Jonathan Mark on Reform Jews

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When Glenn Beck Compares Reform Judaism To Radical Islam, He’s Unfair To Islam

Submitted by Jonathan Mark on Wed, 02/23/2011 – 13:01

When Glenn Beck says that Reform Judaism is like radical Islam, insofar as both are more about politics than faith, he’s being unfair to radical Islam.

Yes, both are deeply involved with politics and confuse their own politics with God’s.

But radical Islamists seems to be much more serious about their religion.

Reform rabbis often lead congregations whose overall culture is indifferent to Shabbat and kashrut, indifferent to daily prayer and intermarriage, and indifferent to religious literacy.

Only a Reform rabbi would officiate at an intermarriage on Shabbat itself, as did Rabbi James Ponet at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. A Radical Islamist wouldn’t do that.

Not even the Ten Commandments are as important to a Reform rabbi as intermarriage. The integrity of Shabbat (Commandment Four) was considered so meaningless that the ceremony couldn’t even wait until sunset. With a Reform rabbi, officiating for Clinton, a political figure, was more important than Shabbat, faith.

A radical Islamist would not have violated the Koran to perform an intermarriage for a king.

It’s hard to imagine a Reform rabbi who didn’t frequently take political positions. Among their political positions is that we shouldn’t be Islamophobic; we should know that jihad is a spiritual struggle, not a violent one; that imams are moderates until proven otherwise, that we shouldn’t tar Islam because of extremists who are violating Islam. So Reform rabbis themselves say Islam, even radical Islam (is there any other) is a religion of peace, a religion of faith.

It’s had to imagine a Reform rabbi who isn’t infatuated with the great Reform legends of fighting for Darfur, being part of the (imaginary) black-Jewish alliance, advocating for gay and transgender rights, hating Bush and Sarah Palin, cheering Obama’s pressure on Israel, all of which these Reform rabbis will attribute to their faith but it sure sounds like politics.

Reform rabbis love “dialogue,” the idea that all problems in the world — between religions and between nations — are just a big misunderstanding because we’re all basically the same and want the same things.

Radical Islamists don’t give a damn about dialogue. They don’t think all religions or all people, infidels included, are the same, because radical Islamists take their own faith that much more seriously.

Reform rabbis are “troubled” that settlers live in Canaan, that Ariel Sharon walked on the Temple Mount, that Moses, a Jew, used disproportionate force in killing an Egyptian. Hebron is not loved for its holiness, as faith would have it, but thought an obstacle to peace, as politics would have it.

Radical Islamists have faith that the Temple Mount is theirs, and the Western Wall, too. They have faith that they are Abraham’s children and belong anywhere in Canaan. Radical Islamists don’t care that Moses, an Egyptian, killed an Egyptian. Hebron is loved for its holiness, as faith would have it, not something to be negotiated, as politics would have it.

Radical Islamic leaders don’t go around saying that religion just means being ethical and good and voting for Democrats, the way most Reform rabbis do. Radical Islam believe that faith demands personal service to God, not just service to each other.

Radical Islamic leaders don’t define their faith so singularly with one political party, as do most Reform rabbis, who seem to believe that Judaism never, ever, says no to liberal dogma. Their Reform Jewish faith, to hear so many tell it. is indistinguishable from their Reform Jewish poliitics. To many Reform leaders, the left can disagree with the Torah but the Torah can never disagree with the left. When in conflict, the Torah must adapt.

To a radical Islamist, whose faith comes before politics, the Koran doesn’t adapt, everything adapts to the Koran.

Radical Islamists seem to have more fire in the belly when it comes to their faith.

Reform rabbis seem to have more fire in the belly when it comes to their “progressive” politics.

So Beck is absolutely wrong. Radical Islamists and Reform rabbis are polar opposites when it comes to balancing faith and politics.

There are many Reform Jews that I love and greatly admire. These are my people. I’d rather be the worst Reform Jew than the very best Islamist. And I wish that Reform rabbis were, in fact, more about faith than about politics.

Dennis Prager, the talk-show host and author, is a Reform Jew who actually talks more about the importance of faith and religion than he talks about politics. Debbie Friedman, another great Reform Jew, was unique in how she restored the idea of blessing and God to the Reform sensibility. There are other Reform Jews like Prager and Friedman who prioritize faith over politics, but I don’t get that sense from too many Reform rabbis.

I despise, fear and fight radical Islamic politics but I love and envy their devotion to their faith. I love how even in the midst of the Cairo revolution, they stopped to prostrate themselves in prayer. When was the last time you saw Reform Jews at a political demonstration stop to say Mincha? And by the hundreds?

Here’s some more on Beck, on related issues, from the Zionist Organization of America, from regarding the Jewish Fund For Justice’s anti-Beck campaign, and fromDavid Suissa, an exciting columnist for the Jewish Journal in L.A.

How many people who have opinions on Beck have actually seen him in action? Check out this clip of Beck speaking about Israel, threats to Jews, and attacking Iran.

Beck’s a better man than George Soros, and he’s a better Jew, too. If something bad, God forbid, ever happened to Israel, I’m convinced it would bother Beck more. One guy cares about me and the two countries I love. One guy doesn’t.

