Sunday, November 30, 2008
George W. Bush will leave office as one of the most unpopular presidents in history, battered by years of non-stop criticism, scorn and derision - a good deal of it deserved, but much of it politically motivated, hypocritical and unfair.
Whether Bush will, like Harry Truman (who left office in January 1953 with approval numbers lower than Bush's), eventually rise in terms of public esteem is a question that won't begin to be answered for years if not decades.
But one thing that can be said with near certainty is that we shall not see a president as instinctively pro-Israel as Bush for a very long time to come - a president who entered office determined to pursue a policy that unambiguously favored Israel over its enemies.
In their anti-Bush book The Price of Loyalty, author Ron Suskind and his collaborator and protagonist Paul O'Neill, the treasury secretary who left the Bush administration on less than friendly terms, provided a revealing glimpse into Bush's thinking on Israel.
On January 30, 2001, just ten days after his inauguration, Bush met with his senior national security team and, according to O'Neill as transcribed by Suskind, startled those in the room when the discussion turned to Middle East policy.
"We're going to correct the imbalances of the previous administration on the Mideast conflict," Bush announced. "We're going to tilt it back toward Israel. And we're going to be consistent. Clinton overreached, and it all fell apart. That's why we're in trouble."
Bush reminisced about meeting Ariel Sharon (who the following week would easily win election as Israeli prime minister) when they shared a helicopter flight during Bush's visit to Israel in December 1998.
"We flew over the Palestinian camps," Bush said. "Looked real bad down there. I don't see much we can do over there at this point. I think it's time to pull out of that situation."
Colin Powell protested that "such a move might be hasty" and spoke of the "roots" of the violence in the Palestinian areas. "He stressed," wrote Suskind, "that a pullback by the United States would unleash Sharon and the Israeli army. "The consequences of that could be dire," he said, "especially for the Palestinians."
JASON MAOZ WRITES OCT. 15:
Most political observers in Israel feel it's only a matter of time before Likud leader Benjamin Netanyahu gets another turn at the premiership. Nine years after being voted out of office in a landslide defeat at the hands of Ehud Barak, Netanyahu routinely tops voter preference polls - a state of affairs surely owing more to the country's dearth of leadership than to fond memories of his first term in office.
Will Netanyahu, assuming he does return for an encore, receive the same malevolent treatment from the Israeli media that he was subjected to when he led the country in the late 1990s?
A lot has happened since then, of course - Oslo is now widely acknowledged to have been both a sham and a debacle, the second intifada left most Israelis with a considerably more cynical view of Palestinian claims and intentions, Hamas has emerged as the people's choice in Gaza and will probably soon do so on the West Bank as well, and Yasir Arafat went to hell.
At this stage it may be difficult to recall just how despised Netanyahu was by Israeli journalists, so it's instructive to look at a book that came out in mid-2000 by David Horovitz, who at he time was the editor of The Jerusalem Report and has since become editor of The Jerusalem Post - in other words, the very epitome of a mainstream journalist.
A Little Too Close to God: The Thrills and Panic of a Life in Israel is a volume that, had it not made such a speedy trip to bookstore remainders tables and library discard bins, would have no doubt come under the scrutiny of concerned mental health professionals.
The trouble started with Horovitz's wrenching confession that all had not been well for him in the aftermath of Israeli prime minister Yitzhak Rabin's assassination.
"Since the killing, I'll admit, I have come to mythologize Rabin - to use him, or his image, as my shorthand for the Israel I longed and long to live in, his murder as the puncturing of the dream," wrote Horovitz. "It is my obsession. It shows no signs of passing with time."
Oh dear. By his own admission ("shows no signs of passing with time") the man required long-term care. But did not his recognition of the nature of his pathology offer some cause for hope? Perhaps. One can't help but think, however, of the scores of individuals locked away in sanitariums throughout the land who can lucidly recite the details of their illnesses, can calmly admit that, yes, they are off their rockers - and then proceed to formally introduce themselves to visitors as Napoleon Bonaparte or Daffy Duck.
