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LineyLu

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PostSubject: Which denomination?   Tue Jan 10, 2012 10:31 pm

First topic message reminder :

For those of you who are contemplating or have already completed conversion...which denomination did you choose (or which way are you leaning) and why? Right now I'm leaning toward US Conservative, mainly for theological reasons, but since I've only been to one service (which was at a Conservative-ish Reform synagogue), that could definitely change. Very Happy Also, for non-Orthodox converts, does not being considered Jewish (along with any future kids if you're female) by Orthodoxy bother you?
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Thu Jan 12, 2012 6:14 pm

Quote :
what they were really asking, which was "are you Jewish by our standards"

I have to disagree with you on this one, simply because there are so many standards, who is to know what standard they expect? After my conversion, if someone asks me if I'm Jewish, I'm going to say, "Yes," because that's what I firmly believe. If you want to think that I'm not Jewish, you're free to do so, but what you think has no bearing on the fact that I know I'm Jewish. I'm not going to say, "My Jewishness depends on the person asking about my Jewishness."

There's also a policy of "don't ask, don't tell" that sometimes is seen in Jewish law. E.g. If you know someone is not Jewish to your standards, then you should proceed accordingly. However, you are not required to probe someone's background thoroughly before counting them as part of your minyan; it's enough that you have a reasonable expectation that they are Jewish.

If you grabbed up a stranger on the street in Jerusalem and he was wearing a kippah, and you had him join your minyan so someone could say Kaddish, and you found out afterwards that he was just a tourist who thought that a kippah was a cool hat and he's not at all Jewish, it's not like that invalidates your prayers and you have to pray all over again. You had a reasonable expectation that the person was Jewish, therefore any actual break of the law was unintentional.

So it may be that the people did not ask deeper, more probing questions into the poster's Jewishness because, frankly, they didn't want to know. (Btw, that standard does NOT apply to kosher, where you ARE expected to examine your food thoroughly beforehand.) Also, asking too many questions runs into the risk of violating "You shall not question the convert," which means you are not supposed to doubt a convert's sincerity.

Kosher is also a biblical law, whereas what constitutes a minyan--or a Jew--is rabbinic. That's why some people are a lot more strict about what's in their food versus who is in their minyan.
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:01 pm

Whereas it is true that the Shabbat meal host evidently did not ask more detailed questions about Jewish status, I also think that given that he was "Yeshivish" it would be ridiculously unlikely that he would consider Usuario's conversion to be valid, and it is disingenuous to assume that he wouldn't care or was trying to give the benefit of the doubt (since then he wouldn't be discussing it). I also feel that to ask about being Shomer Shabbat, knowing full well that observance level is not an issue, but conversion status is, was not being candid. I admit to having being similarly evasive myself when questioned about conversion, but that was because there was nothing at stake except for a young girl's curiosity and I was unwilling to step into uncomfortable territory, both for her and for her father who was my husband's friend and who is the one who had seemed to us to be purposefully avoiding ever asking direct questions about my status.

Here is Rabbi Telushkin's answer to a Conservative convert who asks about this issue:
The Honesty of the Convert
Rabbi Telushkin is Orthodox, but he cares very much about Klal Yisrael and is gives very fair treatment to non-Orthodox subjects in his book "Jewish LIteracy". He also has written some well-known books on Jewish ethics, so I think he is an ideal rabbi to ask about this issue. Basically, he says that a non-Orthodox convert is morally obligated to make his status known if it has legal ramifications. He also thinks it is sad that the different movements haven't worked out agreements for mutual recognition of converts. (This was tried unsuccessfully in Denver and in Israel: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Conversion_to_Judaism#1978.E2.80.931983:_Denver_program)
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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:31 pm

Debbie B. wrote:
Whereas it is true that the Shabbat meal host evidently did not ask more detailed questions about Jewish status, I also think that given that he was "Yeshivish" it would be ridiculously unlikely that he would consider Usuario's conversion to be valid, and it is disingenuous to assume that he wouldn't care or was trying to give the benefit of the doubt (since then he wouldn't be discussing it). I also feel that to ask about being Shomer Shabbat, knowing full well that observance level is not an issue, but conversion status is, was not being candid.


Exactly!