I don’t like it when someone who cares about us so much is hated, is laughed at, because his caring is imperfect.


And the site’s apology:

An Apology For An Offensive Blog

Submitted by Gary Rosenblatt on Thu, 02/24/2011 – 15:02

I have great admiration and respect for my colleague, Jewish Week Associate Editor Jonathan Mark, and for his writing, as I have for the important value of journalistic freedom of expression.

But a blog Jonathan wrote Feb. 23 and posted on our site that, in part, spoke unfavorably about Reform rabbis went beyond the boundaries of spirited debate, in my opinion, and I apologize for it having appeared.

It was removed from our web site.

Our web site’s rules regarding readers’ commenting on blogs say that we do not allow the denigration of any religion or any of the Jewish religious streams.

For an editor of The Jewish Week to transgress along those lines is deeply troubling, prompting this note of apology.

We pride ourselves on being a publication and web site that welcomes and includes voices and viewpoints from all segments of our often contentious community. Drawing the line at what is and what is not acceptable is not a science, and is itself up for debate — and the latitude for blogging is wider than for in-print reporting. Still, I felt that Jonathan’s blog went over the line.

One practical outcome is that we pledge to be more diligent about reviewing blogs before they are posted.

We value your trust in our journalistic integrity and never take it for granted. And we value the role we play in building bridges in the community by increasing peoples’ understanding of each others’ views and activities.

We have communicated our regrets directly to the national leadership of the Reform movement and now, through this note, to our readers.

Find Your Rabbi in the Yellow Pages

Many Jews know that the medieval philosopher Maimonides, aka Rambam, made his living as a physician. But how many today are aware that the sages of antiquity and other great rabbis throughout history didn’t simply sit around studying Torah? Rashi? A vintner. Shammai? A builder. Hillel? A lumberjack. Rav Joshua ben Hananiah? A needlemaker. Plenty of others earned livelihoods as: tailors; cobblers; orchard guards; cistern diggers; potters; surveyors; millers; porters; or distillers. In fact, according to specific references in the Mishnah and the Talmud, rabbis of old were found in just about every occupation that existed.

In a creative response to the brewing controversy in Israel over government stipends for yeshiva students and the broader issue of ultra-Orthodox men who choose not to work, the Masorti movement has developed a Sages’ “Yellow Pages,” listing learned rabbis and sages by occupation, under the heading, “Torah that is not accompanied by a worldly trade will in the end amount to nothing and will lead one into sin” (Mishnah Avot, chapter 2; rulings on this basis: Mishneh Torah, “Laws Concerning Torah Study, chapter 10; and Shulkhan Arukh, Orah Hayyim, #157).

via Masorti Teaches Torah to Haredim.

Very clever to make a yellow pages of the different sages from tanaaim through the rishonim offering their vocational services.  Certainly there are reference in the Mishnah and Talmud to batlanim, people who just study, and much praise is given to the power of learning Torah and its protective effects, but as the halakhic expression goes, ma’aseh rav, i.e. we learn the halakhah from what people actually did, which was have jobs.

Nutty Rabbis Feel Obligated to Prohibit Non-Jews From Living in Israel

Dozens of Israel’s municipal chief rabbis signed on to the ruling, which comes just months after the chief rabbi of Safed initiated a call urging Jews to refrain from renting or selling apartments to non-Jews.

Signatories include the chief rabbis of Ramat Hasharon, Ashdod, Kiryat Gat, Rishon Letzion, Carmiel, Gadera, Afula, Nahariya, Herzliya, Nahariya and Pardes Hannah, among a number of other cities.

“We don’t need to help Arabs set down roots in Israel,” Rabbi Shlomo Aviner of the Beit El settlement, said on Tuesday. Aviner explained that he supported the move for two reasons: one, a Jew looking for an apartment should get preference over a gentile; and two, to keep the growing Arab population from settling too deeply.

“Racism originated in the Torah,” said Rabbi Yosef Scheinen, who heads the Ashdod Yeshiva. “The land of Israel is designated for the people of Israel. This is what the Holy One Blessed Be He intended and that is what the [sage] Rashi interpreted.”

He added that he did not see the move as racist so much as segregationist. “The world is so big and the State of Israel is small, that God intended it for the people of Israel and the whole world covets it. That is the injustice.”

Upon news of the religious ruling, Meretz faction whip Ilan Gilon immediately asked the attorney general to dismiss each of the rabbis who had signed their names.

“We are witnessing an epidemic of racism and xenophobia and we must act firmly,” he said.

Deputy Knesset chairman MK Ahmed Tibi decried the letter as a “mass crime [committed] by a group of racist rabbis who should be given intensive course in Jewish history.”

The entire group should be tried for “incitement to racism,” added Tibi, “Muslim clerics have recently been tried or fired from their jobs for much less but the rabbis are able to pursue their unruly behavior without concern.

Haifa Mayor Yonah Yahav termed the ruling the “real desecration of God’s name. It is bringing hatred against those with whom we have chosen to live our lives.”

