Friday, June 24, 2005

Oy, Toby Katz, our new "Live Frei, or Die!" commentator

Ms. Katz has decided to become a regular comentator here at "Live Frei, or Die!" I'll be curious to see whether she includes this gig on her resume.

Her comments were actually very helpful, and helped me understand what it is that drove me to respond so forcefully:

TK: There is only one way you can become an apikores in the Conservative Movement. Accept Jesus into your heart.

CA: Excuse me. This is my blog. Only Conservative Jews are allowed to criticize Conservative Judaism on this blog.

And aren't you the Toby Katz who says we Jews are supposed to ally ourselves with the Christian Fundies?

CA: Her comment was a gratuitous and innacurate slap at Conservative Judaism.

TK: Actually it was both witty and accurate. You know very well that the Conservative movement will kick you out if you confess that you believe in Jesus. And you also know that there is absolutely nothing else you can do that will get you kicked out.

CA: I stand by my statements. You are incorrect.

First, on the issue of believing in Jesus, there is no difference in the rules between Orthodox and Conservative Judaism. A Jew who believes in Jesus is still a Jew.

As far as the limits of Conservative Judaism, I am not a Conservative rabbi, but I know that a rabbi can be expelled from the Rabbinical Assembly for officiating at mixed marriages. That is, obviously, not "believing in Jesus." So there is at least one example that proves your statement, "there is absolutely nothing else you can do that will get you kicked out." is wrong.

You appear to be totally ignorant of Conservative Judaism. I, on the other hand, while not a talmid chacham, do know quite a bit about the orthodox community, mostly because they are my neighbors, and I occasionally attend Orthodox services. I certainly know more about Orthodoxy than you know about liberal Judaism.

And what's interesting is that while I do believe that Orthodox Judaism (esepcially any version that holds by da'as Torah) is probably a cult, this doesn't mean that I hold that individual Orthodox Jews are bad people. You, on the other hand, demonize the "liberals" as the source of all the problems in our society. In other words, I may insult what I believe to be shortsighted and foolish Jewish ideologies, you insult your fellow Jews.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

You built a strawman and beat it. TK made a comment about how to get kicked out of the Conservative movement, as a Jew. You responded with how to get dismissed as a Rabbi.

Since you brought up the topic of intermarriage, address the issue. At least one Conservative Rabbi "will write a Jewish-themed ceremony with the couple and direct them to another spiritual leader to perform the ceremony."

So he'll help them run circles around the law, that he technically can't do them. He'll give them a "Jewish-themed" ceremony to do with someone else and then find ways to welcome the new spouse into the service.

And where do you see TK demonize people rather than ideas?

TK was accurate, you dodged and built a strawman.

1:47 PM  
Blogger Toby Katz said...

For his new headlined theme of the day, CA posted part of what I said but he didn't post this comment of mine:

"A Jew who believes in Jesus is still a Jew."--CA

Yes, but he can't be a member in good standing of a C or O congregation and certainly can't be a rabbi in either.

"As far as the limits of Conservative Judaism, I am not a Conservative rabbi, but I know that a rabbi can be expelled from the Rabbinical Assembly for officiating at mixed marriages."--CA

One minute we're talking about what it takes to be kicked out of shul--to be regarded as an apikores by Conservatism--and the next minute you switch to discussing what it takes to be hired as a rabbi.

Even though a Jew who believes in Jesus is still halachically a Jew, that would not make his beliefs acceptable to the Conservative movement. He would be universally considered an apikores.

On the other hand, if he didn't keep any of the mitzvos and held that the Torah is not Divine and is not binding, then he would not be considered an apikores by the C movement.

As to mixed marriages, my understanding is that many C rabbis do officiate at them and even more will allow mixed couples to join their shul and enroll their kids in the C school, thus de facto accepting mixed marriages after the fact.

In particular they will turn a blind eye to R conversions and allow a woman with a R conversion to join a C shul. When it comes to then marrying her child to a born-Jew, down the line, different C rabbis will do different things. Some will de facto accept the mother's R conversion and others will require a quickie C conversion before the marriage.

At the beginning you were talking about what it takes to be considered an apikores by the C movement, not what it takes to be considered halachically a Jew or what it takes to be hired as a rabbi. It's hard to debate logically if the ground of the debate keeps changing.