Mychal, this was obviously not a case of "don't ask, don't tell". As a woman, I actually can't think of many instances where your unequivocal answer of "yes, I'm Jewish" would be an issue for your potential orthodox questioners, and I am not condemning side-stepping the question where it makes no difference, but in this case it clearly did make a difference to his hosts. The fact that he was a guest in their home makes an even stronger case for telling the truth in this case.
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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Thu Jan 12, 2012 7:51 pm

I think my issue is that, if I have to reveal the nature of my conversion to Orthodox people, then I am surrendering my values and views to their definition of who's Jewish and who's not. I agree with Mychal, does my Jewishness depend on who is asking? Is it our job to cater to the sensibilities of those with less tolerant and open-minded beliefs?

esf:

Even if you're a woman, there are still issues: you can't pour their wine (yayin nesech), you can't cook food for them (bishul akum) no matter how kosher the food and utensils are, whether you're allowed to say blessings for them (e.g. for Shabbat candles), whether they can invite you to dinner on Pesach, Shavuot, or Sukkot, and for the ultra-Orthodox, even whether they are allowed to save your life on Shabbat! (some believe pikuach nefesh does not apply to non-Jews).

Also, whether kids you have after your conversion are considered Jews by Birth, or as Jewish as Vishnu depends on this.
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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:30 pm

Usario, the cases you have listed are only followed strictly by the more traditional and ultra-orthodox communities, and my question for you is, why make yourself uncomfortable by putting yourself into those situations over and over again? My son goes to a community Jewish preschool, with a number of children from modern-Orthodox families who are strictly shomer shabbat, kashrut etc etc. All these kids eat food that is cooked in the onsite kosher kitchen, by non-Jews. I have seen orthodox doctors wearing kippot in public hospitals on Saturdays, and have been invited to share a passover meal with an orthodox family. I'm not saying that your examples are not true, but they are on the extreme side. If it's very important to you to belong to that section of the Jewish community, maybe you should talk to an Orthodox rabbi about the possibility of conversion?

I absolutely agree with you that after conversion with mikvah and milah, we are Jewish, and should be recognized as such. That's just not the case in real life. I'm absolutely not trying to attack you in anyway, just trying to sort through these thoughts for myself as much as anyone else.

Peace.
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usuario



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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Thu Jan 12, 2012 8:45 pm

No, I am not trying to belong in an ultra-Orthodox community. I simply wanted a host family for Shabbat.com. The site is open to hosts who aren't Orthodox, but as I predicted, all of the people who were offering to host were Orthodox, and the one who accepted us was Yeshivish.

The same thing would happen if I wanted to have a Jewish experience in some far flung community. I'd probably be going to be Chabad. But I feel like it would be an insult to my dignity and identity as a Jew if I had to go into one and say, "Hi, I'm a non-Jew who likes Judaism".
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esf

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:03 pm

I think we'll have to agree to disagree on this one. But seriously, I'd talk to your rabbi about it :)
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:18 pm


usuario wrote:
No, I am not trying to belong in an ultra-Orthodox community. I simply wanted a host family for Shabbat.com. The site is open to hosts who aren't Orthodox, but as I predicted, all of the people who were offering to host were Orthodox, and the one who accepted us was Yeshivish.

The same thing would happen if I wanted to have a Jewish experience in some far flung community. I'd probably be going to be Chabad. But I feel like it would be an insult to my dignity and identity as a Jew if I had to go into one and say, "Hi, I'm a non-Jew who likes Judaism".


How does the site work? Does it differentiate between Orthodox and liberal? Does it make any attempt to connect Jews that will be compatible?
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usuario



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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Thu Jan 12, 2012 9:46 pm

It's a site that matches up hosts and guests. You can sign up as either a host or a guest. You put in your profile a photo or two and a description of yourself and whether you're single or married, and if you have an affiliation (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, or unaffiliated). You can see the available hosts/guests in the area and read your profiles, but it's up to you and your host to figure out whether you're compatible. The site is designed for both Orthodox guests and non-observant Jews who want a traditional Shabbat experience. I introduced myself as someone trying to become more observant.
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Thu Jan 12, 2012 10:34 pm

usuario wrote:
It's a site that matches up hosts and guests. You can sign up as either a host or a guest. You put in your profile a photo or two and a description of yourself and whether you're single or married, and if you have an affiliation (Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, or unaffiliated). You can see the available hosts/guests in the area and read your profiles, but it's up to you and your host to figure out whether you're compatible. The site is designed for both Orthodox guests and non-observant Jews who want a traditional Shabbat experience. I introduced myself as someone trying to become more observant.


