Kelsey Media

You say you’re conservative, but you’re pretty frum!

161 comments

Like most folks who grew up in a frum environment I had very little exposure to other non-“orthodox” streams of Judaism. The entire extended family on my fathers side is frum all the way back, so I never had any conservative or reform bar mitzvah’s that we had to deal with – I say deal with because whenever someone frum has a non-orthodox event to go to they make a whole fuss about how yopu can’t go into a conservative or a reform shul – but that they got a heter to attend to the kiddush. So until moving to from Rochester to Albany I never had much close contact to other non-orthodox Jews. Sure, I saw them on line at H and H Bagels after Yom Kippur and occasionally at Jewish events, but I never really entered their homes and got to examine them up close, they were as foreign to me as Chassidim and Catholics.

Through blogging I have been meeting more and more non-observant Jews, you may or may not be surprised that almost 40% of the folks reading Frum Satire do not identify as orthodox, of course I have noticed that non-observant Jews are really into the movement they are affiliated with and it’s not so much about what your actual hashkafa may be. For instance, last year some fans of mine hosted me in Los Angeles for a week and they are staunch conservatives, but for me it was the first time I met a frum conservative. The man of the house wore his yarmulke and tzitzis everywhere including work, davened every day and kept a fully kosher home, I was totally surprised for I have been taught my whole life that conservative Judaism isn’t really Judaism, yet here I am meeting Jews who seem to be following everythingb that I follow except she wears a talis on shabbos and there’s no mechitza – big deal.

So imagine my shock when I walked into the kitchen of Congregation Beth Shalom in San Francisco this past Thursday to discover only glatt kosher meat and a big sign telling me that the Luchos (tablet) K was not allowed in the kitchen. I was hired by 12 Tribes Kosher Food to help with a catering event over the weekend and my experience has kind of changed my views on kasharus trust and how we eat. Not only was all the meat organic and free range, it was all glatt and has to be. The veggies are checked for bugs and a quick glance in all the fridges revealed that no shady hechsherim were allowed in the kitchen, but this is a conservative shul I proclaimed in my head – sure enough the bathrooms had electronic sinks and urinals so at least they do something wrong – but their kitchen was fully kosher and I would eat the food made by 12 Tribes.

It seems that conservative and reform Judaism is going through a baal teshuva stage, like the younger generation is kind of looking at their parents who identify as Jews but do absolutely nothing besides bar mitrzvah or confirmation and temple on high holidays and it seems as if the younger crowd wants more. You have this generation of people who want to be individuals and retain their culture and I think this drives a lot of people to make choices like the person who told me recently that they feel living in a community is important and having to drive to shul on shabbos means you aren’t really in a community.

In most conservative homes I have been in you really couldn’t differentiate between that an orthodox home, they had the seforim, no TV, Marc Chagal print, some figurines of dancing chassidim and a case of cherry wood and silver kiddush products. For many conservatives I think it’s more about affiliation and although by many of our standards, standards that I grew up with and were taught by school and family many conservatives would in fact be considered orthodox – I think there’s a general state of ignorance in the frum community about other sects of Jews who don’t claim to be practicing authentic Judaism – which orthodoxy is most definitely not – who knows what’s authentic. I’m beginning the think the mesorah is akin to a game of telephone which lasts for 3000 years in which case we don’t exactly know if everyone was smoking some serious stuff at Sinai or it actually happened as it literally states in the Torah.

  • http://catalyticreactions.blogspot.com Shoshie

    We’ve got a nice little chevre of frum Conservative Jews up in Seattle. You’d probably eat from our kitchen too. We don’t accept shady hekshers and the kitchen is vegetarian, just to keep things simple.

    • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

      Shoshie, how do you all relate to the Judeo-Spanish Sephardim there? A traditional Judeo-Spanish Sephardi, one who has both the mentality/ethos and the practical halakhic knowledge, could probably pretty easily consider a Conservadox person to be frum. Just look at Rabbi Marc Angel, for example, who is from Seattle. So I’m curious, do you have any relationship with the Sephardim there, and if so, what kind?

      • http://catalyticreactions.blogspot.com Shoshie

        Eh, I live on the other side of town from all the Sephardim. I’m friends with some of them, but it’s not my community. On the North Side of town, we have a bunch of hippy Jews, frum Conservative types, Lubavitchers, and people who aren’t Lubavitchers but go to the Lubavitcher schul because they’d rather live here than in Seward Park. But very few Sephardim.

        • Mordechai

          Hey, I live in WA too! Except Renton, and not really Seattle, but I’m close enough to Seward Park, it’s not that bad, from my experiences there.

  • http://catalyticreactions.blogspot.com Shoshie

    Oh, and our faucets aren’t electronic. =P

  • Yoreh K’chetz

    Just because they keep kosher, that doesn’t necessarily make them frum. The pope years a kippah and bin laden had a full beard. Reminds me of the story of the pig sticking out it’s split hooves as if to say he’s kosher.

    The fact that they keep kosher is nice. But depending on what they allow to go on in their temples, some “conservative” places are just as assur to pray in as reform.

    • Aliza T.

      You unwittingly provided a perfect explanation to what the problem is and why “frum” ppl don’t view conservative as authentic jews. You equated keeping kosher, a commandment to having a beard and wearing a piece of cloth on your head, which are both purely “religious image” things.

      • Yoreh K’chetz

        Aliza,

        When conservative people call women up to the Torah, and rewrite prayers to be “genderless”, they’re crossing the line. When they call up non Jews to the Torah (my in laws witnessed this at a Houston bar mitzva), they might as well be worshipping satan.

        • nava h.

          worshipping satan? Really? I hope you are being sarcastic.

          • Yoreh K’chetz

            Nava,

            I’m not being sarcastic. Not only did they call up the bar mitzvah kid who wasn’t a Jew, they even called up his grandmother who was wearing a crucifix!

            The real sarcasm is that they have the nerve to call themselves conservative.

        • http://2nd-son.blogspot.com/ G*3

          > When conservative people call women up to the Torah

          What exactly is assur about giving a woman an aliya? From what I’ve seen, the only reason we don’t is because of tznius and kavod hatzibur. Tznius is relative to cultural norms, and if the tzibur doesn’t mind, then giving a woman and aliya is not infringing on the tzibur’s kavod.

          > rewrite prayers to be “genderless”

          As opposed to people who rewrite prayers so that they’re an ungrammatical mish-mash of Ashkenazi and Sefardi nusachs?

          > they might as well be worshipping satan

          “Satan” is a Christian figure, and “worshipping Satan” is a Christian, not Jewish, insult. In Judaism, there is no evil being known as “Satan,” only a prosecuting angel whose name, “the satan,” translates as “the opposition.”

          • Shut up

            Satan is a Christian figure? Have you ever read the Shema?

            • Ken

              Yes, Satan with a capital ‘S’ is a Christian concept. I Googled “Satan Shema” to see how you were linking the two and came up with a “Messianic Hebrew” resource. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Satan

              • Yoreh K’chetz

                Ken,

                We ask God to protect us from the satan in the morning blessings as well as in the evening and bedtime prayers.

          • confused

            i grew up conservative and we cannot reprimand G3 for insisting that “Satan” is a Christian idea…i didn’t know Satan was ours until I read the Shema in English…about 10 years AFTER my Conservative Hebrew schooling (land of bagels on Sunday and treif art projects (we made menorahs one Hanukah and no one ever mentioned that the candles had to be in a straight row…))

        • danielGA

          so when they don’t do it your way, they’re “satan worshippers”? i don’t think YOU’RE a jew. you sound more like a fundamentalist christian!

          where in the torah or even the talmud does it say that women can’t hold a sefer torah?

          • Yoreh K’chetz

            Daniel/G3,

            A woman is not forbidden to read from a sefer Torah in public according to the torah, just as one isn’t prohibited from mixing chicken and dairy.

            Shulchan Aruch says women don’t do so out of respect for the shul. Therefore, shuls that follow shulchan aruch, don’t allow it.

            As for caling a christian woman wearing a crucifix up to bless the Torah saying “who chose us from all nations”, you can’t get more hypocritical. Probably worse than satan worship…

          • Ansy

            women cant hold a torah because for reasons of tumas zavah/niddah (cant be metameh a sefer torah), not because of a straight commandment. if you believe that everything not written explicitly in the torah is permissible, then the disconnect is too great to warrant a discussion.

            • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

              Men have tumat MEIT.

            • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

              I’m reminded of a person who once said that women cannot go to a cemetery because their tumat niddah will infect all the dead bodies who have tumat meit. Tumat meit is av ha-tumah! There’s nothing higher!

            • Ken

              “women cant hold a torah because for reasons of tumas zavah/niddah (cant be metameh a sefer torah),” That is not true. Ask your posek.

              • occasional reader

                I could be wrong, but I think it may be a sephardi ashkenaz difference- ashkenazim allow it in theory, sephardim not.

            • Jonathan

              Torah is not able to become impure from a women in niddah….there is nothing forbidding a women from touching a Torah.

        • Bubba Metzia

          I’ve never heard of non-Jews being called up to the Torah in a Conservative shul. Are you sure it wasn’t Reform?

          As for the women being called up to the Torah, in the Jewish communities in Cochin (Southern India) it has been the minhag for women to be called to the Torah there for centuries (as long as they were not in niddah). Long before there was such thing as a Conservative or Reform movement.

          • Yoreh K’chetz

            Bubba,

            I wasn’t their, my in laws said it was conservative. I was originally shocked when I heard this, as in Montreal (where I live), the conservative synagogue is more “frum” than a typical American one.

            I wouldn’t have been surprised at all if it were to happen in a reform temple, as those guys allow interfaith and same s*x marriage.

            As for minhagim from India, I wouldn’t rely on them as a basis for mainstream Judaism. They were cut off from the rest of us for centuries, and their mihagim evolved without mainstream sephardi & ashkenaz influence.

            It is important to note that while we’ve had major halachic works and commentaries written from all over Europe and the middle east, I don’t know of any from India.

            • Conservative Scifi

              The Rabbinical Assembly won’t allow an atheist to be Shaliach Tzibbur (http://www.rabbinicalassembly.org/sites/default/files/public/halakhah/teshuvot/19861990/lincoln_atheist.pdf)
              There is no way a conservative congregation would allow a non-jew to have an aliyah or participate in the service. To the extent that the synagogue claims to be conservative, they’re not. Even the most liberal conservative synagogues that I’ve ever seen won’t go that far.

            • OTD chick

              That’s because the Chochin community was not big enough to support scholars. Nevertheless, the point is that things evolve and why can’t Conservative evolve in a way that allows women dignity. Because you and other Orthodox men are sexist?

      • Anonymous

        it’s fundamental. conservatives believe the torah is written by man. after that the rest is window dressing.

        • A. Nuran

          Well, we know that some of it was lifted from Hammurabi. And some things like a few of the names of God are Canaanite ones. And it couldn’t have been written letter-for-letter as it is now because the Hebrew alphabet we use now didn’t exist back then. And a few other minor details.

          But other than that, yeah, absolutely :)

          • Anonymous

            huh?

          • Anonymous

            i guess your belief (even though you claim to KNOW) exemplifies the core difference between orthodoxy and others

        • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

          I have no idea who wrote the Torah, but I doubt what we have today is exactly what was given at sinai – if anything was given at all.

          • ipitythefoo

            Wow. That was offensive.

            • danielGA

              i don’t mean to jump on this heshy, cos i think everyone has different views and that’s OK— but doesn’t that disqualify you from being orthodox? i mean, nobody’s going to kick you out or anything but that is probably the biggest difference between conservative and orthodox.

          • hebrewgirl

            “I have no idea who wrote the Torah, but I doubt what we have today is exactly what was given at Sinai- if anything was given at all.”

            Heshy, this is why I continue to follow your blog! Thanks for the nice words about my shul’s kitchen kashrut and the wonderful folks at Twelve Tribes. You’re a mensch.

          • sk

            That’s what Mohammed (yemach shemo) said when the Jews rejected Islam. He claimed that the Torah had been corrupted over the centuries, and he had the authentic version.

            • Avrumy

              Followed by Joseph Smith a few centuries later with the same story.

  • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

    “e[le]ctronic sinks and urinals so at least they do something wrong”

    What exactly do these sinks and urinals do? According to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and many Sephardim (I don’t know which Sephardim – i.e. I don’t have rabbis’ names – but according to some of my Sephardi friends, the following is what they told me their shita is), electricity per se is not forbidden on Shabbat. Electricity, they say, is like water. You can use water to power a wheel and do the melakhah of threshing, but you can also use water to clean a hard surface (not cloth), or you can drink it. So too with electricity, they say: what matters is whether the electricity is being used to do one of the 39 melakhot. An incandescent bulb would be some sort of eish (fire) or bishul (cooking), but an LED or fluorescent bulb might not be, and certainly there is no melakhah of “motion-sensing toilet flusher”. So these Conservatives might just be relying on Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.

    • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

      “One man’s apikorus in another man’s talmud chochom”

      • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

        I just copied (Ctrl+C) that from the top of your page, but notice it has a typo.

      • Yoreh K’chetz

        Michael Makovi,

        “One man’s apikorus in another man’s talmud chochom”

        Following that logic, the pope is a rabbi and bin laden was a chassid.

        • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

          Elu v’elu divrei elokim haim

          Obviously, not everything is kosher, but there are a lot of supposedly treif things out there that are really kosher according to the right opinion. You don’t have to follow those opinions, but you have to respect those who do.

          • Yoreh K’chetz

            Michael,

            Elu v’elu is only applicable when you have 2 VALID opinions ;)

            • Frumsatire Fan

              Have you heard of “the True Scotsman”?

            • Frumsatire Fan

              P.S. I’m not saying ALL opinions are always equally valid, just pointing a potential problem here.

              • OTD chick

                Opinions are like @$$holes. Everyone has one and they all stink.

                not mine of course

            • A. Nuran

              And of course the only VALID opinions are ones with which you already agree.

              Letter-perfect circular reasoning there.

              • Yoreh K’chetz

                Nuran,

                Any Jew that transgresses Shabbat in public is considered to deny God. Subsequently, anyone that denies God can’t have a valid halachic opinion. It’s that simple.

                • FrumGer

                  one of the conservitive shuls in my city has a rabbi that lives less than a mile from shul and drives… ya these guys really have a chavod for Torah

                  • Ken

                    Dan kol adam l’chaf zechut doesn’t only apply to situations in which it comes easily. If it did it wouldn’t have needed to be said. It also doesn’t come with a carve-out clause for non-Orthodox Jews. S/he’s following a p’sak you find to be intolerably wrong. I pretty much agree with you. But following a p’sak you or I believe to be fundamentally errant is not the same thing as having no “chavod for Torah.”

            • Bubba Metzia

              There are many valid opinions that say certain things are kosher that not everyone agrees upon. The Italian Jewish community is known to have eaten swordfish historically. And many Ashkenazi communities eat non-Glatt meat (I think the opinion on that was from Tosafos, but I’m not positive).

    • Ansy

      You are a bit mistaken with your assumption when you say…

      “An incandescent bulb would be some sort of eish (fire) or bishul (cooking), but an LED or fluorescent bulb might not be, and certainly there is no melakhah of “motion-sensing toilet flusher”. ”

      The issurim of electricity on shabbos are not limited to fire. Indeed, that is the consensus view as to the prohibition of turning on/off incandescent bulbs on shabbos. However, electrical appliances, which includes other types of light (LED, fluorescent, etc), as well as motion sensing flushers, and anything else with an electrical current / circuit running through it, are considered assur to use on shabbos (on a biblical, not rabbinic, level) because of any one, or all, of the following: molid (creating something new), boneh (building), makeh bpatish (completing a product), creating a fire (either through sparks from the circuit completion, or additional fuel consumption at the power grid’s core), or cooking. For explanations as to the reasons, i encourage you to go through the following article from the Journal of Contemporary Halacha.

      http://www.daat.ac.il/daat/english/journal/broyde_1.htm

      • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

        Ansy, I am discussing the view of Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach. He would disagree with everything you just said. According to Rabbi Auerbach, electricity is forbidden only when the act itself that you are trying to accomplish, is a melakhah. For example, an electronic water kettle would be forbidden because heating water is forbidden, not because of the electricity per se.

