Notes From the Evangelical Underground

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38 Responses

  1. Joel Rich says:

    Now imagine the result if we could just carry out the commandment of vahavta lreacha kamocha with such intensity.
    Chag Sameach

  2. Tzioni says:

    Why exactly did the author need to interact–obviously in an emotional way– with this group? Shouldn’t they do their thing (which involves the Avodas Zarah of offering prayer to a human being) without his participation? The act of their eating together is disturbing. Would it not have been far more adequate to limit his participation to video conferencing as did Sharansky and others?

  3. Bob Miller says:

    How many of these same organizations are simultaneously putting big effort and big bucks into conversion efforts in Israel, overt or covert?

  4. Jewish Observer says:

    “during a dinner that lasted as long as a New York chasuna”

    – not sure what this reference means or what it has to do with the point at hand. is a NY wedding longer or shorter than a “normal” wedding? are we referring to If I recall correctly, this is not the first geographical jab administered by RYA.

  5. Mordechai says:

    Thanks for the very interesting report.

    My reaction is something like ‘vegilu biraada’ (rejoice with trembling). A combination of pleasure at seeing such a thing, together with the apprehension that is natural whenever one encounters a powerful unexpected force. Where is the world headed ? How does this phenomenon fit in ?

    As much as we appreciate this support, we must still realize that salvation comes from G-d, maker of heaven and earth. The Torah warns us not to place our ultimate trust in man, whether they are Jew, gentile, princes or paupers, numerous or few. We can and should be grateful for such support, but need to keep things in perspective and not forget about Hashem, who has kept us going to this day.

    May G-d help us.

  6. gab says:

    Did you talk american politics? Did folks tell you who they favor in the nominations for President?

  7. Reb Yid says:

    YA wrote:

    “I had explained to the organizers that I am a religious fanatic, and likely would not eat what others would call kosher. They were one step ahead of me, and knew from where to bring in top-of-the-kashrus-line packaged dinners. But when they polled some of the Jewish participants, many of them said that they didn’t need glatt kosher, just plain kosher, like eating the hotel dinners, without shellfish or pork.”

    If YA wanted to laud the organizers for their sensitivity, he could have done so in a way that did not even have to mention the other Jewish participants, let alone cast aspersions or make presumptions about what they actually said or thought.

    Did YA confirm that the other Jewish participants did, in fact, call the offensive food “plain kosher” or “kosher”, or is this a second hand (or third hand) account where YA is simply assuming this attribution to be accurate?

    It is one thing to say one will eat food other than pork or shellfish–it’s quite another to claim that this constitutes “plain kosher”.

    One also could be a vegetarian or be quite content to eat kosher (certified) food that’s not glatt. It’s not an either-or between non-kosher on one hand and “glatt” on the other.

  8. mb says:

    “But when they polled some of the Jewish participants, many of them said that they didn’t need glatt kosher, just plain kosher, like eating the hotel dinners, without shellfish or pork.”

    Hmm, I’m sure Rabbi Adlerstein knows full well that there are many thouroughly observant Jews do not eat “Glatt” kosher, a word that seemes to have only entered the lexicon from sometime in the 19th century in Eastern Europe. And I feel pretty sure they would not have eaten the cooked hotel food.
    But there again, I’m British!

  9. Harry Maryles says:

    Yes. I am not surprised at all by what you witnessed. But my eyes still watered when I read this essay. Especially in light of the terrible history with respect to the Jewish people that Christianity is responsible for over the millennia.

    My friend Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein has been in the forefront of making an event like this possible. He was probably the first to recognize this attitude in Evangelical Christians and resigned from the ADL to form ‘The Fellowship of Christians and Jews’. He educated Evangelical leaders as to what Judaism really believes… instead of what the liberal Judaism of Conservative and Reform has been saying it is. And he has withstood the slings and arrows of well meaning but ‘way behind-the-times’ critics of what he was doing. And these are the results. While as you indicate, we must remain vigilant about it, the sincere attitudes displayed now by Evangelical Christians are nothing short of amazing. We should appreciate it and consider Evangelical Christians the true friends of the Jewish people they really are.