While it's still early - the new president won't take office until January 20 - it appears that many of the concerns voiced on this page and in our community about an Obama administration may have been ill founded.
The appointment of Congressman Rahm Emanuel as White House chief of staff and the expected choice of Senator Hillary Clinton as secretary of state should put to rest fears that Mr. Obama harbors any deep-seated animosity toward the Jewish state.
As has been widely reported, Mr. Emanuel was an IDF civilian volunteer during the first Gulf War, has been an unabashed supporter of Israel while in Congress, and his father fought in the Irgun. The fact that the president-elect chose someone with Mr. Emanuel's background to oversee his White House speaks volumes.
As for Sen. Clinton, she has long erased any reasonable doubt as to where her sympathies are regarding the Middle East. Indeed, she has emerged as one of Israel's strongest Senate supporters of the Jewish state. While we have no doubt that Mr. Obama's apparent selection of Sen. Clinton had a lot to do with domestic politics, it still is instructive that he chose as secretary of state someone with such a strong record on Israel.
Of course, it is Mr. Obama who ultimately will set the course of his administration's foreign policy, and whether or not he will press for American "evenhandedness" or a role as "an honest broker" remains to be seen. But the two choices are encouraging.
In the area of foreign policy generally, candidate Obama seemed to credit the complaints of such rogue states as Iran that the U.S. was the reason for much of the turmoil roiling the international arena. His reference to President Bush as practicing "cowboy diplomacy" seemed to us to undermine any notion of American exceptionalism in the world arena. A secretary of state named Hillary Clinton will assuage many of our doubts. It is also reassuring to hear that Mr. Obama is seriously considering retaining Robert Gates as secretary of defense.
Also during the campaign, we had grave concerns about Mr. Obama's economic philosophy. He talked about spreading the wealth and taxing the rich, and it appeared to many that he was signaling a move toward some form of socialism. And yet his just-announced economic team headed by Timothy Geithner and Lawrence Summers signals that Mr. Obama is intent on seriously dealing with the rapidly deteriorating economic crisis rather than engaging in some frolic in economic experimentation.
Friday, September 19, 2008
Just imagine how many abused children's lives would have been saved over the years had we collectively protected Dr. Abraham Twerski by reporting the individuals who threatened him and sent clear, unequivocal messages to our elected leaders and police officers to arrest and prosecute them to the fullest extent of the law.
Just imagine how much of the chillul Hashem we are now suffering through in the secular press on the matter of child abuse would have been avoided had we taken his sage advice seriously and adopted reasonable, Torah-appropriate guidelines to keep our children safe.
What an olam hafuch (upside down world; see Bava Basra 10b) we have created. We sit silently by when decent, caring mental health professionals who have devoted their lives to helping Yiddishe kinder are terrorized while alleged and convicted pedophiles live peaceful lives in our communities.
I am certainly not calling for vigilante violence directed at pedophiles, but it just boggles the mind that none of the child molesters in our community have ever, to my knowledge, been subjected to anything remotely resembling the harassment directed at both Drs. Abraham and Benzion Twerski.
(And if you have any question as to whether or not there are convicted child molesters living in our community, go to http://criminaljustice.state.ny.us/nsor/index.htm and do a search of the zip codes of our heimish neighborhoods. Warning: you will probably lose your lunch.)
This incident with Reb Benzion is just another sorry example of the Chinese Water Torture we have suffered through over the years as we gradually have ceded the moral high ground to the extremists who have increasingly over the past decade or two shredded the kind, beautiful, spiritual, tolerant and moderate haredi society I was raised in with their anger, intolerance, pashkevilin (unsigned and/or fraudulent kol koreis), threats, intimidation and, often, violence.
Make no mistake about it. We - the vast majority of haredi moderates who have been bullied into submission by these immoral, violent people purporting to represent Torah values - are in a struggle for the very soul of our Torah society. And thus far we have been losing this battle.
