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State of Her Own

In March, we’re going to have a daughter in Israel, our chosen home. But recent events have us doubting if this is the best place to raise her.

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Putting in tomato plants at Girls’ Agricultural Training School in Nahalal, c. 1930. (Library of Congress)
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If all goes according to plan, this March we’re going to bring a daughter into the world. Specifically, we’re going to bring her home to our apartment on Chen Boulevard, in the center of Tel Aviv, the city we’ve made our home, though we were born in the United States and Canada.

Had you asked us six years ago where we dreamed of raising a family, we’d have answered “Israel” without hesitation. But recently we’ve begun to doubt whether we should raise her in the Jewish state.

It’s not the escalating situation with Iran that gives us pause, or the fact that our daughter will one day serve in the army: We decided to live in Israel with full knowledge of the security threats it faces. The reason we are concerned about raising a daughter here is that the government is standing by as war is waged against girls and women.

Since the founding of Israel in 1948, the Orthodox have had the power to decide who is a Jew and how a Jew can live and die by controlling the mechanisms of marriage, divorce, and burial. What this means practically is that the government body that oversees all major life-cycle events—as well as regulating food production—is a religious institution, the Chief Rabbinate of Israel.

Orthodox religious law is the law of the land: Only a man can marry a woman, only a man can grant a divorce. And because of Orthodoxy’s systemic exclusion of women from positions of power—its refusal to allow women to be rabbis, or to recognize female Reform and Conservative rabbis—the interests of women have been disregarded.

The Orthodoxy of the rabbinate has caused friction in Israel before, but the well-publicized events of recent weeks have brought tensions to a boil. Though some had heard of the gender-segregated public buses now common in cities like Beit Shemesh, the other incidents of discrimination against women and girls came as shock: a 28-year-old woman asked to ride in the back of a public bus, an 8-year-old child called a “whore” and spat on by grown men, and a gynecological convention that barred women speakers. These incidents, carried out by ultra-Orthodox Israelis and tolerated by the ultra-Orthodox leadership, provided the majority of Israelis with clear evidence that the rabbinate’s power has helped create a rotten attitude toward women in major segments of Israeli society.

If this sort of discriminatory behavior were isolated in a few neighborhoods of the country, it would be a shame, but we would hesitate to tell others how to live their lives. Increasingly, though, it’s not isolated, and the discrimination and marginalization of women are tacitly permitted by the state. If we allow this trend to continue, Israel will cease to exist as a strong and vibrant democracy.

***

Due to Israel’s coalition-based government system, where coalition partners are given control over ministries in return for voting as a bloc, governments from David Ben-Gurion’s to Benjamin Netanyahu’s have preferred to add an ultra-Orthodox, non-Zionist party to their coalition rather than create a coalition without parties such as United Torah Judaism. Such a non-ultra-Orthodox coalition could, in one vote, break the rabbinate’s power. But the major parties are stuck in a kind of prisoner’s dilemma: Each party fears that if it votes against Orthodox control, while the other does not, the Orthodox would ally with the opposition to crush it. So, the status quo persists.

Young Maccabee girls in their camp in Zikhron Ya'akov, 1939

Young Maccabee girls in their camp in Zikhron Ya’akov, 1939. (Library of Congress)

In this context, our daughter will not be considered Jewish by the state. That’s because Erin’s mother had Conservative Jewish conversion in Canada before Erin was born, and because we decided it was insulting to ask Erin, who lived her whole life as a Jew, to “convert” just because a state-employed rabbi decided she is not Jewish enough.

We could not be married in Israel because of Erin’s official lack of Jewishness, despite the fact that we are observant Jews who keep Shabbat and a kosher home. (Our marriage certificate is from the state of Illinois.) Likewise, our daughter could in the future be legally barred from marrying the person she loves in Israel. If the laws continue as they are, the two of us will not be able to be buried in the same state-run cemetery, and our daughter would be excluded from burial in a Jewish cemetery when her life is spent. She’ll be a citizen, just as we are, and she’ll serve in the army, just as Ariel did. But if the status quo persists, she will go from cradle to grave knowing that in the eyes of the government of the state of Israel she is not a Jew.

For us, nothing is more painful. Our grandparents devoted their lives to supporting the state and its establishment, and we’ve devoted ours to building Israeli organizations that have connected thousands to Israel. But all of that is irrelevant in the eyes of the bearded men who have power over critical aspects of the lives of this country’s 6 million Jews.

This is not what the pioneers who founded this state worked toward, and it isn’t what generations of Diaspora Jews fought for.

***

It is time that the world Jewish community knew about this systemic bias in Israel—and time for Diaspora Jewry to act. It is amazing to think that while American Jews raise money for the state, lobby their political representatives to support Israel, and send their children on Birthright, the rabbinate denies the Jewishness of many of these Diaspora Jews.

This schism between who is a Jew in the Diaspora and who is considered a Jew by the state of Israel will only grow, considering that more than a quarter of Jewish students entering the first grade in Israel this year are ultra-Orthodox, as Dan Ben-David, director of the Taub Center in Jerusalem, has noted. This means that if we want Israel to be a Jewish state for all the Jewish people, as well as a democratic state that respects the individual rights of its citizens, we have a small window to break the Orthodox monopoly on the Israel’s core institutions.

Next year’s Israeli election is the perfect opportunity for the American Jewish community—and the rest of Diaspora Jewry—to act. Diaspora leaders need to demand from the leadership of the Israeli political parties that they make liberalization of the rabbinate a priority. It’s no secret that Israel’s political leaders and Israeli government programs depend on financial and political support from Diaspora Jews.

The Jewish Federations of North America, the Jewish Agency, the United Jewish Appeal, the American Israel Public Affairs Committee, the Jewish National Fund, and so on, should give the Israeli government a 90-day window to enact legislation to protect the rights of women and the non-Orthodox. Jerry Silverman, Sheldon Adelson, Howard Kohr, Ron Lauder, and other leaders of powerful Diaspora Jewish groups: Enough with the back-room diplomacy. It is time for Jewish leaders, especially in the United States, to make it clear that no money or lobbying support will flow to the government of Israel, or government-sponsored programs, if the state’s official institutions discriminate against non-Orthodox Jews. No pluralism and no recognition of women’s rights equals no cash and no lobbying support.

Our grandparents, parents, and peers did not work so hard or sacrifice so much to be judged unfit by official representatives of the government of Israel because of the crime of being Modern Orthodox, Conservative, or Reform. Our women do not deserve to sit in the back of buses, or to be spat on by those who cover themselves in black from head to toe. We need to use the means at our disposal to pressure the state to protect the future of the Jewish people. Our daughters demand it.

CORRECTION, January 9: This article originally stated that close to 50 percent of Jewish students entering first grade in Israel this year are ultra-Orthodox. In fact, the number is 27 percent. The error has been corrected.

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Shmuel says:

With all due respect, it isn’t just some “state appointed” Rabbi who decided Erin isn’t Jewish. As painful as this topic may be….this is something that most of Orthodox Rabbis and organizations agree on. That includes “Modern Orthodox” Rabbis as well.

Really powerful article guys, I hope everyone gets a chance to read this

A fantastically brave piece. Thank you for speaking out and for asking for the help we need to make the Israel so many dreamed about a reality.

Jacob says:

Very well said. It is unfathomable to think there are pious people who care more about who can be buried where more than showing basic human respect to fellow woman and man (as shown in the spitting incident and others like it).

Some 40 years ago I knew a Protestant young lady who met and married a totally secular Jewish man. She went to “The House of Living Judaism” and was converted according to Reform practices, without mikveh and with her Gentile mother and sister [!] acting as “witnesses”. Her fiance didn’t care at all; she was assured by a Reform rabbi [who performed the marriage before her "conversion"] that she was a kosher Jew. Imagine the surprise when her son Christopher ["He was given my late father's name in the Jewish manner"] was refused entry into a Conservative Hebrew school — in Ohio.

Unless you undergo Orthodox conversion, Erin, no matter how spurious you may feel it is, your children aren’t Jews. That’s Jewish Law. BTW, NOT the Law of Return, which has an entirely different set of criteria for Jewishness [basically, the same as Hitler's].

My mother was unequivocably Jewish, but due to rather complicated circumstances [no documentation] the rabbis here were unwilling to accept that, so to please them I was “converted”. As far as I am concerned, it was for the sake of our future children and if I feel anything, it is amusement over the whole issue–but I do understand the halachic implications. If being dunked in a mikveh resolves the situation, what’s the big deal?

I agree that there is unacceptable gender separation and far too much chutzpah on the part of the haredim in this country. But separation of synagogue and state will not resolve the RELIGIOUS aspect of “Who is a Jew”. Even if there was civil marriage in Israel, there are many secular Israelis who would not a Jew of questionable halachic status.

Catherine Bachman says:

Bringing a daughter into the world sharpens the issues discussed here, but regardless, females in Israel must not be stripped of their rights and shoved into ignorance, servitude, and subjected to the dictates of extreme patriarchy, which have never been to the advantage of women. Any society that denies basic rights to women is at the bottom of the ladder by any measure.

Israel is what it is today – an innovative, vibrant, and 1st world country in large part because of the very involvement of the women past and present that the Ultra-Orthodox are determined to curtail.

The ultra-orthodox of many religions have a common pattern regarding women – gender separation, restrict education, marry young, bear many children, restrict access to public space, enforce “modesty”, and restrict legal rights and privileges. The Jewish Ultra-Orthodox are no different. For women everywhere, this should be terrifying. It is bad for women, for children, and for society at large.