    I have on my own watched this happen. I have been attuned to what Evangelical preachers have been saying about the Jewish people and Israel for well over a decade. And it has all been along the lines you’ve written about. I have also been saying things like this on my blog ever since I started it about a year and a half ago.

    In fact I was so upset at Reform leader Rabbi Eric Yaffie’s criticism of John Hagee in the Forward that I wrote an essay last Friday blasting him and his version of Judaism.

    http://haemtza.blogspot.com/2007/05/can-reform-judaism-save-yiddishkeit.html

  10. Mark says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein,

    Thank you for this interesting perspective. As a person who has a very hard time swallowing the notion of interacting with Christians on any level based on their history of anti-semitism, I find information like this compelling. I have no choice but to wonder to myself whether things could be really be changing or is there a sinister motive behind this all? The number of churches that signed on is unbelievable and renders the notion of a sinister motive less likely. There is no question in my mind that my previous attitudes may need to be revised. But it won’t be easy.

    As for some of the other commenters, I really have a hard time understanding why you need to go elsewhere and cant’ just stick to the point at hand. Is it really necessary to chide us for lack of Ahavas Yisroel? Was Rabbi Adlerstein really looking to jab New Yorkers for their weddings or was he offering a light-hearted sentiment? Is it any secret that most Jewish Federations host events that feature non-kosher food? For goodness sakes, sometimes the biases are so petty and childish.

  11. L Oberstein says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein is doing a service by befriending these people. Kabdeihu bechasdeihu or as Reagan would say “Trust but verify”.Over the years I have had a curious psychological condition, which I will now reveal. When I interact with a gentile, I silently ask myself, if the Nazis came would this farmer lady selling me corn also hide e in her barn. The Jews of Hebron didn’t flee when warned of the riots because they said that the Arabs weree their friends, they were wrong, the same Arab that was their friend was also their murderer.The same was true in Poland and Lithuania. However, we cannot refuse to accept support now because of a hypothetical.

  12. Reb Yid says:

    To Mark:

    “After all, everyone knows that those frummies are ____ [pick your favorite stereotype”.

    Understandably, this blog was established to enable both insiders and outsiders to get a more realistic and nuanced version of the “reality” within certain segments of the Orthodox community. Understandably, people are upset when they are unfairly characterized and/or stereotyped.

    But stereotyping is not a one way street–there are times (even if only in at least certain instances out of sheer ignorance or with no harm intended) where non-Orthodox Jews or non-Orthodox Judaism get an unfair rap by Orthodox Jews.

    I have spent quite a number of years studying the Jewish community and/or working for it, including the Federation system. Federations have come a long, long way in the past 30-40 years in terms of kashrut, divrei torah, recognition of Shabbat, etc.

    I was recently at a major conference for leading Federation professionals. The meals were all kosher (as they are for all official Federation or UJC events that I’ve ever attended), and there were egalitarian and mechitzah minyan options every morning.

    You may not be familiar with Federations for any number of reasons. But surely it’s not because of issues of kashrut, Shabbat observance, etc. There are a growing number of Orthodox volunteers and frankly Orthodox professionals in the Federation field. They lead fully observant lives in both the workplace and at home.

  13. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Mark, imagine that you lived two decades before the destruction of the second temple, and somebody told you he has a hard time swallowing the notion of interacting with Jews based on our history of forcibly converting people (the Idumeans, under the Hasmonean dynasty). What would you say?

    1. Forcible conversion is not and never had been part of Halacha.

    2. The Hasmoneans acted as bad Jews, not true representatives of Judaism.

    3. It’s ancient history and everybody involved is dead anyway. Can’t we let bygones by bygones?

    Those arguments, with a few minor changes, can be used by most Christian churches in the US – especially the Evangelical, who typically never ruled a European country and therefore cannot be accused that their brand of Christianity was ever used to oppress Jews.

  14. Steve Brizel says:

    Reb Yid-I would certainly agree that Federation is far more sensitive to O needs as you described. One can certainly argue whether this sensitivity has yielded more funds for the O community or whether the O community has participated sufficiently or attempted to play a role as in the case of R H Neuberger ZTL . Yet, that was not the issue that R Adlerstein mentioned in his post.

