Thursday, December 17, 2009

Who should decide who is a Jew?


I read today in The Jerusalem Post the shocking news that the High Court in Britain has ruled that it now decides the matter of who is a Jew and not the Rabbinate.

"Britain's Supreme Court said on Wednesday that a Jewish school discriminated against a child when it denied him admission because it did not recognize his mother as Jewish."

The case was brought by a Jewish man whose son was not given a place because his wife was not regarded as Jewish under rules set by the Chief Rabbi.

The parents were angry that their Jewish status was being questioned."

This is obviously far more than an individual father feeling victimised because an Orthodox Jewish school that teaches Jewish law would use those same laws to determine that the man's wife and child are not Jewish. Why would he even bother sending his son to a school that teaches Orthodox Judaism that he, by his own admission totally rejects? Wouldn't it be far more likely that there is an anti-Orthodox organisation such as, err let me think….the Masorti movement perhaps? whose agenda is to undermine the legitimacy of the [Orthodox] Rabbinate and at the same time seek legitimacy for themselves! They have no idea that their plan is in fact totally evil and that the future might show that they will be the cause of the destruction of Judaism in Britain.

In the BBC website we read:

"The 12-year-old boy was refused a place at the JFS (formerly known as the Jews' Free School) in Brent, north London, despite regularly attending a Progressive [Masorti] synagogue.

While his father is Jewish by birth, his mother is Jewish by conversion.

However, the conversion ceremony was conducted by a Progressive [Masorti] rather than an Orthodox synagogue, which is not recognised by the Office of the Chief Rabbi.

The children of atheists, and practising Christians, were allowed to attend the school as long as their mothers were considered Jewish. "

Hmm, I wonder where the BBC got the notion that Xtians would be allowed into the JFS as long as they were born Jewish? It sounds much more like the kind of nonsense that a spokesman for the Masorti movement would have told them but the article does not attribute the statement to anyone.

Julian Kossoff, a secular Jew who writes on religious matters in The Daily Telegraph, previously a senior reporter at the Jewish Chronicle and sympathetic to the non-Orthodox movements in Britain , says "Mazaltov! to the Supreme Court"

He tells us that:

"In a five-to-four decision the top judges ruled that the school illegally refused places to pupils it did not consider ethnically Jewish, by applying the strictest interpretations of Halacha (”Jewish Law”) which considers only the child of an Orthodox Jewish women to be Jewish.

The absurdity of this (un) reason is that a child of a militant atheist would get preference over that of a pious convert."

For an intelligent person, I doubt he is speaking from the rational side of his brain when he says he finds the situation absurd. Would he find it equally absurd that the British legal system defines a Britain hating, Union Jack burning Marxist who was born in Britain and has a British passport to be a British Citizen where as a Chinese person who fly's the flag outside his home, puts up posters of the queen and insists on having tea at four like a religious ritual would, under British law, not be considered a British Citizen just on the basis of his adopted British customs?

Like the Jew who accepted his piece of bread and jam to board the train to Auschwitz, Mr Kossoff has no idea what awaits his Judaism "further down the line". (Was that a mixed metaphor or a continuation of one?)

Ed West, a Catholic commentator on religion at The Telegraph has a much better grip on the issues than his secular Jewish counterpart.

In his piece entitled "The State now decides who is a Jew" he quotes Neil Addison of the Thomas Moore Legal Centre:

“What the decision means is that the historic Jewish definition of ‘who is a Jew’ is now illegal and Orthodox Jewish organisations and schools can no longer apply their own definitions of membership. As a lawyer I can understand the technical legal argument but as a human being I regard it as a profoundly dangerous extension of state power.  On the basis of this judgment an adult who Orthodox Jews do not accept as Jewish can apply to become an Orthodox Rabbi and the Orthodox synagogue cannot say no."

Ed West gets it, he realizes the danger of this ruling. The "Jewish" correspondent on the other hand, does not!

The truth is that the narrow minded and flawed British legal system that defined these Ethic laws some 40 years ago in order to stop racial discrimination, primarily against Blacks and Jews, is now being used as a tool by the Masorti movement to directly discriminate against those Jews who remain loyal to Torah and G-d, to deny us the right to define who we are according to our own Jewish legal system which has existed ever since we said "Na'aseh VeNishma" at Mount Sinai!

Secular Jews, even if they are 100% Jewish according to halacha (Jewish law) are not exactly qualified to decide who is a Jew. Most of them unfortunately are choosing not to remain Jewish in any case with 80% assimilation and intermarriage rates. It's not that they ever had a choice of rejecting Judaism. How can you reject something you have absolutely no idea what it is? Moreover, when I say secular I include Jews who are members of so called Masorti and reform movements. All these Jews must admit that they live their lives according to gentile secular values and morals. They therefore must admit that their outlook on life is not Jewish and therefore cannot determine what is best for Judaism or Jews who still remain faithful to Jewish observance according to Torah.

Melanie Phillips, quite often the only voice of sanity in the British media, even though not being an observant Jew, nevertheless gets the point. She writes in her blog post entitled "An illiberal and ignorant judgment":

"Lord Phillips [President of the Supreme] said in terms that the fact that the school had used a religious test of the child’s Jewishness was ‘irrelevant’ because Jewish identity also involved racial or ethnic origins – thus with extraordinary obtuseness missing the point altogether that religion, far from being ‘irrelevant’, was central to Jewish identity and thus to the JFS admissions criteria.

Lord Phillips thus appears to have laid down that religious criteria do not determine who is or is not a Jew. What astounding -- and sinister – arrogance for a judge in an English court of law to presume to strip Judaism of its ability to define itself in religious terms.