Two weeks ago in these pages I published a column on the painful topic of child abuse titled "Lm'aan Hashem - What Will it Take?"
Here is a quote from that article:
"Is there any more sacred obligation than protecting the children entrusted to our care? Shame on us, for failing to treat it as such. Shame on us, for allowing ourselves to repeatedly get distracted with meaningless and often silly non-issues raised by self-appointed "askanim" that purport to pose spiritual risk to our children while our paramount communal responsibility to keep evil people from destroying the physical and spiritual lives of our children keeps getting bumped to the back burner."
To this I would add: Shame on the kanoim who harassed a wonderful member of our community like Dr. Twerski. You have the blood of future abuse victims on your hands - kids who could have been saved by the initiatives Dr. Twerski would have implemented.
And shame on all of us for allowing such an olam hafuch to be perpetuated.
Rabbi Yakov Horowitz, whose parsha and parenting columns appear regularly in The Jewish Press, is the founder and dean of Yeshiva Darchei Noam of Monsey and the founder and director of Agudath Israel's Project Y.E.S. For more information on the Project Y.E.S. teen and parent mentoring programs, visit www.rabbihorowitz.com.
Thursday, July 31, 2008
A story in the Times Herald-Record, a Hudson Valley newspaper, features a handful of Hasidic women speaking out against the portrayal of their lifestyle in the much-talked about recent New York Magazine article.
The latter, for anyone who’s been away in Siberia or absent from this blog, focused on a young woman who fled the Satmar enclave of Kiryas Joel along with her young daughter, and is now fighting for custody. The woman, Gitty Grunwald, is now completely irreligious, and she had some pretty negative things to say about the Satmar, especially about the treatment of women.
So now, a Times Herald-Record reporter has found five Hasidic women willing to go on the record (pardon the pun) to condemn the New York Magazine article and defend their way of life. The talkback was apparently organized by Rachel Freier, a Hasidic female attorney from Boro Park—and the subject of a previous Herald-Record article—who has an office near the KJ community. (I wonder what sect Freier belongs to—she certainly can’t be Satmar if she is a practicing J.D.)
Unfortunately, the sample here is hardly large enough to represent a critical mass, and the article too short to provide much insight into the status of Hasidic women. Comments like “[e]verything written was a total distortion”—which may well be a fair statement—are too general to be able to set the public straight on specific misrepresentations.
It would have been fascinating to hear more from these women and from others inside KJ itself. Of course, even if KJ women would speak to the media, one would have to take their comments with a dose of salt. To revisit a comparison I made in an earlier piece, to the FLDS sect in Texas, could these women really speak freely (that is, without repercussion) and independently (that is, without coaching)?
What was left of the academic reputation of the Hebrew University was demolished altogether July 30, 08. The reason was the arrest of the leftist professor of sociology who had been one of the theses advisors of that notorious thesis claiming that Jews are racists because Jewish soldiers do not rape Arab women.
In recent days, headlines have reported the stories of the Hebrew University president joining a call of endorsement for the activities of a far-leftist anti-Zionist group that claims Israel is an apartheid land, Arab students at the Hebrew University being arrested for membership in al-Qaeda, and a Hebrew University professor of pharmacy insisting on hiring a convicted terrorist to work in his chemistry lab. But these were relatively minor disgraces compared with that now infamous "rape thesis."
To remind you, a Hebrew University graduate student claimed in her thesis that the absence of any history of rapes of Arab women by Israeli soldiers proves that Jews are racists and oppressors, people who do not even regard Arab women as worthy of being sexually abused. The student at the Mount Scopus campus and her "research" were then awarded a university honor for these impressive "discoveries" by the "Shaine Center," a Hebrew University sociology "research" center dominated by far leftists. Nitzan had argued that abstaining from rape is just as inhumane and oppressive as "symptomatically raping" and in fact replaces it, because it just serves to reinforce the intolerance felt toward Arabs by Jewish soldiers. These racist soldiers think of Arabs as so inferior and horrid that they do not even feel a compulsion to rape them. While giving some shallow lip service to how the "question" of rape refusal is "very complex," Nitzan's own "answer" is quite simple and straightforward - it reflects Jewish racism against Arabs.
