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(This article has appeared in various publications, most recently the Jerusalem Post of April 22, 2014)

Back in 2008, the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA) announced a new system of conversion (GPS – Geirus Policies and Standards).

Ostensibly, their goal was to create a universal and centralized standard for all conversions.

We warned then that the GPS system would result in invalidating conversions that had been done in the past in accordance with Orthodox law and approved by the RCA (JTA , March 10, 2008, “RCA Deal Hurts Rabbi, Converts”).

This essay is not about same-sex marriage. It seems amply clear from Torah and halakha that marriage entails a union between a man and a woman.

This essay is not about whether the United States Supreme Court should have legalized same-sex marriage, or whether such marriages should or should not be performed by civil magistrates.

We are confronted with a reality, whether we approve or do not approve. The reality is that same-sex marriage is legal in the United States; that “Gay rights” activists have convinced much of the public that their cause is a “human rights” issue and that those who oppose same-sex marriage are “on the wrong side of history.”

The Spanish government has indicated that it will offer Spanish passports to individuals of Spanish Jewish/Sephardic heritage. The ostensible motive for this gesture is the desire to redress a historic sin: Spain’s expulsion of Jews in 1492. Now, more than five centuries after this nefarious expulsion, Spain wishes to reach out to descendants of those Jewish victims and welcome them back “home” in Spain.

Some have praised Spain’s gesture of atonement. Others, though, have seen this new policy as a pragmatic move by Spain to attract Jewish business, investment and tourism.

Among Jews, some have been genuinely pleased with this show of Spanish friendship and reconciliation. Others have seen this as an opportunity to gain access to European markets and business.

We sadly record the passing of Dr. Jose Nessim, one of the very impressive Jewish leaders of our generation. A medical doctor in Los Angeles for many years, Dr. Nessim devoted the time and energy to found the Sephardic Educational Center in Jerusalem. Through his tenacity, generosity, and grand worldview, he established this center in historic buildings of the Old City of Jerusalem. Thousands of students and visitors have benefited from the programs of the center in Jerusalem, as well as programs sponsored by the Sephardic Educational Center held in the diaspora.

Dr. Nessim thought big. He wanted to revitalize Sephardic life and to connect new generations of Sephardim to their heritage. An ardent lover of Israel, he wanted young Jews to experience Jerusalem and the land of Israel.

We have all been shocked and saddened to learn of the immoral and illegal behavior of a prominent Orthodox rabbi who was recently arrested for voyeurism, i.e. for planting a hidden camera in the mikvah of his community. This behavior is reprehensible beyond words, and the women who used that mikvah are understandably indignant over this breach of their privacy. They came to the sacred precincts of the mikvah for ritual purification—but now learn that their trust has been betrayed by their own rabbi.

A story is told of an incident on a bus in Jerusalem. A pretty young lady got on the bus and sat down in a vacant seat next to a Hareidi rabbi. The rabbi arose in a huff and walked quickly away from the woman. At the next stop, a Sephardic rabbi got on the bus. Seeing the empty seat next to the young lady, he sat down. The young lady was perplexed. She asked the rabbi sitting next to her: “When I sat down next to a Hareidi rabbi, he got up and stomped away from me. But you’re also a religious man, and yet you sat down next to me. How do you explain this?” The Sephardic rabbi replied: “That Hareidi is a rabbi. I am a Hakham!”

Shalom, and welcome to our new blog. I hope to use this blog to share my thinking on a variety of topics, and to elicit your responses, comments, questions.