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Jewish Descent Rules Are Not Biblical

According to Jewish law, the child of a Jewish woman is Jewish regardless of who the father is, while the child of a Jewish father is not Jewish if the mother is not Jewish. In other words, a Jewish woman has the ability to confer Jewishness, while a Jewish man does not. In practical terms, Judaism does not recognize the child of an intermarried Jewish man as Jewish unless the child converts to Judaism. But the child of an intermarried Jewish woman is Jewish regardless of what faith the child is raised in.

In my view, Jewish law on this point is completely insane, both genetically and sociologically. What possible point could there be in denying genetic Jews membership among the Jewish people? No other group works this way. For example, if you have an American parent, the American government does not care what gender your American parent is. It is happy to recognize you as an American citizen.

Oh, you say, Jewish law is different because we always know who the mother is, but we do not know for sure who the father is.

In ancient times, granted, but today, we have DNA testing so that concern is not a factor anymore. But the Shalomist Movement believes proof should never have been a factor. If a man says he is the father, and therefore claims that his child is Jewish, what is the problem if the man lied, or has been lied to by the mother? So we have a Jew we shouldn’t have had? How awful!

What is so important about keeping people out? Are we so pure? No! Are we so elite? Maybe we think we are, but the rest of world has usually treated us as just the opposite. It has not been so wonderful throughout history to be a Jew, unless you think scapegoating, pogroms, expulsions, and holocausts are a good thing. If someone says they are Jewish, God bless them for being part of us.

Hitler said if you had one Jewish grandparent, you were Jewish as far as he was concerned. So many “good” Christians were sent to their deaths by the Nazi regime because they had a Jewish grandparent, even if they were raised Christian and even though they had no idea they had any Jewish “blood”. Some of them were probably anti-Semitic and Nazi supporters, even unto their last breath.

I wonder if those Christian “Jews” are counted among the 6 million Jews who perished in the Holocaust. Are we putting ourselves in the strange position that we claim those people as Jews for holocaust purposes but wouldn’t claim them as Jews if they were still alive.

My view is that if someone is Jew enough for Hitler, they are Jew enough for me. From henceforth, Jewish identity should now be conferred with one Jewish grandparent, without regard to the gender of that grandparent. We only help Hitler by saying legitimate Jews are not real Jews in our accounting.

But wait, you say, how can we just change Jewish law like that? Well guess what, the highest source of Jewish law says nothing on the subject. According to Rabbi Peter J. Haas, former Director of Judaic Studies at Case Western Reserve University and visiting professor at Spertus College of Judaic Studies, Jewish descent limitations did not come from the Torah, or even the Bible. He says that the rules concerning Jewish descent “are spelled out fully only in the time of the Mishnah (around 230 CE).”

That’s CE, not BCE. That means that the rabbis of that time, whoever they were, created these rules and, presumably, the rabbis of our time can change them.

They should do so — NOW and in our own time.

This generation should not pass without bringing sanity back to the laws of Jewish descent. We can ill afford to keep telling legitimate Jews they are not Jewish, especially in an age of rampant intermarriage. The Reform Movement has stuck its toe into the waters of change — it recognizes patrilineal descent if the child is raised Jewish. It should stick its whole foot into those waters and recognize patrilineal descent without conditions. And all the other Jewish sects should immediately follow!

L’Shanah Tovah – For a Good Year

For Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur, the High Holy Days in Judaism, sometimes Jews say “Happy New Year”, like we all do on December 31. Sometimes we say “Good Yontiff,” which is Yiddish for “Good Yom Tov,” which basically means “Good Holiday.” But most often, we say “L’Shanah Tovah,” which means “For a Good Year” and is short for “May You Be Inscribed in the Book of Life for a Good Year.”

According to a key prayer on the High Holy Days, we are told that on Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish new year), it is written, and on Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement) it is sealed — who shall live and who shall die, who shall be healthy and who shall be sick, who shall have peace and who shall be harried, who shall die by fire and who by water, etc. etc.

Pretty scary stuff, which keeps Jews coming to synagogues on those days even if they don’t come any other time of the year. So when we say “L’Shanah Tovah”, we are wishing someone to be given a good decree by God for the coming year. It is much more significant than the “Happy New Year” we say on December 31, where we celebrate that we are still alive at midnight to see the coming of another calendar year.

What Judaism Teaches

Judaism teaches that you can get inscribed in the Book of Life for a good year by repenting of your past sins and sincerely promising and hoping to do better in the coming year. If God judges that you are sincere, He will presumably grant your wish for a good year unless He has other plans for you.

A year is a long time and many things, good and bad, can happen in that time. So realistically, all we can be is hopeful that the sincerity of our repentance during the High Holy Days will have something to do with what lies ahead. However, try as I might (and it is arguable how hard I try), every year when I recite the prayers that say how “we” have sinned, I have never been able to find even one that I am not guilty of. Obviously, there is more going on here than the quality of my repentance.

The fact of the matter is we don’t know why we have the lives we are given. If we’re lucky, we will have plenty of good to match the bad — for the bad is a given — as they say, you can’t get through life without some suffering.

What Does the Shalomist Believe?

If repentance is not the answer, what is?

The Shalomist believes that reincarnation is a real part of our world and that we are put on this earth for the following reasons:
Read more »

Invite Them and They Will Come

According to a recent poll of church-goers, 82% of those who don’t go to or belong to a church would go to a church service this weekend if a friend or someone they know invited them. That is a huge number – 82%!

There is no reason to believe that the same number would be different for Jewish unaffiliated people.