    However, R Adlerstein pointed out that the sponsors of the conference under discussion were so sensitive to the needs of all Jewish participants that they rendered the level of kashrus acceptable to all, regardless of their own level of observance. I think that showed a tremendous amount of sensitivity.

  15. Martin Lipson says:

    Rabbi Joseph B. Soloveitchik ZT”L, in his famous essay: “Confrontation” published in the journal TRADITION in 1964,stated that it is permissible for Jews to enter into partnership with other faiths in secular functions for the mutual benefit of all.For example, Jews and Christians can join together to help alleviate poverty,disease,natural disasters etc. It is forbidden,however, for Jews to enter into theological debates or disputations with Christians or any other faith- based group.This kind of activity can only produce negative results for Judaism. The question before us now therefore is, Is this activity of support for Israel being planned for this Fall, based on theological considerations and goals, or is it based on political support only? That is the Question.

  16. Joel Rich says:

    Is it really necessary to chide us for lack of Ahavas Yisroel?

    If you were referring to my comment, I was simply echoing the medrash which states that the reason Yonah did not want to go to Ninveh to prophecise was because he knew they would repent which would look bad for the Jewish people who had not repented. When we see events in the outside world we are aiui supposed to draw the proper lessons.

    KT

  17. Tal Benschar says:

    Ori:

    Your example is problematic for two reasons. First, the Hasmonean forced conversion was truly an anomaly — unprecedented in Jewish history before or since. Compare that with nearly 2000 years of persecution at the hands of Christianity.

    Second, the evangelicals admit that they are indeed interested in converting us to their religion, albeit not forcibly.

    OTOH, there is little question that there is a significant feeling of philo-semitism on the part of these churches, and at least for some that translates into political efforts on behalf of Israel.

    My personal view, therefore, is that we should keep our distance socially and communally, but have mutual respect and perhaps some high-level contacts (but not theologcial) among clergy and other askanim for issues of mutual concern.

  18. Reb Yid says:

    Steve:

    I agree that YA did not mention the Federation issue–I was responding on that point to the stereotypical comment of another poster.

    But my overall point goes to your conclusion. All YA needed to do was to use the language in the final paragraph of your post. If that had happened…dayenu–it would have made the precise point you made.

    Instead, there was a gratuitous focus on what some of these Jews allegedly said or thought. And even if they all HAD said what they were alleged to have said, surely YA could have avoided disparaging them (and I’m willing to give YA the benefit of the doubt that this was unintentional on his part). There was simply no need to mention it at all.

    If the shoe was on the other foot (say a description of Orthodox/Hareidi Jews in a controversial Haaretz article), numerous folks on this blog would admonish the author for rushing to judgement and/or for portraying matters in the “worst” possible light from the perspective of the frum world.

    To crib a quote, let’s do unto others like we’d want done to ourselves.

  19. David says:

    Response to Martin Lipson (Comment #15): Rav Soleveitchik’s opinion re contacts with Christians must be taken into account, obviously, but it is not necessarily binding halachah for all time (or even his time?). We don’t know what he would say today and must rely on our authorities.

  20. Jewish Observer says:

    “I’m sure Rabbi Adlerstein knows full well that there are many thouroughly observant Jews do not eat “Glatt” kosher”

    – not those from NY

  21. Yisrael Moshe says:

    R’ Yitzchak,

    Your point about the Glatt Kosher meat purchase reminds me of something I learned long ago. Perhaps someone can tell me where this teaching is found.

    The teaching goes as follows:

    “In the times of Moshiach, there will be, for every Jew, 2 non-Jews who are charged with the responsibility to make sure that their assignee is not committing any Avairot (transgressions).”

    Perhaps this is the beginning of the fulfillment of this teaching (or prophecy?).

  22. Mark says:

    Reb Yid,

    “You may not be familiar with Federations for any number of reasons. But surely it’s not because of issues of kashrut, Shabbat observance, etc. There are a growing number of Orthodox volunteers and frankly Orthodox professionals in the Federation field. They lead fully observant lives in both the workplace and at home.”

