Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Navonim - The Ramblings of Garnel Ironheart

Tuesday, 17 March 2009

A Valid Exclusion

If there's one thing Conservatives and Reformers don't like, it's not being taken seriously by their Torah observant counterparts. Never mind their dismissal of the Torah, both written and oral. Never mind their refusal to adhere to the traditional authority structure of our people. Never mind they spend more time worrying about secular liberal mores than Torah observant traditions. How dare you call them non-religious?
The latest affront to their sensitivities came this week in Israel:
The Israel Democracy Institute (IDI) hosted a Roundtable Forum on Sunday to discuss issues of religion and state in Israel, focusing on the Shabbat, conversions and marriage.
Although the institute maintains that it 'seeks to involve all sectors within Israeli society in dialogue concerning these all-important national dilemmas," the Masorti movement in Israel, which is affiliated with Conservative Judaism, claims that the institute systematically excludes representatives of the Masorti and Reform movements in Israel from such forums.
The movement's Executive Director Yizhar Hess and its president, Rabbi Barry Schlesinger, sent a letter to IDI's president Dr. Arye Carmon on Sunday in which they strongly protested the institute's failure to invite Masorti and Reform representatives to the meeting.

"Is it even conceivable that on such matters as conversions or civil marriages the opinion of the non-Orthodox streams of Judaism will not be heard?," they asked in the letter, stating that the two movements "have converted and married off thousands of people in Israel, they deal with the complex reality of the relations between state and religion on a daily basis, and represent a wide public in Israel and a huge public across the world."

Let's dispel some misconceptions. The first is that the Conservatives and Reformers are a strong feature in Israeli religious life. They're not. They're a small minority that even the vast majority of secular Israelis don't take seriously. In North America, surrounding by denominational Chrisianity, these two groups have created the impression that Judaism is also a denominational religion and therefore they have as much authenticity as observant Jews as Prostestants calling themselves observant Chrisians. In Israel, surrounding by far more religious certainty: Islam, Chrisianity, Judaism, the idea of denominationalism is far more obscure.
The second is that they have anything to say at a conference on Jewish law and tradition. I mean really, what could they contribute The Reformer would say that everything is permitted as long as it doesn't offend any politically correct principles, the Conservative would talk about some vote their rabbinical assembly had on the subject, and they would both wax poetically about how religion is supposed to be this happy, no-obligation feel-good experience and how dare those Orthodox go about excluding everybody.
The proof?
The letter also noted that the IDI did not invite the two movements to a conference on "Zionist Halacha" held earlier this year, to which politicians, Orthodox rabbis and non-religious academics had been invited. "This is proof of systematic exclusion as a worldview," the letter asserted.
These two groups don't know what halacha is. So why invite them?


Shalmo said...

a shame you aint talking politics, but this is related

"CIA report: Israel will fall in 20 years"

A study conducted by the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has cast doubt over Israel's survival beyond the next 20 years.

The CIA report predicts "an inexorable movement away from a two-state to a one-state solution, as the most viable model based on democratic principles of full equality that sheds the looming specter of colonial Apartheid while allowing for the return of the 1947/1948 and 1967 refugees. The latter being the precondition for sustainable peace in the region."

The study, which has been made available only to a certain number of individuals, further forecasts the return of all Palestinian refugees to the occupied territories, and the exodus of two million Israeli - who would move to the US in the next fifteen years.

"There is over 500,000 Israelis with American passports and more than 300,000 living in the area of just California," International lawyer Franklin Lamb said in an interview with Press TV on Friday, adding that those who do not have American or western passport, have already applied for them.

"So I think the handwriting at least among the public in Israel is on the wall...[which] suggests history will reject the colonial enterprise sooner or later," Lamb stressed.

He said CIA, in its report, alludes to the unexpectedly quick fall of the apartheid government in South Africa and recalls the disintegration of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s, suggesting the end to the dream of an 'Israeli land' would happen 'way sooner' than later.