This situation with the Ultra-Orthodox is not a Fait Accompli for Israel. The course of ever increasing orthodoxy is not inevitable. Israel exists in the first place because the status quo was not acceptable to Jews after World War II, so they united, worked together, and created a state against seemingly insurmountable odds. Now is not the time to remain passive and allow Israel to sink into the orthodox view of the state, which is exclusive of all Jews but themselves, and of extreme restriction of women’s role in society. Now is the time to actively stand up for and promote the values which have made Israel so successful to date – democracy, innovation, plurality, and above all – women being full citizens in every sense of the word.

If you would like to join in the effort to change the Government of Israel’s policies and institutions that harm women, see here:

http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/freedominthejewishstate/

Jonathan says:

With all this said, this is still the best option for your daughter. I know it sounds strange, but even someone like your daughter, who’s ‘Jewishness’ is being questioned, couldn’t find a better country to grow in.

This nightmare called ‘the religious establishement’ has been there since Israel has been founded, and will remain there, probably forever. It sucks. A lot. And you learn to live with it. You have to.

That’s my take on it.

Michal says:

the ill situation is obvious and more articles are needed to raise awareness of people.

What I see is necessary to cure this situation, the state should stop favoring only one denomination of Judaism. A specific definition of “who is a Jew” should be kept within adherents of a given denomination, but for the state’s purpose what first and foremost should matter is the personal conviction of a citizen. Everywhere in democratic world the state asks only YOU, a member of which nation you consider yourself!

In addition, civil marriages should be introduced as a common denominator.

philip says:

Now that you live in Israel, you can change things here. Your viewpoint loses its cogency by appealing to US Jews to “do something”. If you want to make sure that nothing changes, then have US Jews involved in religious issues. That will get it ignored and buried quickly. Meanwhile, the article is a hodge-podge of issues since the founding of the state, i.e. Orthodox control of marriage and divorce, with the recent terrible events in Beit Shemesh. Totally separate issues. But now that you live here, you should know that. There is no better place to have your daughter grow than in Israel. All of my kids were born here and so are my granddaughters. There has been much change over the years and we hope it is in the right direction.

fred lapides says:

If I may be permitted my 2 cents worth:
My daughter is at this moment visiting Israel; my son is in the US but will return soon to Israel.
I see two serious problems about living in Israel 1. The demographics. The very religious will continue producing more and more children and thus have an increasingly bigger voice in all matters.
2. the continuing gap between the very wealthy and the vanishing middle class, a class unable to afford housing and food etc.

Why is it that so many Israelis, though loving Israel, nonetheless leave to live elsewhere?

shushan says:

you 2 seem like troublemakers. you should be tossed out of israel! a non Jew that refuses to convert but wants to be accepted as a Jew under her own rules. you defame a country because of the acts of a few. I think you 2 are american spies

Oh, good one Shmuel, that makes it all better.

I don’t exactly understand: 6 years ago the “Orthodox” as you call them were controlling the civil status exactly as today and as they have since 1948. 6 years ago the Halakha was the same and your wife was still not Jewish in Israel’s eyes. 6 years ago the situation was exactly the same.

Anyway, your demand – that foreigners, even Jewish, will tell the people who live here how to run things is not only insulting, it is anti-democratic. We decide by ourselves what we want for ourselves. Not Americans who don’t have a clue about anything.

Harold says:

You make many valid points, Erin, but one thing isn’t clear to me, easpecially because you personalize your complaints.

Your article is mostly about structural problems in Israel, rather than this month’s events. But these problems all existed when you and your husband moved to Israel 6 years ago.

I find it very hard to believe that you were unaware of all these problems 6 years ago, but have suddenly become aware of them now that you’re pregnant.

You knew then that your conversion wasn’t acceptable to the great majority of Orthodox (and not just ultra-Orthodox) rabbis in North America as well as in Israel.

You knew then that you would not be regarded as a Jew in Israel, despite being regarded as Jewish by the majority of Jews outside of Israel.

But you chose to move to Israel anyway. And now you’re complaining?!

The demographics are working against you in Israel and especially against your daughter. You hit the nail on the head when you noted that “considering that close to 50 percent of Jewish students entering the first grade in Israel this year are ultra-Orthodox…”. Even if you decided to re-convert in the Orthodox manner, your daughter would still face the very important issues of who pays to support a rapidly growing percentage of the population who thinks it is their right to collect government welfare and to spend their time studying religious texts and having more children they can’t afford to look after without welfare payments. Then there is the issue of who will defend the country if the ultra Orthodox refuse to serve and what happens to Israel if the US has a major financial crisis worse than the 2007-09 one. When the old Soviet Union came apart at the end of 1991, Cuba lost its patron and its subsidies.

Don’t expect Sheldon Adelson (Republican) to come to your rescue. He is too busy playing in presidential politics, as are other wealthy Jews like Stephen Schwartzman (Republican), John Paulson (Republican) and George Soros (Democrat). The latter three have little or no interest in Israel.

JCarpenter says:

“Who is a Jew?” is focused on genealogy, not on love of God with heart, soul, and mind, according to fundamentalists; I don’t get the logic.

I’ve lived in Israel for 43 years having made aliyah from Washington DC in 1968.
1. The pictures of girls at Nahalal suggests that Israel was egalitarian once, and now it’s not. In fact, after the posturing and the photo ops, most of these girls ended up back in the kitchen / laundry / childcare and Israeli women had to fight for equal status – like elsewhere else.
2. Women in Israel enjoy a host of liberties and yes – privileges, that American women can only dream of – such as free abortions, in practice, on demand. If you would care to take the long view, Israel women are much more liberated in a host of areas – INCLUDING religion then they were a decade or two ago (pre-marriage financial agreements, divorce proceedings in civil courts where the rabbinate is merely a rubber stamp – too complicated to explain in a talkback, and more.) Of course, some elements among the ultra-Orthodox are fighting progress (particularly since there have been many gains demanded by ORTHODOX WOMEN). And by the way, many aspects of the tug-of-war between secular and religious in Israel are settled with compromises everyone can more or less live with – but these cases don’t make headlines. I say this as a journalist – but also as a citizen and as a secular Jewish woman.
3. The quandary I faced 43 years ago as a non-religious Jew remain: Is it possible to ensure my kids/grandkids will be Jewish in the Diaspora, if I don’t anchor that identity in a host of rituals I don’t care to practice (e.g. become religious)? I opted to move to Israel. If the proof of the pudding is in the eating – there are almost no Jews left in MY extended State-side family today…
4. Stop whining. Join the dialogue HERE in Israel and struggle AS ISRAELIS for ‘the shape you think a Jewish State should take’, instead of “complaining about the natives.” Your description in Tablet is simplistic and either uninformed or very myopic. Lastly, what makes Israel “Jewish” is not found in the synagogue.

L wineman says:

While many of the points you make about israel are correct I must say you make it seem as if clubs in Israel’s most populous nightclubs dont go non stop including fri night, the bikini clad women cover the beaches in tlv on shabbat,and life goes on there oblivious of the orthodox”stranglehold” on the country. Israelis (I live there half time) are aware of the problem. But why assume they need americans to push them to make change (the way they want it). That is especially the case if the charedi population is growing…aren’t americans believers in democracy. Maybe a large aliya of liberal american jews is the answer .). Anyway there are plenty of green shoots of alternative religious practice done in a manner that reflects israeli not american culture.
I think american jewry has enough,problems massive jewish illiteracy,intermarriage oh and growing charedization of its population since they are the folk that in marry and have the most kids.

If there was anything the people you mention should do in redirecting some of their resources, lobbying in the knesset that they dont vote for is the least important. How about a fund to promise every american parent that wants to give their child a day school education that they wont have to worry about how to afford it ?

lwineman says:

I live in israel half time and am well aware of the many problems and controversies. But why is it your articles always focus on the negative. There is a new egalitarian orthodox yeshiva that opened in jerusalem and a vibrant and growing orthodox egalitarian community in beersheba. There are alma and machon ein prat that teach jewish sources to observant and no observant israelis. Israeli pop singers are recording albums of traditional music. A book of dialogues with a rosh yeshiva (and harvard phd in literature) sold out the day it was released. How about one article about this trend. Change comes from below, not from outside.

david minkin says:

20+ years ago several Federations in the US informed the Israeli leadership that they would withhold funds from UJA if the “Who Is a Jew” legislation then being contemplated was enacted. Kopelow and Beery’s article is right on in its approach, and Federations around the US should be making clear that their funding is dependent on changes in laws in Israel that don’t respect all of the Jewish community.

Wonderful, sad essay. With, as usual, comments that only serve to prove your point.

Thank you for writing it.

Stop whining. Join the dialogue HERE in Israel and struggle AS ISRAELIS for ‘the shape you think a Jewish State should take’, instead of “complaining about the natives.” Your description in Tablet is simplistic and either uninformed or very myopic. Lastly, what makes Israel “Jewish” is not found in the synagogue

Thank you Daniella! I find so many of these Tablet articles about Israel boil down to the author superficially whining about something that doesn’t quite fit their myopic worldview. Kudos, I could not have said this better myself.

Marjorie, (I assume Ingall, the Tablet author) who appointed you comment monitor?

Abbi and Daniella…and others. Please read the article, and our bios. Not only are we Israeli residents, but we are very, very involved in Israeli society. And voters, and political party members…and more.

Please–wrestle with the issue at hand: Israel asks the Diaspora for help, raises money and political capital there thanks to its mechanisms, urges Jewish organizations to mobilize their community to ‘support Israel’…all while not recognizing the majority of Diaspora Jews as ‘really Jewish.’

If that was the whole problem, dayenu. But the fact is that the same establishment that excludes Diaspora Jews from being Jewish excludes women from decision making roles in marriage, divorce and burial…among MANY other things: business regulation through hechsher, etc.

So…yeah. Cut the ad hominem because we’re involved and invested, and focus on the issues.