        • Ansy

          he wouldnt disagree because it doesnt conflict – running electricity itself does not constitute a melacha – thats why you can leave a light on before shabbos. Activating an electrical circuit, according to consensus opinion (including Rav Auerbach ztl) IS a melacha for the reasons outlined above and explained in the article.

          as you said… “So too with electricity, they say: what matters is whether the electricity is being used to do one of the 39 melakhot….”

          by activating a circuit on shabbos, you are doing one, if not many, of the 39 melachos.

          • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

            “by activating a circuit on shabbos, you are doing one, if not many, of the 39 melachos.”

            THAT is what Rabbi Auerbach rejects. He did NOT believe that there was any molid or makeh ba-patish or boneh or some such. According to him, electricity was forbidden only if the appliance or device itself did a melakhah, such as bishul.

            • Ansy

              I stand corrected, Rav Auerbach ztl prohibits appliances as a minhag yisrael. However, he is in the extreme minority (he is the only one, really). Furthermore, in line with many other of your posts (eg swordfish, women as dayanos/rabbis), you commonly quote opinions that are in the extreme minority and are more suggestions than outright rulings. While as an academic exercise there is certainly nothing wrong (in fact its great as it furthers understanding and scholarship), on a practical level of practice, the concept of acharei rabiim lehatos (among those qualified to rule on such matters) exists for a reason. “Heter hunting” is not the way to go about things, in both religion and life in general.

    • http://2nd-son.blogspot.com/ G*3

      According to some, banning electricity on Shabbos was a result of many rabbonim at the time having an imperfect understanding of what electricity is. Today we don’t use electricity because it has become a minhag yisrael.. And unlike Orthodoxy, the Conservative Movement holds that a council of rabonim can overturn a minhag yisrael.

      • Synapse

        Most of the individuals who assured it investigated the matter throughly and spoke with electricians and had a long time to look into the matter. Rav Moshe Feinstein only passed away in 87 and Rav Shlomo zalman Auerbach in 95 and both held it was assur due to various reasons they concluded.

        Regardless, the conservative movement holds a council of rabbonim can even overturn the accepted halacha, which is the real problem in the movement.

      • Yoreh K’chetz

        G*3,

        The Conservative Movement holds that a council of rabonim can overturn halacha as well. I don’t see how they have the audacity to call themselves “rabonim” when they don’t observe halacha.

        Did these guys get their ordinations from a gumball machine or a cereal box?

        Frum rabbis have the power to overturn simple minhagim, yet they choose not to do so out of humility. That’s why we are “stuck” with outdated minhagim like the 2nd day of yom tov, kitniyot, etc.

        • Ken

          “That’s why we are “stuck. . .” IMO, that is wrong. The halachic system–God’s halachic system, that is–is not a system that gets “stuck.” That is a modern invention and it is, really, in and of itself “off the derech.” You are very good at identifying the reasons you believe Conservative Judaism is off the derech as it were. They don’t understand halacha. They don’t follow halacha. They got their ordinations from a cereal box. Etc. That’s all fine. Have fun. But you do it *instead of* noticing that most of today’s “Orthodoxy” is *itself* no longer really a “halakhic movement” either. The “halakha” you describe–the halakha that gets “stuck”– is a shell of its former self and it is IMO no closer to “authentic” than the approach you so derisively reject.

  • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

    Oh, and if you ever see a person listen to women sing, he might be completely frum too: A New Hearing for Kol Ishah</shameless plug>

  • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

    Oh, and you know how eating swordfish is a litmus test for who is Conservative? Well, my havruta in yeshiva, who is originally from Athens, but who lived for a few years in Manchester, and associated with the Gibaltrar-ian community there, tells me that Moroccan Jews eat swordfish with no problem.

    • A. Nuran

      Sephardim and Central Asians and Mizrahim and Maghrebi and Chinese and Ethiopian Jews aren’t REALLY Jews, you know. Only half-Europeans who cosplay Jew-hating Polacks and speak a bastardized form of very low German are REAL Jews.

      • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

        :D

      • MM

        A.Nuran, Yiddish is High German (Hoch Deutsch), as are Standard German, Schweizer Deutsch (Swiss German), Pennsylfawnish Deitsch (Pennsylvania Dutch), Bayerisch, (Bavarian) and the Austrian dialects . English, Netherlandish (Nederlands), Frisian (Frysk), Flemish (Vlaams), and Plattdeutsch are Low German. All forms of Germanic went through the first sound shift (Grimm’s Law), but only High German went through the second (High German) sound shift. Thus English has head (originally heafod), and Dutch has hoofd, but Standard German has Kopf, and Yiddish has kop. English has tooth and Dutch has tand, while Standard German has Zahn and Yiddish has tzeyn (or whatever vowel your dialect uses–only the consonants are pertinent here). Just sayin’

      • Yoreh K’chetz

        Nuran,

        I’m not too sure, but I think ashkenazim spawned the modern day conservative and reform movements. Of course their were once beitusim and tzidukim, but that was before the diaspora.

        Anyway, the majority of sephardim that follow judaism are traditional in the real sense of the word. Even many of the secular ones are essentially non practicing orthodox, and shun farces like the conservative, reform and reconstuctionist movements.

        • JT

          The Jewish Theological Seminary was founded by Rabbi Sabato Morais, a Portuguese-Italian Sephardi. Just saying.

          • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

            JT, there were basically two wings in JTS, the conservative nearly-Orthodox wing (with people like Morais), and the liberal nearly-Reform wing. See “Factors of Traditionalism in Conservative Jew Law” by Evan Hoffman. Hoffman’s thesis is that the two wings clashed, resulting in deadlock and gridlock, preventing any progress towards either the right or the left, effectively fixing Conservative Judaism in place as nearly Orthodox, until it was decided that even a minority decision was as authoritative as a majority decision, allowing the nearly-Reform wing to start bringing Conservatism to the left, because the nearly-Orthodox wing lost its ability to halt that leftward move by gridlock. Also, he says, while JTS was always half-Orthodox and half-Reform, the RA (Rabbinical Assembly) was decidedly less traditionally observant than JTS.

  • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

    Oh, and when I was in Rabbi Eli Teitelbaum’s Camp Sdei Chemed, then-counselor Rabbi Leib Irons (who is today the director of NCSY in Canada) told us that a few years previously, they encountered a USY trip, with all the children, he said, dressed more frumly than Camp Sdei Chemed’s campers.

  • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

    Oh, and speaking of “authentic Judaism”, I’m reminded of Authentic Libertarianism by Gary North (a Christian Reconstructionist, meaning he wants America to have a Biblical-theocratic Ron Paul-style libertarianism): “Whenever you hear the adjective ‘authentic’ applied to a movement, ideology, or worldview, you can be sure of one thing: the person who just used the adjective has a definition in mind that excludes at least 80% of the members of the group that he imagines himself to me a member of. Maybe it’s as high as 98%. The word ‘authentic’ is a kind of encircling barbed wire barrier that excludes the uninformed barbarians who have surreptitiously weaseled their way into the movement.”

    Something to think about.

  • Jeremy

    I think externalities are very easy to mimic, but at the core the main discrepancy is a fundamental one:
    1. Authorship of the Torah
    2. Legitimacy of the Oral Tradition
    3. Structure of interpretation of the oral tradition.

    Note that the official Conservative chumash instead of having rashi has a running commentaries by a jewish sci-fi writter, not even a bible scholar….

    • Yoreh K’chetz

      Jeremy,

      You mean to say that the have the Mr. Spock edition? :) :) :)

      • Jeremy

        indeed! much better than Star Trek

    • Jacob T

      Absolutely correct. Took me a long time to realize that so long as I believed what I believe about the authorship of the Torah, I could never be Orthodox, but here we are.

      Question though–what Sci-Fi did Chaim Potok write? I’d love to read it…

      • Jeremy

        I was exagerating ;) , the guy has mainly written Novels….i.e. the chosen, davita´s harp, etc..

        I just think it is funny that you have a non

        • Ken

          1) He was a rabbi. 2) He didn’t write the commentary.