4:41 PM  
Blogger Toby Katz said...

"Even though a Jew who believes in Jesus is still halachically a Jew, that would not make his beliefs acceptable to the Conservative movement. He would be universally considered an apikores."--TK

To which CA replied:

"That's my point, Conservative Judaism attacks the beliefs, not the person. Conservative rabbis aren't interested in tigmatizing people as 'apikorsim.' " --CA

His reply is disingenous, of course, because the C movement would not welcome a PERSON who holds the BELIEF that Jesus is god.

Despite the C's movement's reluctance to stigmatize any person, I am certain that they would not allow an open believer in Jesus to join one of their shuls, to be given aliyos and to be treated as a member in good standing.

If people get up sometimes and give their own divrei Torah at a kiddush or something, and this particular person chose for his dvar Torah a theme from the New Testament, the C movement would not allow that.

So the C movement does have some standards, and it is not quite as tolerant as you seem to think it is. And even if you can show me that the C movement WILL accept Jews for Jesus as members in good standing, I am absolutely certain they will not accept a Jew for Jesus as the rabbi of a C congregation.

So there goes your whole notion of how they reject ideas but never reject people who hold those ideas.

4:58 PM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

And where do you see TK demonize people rather than ideas?

She criticises "liberals," not "liberlaism."

11:10 PM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

At least one Conservative Rabbi "will write a Jewish-themed ceremony with the couple and direct them to another spiritual leader to perform the ceremony."

And how many Conservative rabbis are there in the world? So what if "at least one" is not on the program?

At least one Orthodox Rabbi is a racist scum. (I know this becuase I heard personally heard the filth out his his own mouth). But I don't generalize about Orthodox Rabbis (most of whom aren not racist) on the basis of his baheavior.

11:15 PM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

Ms. Katz,

I was joking about how hard it is for a Conservative to be an apikorus. Of course Conservative Judaism has standards. They happen to be more reasonable standards than those of the Orthodox.

Our main problem is that too many of our rabbis (like Rabbi Rank, the president of the RA) see us as a sort of "Orthodox Lite." Most of us laity are "religious secularists," we don't believe in a personal God, and we believe that the mitzvot are for our benefit, not God's. I am in opposition to Rabbis like Rabbi Rank, and I think that Conservative rabbis need to come to terms with religious secularism. Unfortunately, most of the rabbis who meet that criterion are radical feminists who are more interested in the feminist agenda than in leading a community of relaigious secularists.

Thus, I am alienated from a lot of what's going on in the Conservative movement. The halachic side, which attracts me, because I find vaklue in Jewish ritual, is dominated by the Orthodox Lite. The other side is dominated by PC identity politics. So what else is there to do, but become a Conservative Apikorus?

It's apparent that you find the UO version of halacha meets your needs very well. That's fine. Kol HaKavod lach! But not for me. I refuse to suspend my belief in reality. I know that the UO halacha is not the one and only Word of God, becuase no halacha is the Word of God. It's only our best approximation of what we think God wants.

By the way, don't you have better things to do with your time than engage in fruitless debates with an obscure anonymous blogger?

Shabbat Shalom

11:39 PM  
Anonymous Neo-Conservaguy said...

My family davens at a Conservative shul as our "home base"; we also spend about 25% of our Shabbos shul time visiting one of three local Orthodox shuls (The Old World, The Yeshivish Place, and the Modern Orthodox shuls). In my experience, the term "Conservative" is about as clear as the term "Modern Orthodox", or for those with some appreciation of America's great original music creation, "Jazz".

Many of the members of our shul keep kosher homes (many are vegetarians, which makes it a lot easier), and dozens of them walk to shul on Shabbos, just as we do. Sure, not everyone keeps kosher, plenty of people drive to Shul on Shabbos, and making the daily morning minyan is easier some days than others (and that's counting women). There is a broad diversity in the membership, among which we've been able to find like-minded people and form enriching friendships.

