Kemelman immensely and whenever I rearrange the book-shelve I am in danger of getting caught up in them again. They are also probably the only books I have ever read about religion at all except Toynbee's study of history in the 4 volume version. I have grown up in a non-church-going family of a protestant bend i.e. hostile to all things Catholic, but very far from any religious education except as provided at school, where I remained underimpressed except for a vague feeling of aversion to being told in graphic details and images the sufferings of Jesus and that I was to be grateful for them. I never managed to understand that part being from the start very much more impressed by people who had somehow managed to stay out of harm's way.

I also am agnostic about all this ethnicity and identity debate except when it touches on problems which passport a person carries. That Israel has to be a Jewish state I accept as a necessity in her environment. Being very much a geographically non-rooted person I understand Yaacov's apparent love of Jerusalem like I understand a Greek fisherman's love of the sea. My love belongs to books.

Also I don't claim to know any details of what is going on.

That said I can only contribute the impression I get from a very ignorant outsider stance and putting on my Miss Marple hat I dare to have my say telling you what reading about it reminds me off:

Not wanting to compare Judaism to Catholicism in any way the Orthodox seem to remind me of the Catholics often outrageous to a modern ear sounding sayings of how they think always in centuries, if not millenia, before making any move that present day seems to demand. Both seem to have been very successful in that both still exist and thrive. Recently I heard that the Orthodox finally have agreed to have another Konzil, the last one having taken place around the year 900 and that since more than a hundred years they try to agree that it is time to have another one. The latest is that they'll meet in January to discuss possible preparations. Despite Catholic members of the church forever railing at the inability of their church to modernise, at the inadequacies of it all, the shortcomings and the heavy misdemeanors, they stick it out and the church keeps moving at its own pace right now seemingly about to move behind their last attempt at modernizing again to the palpable despair of that professor I keep listening to. So the immobility of your Orthodox seem to me to be very normal and appropriate for such an old and resilient institution.

That that clashes with the demands of a modern state seems to the former paralegal me also very normal and I don't see what an initiative of a politician of just one party will be able to achieve. That it may be possible to sync the necessities of the state with the stance of the representatives of such an old religion keen on preserving the rights of tradition seems unlikely to me, so the best one can probably achieve in real life is to labour on with the incongruities of it all.

Anonymous said...

continued - part 2/2

If as Bryan mentions citizenship is awarded by criteria not recognized by the Orthodox seems one of probably a lot of ingenious loopholes to bridge the time until Israel is one day really free to decide whether it wants to either separate or merge citizenship and religion completely. Until then it may not be as disingenious as it may seem now that the Orthodox insist on remaining unmoved by current demands. And yes I fully appreciate that the situation is more than full to the brim with clashing principles and I don't underappreciate the grief that causes.

My family got regularly outraged that Catholics would regard a child of a mixed marriage (yes they were called MischEhen) as born out of wedlock, if parents didn't vow to raise the child in the Catholic faith. In the Rhein valley village of Kiedrich they had a priest who refused to marry a woman very active in the very prestigious local church whose husband had died, because she had divorced the grossly abusive husband to protect her children claiming that even though she had become widowed in the meantime that she was still a divorcee and as such not eligible for marriage in the church. They were married by a less orthodox priest in another church in another village which of course caused huge grief to her.

Stories like that abound, to me they have always seemed part of the package and if I felt a need for religion they would never be a reason to stay away having come to realise over the decades what a vital role religion plays in making a community.

Also taking seriously Yaacov's remark that Netanyahu has stopped the initiative the whole thing looks to me from afar like a storm in a glass of water created by a politician who wanted to grab headlines.

Feeling like I have been sorely lacking in putting into words what it all reminds me off, I have one question left:

Is there anything resembling the Konzils of Catholics and Orthodox where to the best of my knowledge they decide on doctrine, like the nature of Jesus etc.? Is there such a thing like doctrine or anything equivalent i.e. a putting into words what one has to believe or adhere to?


Bryan said...

No, Orthodox Judaism doesn't have a catechism--a set of rules outlining religious doctrine--like the Catholic Church does. This is because Judaism has never been very centralized, not since the Temple days (or maybe since the days when the Academies of Palestine and Babylon were the centers of Jewish learning). Moreover, Judaism (as I've heard it described) is less concerned with what you believe than with what you do with that belief. So it has no need for catechisms, because what you believe matters less than your fulfillment of the mitzvot. It still matters, but not as much as in Christianity, which is very little *but* belief.

And yes, upon reflection, this situation does seem like a tempest in a teapot.

As for the Haredim (as opposed to the Modern Orthodox and the Religious Zionists, who seem to be willing to negotiate some of their positions), I have a dim view of their rather superficial claim to authenticity. The Catholic Church actually was the founding Church in Christianity, and so it has the imprimatur of 2000 years of history behind its decisions (no matter how misguided). The Haredim, however, imposed upon themselves the strictest interpretation of the Written and Oral Laws and adopted a dress code from 16th-century Poland, then they simply stopped reinterpreting Torah. Their rules, they claim, are for eternity; but this very claim contradicts the previous millennia of Jewish existence, in which the Torah was constantly reinterpreted and rules changed.

Finally, Shabbat Shalom to everyone.

Sylvia said...


There is one fundamental belief – absolute monotheism – which is self-evident in the Bible and from which everything else derives – and therefore - as Bryan already said - there was no dogma in Judaism.

Sephardic Judaism felt the need for a dogma, and so based on Saadia’s discussions on Judaism’s belief system, Maimonides codified those beliefs. It is known as the Thirteen Principles – or the 13 Articles of faith.

Anonymous said...