Thanks for the info. I think if I was going to use a site like this I would make sure folks understood I was liberal/progressive, and reform.

I tend to make sure I am with Jews who are on the same spectrum I am. I am Jewish halachally and I understand that orthodox won't accept that.



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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:09 pm

Not all Orthodox Jews are judgmental; I wouldn't have a problem trying Shabbat in an Orthodox home. I listen to a lot of lectures by Orthodox rabbis and I like the different perspective. (It also helps that the rabbis I listen to are good men who are very careful not to bash other branches of Judaism.) Not to mention, it's a mitzvah to host guests on Shabbat--regardless if said guests are Jewish or not. So a person's status doesn't (or at least shouldn't) matter at the Shabbas table.

When I was at conversion class at the Reform shul last weekend, the rabbi there said that the Orthodox rabbi in town tried to come to their early service on Friday nights during the summer. And she liked to go to his service sometimes too. They both liked parts of the other's service which was absent in their own.

So, if an Orthodox rabbi can make an appearance in a Reform shul, I figure that's proof positive not all Orthodox people are fundamentally opposed or hostile to non-Orthodox Jews and their religious practices.
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BRNechama

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Fri Jan 13, 2012 2:28 pm

Mychal wrote:
Not all Orthodox Jews are judgmental; I wouldn't have a problem trying Shabbat in an Orthodox home. I listen to a lot of lectures by Orthodox rabbis and I like the different perspective. (It also helps that the rabbis I listen to are good men who are very careful not to bash other branches of Judaism.) Not to mention, it's a mitzvah to host guests on Shabbat--regardless if said guests are Jewish or not. So a person's status doesn't (or at least shouldn't) matter at the Shabbas table.


Hmmm....sadly it does matter; although most of the issues stem from halachaic ignorance (not as bad as it sounds...in that many Orthodox Jews without rabbinical training can be sketchy on halachaic situations that they don't frequently encounter). Some of these issues are:

1) The presence of non-mevusal Shabbos wine or grape juice
2) The willingness of the hosts to "expose" their children to non-Jews
3) The comfort level that they would have correcting you or dealing with a situation where you perform a melacha (a prohibited Shabbos activity...such as turning off a light)
4) Dealing with the knowledge that you will drive to and then later away from their homes (i.e. they can't host your overnight)
5) Fear of embarrassing you if they need to decline your Shabbos gift...food especially (many Orthodox Jews will not take items for ownership after Shabbos starts...even if no money is exchanged).

These are all just some of the reasons that were given to me when people said, "Oh I would love to have you for Shabbos, but..." before I converted. Although you would think (hope?) that people on Shabbos.com would be more comfortable/knowledgable about these situations. Also another touchy area is while it is a mitzvah to do kiruv (outreach) to Jews to help bring them closer to Shabbos observance, there is no mitzvah to do this for a non-Jew. So once the host realize that you are not Jewish (according to them)...then they may not be so motivated to host you. Again I don't agree with this - because to me, hosting guests helps enhance Shabbos joy, no matter what their background...but not everyone feels this way.

Now being invited to an Orthodox home for a Yom Tov (Jewish holiday) is a whole different ball game as a non-Jew. My advice - just don't go there...unless it's the home of an Orthodox Rabbi who is confident about what he is doing!

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esf

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Fri Jan 13, 2012 3:21 pm

Mychal wrote:

When I was at conversion class at the Reform shul last weekend, the rabbi there said that the Orthodox rabbi in town tried to come to their early service on Friday nights during the summer. And she liked to go to his service sometimes too. They both liked parts of the other's service which was absent in their own.

So, if an Orthodox rabbi can make an appearance in a Reform shul, I figure that's proof positive not all Orthodox people are fundamentally opposed or hostile to non-Orthodox Jews and their religious practices.

This is a totally different issue when it's not converts involved. From an orthodox perspective, anyone with a Jewish mother is Jewish, even if their religious practices are "misguided".

