Playing (For Time)

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58 Responses

  1. Toby Katz says:

    Other closely guarded secrets at JTS:

    1. how many rabbis they ordain every year (very few — a tiny percentage of the number of rabbis ordained Orthodox or Lubavitch each year)

    2. what percentage of their ordained rabbis are female (in recent years, a majority, heading towards a state in which the rabbinate will be considered a female profession, like nursing or social work, AND men will not go to shul — paralleling the situation in the liberal Christian denominations, where when the women take over leadership/priestly positions, the men leave in droves)

  2. David says:

    I believe that the Conservative movement also has this “2/3rds rule” when it comes to the possibility of accepting patralineal descent. This was also done to prevent the layity from forcing the issue, since anectdotal evidence seems to indicate that an overwhelming majority of Conservative layity believes in changing to accept patralineal descent, and may defacto recognize it already.
    I have predicted in the past, and I find it kind of funny and kind of sad to see come true, that the C movement would recoginize gay rabbis and gay marriage before it recognized patralineal descent.

  3. Nachum says:

    Toby, the numbers are occasionally reported. I remember a report from a few years back that JTS was ordaining (not technically the right word) about five or six people that year, and HUC-JIR a similar number. YU alone, by contrast, is ordaining 185 rabbis next week, coveringa four year period. That’s over 45 a year.

    Of course, there are many reasons for this. A great many Orthodox Jews are ordained without actually going into rabbanus or chinuch. There are also less positions in the non-Orthodox world. There are less synagogues, which have low turnover, and less schools. That said, I believe the Conservative and Reform do have a problem with their low numbers. The Reform movement, for example, wants to certify their cantors as eligible to be US military chaplains. (Currently, over half the chaplains are Orthodox.)

  4. Bob Miller says:

    In the past, a number of rabbis ordained at Orthodox institutions ended up in the Conservative rabbinate. Do we see this happening any more?

  5. HILLEL says:

    Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, Modern Orthodox–all of these modified versions of authentic Judaism were characterized by Rabbi Aaron Kotler, OB”M, as attempts by Jews who are ignorant of their own tradition or who feel inferior to the gentiles around them to come to terms with the “modern world” and distance themselves from “medeival” Judaism.

    As our history has demonstrated, time and time again, such attempts to abandon our tradition, in whole and in part, will end in assimilation and disappearance.

    The Conservative movement is grasping at straws, in an attempt to postpone the inevitable–they will not succeed.

  6. David says:

    “In the past, a number of rabbis ordained at Orthodox institutions ended up in the Conservative rabbinate. Do we see this happening any more?”

    Absolutely not. If anything, you see more and more Reform and Reconstructionist ordained rabbis taking Pulpits at Conservative temples. Which is odd, because is theory, their theology should be very at odds with what Conservative Judaism says on paper, yet no one seems to bat an eye over it.

  7. Bob Miller says:

    The “right wing” Conservative temple in NJ in the 1970’s used a Friday night prayer book published by Prayer Book Press including English prayer-poems by Mordecai Kaplan. Yet Kaplan had ostensibly left the Conservative movement to found Reconstructionism. Somehow, the separation between the two movements was never clear cut! A temple in Indianapolis openly and officially belongs to both movements. Considering that Reconstructionist thought at rock bottom (minus the smoke and mirrors)is atheist, how could this be?

  8. Neviah T. says:

    Some statistics gleaned from the net:

    In 2005, HUC-JIR (reform) ordained 10 women/17 men, from its 3 campuses in NY, CA, and OH http://www.huc.edu/newspubs/pressroom/2005/6/Ord1.shtml

    JTS ordained 17 men and women combined
    http://www.jtsa.edu/development/torahfund/resources/bulletinbriefs.shtml

    Couldn’t find anything for RRC (Recons), except that “more than 200” have been ordained since 1968 (about 6 a year, roughly)

    Also, no numbers are given for Hebrew College’s new “transdenominational” rabbinical school.

    In response to #7, the answer is on the books, dual affiliation is discouraged by the United Synagogue (CJ’s congregational arm), but in practice it gets flouted quite a bit. I have seen this in practice in IL and NJ. Clouding the issue is that I think some congregations claim dual affiliation when in fact they mean “dual practice styles” – a reform-style service Friday night and a conservative service Sat morning. If you don’t pay yer dues, you can claim pretty much whatever you want 😉

  9. Neviah T. says:

    Oh yes, and in 2004, 75 rabbis were ordained in Morristown by the Rabbinical College of America (http://www.shmais.com/pages.cfm?page=archivenewsdetail&ID=13785). I’m guessing it’s a pretty representative figure for many, if not most yeshivas.