Bryan and Sylvia

thanks to both of you
this morning I thought I had a brillant idea, then realized that it wouldn't work in real life and since then try to find a way out of it.
I'll bother y'all with it only when I feel that I can put it in halfway comprehensible language.
Maimonides 13 points are printed, maybe thinking for a moment outside my clerkish mind will help.


in the Greek Orthodox churches on the island of the Apocalypse Patmos women sit during services in the side ships while the men chant with the priests standing around in the main room. I wasn't frowned upon when standing also in the main room but the side ships were certainly where it was a lot more pleasant. The women were gossiping, taking care of the kids, knitting all at the same time. As a foreigner I felt excluded but welcome. All in all there was a constant coming and going

One older than myself man once told me how impressed he was when he came into one of "our" churches and everybody was quiet so I guess that my Patmos experience was the common one.

That said was the separating of women always a thing women considered as excluding thing or was it maybe once upon a time more like the Greek model I saw? i.e. women and men living in differen spheres and given the economic demands being content with it.


Sylvia said...

If you're talking about this specific proposal, Silke, then a sysnagogue solution won't be necessary: the Russian converts will not be required to lead an Orthodox way of life after conversion, as is the normal way of Orthodox conversions, not even to attend a synagogue, or if they do want to, they can attend the synagogue of their choice.

What the bill proposes is a once-in-history waiver for this specific group on humanitarian grounds.

Anonymous said...

I am a clerk and thus think in clerk's dimensions, i.e. change by imperceptible shifts is my field of "expertise" - like if you gave one of two parallels a slight nudge 10 km later there is no parallel more

By the way I read the 13 points, what a man Maimonides must have been. Parts read like they might have been a quite proud declaration of we are the best to Muslims and there are parts to Christians who read more like stop the monkey business. (the way he establishes that only Moses was spoken to might enrage today's muslims more than the cartoons)

Of course I may have gotten it all wrong, is there a page-turner of a biography on the man? I just checked Wikipedia it has nothing but it has this interesting sentence
"The Almohades conquered Córdoba in 1148, and threatened the Jewish community with the choice of conversion to Islam, death, or exile.[7] "

so my Norwich-books had it right it wasn't all Kumbaya all the time in Andalusia (Norwich said there were 3 big stages, the first the golden, the second grrr and the third also grrr but less so and today they tell us that Cordoba was all through the period pure milk and honey)

BTW for me a biography of that man should be a bit heavy on the political side of the man, the 13 points I printed out definitely read like a pamphlet also while being a guide line for the pious and how to make power politics while being a minority intrigues me.

Sylvia, don't let a Christian know that he might not be the strictest monotheist on earth in your eyes ;-)
(Gore Vidal in Julian has it very probable in that it was all a lot of wink wink towards the ancient gods)

thanks for that gift of Maimonides - it is really a treat

Anonymous said...


one more before I got to bed

viewed through a bureaucrat's lense once in history waivers have the tendency to crop up from all unexpected corners as what we call Präzedenz-cases i.e. they introduce a mild kind of case law into our system
they tend to crop up not necessarily as a whole but aspects thereof will be used as analogies by ingenious lawyers.

from everything I read I get the impression that your courts are enamoured of holding the law sacred and there I can for example easily imagine that one day somebody will claim to have been treated with less consideration.

Maybe I am fearmongering but decades of clerking have made me fear the one single exception for no matter how good reasons a lot more than permanent shifts.


Sylvia said...

No, you're not fearmongering. This will happen. You'll see very soon the American Progressive mute their anger as they start to figure out that some day it can be used as precedent.
But the Haredi will oppose it for religious reasons but also they'll lose converts
The secular will oppose it on the ground that Reform should get those converts since they are less religious (!) and the radical left will oppose it because it will inflate Israeli Jewish demographics.

Pro-Zionist said...

This is a tempest in a teapot, driven by the pride-filled ego of American Jews and their determination to interfere in Israeli democracy.

This Hebrew University professor has some reasonable comments:

Anonymous said...

Silke -

Maimonides biography: Maimonides by Sherwin Nuland. I read it about 2 years ago. It is very readable.

More comments, later, I hope.


Anonymous said...

thanks a lot Nycerbarb

I read Nuland's book on how we die and found it very readable besides liking it as a whole quite a bit, as I find this determination of hospitals to keep us alive long past our time quite frightening especially in a system like ours where everything from the patient's point of view is for free so extending life as much as possible saves jobs in the profession. That's the bleak view, there is of course a sunny one also.

I'll order it right away - ooops it is only 10,99 I must find one to go with it, at more than 20 it come postage free:-)


Anonymous said...

Pro-Zionist thanks for the link.

in Germany philo-semite is almost as harsh a swear word as anti-semite, but what is a gal to feel, if she reads a sentence like this?

"And one that focuses on what a rational assessment (i.e., mine) indicates is nothing at all."

now how is a gal not to take a liking to a lovable hubristic man like that right away?

One question pops up in me while going through his piece:

What is the status of children of parents recognized by the state as Jewish Israelis? I assume that of those the Rabbinate likes are simple but the others?
- if born in Israel
- if born outside
plus all the other variations I've heard about like mother and grandparents etc etc.?
and all that combined in ever new matches.

In the world of the clerk murkiness has two faces:

- it is beastly because it keeps you in a constant state of alarm that you might misstep and something might blow up somewhere (hence our stubbornness in sticking with procedure)

- it is wonderful because it keeps your possiblities for slithering impossibilities through the loopholes wide open.

So as a rule of thumb off-hand I'd say that the more confusion there is upheld in Israel about who qualifies as a Jew (not who is an Israeli - that's a second step after all) the more nimble arguing it allows those who have to fight it out with the leering wannabe thugs of the world.
Private lawfare as I have experienced it always amounts to trying to nail the opponent down while escaping the nail yourself. Puddings, I've been told, are the hardest to nail down and are good to hide steel-tipped arrows in.

think Viva Maria where Bardot and Moreau dance the dictator into madness ... (youtube doesn't seem to have the scene)

My gut reaction to the Goldberg post was by the way that of the imposed upon colonised right away. Never mind I loved every moment of the American occupation there are still parts that grated and they come to the fore whenever I read one of them coming across as Mr. Empire himself.