    • Ken

      Ok, there’s a motherlode of narishkeit on this page but this cake-taker got me to actually comment: “Note that the official Conservative chumash instead of having rashi has a running commentaries by a jewish sci-fi writter, not even a bible scholar.” You seem pretty confident but you, of course, don’t know what you’re talking about. The Etz Hayim Chumash has 2 main commentaries. The one “above the line” is a peshat oriented commentary focussing on linguistics, philology and historical context. It is a shortened version of the JPS Torah Commentary, the 5 volumes of which are written by 4 modern Jewish Bible scholars–Nachum Sarna, Baruch Levine, Jacob Milgrom and Jeff Tigay. The distillation was edited by Chaim Potok, the original literary editor of the Commentary and yes, himself a scholar and author but hardly of “sci-fi,” but in any event not the actual source of the commentary itself. The “below the line commentary” is a compendium of rabbinic, midrashic and hasidic material drawing upon 2000 years of rabbinic tradition. Including Rashi. A “running commentary by a Jewish sci-fi writer?” The people who wrote and edited the Etz Hayim commentary will forget more Torah tomorrow than you or I will learn in a lifetime.

      • hebrewgirl

        Go Ken!!

        • Jeremy

          What about Kushner´s Hakdamah, coming from a man who himself thinks G´d is NOT Almighty?…..and you are going to tell me that there is no Agenda with the anthology of “compendium of rabbinic, midrashic and hasidic material drawing upon 2000 years of rabbinic tradition. Including Rashi” I could also quote as many obscure sources to make any point that I want… i.e. 1. Pesaht on Tanya (hasidic source) you could pray to dead people because they have a tzelem elokim. 2. Gemara in Sanhedrin, Moshiach will come from the dead ….oops i think i just gave an OK to christianity…..

          • Ken

            Try actually reading the commentaries, then discuss them intelligently. You’re really just embarrassing yourself by continuing to comment from a position of ignorance on the topic. The general concern of the “peshat” commentary is to seek to precisely understand the meaning of the actual language. It’s really not the nest of apikorsus you wish it to be so you can be comfortable in your own faith in the wickedness of anything that isn’t in your comfort zone.

            • Ken

              Also, as for the “Agenda” [sic] of the derash commentary, I’ve studied it. Its Agenda is Torah. Period.

              • Barbie

                Chill out…the guy actually made a point.

                • Ken

                  If by “actually made a point” you mean completely made something up about material that has little to no actual accuracy then yes, I suppose he did.

  • anonimo

    There are problems with frum Jews eating at conservative homes and shuls that “look” frum:

    – Conservatives generally do not view stam yayin as forbidden and will thus drink wine without a hechsher. Non-mevushal wine may be rendered unkosher by Conservative Jews if they don’t observe Shabbat to Orthodox standards or if the Conservative Jew is not a Jew according to Orthodoxy.
    – Cheeses made with vegetarian or microbial rennet may be kosher by Conservative standards even without a hechsher
    – swordfish
    – People who are Jews by Conservative standards but not Orthodox (i.e. Conservative converts or children of mothers who are Conservative converts) may be doing the cooking, and this would violate the rule against bishul aku”m (cooking by worshippers of stars and signs)

    • Anonymous

      How is it bishul aku”m if the person has converted (or mother has converted) to Judaism? Conservative Judaism may not be identical to the Judaism the Orthodox practice, but as Heshy points out in this article, it’s pretty darn close, and there is certainly no “worshiping of stars and signs” involved.

      • G

        I have a friend who is a staunch Conservative Jew. He knows his Judaism inside out, and only eats kosher meat. But he drives on shabbos, and sends emails as well(we are on the same listserv).

        How is that pretty darn close to Orthodox Judaism? Once your driving, your driving

        • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

          I have a friend who is staunch orthodox, but he is dishonest in business dealings – at least the conservatives are honest about what they do – that’s the big difference between orthodox and conservatives. The conservatives don’t pretend to be something they are not, orthodox generally take care to hide all of their non-orthodox practices.

          • G

            Right everyone has their own personal and moral yetza haras. But youre trying to point out that some conservative Jews are really just frum Jews without mechetzas? Its far from that. Once you are doing straight malakah such as driving on Shabbos, how is that close to Orthodox Judaism?

      • anonimo

        How is it bishul ak”um if the person has converted? Well according to Orthodoxy, if a person converts through Conservative auspices, he or she has NOT converted at all, and remains fully a non-Jew. They may not be worshipping stars and signs, but the Rabbis have lumped Conservative gerim in the same category as idolators in terms of forbidding cooked food, wine, and cheese from them for the sake of preventing intermarriage. According to Orthodoxy, it’s not an intermarriage if you marry an atheist or Christian if they had a Jewish mother, but it is an intermarriage if you marry a Conservative convert, even one who keeps kosher and davens three times daily and doesn’t drive to shul on Shabbos. Marriage of the second kind must be avoided at all costs because it’s apparently genocide of the Jewish people.

    • A. Nuran

      The milk I use to make cheese is kosher. So is the vegetable-derived rennet. The utensils have never been used for anything else and are thoroughly cleaned, boiled and disinfected after every use in a facility which is used for no other purpose.

      I haven’t paid the Kosher Nostra, but I’d bet my standards are actually stricter than theirs. I can’t be paid off to look the other way.

    • leah

      Thanks, Anonimo. You have clearly pointed out to me that no matter how observant I am, I will never be “frum.” Baruch haShem.

    • Bubba Metzia

      So don’t drink non-mevushal wine in those homes. My family usually had Kedem grape juice anyways.

      Soft cheeses made in the United States are heated when they’re cooking to the point where it’s considered to be kosher. With hard cheeses I’m pretty sure that the Conservative movement still requires supervision.

      There are many frum people from non-Ashkenazi backgrounds who also eat swordfish, and there are many Conservative Jews who don’t eat swordfish (I never ate it growing up).

  • texgator

    I think you’ve run into a few places that are going neo-traditional….and I think that’s a pretty interesting trend. However, get out of the major urban areas and you will find that Conservative Judiasm is NOTHING like that. The amount of “frum” Conservatives in your typical out of town community is next to zero.

    • Batsheva

      I live in Dayton, Ohio. That’s about as out-of-town as you can get. And while my shul is not Conservative, that is merely a matter of unavoidable circumstances. My husband and I don’t ride on Shabbat, keep strictly kosher, at home and out. We pre-tear our toilet paper, for crying out loud. Yet my husband and I both agree that women make excellent rabbis and should be counted in the minyan. That’s the fundamental difference between Conservative and Ortho. Driving to shul and acceptable hechsherim are the only others. And yes, there are plenty of Conservative Jews who actually do practice this way, although we are definitely a small minority.

      • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

        I don’t know about women in a minyan, but Rabbi Benzion Uziel, in his teshuva on women’s suffrage, said women can be dayanot. If so, then presumably they can be rabbis too.

        Cf. this here fact about Hakham Jose Faur (an unimpeachably Orthodox rabbi), regarding his affiliation with JTS: “Faur left the school in 1985, when the Graduate Rabbinical School began admitting women. He claimed that the decision to ordain women should have been approached as an issue of Jewish law and not as administrative/denominational policy; by leaving the decision up to a faculty vote instead of forming a collaborative, trans-denominational committee to investigate and address the issue, Faur believed that the JTSA was not giving Jewish women the chance to legitimately pursue ordination within the existing Jewish legal framework. Faur later sued for breach of contract, arguing that by admitting women in such a manner, the seminary was in effect forcing him to resign.”

        • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

          (Rabbi Uziel relies on Tosafot regarding Devorah (the Biblical personage). Rabbi Uziel basically argues that according to Tosafot’s interpretation of Devorah, women can be dayanot.)

      • MM

        Batsheva, I grew up conservative in a small city in Pennsylvania. We kept kosher (my uncle was the community schochet), the dairy company was owned by Jews. we kept shabbos the way my grandparents kept it in the old country, we kids were taught about the oral law, etc., nobody drank wine except Manischevitz on shabbos and yuntiff. The only difference between the way we observed and the way the orthodox shul observed was that we had no mechitza. In those days (sixty years ago) everyone went by the OU hechsher on the package, everybody drove because the neighborhoods around the shuls had become unlivable, and there was no mikveh in town, so only a few women (conservative and orthodox) drove more than an hour each way to go to the nearest mikveh. In our conservative shul women did not count in a minyan nor were they called for aliyahs.