I don't think any of us were saying that all Orthodox people are fundamentally opposed or hostile to non-Orthodox Jews! On the contrary! But, it is a fact that from their perspective, non-Orthodox converts are not halachically Jewish. I think just as they should accept that we see ourselves as Jewish, even if they don't, we should accept that they don't see us as halachically Jewish.
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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Fri Jan 13, 2012 3:48 pm

As to whether all orthodox are or are not judgmental, I am sure there are those who are and those who are not. But the reality is that anytime those of us who converted through movement other then orthodox are seen as non Jews. In my life I have chosen to stay within the confines of the movements of Judaism where my children and I are accepted.

There is a whole Jewish world out there that is not orthodox where those of us who are not orthodox JBC, why would we put ourselves in a position where we are always walking on eggshells because someone might not accept us?

In any religion there always the more religious who don't accept those they deem less then. You see it in Islam and Christianity. Judaism is no different.

It makes me angry that I have to think this way.

The reality is that if I were faced with death because I was Jewish they would not ask me if I was orthodox. They would not care. So I threw my lot in with the Jewish people come what may.





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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Fri Jan 13, 2012 5:16 pm

I think JBC should understand that due to interpretations of Jewish law and current concerns about lineage, Orthodox Jews examine the lineage of each other too, not just JBC or suspected JBC. I think that non-Orthodox JBC, who sometimes are insecure in their own sense of Jewish identity, and very often know little about the Orthodox world, assume that they are being singled out for abuse merely for being JBC. And to be sure there is some of that. But Orthodox FFB ("frum from birth"= Jews by birth from traditionally strictly observant families, in contrast to newly observant Jews ["balei tshuva"]) are also asked to prove their heritage when entering a new community, enrolling their kids in day school, marrying, etc. Just look at the application forms for most Orthodox day schools or synagogues to see this.

This is seen in Conservative/Masorti Judaism too. An Orthodox friend told me that when her brother married his wife from Argentina, her Masorti rabbi who married them asked for the ketubah of the groom's parents as proof of his Jewish status. She told me this in conjunction with warning me that we should be sure to make copies of and not to lose the conversion certificate of our children since they could be needed when they marry.

Traditional Judaism is an extremely rule-based religion. Because Reform Judaism does not see Halacha as binding, it is very different from Orthodox Judaism in the way that religious requirements of the latter play affect all aspects of daily life, not just isolated religious aspects. And so I think that non-Orthodox JBCs often do not fully understand the context for this whole issue of "conversion validity". That is why I have tried to explain how I can have close Orthodox friends who respect me and nevertheless would object to my children marrying their children due to Jewish status issues.

And yes, some Orthodox Jews are insular and rude to Jews and non-Jews who are not like themselves. And some have obnoxiously intolerant and negative views of all those who are different. But there are also a lot of non-Orthodox Jews who lump all Orthodox Jews together (moderates with extremists, for example) and believe many negative stereotypes and inaccurate stories about them, and assume that their behavior is mainly due to nastiness. So it cuts both ways.

I also believe you have understand the Orthodox life to understand their point of view. I suspect that if any of the readers of this are Vegan or have severe allergies, they are much more sympathetic to what it is like to live with severe restrictions that other people don't understand. People with food restrictions are sometimes taken to be selfish, inflexible people who are just being stubborn and rude. And people who don't understand them will sometimes try to slip in something they don't eat reasoning that "just a little won't hurt them".

Rabbi Hirshfield wrote a book with a wonderful title: "You don't have to be wrong for me to be right." I think non-O Jews should try to not to get worked up over the fact that they can't be counted in an Orthodox minyan since it is a situation that shouldn't be coming up all the time (given that a non-O JBC should be considering O conversion if they want to be a regular member of an O minyan), and not let the fact that an Orthodox Jew doesn't see their Jewish status the way they do as an impediment to other meaningful interactions. Strangely, it is sometimes easier for non-O Jews to have interactions with Christians who think they are "damned" than with O Jews who have different views of their Jewish status. It is a shame that Klal Yisrael isn't a more commonly held value, but look at the conflicts between Catholics and Protestants involving bloody wars and realize that there is just as much doctrinal difference as between movements in Judaism, so maybe complete mutual acceptance just isn't feasible.
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Fri Jan 13, 2012 6:51 pm

I'm sorry Debbie I have friends with food allergies and that is not at all like the attitudes of Orthodox Jews. They will not die if they eat with a non Jew or if they eat with a person less kosher then themselves. They will not die if they ingest a bit of traif. Some one with a food allergy can die from eating a food they are allergic to.