  10. Different River says:

    David writes:

    “If anything, you see more and more Reform and Reconstructionist ordained rabbis taking Pulpits at Conservative temples. Which is odd, because is theory, their theology should be very at odds with what Conservative Judaism says on paper, yet no one seems to bat an eye over it.”

    Sometimes rabbis move because their theology changes. I know of one case in which a Reform-ordained rabbi got a job at a Conservative synagogue in part because Reform had moved so far to the left (and/or he had moved so far to the right) that he couldn’t find a Reform temple that would have him. (He actually believed there was such a thing as a sin — apparently this made it difficult to get a Reform job.)

  11. Charles B. Hall says:

    ‘the situation in the liberal Christian denominations’

    Not just the liberals. The Salvation Army has always had large numbers of women; George Bernard Shaw even wrote a play, “Major Barbara”, whose title character is a Salvation Army minister. And the Assemblies of God sect has long had many female clergy. Today most Protestant sects have at least some female clergy.

    And there are a few women who have been given private semicha as orthodox rabbis.

    ‘YU alone, by contrast, is ordaining 185 rabbis next week, coveringa four year period. ‘

    Here is an old article from the YU Commentator that reports that for the RIETS semichah class of 2002, 24 of the 147 students who received then were pulpit rabbis — that is only six per year.

    http://www.yucommentator.com/media/paper652/news/2002/12/31/Features/Students.Choose.Between.Riets.And.Chovevei.Torah-655123.shtml?norewrite200603202306&sourcedomain=www.yucommentator.com

    I don’t know what the stats are for the class that is getting semichah this coming Sunday, but I can’t believe that things have changed greatly in four years. Yeshivat Chovevei Torah was designed to produce pulpit rabbis — about 10 per year.

    The comparison with the Rabbinical Seminary of America’s 75 rabbis/year is striking. Maybe we need more MO rabbinical schools? (Full disclosure: I work for a division of Yeshiva University.)

    ‘A temple in Indianapolis openly and officially belongs to both movements.’

    As does the congregation Kaplan himself founded in Manhattan.

  12. mycroft says:

    “24 of the 147 students who received then were pulpit rabbis—that is only six per year.”
    One cannot simply compare “smicha” numbers. What are the musmachim doing? Sadly. there are much fewer schuls in the US than there were 56 years ago. Victor Geller did a phone book study that confirms that. Sadly with all the triumphalism written at times -less than 10% of Jews are “frum”.
    I assume JTS “Rabbis” go to congregations-thats why they went there. Many musmachim of other Yeshivas went to learn.

  13. Bob Miller says:

    Charles,

    What do you mean by this?
    “And there are a few women who have been given private semicha as orthodox rabbis.”

    Someone seems to have a rather elastic definition of orthodox.

  14. Nachum says:

    Charlie, I was about to mention the Society for the Advancement of Judaism, Reconstructionism’s flagship, which is Conservative as well. Bob, remember that Kaplan stayed at JTS for many years after he founded Reconstructionism, and had a big influence on generations of Conservative rabbis.

    Then again, he had a great influence on Judaism in general, including Orthodoxy, as Rabbi Schacter and Dr. Gurock have shown in their book.

    Also, Charlie: RSA is Lubavitch. They are ordaining people who are becoming shlichim or are continuing to learn. It’s a somewhat different situation. I believe most yeshivas in the US (and elsewhere) don’t even give Semicha as an institution. No one gets Semicha “from Lakewood”, I think, but from a rav after learning there. The yeshivas that do give Semicha (a handful) give a relative few a year. I’d be glad if someone could correct my impression.

    Finally, Hillel: Can you explain how Modern Orthodoxy is an “attempt to abandon our tradition”?

  15. HILLEL says:

    Nachum:

    I was quoting directly from Rav Aaron Kotler, OB”M. He stated that the attempt to “Modernize” Orthodoxy stems from the same attitude that originally created the Reform movement–namely, that our tradition from Sinai is deficient and that it needs to brought up-to-date by intoducing some fashionable and trendy ideas from the “Modern” world.