I trust, that if I should happen to use impolite language, you'll know that it is unintentional, due to ignorance and incompetence, and that you will immediately correct me. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

I'm sad to report that my "brillant" idea from yesterday morning has failed to gestate anything fit for real life, but maybe it does so for somebody else:

it went like this:
let's start a list of all the Catch 22s -dilemmata -Scylla and Charydis -you name them, which can be found where state and religion touch in Israel and Diaspora, describe them one by one, no matter how minuscule, as detailed and accurate as possible, branching out into all aspects we can think of and look whether anything other than more Catch22s crop up.

Here's why I had to relaize that it isn't fit for real life:
no matter which ingenuity we might come up with it won't make any difference. As long as there are arguments in the package that Israelis may need in any imaginable context whatsoever to keep her foes at bay with, they have to remain in place and that opens barn doors wide for all kinds of groups which maybe haven't gotten the balance between the common good and their more selfish aims quite right.

My image is, if you live in a molotov cocktail throwing neighbourhood you can't afford to remove the iron bars from your upper window, no matter how much they might spoil your view.

as western Judaism has not even dogma comparable to Maimonides, the Haredim found a void and occupied it with something which probably offered advantages to them in the society they lived in at the time it came into being (Jews being more reliable business partners than others? so identifiability constituted an advantage? Beaver hats proved you were prosperous and so worth to do business with?)

But now Judaism has a center in Israel on which, if I get it right, all diasporas with all their minor or major deviations have converged. Which should, human nature being what it is, create a certain amount of competition between groups not only in Israel but in the hearts of some leaders of the faith elsewhere?

If that should be roughly it than it is a scenario where typically the strictest and most hard to follow has the best chance to gain ground, especially if he isn't forced to work for a living. Provided I got it right that for whatever reasons or mistakes by now Haredis dominate a good part of the diversity while everybody else is groaning but no other equal to the challenge force has shown up yet. Americans seem to aspire to bringing "enlightenment" but lack in "authenticity"? (I wish I were a playright, which honey I could suck out of imagining that minority complex in action)

When the Pope forced Heinrich IV to wait in the snow until sufficiently chastised he assured that he alone would ever be able to decide matters of doctrine "unaided" by secular power, i.e. for whom it was to be hell and for whom it was to be heaven. Even if Christian scholarship may all be about belief, as Bryan says, in real life they imposed via the threat of hell unsuitable to real life rules to quite an extent and cashed at some time in on it with such recklessness that rulers became sufficiently miffed about the loss in tax revenue to give Luther a hand (my reading of the events).

sorry I got so long again, hopefully one day I'll learn the art on how to do it without rambling
to be continued

Anonymous said...


I am not so sure about the founding church, certainly Catholics (Rome) would claim they are, but Constantine after his conversion made Constantinople/Byzantium his capital and not Rome. It is not many years ago that I realized that we (Germans more than Brits?) are being told nothing about our Byzantine heritage (it is rather as if it wouldn't exist), when it comes to the ancients it is all Greece and Rome and the Arab translators plus in recent years the a bit lip-service like sounding habit of "them" to call it the Judeo-Christian heritage but nada nothing for Orthodox (it is a long time I haven't heard that the Jews got it all wrong for not getting Jesus and thus brought it upon themselves, let alone the infamous "they killed our god").
This marginalising of our Byzantine heritage and bringing to the fore the Arab one makes me wonder again and again whether Rome still fears the competition from the in matters of doctrine possibly a lot more elaborate Byzantines more than Muslims?

Some of the fiercest and bloodiest fights about who is who and what is what in the Trinity were fought between Byzantines themselves and maybe it is that heritage which "inspired" the Marmara thugs ;-)


Anonymous said...


It seems you are correct that as of now, any conversion from outside of Israel is accepted for the purposes of Law of Return eligibility.


Have you seen the proposed text? I honestly have not. But one article I read said that the bill might exclude Reform and Conservative converts from abroad from Law of Return eligibility. You wrote:
"the Russian converts will not be required to lead an Orthodox way of life after conversion"
Where did you read/hear that? That is totally surprising.

Silke -

You never cease to amaze me with the depth and breadth of your knowledge!

Yaacov has written a bit about how the Orthodox came to have hegemony in Israel in matters regarding religion. I think this is unfortunate, because there all or nothing approach has created a lot of nothing. Being subsidized, they had an unfair market advantage over other flavors of organized Jewish religious communal practice.

Wish I had time to expound.


Anonymous said...

please don't get fooled by my "knowledge" - I have a few universal principles derived from wiggling through rules and regulations for a living and from very patchy reading and interests. I have no formal education worth mentioning and have a way of connecting quirky facts which is likely to irritate people quite a bit. I am grateful for anybody I come across who is willing to tolerate my jumpy way of going after things and in the process helps me to become a bit less confused about the world in general.
In the meantime I've read two pieces from the JPost and got an idea why Americans think and feel they have so much of a right to interfere. It doesn't convince me. I guess when they have done their military service they also have the right to vote and that should be it statewise speaking. The right to define the nature of Zionism via hubristic demands from NIF and others seems to me to go a bit far.
but that's not my main question:
Let's assume the final say on whether a converted Jew is entitled to citizenship is passed on to carefully vetted rabbis abroad. Now let's assume one of them gets the missionary itch and goes successfully converting in a populous place with a much lower standard of living. Is such a scenario unthinkable? Shouldn't Israel reserve the right to the last say on what is Zionism and who converted to become a Jew for themselves and not allow any final words to the outside?


Anonymous said...

