Monday, August 09, 2010

Friends of Israel, but among Jews, not so much

I know there is a great deal of outrage in the diaspora community over the proposed Rotem Converson Bill which would attempt to regulate and govern conversion in Israel. There has been a great deal of misinformation spread throughout the diaspora community over the bill and more than a few false outlandish claims have been made. The opposition to the bill is being led by the Jewish Reform movements and has managed to collect support via the Conservative movements.

What you need to know about the Jewish demographic in Israel is simply this – outside of North America there really is no 'Reform or Conservative' movements of any consequence or influence. Even among very secular Israelis the 'shul' they don't go to is Orthodox. The fact that the Reform and Conservative movement is person non grata within the Israeli state is well-known and this irks the Reform movement to no end. I believe the the opposition in the diaspora community is a cynical attempt to obtain legitimacy within the Israeli community via the coercive power of the state to grant them a standing which has not been won in the battleground of the Israeli public.

Barbara Kay, wrote a column for the National Post concerning the Israeli Rotem Bill (the lastest copy I could find of the bill is here and make up your mind whether is poses as a threat to Jewish unity). I did promise her column at some point. She deliberately smeared an entire group of Jewry for simply one reason – they are not her kind of Jew, and therefore, not 'authentic' and she made a rather remarkable claim that the Chief Rabbinate is under full control of the Charedi in Israel. The Charedi are not without influence in the Chief Rabbinate and the Rabbinical Council but as a fully fledged member of Jewish orthodoxy why should they be without influence? Do they control the Rabbinate – no.

In an act of supreme irony she accuses and smears Charedi Judaism of the worse excesses in the name of Judaism but fails to see while she is smearing the Chassidic 'parasitic' Jews for their lack of pluralism in outlook - she is just as guilty of the same excess of zeal in demonizing the Chassidic way. Chassidic Jews are different, in fact, this difference and a rather obvious way of dress has made them the first targets of anti-Semites, a fact which seems to have been lost on Kay. She ends her piece this way.

Between "friends" like ultra-liberal Jews on the left and the Haredim on the right, authentic Jews may not need their other myriad enemies.

Of course, I take exception to anyone claiming the mantle of Orthodox Jew who would write about the Temple this way.

The original was destroyed by the Babylonians, then rebuilt and restored (by the Judean king who ordered Jesus' death), and destroyed again by the Romans.

And the group I believe she is referring to who have built a model of the Third Temple belong in the Dati – or national religious camp of Israel and not the Charedi. In fact, most Charedi Rebbes won't allow their followers to even ascend the Temple Mount in fear of desecrating the Temple Mount so it would be rather problematic to actually attempt to build the a third temple on the Temple Mount - even if Al Aqsa Mosque was not there but why let facts get in the way of a righteous smear?

But the best response to Barbara Kay's column was written recently in a letter to the editor of the NY Times by the Chief Rabbi of Israel.
To the Editor:

Re “Israel Tries to Defuse Crisis Over Conversions” (news article, July 24):

Since the establishment of the State of Israel, conversions to Judaism have been governed by the Chief Rabbinate. As you noted in your article, this status quo has been challenged by a petition to Israel’s Supreme Court, backed by members of the Reform and Conservative movements. Yet fewer than 1 percent of the Jews living in Israel are members of these movements.

The bill provision you discuss seeks no changes; it seeks only to retain the situation as it has existed for 62 years. If these non-Israeli movements believe in democratic principles, why have they intervened in a matter that affects only Israelis and does not affect American Jews at all? Even more puzzling, how do they justify asking 12 American senators to pressure the Israeli government on this internal matter?

Israeli laws should be determined by residents of Israel who defend its security and bear its burdens. If our Jewish brethren immigrate to Israel, we will welcome them with great joy, and then they would be entitled, as citizens, to struggle for the adoption of their perspective.

Diaspora Jews who are coercing the Israeli government to drop the proposed legislation are causing great damage. The bill, within the framework of Jewish law, would expand the ambit of conversion, prevent the application of unjustified stringencies, and provide more leniency and flexibility in administration. Many Russian Israelis would benefit substantially. In fact, this legislation was proposed by Yisrael Beiteinu — a secular party — representing more than a million Russian Israelis.

May this unnecessary divisiveness end speedily.

Shlomo Moshe Amar
Chief Rabbi of Israel
Jerusalem, Aug. 3, 2010
Of course, the Chief Rabbi of Israel might not qualify to be numbered among authentic Jews as he is Sephardi rather than Ashkenazi.

Update: I should make one thing clear which probably causes a great deal of confusion and I suspect is the primary cause of Barbara Kay's nightmares. The Chief Rabbinate is a separate body from the rabbinical courts which are heavily controlled by Charedim. The Chief Rabbinate is not. The Rotem Law attempts to take conversion from the rabbinical courts and have it overseen by the Chief Rabbinate which has traditionally maintained a balance of orthodoxy.

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