Thursday, June 23, 2005

Rabbinical priorities: High—forbidden fruit (and veggies, and water . . .); low—agunot, unrecognized converts

A couple of years ago, I read somewhere (probably in the New York Jewish Week) that a rabbi in southeast Asia was considering declaring broccoli treif (not kosher) because it was hard to inspect for insects (which aren’t kosher). Since then, I’ve learned, from the NY Jewish Week and the Jewish blogosphere, that New York City tap water has been declared treif because of the presence of barely-visible insects (see my Friday, October 29, 2004, post, “Water, water everywhere, but not a drop a to drink"—New York City’s tap water has been declared treif (no joke) at

. In England, seltzer has been declared off limits for Ashkenazim during Pesach/Passover—the bubbles are created using kitniot, which Ashkenazi Jews are not permitted to eat during Passover—and strawberries (insects, again) are now forbidden year round (see Paul Shaviv’s Wednesday, March 30, 2005 post, Forget strawberries ...... read this,” at So are onions (see Paul Shaviv’s Friday, May 20, 2005 post, “Mind your onions! A new issur before shabbat.” At In the U.S., corn (maize, for you Brits) is now suspect unless under reliable hashgachah (rabbinical supervision to ensure that something’s kosher)—see AidelMaidel’s Sunday, May 22, 2005 post, “Not good enough,” at, and spinach, I gather, also requires careful inspection, because of the possible presence of—you guessed it—insects.

Meanwhile, back at the court house (or Bet Din), hundreds of Orthodox women are being held hostage—agunot, or “chained” women—by husbands who refuse to give them a get (Jewish religious divorce, which can be given only by the man). (See Miriam Shaviv's Thursday, June 02, 2005 post, "Blackmail, aided, abetted and encouraged by the courts " and her Tuesday, June 07, 2005 post, "The Rabbinical courts vs. Yad L'Isha" both in the June archive at I think it’s likely that, among non-religious women, the inability of the rabbanim (rabbis) to find a solution to this problem leads them to decide to forego the process altogether and remarry without a get, which, in the eyes of halachah (Jewish law), makes a woman an adulteress and her children by this marriage mamzerim—bastards—severely restricted by Jewish law in terms of who they are permitted marry. So, indirectly, the rabbinical courts are probably responsible for the creation of thousand of mamzerim.

Also back at the Bet Din, a tragic tale from Britain comes to us courtesy of Paul Shaviv (see his Friday, April 01, 2005 post, “The haredi-isation of mainstream Diaspora batei din -- whether its waffles or humans, if its Israeli Rabbanut, we don't recognise it ..., at Apparently, a young man is being denied admission to a Jewish day school because the Bet Din of London is questioning the validity of his mother’s conversion fifteen years ago by an Orthodox Sefardi Bet Bin in Israel. Apparently, a turf war two times over—Israeli vs. British, Sefardi vs. Ashkenazi—is more important than the future of an innocent child.


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