  16. Nachum says:

    Well, then, he was wrong. Or, at least, he had no idea what Modern Orthodoxy was all about.

  17. Daniel Weltman says:

    HILLEL, RSRH first coined the term “orthodox”. He is considered the father of modern orthodoxy, which refers to an orthodoxy that is able to interact with the modern world while giving up nothing of it’s Sinaitic tradition. Thus, orthodoxy in general would really (at least most faithfully) be a term applied to RSRH’s brand of Judaism.

    Anyway, I see no reason to claim the Modern orthodoxy seeks to modernize Judaism. It does not. It simply provides a framework for a faithfully torah Jew to interact with the world around us. Thus, halachos that apply to fashion (for example, wearing a hat during prayer), and are admittedly (at least by the mishna berura) subject to the vagaries of the general culture, can be changed when the general culture changes. These kinds of changes are certainly not attempts to butress our deficient sinaitic tradition. On the contrary, this attitude says that our Sinaitic tradition is Complete; it has the capacity to deal with everything, and there is no reason to arbitrarily choose one moment in general culture (say, 17th century poland) and make that a defining culture for Jews.

    In conclusion, I vehemently challange your quote that places modern orthodoxy in the same camp as conservative and reform Judaism. MO does not break faith with the Laws of the torah. The others DO!

  18. Daniel Weltman says:

    And before you say it, you don’t have to. Just because Rav Aron Kotler, OB”M said it, does not make it right. I have the highest esteem for the torah greats, and precisely because of that esteem, have no problem pointing out where they were mistaken.

  19. Yaakov Menken says:

    The claim that RSRH coined the term “orthodox” is not only entirely untrue, but he disdained it in writing:

    It was not “Orthodox” Jews who introduced the word “orthodox” into Jewish discussion. It was the modern “progressive” Jews who first applied the name to “old,” “backward” Jews as a derogatory term. This name was… resented by “old” Jews. And rightfully so.

    The German Torah Im Derech Eretz community, though now headquartered in roughly the same locale as YU, might have a word or two about the use of his name as the father of Modern Orthodoxy.

  20. Charles B. Hall, PhD says:

    ‘What do you mean by this?’

    Just a statement of fact: Some orthodox rabbis have given women private semicha.

    ‘there are much fewer schuls in the US than there were 56 years ago’

    The destruction of the Jewish community in the Bronx is alone sufficient to make that a true statement. See http://www.bronxsynagogues.org and cry.

    ‘I was quoting directly from Rav Aaron Kotler’

    WADR to Rav Kotler, there have been Orthodox communities in the United States since early colonial times, and the hashgafa of almost all of them until World War II was what would today be called “Modern Orthodox”. If you read the their correspondence, their archives, their struggles to maintain observance despite the complete lack of support from the Rabbinate of Europe for almost 200 years, you will see that they desired to be a full part of the gentile society around them yet did not feel that there were any deficiencies in the Sinai tradition.

  21. HILLEL says:

    I’m overwhelmed. So, I guess I’ll answer my critics by simply stating that hyphenated Judaism, of any type, is an oxymoron.

    There is only one Jewish tradition (Mesorah), handed-down faithfully from Sinai, by our great Torah leaders.

    If we break this chain of Mesorah, we are cut-off from Sinai, and we will quickly disappear amongst the nations that surround us, as the Reform and Conservative are now doing.

  22. Daniel Weltman says:

    Yakov, I stand corrected. I did not really mean what I wrote. What I meant was that the German Reformers were the ones who coined the phrase “orthodox” as a disparaging way to refer to jews who kept the “old” way. Rav Hirsch picked up on the phrase and said, “yes, we are ortho=straight, true, dox=doctrine”, ie, we do have the truth. That is what I meant. As for the Jews of the Torah Im Derech Eretz community, they can have many words about it, but the fact stands that Rav hirsch was the father of the movement to allow complete observance of mitzvos to meet and embrace the modern world. Sure, there are people who call themselves MO who do not live up to that standard, but there are also charedim who do not live up to that standard. Point is, the cream of MO crop is in line with RSRH. Either way, it is a far cry from anyone to put MO in a group with reform and conservative, for the reason I already mentioned: One keeps the torah, the others don’t.

  23. DovBear says:

    There is only one Jewish tradition (Mesorah), handed-down faithfully from Sinai, by our great Torah leaders.