Israel, she claimed, is so racist and anti-Arab that abstaining from rape is part and parcel of its determination to enforce rigid "lines of division." She asserted that individual soldiers who refuse to rape represent an intentional policy of oppression roughly similar to when governments order mass rape, because in both cases the "policy" serves to subordinate and dehumanize the oppressed victim population. The thesis drew its "scientific" conclusions from interviews with 25 reserve soldiers, ages 23-32, who served as combat troops in the "occupied territories" during the intifada. None of the comments by any of these soldiers supports or provides any confirmation, even the most indirect, to any of the lunatic "conclusions" reached by Nitzan.
Facing a storm of public outrage, the president of Hebrew University, Prof. Menachem Magidor, and the Rector, Prof. Haim D. Rabinowitch, jointly issued an announcement defending the student and dismissing those who expressed outrage over the contents of the thesis.
The "Non-Rape as Racism" thesis was co-supervised by one Eyal Ben-Ari, a Hebrew University professor of sociology, who claims to know something about the sociology of the military. Ben-Ari is a far-leftist with a track record of turning out anti-Israel propaganda, such as claims that Israel is an ultra-militarist society, and much of his propaganda is misrepresented as scholarly research. The other co-supervisor of the rape thesis was Ben-Ari's co-author in a book about Israeli "militarism." Israeli feminist groups never had a word to say about that "thesis" nor about Ben-Ari's role in inventing the "No rape as Racism" hypothesis.
From his role in the rape thesis, it was already known that Ben-Ari had goofy ideas about sexual (mis-)behavior. But now it turns out that the ultra-feminist Israel-bashing professor of sociology practices what he preaches.
The very same Professor Eyal Ben-Ari was arrested yesterday for suspected rape and sexual abuse of his students, and arraigned before the Jerusalem magistrate's court. It seems that Ben-Ari made it a habit to condition giving nice grades to and getting research grants for his female students on their sleeping with him. He was clearly not being racist though, because he is the same guy who discovered the academic finding that raping proves you are not racist. The police claim Ben-Ari had been behaving thus for the past fifteen years! This was not the first Hebrew University professor arrested for sexual misbehavior.
The Jerusalem weekly "Yediot Yerushalayim" broke the story and claimed Ben-Ari routinely attacked his female students sexually and violently. It cited two students who claimed they had been violently raped by Ben-Ari. He is also accused of using university funds to take his female students on trips for sexual trysts. He purchased for one of them a vibrator and then submitted the bill for reimbursement to the Hebrew University's Shaine Center (the very same Center that granted an award to the "Non-Rape is Racism" thesis!).
While awaiting trial Ben-Ari is subject to a restraining order preventing him from entering the Hebrew University campus, as well as an order not to leave the country. The same ultra-feminists in Israel who insisted that an (unmarried) cabinet minister be indicted because he gave a French kiss to a woman in his office have yet to say a word about the behavior of this member of the Tenured Left.
Haaretz July 31, 2008 reports that female students in the Department of Sociology and Anthropology at the Hebrew University, which claims to specialize in feminism and social justice, allege that Ben-Ari is not the only tenured lecher in the department who abuses them sexually, and that these faculty members walk about boasting of their "conquests" of the PhD students. Strangely, the university authorities never looked into their behavior.
Ben-Ari had also served as a consultant to the Israeli army over the role of women in the military.