Silke -

IMHO, you have just gotten to the crux of the matter. Is the State of Israel a project of the Jewish people or does it belong to the Israelis?

The "project of the Jewish people" view is Zionism. That is what gives all us outside of Israel a compelling interest to advocate on behalf of the Israel, and to offer out input.

The "state belongs to Israelis" is post-Zionist nationalism. Now you get into the thinking of people like Bernard Avishai's "The Hebrew Republic."

You can take the 2nd point of view, that only Israelis should decide who can become an Israeli. The proposed situation is far from democratic. (Israelis, please correct me if I am wrong, here.) The situation is that a small segment of the population, who for the most part don't serve in the army, will be empowered to determine who can become an Israeli. I think if the population of Israel were to decide who can become an Israeli, the results would be quite different.


Anonymous said...


IMHO Germany currently has the problem that Turkey wants to force 80 % of Turks and Turkish Germans to abide by the rules 20 % think should be followed.
We haven't come up with any solution yet, neither how to protect the 80 % who want to get on with life neither with the 20 % who are waging a fierce campaign to acquire several things:
- to impose their daily how-tos on all, preferably on German Germans also
- to get money via taxes collected by the state like the Christian Churches do (never mind that Christians can quit any time they want and then the obligation to pay ends)
- to get Islamophobia established as equal to Anti-Semitism - we call it OpferNeid (jealous of the victims) - (denial of Holocaust and some other 3rd Reich things are forbidden by law in Germany, so the last has a lot of potential like their defining what constitutes insults to the prophet. Nobody does it anymore anyhow because life with bodyguards is not something people tend to long for, but still codifying and extending it may be fun.)

That just as an example why I am so stubborn on insisting that a state must have a last say in some things.

I understand your 20 % conundrum perfectly which is why I have told the above (is it always roughly 20 % when the momentum creates unease?) I have no solution to offer but this worldwide trend to soften sovereignty rights makes me feel very very uneasy.

Below I have linked an interview with Bernard Kouchner to which I listened again yesterday. Kouchner got the right and the obligation? to disregard state borders through the UN. He failed in Burma to weaken them even more, that makes him obviously very mad. He and his want to be the ones who sit atop of everything. It sounds all very nice when you do it against rogues, but what when tomorrow Unifil and all the other Uni-soups get the get-go together with Israel's neighbours because Israel may have goofed something big and they call it a crime and voilà they have their pretext?

And I have read with horror in the JPost those who say from abroad that they have a right to interfere besides voting and participating in the country. Not they I don't have sympathies for them but it may way too easily when all is said and done play into the hands of those who say Israel has forfeited its right to this or that border. (just notice how the HRC is still taken seriously by the media no matter how firmly it is in the rogues' hands it is still revered. "They" have become the majority everywhere and to date quite a number seem to signal that they are not very keen on fairness.)

If you care to hear the voice of the whole trend listen to Kouchner and ask yourself whether he is really the kind of politician, establisher of a new world-order (and he aims at nothing less IMHO) you want to trust any country's destiny to - no matter how much one may agree with his humanitarian ardour, in my book something with those people has crossed the line into exaggeration. It is time to stop regarding the state as an always evil being which only NGOs can keep from evil. I know terrible things will follow from it but I am still for giving the state back what rightfully belongs to the state because if we don't even more terrible things will follow from our super-righteousness.


PS: and I thought I had opted for some interesting lessons on the quirkyness of the religion between state and religious community and where I am right now, back in the middle of the NIF-conundrum.
Our ministry for development is going to send a specially trained person to Bethlehem to teach people there what ... Feel lucky the job description is in German only.

Anonymous said...


I had a short look at Avishai's blog and the cover of his book - he looks like he is of Kouchner's ilk
not for me, he seems to believe that what is the fashionable religion of the day i.e. Kumbaya mixed with globalisation will bring it while I am all on the side of good fences make for good neighbours.

Is there no way the state can get the thumb screws on those whom you want not to dominate - I mean not the religious ones but taxes or something similar, giving more for their kids in goods instead of in money. Those kind of things. Those who study could they be forced to publish or perish? ;-)

Good night - but Avishai - no way - keep it in the realm where a pound of beef makes a good soup.


Sylvia said...

This is a different problem. The candidates for conversion in this case are already Israelis. Their problem is that they are not halachically Jewish, and therefore can't marry a Jew in Israel, can't be buried in a Jewish (or any other) cemetery, and can't get a divorce.
You know, the whole country is torn apart when one of them dies in a bombing, or is killed by a rocket, or while in the army, and the body is dragged from cemetery to cemetery but the Jewish won't accept them because they're not Jewish, the Christians because they're not Christians, or the Muslims because they are Zionists. When this happens everyone is furious at the Rabbinate.

Of course, it is the obligation of any Orthodox Rabbi to tell the convert at the end of the study period that he/she must take upon themselves "hol tora umitzvot kahalakha".
But I got from the debates and discussions that have been raging here that it's going to be "Orthodox Lite", which means that they won't enforce it. We're talking about some 300 000 thousand Israelis, from atheist Soviet Union, most of whom have no intention of changing their way of life, at least not drastically. And those very people are the ones who asked for that type of conversion.

On the other hand, I can understand the concerns of the Reform and Conservatives because they are participants in the conversion Centers established after the big fight with Reform 13 years ago. And while this law is for a specific segment of the population, it is not impossible that eventually, they'll close the Center and convert everyone the same way, by town Rabbis. That's probably what they're talking about.

I must take back my "once in history" statement, apparently there were wholesale Rabbinate conversions of Shoah survivors and refugees from Nazi Germany at the time of the founding of the State (Rav Melchior let that slip in a radio discussion this evening).

Bryan said...

I typed up a really long response but my internet failed and ate it up, so here is my snipped response.