    Only one? So who has it? Satmar? Lubovitch? YU? Chardal? Mafdal? Yeshivish people? I could go on, but I think you get the point.

  24. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Hillel: I’m overwhelmed. So, I guess I’ll answer my critics by simply stating that hyphenated Judaism, of any type, is an oxymoron.

    There is only one Jewish tradition (Mesorah), handed-down faithfully from Sinai, by our great Torah leaders.

    Ori: Is there anything inherently wrong with Ashkenazik-Judaism or Sepharadic-Judaism (note the hyphens)? If there is truly only one Mesorah about everything, then either the two are identical (they aren’t) or one of them is not truly Jewish.

    To take it back in time, the sages of the Talmud often said that the sages in “the west” (= Israel) held particular opinions, which they sometimes disagreed with. Were the Talmudic sages not faithfully Jewish? Or were their contemporaries in Israel the ones who were not faithful to Judaism?

    Not everything is Judaism. Not everything done by Jews in Judaism. But that does not mean that anybody who does not follow a particular Torah leader is not acting as a Jew should. Judaism does not have a central authority, the way Catholicism does.

  25. Shira Schmidt says:

    22 b Adar
    The secular Israeli newspaper Haaretz.com wrote about the COnservative rabbis’ conference in Mexico City this week.One rabbi is proud that they have eliminated the Torah reading for Yom Kippur because it isn’t PC. See the article “Conservative rabbis to weigh end to ban on gay rabbis” which states that:
    “Rabbi Alan Cohen of Overland Park, Kansas, said his synagogue, in a show of sensitivity to gays, years ago replaced a traditional Bible reading on the afternoon of the Yom Kippur Day of Atonement, the holiest day of the Jewish year.His congregation dropped the reading that included Leviticus 18:22, which says: ‘Do not lie with a male as one lies with a woman; it is an abomination.'”

  26. Michael Kopinsky says:

    There is a major difference between Sefardi-Judaism, which is one way of practicing Judaism, and what some people have made of Modern-Orthodoxy, which (for some people) is a combination of Modern values and Orthodox values. The truth is, none of those people are actually following modern orthodoxy. Modern Orthodoxy is the belief that living in the modern world does not in any way contradict living a Torah life. The Mesorah itself gives us rules for how, and how not, to live in today’s world.

    That said, there are a good number of people who do practice the wrong kind of modern orthodoxy, the kind that involves a balance between modern values and Torah values. These are the people who mislead the Chareidi community to think that’s what MO is about.

  27. Jordan Hirsch says:

    In regard to R’ Aharon Kotler, OB”M, it is also important to keep in mind that Modern Orthodoxy as a philosophy and as it was practiced in the forties and fifties are two very different things.

  28. Bob Miller says:

    Charles B. Hall,

    When you write “Just a statement of fact: Some orthodox rabbis have given women private semicha.”

    1. By what definition are such rabbis orthodox? Are you referring to their training or to their affiliation when they took this action?

    2. By what definition have such women been given semicha?

    3. Which, if any, rabbinic organizations have endorsed any of these attempts at semicha before or after the fact? Which, if any, have expressed disapproval before or after?

  29. Jewish Observer says:

    “Only one? So who has it? Satmar? Lubovitch? YU? Chardal? Mafdal? Yeshivish people?”

    Yeshivish people

  30. Nachum says:

    Well, Daniel Weltman put it somewhat better in #19 than I did, I suppose.

    R’ Menken: True about the current Hirschian community. On the other hand, it can be correctly argued that they’ve strayed somewhat from his vision as well.

    Dr. Hall (and others): You might also point out that R’ Kotler’s “version” of Judaism is also of relatively recent vintage. Most if not all current forms of Judaism are. Moshe Rabbenu was neither “Modern Orthodox” nor “Charedi”.

    Bob Miller: It can be a bit complicated. So let me ask you this: A woman learns all of the things a man does to gain semicha. She doesn’t get it. What’s her status? Would you ask her if a chicken is kosher? Could you?

  31. Shira Schmidt says:

    22 bAdar Re the percentage of women studying to be rabbis in heterodox movements. The March 2006 issue of Hadassah magazine http://www.hadassah.org has 2 articles on women rabbis with the following numbers on p.30 (I am not vouching for the reliability):”more than a third of current students at Conservative JTS are female (up from 5 percent in 1985), as are 60 percent of current class at Reform HUC-JIR in NY and two-thirds of those in Philadelphia’s Reconstructionist Rabbinical College.” A Reform male rabbi told me the percent of men in rabbinical schools increases when the general job market is tight. When it’s hard for men to find work in other professions, they turn as a last resort to the rabbinical schools.