Tuesday, July 22, 2008
Monday, July 21, 2008
Sunday, July 20, 2008
Tuesday, July 15, 2008
Monday, July 14, 2008
Friday, July 11, 2008
Wednesday, July 09, 2008
Tuesday, July 08, 2008
Monday, July 07, 2008
I'm always bothered by talking in shul but I try to remind myself that people need time to socialize and many people are not able to see their friends other than in shul. But I just wish people would confine their talking to the times during davening when they are halakhically permitted to talk.
What really irks me is when people finish their silent prayers before me and start talking to each other. Guess what? In an otherwise silent synagogue, the one person who whispers is heard far and wide. I find it very disturbing to my concentration.
Click here to read moreI once had an argument with a friend about why people do this. He thinks it is because they don't truly appreciate the power of prayer to connect man and God. I disagree. They are done praying and I think that they talk because they are self-absorbed. They don't care about their fellow synagogue members who are still praying.
As an aside, I often hear Orthodox people wondering why in Orthodox synagogues people talk much more than in Heterodox synagogues. The common self-flattering explanation is that Orthodox Jews are in synagogues so often that we feel more comfortable there. I'm not so sure that is the real explanation. Jews learn from the first time they enter a synagogues what is allowed and what is not. For about 200 years, reform-minded synagogues have tried to enforce decorum while more traditional synagogues have made a point of not enforcing decorum (with plenty staking territory in between). I think that the decorum in Heterodox synagogues is something that has been consciously planned and successfully instilled, with some positive and some negative consequences.
But back to the point, when I was spending Shabbos with R. Dovid Gottlieb in Baltimore two weeks ago, I was randomly thinking about talking in shul over my morning cup of coffee (before services, and not because of anything I witnessed the night before). The Gemara (Berakhos 24b) states that someone who prays (shemoneh esreh) loudly is lacking in faith, which Rashi explains is because he implies that God can't hear a silent prayer. The Gemara qualifies this that if someone can only concentrate when praying loudly then he may do so, but not in synagogues because that will disturb others. In other words, there are two concerns: showing a lack of faith and disturbing others. Your personal lack of concentration can override the implication of a lack of faith but cannot override disturbing others. What qualifies as disturbing others?
Tuesday, June 17, 2008
Monday, June 16, 2008
Friday, June 13, 2008
Thursday, June 12, 2008
Wednesday, June 11, 2008
Sunday, June 08, 2008
Thursday, June 05, 2008
Wednesday, June 04, 2008
Monday, June 02, 2008
Sunday, June 01, 2008
Rabbi Who Voided Druckman Conversions: Hearing And Speech Impaired Cannot Convert, Any Conversion Done Invalid
Basing himself of the halakhic idea that…
… and dumb Jews are exempt from mitzvot, haredi Rabbi Avraham Sherman – a close follower of the haredi "gadol hador" Rabbi Yosef Shalom Elyashiv – ruled that people with severe hearing or speech problems cannot convert to Judaism.
In part, Rabbi Sherman's "logic" works like this:
- A deaf or dumb person is exempt from mitzvah observance.
- Converting to Judaism mean accepting on one's self the "yoke of the mitzvot" (commandments).
- Since a deaf or dumb person is exempt from mitzvot, he cannot accept on himself the "yoke of mitzvot" he is exempt from observing.
- Therefore, any conversion performed on a deaf or dumb individual is invalid.
Rabbi Sherman makes at least two clear errors:
- He ignores modern Jewish legal decisions – including decisions from American haredi rabbis – that allow deaf Jews to be called to the Torah, and deaf and dumb Jews to be counted in a minyan, be married, and perform other mitzvot. (These rulings are based on several things, one of which is the ability – lacking in the pre-modern world – to educate and communicate with the deaf and dumb.
- Secondly, "accepting the yoke of the commandments" does not mean a convert must observe every commandment. There are commandments few Jews will ever observe because the situation that calls for their observance does not exist for them. In other words, these commandments are situational – sending away the mother bird, for example or, for all of us today, offering sacrifices in the Jerusalem Temple. And women – who are also exempt from some mitzvot – can convert. They accept on themselves only the mitzvot women are required to keep. More fundamentally, there is no halakhic evidence that pre-haredi conversion meant observing every mitzvah that could be fulfilled. There was no concept of a convert observing every mitzvah from day one of his conversion.
