Abuse of Power

Seldom if ever has so much misinformation and ill will been sown by people ostensibly concerned with truth and Jewish unity. … Read More >>


Gender Agenda of the RCA

The Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America met this week and on the agenda was gender. This reminded me of another conference of professionals, the Arizona Engineers’ Society (l’havdil) which I attended as a civil engineer when we lived in Phoenix in 1981. On their agenda was the question of whether someone who had no degree in engineering, but worked for years in the field, could list himself or herself in the phonebook as an engineer. It turned out that the phonebook company claimed that they were not in the business of checking credentials, and anyone could list himself/herself as an engineer even without a degree, and even without any experience. This drove home for me the fact that the label you give yourself, the label other people give you, and the label a professional organization gives you may vary widely.

The discussions in the RCA, and here on cross-currents, about ordaining women sent me back to reread portions of a kuntres printed in Altona in 1819, Eleh Divrey haBerit, a collection of 22 responsa containing arguments objecting to Reform innovations. As I hold a 1969 reprint of this book in my hands, one aspect stands out in particular. … Read More >>

Piece Plan

“Orthodoxy” is simply the name that the Reform and Conservative movements gave to what “Judaism” meant for millennia prior – to what those movements sought to supplant when they birthed themselves. … Read More >>

Making the Cut

It was the very beginning of 1942 and the group of ten young men and their yeshiva dean, exiles in frigid Siberia, couldn’t believe their eyes. Betzalel Orlanski had somehow gained release from the Siberian labor-camp where he had been sent, somehow found out where they – and his wife – were located, somehow secured a sled and driver, and somehow crossed the large frozen lake – the only way to reach Nizhna Machavaya, the exiles’ home, in the winter.

The exiles – my dear father among them – had been part of the Novardhok Yeshiva in Vilna, Lithuania. When the Soviets occupied the country, they offered the yeshiva boys and faculty – most of whom were Polish nationals who had fled to Lithuania – a stark choice: accept Soviet citizenship (and be conscripted into the Red army) or be banished to the wasteland of Siberia as foreign nationals deemed a threat to the Soviet Union. They opted for Siberia, a choice that would test them sorely but likely saved their lives.

When the cattle cars had been loaded with their human cargo in Lithuania for the long trip east, sent along with the Novardhok group were several families, … Read More >>

The Egalitarianism Has Landed

My computer cautions me against fooling with certain manufacturer-determined system settings. Doing so, it warns, could create serious problems.

Riskier still is messing around with Judaism’s system-settings, determined by the ultimate Manufacturer.

That lesson might be the one being learned the hard way by contemporary Jewish religious movements which, unconstrained by the Jewish religious tradition, chose years ago to remove the slash that Jewish tradition places diagonally through the equal sign flanked by “men” and “women.”

Both genders, of course, are equally important to G-d. Women should be paid equal amounts for equal work on a par with men, and they should be respected no less than males. But pretending that men and women are identical and interchangeable in their life-roles – the much-cherished “egalitarian” approach – not only offends Jewish tradition, it may bode demographic disaster.

A soon-to-be-released report entitled “The Growing Gender Imbalance in American Jewish Life,” by Brandeis University sociologist Sylvia Barack Fishman, will present statistical evidence to confirm what has been widely suspected in recent years: males in non-Orthodox communities are opting out of religious activities. Professor Fishman fears that as non-Orthodox Jewish men become increasingly estranged from religious and communal life they are … Read More >>