Nazareth Mayor Ramiz Jaraisy also decried the moving, declaring that “whoever thinks it damages one side is mistaken. We are all children of the land. Both nations must search for common ground and not bring about escalation.”

via Haaretz.Com.

What is wrong with these people?

Bleak House – by Benny Morris

Bleak House – by Benny Morris > Tablet Magazine – A New Read on Jewish Life.

Awesome Hanukah Singing Menora

I first got this in 2006 and since lost it, but found it in an old email.  Fortunately, the original link still works:

Happy Hanukah Singing Hanukiyah (612)

Ginzberg and Hanukkah in Rabbinic Palestine

Schechter Inst on Hanukkah Observance in Tanaitic Times (815)

(And see some songs on the Hanukkah Page)

Post will eventually be on the Schechter Faculty Forum page

When Palestinian Groups Indiscriminately Boycott “Israeli” Products

Princeton students: Boycott Sabra hummus

A number of Palestinian students, joined by a Chilean Jew, decided to campaign against the tasty snack on the grounds that it serves “the occupation”…

The boycott attempt is fueled by the Palestinian students’ discovery that the Israeli Strauss company, which owns Sabra together with Pepsi, supports and cares for soldiers from the Golani Brigade.

Yes, really bright way to boycott the occupation: Sabra Dipping Company Opens the Doors to New Manufacturing Plant and New Opportunities in Virginia

“In a celebratory ceremony attended by the Governor of Virginia.. [Sabra] officially opened its new manufacturing plant in Colonial Heights, Virginia. “

I don’t recall Virginia being occupied by Israel… or Pepsi’s record on doing business with Israel…

Hat tip: Menachem Creditor

The TSA and Shmirat Negia (no touching)

I haven’t heard anything about this, but I wonder what the TSA’s policy is for Shomer Negia people who cannot be touch, less sexually touched by people they aren’t married to or related to, and how that community is responding to the new TSA policies.  For example, what if this girl had been Fruma Frumsky and was going through airport security?

I am a small female, wearing skin tight clothes – believe me, I couldn’t hide something if I wanted to. I was proceeded to be felt up, with no warning of what they were going to touch and no offer of a privacy screening. Many onlookers were smiling, including TSA male employees. I was in tears at the end and felt completely violated.

In a senate hearing, Senator Ensign asked about exceptions to Pat Downs for religious beliefs.

ENSIGN: But within those reasonable accommodations, OK, let’s just say that–that, listen, you know, my religious whatever does not allow me to be touched by somebody else, does not allow me to go through that screening. So what happens in those cases?
PISTOLE: So a very small percentage of people would have and will continue to receive pat-downs. So if somebody comes through…
ENSIGN: So they have to at least go through the pat-down, if not the screening?

PISTOLE: So while I respect and we respect that person’s beliefs, that person’s not going to get on an airplane.
ENSIGN: OK. And there will be no exceptions because of religion.

And Andy Lester comments (and links tot he article above):

How will Lieberman & co. react when surreptitiously snapped naked senator scan screens make their their way public?

For more horror stories of TSA abuse, see

Hilkhot Facebook

Kind of amusing:

Hilkhot Facebook

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“????? ????????? ?????? ??? ?????? ??? ????? ?? ???? ?????. ?????? ????? ???? ??????? ??? ???? ?’ ???? ??? ????????, ???????? ????? ‘?????? ????’ ???????, ??????? ????????”. ??? ?????? ?? ???? ????? ????? ???????

My translation:

The mitzvah of Facebook is constant and one is obligated to meditate on it day and night.  Addicts and people of deeds should be careful not to walk four amot (cubits, arm’s length) without Facebook.  And we fulfill the mitzvot of “and as you walk on your way” with a laptop, netbook, or cellular. — Gil Slobik with a halakhic booklet for Israeli surfers

(regular column includes hilkhot Junk Mail)

This Years Tisha b’Av Fast: The Rotem Conversion Bill

Our opponents claim that this bill which alienates the Diaspora, will unify Israel. We have a few questions as to how the Conversion Bill will help Israelis from the FSU whom MK Rotem assures me will all be converted within a year after its passage.

First, since the local courts created by the proposed law still find ultimate authority with the same rabbis, what will change?

Second, Members of Knesset tell me this bill is too little too late. In Israel’s free and open society where extremists have given Jewish religion a bad image, many young Israelis don’t care whether a potential spouse is halakhically Jewish. The coercive ultra religious system is a total failure that spends tens of millions of NIS to yield only 1500 converts per year. Of those, 200 are Masorti, who receive no funding. The way to really “solve this problem,” is to have options for multiple streams and for the indigenous Israeli expressions that will only flower in a non-coercive system.

Third, the newly revised bill includes a new provision that further strangles the Law of Return by explicitly defining the observance of mitzvot according to extremist rabbis who will now have sole legislative authority.

via TheTisch: Rabbi Menachem Creditor’s Blog: from the Rabbinical Assembly: “Open Letter to the Prime Minister from Rabbi Julie Schonfeld”.

I am fasting this year especially because of this terrible bill in the Israeli Knesset.  Read the article and text of it and send an email to Prime Minister Netanyahu.

Here are some readings:  one two