  32. mycroft says:

    “The German Torah Im Derech Eretz community, though now headquartered in roughly the same locale as YU, might have a word or two about the use of his name as the father of Modern Orthodoxy.”

    It is an open question how much they have strayed from a Hirschian approach to a “Yekke Litvash approach” The question goes back to at least when they hired R. Shimon Schwab ZT”L. R. Shimon Schwab went to Litvish Yeshiva. See the recent Jewish Observor where yjey print letters of R. Gifter ZT”L writing from Tels-in the 30’s refers to Rav Schwab as the only Ferman who follows proper approach the Litvish approach.

  33. Neviah T. says:

    Charles Hall – I take it you are referring Mimi Feigelson, who announced her smicha well after the rabbi in question passed on, and Evelyn Goodman-Thau, who claims ordination from Rabbi Jonathan Chipman? Both of whom are now throughly enconsced in non-Orthodox Jewish settings, except when trotted out by JOFA as needed?

  34. Bob Miller says:

    Nachum,

    Anybody can ask anybody for advice, but psak falls into another category. You may get an indication from an educated Jew that the chicken you bought is or is not kosher, but you still need to consult with a posek to get a decision you can act on.

    However, if the advisor is falsely posing as a rabbi, that makes any input from that advisor problematical, as it puts the advisor’s veracity and character into question.

  35. HILLEL says:

    Very good questions!–So, let me attempt a clarification.

    There is only one true Mesorah tradition from Sinai. In the Pirkei Avos (Chapters of the Fathers), this line of traditon is specified clearly as being in the hands of the leading sages of each generation.

    When the Jewish People were sent into exile after the destruction of the Temple, different practices arose in different areas of the world, mainly Sefardi and Ashkenazi. Both practices are accounted-for in the Shulchan Aruch. Both traditions are loyal to the Torah, without question–the differences are relatively minor.

    However, we have periodically suffered from Jews who have sought to imitate the gentile cultures around them–Karaites, Saducees, Hellenizers, Maskilim, Reform and Conservative Jews. The defining characteristic of these heretics is that they suffer from an inferiority complex vis-a-vis the majority gentile culture that surrounds them. To make themselves feel better, they seek to integrate these gentile ideals into their version of Judaism, thereby compromising Torah standards.

    Rav Kotler was describing these kinds of heretics when he spoke about “Modern Orthodoxy.”

    Rav Kotler was not referring to Jewish professionals, who strictly observe Torah traditions according to the Shulchan Aruch (Code of Jewish Law). Rav Kotler fully-supported Agudas Yisroel, which, as you know, has a very large membership of Jewish professionals.

  36. Daniel Weltman says:

    Hillel, I would just correct your last post by saying that the defining characteristic of these heretics is not that they suffer from an inferiority complex, etc. That may be a commonality, but it is not the defining one. The defining characteristic is their response, which is to change, or modify, the teachings of rabbinic, or orthodox, judaism, in order to allow themselves to remain true to some aspects of their faith, while at the same time allowing them to try and enter that gentile culture wholeheartedly. This, MO does not do, at least in theory, and the way it is practiced by many.

  37. Nachum says:

    Hillel, did the Rambam “suffer from an inferiority complex vis-a-vis the majority gentile culture that surrounded him”? Did Rav Hirsch? Did Rav Soloveitchik?

    Are Jews to whom modernity means far more than “being a professional” able to “strictly observe Torah traditions according to the Shulchan Aruch”? Does R’ Norman Lamm, who is not a “professional” but a Rav and Rosh Yeshiva?

    “In the Pirkei Avos (Chapters of the Fathers), this line of traditon is specified clearly as being in the hands of the leading sages of each generation.”

    Where does it say that? Read what it says. In any event, Pirkei Avos is speaking of halacha- of Torah Shel B’al Peh. Not whether secular studies is permissible, or whether black hats need be worn.

    Again, I’m not saying the Rambam was “Modern Orthodox.” Try the following sentence:

    “____-Orthodoxy was created in the 1970’s or at the earliest the 1960’s. It is based on certain ideas and institutions going back to the 1920’s. It draws inspiration from Jewish ideas of the 1800’s, 1700’s, the middle ages, and as far back as the Talmud.”