A deaf or dumb person who converts does so because – like any true convert – he wants to join the Jewish people and share our common destiny.
In pre-haredi times, that meant walking away from idol worship and becoming a monotheist, accepting God and rejecting idols. Haredim have taken what was once a noble idea and trashed it.
Exempting deaf and dumb from mitzvot does not mean barring the deaf and dumb from Judaism.
The import of this ruling is much like the import of the ruling Sherman issued against Rabbi Druckman's conversions – and against Rabbi Druckman himself.
Because issues of personal status by Israeli law controlled by the Chief Rabbinate and the rabbinical courts, Jews who adopted babies only to find as the grew that the babies were deaf and dumb are now the adoptive parents of non-Jews. Deaf or dumb converts who married born Jews now must separate from their spouses, and, if the convert is a woman, their children are not Jewish.
Israel must immediately separate synagogue from state. There is simply no other choice.
Here is Rivkah Luvich's report:
Rabbi says deaf 'ineligible for conversion'
Those who cannot hear, cannot fulfill mitzvoth and therefore, believes rabbinical court in 2008, cannot convert to Judaism
Anyone inflicted with a severe hearing and speech impediment cannot undergo Jewish conversion. This harsh statement was recently made by Rabbi Avraham Sherman of the Chief Rabbinical Court, in a ruling now made public.
And so the story goes: Many years ago a deaf woman appeared before the Conversions Court and declared her desire to become a Jew so she could marry her Jewish love. The court ruled in the majority that there was no point in converting her, since the Halacha exempts the deaf from performing mitzvahs; and since the conversion would be rendered insignificant, there was no way to perform it.
The court's reasoning was that since the Halacha says that "one who is deaf, one who is young and one who is a simpleton shall be exempt form ordinance," the woman in deemed incapable of observing mitzvahs, thus incapable of accepting the burden of ordinance, which is the cornerstone of conversion.
Rabbi Shlomo Dichovsky, in the minority opinion, looked at the core issue of "accepting the burden of faith," and whether it should be considered a prerequisite for conversion or its essence. Dichovsky believes that the deaf can be converted. The woman's entitlement, he said, will not rest on the spiritual-practical plane of observing mitzvahs alone, but on the overall plane of being a part of the Jewish people.
"The appellant has every right to seek conversion since she resides and works among Jewish people," he wrote. "Conversion should be hers if she so wants it."
Rabbi Sherman, however, remained adamant: "Any conversion preformed on the deaf will have no spiritual bearing. Observing mitzvahs has nothing to do with the act of conversion, not should anyone refer to it as such. It is the impartation of being Jewish without the essence of Jewishness."
I was upset by his words. The thought that parts of Jewish law categorically prevent admission of the deaf into the flock sent shivers down my spine. What happens if a family wants to adopt a deaf child? The Rabbinical Court would not agree to convert the child. And what if a family wishes to convert and one of its sons is hearing impaired? Will the court convert all but one?
The thought that there are some among the nations who will not be able to become Jews because a physical impairment apparently renders them devoid of the spiritual capability to embrace Judaism's ordinance, shakes my Jewish world to its core.
This is not my Judaism.
Nor is it mine.
Thursday, May 22, 2008
The organisers sold the event using Jackie Mason’s name as a draw, but in reality the audience Israel 60 Gala Show got a lot more excited about a lesser known performer on the night.
Sarit Hadad is Israel’s biggest pop star and even counts Madonna as a fan — but she is hardly known in the UK. So it came as a surprise that the young Zionists in the 7,500 -strong crowd last Thursday night went bonkers over her — singing along to the lyrics, waving their Israeli flags, and doing the conga in the aisles as she sung her brand of Middle Eastern-infused pop. The sense of solidarity in the audience was overwhelming.
