1. For purposes of tribal affiliation, functional status (e.g., the status of kohanim or Levites; laws of succession etc.), the Torah decrees that the father's status determines that of his offspring (except where the natural parents' union was religiously illegitimate). The very same Torah also decrees that the religious status is determined exclusively by the biological mother! (See Bibliography for source-material.) Back
2. The Torah regards women to be in the covenantal status of being circumcised, from birth. (This is not some modern apologetics to appease feminists, but a Talmudic ruling with halachic implications.)Back
3. There are some Biblical exceptions to this rule, excluding certain nations from becoming part of Israel. If, however, these nations are not - identifiable (as is the case nowadays), no one is excluded from conversion. Back
4. Yevamot 109b,and Tossafot(s.v.ra'ah) there.Maimonides, Hilchot lssurei Bi'ah, end of ch. 13, and beg. of ch. 14. Shulchan Aruch, Yoreh De'ah, ch. 268. Back
5. There are some restrictions in terms of appointing converts to certain offices of leadership. This may be compared to the stipulations of the constitutions of many democratic states which restrict certain national offices to native citizens. Back
6. For specific details and documentation, see below, Part Two, nos.1-2. Back
7. A secular body can determine which religious standards should be adopted, especially as these affect the order and welfare of it's constituents, just at it legislates matters of health and safety. The Knesset of Israel thus can, and must, legislate the practical application of 'Who is a Jew' in terms of issuing identity-cards etc. They can also legislate the observance of the Sabbath as a national day of rest, or that only kosher food be served in all governmental bodies. This is not the same, however, as determining the halachic criteria for Jewish identity, or the halachic definition of Sabbath observance, or the halachic rules of kashrut.
Just as the guidelines for policies of hygiene and safety are the prerogative of the professional specialists in those fields, so, too, any determination of definitions and criteria affecting the Jewish faith are the sole prerogative of halachic authorities. Back
8. On January 16 1985 the Knesset voted (with a majority of 11 votes) against correcting the present law on 'Who is a Jew. The New York Times, of January 17 1985, reported:
"Every time an Arab member's name was announced during the roll call, a wave of chuckles went through the chamber as the members themselves could not resist laughing at the irony of having Palestinian Druse and Arabs helping to determine who is a Jew ... !"
This outrageous absurdity is compounded by the following facts: More than a million Israel citizens signed a petition asking the government of Israel to amend the 'Law of Return' so that it will state clearly that the criteria for Jewish identity are "born of a Jewish mother, or converted in conformance with Halachah."
Several official polls have shown that a solid majority of the members of the Israeli parliament agrees with this petition and would like to amend the ‘Law of Return’. Dominant political parties (including Mapai), realizing this fact, succumbed to pressure from certain movements in the USA and prohibited their members to vote according to their convictions! They imposed the dictate of party-discipline to vote against any amendment.
Thus we have the anomaly of the very same people who demand and propagandize "democracy" and "pluralism" suppressing and denying the fundamental democratic right of members of parliament to vote according to their conscience and convictions! Back
1. The Lenn Report was published by the CCAR and distributed at its 1972 convention. Some significant excerpts appear in D. M. Eichhorn, Jewish Intermarriages: Fact and Fiction, Satellite Books: Satellite Beach Fla., 1974. (This quite interesting book was written by a radical 'reform rabbi' to defend and promulgate the practice of officiating at mixed marriages. Eichhorn obviously is no scholar, as evident from the very first page where, in his dedication, he mistranslates and misquotes a Midrashic passage - in addition to many other misquotations and misinterpretations throughout the text; but he is honest and consistent in his own way. He does not hesitate to draw the logical conclusions that follow necessarily from the premises underlying 'reform.' In spite of his rabid hatred of 'orthodoxy' and Halachah, and the often comical irrationality of his blind faith in the principles of 'reform,' the book is an eye-opener for many who are not familiar with current practices and beliefs in the 'reform movement.') Back
2. Note that this list has grown by about 50% since December 1973, when it had only 119 names! Back
3. Note also the enlightening 'Minority Report' of the CCAR Committee on Mixed Marriages, in the CCAR Year Book 1973. Back
4. See also Eichhorn's book, esp. ch. 10-11. A typical example of the chaos and travesty of the current state of the ‘Who Is A Jew’ controversy in Israel, is the following report in Sports Illustrated, April 29, 1985 (one of very few incidents that could not be hidden by certain officials):
The U.S. isn't the only country that has basketball scandals. Israel has one, too. That country has been stirred by allegations that American players have secured unkosher conversions to Judaism in order to play professional hoops there. Each of Israel's 12 pro teams is allowed to sign one foreign player a year, but many Americans evade the rules by becoming Israeli citizens. The easiest way for a gentile to obtain citizenship is to convert or to marry a Jew and now the government claims some teams have been recruiting non-Jewish Americans and arranging quickie conversions for them.