    Surprising as it may sound, I am intimately familiar with Federations. I’ve worked with them, spoken for them, negotiated with them, attended their functions etc. I acknowledge that great strides have been made and did not intend to insinuate otherwise. Yet, my considerable experience has taught me that especially in the area of Kashrus, there is still much to be done to bring them in line with Jewish values. I have personally had to skip numerous functions of the local Federation because they were non-Kosher [and sometimes they wouldn’t/couldn’t even accommodate the Kosher observor]. I have also had to request that smaller meetings be held in Kosher eateries because those are almost always held in non-kosher establishments. And for the record, the Federaiton I speak of serves a population of more than 120,000 Jews so it’s not in Boondocks USA.
    Let’s not speak of the Hillel’s and their issues with Kosher. I could provide you with a list longer than city block of Hillel’s with non-kosher kitchens.
    But this is not the point. I have no reason to point out the faults of these places who oftentimes don’t know better and will work to accommodate a kosher consumer when they can. What troubled me was your needless jabs at RYA. He merely pointed out that the christians were unusually accommodating to his sensitivities. What’s wrong with saying that in a piece aimed at pointing out how friendly they are toward us?

    Joel,
    “If you were referring to my comment, I was simply echoing the medrash which states that the reason Yonah did not want to go to Ninveh to prophecise was because he knew they would repent which would look bad for the Jewish people who had not repented.”

    I realize that this was your intention and that’s precisely what troubled me. Yona didn’t want there to be a kitrug. You seized at the opportunity when IMHO you could have left it unsaid. Isn’t that what Yona was hoping to avoid?

  23. Jewish Observer says:

    say what you want about Monsey meat; at least it was glatt

  24. Yitzchok Adlerstein says:

    Bob –
    How many of these same organizations are simultaneously putting big effort and big bucks into conversion efforts in Israel, overt or covert?
    We don’t know, but it is not entirely relevant. This is a common error. Proselytizing to the entire world (they go after Catholics and Mormons with the same determination) is one of their principles of faith. They can’t compromise on it. They will do it whether we befriend them or not. If anything, relationships with them have persuaded them at times to at least cut out the more underhanded and deceptive kinds of proselytizing. My educated guess is that building bridges with them results in fewer people lost to shmad, not more.

    JO –
    “during a dinner that lasted as long as a New York chasuna”… If I recall correctly, this is not the first geographical jab administered by RYA.

    No intent to dis NY this time. It just reflects a recent practice in LA (which I have not see yet in NY) to invite people to the Simchas Chasan V’Kallah, i.e one of the dances, with some light food set out for the guests) rather than the entire meal. It cuts down the time you spend at the wedding by several hours

    Gab-
    Did you talk american politics? Did folks tell you who they favor in the nominations for President?

    No, but it is safe to assume that they are overwhelmingly Republican

    Reb Yid –
    Did YA confirm that the other Jewish participants did, in fact, call the offensive food “plain kosher” or “kosher”, or is this a second hand (or third hand) account where YA is simply assuming this attribution to be accurate?

    He confirmed it. Straight from the top. You lose.

    MB –
    I’m sure Rabbi Adlerstein knows full well that there are many thouroughly observant Jews do not eat “Glatt” kosher…And I feel pretty sure they would not have eaten the cooked hotel food. But there again, I’m British!

    In attendance were Jews, Christian, blacks, whites, Asians. But we didn’t allow any Brits. We do have standards!

  25. Jewish Observer says:

    “It just reflects a recent practice in LA (which I have not see yet in NY) to invite people to the Simchas Chasan V’Kallah”

    1. there is not a heimishe wedding in ny where I have NOT seen this. I am sure this is where LA got it from
    2. i don’t think LA judaism is in a position to dis ny jews’ gashmius habits
    3. just razzin’ you

  26. Bob Miller says:

    Rabbi Adlerstein said “If anything, relationships with them have persuaded them at times to at least cut out the more underhanded and deceptive kinds of proselytizing.”

    Do we have real evidence of this?

  27. Steve Brizel says:

    David-On the issue of Confrontation, all of the evidence available from Talmidie Neemanim of RYBS is that RYBS never deviated from or anticipated deviating from his POV on ecumenical interfaith dialogue and especially his total opposition to ecumenical interfaith dialogue of a theological nature. RYA and I have both heard R F Schonfeld, a former RCA president who represented the RCA on these issues for many years that RYBS vehemently opposed any ecumenical dialogue of a theological nature. IMO, your comment expresses a common LW MO revisionist POV that is nowhere to be found in the letters of RYBS that formed the backdrop and background of Confrontation.