The study further predicts the return of over one and a half million Israelis to Russia and other parts of Europe, and denotes a decline in Israeli births whereas a rise in the Palestinian population.

Lamb said given the Israeli conduct toward the Palestinians and the Gaza strip in particular, the American public -- which has been voicing its protest against Tel Aviv's measures in the last 25 years -- may 'not take it anymore'.

Some members of the US Senate Intelligence Committee have been informed of the report.

Enjoy your precious Eretz Yisrael while you can Garnel. It won't last long. You will see it fall in our lifetimes, inshallah!

Garnel Ironheart said...

1) Welcome

2) I do talk politics from time to time.

3) This comment of yours is quite encouraging. Given that the CIA has been wrong about every major political trend in the world over the last 50 years, their prediction of the demise of Israel is the surest proof that our State will endure.

Rabbi Ben Hecht said...

The problem with denominationalism is not in its advocation but rather in its denial. Denominationalism does not mean that every form of a religion is part of the religion's truth -- as evidenced by Fundamentalist Christian view of Catholocism which is particularly critical -- but rather reflects an hanest portrayal of what exists including some forms of a faith that others within the faith still describe as heresy. In arguing for a recognition of the reality of denominationalsim within Judaism, I am not giving credence to the truth and validity of any other form of Judaism but just stating a recognition that this is the reality. What I am doing further is arguing that this is a reality that should be recognized even if not desired. The reason is that without this recognition of denominationalism what you really have is foolishness for people then believe that really all the forms of Judaism accept the same basic truths. I remember one Conservative rabbi mentioning to me how a sisterhood audience from his synagogue was shocked when he told them that he did not believe in Yetziat Mitrayim or Maamad Har Sinai. They all, that is his general synagogue population believed that the only difference between Orthodoxy and Conservatism was some "minor" issues of halachic practice (i.e. for example mechitza) that the Conservative must have right -- afterall they are calling it halacha -- and the Orthodox are just being arcane about. It may be time to promote denominationalism so that people are forced to see the theological distinctions and recognize that the differences are in fact major forming different religious groupings -- the people may then understand why we have the distinctions that we have and that there is really a reason for the distinctions. I remember in the Canadian Jewish News, in an article about same sex marriages, a Reform rabbi describing the differing views of homosexuality as a reflection of eilu v'eilu. If we recognized and promoted a true knowledge of ths distinctions between what we term the branches of Judaism, such travesties would be stopped in their tracks.

If one would like to read more on thie subject, I invite you to read an artilce I wrote on the subject, entitled Adjective and Non-Adjective Jew at the Nishma website at

Rabbi Ben Hecht

Friar Yid said...

Isn't it an obvious fallacy to equate not following halacha, or having a very different approach to halachic interpretation, with "not knowing what halacha is"? My very limited experience reading Conservative responsa has not backed this up- if anything, the Law Committee folks seem to be quite familiar with halachic process, if only because they have to be in order to find arguments to justify-- or not-- various positions.

I find it very interesting that this article mentions that "non-religious academics" were also invited to this conference, while non-Orthodox rabbis were not. This seems to be pretty straightforward exclusion to me, and my impression is not that you disagree with the fact that exclusion exists, but rather that it is justified.

Here's a question: you have no idea what any of the academics' religious backgrounds or credentials are, nor what they presented their papers on. Apparently their participation is not an issue. Yet you freely dismiss every Reform and Conservative thinker in one fell swoop. Why?

Your strawman stereotypes of the two movements also aren't particularly useful- sure, some Reform and Conservative laymen and rabbis may be as simplisticly doctrinaire as you portrayed them-- however there are plenty of simplistic, even downright boneheaded, thinkers and laymen within Orthodox Judaism. Would it be acceptable to write them off as irrelevant? I doubt you'd think so. It is sad that your personal ideology about Orthodox halacha being the be-all and end-all (which you're entitled to, BTW), drives you to conclude that within the many thousands of Reform and Conservative Jews around the world that there is nothing substantive or worthwhile. Just because YOU disagree with it doesn't mean that there's nothing there.