Such chicanery is apparently a recent development. Americans began playing pro ball in Israel in the mid-'60s, and most of the early ones were Jews. Non-Jewish whites followed without much trouble. Then came non-Jewish blacks. One of them, Aulcie Perry, a 6' 11" veteran of the ABA, converted to Judaism without fuss and is now a hero in Israel, where he's called Alisha Ben-Abraham.
The cases of two other American players, Philip Dailey and Chris Rankin, aroused the ire of the Ministry of the Interior. Dailey and Rankin arrived in Israel in 1982 brandishing conversion certificates signed by three Milwaukee rabbis. Coincidentally or not, their team, Maccabi Petach Tikvah, generously donated $6,000 to the rabbis’ synagogue. But the documents were invalidated when somebody in the ministry noticed that they'd been dated four years before the alleged conversions took place. Undeterred, the team tried to smuggle Dailey and Rankin in again by marrying them to a couple of matronly women, both 30 years their senior. The players were shipped home.
The furor over Dailey and Rankin eventually led investigators to 6' 9" John Irving, who was born a Baptist in Baton Rouge and played college hoops at Hofstra in the mid-'70s, leading the nation in rebounding as a sophomore. But Irving never quite reached the NBA. Instead, he drifted off to play pro ball in Europe. Three years ago he resurfaced in a Brooklyn gym, where an Israeli pro team recruited him. "Do you want to play basketball in Israel?" Irving was asked. "And would you like to be a Jew?" Sure, he said.
Irving says he was sent to a rabbi in Manhattan. The Rabbi handed Irving a book entitled What Is a Jew?, asked him some perfunctory questions and told him to come back in a few days. On Irving's next visit, the rabbi talked to him for I 0 minutes, shook his hand and said, "Welcome to Judaism." Conversion papers were signed, entitling Irving to citizenship under Israel's "law of return" and the right to play basketball in the pro league. Next stop, the Promised Land.
And it came to pass that Irving had a bountiful career. As a rookie with Elitzur Tel Aviv, he averaged 28 points a game, fourth best in the league. He settled into the country and opened a couple of ice cream parlors. Last year his wife gave birth to a sabra, an Israeli-born child. But two months ago the Israeli government revoked Irving's citizenship, challenging his conversion. Ministry officials had looked at his papers and found the names of the same three rabbis who signed the Dailey and Ranking certificates. Only one of the rabbis could be located, and he denied ever meeting any of the three players.