    You can stick “ultra” or “modern” into the blank. Neither goes back to Moshe at Har Sinai.

  38. Larry says:

    Does anyone think that the seemingly endless stream of ridicule and sarcasm, directed on this blog against practitioners and leaders of the non-Orthodox denominations, will bring even a single Jew closer to Torah observance? Is the successful practice of “kiruv rechokim” (Jewish outreach) furthered or hindered by these relentless attacks on other well-meaning-if-misguided Jews? When one feels compelled to expend so much energy expressing his animosity to others, is it not reasonable to suppose that he is simply masking an internal sense of inadequacy or jealousy?

  39. Bob Miller says:

    Larry,

    Do you believe that the charges made are not true, or just not useful?

    If you felt deeply that your religion was being publically falsified, sabotaged, and demeaned in an organized way, with or without bad intent, what would you do?

  40. HILLEL says:

    Larry:

    My defense of authentic Jewish tradition was not intended as an attack on you or any other Jew–our tradition demands Ahavat Yisroel (love of our fellow Jews).

    The issue is physical survival and honoring our obligations to G-D, which we undertook at Sinai.

    Kiruv of alienated Jews is not promoted by watering-down authentic Judaism with an admixture of Darwin, Marx and Freud. We will bring our brothers back from the wasteland of modern life only by showing the true beauty of real Torah Judaism–Shabbat, Yom-Tov, and spiritual purity.

  41. Larry says:

    In my comment (no. 39, above), I was speaking in terms of tactics and in the belief that (1) authentic Judaism can stand on its own, without the need to resort to vilification of other Jews, and (2) productive dialogue is best centered not around personalities but around issues. These beliefs have been solidified through years of engagement in kiruv rechokim, both in professional settings and on a personal level.

    Following are some examples of sarcastic, mean-spirited and/or polemical comments made on this blog that I believe are unproductive (or worse) if our goal is to truly present the beauty of Torah to our fellow Jews. Does any one of these comments truly exemplify the Ahavat Yisroel that Hillel (comment 41, above) acknowledges as being incumbent upon each of us:

    “That [Conservative rabbinical] committee is, after all, composed of individuals possessing not only great expertise in Jewish law, but also in-depth knowledge of all truly relevant disciplines, a partial list of which includes anthropology, psychology, history, archaeology and sociology, and surely at least a few of them speak a good (or can at least say “pass the relish” in) Ugaritic or read Syriac (airport signs) as well … But even more importantly, these committee members are all people of exquisite ethical sensitivity, infinitely more so than the authors of Torah …”

    “He actually believed there was such a thing as a sin—apparently this made it difficult to get a Reform job.”

    “A Reform male rabbi told me the percent of men in rabbinical schools increases when the general job market is tight. When it’s hard for men to find work in other professions, they turn as a last resort to the rabbinical schools.”

    ” … Reform and Conservative Jews. The defining characteristic of these heretics is that they suffer from an inferiority complex vis-a-vis the majority gentile culture that surrounds them.”

    “I cannot help thinking that both the Conservative movement and Hamas are bent on destroying things sacred to Jews: the Conservative ideology is destroying Jewish law, and Hamas is bent on destroying the Jewish state.”

    “I can’t wait for the bestiality vote. That’ll be a fun one to watch. After all, the torah says all kinds of things about being kind and loving toward animals. That should be a slam dunk.”

    “The tragedy here is that the Conservative experts are not knowledgeable enough in Torah to even recognize the right thing. They are spinning their wheels until they identify the most expedient decision.”

    ‘Nuff said, at least for now. Our Jewish people await our better efforts.

  42. Edvallace says:

    Larry,

    As the author of one of those comments, I feel obliged to respond to your assertions.
    Certainly, if one is addressing a secular Jewish crowd, these comments would not be helpful at all. If one however, is addressing a crowd that understands why these movements are flawed, there is no reason not to do so. In fact, it can be most enlightening and helpful in illustrating why we hold so fiercely to our principles. I’d like to believe that this blog primarily addresses Jews of that order and I believe the tone of many of the articles written by our bloggers reflects this as well. Rabbi’s Feldman, Adlerstein, Menken, etc. all have written pieces dissecting the ReCon movements. Our comments reflect those sentiments.
    You may be correct in worrying that to a secular these comments will be unhelpful and therefore question the very premise of the blog [I actually wonder that as well] but so long as it exists, I think we should make our point clear as day. Couching our distaste for the falsification of Judaism in politically correct terms will serve absolutely no useful purpose at all.