Regarding people in the diaspora weighing in on immigration, Lithuania is currently in the throes of a debate on dual citizenship, and the Lithuanian diaspora (mostly Americans who probably have no intention of moving to Lithuania) is vocally opposing the changes that are being presented to the Seimas (the Lithuanian Parliament). But no one (to my knowledge) is accusing the Lithuanian disapora of "interfering." Then again, my Lithuanian is basic and I'm getting most of this information secondhand.

And Silke, my Judaic Studies professor recommends you read the introductory chapter to the introduction to the Mishneh Torah by Isadore Twersky. Therein is some good biographical information on Maimonides.

As for the possibility of one lone rabbi converting a bunch of poor people (and thereby allowing a bunch of poor immigrants to Israel), that does not seem to be a big problem. At most, one conversion-mad rabbi could convert maybe a couple thousand people. That might be an undue burden on a mid-size city in Israel, but Israel has gone through much worse (with the Shoah survivors, the Arab Jews, and the Ethiopians) before, so I don't really think that's a terribly large obstacle.

Anonymous said...

thanks Bryan
Nuland's book is already in the mail, but if it doesn't satisfy me I come back to the Twersky piece.

Maimonides due to the time he lived in and what he stands for fits nicely into the times I am reading up on which I've only recently found pleasant for me to read books about. I have left from the series a 2 volume history of Venice, so mixing that with the Maimonides after the 3 volumes of Byzantium and 2 volumes of Sicily I've been through makes my mouth water.

and I disagree on the missionary Rabbi, things like that have gone out of hand in the past but never mind, I am a bureaucrat and as such am prone to look always for worst case scenarios to result from open doors.


Anonymous said...


thanks for the information. I am stunned! Much I want to think and write, but no time at the moment.


Yaacov said...

Hi All,

I'm back. This has been a very interesting thread, thanks for the diverse input.

Regarding what happens after conversion: theoretically an orthodox conversion is nullified if the convert doesn't live as an orthodox Jew. Ir practice, once the convert passes the hurdle, no-one ever looks back. The hurdle has been there for millennia - Judaism is the opposite of a missionary religion - but I can't think of even one single case anywhere ever in which a non-practicing convert was unconverted, or whatever the word might be. On the contrary: Halacha makes it very clear that once you're in, it is forbidden even to mention the fact that you ever were out. So those 300,000 Russian folks, should they ever manage to convert, will go on living exactly the same life they were living before, unless perhaps during the process some of the individuals among them decide to retain some of the new baggage.

Actually, come to think of it, there was one case. In the 1970s rabbi Shlomo Goren freed two siblings from the curse of being Mamzerim by determining that one of the parents had converted insincerely and thus wasn't really Jewish at all so the children couldn't be mamzerim. The Haredi community was aghast, and never forgave him his audacity.

Sylvia said...

The "Town Rabbi" is not a single individual. He has a number of Rabbis working under him each with his own specialty. The number of Rabbis is proportional to the size of the population in any given town/village. Not all Rabbis have the authority to perform conversions. They will have to train a great number of Russian and Georgian-speaking Rabbis. I hope this clarifies my previous post.

I think what is not very well understood is the role of the Rabbinate since this institution doesn't exist in the US.

RK said...


Regarding what happens after conversion: theoretically an orthodox conversion is nullified if the convert doesn't live as an orthodox Jew.

This is a bit incomplete. The fact that a convert isn't shomer mitzvot is evidence of the fact that he was insincere, but theoretically, a sincere convert who subsequently goes off the derekh is still a Jew. There are all sorts of opinions as to exactly how much the convert has to be informed beforehand, what his status is bedieved if he wasn't informed, or even what effect an ulterior motive has (the Rambam says it merely renders his status doubtful, others say it nullified it) but that's the upshot.

Unless we're talking about different things, so-called conversion "annullment" has been pretty common over the past few years, hence the impetus for this bill. Look at what happened to all of Rabbi Druckman's conversions.

There's some historical evidence evidence that the current stringency is a relatively new phenomenon (and in fact that there were periods in the past when conversion was quite widespread), but regardless of what the status of the convert is, the current consensus is against converting an individual who doesn't intend to observe the commandments afterward, no matter how convenient it might be for Israeli society.

Since my previous comment, I've been talking to various people more informed than I am. The issue with the bill was that while it was initially meant to sidestep the Chief Rabbinate (and that too by the dubious assumption that municipal rabbis will remain out of haredi hands in the future), the provisions centralizing conversion authority exclusively in the Chief Rabbinate were added to pacify the haredim, and many people feel that the haredim will just follow the parts of the law that suit them. (Resulting in more people getting denied at the marriage registrar, more chillul Hashem.) It's a legitimate point, but it's totally lost in the absurd way Jeffrey Goldberg and that New York Times reporter characterized it.

RK said...

Sylvia, out of interest, what did Rav Melchior have to say about it?

Sylvia said...

Rav Melchior didn't like it and if I recall correctly, he didn't think it will pass. He said he worked in the past on a different version of that law with David Rotem but it didn't have the support of the Haredim.

What I think is different this time is that the Rishon LeTzion thinks the situation is very serious. He who has never uttered a single word about politics is now attacking Netanyahu for caving before Bagatz. He is putting his reputation (with the Ashkenazi Haredim) on the line for this bill.

I also have the feeling that Shas is going to start showing some muscle.

David Rotem will probably try to pass it again after 9 Av if he has enough votes.

Sylvia said...

"Resulting in more people getting denied at the marriage registrar, more chillul Hashem.)"

My understanding is that the new law takes care of that point: once the conversion completed, the same Rabbi (who works for the Rabbinate) immediately registers the person for marriage. And once that's done, there is no going back.

Anonymous said...

it may be a very dumb and impertinent question I have due to having read a bit about it now but so be it

why is having the privilege of a second citizenship, a privilege I regard due to lots of experiences very high on my personal list of privileges, not enough reason for Diaspora Jews to support the state of Israel? i.e. why does there have to be more than that?