I don't agree with every decision made in the liberal movement (first aliot for bat-kohanim???), but unlike the Orthodox movement(s), which have tried to freeze time and the halacha, the Conservative movement is willing to take a shot at moving forward. Sometimes it's been a wild, poorly-aimed shot, but it's still a shot. The halacha much move forward to live; it requires action, it is a verb, and the verb is not "to dig an entrenchment". We have progressed over time from a diverse group of wandering desert tribes to a Temple cult ruled by kohanim to a people of laws protecting the rights of people adjudicated my selected leaders - rabbis. All you have to do is study the texts to see the progression of culture reflected in the law that evolves over time. From whence do we derive these laws? From Moshe our Teacher, who gave them to us at Sinai, as per the Midrash.

As for intermarriage, it doesn't take much more time to do a "google" search for information in the formal policies of the Conservative movement. Here is a quote from this link:

However, the marriage between a Jew and non-Jew is not a celebration for the Jewish community. We therefore reach out to the couple with the hope that the non- Jewish partner will move closer to Judaism and ultimately choose to convert. Since we know that over 70 percent of children of intermarried couples are not being raised as Jews, thus further diminishing the Jewish people, we want to encourage the Jewish partner to maintain his/her Jewish identity, and raise their children as Jews.

Does that sound like a movement that is encouraging and supporting intermarriage?

As for acceptance of conversion performed by any other movement - not just Reform - in my experience, every case is evaluated on the merits. If the required steps were performed (brit for men, mikveh and beit din for all), there is a good chance of acceptance. Sometimes, the Reform movement has been rather lax on ensuring that these procedures are followed; in such cases, the rabbi of my shul has said he wouldn't be able to accept those conversions.

12:09 AM  
Blogger Conservative Apikoris said...

You know neo, I think this is an issue of self-selection. In Europe and Israel, Orthodoxy has a hammerlock on Jewish religious institionnal life, but the vast majority of Jews are just as irreligious as they are in the USA. American Jews, on the other hand, only tend to affiliate O if they really believe in it. So, of course, O Jews are self-selected to be more observant.

Reform doesn't test you to see if you've studied the practice sufficiently to justify abandoning it, and very few people affiliate C becuase they're Orthodox Lite who happen to believe historical-positivism. In both cases, the people who affiliate in these groups don't join because they believe in the ideology, they affiliate becuase they feel they need somewhere to go for the holidays and funerals, and they happen to like the particular rabbi of ritual practices.

So I think it's actually pretty impressive that Conservative rabbis have been able to insist on thetsandards they do have, despite the fact that their membership doesn't actually believe in the movement's philosophy.

And the Orhtodx shouldn't complain. if these people weren't in R and C, the Orthodox would have to deal with them and their irreligious ways.

2:05 PM  
Anonymous Neo-Conservaguy said...

I think those are very interesting points.

So I think it's actually pretty impressive that Conservative rabbis have been able to insist on thetsandards they do have, despite the fact that their membership doesn't actually believe in the movement's philosophy.

My wife is fond of quoting the book "The Jews In America" by Max Dimont (1978). I think you'll find what he has to say most interesting.

(From page 190-191)

If an Orthodox Jew is defined as one who lives by the halakah, the such Orthodox Jews would constitute only 5 percent of all American Jews. The other 95 percent of those labeling themselves "Orthodox" are what Marshall Sklare has described as "nonobservant Orthodox". They are members of an Orthodox synagogue because they prefer an atmosphere of traditionalism. They are jews who cal themselves "Orthodox" not out of religious choice or observance, but out of social and cultural preferences. A truer definition of this group would be Conservative.

The Situation is much the same among those labeled "Conservative". Most of the present members of the Conservative congregations do not meet the prescribed requirements of the Jewish Theological Seminary, and they are therefore not "Conservative" in the true definition of that term. In daily behavior they are actually imbued with the spirit of Reform.

The "Reform" label for the Reform in equally inaccurate. The number of members in Reform congregations is not a true indication of their religious beliefs. Many are unaffiliated in spirit, but have affiliated themselves with a Reform congregation for social ties and as a positive affirmation of their Jewishness. But, on the other hand, should the unaffiliated ever affiliate, it is usually estimated that 75 percent would choose either Reform or Conservative.

9:16 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Your weak example isn't even always true; Conservative rabbis sometimes do attend intermarriages and don't get kicked out of the Rabbinical Assembly.

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