In Israel the question of who is a Jew is an intense religious, social and political issue. Now it's a sports issue as well. And for Irving, it's a personal one. "I came to Israel assuming I was an Israeli citizen and that I'd converted," he says. "I haven't broken any laws. I've invested all my savings. I pay taxes. I feel I'm being cheated." Back
5. The New York Times, July 2, 1985, quoting Irving Greenberg, president of the 'interdenominational National Jewish Research Center.' Back
6. The quotes following are taken from Bernard Martin, ed., CONTEMPORARY REFORM JEWISH THOUGHT, Quadrangle Books: Chicago 1968. This book, sponsored and copyrighted by the CCAR, is a collection of essays by "rabbis who are alumni of the HUC-JIR, which is the fountainhead of Reform Judaism in America. Three of the authors serve as professors at their alma mater;" P. V. (Most of the italics in the quotes following do not appear in the original; they were inserted here, for emphasis!) Back
7. Ibid., p. 89. Back
8. Ibid., p. 100 Back
9. Ibid., p. 90. Back
10. Ibid. Back
11. Ibid., p. 96-7. Back
12. Ibid., p. 97. Back
13. Ibid. Back
14. Ibid., p. 89. Back
15. Ibid., p. 98. Back
16. Ibid., p. 114. Back
17. Ibid., p. 115 (see there also p. 113). Back
18. Ibid., p. 111. Back
19. Ibid., p. 110-11120. Ibid., p. 121-2. Back
20. Ibid., p. 121-2. Back
21. The quotes following are taken from M. Waxman, ed., TRADITION AND CHANGE: THE DEVELOPMENT OF CONSERVATIVE JUDAISM, Burning Bush Press: New York 1958. This book was commissioned and copyrighted by the Rabbinical Assembly (the 'rabbinical arm' of the 'conservative movement'). The editor admits to facing the problem that "the Conservative movement has issued few formal statements; there are very few books which purport to state the philosophy and attitudes of the movement. The Conservative movement seems rather to have relied largely on its synagogues and institutions to represent its point of view by their actions and programs... in assembling this material... I acted upon the principle of including statements by men who are recognized as representative figures in the Conservative movement or pronouncements by bodies, such as the Law Committee of the Rabbinical Assembly, which are entitled to speak for the movement;" P. ix. (Here, too, most italics do not appear in the original, but were inserted for emphasis.) Back
22. Ibid., p. 19. Back
23. ibid., p. 20. Back
24. ibid., p. 15. Back
25. Ibid. Back
26. Ibid., p. 21. Back
27. Ibid., p. 30-1 (Fee also the significant sequel there). Back
28. Ibid., p. 34. Back
29. Ibid., p. 308. Back
30. The Torah, Halachah, does indeed instruct us to vote and to follow the majority in certain cases (Exodus 23:4). The Talmud is replete with instances how the rabbis based practical decisions and rulings on majority-votes. However, it follows quite clearly from Scripture itself that this applies only where there is genuine doubt. Where the law has been established (by explicit statements or the traditional, legitimate ways of interpretation and deduction), there is no vote! All the people in the world cannot overrule a halachic principle and decision, as the very same Scriptural source states: "You shall not follow the majority for evil" (Exodus 23:4), that is, counter to the laws and dictates of the Torah.
Secondly, even where the Halachah is not clear, thus necessitating a vote, this vote is taken exclusively among the properly ordained halachic authorities who are well-versed in all aspects of Halachah in general and of the issue in question.
If "democratic votes "had any place in religion, jews should have forsaken their faith a long time ago because the majority of mankind does not believe in the Torah! (See Vayikra Rabba 4:6) Likewise, the principle of "democratic votes" would imply that if there be a majority of non-believing or nonobservant Jews, all Jews should follow that errant way of life. For that very reason the Torah stipulates not to follow a majority "for evil, " i.e., for that which conflicts with Torah and Halachah. A "confederacy of wicked people" regardless how many they are - is not to be considered and cannot be counted for purposes of any decisions (Sanhedrin 26a).
Further details, and a discussion, of this principle, are to be found in Torah Shelemah on Exodus 23:4; and in Encyclopaedia Talmudit, s.v. Halachah, sect. 7 (vol. IX, p. 255-263). Back
31. Published in COMMENTARY, vol. 42, no. 2, August 1966; republished in book form, THE CONDITION OF JEWISH BELIEF: A SYMPOSIUM COMPILED BY THE EDITORS OF COMMENTARY, Macmillan Books: New York 1967. The quotes following are taken from the book (with italics inserted for emphasis). Back
32. Ibid., p. 224-5. Back
33. Ibid., p. 186-7. Back
34. Ibid., p. 147. Back
35. Ibid., p. 216-8. Back
36. The New York Times, Thursday February 14, 1985. Back
37. Every so often it is claimed by some that the 'orthodox' are divided into the "old-fashioned ultra-orthodox" and "modern orthodox." The implied suggestion is that the latter are not as strict or 'rigid' in matters of doctrine and practice. In truth, though, this claim is altogether false and misleading.