I am allergic to penicillin and I will die if I am given it.

I cannot compare the 2.

Most people understand about allergies.

I understand the orthodox point of view. I don't agree with their point of view.

As to the differences between Christianity, it is true there are disagreements as to who is a Christian. It does not matter so much because Christianity is not inherited. Most Christians easily discount what other Christians think.

I agree it is to bad that there are divisions. I wish that there could be a meeting on common ground with everyone just agreeing to disagree.

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Fri Jan 13, 2012 7:25 pm

This has been a very interesting conversation. I see where Debbie is coming from; I also see where Tamar is coming from. All I can say is that it depends on the individual Orthodox Jew ultimately; they all deal with interaction between themselves and non-Jews (and less observant Jews) differently. What I can tell you from my time within the Orthodox community is that there is a prominence place on the "kedusha" of the Jewish neshama (soul). They interpret it as "kadosh" meaning not only 'holy'...but also as 'separate'. This does have some precedence in the Torah (see Exodus 19:5)...however like everything in the Torah, it has numerous interpretations.

Orthodox Jews work very hard to control their environment as much as they can; to remove temptations and to put fences around potential sins. Is there really any problem with sitting down at a table, sharing a meal with a person who does not keep kosher, who is eating non-kosher food while you eat your kosher food? No. But it does raise the possibility for a mistake to be made (like non-kosher food splashing onto kosher food).

There is also the concept of "marit ayin" -- having an Orthodox Jew do something, which is technically ok, but could be seen by others as problematic. For example, an Orthodox Jew could go into a McDonald's to use the restroom and perhaps (depending on how they hold on their kashrus) order a coke to drink. But they tend not too...in case someone see them and assume that they are going in there for a meal. However even when I was in the Orthodox community, I wouldn't hesitate to go into a McDonald's. Why? Well because I was rarely in areas with a lot of Orthodox Jews...and also as a Black woman, who would assume that I'm an Orthodox Jewess eating treif?

I personally feel that we as Jews (including Orthodox Jews) need to bend our rules whenever possible when it comes to protecting the feelings and comfort of others. That is why I always followed my late rabbi's opinion (who received his smicha from Torah VaDaas...a very yeshivish/hereidi yeshiva BTW) that it is fine to shake a man's hand if he offers it to you first (contrast this with the widespread Orthodox practice to not touch anyone of the opposite sex that you are not related to). So yes, there is a way to be kind and considerate to non-Jews and Jews from all walks of life. But it takes a pointed effort and some research in halacha (which is something that not everyone is willing to do).
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Mychal

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Tue Jan 17, 2012 1:50 pm

Quote :
But it takes a pointed effort and some research in halacha (which is something that not everyone is willing to do).

I was listening to a lecture by Rabbi Mordecai Becher last night, and he quoted another rabbi (or sage; not sure who):

Two people have a question about law. One person looks it up in a book, reads the answer, and goes about his business (correctly). The other person reads multiple texts, asks multiple people their opinions, reads everything the Talmud has to say on the issue, comes to the wrong conclusion and goes about his business (wrongly). Who is more beloved to God? The man who is wrong because he studied and put forth great effort.

I should point out that Rabbi Becher is a devout Orthodox rabbi; this idea that it's better to study and end up with the wrong conclusion than to accept Jewish tradition/law at face value and not study at all is not coming from a Reform or Conservative rabbi.

He also talked about the fact that the reason there are 12 tribes is that each tribe has its own unique flavor and brings something unique to the Jewish tradition. But I am of the opinion that there are 13 tribes--we converts make up the 13th tribe. Think about it--tribal affiliation passes through the father; we have no Jewish father, therefore we can't belong to one of the 12. If we were moving through the Wilderness in formation, with each person marching with their tribe, where would we be? We must make up our group, our own tribe.

And I sincerely believe we have something to bring to Judaism--the fact that we weren't born Jews. "You shall not oppress the stranger (ger) for you were once strangers in a strange land." How many people practice that? It's hard to appreciate it unless you really have personally been a stranger or outsider--just as you can't really appreciate your own country until you've spent time living outside it.