        I now live far away from my original home, but I still read the shul newsletter. In many respects the shul seems to have moved even further to the right than it was when when I was a child, but it is now egalitarian. In fact, they just hired a female rabbi after a rather acrimonious parting of the ways with the previous male rabbi.

        My grandparents straight from the poorest, most backward shtetl in eastern Europe, right smackdab in the middle of the Pripet Marshes (now just inside the border of Belarus), were the ones who chose the conservative shul (the ortho one was equal walking distance from their home in the opposite direction). I think they went conservative because of no mechitza. When my bubbe of blessed memory back in the old country married at the beginning of the twentieth century, she refused to cover her hair–to the extreme consternation of her father-in-law, Reb Yitzhak Moshe ha-Kohen. And she sure as heck wasn’t going to sit behind a mechitza.

        • Anonymous

          There’s a concept in the midwest – Traditional synagogues. Exact same service as the Orthodox, just no mechitza. No egalitarianism.

          In terms of Conservative Judaism, just like there are lots of different types of Orthodoxy, there a lot of different types of Conservative.

          • OTD chick

            They have to make sure to treat women like second class citizens

      • Anonymous

        the fundamental difference is did the torah come from man or God?

  • http://www.amsterdamcentral.net Adam Stein

    You are not accurate about Orthodox attending family bar Mitzvha’s in Conservative Syng. many do, typically I have seen them sitting as far as possible in an unoccupied row. Some may daven before but not all. It’s not accurate at all to imply that all Orthodox would insult their family in such a manner. Otherwise, yes you may be onto something.

    • http://www.frumsatire.net Heshy Fried

      Can’t you take a joke, of course it’s not accurate – real frum people won’t step foot into the shul at all.

  • BF

    Kudos to the Conservative movement for being a gateway drug to observance for my collegiate Gen-X peer group and an incubator for many “breakaway” orthodox shuls.

    The next schism, heaven forbid, isn’t likely to have anything to do with Reform, Conservative or Riverdale Judaism. It will probably take place when some closeted nudniks channel their frustration and post strident pashkevils signed by sadly misled gedolim and stage an ostensibly anti-orthoprax inquisition to purge the frum ranks of people who believe that science and grammar are kosher, fraud and molestation are treif and that Israel and America are miracles.

  • http://conservadox.tripod.com Woodrow/Conservadox

    I guess this entire argument shows the validity of the old cliche “Its all relative.” Compared to the classical Reform environment I grew up in, the differences look pretty bridgeable.

    But if you are used to a completely Orthodox environment, and have been educated to believe that the halachic disagreements between O and C are unbridgeable (while the ones within Orthodoxy aren’t), then of course you’re emphasize those differences.

    I don’t think there’s any way to win an argument either way- its just a difference in perspective, like looking at different bits of a kaleidoscope.

  • http://conservadox.tripod.com Woodrow/Conservadox

    I guess this entire argument shows the validity of the old cliche “Its all relative.” Compared to the classical Reform environment I grew up in, the differences look pretty small.

    But if you are used to a completely Orthodox environment, and have been educated to believe that the halachic disagreements between O and C are unbridgeable (while the ones within Orthodoxy aren’t), then of course you’re emphasize those differences.

    I don’t think there’s any way to win an argument either way- its just a difference in perspective, like looking at different bits of a kaleidoscope.

  • Yishai

    I think a lot of Conservative shuls are not that much from observant than the Reform. Whole categories of mitzvot are just ignored — for example, I think a lot of Conservative shuls don’t even have mikvas. There are at least a few “conservadox” folks in some communities — Conservatives who are pretty observant — but I think most members of Conservative congregations fall more toward the Reform side.

  • Ken

    Ok, there’s a motherlode of narishkeit on this page but this cake-taker got me to actually comment: “Note that the official Conservative chumash instead of having rashi has a running commentaries by a jewish sci-fi writter, not even a bible scholar.” You seem pretty confident but you, of course, don’t know what you’re talking about. The Etz Hayim Chumash has 2 main commentaries. The one “above the line” is a peshat oriented commentary focussing on linguistics, philology and historical context. It is a shortened version of the JPS Torah commentary, the 5 volumes of which are written by 4 modern Jewish Bible scholars–Nachum Sarna, Baruch Levine, Jacob Milgrom and Jeff Tigay. The distillation was edited by Chaim Potok, the original literary editor of the Commentary and yes, himself a scholar and author but hardly of “sci-fi.” The “below the line commentary” is a compendium of rabbinic, midrashic and hasidic material drawing upon 2000 years of rabbinic tradition. Including Rashi. A “running commentary by a Jewish sci-fi writer?” The people who wrote and edited the Etz Hayim commentary will forget more Torah tomorrow than you or I will learn in a lifetime.

    To the OP: You discovered what you were told was wrong. You discovered Conservative Judaism does care about halakha and serious halakhic observance and shmirat mitzvot. You concluded it must be “going through a ba’al t’shuva stage.” LOL. I guess that’s easier for you than to confront the reality that the bill of goods you’ve been sold is flat out wrong. CJ has its share of problems and failures and all too many Conservative Jews also believe what you were taught–that CJ is not really serious about Jewish practice–but you were only surprised to discover kashrut in a Conservative setting because you believed something that was incorrect in the first place. The good news is it’s never too late to study and learn. Good luck.

    • Synapse

      The Etz Chaim accepts the documentary hypothesis as being de facto. That alone should tell you exactly how frum it really is.

      • Ken

        “The Etz Chaim accepts the documentary hypothesis as being de facto.” Personally, my faith is actually not threatened by historical Bible research, but that’s really beside the point. How much of the Etz Hayim commentary have you actually read? I’m going to go out on a limb and propose the answer is not enough to pass yourself off as in any way knowledgable about its contents. The reality is it is not particularly interested in the documentary hypothesis per se at all. Authorship really isn’t its main interest. It may get mentioned in a few specific areas or essays–I’m not sure–but it’s really not the focus and particularly for the below the line (midrashic) commentary it is of course wholly irrelevant. Now that you’ve put yourself out there as an expert on its contents, I would actually recommend you study it–call it Torah L’shma. You might even start tonight as a Tikkun Leil Shavuot.

        • Charedi

          hahaha…assuming that reading that thing would be considered “Torah”……

          • Ken

            How would you know?

        • Synapse

          I actually do own a copy, but you completely misunderstood what I was saying. I never stated that it was the main interest, but that it is accepted. The difference is the question of whether they are interesting in promoting it or if it is simply an accepted belief of the conservative movement. As it is the latter, and unacceptable from an orthodox theological standpoint, the fact that they include it at all as a valid understanding of Torah shows the large theological gap between orthodoxy and conservative.

          • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

            But who says every Conservative individual agrees with the Etz Hayim? Does Conservative Judaism have a thought-police that prosecutes disagreement therewith? On the contrary, the Conservative movement declared decades ago that even minority opinions are as valid and legitimate as majority opinions. This tended to liberalize practice, because it meant that every permissive opinion, no matter how outlandish or obscure, was as legitimate as strict opinions to prohibit. But there’s no reason it could not work the other way; if the majority of the movement decides to be lenient and liberal, but a minority remains strict and conservative, the already-decided policy of minority opinions being valid too, means that a person can be more strict or conservative than the majority opinion and yet still be in good standing. In other words, there is nothing to stop a Conservative person from rejecting the Etz Hayim (or parts thereof) and yet remain a Conservative Jew in good standing.

            • Synapse

              Mostly I am discussing the movements themselves, not individuals therein. The ideology behind the conservative movement that allows mutually exclusive and contradictory ideas to be a part of their “all encompassing” movement is both the main weakness of the movement today (as they don’t really stand for anything in particular because it’s all correct) and continue to present the theological problem to the orthodox as they accept those minority beliefs as being equally valid and true as the traditional beliefs.

              The minority of conservatives who are truly observant (to orthodox standards) and believe in what most would consider an orthodox theology are either deluding themselves into belonging to a dying movement that they don’t accept out of nostalgia or they accept the minority beliefs as valid meaning they are not theologically on ground that would be acceptable to the orthodox.

          • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

            Think about it: if being a liberal Jew means being free to believe and practice whatever one wants, then one is free to believe in Torah m’Sinai and practice all 613 mitzvot! There is nothing stopping a person from being both liberal *and* Orthodox in all but name.

            • Synapse

              Being a reform Jew (being liberal is a political measure and irrelevant) and being orthoprax does indeed not violate their theology, but we would still have the theological disagreements that separate reform and orthodoxy. They are not separated by practice alone.

              If they call themselves a Reform Jew but practice what people would call orthodox and believe what people call orthodox, then they are essentially fooling themselves that they are still a part of the Reform movement and they wouldn’t be rejected by orthodoxy as being a fully fledged observant Jew.

              • Ken

                Several misstatements have appeared in the discussion since my last comment.

                1) “I never stated that it was the main interest, but that it is accepted.” Good. You own a copy. That’s a good place to start. I challenge you to find evidence in the text itself to support your claim. Show me where in the Etz Hayim itself it becomes clear to you that it is somehow fundamentally based on higher biblical criticism. The reality is it is not. Your characterization of the “Conservative Movement” itself as “accepting” the documentary hypothesis is also misleading and vastly oversimplified. It is recognized as but one approach to biblical study. It is categorically *not* accepted as having any meaning in the process of homiletics, hermeneutics or midrashic/halakhic thought or analysis. Yes, one avenue to seeking to understand the Torah is indeed an attempt to discern and understand its history but that is really by and large an endeavor for scholars and serious students. In the synagogue, in the pews, the Torah is the Torah and that is the approach taken in the Etz Hayim and my challenge to you is to support your claim that is not the case. “I can’t find anything in the book I just know it to be true” will not seem to me to be a very intellectually rigorous reply. The analogy I like to use in discussing the matter of the study of history and authorship of the Bible is to a patchwork quilt. This quilt has been in family for generations and in every generation members of the family have added a patch. One with an interest in the family history can, and should, see where the stitching is and through a study of the quilting styles and other clues attempt the determine who added which patch and when. But if all one can see is a pile of ultimately disconnected patches, the quilt as a whole will not keep one warm. So too higher biblical criticism in a religious context. The task of the religious student of such things is to see, yes, patches and sources but to see also a unified Torah document. I can appreciate the challenge and that you might find it difficult but some find it more difficult still to pretend they do not see what is plainly before their eyes.

                That said, the Etz Hayim has little and perhaps even nothing save for a single essay on the matter in the very very very back of the book to say about, or based on, the documentary hypothesis. The claim that it has anything to do with the Etz Hayim is false and demonstrably so.

                2) “the Conservative movement declared decades ago that even minority opinions are as valid and legitimate as majority opinions. This tended to liberalize practice, because it meant that every permissive opinion, no matter how outlandish or obscure, was as legitimate as strict opinions to prohibit.” That is not correct. What you refer to is the rules governing the function of the Committee of Jewish Laws and Standards of the Rabbinical Assembly. Yes, there is such a thinig there as a legitimate minority opinion, but that does *not* mean any outlandish thing uttered by anyone becomes a “valid” opinion. It does not mean that at all–why you would think or suggest a “Movement” would function on such a patently ludicrous idea is not clear to me but it is not well informed. What the concept means is that some minority opinions, *if it gets enough votes” from the halakhic experts on that committee, can become a legitimate opinion. That means *an individual congregational rabbi* can rely on it in rendering a decision for his/her own community. That is all it means. Know that it also means that many minority opinions *do not receive enough votes* to become legitimate opinions in this way.

                One wonders from the way you have both been discussing this issue of “minority opinions” whether you are familiar with the mishna in Eduyot 1:5 which addresses the reason minority opinions are generally included in the mishna. The reason given is because later courts may choose to rely on them. You say keeping minority opinions as potentially valid is somehow heterodox and even heretical. That’s fine, but your view is at odds with rabbinic tradition.

                • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

                  “That’s fine, but your view is at odds with rabbinic tradition.”

                  But I’m not Conservative, and so what I expressed above is not *my* view.

                  • Ken

                    “But I’m not Conservative, and so what I expressed above is not *my* view.” Huh? It is indeed *your* view that keeping minority opinions as potentially valid is somehow heterodox and even heretical. It is that view, which you expressed as your own, that I am demonstrating to be inconsistent with rabbinic tradition.

                    • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

                      Let me quote just one of the many comments I have left on this post:

                      “e[le]ctronic sinks and urinals so at least they do something wrong”

                      What exactly do these sinks and urinals do? According to Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach and many Sephardim (I don’t know which Sephardim – i.e. I don’t have rabbis’ names – but according to some of my Sephardi friends, the following is what they told me their shita is), electricity per se is not forbidden on Shabbat. Electricity, they say, is like water. You can use water to power a wheel and do the melakhah of threshing, but you can also use water to clean a hard surface (not cloth), or you can drink it. So too with electricity, they say: what matters is whether the electricity is being used to do one of the 39 melakhot. An incandescent bulb would be some sort of eish (fire) or bishul (cooking), but an LED or fluorescent bulb might not be, and certainly there is no melakhah of “motion-sensing toilet flusher”. So these Conservatives might just be relying on Rabbi Shlomo Zalman Auerbach.

                      {End quote}

                      You said, “It is indeed *your* view that keeping minority opinions as potentially valid is somehow heterodox and even heretical.”

                      I am sorry, but that is *not* my view.

                    • Ken

                      There is no reply button under your most recent comment. Sorry this is out of sequence.

                      “I am sorry, but that is *not* my view.” I see your point, but you also said, “the Conservative movement declared decades ago that even minority opinions are as valid and legitimate as majority opinions. This tended to liberalize practice, because it meant that every permissive opinion, no matter how outlandish or obscure, was as legitimate as strict opinions to prohibit.” This is what I interpreted as rejecting the notion of valuing, recording and possibly even following minority opinions.

                    • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

                      “This is what I interpreted as rejecting the notion of valuing, recording and possibly even following minority opinions.”

                      Sorry, no, I criticized only the valuing of stupid opinions that had no basis whatsoever in anything Jewish. It is one thing to value minority opinions that have some cogent, legitimate, reasonable basis in Jewish law. It is something else to value every minority opinion issued by an ignoramus.

                      Compare, for example, this about Hakham Jose Faur’s affiliation with JTS: “Faur left the school in 1985, when the Graduate Rabbinical School began admitting women. He claimed that the decision to ordain women should have been approached as an issue of Jewish law and not as administrative/denominational policy; by leaving the decision up to a faculty vote instead of forming a collaborative, trans-denominational committee to investigate and address the issue, Faur believed that the JTSA was not giving Jewish women the chance to legitimately pursue ordination within the existing Jewish legal framework. Faur later sued for breach of contract, arguing that by admitting women in such a manner, the seminary was in effect forcing him to resign.”

                      In other words, Hakham Faur criticized the fact that ordination of women was pursued by JTS not as a legitimate question of Jewish law, but merely as an administrative decision that ignorant bureaucrats could vote on.

                    • Ken

                      Recognizing Faur’s criticism, suffice it to say his is not the only intelligent voice in the room.

                      “It is something else to value every minority opinion issued by an ignoramus.” I leave it to intelligent readers of the thread to decide for themselves whether that is either a likely or accurate reflection of what Conservative Judaism does or believes in.

                • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

                  And Eduyot would be talking about a Sanhedrin. There is absolutely, positively, not the slightest inkling of the teeniest obligation to follow the majority unless it is the majority of the Sanhedrin.

                  • Ken

                    My point is you are joining in ridiculing a rabbinic body that would value and respect and even potentially follow a minority opinion. Given the mishna in Eduyot, the ridicule is inconsistent with rabbinic values and traditions. If doing so is ridiculous, then the Mishna, and the Sanhedrin itself, is ridiculous.

                • Synapse

                  You are confusing minority opinion with legitimate opinion. The idea that driving on shabbat is ok so people will come to the synagogue (merely for example) is not a minority opinion held by some rabbis, it’s illegitimate from the get go no matter how many rabbis you get behind it. Conservative Judaism often likes to claim it is following a minority opinion when it has simply bent the original sources far beyond what they originally ment to include something that is far outside the pale of Judaism as long as they have enough rabbis supporting the change as it does with shabbat, kashrut, and many other Jewish laws.