The term "modern orthodox" has nothing to do with belief in fundamental principles of the Jewish faith or with approach to the authority of Halachah. Those who call themselves "modern orthodox" do not differ in these from their older contemporaries who came to these shores from overseas or their predecessors. They may differ in terms of their garments, the language used for communicating with their congregants or students, and perhaps in terms of personal background and type of education. They will not differ, however, in affirming fully and literally the principles of the faith formulated by Maimonides, and the concomitant authority of the Shulchan Aruch. For that alone is the exclusive touchstone -siiieqi4a non - to define and apply any use of the term 'orthodox.' That alone is the exclusive standard which distinguishes the orthodox from the non-orthodox. Quite noteworthy is the fact that in the Commentary Symposium referred to above; practically all the orthodox respondents are identified with the so-called modern-orthodox camp. All their replies show unqualified affirmation of the Divine origin of the totality of the Torah and mitzvot, and of the immutable nature of Halachah. Back
38. There is no contradiction between this fundamental premise of religion and the halachic principle of "It (the Torah) is not in the heaven" (Deuteronomy 30:12; Baba Metzia59b), which seems to leave the decision-making process in the hands of the rabbis. For:
a) "It is not in the heaven" means that the Torah has been revealed in toto, and there is nothing to be added to it. Not even a prophet claiming to speak in the name of heaven (and offering signs and miracles to verify his claim) can introduce any changes or innovations to the Torah revealed to Moses! (Maimonides, Yessodei HaTorah 9:1).
b) The seemingly 'human element' of the decision-making process, as manifest in voting and following majority rule, is not one of arbitrary democracy, but restricted to the perimeter of clearly defined Halachah (see above, note 30).
For a comprehensive discussion of these principles, see the fully annotated articles in Encyclopedia Talmudit, vol. V, s.v. Bat Kol (pp. 1-4); and vol. IX, s.v. Halachak (p. 241 ff.) Back
39. For a full discussion of this subject see J. 1. Schochet, 'Ahavat Israel,' Di Yiddishe Heim VIII:3 et seq. (nos. 30-33; 1967-8); and idem., 'Let Sins Be Consumed And Not Sinners,, Tradition XVI:4, 1,Summer 1977. Back
*) The following is part of an article by Rabbi Dr. Norman Lamm, President of Yeshivah University, reprinted with permission from JEWISH LIFE, May-June 1970. Back
**) The principle is so well-known that it requires no documentation. For general references, see Kiddushin 66b; Maimonides, Hilchot Issurey Biah 15:4; Sh. A. Even Ha-ezer 8:5. See, too, Ezra 10:2,3. Back
*) See the critique of the 1963 Israel Supreme Court decision in the famous Rufeisen case, by Dr. Avner Shakiinhis monograph "Mihu Yehudi," published by the Gesher Foundation, 1970. Shaki argues convincingly that the majority decisions in both cases are inconsistent with each other. Back
*) The following is an article by Nissim Rejwan, an Israeli journalist, author of Nasserist Ideology, reprinted with permission from MIDSTREAM, August-September 1985. Back
*) The following is an article by Rabbi Dr. J. David Bleich, Rosh Yeshivah and Professor at Yeshivah University, reprinted with permission from JEWISH LIFE, Fall-Winter 1977-8. Back
*) CCAR-Yearbook, volume XCVII, Tarpon Springs, Florida 1987, p. 99. Back
*) Free translation of on address delivered by former Prime Minister Menachem Begin - then leader of the opposition - in the Knesset on February 9, 1970, in the discussion on amending the 'Law of Return'. Back
*) The following is an article that appeared in Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, Friday, December 16, 1988, p. A7. Reprinted with permission. Back
*) The following is an article that appeared in The Miami Herald, Sunday, December 11, 1988, p. ID. Reprinted with permission. Back
1. Sefer Hachukim No. 586 of the iith Adar-Bet 5730 (March 19,1970), p. 34. Back
2. See Worcester Telegram of Wednesday, October 29, 1986, p. 2A, article headed "RABBI KLEIN STUNS AUDIENCE: No longer Believes Reform Jew Policy That He Helped Write":
"Rabbi Joseph Klein, author of part of the policy by which reform Jews define what is a Jew, last night stunned an audience of 160 at Temple Sinai by saying he no longer believes in that policy.