Montana says:

Are you kidding? Go somewhere else to raise her where the doors are not already shut in her face before she is born! No matter how much you love her, you can not stop the devastation of being raised female in such a misogynist Place. Move somewhere else while you still can. Hatred in the name of God is as old as the Bible. Give your daughter as many possibilities and life choices as you can. That is her right.

Oreet says:

Your situation, while personally painful to you, creates an absurd – you are complaining about a situation that you knew would happen. None of this was a secret and nothing changed since you made aliya six years ago.

You knew then that Erin is not considered Jewish and therefore any children you would have – girls and boys – would also not be Jewish so the issue here is not women’s rights or Israel’s treatment of girls but rather your desire to have Israel abandon Halacha as the guiding principle in who is Jewish.

Regardless of your views, this is not a matter for world Jewry to decide, this is a matter for Israel to decide – getting American Jews involved in this is just as inappropriate as it would be for them to decide military matters here – they don’t live here, don’t really know what Israel is like, don’t send their kids to the army, don’t shoulder our taxes and so should not have a vote here.

If you really don’t like it here, then it’s not the place for you – however, if Israel and Judaism is truly important to you then you should re-think your stand and appreciate the fact that what has worked well for thousands of years is just fine and just because you don’t like it doesn’t mean it has to change.

Oreet says:

Raise your daughter wherever you like and if that means you leave Israel, so be it – but do not assume that all women want the current situation to change – women who choose to remain or become Orthodox are not agitating for all the changes you are looking for – and that is not referring only to the ultra-Orthodox – all the modern Orthodox (knitted kipa) accept the fact that Judaism is determined by the mother and that only an Orthodox conversion will make you Jewish, and that intermarriage is not a good thing, and on and on – At least admit openly what it is that you want to change – you want to ignore Halacha and do something else – legitimate, but be open about it.

Dan K says:

Author Jack London wrote in his book “The Road” that, “the chief distinguishing trait between man and other animals is that man is the only animal that maltreats the females of his kind. It is something of which no wolf nor cowardly coyote is ever guilty”.

This quote gave me pause when I read it yesterday, as did your article when I read it today.

donyel ben aharon says:

This commentary on the state of affairs is spot on. Successive Israeli governments should be ashamed of this. It is terribly unJewish.

Tav Kara says:

My concern as I read this is sad article, is that the obligation to demand change must be upon the Israeli people and not the American Jews. It is incumbant upon the citizens of the State of Israel to do something to change this ugly situation. I am a Canadian with Israeli citizenship. I am a Conservative rabbi, and I am married to an Israeli. We have one daughter and we live in New York. I lived in Israel for 5 years. Kobi grew up in Jerusalem, served in the army, got a degree from hebrew U. This issue is one that is very close to our hearts and we care deeply that the Israeli public feel empowered and enlightened enough to stand up and demand change. They don’t need America to pull strings. The also don’t want that. If they can pull strings about this issue, what else will they want power over in Israel? Those are dangerous waters to swim in. Democracy is hard – but

Benji L. says:

Some of the critiques of the authors are uncalled for. So if there is a legitimate problem in Israel, it’s not up for discussion because they should have thought about it six years ago? This IS an issue that people have been complaining about for years. I suspect that if native-born Israelis had written this article, the responses would be different. It is likely that every commenter (or their offspring) will be affected at one time or another in the future by the direction our country is turning and if we don’t act now, the rights of all Jews who are not ultra-Orthodox will at some point be infringed upon. Unless you don’t might being spit upon.

Beatrix says:

When Israel was new, that used to be the joke: Baptists were more welcome in Israel than Reform Jews. It’s no longer funny.

No one is telling the Orthodox to give up their beliefs. We’re simply saying to stop monopolizing Judaism and make room for Reform and Conservative Jews.
Judaism is an evolving religion. Reform Judaism has been here since the French Revolution, and has evolved into the major Jewish religion in America.

Judaism has evolved for the Orthodox, too, and no one says that makes the modern day Orthodox religion invalid. When was the last time male members of the Orthodox religion took multiple wives, wore sandals, lived in tents, killed the fatted calf, and had a conversation with G-d where G-d responded?

In other words, allow freedom of religion in Israel, even for us Jews.

Nechama says:

I’m saddened to see the number of Israelis on here who’ve allowed an Israeli national identity (modelled on the Goyish nation-states) to replace the trans-national, trans-cultural, trans-linguistic JEWISH identity that withstood millenia prior to the state’s foundation. If half the Jews in the world are not Orthodox, but they continue to live as Jews, taking part in the Jewish community, supporting the Jewish state, and passing on Jewish traditions (and yes, all traditions were changed/invented at some point, sorry to burst the self-serving Haredi bubble), then they HAVE a say in the future of Judaism. No one’s saying that an Orthodox Rabbi has to personally accept a Masorti conversion, but they damn well can step aside and let a Masorti Rabbi do so! This isn’t an internal Israeli issue; it’s an internal JEWISH issue, which means that, by definition, it is beyond Israel’s borders. Israeli Jews need to take their heads out of their arrogant asses to acknowledge that other Jews have existed and continue to exist and that when it comes to matters of Jewish identity, they’ve always had a say and always should. Shame on all the so-called ‘Jews’ on here who would abandon any notion of Ahavat Israel in favour of a superficial and parochial Israeli nationalism!

Shira R says:

Nu? You refused to let your children be born Jewish because it would be “insulting”? What kind of parent are you, anyway?

Ariel, you might live here and you might be very very involved in Israeli society, but your comments show you really don’t understand the first thing about how the religious establishment works, how the system came to be and why no one really cares whether American olim with questionable Jewish credentials can have Jewish children.

This line is a blatant example of the superficial analysis I referenced: “If that was the whole problem, dayenu. But the fact is that the same establishment that excludes Diaspora Jews from being Jewish excludes women from decision making roles in marriage, divorce and burial…among MANY other things: business regulation through hechsher, etc”

Religious regulation of personal status issues (birth, death, marriage)is a legacy of a deal Ben Gurion made with the religious community at the founding of the state that presents numerous complex problems today but is based on serious halachic issues, which are only compounded by the fact that the state has a very different definition of who is a Jew than the rabbinate.

OTOH, the disentanglement of the rabbinate and state is supported by a number of rabbis and legal scholars and is an issue that’s being thoroughly debated today. Too bad your article couldn’t spare a few paragraphs about them.

The fact that many Americans who support Israel would have a hard time getting married here is pretty much irrelevant. The number of American Jews who actually make aliya or want to get married here is miniscule. You and your wife are the minority of a minority in a country filled with other, much larger, more powerful minority groups. And why would Federation or AIPAC really care all them much about you, when, again, so few questionably Jewish Americans choose to move or marry here. You’re missing the numbers.

In short, the complex relationship between religion and state is a very interesting and important topic. It’s too bad you turned it into a personal whine.

Sarah says:

I agree the system needs changing. On proposal floating around is that communities should receive funding to support community-based synagogues and rabbis rather than only the ULTRA-Orthodox Rabbinate.

I do take issue with your use of “Orthodox” in reference to the Rabbinate. The ULTRA-Orthodox hijacked what had been a reasonably benign Modern Orthodox Rabbinate and have secured that monopoly via politics. I AM Orthodox myself, and the ranges of modern Orthodoxy equate very much to what used to be Conservative in my childhood. The American Conservative movement, in its rush to immitate the “Reform” Movement, has lost a lot of its younger people to modern Orthodoxy. “Reform” is in quotes because I simply do not accept non-halachic Judaism, which is how “Reform” presents itself. I see the laxness and Jewish illiteracy of the “Reform” assimilationist movement as the other side of the ULTRA-Orthodox movement — both are extremes which Judaism would be better without.

As for women’s rights….if you were more conversant with modern Orthodox synagogues, you would know that they run the gamut from almost-charedi to very inclusive of women. For example, Shira Hadasha in Jerusalem does not have women rabbis (nor do we think we need them–most Israelis belong to synagogues that are lay-led; why do you need a religious hierarchy anyway?)but does have egalitarian services and women’s full participation in both services and leadership.

Egalitarianism is the trend in modern Orthodoxy today, not discrimination.

Note that the extremists were protesting against a modern Orthodox school; note that the counterdemonstrators included modern orthodox, secular, and ultra-orthodox people. Note that it was a chareidi woman, Yocheved Horowitz, who refused to move to back of the bus and castigated men for proposing she move. I think your daughter has a future her, along with mine. Don’t be afraid.

Thank you to all who have commented so far.

Something to clarify: our call for action and demand for change is not limited to the Diaspora. Our call to the organized American Jewish establishment does not mean we are not pushing in Israel, with Israelis, too. We need to fight this battle on both sides of the picket line.

If the Diaspora wants to maintain a Jewish homeland that can be a home for Jews, then sit up and take notice – because the Israel many of you are helping with your hours, voices and dollars may not accept you once you arrive.

Israel needs to continue to be strong, independent and secure. For this to happen we need to maintain a healthy democratic state and economy. Thus, as Nechama so eloquently put it, “This isn’t an internal Israeli issue; it’s an internal JEWISH issue, which means that, by definition, it is beyond Israel’s borders.”

Sarah, the Orthodox pluralism you speak of I have witnessed first hand – as I have the new “Jewish movements” of “secular” Tel Aviv. Both are beautiful to be part of and exciting to watch grow. The issue at hand, however, is that the female leaders of these movements are denied a voice by those who create the law and push the agenda in the Rabbinate. They are still required to sit in the back of a bus by many ultra-Orthodox men, are still considered immodest if their dress does not fit a pre-subscribed standard dictated by men, and are not allowed to be on stage or even to attend an increasing number of public events such as army graduation ceremonies, academic achievement ceremonies or medical conferences.

