Despite our strong numbers and increasingly professionalized infrastructure, ask a Modern Orthodox educator how our community is doing, and you’ll likely hear ambivalence or frustration at best, apocalyptic predictions of the imminent demise of our movement at worst—certainly not the triumphalism or chest-thumping that our ostensible institutional success would seem to warrant.
In this article, originally appearing in issue 10 of our journal Conversations, Dr. Zvi Zohar discusses the rise in extremist positions relating to conversion to Judaism. We are re-posting the article in light of ongoing tragic situations where halakhically valid conversions are being rejected or annulled.
Jews have had a continuous presence in Greece for over 2,300 years, dating back to the time of Alexander the Great. This ancient community, known as Romaniote Jews, has the distinction of the longest, continuous Jewish presence in the European Diaspora. Romaniotes possess a unique set of practices, poetry, songs, and traditions unlike any other Jewish community in the world. Yet this historic and incredibly rich tradition is under threat.
Tanakh is not a systematic theology, science, or history. We treat nearly all of Tanakh as historical, but God did not reveal prophecies to the prophets in order to teach science or history. God is speaking to us, and it is our religious obligation to hear, understand, and listen to that voice. We take all of the texts seriously, even if some of them may be understood as non-literal.
Rav Saban, like Rav Uziel, sought reasonable halakhic solutions to contemporary problems. Voices like theirs are very much needed today.
The opening of Lekh Lekha raises numerous questions. Why did God choose Avraham? Why was it necessary to choose anyone? Why does the focus of Sefer Bereshit suddenly shift from a broad universal focus to a narrow, particularistic one?
Many Jews in our day, like many of our brethren of other tribes, are seeking to mend the fractures that divide us from ourselves and from others, and to find ways to heal the wounds that afflict us only seven decades after the Holocaust and the rebirth of Israel. Amid these efforts, an idealistic, scholarly nineteenth-century rabbi from Livorno seems, to some, to provide a beacon of hope and humanity.
The Jew is a citizen of the world and is part of it, and in this respect functions in the framework of all humanity. However, the Jew also is unique, separate and alone. The Jew is sustained not merely from the natural ways of the world, but also from the higher level of humanity—the level that includes the acceptance of the yoke of Heaven, mitzvoth, and holiness.
It is with great hesitation and trepidation that I write this essay. I do not want to be misunderstood. I am in love with Judaism, rabbinic tradition, and halakha. I regard them as holy, and they are at the very core of my existence. Nonetheless, I am concerned about the future of Judaism and its impact on our young people.
The Jewish Press has a bi-weekly feature in which questions are posed to a group of rabbis. One of the respondents is Rabbi Marc D. Angel. Here are his responses to several recent questions.