Sylvia said...


Most people in Israel don't have dual nationality. I certainly don't have dual nationality.

Anonymous said...

You might want to read this Muqata article on the subject. He provides first party sources too that clarify exactly what is being proposed and why.


Anonymous said...

sorry, misunderstanding:
my question was not about Israelis but about the Diaspora who have I believe the privilege of acquiring or holding a second citizenship and it was "inspired" by another post by Goldberg which I get as "how dare they".

which reminds me btw of what Luther is said to have said (yes I know, but even an idiot sometimes gets something right). The saying goes according to Wiki quoting it from Martin Luther King like this (ain't the net a marvel?)

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.


Anonymous said...


As to your Lithuanian example: does their Diaspora use the language of "how dare they?" or are they just fighting robustly for what they want?

... as to open doors via sloppily done regulations:

I remember that when Germany came up with it's guest worker recruitment programs there were warning voices some or the majority of which in the language still in use then may have sounded unsavoury and so helped bury the sound ones who warned about the flaws and pitfalls of the regulation?

And it seemed such a wonderful idea, even once the Turks apparently were the most easy to recruit it turned out that they seemed to be really nice and fitting in well. So their numbers swelled, patch-up laws followed, the whole usual stuff.

Would anybody have foreseen back then that a religion at odds with Christian dominated lands might one day lead to us having to clear piscinas of 70.000 visitors so family clans could do their fighting without endangering "civilians"? (by now it's happened 3 times in Berlin this summer, the police apparently unable to cope and in only 1 instant we have been told which group the fighters belong to, so in the other 2 instances they may have been fishermen from the Friesian isles)

This is only the most drastic example I can come up with to support my point that sloppy regulation is very good at bolstering trouble at some point in the future.


Anonymous said...

I am refraining from comments until I get to look at the Muqata article.


welcome back. I hope you will give us a new post to continue this discussion.


Bryan said...

Silke: the Lithuanian diaspora, to my knowledge, is more expressing concern than saying, "how dare they." So I guess the tone is different, but I still wouldn't call the Jewish Diaspora's response to the bill "interfering," since that implies that the Diaspora is taking action to block the bill, rather than just talking about it.

Anonymous said...

I should have qualified "how dare they?" stems exclusively from 2 Goldberg posts on it and the excerpt of the Tablet article he posted.

Danger of the far away
- I read what I perceive as a very prominent voice and promptly take it for the whole because it synchs so well with my dislike for what my government does with NIF

(sounds confused? yes and it is, but it is also an example how news get synapsed at least in my brain - shame on me! - must stop to fear ...)


Anonymous said...

I have just finished reading this blog post at The Muqata: http://muqata.blogspot.com/2010/07/rotem-conversion-law.html
which includes over 80 comments, and in the comments section there is a translation of the bill.

This is my take away:
1) Currently the haredi controlled "Rabbinic Court" controls conversions. The bill would allow municipal rabbis, subject to the Chief Rabbinate oversight, to perform conversions. Some of these rabbis are not haredi, although orthodox. So the cumulative effect of the bill would be to go from have a very small group of orthodox rabbis controlling conversions, to having a somewhat larger, and supposedly more diverse group of orthodox rabbis controlling conversions.

2) The bill's aim is to make it easier for the non-Jewish Russian citizens of Israel to convert by increasing the number of available rabbis. Although no one explains why Russian immigrants from the atheist FSU will jump to convert in this new arrangement.

3) Eligibility for citizenship under the "Law of Return" is separate from "rabbinic recognition as a Jew." The latter affects only marriage and burial, if the rabbinate doesn't accept you, it won't marry you or bury you in a Jewish cemetery.

4) Reform and Conservative converts from outside of Israel are accepted as citizens. I don't know what their status with rabbinate is, nor for their descendants.

5) The bill makes no mention of the Diaspora nor any denomination of Judaism. Only the word halacha.

That's all for now,

Anonymous said...


You wrote:
"Of course, it is the obligation of any Orthodox Rabbi to tell the convert at the end of the study period that he/she must take upon themselves "hol tora umitzvot kahalakha".
But I got from the debates and discussions that have been raging here that it's going to be "Orthodox Lite", which means that they won't enforce it. We're talking about some 300 000 thousand Israelis, from atheist Soviet Union, most of whom have no intention of changing their way of life, at least not drastically."

Where did you get that from? I have seen nothing in the discussions to suggest that the rabbis "will look the other way," so to speak. But if this is the case, then I understand why the Reform and Conservative are up in arms. As an MO, I am stunned. If you say the rabbinate will accept converts knowing full well they don't intend to 100% keep commandments, as long as the conversion is overseen by an orthodox rabbi then 1) you are asking those rabbis to perjure themselves, 2) then why not allow other denominations to perform the conversion?


Yaacov said...


To the extent that I'm informed - and I haven't researched the matter - most converts in Israel don't live an orthodox life-style. The 40,000-some olim from the USSR who have already converted, certainly don't, most of them. No-one expects more than a handful of the 300,000 others to, either. This may indeed be part of the reason the Haredi are doing their best to prevent their conversion entirely, which would be yet another example of how the Haredi agenda is dramatically out of sync with that of the rest of us.

Your second question is pertinent only if you think the issue with Reform and Conservative is their conversions - which of course it isn't and never was. The question, ever since the early 1950s, has always been "who is a rabbi?" even though everyone pretends otherwise.

Sylvia said...

You won't see it spelled out if that's what you expect. It naturally derives from the second provision of that law, which requires the converting (municipal Rabbinate)Raabbi to immediately register the convert for marriage (at the Rabbinate) after conversion. (See my post to RK and see RK's post regarding the current situation where the Rabbinate has sometimes annuled the conversion performed by another Rabbi.
Only the Israeli Rabbinate can authorize a Jew to marry. And once the convert is registered for marriage, there is no going back whatever the person does or doesn't do. There is no perjury there.