"Rabbi Klein, who was the chief rabbi at Temple Emanuel from 1948 to 1977, said that reform Jews should rethink policies of personal status that separate them from conservative and orthodox Jews. The policy Rabbi Klein wrote was published in the manual for reform rabbis in 1961 and remains as policy today.
"One of the most serious differences among the orthodox, conservative and reform movements of Judaism involves who is a Jew. Both the conservative and orthodox believe that a formal conversion is necessary to be Jewish for anyone who is not the child of a Jewish mother.
"According to the policy for reform rabbis written by Rabbi Klein, a confirmation serves in lieu of a formal conversion process for the child of a Jewish father and non-Jewish mother...
"Rabbi Klein, referring to reform Jewish policy, said, 'Why can't we retract our steps. Why can't we demand a 'get' (formal Jewish divorce). Why can't we demand conversion. And why can't we do everything we can ... that prevents cleavage and keeps us in harmony with our orthodox brothers and sisters?" Back
Dr. Bernard Mandelbaum, Chancellor-Emeritus of the (conservative) Jewish Theological Seminary, has oftentimes expressed the same sentiments. In a most recent article ( The Jewish Press, Friday, December 30, 1988,p. 9) he writes:
". . . Shouldn't the continuity and consistency of a long heritage of Jewish law ( halachah) be binding on all Jews as to what makes a Jew? Isn't this the only way to assure Jewish unity, just as American laws of naturalization assure American unity?
"The issue in Jewish life, then, is clear, Those who respect the integrity of Jewish tradition have to be satisfied with the answer to this question: Is the conversion performed according to traditional law by a rabbi who practices it? Not his label, orthodox, conservative or reform.
"It seems so simple and obvious that one wonders what the fuss is all about." Back
The same issue of The Jewish Press, reports on p. M46 that Peter Wolcove, president of Allied Jewish Community Services of Montreal (the Montreal equivalent of Jewish Federation) joined the other Federations to protest any amendment to the 'Law of Return,, claiming to represent the strong majority of 100,000 Montreal Jews:
"Rabbis of the Board of Ministers, which includes Reform, Conservative, and Orthodox rabbis, as well as the Rabbinical Council of America, were summoned to the AJCS offices to endorse the statement.
"'Now you come to ask our opinion?' thundered Rabbi Wilfred Shuchat. 'who gave you the right to speak in the name of Montreal Jewry?'
"Shuchat is rabbi of Shaar Hashomayim, the most prestigious Conservative congregation in Canada, whose membership list includes some of the wealthiest Jews in North America ...
"'Everyone comes knocking on our doors for money,' countered Mr. Wolcove. 'We are everyone's representatives.'
"'Just because someone gives me a donation, does he have the right to say things in my name - when I disagree?!' shouted Rabbi Shuchat.
"'The Conservative and Reform are to blame for this split,' continued Shuchat, whose-synagogue is Conservative. 'Who is affected here? Are there more than five of our converts per year who move to Israel? Besides, we can't even agree among ourselves. The Conservatives won't accept a Reform conversion, just as the Orthodox won't accept a Conservative one. The proposed definition satisfies everyone. I see nothing wrong with changing the law,' he concluded. . . ."
These voices of reason are just a few samples of a growing chorus in the wilderness of public ignorance and confusion. Back