I recently published on these pages regarding the Bagat”z (Israeli Supreme Court) fiasco that saw secular judges entangle themselves in Judaic law, as they ruled that Judaically meaningless non-Orthodox “conversions” of non-Jews to “Judaism” should suffice to gain a non-Jew Israeli citizenship. If you did not read that piece, please do. It is foundational to what follows here.
In the aftermath of the Bagat”z ruling, a group of “50 Liberal Orthodox Rabbis” disseminated an “open letter” that got reported in some Israeli and other Jewish media.
In their letter, they endorsed the Bagat”z ruling. The names of the signers included many of the “Open Orthodox” Left — a denomination that, akin to Reform and Conservative, is outside of normative Orthodox Judaism.
Let us evaluate two things here: the signers and the deeper consequences of the Bagat”z ruling.
1. The Signers
First, let it be said — because it has to be said — that
(i) many of those “50 Liberal Orthodox Rabbis” are not rabbonim (properly ordained authentic Orthodox rabbis) in the first place,
(ii) many others were once properly ordained but have evolved to be outside of Orthodoxy in their rabbinic practice, and
(iii) many others have transitioned to a religion they understand but that we Orthodox rabbonim cannot fathom.
Recall this public advisory signed by scores of authentically Orthodox rabbonim:
For several centuries, the term “Orthodox Judaism” has been synonymous with Torah observance — commitment to following the 613 Commandments and Rabbinic enactments as described in our classical sources. We, the undersigned Orthodox, observant rabbis, deplore efforts to confuse the Jewish and greater public regarding the beliefs and practices that may rightly be described as Orthodox.
Neither media outlets nor the public should be duped by messaging designed to mislead.
No Orthodox rabbis have officiated at same-sex weddings, have ordained women, or have “revisited” whether the Torah was given by G-d to Moses. No Orthodox rabbi ever shall, and any reports to the contrary serve no purpose other than to misrepresent authentic Torah Judaism.
Whether or not an individual attended an Orthodox rabbinic seminary, one who spurns what the Torah requires is not an Orthodox rabbi condoning departure from Torah, but is, at most, someone who forsook Orthodoxy despite rabbinic training.
Similarly, no seminary, group or institution which teaches, endorses or abides these deviations can be genuinely termed Orthodox. Such individuals and groups do not represent Orthodoxy, and cannot accurately be depicted as such.
Though tragic, leaving Orthodoxy after even advanced rabbinic study is hardly a new or particularly noteworthy phenomenon.
Any such individual removes himself from the community of Orthodox Judaism for all purposes. He cannot function as an Orthodox rabbi in any context, and any such function he performs is inherently invalid.
The truly liberal part of the “50 Liberal Orthodox Rabbis” open letter is the liberal definition by which they deem many co-signers as “Orthodox rabbis.”
For example, 14 percent of these “50 Liberal Orthodox Rabbis” are women, and the other 86 percent are men who would sign onto a “Rabbinical Letter” that assigns themselves rabbinic status equal to that of their women co-rabbis.
Yet women rabbis are not “Orthodox rabbis,” and they never will be. They can call themselves “Maharat,” “Morateinu,” “Rabbah,” “Rabbanit,” “Reb,” and even “Rabbi.”
But they are not Orthodox rabbis — not today and not ever.
Indeed, that is why the vast majority of rabbonim (Orthodox rabbis) in the Rabbinical Council of America and elsewhere now conventionally use the term “Rav” rather than “Rabbi” as the English term for addressing each other — to distinguish from non-Orthodox clergy who have “Rabbi” diplomas.
I cannot think of a single time a rav (Orthodox rabbi) has called me “Rabbi Fischer” rather than “Rav Fischer” or “Rav Dov” for at least the past 10 years. And I address my colleagues the same.
There are others of dubious Orthodoxy among the Liberal Fifty. There is the “Liberal Orthodox Rabbi” who personally ordained a homosexual activist who was so over-the-top that even the so-called “Open Orthodox” Chovevei Torah academy refused to ordain that guy. Here is the engagement proposal. Orthodox?
There is the “Liberal Orthodox Rabbi” who famously has published that he denies the truth of the Torah narrative. There is the one who “rabbinically” performs Jewish commitment ceremonies for homosexuals and promotes LGBTQ Shavuot picnics for homosexuals in Manhattan’s Central Park. Orthodox? The one who hailed Gay Rights activists as equivalent to the Maccabees of Chanukah.
There is the “Open Orthodox” rabbi who performs same-sex weddings and has published his opinion that Orthodoxy needs to rethink its resistance to Jewish-Christian intermarriages. And that’s just Rabbis surnamed A-M. The others are just as dubious and worse, right down to the one who brings his son to Santa Claus. Ultimately, as one glances through that list of “50 Liberal Orthodox Rabbis” who endorse Bagat”z granting equal status for Reform conversions, one can only mutter “Fake News!” and contemplate the irony:
A secular newspaper confers titles and posts headlines such as “Orthodox Rabbis” without even a footnote or asterisk about what kind of supposedly “Orthodox” they really are, in an article about secular judges conferring their temporary legitimacy on conversions that are not conversions.
2. The Consequences
OK, one might ask, but what is so bad about letting the Reform and Conservative “conversions” in Israel be accepted exclusively for purposes of conferring secular Israeli citizenship? So what? So big deal! It’s only a few dozen people anyway. Right?
Well, no. Wrong.
If we have learned anything from half a century of evolved left-wing public policy, it is this: It never ever stops.