In fact Rabbi Regev of the Reform Movement in Israel seemed to grasp very quickly the implications of that second provision for Reform - as he was participating in a radio debate called Hanekuda haYehudit (Reshet Bet) on July 15 where the statement regarding the marriage was made.
The Reform and Conservative Movements have always seen the Rabbinate (not so much the ultra-Orthodox) as THE threat.

I said most of them won't change their way of life after conversion. But you must understand that most Israelis - even the non-affiliated the non-Jews and the secular - keep passively certain mitzvot. In my town for example - where there are many immigrants from the former SU - there is no public transportation on Shabbat and all the supermarkets sell Kasher foods only. No one works on Shabbat and Holidays. No bread is sold duriung the week of Passover. So there will not be much change there.

All other denominations are allowed to perform conversion. In this particular case, those people want the Rabbinate to do it and I can understand why. Russians tend to keep to themselves around language and culture: they have their own newspapers, TV channels, etc. They don't want to alienate themselves further from society also in matters of religion. And the Rabbinate is an integrating and unifying force in the country. It is not a denomination though it is Orthodox. It is the umbrella religious institution in the country for Jews dating back several centuries in the region.

Anonymous said...

I read the Muqata piece (not the comments) with my interest in power-sharing between religion and state in mind.

Therefore it struck me that the bill seems to want to strengthen a state religious authority at the expense of a religious religious authority.
Comparing it to what I have read about Byzantium vs. Roman traditions in that field it looks to me like a shift from Roman tradition to Byzantine tradition and Moscow/SU/Russia is said to be the true inheritor of the Orthodox world view after Constantinople had fallen where the state had always managed to in the end make the church obey while in Rome (Western Europe) the church has managed to re-grab its independent authority from the emperors again and again.

i.e. is it maybe a struggle of Byzantine political wisdom against Rome's different one.

with that in mind is there any connection to what is Lieberman supposed to have said in the Haaretz piece Yaacov linked to?
"We'll teach Bibi a lesson he'll never forget."

i.e. no matter how useful in solving an existing problem the bill maybe or not what about good ol' power play in the background? Somewhere I've seen mentioned that Lieberman met with the US-Russian-Jewish community in NY and Wiki tells me, they are even more numerous than the ones in Israel. 2 mio should, if united, be capable of providing quite a voice.


Anonymous said...

Yaacov and Syliva -

Thanks for responding. I will respond more fully in the evening (for me - the wee hours of the morning for you.)

In the meantime, in the Muqata article he mentioned that opposition was fomented by IRAC, who have been trying to change the status quo through the Israel's Supreme Court, but gave no details. Do you know what that is about?

He also said that opposition was politically based, in attempt to weaken Yisrael Beitenu. Do you agree? Is it possible in Israel that political interests are put ahead of the good of the people?! (asked with great sarcasm)


Sylvia said...

"he mentioned that opposition was fomented by IRAC, who have been trying to change the status quo through the Israel's Supreme Court, but gave no details."
Yes, you could say that :)
IRAC is the Religious Action Center, the Israeli arm of the Reform Movement which is of course financed by the RefCon Movement in the US and NIF. They have an army of lawyers and legal assistants. AsI said in my previous post, the Reform/Conservatives see the Israeli Rabbinate as THE threat.
They would like to cancel the Rabbinate altogether or have a Reform rabbinate, an Orthodox Rabbinate, etc.

"He also said that opposition was politically based, in attempt to weaken Yisrael Beitenu. Do you agree?"
No, I don't agree. Other than IRAC, the opponents are those such as Sharansky or even Netanyahu who want to appease American RefCons because that law will make their jobs more difficult. Any way you turn it, it brings you back to the American Progressives as main - and only opposition. I stated in another post that Rav Melchior (Orthodox) is not for it - it's for the same reason.

I am going to look later this evening what French Jewry have to say about it - Reform is quite strong there although not as strong as in America.

Yaacov said...

Nycerbarb - Never. Not possible.

Sylvia said...

"is it maybe a struggle of Byzantine political wisdom against Rome's different one."
There is an article on the Rabbinate in Wikipedia - I don't know who wrote it and to what extent it is accurate but I believe you can get the thrust of it.

"is there any connection to what is Lieberman supposed to have said in the Haaretz piece Yaacov linked to?
"We'll teach Bibi a lesson he'll never forget."

he might use it, but the main reason is that Bibi is doing to him what he has done to his foreign Minister David Levy in the 1990's - he went behind his back and made him practically irrelevant while he let Barak - the Defense Minister - take on missions that Lieberman should have handled as Foreign Minister. This could be read as an intention on Bibi's part to push Lieberman's party to leave the coalition and replace it with Kadima. Who knows?

"Wiki tells me, they are even more numerous than the ones in Israel."

And they are not the only ones. There are many "ethnic" Jewish groups who don't get counted. Take for instance the Syrian Jewish community, the longest enduring Jewish community in the US. You never see them bash Israel in the US, although they were they were among the first to establish websites on the Internet. Beinart doesn't count them when he challenges the "Jewish establishment" in his logically fallacious essay.

Anonymous said...

thanks Sylvia
I found it interesting in the Muqata piece to learn that the Rabbinate is a state institution - so I'll read the Wiki carefully

In the context of the Syrian Jews I just heard a lecture on how Democracy Learning is done in Israel's school system by a man from Yad Vashem named Uriel Kashi. His German is accent free and non-idiotmatic use of words is absolutely minimal.

But here is what I, having "met" you and due to my own life story, winced at: He described at one point the Mizrahi as "bildungsfern" - far away from education. Maybe he misused the term but in German we use the word when we want to be polite about those who are averse to being taught and learn and are in general a problem to schools. Of course that may, depending on how it is used, include all kids from homes where there are no books.