                  • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

                    Agreed.

                  • Ken

                    ” it’s illegitimate from the get go. . .” I’m no fan of the driving on Shabbat decision, but with respect, you are not on the CJLS. I respect the opinions and intentions of those who disagree with the opinion (and generally find their arguments persuasive) but I also respect the scholarship and seriousness of intent, and ahavat Yisrael and ahavat Torah and Yirat Shamayim of those who agree/d with it. People like you fixate on it in the belief that it “proves” something fundamental about how “right” you are in all things and how “wrong from the get go” Conservative Judaism is in all things. That’s fine, but it is not a position I find to be particularly serious. Things are, as always, more complicated than that.

                    • Synapse

                      I am no a scholar of the CJLS, but that is irrelevent. I have gone through several of their teshuvas and found a large number of flaws in logic and their comprehension of the text. The problem here is that they have decided that “ahavat Yisrael” and so on are more important than actually following the Torah they profess to love. If a thousand Rabbis were to gather and declare pork kosher for consumption, it would not become kosher, no matter what the reasons were. The conservative movement feels free to declare Torah laws null and void when they decide they are irrelevant in the name of Ahavat Yisroel, and that is something no intellectually honest person can tolerate as being a legitimately Jewish position.

                    • Ken

                      . . .”that is something no intellectually honest person can tolerate as being a legitimately Jewish position.” You know you’re in trouble when you allow yourself to belief that “no intellectually honest person” could possible disagree with you.

                      “I have gone through several of their teshuvas. . .” Cool. Which ones?

                      “The conservative movement feels free to declare Torah laws null and void when they decide they are irrelevant in the name of Ahavat Yisroel. . .” In the name of “ahavat Yisrael?” Really? I’m not aware of ahavat Yisrael as a specific halachic concept, though I suppose it could be. Could you quote that? Which t’shuva was it? Certainly there are times when halacha does indeed effectively abrogate Torah laws, or limit them out of practical existence as with the ben sorer umoreh. To seriously study how and when this works you should read “The Halachic Process” by Joel Roth. You also might study the concept of k’vod habriyot. In the Talmud we see, for example, that a person with medical need was permitted, on the basis solely of “kvod habriyot,” to carry stones on shabbat, in otherwise flat violation of shabbat, if needed for personal hygeine and to avoid personal embarrassment and that of others. In modern times, Rav Daniel Sperber has invoked the concept to permit women to read Torah in shul and the Tzitz Eliezer has written a widely accepted t’shuva permitting the use of hearing aids on Shabbat for the same reason. Far from being “radical,” this is a legitimate application of a halakhic principle.

                      “The conservative movement feels free to declare Torah laws null and void. . .” I would again refer you to R. Roth’s seminal work on the subject, specifically chapter 7, “On Rabbinic Authority via-a-vis Matters De-oraita,” and chapter 5, “On the Source and Scope of Rabbinic Authority,” but what you react to with horror is, once again, actually a valid halakhic principle: Yesh koach b’yad hachamim la’akor davar min hatorah. “. . . that is something no intellectually honest person can tolerate as being a legitimately Jewish position.” On the contrary, though not in the straw man version you present of people/rabbis/whatever tossing Torah aside whenever they feel like it, it is a thoroughly “ligimately Jewish position,” and is indeed integral to how halakha functions. This is not a “Conservative” or “Orthodox” concept. It is simply a halakhic one. Reasonable, and “intellectually honest,” people may differ on when and under what circimstances such a principle may function and what its extent and limits are, and Roth devotes much time to exploring the vast rabbinic sources on the subject but your rejection of the very concept is simply not correct.

                    • Ken

                      BTW, one source brought by R. Roth. I believe the citation is Yevamot 89a-90b. Rava and R. Hisda in a prolonged debate over whether or not a court could have the authority to uproot a matter from the Torah, even in a kum va’aseh (it is pretty clear that such authority exists in shev v’al ta’aseh). Rav Hisda asserts yes, Rava attempts to rebut his arguments. In the end, their debate remains unsettled. Roth brings a variety of specific examples in which R. Hisda’s view appears operative.

                  • Ken

                    OTOH, what *would* interest me would be to see a serious response regarding your unsubstantiated assertions about the Etz Hayim Chumash being somehow based on higher biblical criticism. I await the discussion of its actual content in support of the contention.

                    • Synapse

                      It would be rather akward of me to prove something I’ve never asserted, and I don’t know why you don’t just look in it yourself as it’s not exactly hidden. If you want to see that it is there, then open it up to the first couple pages of Genesis for plenty of examples. If you still think that doesn’t mean that they accept it as being normative:

                      http://www.schechter.edu/AskTheRabbi.aspx?ID=443

                      “We study the sources from a traditional and a critical perspective, and the fact that most Conservative rabbis endorse the documentary hypothesis doesn’t mean we are any less committed to halakhah.”

                      So says Conservative Rabbi Diana Villa, not me, when asked about the Etz Hayim’s usage of the Documentary Hypothesis.

                    • Synapse

                      My comment is stuck in moderation, so you will have to bear with me but here is half my comment:

                      It would be rather akward of me to prove something I’ve never asserted, and I don’t know why you don’t just look in it yourself as it’s not exactly hidden. If you want to see that it is there, then open it up to the first couple pages of Genesis for plenty of examples.

                      The other half was from a Conservative Rabbi who attests to the idea that most conservative Rabbis endorse the Documentary Hypothesis. Have you asked your conservative rabbi?

                    • Ken

                      I’m actually not troubled by the documentary hypothesis. You should read Who Wrote the Bible. Now there’s an interesting book about Torah. But you connect it with the Etz Hayim Chumash and I’m still missing it. Got quotes?

                      You also seem to think it is the only way Conservative Judaism is able to see Torah. It’s not. For the study of history, it is seen as an indispensable tool and a generally convicing theory with, of course, uncertainty and debate as to specific details. Rabbis “accept it?” Sure. Big deal. Mendel of Rymanov famously taught that the only component of the actual Torah that was directly revealed was the first letter of the Aseret hadibrot: an alef. No sound at all, just God, as it were, setting God’s mouth to begin the act of speech. The rest, then, is not directly revealed. So where’d it come from? Davar Acher: Tradition debates whether Moshe wrote the last section of Torah narrating his own death. This is a rabbinic “documentary hypothesis,” positing one “document” written by Moshe, and an appended second “document” written by someone else.

                      You’ve been taught that there is but one way to see revelation and anything else is base heresy but traditional Jewish belief is actually far more interesting that that.

  • danielGA

    maybe conservative and orthodox are closer together up north or out west, but down south, there are basically three types of jews:

    1. i don’t care, i pretend to hate judaism cos that means i don’t have to do anything

    2. reform/conservative— go to shabbat services every week, but super lax, most do not keep kosher or follow much halakah. sort of like a jewish version of christianity, in that they go to services once a week and don’t really have much obligation outside of that. only difference between reform and conservative is that conservative has more hebrew in the service.

    3. frum— could be described as some of the more frum descriptions of conservative written above all the way to chabadnik, but no chasids. all orthodox believe torah was given by G-d but the orthodox here generally don’t stick as strictly by haredi-like traditions that aren’t specifically laid out in halakah.

  • ipitythefoo

    I’ve worked for both the Conservative movement (USY) and Reform temples in my area as a hebrew school teacher. Honestly, I prefer the Reform – I like to try and keep it black and white, conservative just has too much grey areas. Don’t kid yourself – they are predominantly sending their children to public schools, especially in “out-of-town” states like mine. THAT is the problem, essentially what I think will cause the whole movement to die out in the coming generation, replaced by the modern orthodox and the yeshivish/chassidish resurgence
    .

  • whoah5771

    Who cares what you call yourself? Honestly who cares? I met a Jew who said he was into conservative judasim and turned out not to be jewish at all. But if someone is shomer torah and mitzvos who cares?
    My rabbi has a saying “Frum iz a Galach Erlich iz a yid” to me it seems like frum people are more into their black hats than they are judaism…which is kind of funny b/c black hats were orignally worn so as not to think about clothing

    • anonimo

      how does “a Jew who is into conservative judaism” become “not Jewish at all”?

