Before questioning the usefulness of the word “Orthodox,” let’s first acknowledge the need that this term serves. Congregations, like individuals, find benefit in affiliating with congregations of similar direction. Such affiliation provides the weight of numbers when larger issues, such as intermarriage and conversion, separation of church and state, recognition of homosexuals as congregants, and political positions on national and international issues, need to be addressed.
This article originally appeared in issue 7 of Conversations, the journal of the Institute for Jewish Ideas and Ideals. More than ten years have passed since its publication...and yet the issues raised in this article continue to be highly relevant today.
The current policies of the Orthodox rabbinic/beth din establishment are causing anguish to thousands of would-be converts and their families; are turning would-be converts away from Orthodoxy; are de-legitimizing Orthodox rabbis and converts who do not subscribe to the "establishment" positions; are causing thousands of halakhic converts to fear that their and their children's halakhic status will be undermined.
The premise of economic growth has come under question, in many parts of the world today, from a variety of directions. We are aware, of course, that moral thinking in practically every known culture enjoins us not to place undue emphasis on our material concerns. But today there is more to it than that. With heightened sensitivity to the strains that industrialization often brings, including the possibility of permanent climate change, many people in the higher-income countries now question whether further economic expansion is worth the costs.
In our world, we will more and more have to face this new parent-child pattern, either as parents or as children (and some of us as both). What happens when the roles of the child’s youth are reversed, when the child is the one who lives the public life and the aged parent “no longer comes down into town”? What happens when parents are no longer making decisions for the best interests of the children but become children trying to safeguard the best interests of their parents?
Truly, America’s enemies today are within her own borders. We do not need a George Washington to lead us against a foe from other lands. Today we need a George Washington to preserve our America from disrupting intolerance within our own borders, whether it be the intolerance of religion or the intolerance of irreligion.
Our Rabbis tell us that on the death of Abaye the bridge across the Tigris collapsed. A bridge serves to unite opposite shores; and so Abaye had united the opposing groups and conflicting parties of his time. Likewise Dr. Hertz’s personality was the bridge which served to unite different communities and bodies in this country and the Dominions into one common Jewish loyalty.
—Dayan Yechezkel Abramsky: Eulogy for Chief Rabbi Hertz.
Conversion to Judaism: What's Best for the Jewish People?
Sunday, October 21, 2018
10am-12pm at Lincoln Square Synagogue
On Sunday, October 21, from 10:00-12:00, we will have a panel discussion on Conversion with Rabbi Marc Angel, Rabbi Hayyim Angel, and Rabbi Yona Reiss. It will be held at Lincoln Square Synagogue, 180 Amsterdam Avenue (68th Street) in Manhattan. For details, see our flyer at https://www.jewishideas.org/civicrm/event/info?reset=1&id=40
The concept of the Chosen People is fraught with difficulties. Historically, it has brought much grief upon the Jewish people. It also has led some Jews to develop chauvinistic attitudes toward non-Jews. Nonetheless, it is a central axiom in the Torah and rabbinic tradition, and we therefore have a responsibility to approach the subject forthrightly. In this essay, we will briefly consider the biblical and rabbinic evidence regarding chosenness.
The Book of Genesis