Great strides are happening in Israel when it comes to religious pluralism and home-grown movements, and yet women remain second-class participants in official Jewish life in Israel.

What I demand in this article (the breadth of my wish list does extend beyond the boarders of this page) is that the Diaspora stand up for what is right, for what is just, and for an Israel we can all be part of.

C. Leland says:

This article is frustrating. While Erin keeps a kosher home, has she been active in the greater community? My Reform conversion was accepted when I made aliyah in 2006. I brought documentation of the work I had done in my synagogue and in the community. It took the Misrad 6 weeks to decide that I was, in fact, Jewish, and I have the papers to prove it. I know my story is unusual, but true!

Further, how is going through a re-dedication (Israeli conversion) an “insult?” If Erin really has committed to Israel, she ought to be ready to do what needs to be done. When one moves to another country, one must conform to the laws of that country, and not whinge about them.

The emotions shared in this article will never change what needs to be changed in Israel. Better to join Uri Regev (“Hiddush – For Freedom of Religion and Equality”)or Gilad Kariv (Israel Religious Action Center,) both of whom are doing amazing work on behalf of progressive Judaism in Israel. All of the other religious groups have their own courts, because they fought for them. We progressives will have to do the same.

rdavidson says:

In all due respect look at the “progressive” american jewish movements from the perspective of an observant non charedi jew or a person of mizrachi descent whose culture never had any of these streams of judaism. Reform and conservative together lobby for changes (you want them to do more)
but what do israelis see: chelsea clinton not converting and getting married by a rabbi and a priest on shabbat. Should their children be considered jewish. Reform judaism changed the millenial tradition/halacha of matrilineal descent fo i guess your answer would be yes, no matter what was observed in the house. I am by no means a scholar but I can tell you that many many of the students receiving reform or conserv rabbinical training have minimal skills in jewish texts perhaps at the level of an israeli ninth grader or a serious student graduate of an orthodox jewish day school. Plus they look at the rate of intermarriage out of those movements. From that perspective the pressing issue in world jewry hardly seems to be the acceptance of reform and conservative conversions/marriages when it is clear the standards are dropping on a consistent basis. Oh btw no orthodox beit din anywhere in the world would recognize chelsea’s children jewish. It has nothing to do with israel. But if you think leaving israel over this issue will give your child a richer jewish life…I am sure you will be disappointed. People may have criticized those israeli tv ads but they are true the likelihood your daughter will ask for a christmas tree in israel are nil…in the states not insignificant esp when her jewish friends have one.

While more pluralism in israel may be in order I think you should hesitate before you decide that what is “right” for world jewry is to relax its standards and level of literacy down to virtually nothing. And btw I am not a strictly observant jew.

rdavidson says:

If the Diaspora wants to maintain a Jewish homeland that can be a home for Jews, then sit up and take notice – because the Israel many of you are helping with your hours, voices and dollars may not accept you once you arrive

I have no idea what the above means, you are conflating the issues of marriage divorce and conversion with the state accepting you (which they will with open arms because the law of return has nothing to do with halacha). Israel could go to civil marriage (a good idea) it wouldn t change the fact that if a rabbi and a priest perform a marriage for a non jewish woman and a jewish man, most Israelis observant and non observant would treat the child as a jew…even though the reform movement would. Whose fault is that ?Btw here’s another one. Beit tefilla a non ortho non conservo non reform congregation conducts fri night services with live music throughout the summer at the nemal on the beach in tlv with funding from the municipality. They also cant keep up with requests from the army to do kabbalat shabbat programs. Open your eyes appreciate the changes happening from below the last thing these groups need or want is a bunch of american jews telling people in the democracy of israel how to decide things, so the tiny number of american olim and some conserv and reform rabbis in america feel better.

ron diamond says:

I hope you give the american mba students a more nuanced view of life in israel

susan gold says:

btw hechsher for kashrut is under the “stranglehold” of orthodox rabbis everywhere in the world. What would be the point of someone running a kosher establishment with a “hechsher” from a reform or conservative rabbi. It would be suicidal for business the only people that would care about the kashrut (or nearly so) are orthodox and wouldnt accept the heksher And given the knowledge of jewish law of most conserv and reform rabbis i see no reason why they should

davir armstein says:

Let’s see…a few weeks ago an article by an israeli ex pat on how much better his jewish life was in manhattan than in NY. Now this piece by an american in israel. Do we see a pattern ? How about soliciting an article by an american jew that made aliya writing how despite it all he couldnt conceive of having lived as full a jewish life in america.

Hershl says:

Get a life.

If you are truly committed to Israel then live there and have your kid there.

The orthodox will not go away. In fact, they are breeding faster than rabbits, faster than Arabs and surely faster than the secular.

At some point they will outnumber all other groups and be in a position to take over via the ballot box.

This is a demographic reality.

I despise their ideas and culture. They are the greatest enemy of Israel and the Jewish people today. We will find a way to neutralize their influence; don’t worry.

You are not the only ones to feel this way.

Chen Blvd?

Ritzy neighborhood.

Beatrix says:

Sarah doesn’t consider Reform Jews either Jewish or significant. Without the membership of millions of Reform Jews, Judaism would be as important to the world as the Wiccan religion. And without the support of American Reform Jews, American politicians would be as interested in supporting Israel as they are in supporting Kyrgyzstan. Israel made it once without American help. It can’t any more.

Since retiring, one of my hobbies has been defending Israel from online attacks. After reading some of the responses to this article, I have more sympathy for the Palestinians.

Eve Harris says:

You wrote >>If we allow this trend to continue, Israel will cease to exist as a strong and vibrant democracy <<

I believe that ship has sailed. It's a nation-state with strong theocratic overtones. It's governed by leaders (religious, too) from different factions of a tribe that has become splintered almost beyond recognition.

Lee Smith says:

There seem to be two overlapping but somewhat different issues here. One is the “who is a Jew” issue, but the other, more pressing in my opinion, is the treatment of women by a subset of the fervently Orthodox stream. It is nothing new — our daughters have been harrassed and villlified over the years. The new thing is perhaps that now even Orthodox women are being subjected to this sort of misogony and sexual abuse. It is time to finally fight to end it.

Caroline says:

I agree with this article. On both the women’s and conversion issues.

To everyone who attacks the author for not undergoing an orthodox conversion: do you know how hard it is to get a state-sponsored conversion in Israel these days? Do you know the profound lack of respect the Israeli Rabbinate is now showing their converts — sometimes revoking conversions years after the fact because the converts weren’t observant enough? This is a direct effect of the rightward shift of the Rabbinate that the author mentions in her article.

If Israel keeps going down this road, Diaspora support will go away. While I respect orthodoxy, Israel was founded for Jewish autonomy. That includes religious autonomy, and Jews of all denominations should be allowed to call Israel home. And I think most people’s definition of home would include having the ability to be both married and buried in said location.

I live in Israel. So allow me to explain. Israel is like one big dysfunctional family or temple or synagogue. We do the best we can. Jews are emotional. A lot living together surrounded by enemies pointing 40,000 rockets at us makes us a bit irritable. In America, everything is about law and the constitution and rights, etc. Things don’t work that way here. Much more fluid. Much messier. Much more interesting.

Just about everyone in the government, including the Prime Minister any many Rabbis condemned the treatment of the little girl. The Chief Rabbi of Israel said everyone should be allowed to sit anywhere they want on a bus and believe it or not, that is the law, but if you ride a bus that goes to a Charedi area the rules change with every bus ride depending on the people on the bus at the moment, unwritten rules. The law is nice, but Israel doesn’t operate only by law. The authors can become informed by reading The Jerusalem Post online or Haaretz or both.

According to halacha, a Jew is one born of a Jewish mother or who one who has had a valid halchic conversion. A conservative conversion or even a reform one could have been halachiclly correct. One has to look at the details. This has been the law in Israel since 1948. The founders agreed to a pretty much secular democratic society, but that Jewish life cycle matters were governed by halacha according to the orthodox view. This was a compromise.

The authors should come to Israel and join the party and make their voices heard. The whole story of the little girl was put on TV and all over the world because one channel decided to make a story of it. This channel has a point of view similar to the authors. The authors can come here and make their story heard or can spend their time condemning Israel because Israel is not the U.S. and that the culture here is not the same as that in the U.S. If they choose to stay in the U.S. they should be come better informed.

vernue says:

Erin and Ariel – if you feel that America best reflects the values you want for your family, then move there. I don’t mean that flippantly. Think about it. I’ve lived in the middle of the Shomron for 20 years after thinking about it, and although nothing is perfect, this was the society that best reflects my values. It’s like the mitzvah of ‘aseh l’cha rav.”

Secular Israelis who worry about the demographics of Israel and have 2 kids – it’s your democratic right to propagate. Go to it and have fun. Don’t be put off by the fact that it’s a mitzvah!

Tablet – you were once a “check every day” site, then a ‘click a week’ site, then a dreary once-a-monther, and now… – I agree with the I’m-sick-of-whiney-anti-Israel-articles folk. If you want to have a monolithically liberal self-validating intellectually incestuous, shallow (yeah, I know, them’s are fighten words, but that’s what you’ve become), BORING, devirative jew-ish (emphasis on “ish”) site, well, go right ahead, but you’re doing it without this once dedicated reader.

Milton Pincus says:

Jerry Silverman talked about changing the status quo when he took over as head of Federations in the US. But ultimately, he’s not willing to take a stand and challenge our “leadership” here on this or other issues.

It’s time that we Occupy Bet Shemesh and Jerusalem. It’s time that we challenge the US tax-exempt status of the many “American Friends of [insert yeshiva name here", basing the challenge on discrimination and gender-based assaults. It's time we challenge PEF Israel Endowment Funds [http://pefisrael.wordpress.com/about/] to stop funding these yeshivot and funneling money that supports this behavior. Cut off their funding and you cut off their activities.