Because of a word limit, I offer only three examples among scores:
1. It was innocent enough to allow homosexual partners to have visiting rights in hospitals during “after-hours” reserved for family. But did it stop there? Soon there was civil marriage. OK, let them qualify for family healthcare rates and coverage. Fine. And then, with that settled, there were demands for service providers to participate in gay marriages. Suddenly, Christian photographers were being forced to photo gay weddings, and florists to adorn gay nuptials, and bakers to bake gay wedding cakes.
Soon, government civil rights agencies were imposing bankrupting civil monetary penalties on devout Catholic and fundamentalist Protestant photographers, florists, and bakers who simply were trying to honor their personal religious beliefs.
And now the executive orders are flowing from the Biden White House and the Democrat Congress that men with male organs must be allowed in female bathrooms and showering facilities, even in schools, if the men identify as women. And they must be allowed to compete in female sports programs, effectively wiping out a generation’s effort to cultivate competitive sports opportunities for women.
That all emerged from simply allowing homosexuals to visit their terminally ill partners in the hospital after-hours during family visiting time.
2. It was innocent enough, though politically controversial, when Obamacare legislation was introduced. But Obama assured Americans that he was not going to tax anyone to provide free healthcare, cradle to grave, to non-citizens and to illegal aliens. Today in California, as in most American “blue states” dominated by Democrat politicians, illegal immigrants in America now get everything: not just free healthcare, but even admission for their children to the best state universities at the expense of the children of actual citizens whose taxes pay for those schools but whose own kids get closed out.
3. It was innocent enough when public schools began to review their teaching materials to consider that perhaps, unrealizing, they were omitting from American history some important personalities and events that had impacted minorities. But now that movement, born in fairness, has extended to perverting school curricula to teach even little children “critical ethnic studies” and “critical race theory” and lies and defamations about America and its history. Now they even are expanding curriculum distortion to include “woke math” by which children will not be expected to get right answers in math, as the Left tries to render math as subjective because it is “racist” to expect a student to know that 8+6=14. And that, in turn, inexorably necessitates ending all standardized testing and SAT admissions exams to college.
That is how it works. We all have lived through it in dozens of iterations. One day they are talking about “sex education” in the late years of public high school to “help late-teen students prevent unwanted pregnancies,” and the next thing you know they are distributing birth-control items to fifth graders while requiring Catholic nuns to pay for their employees’ birth-control products.
With the Left, it never ends with the first step. By the time others realize what has happened, they have taken over the primary schools, the universities, the media, the culture.
When Israel allowed Reform and Conservative “conversions” outside of Israel to qualify for citizenship in Israel, the new rule did not extend from the chaotic world of American Jewish hefker (chaos) to grant such legitimacy to Reform or Conservative “conversions” inside of Israel.
Time passed. And now, OK, just a small itsy-bitsy innocent expansion — into Israel.
If this secular court entanglement into Judaic religious law is allowed, then a few years hence the evolved argument will be that, if those “conversions” are valid for civil citizenship, how can they not likewise be valid for civil marriage? And next — if those rabbis are valid for converting, then why are they not also valid for sitting on the rabbinic courts? The Bagat”z already has ordered the Chief Rabbinate to allow women to sit for rabbinate tests. Who ever imagined that entanglement? There is no Rubicon they will not cross.
Have you been to “the States” lately? More than fifty percent of all Reform Jewish marriages now are with Christians. Even “Conservative Judaism” rabbis reject most “Reform Judaism” conversions and marriages. We have seen and lived through it in America. They brag about all their intermarried Jews who hold public office. Oh, look — Michael Dukakis is married to a Jew named Kitty! (No, Kitty Kitty. Reform do not convert dogs. But they do “Bark Mitzvas,” some even in their temples.)
Howard Dean married a Jewish doctor! Now Kamala Harris is married to a Jewish lawyer! And Hunter Biden now has a Jewish wife! And CNN’s John King converted so that he could marry CNN’s Dana Bash who had been Dana Schwartz! It just never ends — isn’t that wonderful!
No, it’s not.
They should all be well. Many intermarried individuals, like endogamously married Jews, have impacted my life in profoundly positive — even life-changing —ways.
But we are not talking about individuals making lives for themselves according to their choices.
Rather, we are talking about a secular national Israeli court system formally deeming Judaically meaningless rituals as institutionally valid.
That is the fork in the road where barricades must be erected before people accidentally venture over the cliff.
Sure, the Reform rabbis and their “50 Liberal Orthodox Rabbis” say “Don’t worry. We won’t convert the people slipping in illegally from Eritrea and Sudan. We won’t convert the house-helpers from Thailand or the Philippines whose temporary visas are about to expire.” Of course not. Never.
Right. And then they will be accused of anti-Africa racism and anti-Black racism. It is so predictable. Of course they will buckle. Here is what one American region’s Reform and Conservative rabbis just did for Chanukah: Give a look. And now Reform proudly boasts (page 9, left column) that “Jews of Color” comprise as much as 20 percent of Reform Judaism. Yet their data also show that at least 69 percent of their “Jews of Color” are married to Christians.
Does anyone seriously believe that, if the recent Bagat”z decision to validate Reform conversions in Israel for citizenship is not revoked, they ultimately won’t be converting the Illegals, too, and those with expiring visas, regardless of color, with especial passion that Black Lives Matter?
If you don’t know Reform Judaism, just refresh your memory with this Reform Temple “haftarah” reading this past Rosh Hashanah.