  43. HILLEL says:

    Larry:

    I’m sorry, sometimes tough love is required, and that is true Ahavat Yisroel.

    When our Conservative brethern delete required Torah readings from the Yom Kippur service (Leviticus/Homosexuality punishment) in order to cater to the current politically-correct fashions, we must tell it like it is and say that they are exhibiting the signs of a classic inferiority complex.

    If they were proud and confident of the validity of their Torah traditions, which were handed-down to then directly from G-D at Sinai, they wouldn’t dream of making such a cowardly deletion.

  44. Bob Miller says:

    “The tragedy here is that the Conservative experts are not knowledgeable enough in Torah to even recognize the right thing. They are spinning their wheels until they identify the most expedient decision.”

    I stand by this 100%.

  45. Yaakov Menken says:

    For the record, I disagree with Edvallace. We have a varied audience, and that’s the way we want it. Yes, there are readers of Cross-Currents attending Conservative Jewish congregations. We see no reason to avoid discussing ways in which they are being failed by their leadership.

    If one goes over Larry’s quotes, none of those which speak about “Conservatives” or “Conservative Jews” come from our writers, and with good reason. We know the difference between the laity and the Rabbinate. The fact that the level of vitriol aimed at Orthodox Jews (not merely its Rabbinate) by Reform and Conservative leaders is incomparably more vicious, is not even the point.

    Comment #1 is from Eytan. Conservative leaders do believe they can make more knowledgeable Torah decisions because they can balance Torah with anthropology and psychology — “there was no such thing as a monogamous homosexual relationship then.” Yes, we think that is ridiculous (an adjective which means “deserving or inspiring ridicule“).

    Comment #2 is actually not from one of our writers, but is quite similar to #3 from Shira Schmidt — these are recollections of statements made by the Reform Rabbis in question. So Larry is saying that we can’t quote Reform self-criticism? Is that because it is “mean-spirited” or because it is “polemical?”

    We do not believe the modern movements are a long-term success. Not long ago, I said that “history demonstrates that resistance to conversion and opposition to intermarriage serves the Jewish people well.” A comment in response called this “nonsense.”

    There are still people out there who beleive the Reform and Conservative rabbinates have their act together. It behooves us to point out that this is not the case, even with mild sarcasm.

  46. Jewish Observer says:

    I agree with Larry.

    – To protest so vigorously against these “aberrant” causes is to accord the very esteem we would wish to withold.
    – The degree to we object should be commensurate with the degree of impact the objectionable activity has. No one with whom I have debated this point has argued that there is an actual threat posed by Conservative and Reform. The argument invariably is that we need to fight for the truth, for (literally) g-d’s sake!
    – This is all based on a lot of confidence about what g-d wants from us. I wouldn’t be shocked to find out that Rabbis Kanievsky or Elyashiv are OK with us NOT making a mecha’ah here. I would actually be surprised to find out that these “problems” are on their radar screen
    – Absent a constructive purpose, we should feel safe sticking with a default of ahavas yisroel, with everything else needing an airtight cost/benefit analysis (i.e. heter). I can’t imagine getting blamed for such a stance when it really counts.

  47. Jewish Observer says:

    “It behooves us to point out that this is not the case, even with mild sarcasm.”

    Is mild sarcasm ever OK when it comes to pointing out gaps in orthodoxy?

  48. Larry says:

    Rabbi Menken states (in comment no. 46, above) that “the level of vitriol aimed at Orthodox Jews (not merely its Rabbinate) by Reform and Conservative leaders is incomparably more vicious” than the level of anti-Conservative diatribe on this blog. I have not found this to be the case; indeed, in my many dealings with leaders and rabbis of the non-Orthodox movements, I have rarely witnessed or experienced any anti-Orthodox animus. Could you give some examples or links to examples?

  49. Yaakov Menken says:

    Larry, see here and here. That latter essay, from the then-head of the Reform movement’s association of rabbis, won an award from the American Jewish Press Association for “Excellence in Commentary.” I doubt you’ll need further proof of the attitude of non-Orthodox clergy or press.