  28. HILLEL says:

    The Rabbinate in Israel has banned participation in a Jerusalem conference of Evangelicals on the status of women, because they received evidence that some of the groups attending the conference are engaged in missionary activity.
    http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/News.aspx/122512

  29. Robert Book says:

    Imagine if there were 150,000 synagogues “dedicated to showing support for and commitment to Israel”!

  30. Ori Pomerantz says:

    Tal Benschar, you’re right that the analogy is imperfect. We don’t have as much of a history of doing bad things to other people. I’d like to say the reason is we’re better, but the fact is that since the first temple was destroyed we’ve rarely had the opportunity. What we know of the first temple period mostly come from prophets who were more interested in what our ancestors were doing to each other rather than outsiders.

    Of course the evangelicals want to convert us, they consider it an act of kindness (the same kind of kindness as Kiruv). It might make sense to keep distance socially in general, but some people have to actually befriend them to be their friends and show them what Judaism means. Preferably people like Rabbi Yitzchok Adlerstein who are unlikely to be converted.

  31. One Christian's perspective says:

    (Ori) Your example is problematic for two reasons. First, the Hasmonean forced conversion was truly an anomaly—unprecedented in Jewish history before or since. Compare that with nearly 2000 years of persecution at the hands of Christianity. – Tal

    Tal, 2000 years ?

  32. mycroft says:

    On the issue of Confrontation, all of the evidence available from Talmidie Neemanim of RYBS is that RYBS never deviated from or anticipated deviating from his POV on ecumenical interfaith dialogue and especially his total opposition to ecumenical interfaith dialogue of a theological nature. RYA and I have both heard R F Schonfeld, a former RCA president who represented the RCA on these issues for many years that RYBS vehemently opposed any ecumenical dialogue of a theological nature

    Steve:
    On a pragmatic sense I believe the Rav today if he could speak to us would state that he is still vehemently opposed “ecumenical interfaith dialogue of a theological nature.” However, it is an open question how much of that would be that he wouldn’t trust-either for integrity reasons or for reasons relating to skill required both of the vast Torah AND knowledge of the other religions AND diplomatic skill necessary. I have heard from and discussed with people some of whom you have clearly called “Talmidie Neemanim of RYBS” who dealt with interfaith relations. Since the net practical current difference between you and I is zero-I state the above and accept or reject based on my general credibility or lack of such.

  33. Steve Brizel says:

    Mycroft-I don’t see any evidence that RYBS would have changed his perspective on this issue-for any of the reasons that you have posited which we have discussed previously here and elsewhere.

  34. David Klinghoffer says:

    A wonderful and moving report, Rabbi.

  35. mycroft says:

    Mycroft-I don’t see any evidence that RYBS would have changed his perspective on this issue

    I don’t say RYBS would have changed his perspective on this issue-I am stating RYBS’s perspective was more theoretically complicated than generally understood. I am relying on conversations that RYBS had with “Talmidie Neemanim of RYBS”-some of which I confimed inthe past 3 months with participants.

  36. Tal Benschar says:

    Tal, 2000 years?

    See this website. http://www.religioustolerance.org/jud_pers1.htm It charts specifically Xtian persecution of Jews as early as the beginning of the Fourth Century. Probably connected to when Xtianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire. That’s 17 centuries ago. I did say “almost 2000 years.”

  37. Tal Benschar says:

    Further to the last post, Hans Kung, the famous Xtian theologian, once remarked:

    “Nazi anti-Judaism was the work of godless, anti-Christian criminals. But it would not have been possible without the almost two thousand years’ pre-history of ‘Christian’ anti-Judaism…” Hans Küng, “On Being a Christian,” Doubleday, Garden City NY, (1976)

  38. Ori Pomerantz says:

    One Christian, if I recall correctly your denomination has never persecuted Jews. Therefore, you are perfectly within your rights to say we are confusing the actions of bad Christians with the requirements of Christianity.

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