23 July 2010

Conversion Bill: New Direction

This is very welcome news from Israel.

Mr. Sharansky, the former Soviet dissident who once led a Russian immigrant political party here and who will head the conversion compromise search, said by telephone that intensive contacts over the past week had created increased understanding between the sides. He added that at a time when Israel’s legitimacy was increasingly under attack the Jewish people needed unity and that the legitimacy of all strains needed to be acknowledged. 

Creating a working group of Jewish leaders from across the spectrum to meet later in the year and hammer out an acceptable framework for handling identity issues, conversion, and citizenship.  It is what Zionism is meant to be.  And it makes great sense and I am grateful for the incredibly hard work put into this effort by so many people over the last few weeks.

Here's the bit from Haaretz.

Here's David Horovitz in the JPost--a bit too much hand-wringing for me.

In 1970, speaking to a group of Reform rabbis in Jerusalem, Gershom Scholem argued for a new definition of Jewishness that was beyond the halakhah.  He said, "During the last hundred years, following the full achievement of emancipation in Western world around 1860, there has set in a new historical process which has profoundly changed our self-definition as against that of the Halakhah."  He also said, "The question is whether the definitions found in sacred books are really decisive for most Jews in the determination of a personal affiliation to the Jewish group."  If you want the article, I'll send it to you.  Just write and let me know.  Incredible to think that dealing with the Chief Rabbinate has still not yielded a positive result in more than a generation.  Time to try something else, you think?

By the way, of everything written in the last couple weeks, nothing holds a candle to Alana Newhouse's piece in last week's NYT--always worth another read.

Shabbat Shalom!


jack Kaufman said...

Many intellectual discussions about topics like these focus simply on content. It seems to me that we need to understand issues of power. Those who get to define have power. They would like us to not notice that and focus on their reasoning. Everyone who abuses power has a reason. The rest of us just need to understand the exercise of power.

DP Greenberg said...

It is, indeed, welcome news that the day of judgment whether my wife and twin sons will be considered Jews by the Chief Rabbinate of Israel has been adjourned. Here's hoping that if that day comes, the various interest groups deliberating on this divisive issue find the wisdom to arrive at a just result. But to tell the truth, I don't really care. My guiding principle on this issue is that anyone who questions the Jewish bona fides of my family can kiss my ass. What I do care about far more is the cause of peace. It is certainly divisive and insulting for any rabbinic authority, not only those in Israel, to fail to recognize a duly executed conversion, but I can live with it, I really can. What I can't live with, and would consider ending my annual trip to Israel because of (boycotting?) is the occupation. For that reason, I found the big dust-up the last few weeks disheartening. For once, I'd like to see an uproar against the next building project or dubious eviction in East Jerusalem or the next illegal outpost in some removed location on the West Bank, or the indefensible herding of the majority Palestinian population in Hebron. (For the inevitable correspondent who answers this post by questioning my use of the word "herding," I recommend the frequent tours conducted by the group, "Breaking the Silence"). But, no, the uproar only comes when some rabbinic-mullah has the temerity to suggest some tightening of rules about conversion that we, in the modern Jewish world, give no legitimacy to anyway. Peace isn't just a moral issue by the way. If we really want to break the political power of the Israeli religious right, there is no better solution than to take the two state solution out of the equation by having one. With that central point off the table, the value of religious votes in the Knesset would be greatly reduced or eliminated. Of course, the chances that the the team of Netanyahu and Lieberman will make peace don't seem very high. So, perhaps, it's better to divert ourselves with monumental questions like whether some conversions hold up on the streets of Mea Sharim.