“Our grandparents devoted their lives to supporting the state and its establishment…This is not what the pioneers who founded this state worked toward, and it isn’t what generations of Diaspora Jews fought for.”

This is the ultimate irony and about wraps it up in a nutshell. Couldn’t agree more.

Going OT here, I have a problem with finding out your unborn baby’s sex; and I have a bigger problem with broadcasting it. The word that comes to mind is “hubris”. Let’s let [the] God/dess do Her work, then when — b’Sha’ah tova — your baby is born, we’ll celebrate. Meantime, b’Sha’ah tova, and may the rest of the pregnancy and birth go smoothly. Here’s to the day when we celebrate babies, not genders.

Michal says:

On decision process of “who is a Jew”… Changing the current situation “state<-orthodox rabbinate" to "state<-citizen" should (a) not harm the orthodox Judaism, as the orthodox society would retain its own ways of counting for its own purposes. (b) return the personal liberty to the citizen (c) improve the religious freedom.

The real problem is that there is a discrimination in Halakha, and this discrimination is supported by the state. You may not like this view but it is like this. Most clearly it manifests itself in case of atheists: a "matrilineal" atheist or agnostic is considered a Jew, while a "patrilineal" atheist or agnostic is considered a non-Jew. The former is "accepted" without a minimal expectation to change his/her worldview, religious convictions or degree of Hebrew literacy. The latter, to be "accepted" will not only be demanded to change his worldviews but he might expect his "conduct" to be checked even after years.

To a lesser extent it's seen in case of Conservative or Reform denominations. Yes such conversions are accepted as a base for Law of Return, but not as a base for being Jew. For the state (not for the orthodox synagogue) you simply aren't Jew! ;)

and this really happens in XXI century where the values of civil liberties of the Western civilization are becoming an everyday bread…

Mottel says:

There’s a certain level of opportunistic sophistry in this article that bothers me.
The situation in Israel is hardly new. Author states his sudden fears that Israel may not be the place for his daughter. I don’t believe them. The requirements for conversion date back to Sinai, have been codified in Jewish law for centuries, and has been (sadly) a point of contention and political debate in Israel since 1962.

I highly doubt the author was unaware of any these details before he made Aliyah, decided to have a baby etc.

Here’s a comment that’s sure to anger, but is not meant to. I post it only because I am interested in some constructive feedback.

My family emigrated to America from Russia & Poland in the late 1800′s, early 1900′s. There have been extensive geneology studies that go back to the shetels. So, now as a grandmother, I ask myself, where did all this white blond hair & blue eyes come from? Was there intermarriage (kosher conversion?), rape (pogroms, wars), adoption, etc. back in the old country? Am I REALLY Jewish? How do any of us know if we are realy Jewish by Orthodox standards? How to we assume anything?

“The reason we are concerned about raising a daughter here is that the government is standing by as war is waged against girls and women.”
….
“If this sort of discriminatory behavior were isolated in a few neighborhoods of the country, it would be a shame, but we would hesitate to tell others how to live their lives. Increasingly, though, it’s not isolated, and the discrimination and marginalization of women are tacitly permitted by the state. If we allow this trend to continue, Israel will cease to exist as a strong and vibrant democracy.”

Note the twisted ethnocentric and prejudiced logic.

Erin Kopelow, who has no connection to Palestine whatsoever, emigrated to Stolen Palestine while Canadian Palestinians descended from the ethnically cleansed native Palestinian population could not relocate to Stolen Palestine (pre-1967 Israel) or to Occupied Palestine (Territories captured in the 1967 War of Zionist Aggression).

The State of Israel is not a vibrant democracy but is a vile ethnocracy founded in ethnic cleansing and genocide. The State of Israel, Zionism, and Zionists should constitute an anathema to every decent human being.

The two sickos that authored the article worry about gender equality but have no problem living in a state whose founding ideals presuppose that Jews may plunder and kill non-Jews with impunity.

A suggestion to break the Orthodox establishment’s power: complete separation of elections for Knesset and the head of state. Note, this is not the half-measure that was tried in the 1990s. What I advocate is voting for the head of state, voting for a party for Knesset and whoever gets elected head of state fills the cabinet with no need whatsoever to obtain approval from Knesset to remain in office for the term’s duration.

The last part is key, it means that no bloc would be able to bring a government down if it does comply with its wishes. The worst they would be able to do is hold up legislation, but different coalitions could be formed on different issues which would allow a government to bypass an intransigent bloc with unreasonable demands.

elliot says:

It is not “discriminatory” to base Jewish standards on Judaism. Judaism has said for 2,000 years that a definition of a Jew is a person whose mother is Jewish or who has a conversion based on set standards. The fact that the only Jewish state in the world bases itself on 2,000 year old Jewish practice is not discrimination or racism.

It is a very difficult position that the author finds herself in that she has been sold a bag of goods by those who changed Judaism and told her it was valid – they are to blame, not the ones keeping to the standards.

It’s as if I want to buy a television, go to the store and they sell me a computer monitor instead, but convince me that it’s really a television. Who is to blame – the one who changed the definition of what a television is, or the television makers who who say that the computer monitor is not a television?

Sadly, it’s the author’s conflict on this issue (not in any way a fault of her own) that drives her to other non-logical conclusions written in this article.

sharon says:

I often wonder why extremist religions have so much power today. I think that they are afraid of what technology has given to us in understanding our lives and the universe. They would rather cling to their irrational beliefs and magical thinking.
What we should all notice is that every state that has been run by extremist religions are failed states and their societies will eventually implode. During that period they will have lost what women can donate to education, art, medicine and science.
Not only should Israel be fearful, we in the United states should be very afraid. Given the power of the evangelists, we will fall further behind in education and science. What is sad but true is that although they do not believe in Darwin or evolution, the believe in a Darwinian view of economics and society at large-where only the strongest survive.
What is additionally scary is that they all breed like rabbits and will over take educated people within 50 years or so. Women are becoming second class citizens through out the world-including in Israel and the US. It is not the life we wish for our daughters.

Two themes run repeatedly through the comments. One is to point out that everyone accepts that if the was not Jewish and had no conversion, the children are not Jewish. The other is to assert that halacha requires non-recognition of any conversion performed outside of Orthodox auspices.

Anyone raising the first issue either isn’t paying attention or is not arguing in good faith. The mother did convert, but under Conservative auspices. While that leaves the validity of the conversion a topic of discussion, there is no basis for comparing it to Chelsea Clinton who did not convert under any auspices and had a priest co-officiate at her wedding.

As for the validity of the conversion, halacha requires a specific process for conversion to be valid. The overseer of that process is a matter of social policy, or metahalacha. It is true that certain non-Orthodox overseers would allow conversions that do not conform to the requirements of the process, but to assert that whether or not that is the case if the overseer is not Orthodox is simply metahalachic.

As for the adherence of the establishment to halacha, I read of a case where a teacher, upon hearing that a kid’s mother converted Conservative, publicly declared to his class that any dishes used by him were treif and had the kid serve as a shabbos goy to his class. Apparently their edition of the Shulchan Arukh was missing the page about embarrassing someone in public.

As a born Jew who is about to marry a Jew-by-choice in the United States and who is unhappy about the fact that she will never be considered “Jewish” under current Israeli law, I strongly support your cause.

However, the idea of the international Jewish Zionist organizations, which have for so long stayed rather neutral on matters of internal Israel politics, to suddenly threaten Israel with a sort of sanctions in response to their internal struggle is absurd. Aside from the fact that American Jews give to Israel mostly indifferent toward domestic politics, it is really not the place of diaspora Jews to place themselves in this debate. If the majority of Israelis do not support this, why aren’t they arraigning bus boycotts and demonstrations? Why aren’t them marching through these areas where soldiers have been attacked by the ultra-Orthodox, demanding civil rights?

Of course, I think that every person deserves civil rights, whether or not the majority in any society agrees, but why not put up candidates who vow to change the system, who will work to change the rules and the way the rules work. I am anything but a fan of the Tea Party caucus in the United States, but this is exactly what they did in 2010, and they won dozens of seats in Congress.

I will gladly support any internal movement pushing for equality and recognition, but Israel as a nation must have the political will to change itself.

Amnon Wallenstein says:

All said is so correct!

Yet, love if not unconditional is not love – it is only a contract.
If you love this Jewish country fight for it, not in a threatening negative sense but in a positive way: call for Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox and others to come and stay here – at least for a while – and help make the change. Have more children per couple and less cats and dogs and convience your families and friends to do the same.

If the writers even think about not being able to raise their future daughter in present conditions then they are just looking for excuses to leave. I say: If they are not ready to fight for it then let them leave!

And remember, I think it was an American president who said: Don’t think about what
your country should do for you, think what you should do for your country.

Stop acting so ME, Me and start thinking We, We!

Not Michael says:

I have long thought that Conservative and Reform Jews should not give money to Israel — to the Israeli state that is. They should give generously to schools, hospitals, orphanages, and all sorts of charities in Israel. But not a dime to government so long as the government funds the “official rabbinate” that doesn’t give any respect to their Judaism or recognize the religious rites performed by their rabbis.

Liberal North American Jews shouldn’t abandon Israel, but they need to fund a state system that openly discriminates against them.

I have a better idea – don’t give money to Israel, at all. Israel really has no need for it – you really think a few dozen millions (in the best case) is vital to a country who budget is $90 billion ?

Use the money to strenghten Jewish education and litteracy in the USA. The Jewish community needs your money more than Israel.

Giving to Israel is more a psychological way of keeping a link with the land of the Jews than anything else. This way US Jews think they contribute to something, that they are part of the Zionist project. This is self-desillusion but the (few) Israelis who enjoy this money won’t shatter it.