  • Anonymous

    no that was my point. What do you mean by ‘real Orthodox Jews’? Some will never set foot in a Conservative Service, almost all will attend functions. My point is that I know for a fact many people who are Orthodox who DO attend their relatives or friends Bar/Bat Mitzvah and weddings there as well.
    You may be referring to people who don’t do anything without asking their Rov. But alot will allow them to attend but not the service. I have seen Orthodox at the service itself.
    Personally I have been in all kinds of denominations services, and they all bore me if I had to attend all the time. For a one off, I prefer the conservative or Reform, but all I can’t sit there so long.

    I don’t know how the faithful do it.

    • Mike

      I go to an Ortho shul that is all about the davening only. It’s 2 hours start to finish, including the Rabbi’s 10 minute drasha. We don’t go to be entertained, hear a cantor, or drei around. Thats how we roll.

  • http://conservadox.tripod.com Woodrow/Conservadox

    Some of the comments remind me of the joke that the three denominations of Judaism are really Orthodox, Conservative Rabbi, and Reform!

  • Ksil

    The biggest concern when choosing denomination for me is the kids. If maintaining jewish heritage amongst your kids and grandkids is important, you probbaly have the best chance of that occuring in orthodox circles.

    I’m not suggesting that conservative jews will just go off and intermarry, but 1 or 2 generations removed i would submit that your chances are better keeping the traditiona in the family through stricter orthodox practice and interpretation.

  • Mike

    Wanna know the biggest joke Judaism ever came up with? It’s called Tikun Olam. It means I’d rather save the whales and recycle my soda bottles than keep Shabbos. It’s the big lie that R and C rabbis tell their followers so they can focus on nonsense instead of what God has commanded in the Torah. “I may not keep kosher but at least I don’t toss my cigarette butts out my window.” WTF-ever.

    • Ken

      Hmmmm. Yeah, those liberal Jew-wannabes and their “tikkun olam!” What’s that new-agey “prayer” they made up for their “siddur?” Al ken n’kaveh lecha . . . l’taken olam b’malchut shadaai. . .

      It’s a total joke which is why you wan’t find that bs in any authentic Orthodox siddur. Oh, wait, hold on a sec, I’m being told I’m mistaken. . .

      • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

        {Thumbs up}

        • http://michaelmakovi.blogspot.com Michael Makovi

          Also…”For I have known him, to the end that he may command his children and his household after him, that they may keep the way of the LORD, to do righteousness and justice; to the end that the LORD may bring upon Abraham that which He hath spoken of him.'”

          Rav S. R. Hirsch’s comments there – as well as his comments to almost every single other verse in the entire Torah – have a very “tikkun olam” feeling to them. On this verse, I believe he says that ” to do righteousness and justice” is the very raison d’etre of Judaism.

      • GerTrained (Hayyim ‘Ovadyah)

        Somehow I suspect that he knows that this statement is in the siddur, but either (1) thinks that it means something other than social justice, or (2) thinks, even it does refer to social justice, that the emphasis on social justice/Tiqqun ‘Olam/save the whales doesn’t make up for less-than-Orthodox observance of bein-adam-laMaqom practices.

        • GerTrained (Hayyim ‘Ovadyah)

          Don’t take my earlier response to imply that I don’t buy into tiqqun ‘olam or social activism/justice though!

  • Krotzy Joe

    Tikun Olam means whatever the speaker wants it to mean, and therefore means nothing at all.

    • Jacob T

      Also, Torah.

      In Skver, Torah apparently tells us to set our neighbor’s house on fire. After all, they are Torah-true yidden, unlike me.

  • shaynafay

    The Reform movement has done a great job since the 70’s educating their kids so well that they leave the movement.

    I’m in the Bay Area and would affiliate Modern Orthodox if they were egalitarian like our Conservative Shul is. But if it was egalitarian, it wouldn’t be Orthodox any more. All Jews need to treat other Jews with respect for what they observe, not contempt for what they don’t.

  • zibble

    Bunch of idiots here making up halachot to suit their needs.

  • Fred

    Reform are now allowing ear circumcisions and in some cases anal circumcision in lieu of the privys in 7 of the 15 coalition network synagogues of reform chosen folk of the americas northwestern region TI519. I spearheaded this and was hailed as the mvp of the month by most of my haburay (thats ancient hebrew for lobby squad). I went to a post graduate continuing education workshop (for sunday school graduates) and have 15 out of my required 50 to become a deputy rabbi at my tabernacle (that is ancient hebrew for jewish church).

  • http://12tribesfood.com The Rabbi Chef

    Heshy, it was great having you with us. 12 Tribes is an independent, kosher food company, not affiliated with any Movement, that happens to be a kitchen tenant at Beth Sholom. One of the great things about this arrangement is that we work in close partnership with the shul to make sure that staff, members, and outside vendors all consistently meet the same high standard of kashrut observance through education and quality supervision. Also worth noting, we forgo far more business by being shomer Shabbat than by working out of a Conservative synagogue’s kitchen. Our standards are on our website for everyone to see – thanks for spreading the word that we live by them.

  • Aaron

    I have known some “frum” conservative Jews too. They are a small minority within the movement. I worked at camp Ramah and taught at a conservative hebrew school. While I love our conservative brothers and sisters, a majority of those who belong to a conservative shul are reform Jews who want a more traditional synagogue. The conservative movement has been dwindling. I predict that in a generation from now, there will be very few conservative shuls, and most of those who truly subscribe to the ideology will have their own small haburot.

  • http://monex.to/wiki/Christina_Carabini Christina Carabini

    ……By on March 19th 2007..A week ago Agudath Israel proudly announced that Scholastic Library Publishing was recalling and reprinting an educational book for middle-grade children. They believe that Reform and Conservative Jews are not really Jews at all because they are not strict in their observance of all the religious laws. As the Agudah press release put it .In a straightforward letter to Scholastic Agudath Israel director of public affairs and Cross-Currents writer Rabbi Avi Shafran characterized the contention that Orthodox Jews reject other Jews Jewishness because of their less-strict level or even complete lack of observance as utterly untrue. . This I am sure you realize is no minor matter Rabbi Shafran wrote.

  • Bais Malka Girl

    You feminists, liberals, and homosexualists ought to be ashamed of yourselves. You think women have no dignity or rights in Judaism? ( Judaism= orthodox, everything else is a deviation!) You need to seriously understand that men and women are naturally different and one cannot be the same as the other. They have same VALUE but different needs because it is human nature.

  • Ken

    “As for the observance of Conservative laity, it is an issue because this observably includes Conservative converts, who are not held to higher standards.” You err in confusing common practice with what is actually taught. I apparently cannot post a link here but if you go to USCJ and roll over Jewish Living and Learning then click Living Jewishly and then Jewish Observance you’ll find a good place to start to understand a bit better what Conservative Judaism actually teaches vis a vis halakhic observance.

    In pointing to specifics of halakhic practice you completely ignore the reality that there are differences of specific practice. Sefardim put meat and milk dishes together in the same dishwasher. Shall I call them posul l’edut on the grounds they “don’t keep kosher” since my community would absolutely forbid it? The fact that an individual’s practice might differ from your own does not make that person a “rasha” who is violating laws. You don’t like shmuel’s rabbi’s p’sak? Don’t follow it. But it doesn’t mean either shmuel or his rabbi are r’shaim and psul l’edut because your rabbi teaches that his opinions are just plain absolutely wrong.

    The challenge is how to live in a world in which differing communities have seriously differing interpretations of halakha. One approach, the one you advocate, is to declare whole vast segments of the Jewish community to be simply outside the bounds, unacceptable. The other, the one described in the Talmud, is to maintain the differences of practice and opinion as sharply and passionately as ever, yet to nevertheless accept the ultimate legitimacy of the other. B’nei Yehuda and B’nei Galil had substantively different understandings of how to prepare k’tubot with potential mamzerut consequences–every bit as big as the largest of the issues you identify. Yet we are specifically told in Masechet Ketubot that they were willing to marry into each others’ communities anyway.

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  • pinchas

    chabad lubavitch is the only thing thats gonna save judaism. period.:).