July 2: Face(s) of Judaism

The Chief Rabbinate, as an official governmental body, is an anachronism that has long outlived its usefulness and been an impediment to the growth of Judaism.

(photo credit:)
(photo credit: )
Face(s) of Judaism
Sir, – The Jerusalem Post is to be commended for its editorial “Judaism for all” (June 29) calling for “free market Judaism” and an end to the current state-supported Chief Rabbinate.
The Chief Rabbinate, as an official governmental body, is an anachronism that has long outlived its usefulness and been an impediment to the growth of Judaism. Its actions regarding conversion, especially the conversion of Russian olim, its attitude toward the problem of agunot (women whose husbands refuse to grant them a religious divorce), and its incitement against other movements that the chief rabbis voiced at the meeting described in the editorial, all shout loudly that the time has come to put an end to this destructive institution.
The Conservative Movement’s Rabbinical Assembly has long called for the privatization of the Chief Rabbinate. Let it exist on its own and let other rabbinic groups exist as well. Let people choose freely which rabbinical organization and which synagogue organization they wish to support. The government can provide subsidies to these groups on the basis of their membership and the services they offer.
The writer is a rabbi and a columnist for The Jerusalem Post Magazine Sir, – The conclusions of “Judaism for all” sadly lack an understanding of the issues.
I can write with unimpeachable authority: During my 80 years I was a Reform and Conservative Jew, and for 10 years even a Messianic Jew with my own “congregation,” before finally being exposed to true Orthodox living in 1995. It was not until nine months before I made aliya in 2003 that I began to live an Orthodox life.
The solution offered in your editorial is to leave all the major denominations free to compete for membership, a sort of popularity contest with implied gimmicks acceptable to get people in the door. That is not Judaism.
Acknowledging that Orthodox authority is rigidly protective, the issue has a number of components.
The political, power-driven aspect is emphasized. It exists and needs correction. But the fundamental part is Torah! Judaism is what the Torah says it is. Conservative and Reform, under the best, well-intentioned circumstances, still depart from Torah for the sake of comfortable compromise, to feel Jewish and worship without having to be concerned with the obligations we accepted at Sinai.
Orthodox acceptance of the Conservative and Reform movements as equals – or even as acceptable – when it considers them fatal dilutions and even pollutions, will never happen.
Diminishing the problem to simplistics is not conducive to resolution.
Telz Stone
Purpose of the press
Sir, – Caroline B. Glick (“About those Jews...,” Column One, June 29) complains of the media’s failure to truly report on the hatred of Jews among the Arab world.
I love reading Glick because she seriously attempts to shape Post readers to her right-wing political views. Yet she preaches that the “media are supposed to report facts, not shape opinions.”
I happen to agree with her political persuasion but disagree with her opinion about the press.
Just as she attempts to do in her column every Friday, the purpose of the press is to shape opinion.

Now, for the Right
Sir, – My thanks to Michael Harris for “The revolution of the left wing” (Comment & Features, June 28), who pinpointed for me an issue that has bothered me these past few years but which I refused to accept.
From the beginning Herut, later the Likud, was an active opposition in criticizing the government for any attempt to offer land for peace. Yet it was Menahem Begin who broke the international rule of “to the victor belong the spoils,” giving back the Sinai Peninsula. Even more, he removed Israeli settlers from Yamit as part of the bargain.
Arik Sharon turned his back on his electorate and shamefully ejected Israeli citizens who had built magnificent communities in Gush Katif. Many more shameful retreats have been performed by Likud governments in opposition to the party’s long-standing philosophy.
Each concession brought more terrorism and great outlays of money to provide greater protection, such as walls, fences and additional security manpower.
In the past we voted for the Likud or one of the other rightwing parties since the Left offered no alternative. It would behoove the Likud to now take up the challenge of the new Labor Party and create its own revolution. It would inject integrity and honesty into its party platform so that its voters can be assured their representatives will vote as they promise.
I look forward to a Harris column titled, “The revolution of the right wing.”
Kiryat Ono
So little time
Sir, – Every few years the ghost of Richard Wagner reappears to haunt the collective conscience of Israelis who doggedly insist on not giving his music a public platform (“Mah Tovu and ‘Tannhauser’ – separating the masterpiece from its creator,” Comment & Features, June 26; “Who’s afraid of Richard Wagner,” Comment & Features, June 11). His various apologists pontificate as to what we are missing culturally.
It isn’t that we don’t know his music is acknowledged to be among the crowns of the Romantic Period. We are not cultural philistines. Moreover, there are those among us who choose not to read the poetry of T.S.Eliot. This doesn’t mean we are literary ignoramuses.
Some of us may even have advanced degrees in music and literature. Nevertheless, in our limited life-spans there is just so much time to listen to all the great musical masterpieces and to read all the great works of literature.
Valuing our individual freedom bestows upon us the right to choose – for lack of time – to which works of art we wish to devote our aesthetic sensibilities.
And, yes, an artist’s anti-Semitic pedigree may prejudice an audience’s appreciation of his work.
For this, our Jewish audience in our free sovereign State of Israel need never apologize.

One more reason

Sir, – I agree that for decades, since the days of Ben-Gurion, there has been an urgent need for electoral reform (“Carmel’s lesson,” Editorial, June 22). Our dysfunctional, flawed and undemocratic political system has appointed ministers who on repeated occasions have absolved themselves from their responsibilities by whitewashing their blunders and passing responsibility to unfortunate scapegoats.
We urgently require constituent representation and a well-thought-out constitution, as well as continuity and stability in government with ministers who do not change like the weather.
It is time our electoral system was changed so that our quality of life and standard of living are not manipulated and governed by survival-mentality politicians who have voice and power disproportionate to their numbers.
In “Likud MK denounces ‘infringement’ of freedom of religion on Temple Mount” (June 28), it was stated that “current Israeli law stipulates that Jews and other non-Muslims may not pray out loud on the Temple Mount.” Current law, upheld by the High Court of Justice, is that the right to freedom of worship must be upheld on the Temple Mount, as in all other places of worship in Israel, but because of the sensitivity of the site police may prevent non-Muslim prayer in the interests of public order.