Matthew says:

Let me start with this: Theodor Herzl was an Atheist, and he’d be rolling in his grave right now if he knew that Israel was fast becoming Judea and Samaria.

I’d still want my children born in Israel even if they were unfairly discriminated against by the Haredim. They say you don’t count, or your daughter doesn’t count, but if you love Israel, don’t let the orthodox make you feel like she doesn’t count. She’ll still be able to vote, she’ll still speak Hebrew. She’ll be a Sabra!

After all, we have the same mentality in American Republican states, as in the absurd concept that “If you don’t like Christian values, leave America.” Well no, I won’t leave America because the right wing clowns say I don’t have the right values. I think Zionism has taught Jews that they have nothing to apologize for in the face of persecutors, so stay and defend yourself and your family if Israel and Zionism are worth defending. If they want the state for themselves to fulfill some zany biblical vision, it’s the job of you, me and other moderates to push back.

I strongly agree with Matthew’s comment above, especially the first paragraph!

I can only verify my own Jewish geneology 4 generations back to the Russian Pale. My family does not look Semitic. White blond hair and blue eyes abound, yet my Jewishness would never be questioned. How do I know that there wasn’t intermarriage, rape or adoption, during the diaspora that by halacha standards would render me non-Jewish, yet I am accepted. Why?

A Conservative convert who makes aliyah to Israel is rejected.

Excluded. There’s a country club here that use to exclude Jews. Orthodox Jews exlude
sincere converts.

BTW Elliot, I wouldn’t compare a human being to a television. I’m sure the author cringed when she read that.

elliot says:

B.L – your comments are not logical. If you are going to make an argument about Jewish halacha – ie how does Judaism decide who is Jewish – then please base it on halacha, not your own feelings.

Halacha has concepts such as “chazaka” – ie something is established – which allows us to assume that someone with Jewish geneology 4 generations back as yourself is Jewish. Is it possible that you are not halachically Jewish? Yes of course. Just as it’s possible that a piece of kosher meat is not kosher if it wasn’t watched every second. But there is a reasonable degree of assumption we can make.

In the case of a Conservative conversion, we KNOW the person was not Jewish before – it’s not a hypothetical possibility.

You say “Orthodox Jews exclude sincere converts”. What is a “sincere convert”? Anyone who says “I want to be Jewish”? That’s your opinion but it’s not Judaism’s opinion. It’s fine for you to have your opinion, but please don’t say that’s Judaism.

I apologize if the author cringed in being compared to a television :). I assume she has the maturity and logic to know that was not my intention, but instead was trying to give a logical argument (which btw you have in no way addressed).

You are wise to bring this up in a public forum and thus add another article to your CV. Maureen Dowd of the NYT has already stated that women in Saudi Arabia are freer than women in Israel. Roger Cohen of the NYT has extolled the Iranian paradise. Avrum Burg, formerly speaker of the Knesset, has made nerida to France, where he is more comfortable than he ever was at the zionist entity. So go ahead and leave, just dont claim to be original

Eyal, Berlin says:

I am not going to argue about halacha or whatever, i am 100% secular and have about 0% knowledge. what i do know is that as an Israeli growing up in Israel of the 80s and 90s, I am deeply ashamed and frustrated with ultra-orthodox ideas penetrating Israeli society.
Trouble is that when they go to vote, 100% show up (well… sometimes 102% since they were caught a few times using IDs of recently deceased people…) because “the rabbi told them to” and among secular/religious Israelis the numbers are in their low 30% or so. which means – they have about 3X as much power in the government. Combine that with the number of children they have (Pru u-rvu of X3-X4 the national average) and you have a reallllly big problem. and they don’t work (50s deal with Ben Gurion)… so: Voting power X3 + Children X3-X4 + Deal not to work = disaster for Israeli society. Women are just the first victim, the first visible sign of collapse. Funny thing – Israelis are soooo preoccupied with the demographic problem of Palestinians, but when it comes to our own people brainwashed with ideas of 19th century Poland, then NOOOOO – they are Jews. all ok :)

jonathan says:

Eyal, you don’t just have 0 knowledge in Halakha but also 0 knowledge in politics.
The haredim vote like the other Jews, not much more. One of the reason is that a part of them, the extremist anti-zionists (the one who attack women) – don’t vote at all.
Secular Jews vote rate is 70-75% in national elections. The fact is the haredim are over 10% of the 18+ population and they get more or less that in the Knesset (and Shass has a lot of non-haredi voters).

Ariel and Erin, several points in your article disturb me.

1: “Israel asks the Diaspora for help, raises money…all while not recognizing the majority of Diaspora Jews as ‘really Jewish.’

That is not true. ISRAEL doesn’t raise money from Diaspora Jewry. Non-profits representing various charities and political outlooks raise money, and anyone who agrees with them or their mission can donate. The Israeli government does not fundraise.

2.Your comment that the Israeli government “does not recognize the majority of Diaspora Jewry as Jewish” is a perversion of the idea that the Orthodox don’t recognize someone as Jewish if they’re not Orthodox. This is false. Orthodox recognize that a Jew is a person born of a Jewish mother, whether they identify with the Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal or whatever (or no) movement. (and frankly, the Israeli government has enough problems about Who is a Jew in Israel without getting involved in the Who is a Jew discussion among diaspora Jewry — neither the government nor its representatives are in any way, shape or form involved in this discussion regarding Diaspora Jewry).

You note that you keep Shabbat and keep kosher. Why? Because you are religiously committed to this practice? And if so…why is the conversion conducted under the auspices of a movement that does not demand such adherence to Jewish Law “kosher?” And if it’s problematic to accept the religious leadership of such a theology, was Erin’s mother’s conversion “kosher?”

Interestingly enough, I know of at least one young man whose mother is halachically Jewish but the young man was not brought up with a Jewish education. The REFORM movement (in New Zealand) insisted that he convert because, according to the Reform Movement’s definition of Who is a Jew, he wasn’t “brought up Jewish”, so he wasn’t Jewish. How is that different from the Orthodox insistence on specific criteria for Who is a Jew in order to be considered Jewish in Israel?

Thank you all for the comments. Many of them are well thought out and passionately argued. Others, like Laurie’s recent comments, are unfortunately misinformed and provide us with an example of what happens when we ignore the experiences of those with different backgrounds.

To be clear, Erin and I are committed to fighting this fight inside the State, as citizens, and sharing the responsibility for the future of the Jewish State with the Jewish People around the world. Just as the State of Israel continues to raise money from Israel Bonds, continues to have the Jewish Agency subsidize youth villages, continues to get philanthropists to invest in Jerusalem, so too should it recognize that the largest growing segment of the American Jewish population are the children of intermarried families. Many of whom, as Len Saxe has shown in his research, are being raised Jewish.

Unfortunately, many Orthodox are ignorant to the idea that other Jewish backgrounds have a deep understanding of Jewish practice and tradition, and a deep commitment to the Jewish People. Some of these individuals, such as Laurie who just now commented, can’t even grasp that one would want to be Jewish in any other way. That’s sad, and I hope those Orthodox Jews who are committed to Klal Israel will work to educate their community as to the broad tent that has existed throughout the thousands of years of our history.

And this reminds me of a story: there was a time when Beit Shammai, the camp of the Sage Shammai, decided that it could not marry the daughters of Beit Hillel because Beit Hillel was too lenient. Shammai kept their women bound to strict laws…and died out. Today’s community has been built around Beit Hillel and its understanding that the continuity of the Jewish People is the highest concern, and the exclusion of Jews due to who was the person dipping the woman is magical thought that only serves to divide us and alienate those who march with us towards the Promised Land.

Erin & Ariel,
I was blessed with my very first grandchild 2 years ago. My daughter-in-law’s background is similar to Erin’s. The fact that my Orthodox rabbi denied her Jewishness has been very painful for her & our families. The baby has gone to the Mikvah and had an Orthodox conversion but the experience from the Rabbinate has scarred us. Now, another of my children is engaged, this time to a non-Jew whom we love very much. (Physically, she has such a striking resemblance to my family; so much so that people always assume she is my sister’s daughter. This is why I wonder if there is intermarriage in my family back in the Pale or, even perhaps, in her own. We cannot assume anything in life.) Her Jewish journey may take many years, who knows. In the mean time, the rejection I have felt from my community has been excruciating.

I, who use to be iron-clad about intermarriage, have changed my tune. I prefer to focus on the character of the person. Does he or she insult others or behave arrogantly? Or, does he or she inspire others with their chesed & tzedekah, both within & outside their own community?

The article you wrote is extremely powerful and I support you both tremendously in your causes. (I signed the petition). You are an amazing couple that is already making wonderful, positive changes in the world! I look forward to hearing more about your quest.

I wish you only heath, happiness & joy for both of you & your new child.

“I, who use to be iron-clad about intermarriage, have changed my tune. I prefer to focus on the character of the person.”

Sefer Hasidim takes the same position, but I can only wish suffering and swift crushing demise to Zionism and its adherents.

“How do I know that there wasn’t intermarriage, rape or adoption, during the diaspora that by halacha standards would render me non-Jewish, yet I am accepted. Why?”

Back when I was in academic Jewish studies, I carefully evaluated the demographic evidence.

The Hussite conversion is a fairly well documented case of mass Judaization of a non-Jewish population, but the absorption of Christian sabbatarian heretical groups into the Jewish community seems to have been much more common that is generally assumed.

In addition there was in historic Poland a fairly large half caste group of people descended from younger daughters of Jewish merchants and Polish aristocrats. Usually such Jewish women were never married and lived as mistresses, but Polish Tatar Muslim aristocrats generally married such women as 2nd or 3rd wives.

While the descendants of women married into Muslim families were generally easily absorbed into the Muslim community, the bastard children of Polish Catholic aristocrats frequently found it easier to blend into the Jewish community than into Polish aristocratic society.