When the 29-year-old singer-songwriter showed off her fast finger work on the darbuka (a Middle Eastern drum), it proved how versatile the former Eurovision Song Contest entrant is.
In comparison, the king of kosher comedy Jackie Mason went down like a lead gefilte fish. His jokes about Indian doctors, gay interior designers and “schwarzer” US presidential candidates felt dated and unfunny and caused some members of the audience to walk out. His impression of Henry Kissinger and an admittedly rather funny gag about Moshe Dayan proved how long he has been using this material.
The former rabbi got a few laughs as he delivered his punchlines which invariably included the words “putz” or “shmuck” or “yenta”, but mostly out of a kind of nostalgia.
His observation that Barack Obama had not done anything particularly noteworthy apart from being black — and even then he is only half-black as his mother is black but his father is white — verged on the offensive. No less questionable was his line: “If you ordered a black couch and something the colour of Barack Obama turned up, you wouldn’t be happy.”
His gags about Israelis not looking like they are related to the less than athletic Jews of the diaspora were well observed and relevant to the event. “In Israel they are tough Jews,” he said. “I know because when I saw them I thought they were Puerto Ricans.”
At certain points during his impressions, he descended into a series of splutters and spits, which were supposed to be funny but were actually an obvious cover for a lack of dexterity.
There was a sense that while British Jews hold Mason close to their hearts as the most demonstrably Jewish comic in the world and quite clearly pro-Israel with it, his performance here showed it is high time for him to give up the Borscht Belt act and hand over to the new generation of Jewish comedians.
In response, Rabbi Benjamin Lau, nephew of Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the former chief rabbi of
Jewish Journal: What do you think the ramifications will be of the
Rabbi Benjamin Lau: First you have to understand the context: Nearly 30 years ago, the Israeli Rabbinate gave Rav Druckman and Rav Zefanya Drori the mandate to create special courts for conversion. Since then, thousands of people were converted to Judaism by these religious courts, and now this judge wanted to annul one of these conversions [which were sanctioned by the Rabbinate]. It started with one rabbi -- Rabbi Atia -- who wrote a few words dealing with the convert in his psak din [ruling], but the majority of it was terrible words about [Religious Zionist] Rav Druckman.
BL: It was an assault against him personally and against the Religious Zionists.
JJ: Can one 'undo' a conversion?
BL: It's a machloket [rabbinic dispute].
JJ: But what does this mean for the future of conversions? It's not just the Religious Zionists -- I think the majority of rabbis in
JJ: You are talking about the Lithuanians, a sector of the ultra-Orthodox.
BL: If we talk about all the religious people in
BL: Yes. The Chief Rabbinate serves the State of Israel. If you work officially under the flag of
JJ: Many Israelis have been complaining for a long time about the religious hijacking of life-cycle services, such as marriage, divorce, brit milah, conversions, etc. How would the Religious Zionists differ from the Lithuanians?
BL: The secular know that Religious Zionists are partners with them all the way. The secular and Religious Zionists are together -- this is a fact.
JJ: Are you aligned with Conservative and Reform groups in
BL: I must tell you as an Israeli rabbi, it's not an issue.
BL: We follow halacha, but we connect with a big smile. If you have good will, people find a way.
JJ: What does your uncle, Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau, the former chief rabbi of
BL: I think about my uncle and his responsibility to all of klal Yisrael-the people of
JJ: Are you afraid?
BL: Afraid? I'm just a rabbi. How is Tzohar going to change the way things work in
JJ: What else is Tzohar doing? I learned the idea of community outside of
JJ: Why do people in
BL: We are talking about the cities. Settlements are communities. Kibbutzim are communities. Small towns are communities. But in the big cities, there are community rabbis, but most people are not in touch with them.
The idea of community is to break the walls between the sections -- if the regular synagogues serve the religious people, a secular person will never ever come into a synagogue. If you interview me in 20 years, the idea of community will have spread around the country.