So what is the problem? We all know what it is – Jewish prayer services are boring and unless the synagogue you’re inviting them to is friendly or makes a connection in some way, the people you invite are not likely to return, with the possible exception of the High Holidays.

According to a book called The Rise of the Nones by James Emery White, the secret to having people come and want to come back is the congregation must have the following factors:

  • be friendly and welcoming
  • be able to excite the children
  • have appealing music
  • have a nice-looking building
  • have a spiritual feeling

And, of course, the synagogue must have some or all of the attributes suggested by the Shalomist Movement, especially concerning the content of the prayer service and the quality and appeal of the rabbi.

So it’s not that hard to get new members, but your congregants must believe that their friends and relatives will have a good experience there or they won’t bother to invite them.

Was President Lyndon Johnson Jewish?

A few months ago, the Associated Press reported that newly released tapes from U.S. president Lyndon Johnson’s White House office showed LBJ’s “personal and often emotional connection to Israel.” The news agency pointed out that during the Johnson presidency (1963-1969), “the United States became Israel’s chief diplomatic ally and primary arms supplier.”

But the news report does little to reveal the full historical extent of Johnson’s actions on behalf of the Jewish people and the State of Israel.

Most students of the Arab-Israeli conflict can identify Johnson as the president during the 1967 war. But few know about LBJ’s actions to rescue hundreds of endangered Jews during the Holocaust – actions that could have thrown him out of Congress and into jail. Indeed, the title of “Righteous Gentile” is certainly appropriate in the case of the Texan, whose centennial year is being commemorated this year.

Appropriately enough, the annual Jerusalem Conference announced this week that it will honor Johnson.

Historians have revealed that Johnson, while serving as a young congressman in 1938 and 1939, arranged for visas to be supplied to Jews in Warsaw, and oversaw the apparently illegal immigration of hundreds of Jews through the port of Galveston, Texas….

Read more »

Palestinians — Learn from Us

by Alan Bergstein

To the Palestinians:

I am a Jew who asks but a few minutes of your time to consider the following differences between Jews and Muslims. Learn from us.

Jews do not hate Muslims. They do not call for the death of Muslims nor do they pray to their G-d to destroy Islamic nations, their leaders or their people. Jews do not slip into Muslim homes to slit the throats of innocent men, women and children and then name streets, plazas and schools in honor of these terrorists. A Jew, Dr. Baruch Goldstein who slew 29 Muslims back in 1994, in an act of terror was defamed and dishonored by Israel, its leaders and Jews around the world. Terror is not our game. Learn from us.

Jews do not enter countries as immigrants and then try to transform their host nations into Jewish states. Jews blossom in every land where they are permitted to live in peace and in every such instance bring prosperity to their new found lands. Learn from us.

Jews have only one Jewish nation in this world, Israel, in which their Muslim, Christian and Jewish citizens all have complete religious freedom and there is no distinction among them as to rights and privileges. Jews have suffered in Muslim lands for hundreds of years and have been treated as second class citizens…when they are permitted to live. Israel offers more security, freedom and opportunities to enjoy life to its Muslim residences than does any Muslim nation on earth. Learn from us.

Jewish parents raise their kids to succeed and benefit the modern world in which they are happy to live. Education and security are the foremost in the minds of Jewish mothers and fathers for their kids. They sacrifice to enable their children to enjoy life and enrich the lives of others. They do not train them to hate others, to kill others and to commit terrorist-style suicide to appears their G-d. Jewish parents relish, love and adore their children. Learn from us.

Jews do not want to kill Palestinians in Gaza. Israel drops warning letters and makes phone calls to you before it attacks military installations placed in your schools, hospitals and mosques as humanitarian gestures. Jewish doctors treat Muslims, even terrorists in Israel’s hospitals. Jews are a humane people. Jews do not wantonly bomb your homes nor do we offer after life rewards to our people who are killed in battle. We love our young men and women who are taken from their families, schools and professions to defend their citizens from your religious terror. Learn from us.

Jews love peace and abhor war. Jews want to live in peace with all its neighbors. Jews want to reach out and assist its neighbors but only when your religion and its people decide to live in peace with us. Learn from us.

[Reprinted from Jewish Journal, Palm Beach South, August 6, 2014.]

Welcome to My Blog!

This blog has one primary purpose – to help stop and hopefully reverse the attrition of Jews from the American Jewish community. Many others are trying to do this too; some are trying to make Jewish prayer services more interesting and others are focused on improving Jewish education.

Those are laudable efforts that I agree with. However, those efforts only reach those who are actively in the Jewish community at the present time. So many of our numbers are not in the Jewish community, never go to prayer services and never attend Jewish educational classes. In other words, current efforts are like preaching to the choir and not connecting at all to everyone else.

So how do we reach them?

My hope is to reach them through the books I am and will be writing. Perhaps this blog/website will also help. I hope so. I start from one basic assumption: If you have a product and it is not selling, you either have to change the buyers or you have to change the product. Read more »

Judaism Has Changed Before — Part 1

Many people think that Judaism has been the same since it began more than 5,000 years ago and, therefore, it should not change now. They are very wrong. Let me give some examples:

Judaism began as a family religion, starting with Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob. When Joseph was in Egypt, his brothers came to live there because there was a famine where they were living. They stayed in Egypt 400 years, going from invited guests to total slavery. When Moses led them out of Egypt, they had become separate tribes, descending primarily from the 12 sons of Jacob and Joseph. During their wanderings in the desert, and then the settling of the Promised Land, it was clear there was as much loyalty, or more, to their tribes than to the nation as a whole. So Judaism had gone from a family religion to a tribal religion. Read more »