I think converts can teach compassion because, in general, we are very aware of the fact that we're strangers, of sorts, in Judaism. We're a bridge between Gentile and Jew. I don't care how orthodox I might become; I would never refuse to sit at a dinner table with my family. Even if I felt the need to bring my own food on my own plate, I'd still sit down and eat with them. I would never not socialize with Gentiles; I would never cut off my friends who were my friends before I became a Jew, jsut as I won't turn away from my husband who is not converting. They accept me as a Jew; I must accept them as Gentiles. I can never live in Jewish seclusion--and neither can most converts.

Converts also seem to be more tolerant towards all Jews, on the whole. One thing I have noticed on this forum and on the old JewsByChoice forum is that there is no "they're bad Jews, we're good Jews" rhetoric. I have seen some very ugly, vitriolic statements by born Jews on other forums condemning one denomination or another. While we may say, "I do not agree with X denomination" we do not engage in the condemnation, "X people are not Jews." More than anyone else, we understand the hurt that comes from being denied one's Jewishness; it's not an offensive we engage in often.

And given how ugly the situation is in Israel right now, with Jews fighting against Jews (while Iran becomes a larger and larger threat), I can't help but remember that the Second Temple was destroyed literally and metaphorically because of Jews hating other Jews. It makes me fear for Israel now. We need more "agree to disagree" and less hate. I think that's our tribe's mission--to show compassion both for non-Jews and our fellow Jews.
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Tue Jan 17, 2012 2:31 pm

What a thoughtful response!! As a Jbc I have felt alienated by the attitudes that come from the Orthodox and many Jbb. Every time I step out of my community I feel it. I am not a real Jew, I am not part of the Jewish people. It is the main reason I have segregated myself to being active only with the progressive end of Judaism.

I see all Jews as Jews be they JBC or JBB and I don't care what affiliation they are part of. I also have an extended gentile family of which I cannot turn away from so my Jewish practices come with me when I visit them. I understand their Christian practices are as a part of them as my Jewish practices are a part of me.

I think the situation between the Jewish people as to who is a Jew, and how we practice as Jews is uglier then I could ever have anticipated. There are days I worry about my children and that this ugliness will make them want to turn their backs on being Jewish.

I have never though about your idea of the 13th tribe but it make so much sense and yes we are a bridge. Shalom Bayit means we cannot turn our backs on our families.

Hillel said you need to not do what is hateful to another this is the whole Torah now go and learn. That is what being a Jew is in my opinion. We never stop learning and growing as Jews imo.

I know that the idea of chet and missing the mark is central to how I approach my life. I may not be as observant as I ought to be but I do see myself moving towards being traditional in some ways. But I know that I will never follow all the rules and I believe it is just not possible to be perfect in observance. I strive to do the right thing but I miss the mark and when I do I look to make it right and find forgiveness.


Mychal wrote:
Quote :
But it takes a pointed effort and some research in halacha (which is something that not everyone is willing to do).

I was listening to a lecture by Rabbi Mordecai Becher last night, and he quoted another rabbi (or sage; not sure who):

Two people have a question about law. One person looks it up in a book, reads the answer, and goes about his business (correctly). The other person reads multiple texts, asks multiple people their opinions, reads everything the Talmud has to say on the issue, comes to the wrong conclusion and goes about his business (wrongly). Who is more beloved to God? The man who is wrong because he studied and put forth great effort.

I should point out that Rabbi Becher is a devout Orthodox rabbi; this idea that it's better to study and end up with the wrong conclusion than to accept Jewish tradition/law at face value and not study at all is not coming from a Reform or Conservative rabbi.

He also talked about the fact that the reason there are 12 tribes is that each tribe has its own unique flavor and brings something unique to the Jewish tradition. But I am of the opinion that there are 13 tribes--we converts make up the 13th tribe. Think about it--tribal affiliation passes through the father; we have no Jewish father, therefore we can't belong to one of the 12. If we were moving through the Wilderness in formation, with each person marching with their tribe, where would we be? We must make up our group, our own tribe.

And I sincerely believe we have something to bring to Judaism--the fact that we weren't born Jews. "You shall not oppress the stranger (ger) for you were once strangers in a strange land." How many people practice that? It's hard to appreciate it unless you really have personally been a stranger or outsider--just as you can't really appreciate your own country until you've spent time living outside it.