Eyal, Berlin says:

jonathan, forgive me for mixing up % of voters in Israel and Jerusalem (that was the last time i voted)…
but other than that, i stand behind my words. it’s a huge problem and it’s becoming larger by the day.
hopefully they will be somehow integrated into the working force like their haredim friends in Paris or New York (my Jerusalem dentist, amazing doctor, haredi from Paris). OECD is pressing Israeli gov’t to start moving their butt. Israeli arabs and Haredim are on their agenda, let’s see how long it takes…
i’m always optimistic but still rather live in Berlin than Israel at the moment.

Good parents make sacrifices for their children all the time. So, for the sake of your kids klita to Israeli society, SUCK IT UP and get the conversion already. Your article really shows you to be rather self absorbed at this point…better change that quick with a child on the way. And please,get that kosher conversion wrapped up BEFORE the child is born. What the he– is wrong with you people? Feh.

reuven says:

As if one needed any further indication….
every time the author of this article has commented here, one sees how little he understands, how unaccustomed to listening he is – Judaism must be what is convenient and reasonable to him, or it is not Judaism. I know, I often have high school students who say “I love Judaism because you can believe whatever you want and still be Jewish.” But what they are really saying is that they have learned that one can believe or DO whatever they want and call it Judaism. I have no truck with the haredim, but I do think that scholars and rabbis who are steeped in our tradition and live lives 24/7/354 reflecting a commitment to that tradition probably have something to say about what a Jew is, perhaps something to say at least as important as folk who take their cultural base from western society, who’s lives reflect untrammeled individualism with a veneer of warm fuzzy feel good Jewish observances laid over top. And don’t pretend there is unity amongst the non-orthodox – show me a Conservative rabbi who would accept a
reform conversion done without mikva and bet-din! What’s my point? You want to see Jews as a nation rather than a religion – fine. The state has given Erin citizenship. But if she wants to join the tribe, then she should put her ego aside and convert according to halacha. Are there haredim who are amey ha-aretz? Of course! But you paint all with the same generalizations that you would likely not tolerate if one were talking of “the arabs” or “the left.” I’m sure that talking of abandoning the State of Israel was a key feature of getting you published in Tablet – but now you say that leaving was never your intention. What I’m saying is this: the moon goes around the earth, the earth around the sun, the sun around the galaxy, the galaxy around the universe, but the universe don’t revolve around you.Be an activist – yes! Vote, protest, learn Torah, engage people, yes! But a little humility, please….

Hannah Katz says:

Let the ultra-Orthodox serve in the IDF and then maybe we can talk about them making the rules. Since they refuse to defend Israel, let them ride in the back of the bus.

reuven says:

60% of the recent ultra-orthodox cohort were drafted, according to the JP, and Tzahal reports the percentage is growing. Be us not but a wee bit prejudiced, be we? There’s enough to dump on the Haredim about w/o falling in to trite stereotypes.

Eyal, Berlin says:

Hannah, IDF is no longer an indication of acceptance to Israeli society nor a melting pot. These are 60s ideals. Let them go.
Today, like in any normal democracy, it’s about sharing the tax burden which is unfair today and that many people feel every time they go to the supermarket.
Only issue right now is how to combine Arab + Orthodox into the workforce, especially in hi tech.
bottom line – it’s all about economics. the wealthier the naiton, the more money pumped into social systems (including education) that will serve to promote equality and well being of its citizens and residents.

Michal says:

I can understand the religious people’s care for keeping the tradition. That’s what helped Jews survive as a community at times of Ezra, Judah the Maccabbee and Hadrian caesar. The problem is, the same concept of keeping the tradition to the last letter forced many western Jews leave Judaism: emancipation made them realize they lived in a fossilized reality. For worse, it prompted majority of religious Jews to avoid Zionism before WWII: most paid the horrible price. The history lesson is: strict keeping the religious tradition is a double-edged weapon…

Why is this person coerced to “convert” to orthodox denomination because of care for children? Care for children is one thing and ideological position (namely that conservative stream makes more sense for that person) is another thing. What happens is nothing else than a regular blackmailing: “become a member of orthodox denomination otherwise your children will have problems”. It just demonstrates the illness of it. What if a patrilineal sadducee came today to register in Israel as Jew? he would be told to become Pharisee otherwise he is not considered Jew :) To sharpen the problem, let’s to another extreme: a person whose only matrilineal grandmother was Jew but being green about Judaism and/or aspects of Jewishness. Effect? She is registered, accepted and has access to all the profits. Pure nonsense…

In point of fact Israel has accepted patrilineal Karaites as immigrants. Of course, as in Eastern Europe, Rabbanite Karaite marriages are not accepted even though they were in Egypt.

As for rejection of Zionism in the pre-WW2 period, there was no particular correlation with religion, and Jews in the former Czarist territories tended to view themselves primarily as constituting the quintessential Soviet class.

If anything, Zionism was probably the main hindrance to the survival of European Jewry. Before Zionist hegemonic discourse was imposed in the USA, many people including Jews (like my 11th grade history teacher) believed with good reason that Zionists incited WW2 just as Zionists today incited the Iraq war and are now incited an Iran war.

German government documents fairly clearly indicate that the invasion of Poland was the last step in establishing Greater Germany (Grossdeutschland) and that the invasion of the Soviet Union was the result of allied refusal to negotiate a peace treaty.

As for fleeing Central and Eastern Europe, Arab leaders in Iraq, Syria, and Egypt made it more than clear that Jewish refugees were more than welcome as long as any goal of turning Palestine into a Jewish state was unequivocally renounced and denounced.

While Palestinians have every legitimate right to hate and to despise Zionists, Jews should also do so.

Just a question to Tabletmag: why on Earth do you not block this neo-nazi guy “Joachim Martillo” ? Even if most people ignore him as the troll he is, do we have to come here and read this hateful and stupid nonsense ?

Beatrix says:

Modern day Zionism stemmed from European antisemitism, especially the Dreyfus affair, and the existence of Pograms in Russia and elsewhere, which eventually ended in the creation of Nazism.

The problem wasn’t the existence of Zionism, the problem was that the Zionist idea wasn’t sufficiently developed by WW2 to have established a homeland in Israel for Europe’s Jews to escape to. ¾ of Europe’s Jewish population expired in the Holocaust because they couldn’t get out.

Blaming Jews for our own demise is a typical antisemitic ploy, one we’ve even seen on Tablet before.

I don’t know why people consider you Jewish,Joachim Martillo. I hereby give you premission to remove yourself from any further consideration.

Curious Ariel — which of my comments were “misinformed?” Honestly, your response to my post didn’t address any of the issues that I raised.

It’s kind of funny … you assume things about me that aren’t even true. “…can’t even grasp that one would want to be Jewish in any other way…” Ariel, I was a founding member of Kibbutz Hannaton, the Conservative Kibbutz. I understand the Conservative ideology very well and agree with certain parts of it.

My daughter served in the IDF’s Education Corps with the Nativ program which helped soldiers who want to convert under IDF Beit Din auspices. The IDF Beit Din is very lenient and is aware that many, if not most of the soldiers who undergo conversion will not adhere to their promise to keep halacha. But the soldiers do promise to keep halacha because, at least an INTENTION of maintaining halacha is at the core of a halachic conversion to Judaism.

I actually don’t classify myself as “Orthodox”, even though you certainly seem to think that I’m “one of THEM”. I simply feel that there needs to be some kind of consistency in Jewish rituals.

Again, instead of throwing out the “misinformed” tag, maybe you can relate to my earlier comments?

Hi Laurie,

It is hard to know who you are, and what experience you bring to the debate, when you do not share your last name as you comment. In general, I find it interesting that commenters can desire to be taken seriously without saying who they are and what backs their opinion.

To relate to your comments directly:

1. The State of Israel directly benefits from Diaspora money. In my work we partner with Municipalities, and the first thing they do is ask “how can we get [American] Federations to donate to this?” The Israeli gov’t directly fundraises for Israel bonds, and slightly in-directly fundraises for things such as Masa as well.

2. The Ministry of Religion, which is a government body, is officially the overseer of the Rabbinate, which decides who is, and who is not, Jewish. They can and do decide that a woman born of a Jewish mother is not Jewish, if that mother or grandmother did not convert according to a Rabbi they support. And lately, even Orthodox rulings have been over-ruled…which shows how deeply power corrupts.

3. We keep shabbat and Kosher because it is our tradition, and we find wisdom in it. But as you might know, disagreements about what is kosher and how one keeps shabbat are as old as the Pharisaic movement. As are arguments over conversion and who is ‘Jewish enough.’ As noted above, Beit Shammai wouldn’t marry the daughters of Beit Hillel! Should the State have taken a side in that debate?

I do not think the State of the Jewish People should take a role in these arguments. If one doesn’t believe our daughter is Jewish enough to marry, don’t marry her. But don’t tell her that she is barred from marrying someone for whom she is Jewish enough in the Jewish State.

All of this bringing us back to the original point: Judaism has diverged greatly in the past 2000 years, and it is irresponsible and abhorrent that the Jewish State gives a monopoly to one group, thereby cutting off the legitimacy of the rest.

1. Diaspora money is not even 1% of the public finance of Israel. Of course everybody loves free money and Israelis know that American Jews seem to love to give us money so why be a “freier” and not take it ? But Israel really does not need it.

2. The conversion issue is indeed problematic and complex. But the fact remains that most Jews in Israel – not just the rabbis and the haredim – won’t recognize as a Jew someone whose mother is not Jewish neither someone who converted with a pseudo-rabbi (Reform or Conservative). Deal with it. That’s democracy for you.