He also used an invidious circular argument in reaching this conclusion. For in order to decide that this was a case of racial discrimination against a Jewish child, he identified this child as a Jew – in order to determine whether or not the child was a Jew for the purposes of admission to the JFS.

The absurdity and incoherence of this decision were illustrated by the chorus from the majority judges that they were not suggesting for a moment that the JFS was ‘racist’ or had anything other than the most noble of motives in practising racial discrimination. This is therefore surely the first case of non-racist, noble and elevated racial discrimination on record."

I would suppose that even the majority of Anglo Jewry who belong to the United Synagogue would take the view that a reform Judaism is better than nothing. At least they would reason that these Jews will observe something resembling Jewish practice. I would beg to differ.

Who the Reform and Masorti movements really are

To start off, please take a moment to realise why they call themselves the "reform" movement. They themselves are admitting that they have reformed and changed the definition of Judaism as practiced in every generation and every place for over 3,000 years. The first reform synagogue in Hamburg which opened its doors in 1851 knew exactly what it was doing. They wished to be part of the gentile society around them and accept their morality and cultural practices yet at the same time, wished to keep some of the "feel good" religious ritual of their childhood. Those Jews who remained loyal to Torah and Judaism became known as Orthodox Jews.

Reform Judaism in a sense is far worse than secularism. At least a secular Jew is honest with himself and knows that he is not a practicing Jew, either because he was not brought up with any Jewish education and experience or has for whatever reason rejected Jewish practice. If he wishes to observe anything then it is according to Orthodox practice.

The Reform movements however define Judaism according to their own whim at any given time and place. This ever changing definition to suit lifestyle and current morality is in essence self worship!

Reform Judaism accepts any definition for "observance" that you care to define for yourself. They call themselves the "all inclusive" Judaism. For instance, if you don't believe in G-d, or do but don't believe that we received the Torah from G-d at Mount Sinai but you enjoy singing and lead the services every week in synagogue then you would be considered an observant religious Jew. (This example actually describes a good percentage of the so called "rabbis", the leaders of the reform congregations).

However, if you decide that to take the Torah plus 3,000 years of established Jewish law seriously and insist that Kashrus is not a life-style choice but a commandment from G-d then you will no longer be welcome in the reform synagogue. How inclusive is this? You are allowed to display signs of Jewishness, even observe some traditions when it suits you but "oih vevoiw" you cross the line of acceptability when you insist that Mitzvos are not just "good deeds" or suggestions but actually mandatory commandments from an eternal Divine being!

How to explain the definition of who is a Jew to a secular Jew

The problem is that the secular outlook only has narrow criteria for defining who a Jew is. To illustrate this, let's ask the following questions:

Do Jews define themselves as Jews by a minimum of religious observance? Obviously not as can be shown by the fact that secular Jews can become "Ba’alei Tshuva" (return to observance) and be fully accepted within the religious Jewish community.

Do Jews define themselves as Jews by racial criteria? Obviously not as there are Jews who look Russian; Jews who look like Asians and Jews who look Scandinavian. All are Jewish according to halacha.


kaifeng-jews-arrive-in-isra-300x225 barmirzvah

Could we (like the Secular Zionist Jew) define who is a Jew by calling us a single nationality? Using this definition we would need to have a unique language, culture and country of origin. Well you could argue the first two but the Torah, our definitive reference guide to all things Jewish, tells us that the Jewish people were conceived in Mitzrayim (Egypt) while slaves and were brought out by Hashem and moulded into a nation by G-d Himself in order to observe His Torah. The land of Israel was given to us us only after we accepted Torah at Mount Sinai, a present by G-d in order to have a perfect environment for observing His Torah.

So we don't fit the secular definition of a nationality either.

HerzlAdressingtheZionistConference Herzl addressing the Zionist conference

A working definition of who is a Jew

We can only define Judaism in spiritual terms. A Jew is a person who's neshama (sole or spiritual essence) was present at Mount Sinai where we, the Jewish people accepted the Torah from Hashem. (See Shabbos 88a)

This definition would include not only those who are biologically descendent from a woman who was present at Mount Sinai, some 3,500 years ago but also someone (or a descendant of a woman) who converted to Judaism by accepting the whole of Torah. If the conversion was successful then Chaza"l tell us that this shows that their neshama was present at Mount Sinai as well.

A Jew is only Jewish through the mother. However their yichus, mesora and nusach (their traditions, customs and mode of prayer) come from their Jewish father.

The source for this is found in Devarim 7:3-4. Rashi on the pasukim explains that if the son of a gentile will marry your daughter he will turn away your daughter's son. From this we learn that your daughter's son whose father is a gentile is considered Jewish. But regarding your son's son who is born from a gentile woman the pasuk does not say your because he is considered her son, that is, the gentile woman's son and therefore the child is not Jewish.

We also see this in Varikra 24:10-23 where the man born from a Jewish mother but an Egyptian father has no tribal affiliation. His mother makes him Jewish but he has no rights to her tribal membership.

In BaMidbar 1:4, the census categorises each person according to their father's family house. We learn from this that each Jew’s traditions go according to his or her father’s family.

How can any man made, secular legal system understand such a definition?

Once a country declares any part of Jewish practice to be illegal, whether it be Shkita, Bris Mila or Torah Education, then the writing is on the wall for continuation of a vibrant Jewish community in that country.

To any British Jew reading this, I have one more recommended link for you.

Flights to Israel

1 comment:

Bouncer said...

I see. So, eating lockshen kugel won't do the job.