I think converts can teach compassion because, in general, we are very aware of the fact that we're strangers, of sorts, in Judaism. We're a bridge between Gentile and Jew. I don't care how orthodox I might become; I would never refuse to sit at a dinner table with my family. Even if I felt the need to bring my own food on my own plate, I'd still sit down and eat with them. I would never not socialize with Gentiles; I would never cut off my friends who were my friends before I became a Jew, jsut as I won't turn away from my husband who is not converting. They accept me as a Jew; I must accept them as Gentiles. I can never live in Jewish seclusion--and neither can most converts.

Converts also seem to be more tolerant towards all Jews, on the whole. One thing I have noticed on this forum and on the old JewsByChoice forum is that there is no "they're bad Jews, we're good Jews" rhetoric. I have seen some very ugly, vitriolic statements by born Jews on other forums condemning one denomination or another. While we may say, "I do not agree with X denomination" we do not engage in the condemnation, "X people are not Jews." More than anyone else, we understand the hurt that comes from being denied one's Jewishness; it's not an offensive we engage in often.

And given how ugly the situation is in Israel right now, with Jews fighting against Jews (while Iran becomes a larger and larger threat), I can't help but remember that the Second Temple was destroyed literally and metaphorically because of Jews hating other Jews. It makes me fear for Israel now. We need more "agree to disagree" and less hate. I think that's our tribe's mission--to show compassion both for non-Jews and our fellow Jews.
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BRNechama

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:04 pm

I can understand the feelings of non-Orthodox converts to Judaism (having been there myself) in regards to not feeling completely accepted in all Jewish circles. I would never discount this feeling (I know it is valid); but even Orthodox converts to Judaism struggle with this. So my advice is this: accept that you can't please all the people all of the time. It is not fair or right, but converts need to develop a thick skin. Similar to how Black Americans need to develop a thick skin. What other people think of you is not more important than what you think about yourself.
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tamar

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Tue Jan 17, 2012 11:10 pm

BRNechama wrote:
I can understand the feelings of non-Orthodox converts to Judaism (having been there myself) in regards to not feeling completely accepted in all Jewish circles. I would never discount this feeling (I know it is valid); but even Orthodox converts to Judaism struggle with this. So my advice is this: accept that you can't please all the people all of the time. It is not fair or right, but converts need to develop a thick skin. Similar to how Black Americans need to develop a thick skin. What other people think of you is not more important than what you think about yourself.


I never looked at it like this, thanks for your insight!
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SaraK

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Mon Jan 23, 2012 2:38 pm

I've been giving this a lot of though, not that I am anywhere near beginning a conversion process. As I said in my intro post, I'm going to go either Liberal (Reform) or Conservative, because of several issues with Orthodoxy. It does annoy me that the Orthodox wouldn't accept me after an eventual conversion, and I worry that any children I may have would end up resenting me if they wish to become frum. But on the other hand I'm a single woman trying to live life the best way I can for me for the foreseeable future, and I have to remember that I have my own issues for not wanting to convert Orthodox.

For the time being I'm just going to read up on Reform and Conservative belief and then when I'm in London (Edinburgh only has a small Orthodox community) try and visit with some rabbis to see what Judaism looks like in practise. Maybe, if I gather up the courage I'll visit the Orthodox community here in Edinburgh.

I do think I'm more in line with Conservative belief than Reform but I'm simply not able to decide anything right at the moment. I still have a long road ahead of me :)
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John S

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Sat Feb 09, 2013 1:08 am

This concept of denominations isn't completely foreign to me as I was raised in various Christian denominations- although, to be honest, in those it was less about how 'observant' you were than it was about where you lived and who your friends were. As I grew up, though, for me it became an issue of how much screaming and fire-and-brimstone sermons I could stomach at any given time.

One thing I found when I became Muslim, though, was that when you convert (they call it reverting) once you're in, you're 100% Muslim just as much as one born into it and there is no question at all about your status. Much like the Jewish custom, it's not even proper to ask about a person's status or even remind them that they were once not a Muslim.