3. In Judaism, people don’t decide by themselves what is Kasher and what is not. As you noted the disagreements where between great rabbis, people whose knowledge and wisdom were slightly above yours. You have the right to eat whatever you want, not to decide what is Kasher and what is not.

But for the rest, I agree with you: privatize weddings and solve the issue.

Beatrix says:

Ariel, I agree with most of your ideas, but on Laura’s behalf, I want to state that women are much less likely than men to use last names, or even real names online. This shouldn’t be an issue.

Israel is turning its back to the Jews of America.
A stupid and tragic policy indeed.However-
the only way to stop the rot is not to run away but stay and fight through the Israeli democratic system, because only Knesset legislation can put things right- not kvetching fromn across the Atlantic.

May your daughter come into this world b’sha’ah tova. However, with respect, your concerns can only be compared to one who wishes to join a club, but does not wish to make the necessary commitment for a “full” membership, so, instead, chooses a partial one. That person cannot justifiably complain about his/her inability to use all the facilities.

Orthodox conversion requires a demonstrated commitment to all mitzvot. There is no “partial” or optional commitment. As sincere as your personal commitment may be, and I do not doubt it, Reform, Conservative and other strains of Judaism quite simply do not hold to that level, despite what the representatives of those other strains may promote.

However, it is not like the option to make that “full” commitment has been denied to you. It is up to you, however, to take it up.

“Israel is turning its back to the Jews of America.”

Israel does not really care about the Jews of America. For Israel, the diaspora’s only role is to support Israel until it makes aliyah or disappear.

Don’t forget: today 45% of Jews live in Israel, and over 60% maybe 2/3 of Jewish babies are born in Israel.

Within 15 years the majority of Jews in the world will be in Israel. Within 50 years, over 75% of Jews will be in Israel.

All this Israel-diaspora issue is becoming irrelevant by itself.

LaurieR says:

Laurie Rappeport. Not sure how this helps, but there you have it.

What “backs my opinion?” I’ve lived in Israel for 28 years and have 5 children of whom three, so far, have served in the IDF. As I mentioned, I was a founding member of Kibbutz Hannaton, the Conservative Kibbutz, and am a member of a rather eclectic community of people who observe Judaism in various ways, some halachic and some “alternative.” I have also served as a kind of mentor to people who have decided to undergo an Israeli conversion. To be honest, I found the Betai Din to be sympathetic and welcoming.

You insinuated that I represent the rigidity of the Orthodox, but my point was that there’s a lack of consistency in your position.

Do you accept converts from all streams of Judaism as “Jewish?” What about someone who just says “I FEEL Jewish. My HEART tells me that I’m Jewish. I THINK that my mother/father/grandmother/grandfather/… was Jewish, so I am too…”Is that person Jewish? Do you have a point where you say “this is not consistent with our religion?”

What about the person who has a Jewish mother but wasn’t raised Jewish and, according to the Reform movement’s philosophy, must be converted? Is that acceptable to you?

Are you aware that there are people who were converted by Israeli Haredi Batai Din and are not eligible for Israeli citizenship because their conversion wasn’t done through a government-approved religious court?So conversion is not exactly an “Orthodox monopoly.”

Is Erin Canadian? If you travel to America, does she need a visa? If you decide to live in America, is she automatically accorded citizenship? Isn’t that also an arbitrary law that imposes specific criteria on a person based on circumstances of birth? What if she wants to become a citizen but doesn’t want to recite certain parts of the oath of citizenship?Will the immigration court still grant her citizenship? No, of course not.

Hi Laurie, it’s good to know whom I’m debating with!

I think you may be taking your argument to the point of the ridiculous. No one is saying that someone can say they ‘feel Jewish’ and therefore immigrate to Israel and become a citizen. As a founder of Hannaton I’m sure you’re aware of the long and storied history of Conservative and Reform and Reconstructionist Judaism, and the fact that in the Diaspora, throughout our history, they were and are considered part of the Jewish People. As Jews.

Our responsibility as a Jewish State is to not decide between which shade of Judaism is the ‘right one,’ and not get involved in one stream or another. If you believe that your interpretation of Halakha is the correct one, or your Rabbi disagrees with your son or daughter’s decision to marry someone due to their lack of pedigree, it is your right to make the decision.

It is not your moral or historical right, nor the State’s moral or historical right in my opinion, to make that decision for people. I, a Jew as far back as I know, wanted to marry Erin. As someone who is well versed in Conservative Judaism but also the history of the Jewish People and its intellectual movements, I decided that Erin is more than Jewish enough for me. The individuals who married us agreed, all of them meeting the Halakhic requirements of witnesses – and we preformed the traditional wedding ceremony as we understood it. And yet here we were, following our tradition, but barred from doing so by the Rabbinate of Israel due to a political power struggle.

That just doesn’t make sense.

Of course there are boundaries as to who can come join this state, but to decide that only the most stringent boundaries will do will hurt many, many souls and alienate the very people who helped build this State.

Haredim, and more stringent individuals such as yourself, can live however you wish. We won’t take that away from you. But don’t make the mistake of Beit Shammai and think that your way is the only way.

Many of the things you pointed out I can agree with. However Erin should convert if you wish to stay. It is insulting, but she is going to be a parent, the comprimizes that we do as mothers are not limited to any category.
I am presently residing in the States. I have lived most of my life in Israel and about 20 years in Bet Shemesh. This is not going to go away. I have to say that I am very disappointed in the Reform Jewry, for too many reasons than to post here. What I can say is you cannot expect support from outside of Israel especially form the Reform Jews. If you want to have a voice sometimes you have to join to beat the system.
Israeli women are fighting back! Join them. There are several organizations that you suit your needs. However, your wife’s status as a Jewish woman is not going to change anytime soon. However if we all continue to support organizations like Woman of the Wall and several others we can at least begin to turn things around. For my daughters sake and yours, (They both are building their future in Israel) I wish you the best in whatever you decide.

rachel Smookler says:

Even 27% is 27% too high! we were just in Israel as the bet shemesh thing was playing out! how disgusting! thanks for your article. Rachel Smookler

The haredim are not a block and the crazy lunatics in Bet Shemesh do not represent 1% of haredim.

27% of kids in haredim schools are not all from haredi families and will not all turn haredim. Many are Sefaradi/Mizrahi traditional families, I know even Russian immigrants in Shas schools – they want to give a Jewish education to their kids with a strict discipline.

Sefaradi haredim are very different (open and moderate) from ashkenazi ones. “Lithuanian” haredim are also much more rational and moderate than hassidim, and of course it depends which hassid sect you speak about.

More and more haredim work and even serve in the army. In the end they will become closer to the datiim leumiim.

Beatrix says:

When Israel was established, we American Jews, the majority of whom are Reform, knew Israel was going to be Orthodox and that they even showed hostility toward Reform Judaism. We probably felt, even if we didn’t articulate it, that Israel had enough problems and that when she was at peace with her neighbors, we could argue religion.

Sixty-four years later, Israel is still seeking peace, and the Orthodox religion is now firmly entrenched. This living heritage thing is still new to most Jews, and we’re beginning to realize what Irish Americans and Italian Americans, etc. probably realized a long time ago about the countries of their heritage: They’re different.

We live in different countries, we have different histories, and we view religion differently. The Irish, Italian, and Israeli governments are much more religiously oriented than America’s government is. We American Jews, whether we’re in a majority now or eventual minority, can still support Israel politically, and (if outsiders try to destroy Israel’s Jewish focus, religiously) but from here on in, we’re different. This has probably been true for a long time.

Response to Beatrix I

I work hard to point out how evil Zionism and the State of Israel because my (evil) relatives are some of the most substantial financial backers of Binyamin Netanyahu.

As an expert in Modern Eastern European and Jewish historical political economics, I have no doubt that Zionism is Jewish Nazism. Netanyahu and his equally despicable colleagues are comparable to the right-wing German Nazis while Labor Zionists are comparable to the Strasser faction of German Nazism.

Otto and Gregor would have had no problem whatsoever with Der Juedischer Volkssozialismus by Arsoloroff as long as deutsch replaced juedisch.

As for what the origins of Zionism is, it is fairly clear that Zionism represents the amalgamation of several distinct currents in Jewish thought.

Jewish influence was excessive and disproportionate particularly in Germany and Austria. Herzl sought a means to normalize Jewish power. Thus he created a form of nationalism that made sense in a multi-ethnic or mult-national empire like those of the Hohenzollerns, Habsburgs, and Romanovs but unlike Polish nationalism did not threaten territorial integrity. In addition, he worked hard to convince leading Germans, Austrians, and Russians that supporting Zionism was in German, Austrian, and Russian interests.

Jewish wealth depended upon corrupt Jewish social networks that were based in a common faith and commitment to using halakhah as a universal commercial code. In an increasing secular age, halakhah and faith was failing as a glue to hold these networks together. Commitment to Zionism (and later subversive commitment to maintaining Israel as a racist Jewish statement) has become the keystone of corrupt and subversive Jewish social networks that guarantee Jewish incomes and the ability to mobilize Jewish wealth for nefarious political and economic purposes.

Response to Beatrix II Coming Soon.

In “The Source” Leon Uris jokes that the rules regarding marriage in Israel were made by El Al – since so many would have to fly to Cyprus to get married.

Ruth says Erin should convert if she is staying in Israel. She is already shomrei shabbos and keeps kosher (according to the article) but what else will be demanded of her? Something additional to make it virtually impossible?

As for whether her mother’s conversion was halachically correct – how long ago was this and how would you prove it?

I have always wondered how Holocaust survivors proved their Jewishness to rabbis after the Holocaust. If the ultra-Orthodox take the notion, they will challenge the legitimacy of the offspring of all survivors, since they would rarely have had witnesses or paperwork to back up their claims. Or maybe they won’t – as it would likely decimate their following.

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