Frag den Rabbi: Gibt es ehemalige Juden?

December 7, 2015

Rabbi-CoolClips_vc074807DeutschKann jemand aufhören, Jude zu sein?

Eigentlich nicht. Unsere Weisen lehren ישראל, אף על פי שחטא, ישראל הוא, auch wenn ein Jude sich stark versündigt hat, bleibt er Jude (Sanhedrin 44a).

Und wenn ein Jude aus der jüdischen Gemeinde ausgetreten ist?

Aus dem Judentum kann man halachisch nicht austreten. Das heißt nicht, dass der Austritt aus der jüdischen Gemeinde bedeutungslos ist. Ohne Mitglieder können die jüdische Gemeinden ihr heiliges Werk nicht finanzieren. Jede und jeder soll נושא בעול חבירו sein, das Joch der Gemeinde zusammen mit den anderen tragen. Gemeinden haben auch das Recht, Read the rest of this entry »

Frag den Rabbi – Wird man nicht erst durch den Glauben Jude?

March 23, 2015

Rabbi-CoolClips_vc074807DeutschWenn ein Jude ein Atheist oder nicht praktizierender ist, wie kann er dann noch Jude sein?

Nun, ein atheistisches oder sonst abtrünniges Kind Israels ist und bleibt Jude, weil Juden keine Christen sind und nicht mit einer Taufe im Kirchenregister eingetragen werden, sondern dem Volk G”ttes mit ihrer Geburt unwiderruflich angehören. Um das besser zu verstehen, empfiehlt sich Read the rest of this entry »

A Well Trodden Path Out of the Conversion Law Impasse

November 4, 2014

Mikve_naia_3EnglishSince the conversion reform law of MK Elazar Stern passed its first reading, tensions have been rising between proponents and opponents of the law. The most succinct exhibit of those tensions is that Chief Rabbis Yitzhak Yosef and David Lau told Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Tuesday that the chief rabbinate would not recognize conversions performed by municipal chief rabbis under the terms of the proposed legislation. Rabbi David Stav, in turn, heavily criticized the chief rabbis, adding that „The person running the chief rabbinate today is Arye Deri. He decides who is a Jew and who is not, who is a rabbi and who is not.“

Stav further threatened that the law could pass and new conversion courts could effectively operate without the chief rabbis’ cooperation. This may be his strongest attack on the Chief Rabbinate of Israel to date; it is an outright declaration of war.

We are at an impasse. But there is a good and healthy way out.

Read the rest of my Op-Ed at the Jerusalem Post, or Click to See a Scan of the Article and Read the rest of this entry »

Respecting, Caring for and Helping the Convert

October 28, 2014

Mikve_naia_3EnglishFamous Tanach expert Rav Yoel Bin Nun once said he is saddened when people sing the popular song vesamachta bechagecha vehayita ach sameach, which is rather surprising, since all the song is about is to repeat the mantra, lifted from parts of two biblical verses, that convey “you shall rejoice on your holiday and be gladdened.” What can be sad about that? Rav Yoel Bin Nun explained that his sadness stemmed from a misuse of the verses, as the thing which is to gladden us is (Deuteronomy 16:14-15):

And you shall rejoice in your feast, you, and your son, and your daughter, and your manservant, and your maidservant, and the Levite, the stranger, and the fatherless, and the widow, that are within your gates. … and you shall be gladdened

When we rejoice together with the poor, the weak, the downtrodden, the lost souls and those who wish to be part of our holy nation but have no Jewish parents or siblings with whom to celebrate the holidays, then we shall legitimately be gladdened. (Rav Yoel Bin Nun would want us to sing the first verse in its entirety. I tried it, but it is hard to fit to the tune 32px-Sert_-_sad_smile.svg.)

This is one of the many instances in which we are enjoined to help, support, protect and respect the convert. Following in the wake of a scandal in Washington DC, in which cameras were allegedly installed in a women’s mikve, a number of articles have been penned in support of converts, particularly female converts, and the challenges they face in the course and procedures of conversion. In this post, I would like to address one of those articles, A Bill of Rights for Jewish Converts by Bethany S. Mandel. In a different post, I address A Modest Proposal for Women’s Conversion by Michal Tikochinsky. Read the rest of this entry »

When a Modest Proposal is Unreasonable

October 28, 2014

Mikve_naia_3EnglishConversion to Judaism involves, after being screened and found to convincingly desire to accept the Yoke of Heaven and the Yoke of Mitsvot, having studied enough to know and understand what that involves, and living the life in a manner that projects confidence that one will continue living loyally according to these principles and commitments, to then declare one’s commitment before a rabbincal court, and to immerse oneself in a mikveh in presence of such a court. Before dipping, men must also undergo circumcision, or, if already sufficiently medically circumcised, have a drop of blood extracted in lieu of circumcision. The procedure is otherwise identical for men and women, though men immerse themselves naked, while women do so in a manner as to make this encounter as modestly as possible. This means that she will be dressed in a dark, somewhat heavy but loose robe, enter the water, and only once in the mikveh will the rabbinical judges enter, remain at a distance, conduct the requisite brief conversation, and see her head disappear under the water.

Typically, the rabbinical judges remain at the door, quite far from the actual mikveh, though this does also depend on the design of the room. Nonetheless, Rabbanit Dr. Michal Tikochinsky finds that some judges do come in into the room proper, and that some women find that insensitive. She has therefore  written A Modest Proposal for Women’s Conversion in which she revives an argument she first proposed in the journal Akdamut Milin in 2007 (article link). According to her, the judges don’t need to be there at all. She does raise some valid ponts, but regarding her main point, she is wrong and she knows it. Read the rest of this entry »