HOWEVER... when you look at the Big Picture, there are clearly some parallels with what is being said here- of course you have the major branches of Islam, but within those it's a minefield when you get into what scholar to follow or even what translation of the Qur'an you go by, or if you accept all the sayings of Muhammad at face value, or a million other things that, once known about you, will definitely set you apart and not always in a positive way.

While I can see that having the Big Three denominations in Judaism might be a cause for some distress, to me it's not that big a deal- I'm going to practice how I practice no matter what label is put on me. If I convert Reform and want to be one the Black Hats, I'll be a Reform Black Hat! (Of course, that's a bit extreme as I know that would raise more than a few eyebrows!)

When I convert I should think my standard reply would be that I'm Jewish and leave it at that, and leave the overt labeling to others. I'll let my actions and observance speak for me :)
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Debbie B.

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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:03 am

John S.: I think you should be very careful not to assume that what denominational differences mean in Christianity or Islam are at all the same as in Judaism.

Prospective converts often have incorrect assumptions based on their background or knowledge of other religions that simply do not apply to Judaism. Even "non-religious" people who have grown up in the US tend to have absorbed generally Christian ideas about religious belief. This causes misunderstandings about Judaism which is in important ways a very different kind of religion.

Also, I think prospective converts often first see physical things like style of dress or kosher diet before they learn about the differences (both major and more subtle) between Judaism and other religions and within different denominations of Judaism in religious beliefs and world view.

Being a "Black Hat" Jew means a lot more than simply wearing a type of head covering. From the moment such a Jew wakes up until the time he goes to sleep, most aspects of daily life are affected by the Haredi lifestyle and are thereby different from that of a Reform Jew (which in contrast is very much like the life of a typical non-Jewish American). And the Haredi life absolutely requires a certain belief system. A Reform Jew can wear a black hat, but that does not make him a "Black Hat". That makes even less sense than being a "Catholic Unitarian".

The differences between different denominations of Judaism are real and are very significant.

Try reading some of the links from this website:
Jewish Virtual Library: Religious Movements

This is not to say that I like the fact that American Judaism is so fragmented. I really like the higher tolerance for differences in religious observance that I've seen in our friends' Yemenite community in Israel. They are very observant (the wife's father used to be chief Sephardic rabbi of a town in Israel), but some of the other people in their community are less observant even though they are still members of the same small Orthodox synagogue. Women wearing traditional long skirts and head coverings as well as women in skinny jeans and sleeveless tops who didn't cover their hair at all (even though they were married) attended a Shabbat afternoon women's Torah study lecture. Of course, the fact that everyone in the community is a native Hebrew speaker helps to keep the community together as well.


Last edited by Debbie B. on Mon Feb 11, 2013 1:41 am; edited 2 times in total (Reason for editing : changed website to a one with more relevant information)
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geekima



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PostSubject: Re: Which denomination?   Mon Mar 11, 2013 7:53 pm

This has been a very interesting discussion to read, with a lot of thoughtful points of view.

I'm part of the "other" so widely discussed here. My husband is a born Jew, raised Orthodox. I'm working on the 4th year of my Orthodox conversion and have been living in an Orthodox community for those years. The two places we've lived have been somewhere between MO and Chareidi. Given my husband's family and where we are most comfortable, I only considered an Orthodox conversion and have little experience with other streams of Judaism beyond interacting with other Jews socially.

That being said, I often feel there is a difficulty interacting with Jews from other streams, even though I'm very much open to it. Often, people see the external and see that I dress differently from them and have my hair covered and they assume I have a certain attitude toward them, whether I do or not. I also sometimes sit and wonder, what would we say to each other? What would we have in common? Is their life anything like mine or is it so different that we wouldn't have much to talk about?

The one time I did get into those kinds of conversations, it was about a year ago when I worked with a woman who was Reform. She constantly criticized me for "putting up with" the Rabbis in my conversion process or what she saw as catering to my husband. Yet, I did find that when she didn't do that, we had more in common than our non-Jewish coworkers.

For me, halakhic status is a secondary issue that only comes into play when it comes to certain mitzvos. Beyond that, I view anyone who has joined the Jewish people as Jewish, halakhically or not. Where there is a halakhic issue, though, I try to deal with it with sensitivity, keeping in mind that the person in front of me has a neshama that may not match their legal status and knowing from experience how difficult that can feel.
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