However, the way he said it made me wonder whether Mizrahi have no tradition of anything equivalent to shuls which are said to have given "our" Jews such a leg-up when literate people were needed by the Prussian state in great numbers. I once read a piece how a cluster of "oriental" Jews were doing well in the US as merchants and I can't see how that should be a minor accomplishment compared to lawyers etc. Of course Kashi's was a broad overview of how the Israeli school system evolved and so he had to lump things together, but he singled out Mizrahis for being "bildungsfern" while saying about Arabs that they got different and not so well performing schools because of the language barrier.

I couldn't find a text of his presentation, just the links below - My introduction to it all goes way back when I had a friend in school who was a great draftswoman, she did my bio drawings for me and I explained math to her in all angles I could come up with until it clicked, and it always hurt and confused me that teachers seemed to consider her gift as less valuable than mine. So I am maybe oversensitive to put-downs in that area.




Sylvia said...

"he singled out Mizrahis for being "bildungsfern""

Mizrahi, Mizrachi, Arab Jews, are names that we never gave to ourselves and they are nowhere mentioned in any community's records going back centuries. These are names that lump together groups from some fifty countries with different languages, traditions and cultures.
Personally, I have never accepted those terms.
Having said that, I assume he means Jews from Arabo-Muslim countries.

"However, the way he said it made me wonder whether Mizrahi have no tradition of anything equivalent to shuls which are said to have given "our" Jews such a leg-up when literate people were needed"

First, thank you for asking, nobody ever does.
Of course every Jewish community has them since they must prepare for barmitzva, which requires reading and writing. In addition, elementary education was provided by a Jewish network of schools that stretched from Teheran to Casablanca, in every Muslim country except Yemen. Those schools taught all the subjects in French (some schools were in English) along with Jewish studies. I (and my parents before me) followed the same programs and had the same books as say, the Jews of Salonica. There were also private schools, Talmud Tora, yeshivas, kolels, colleges for Rabbinic judges, girls' seminaries, not to mention public schools and universities.
Jews couldn't be educated in Arabic (except as a foreign language) since it was the language of the Koran and Muslim theologians, except in countries like Iraq - at least for a while - when Arabism as an identity was being imposed.

But of course, like in any other country, there are always people in remote areas, very small towns and villages where education is not available.

Anonymous said...

thanks Sylvia

so I guessed right
- and I won't start telling stories about "Bildungsferne" in villages an hour away from Frankfurt where people are doing really well financially ;-)
come to think of it they are never meant when our "bildungsfern" is discussed, "bildungsfern" is applied to urbans only and they by your explanation definitely do not qualify.

Sylvia said...

That guy reminded me of something, but I didn't know exactly what until I read that he was into pedagogy.
There was an Israeli pedagogue named Karl Frankenstein (yes!) who has developed that theory that children from North African countries in particular were naturally retarded, something like that. Accordingly he put them into classes with mentally handicapped children (this is what I vaguely remember).
He wrote books, and if that Kashi has been inspired by them then he will eventually know that Frankenstein is today largely discredited, I find it worrisome that he seems to be following in Karl Frankenstein's footsteps.

PS: you lost me with this reference to finance and merchants. If that has anything to do with that guy's statement, let me tell you that I am totally clueless when it comes to business. My Ph.D. is in the Humanities, with expertise in French poetry and Comparative Literature. I hardly fit the bill (and so are many others like me, who left for other horizons, where their talents were better appreciated).
If I misunderstood, then disregard what I just wrote.

Anonymous said...

I googled Frankenstein a bit, there is precious little to be found on or by him I didn't even find his birth date. As to any circle of friends it seems he was at one time at the same uni as Hannah Arendt. All these Menschen- and WeltVerbesserer (improvement) types are deeply suspicious to me and I found one piece at Wikipedia about what seems to stem from Frankenstein's circle about Mizrachi which makes my stomach churn.

I don't remember Kashi mentioning any names. He talked in the last part a lot about what we call reform schools (that's why I now looked up Frankenstein, hoping, guessing to find a connection.)

No matter their language I don't trust them, too much elitist babble in there for my taste and he mentioned what maybe the flagship of them i.e. Odenwald (quite a sex scandal there recently, one director quite thoroughly "misinterpreting" the pedagogic eros thingy) - they claim that those kinds of schools gave "them" (all of "them") a better chance. As to handicapped children I read from time to time that it is still tried to keep them in a "normal" environment around here. Off hand I'd guess it'd be more a benefit to the "normals"

As to me no great idea I have ever read about has much impressed me. When a teacher loves his subject, that is infectious, and if he/she should tell a story, yes also in math, well, then magic will happen and knowledge be transferred whether the curtains are tops of the art or not.

I referred to merchant without finance and not out of delicacy but the piece was really about merchants i.e. people with the skill, the nerve, the discretion and the knowledge to sniff out high quality stuff in remote places as I remember some of them did or else with the kind of sophisticated gut feeling and thorough knowledge combined that lets one estimate what a market will dig and absorb. Those are in my books skills all the way up there with PhDs and more and I think they are not conducive to be systematized into a curriculum, but are best acquired when one can immerse oneself into them from childhood on. Which, in my book does not lessen them in any way. (remember Germany is the country of the Hanse and I was told in school to be proud of them - always this ridiculous proud, they were good at what they did - they were merchants - their decline is in Buddenbrooks)

But that is only me who has listened to only one live uni lecture in her whole life. (and yes finance is a very sophisticated business too and right now it seems it wasn't a good idea to hand it over completely to apparently thorougly indoctrinated uni-types. It might have been a lot better to leave it in the hands of those who had a tradition of it in the family and I don't give a hoot about anybody's "identity" when I may feel sure that they have learned about "risk" from the crib on.)