  50. Jewish Observer says:

    “Larry, see here…”

    I haven’t heard this expression in years

  51. Bob Miller says:

    JO, are you a Larry, too?

  52. HILLEL says:

    Here is a perfect illustration of the kind of Modern Orthodoxy that I, and every other G-D-fearing Jew, can endorse:

    http://www.ynetnews.com/Ext/Comp/ArticleLayout/CdaArticlePrintPreview/1,2506,L-3231460,00.html

  53. David N. Friedman says:

    Regarding the point made by Rabbi Menken to Larry concerning the question of the comparable viciousness of the non-Orthodox towards the Orthodox vs. the animus of the Orthodox towards the rest of Judaism–I must agree with Rabbi Menken and I am not in the Orthodox world.

    The point needs to be made that simply because some other group or person is more negative–this is no opportunity to respond in kind. I would like to see all Jews to act in lovingkindness towards each other. It is truly disheartening to hear some Reform and Conservative Jews speak with such vitriol. When I call them down for such sentiments, the response is often 1) apology followed by 2) more vitriol. Then, when I complain that the apology appears to be half-hearted, sometimes there is no acknowledgement,sometimes there is denial and sometimes the person can be reached.

  54. Jewish Observer says:

    Bob said: “JO, are you a Larry, too?”

    I don’t understand the question

  55. Bob Miller says:

    JO said:

    “‘Larry, see here…’ I haven’t heard this expression in years”

    So I was wondering if he had heard “Larry, see here” from people talking to him.

  56. Jewish Observer says:

    “So I was wondering if he had heard “Larry, see here” from people talking to him.”

    ah! now I get it! no, I am an Aaron. So Bob, what is your charedi name?

  57. Bob Miller says:

    In Hebrew, I’m Yitzchak Avraham. Our family took the name Miller somewhere around 1800 (this was an older brother of the B’nai Yissaschar)

  1. March 20, 2006

    […] It appears as though, in a bid to keep the prohibition against homosexuality in place, the executive committee of the Committee on Laws and Standards within Conservative Judaism secretly passed a ruling last summer that raises the number of votes needed to canonize a minority oppinion from six to twenty. According to those in favor of lifting the ban on homosexuality, the ruling was enacted specifically to prevent their oppinion from becoming law within the Conservative movement. They claim that the ruling was passed without their knowledge, and that they only found out about it last week, during discussions concerning the ban. All of this tells me that the Conservative movement is running like a well-oiled corporate machine. If we want to keep from acknowledging what we all know is the majority oppinion anyway, then we’ll just come up with new criteria for voting in new oppinions, and classify it under “Needs of the Movement”. Kind of like “Needs of the Business”. This is the official way of saying, “We’ll do whatever we want.” Not that I disagree with the outcome that the traditionalists are trying to achieve. They have a situation in which precedence has already been established allowing legal decisions to be influenced by what the layity thinks, based on personal oppinion instead of consideration of Halachic sources. The only problem is, now you have to live with it. Conservative Judaism is supposed to be committed to the Halachic approach. If that’s the case, then there’s no way you can honestly not forbid homosexual unions, and you definitely can’t allow active homosexuals to be ordained as clergy. The Torah is very clear about the prohibition of homosexuality. There’s nothing ambiguous about it. While I find the use of strong-arm tactics reprehensible, especially in what is supposed to be a religious setting, I find the end the traditionalists are trying to achieve the right one. But what amazes me more is that Eyton Kober is so worked up about all this. He goes out of his way to heap sarcasm where it’s pointless. It seems to me as though he expects the Conservative movement to just discard the prohibition, rather than allow that some in the movement might actually be in favor of letting the prohibition stand because the Torah says it should. This beggs the question. There are Orthodox Jews who abandon the laws of Lashon Harah. Does that mean they should abandon Halachic observance altogether? After all, the argument seems, “Since you don’t observe all of Halachah, then you should just quit observing it altogether.” Is that what you’re really after. Yes, the tactics are wrong. But it seems to me that they’re trying to work within a system which already stacks the deck against traditionalists anyway. And, more to the point, why do you care? You’ve already written the movement off. To say that you haven’t written off each individual Jew within the movement is an argument of symantics. That would be like someone who has written off Orthodoxy saying they’ve written off the movement, but not each individual Jew. It wouldn’t carry much weight with you either. So, since the movement is of no consequence, (in your book, it’s not even Judaism), Why do you care what goes on in its committee meetings. […]

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