Friday, December 30, 2016

A Change that Will Not Work

Former Conservative Rabbi Seymour Rosenbloom performing an intermarriage
How sad that it’s come to this for American Jewry.  We are now talking about a new definition of Jews that will include intermarried couples. Not just for Reform Judaism  where that already exists. But for all non Orthodox denominations.

How far we have fallen from the tree called Judaism when rabbis are now calling non Jews – Jews.  But that is what Reform Rabbi, Jeffrey Salkin seems to be saying in his Forward oped. He wants to change how we Jews are now identified denominationally boiling it down to two groups: Orthodox and Non Orthodox.

What happened to all of the denominations? Well, they’re still around. But as Rabbi Salkin freely admits they are shrinking. So he proposes consolidation. Adding that even the Conservative Movement seems to be heading in the direction of the Reform movement. Pointing  to Conservative rabbis that are coming out of the closet in support of performing intermarriages.

I don’t think Rabbi Salkin gets it. He thinks the answer to the shrinkage of American Jewry is to combine forces under a new doctrine. And what would that be? Fealty to non observance?! You cannot change the definition of Judaism every time you think there is something wrong with it. I have to wonder how Conservative rabbis on the right, like Professor Jack Werthemier see a suggestion like this? If I had to guess – based on many of his past writings, I’d say he would be laughing it.

You cannot keep changing the rules in the middle of the game – just to keep yourself in it.

As I’ve said in the past on this subject, none of this makes me happy. Not the shrinkage of American Jewry and certainly not changing what it means to be a Jew. There is only one thing that will keep us Jewish into the future. Halacha. That is what has kept us going for generations ever since the 2nd Temple era. Without Halacha we would have just blended into the general populace and become one of them. There would be no Judaism today because there would be no Jews. Certainly not recognizable ones.

When will the left learn that chasing down values that are not particularly Jewish  – even very noble ones - is not the way to stay Jewish. The only way to do that is the time tested way. By being different. Which in the case of Judaism means following Halacha. It is our differences from the rest of the world that define us. Our similarities – if it is the only thing focused upon will destroy us.

I therefore also reject his Rabbi Salkin’s groupings. He separates Charedi Jews from Modern Orthodox Jews. While we do have our differences, we have the one thing in common that will perpetuate us into the future: Halacha. We both follow it. Even though there may be some differences in how we follow some of these Halachos, the majority of them are pretty much the same for all. That we have different world views does not separate us as much as observance does from non observance.

Just to be clear. (…and I’ve said this before) being separate by our observances doesn’t mean we can’t be close. It would be criminal for observant Jews to abandon non observant Jews. Every Jew is responsible for the welfare of every other Jew. Both the physical welfare and the spiritual welfare. To that end every single Jew no whether observant or not is our brother or sister and we ought to treat them that way.

We are family and this is what family does. We do not abandon each other over matters of observance. Of course we should try and convince non observant Jews about the beauty and importance of observance. But only in the most pleasant of ways and certainly not by force, or intimidating harangues consisting of fire and brimstone speeches.

And even if they never become observant at all, they are still family and we should show it. The idea that some Jews think that these Jews are lost anyway and we should just ignore them and concentrate only on our welfare - is a violation of the Torah itself: Kol Yisroel Areivim Zeh La’Zeh. Just because we need improvement in our own lives doesn’t mean we are free from seeing to the welfare of all of our people. And just because the chances of succeeding in keeping them and their offspring from intermarrying and assimilating out – does not free us from our task to try and prevent that.

If on the other hand one adopts the idea of creating yet another non Halachic and non valid denomination by combining all the current ones into something new... well, in my book that is already a failure before it even starts. And eventually history will prove me right. Just as it always has with past ‘new’ denominations that veered away from Halacha.