Monday, May 16, 2011

Communication technology poses challenges

A challenge for the left

The rabbinical staff of a Modern Orthodox synagogue sends an e-mail to their congregants informing them that there will be a second minyan on a Friday night in a room other than the main sanctuary, at which second minyan a woman will lead the Kabbalat Shabbat section of the service. All it takes is one congregant clicking the "Forward" button, and what was supposed to have been a simple message to that one congregation is "broadcast" to the four corners of the earth, bringing, if memory serves me correctly, an official rebuke by the Orthodox Union.

Bottom line: The role of "mara d'atra, master of the place" (halachic decisor for a congregation) is being challenged--it's becoming increasingly difficult for any rabbi to make decisions for his/her own congregation without being second-guessed by some "higher authority" who/that, in the pre-Internet era, might not even have heard about such decisions until days (or longer), rather than minutes, after the fact. One of the most egregious examples of this problem is, of course, the nearly-complete usurpation by the official Israeli Rabbinate of the right to determine a person's Jewish and/or marital status. The Chief Rabbinate in Israel can now just as easily dictate the terms of conversion for a would-be Jew in Sioux Falls, South Dakota as in Sde Boker.

A challenge for the right

A chareidi publication chooses to remove from a White House photograph, by photo-editing, two high-ranking U.S. Government officials who happen to be women, giving new meaning to the old phrase "the shot heard 'round the world."

About the only thing that this story and the story told above--both true--have in common is it doesn't seem to have occurred to any of the parties involved that their actions would become known outside of their own congregation/community.

Sorry, folks, but we're all going to have to get used to the new "global village"--for better and for worse. When it comes to communication(s), there's no such thing as "private" anymore.

See also Yom HaAtzmaut: Technology influences observance.


Anonymous jdub said...

what challenge to the right? You think they care? Their argument was "go to hell, we have freedom of religion, we'll do what we want." Good for them. Who cares. We may mock it, but they are unapologetic about their choices, which we should be as well.

Tue May 17, 09:15:00 AM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

What's really annoying is that the right-wingers don't care that their indifference to the rest of the world makes the rest of the *Jewish* world look bad.

Being unapologetic about our choices is certainly a good idea, though it sometimes takes more chutzpah (nerve) that some of us have.

Tue May 17, 12:56:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Benjy said...

I'm glad we have a semblance of a centralized Halachik authority, even if it is thousands of miles away. Look what's happened without it. Now all you have to do is eat bagels and you can be a Jew. It's disgusting. We don't need or want fake Jews or those who want to convert for marriage or Israeli citizenship.

Wed May 18, 12:31:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Benjy, three of my good friends are Jews by Choice, and none of them was converted by the Israeli Rabbinate. One will never travel on Shabbat (Sabbath) or Yom Tov (major holiday), when travel is forbidden--that's more than I can say for me. One seems to have become the neighborhood's go-to layperson for questions regarding kashrut and for help in going kosher. And the one who has kids is the proud parent of two Jewish Day School graduates, one with a Master's in Jewish Studies who works for a Jewish organization. I don't think it's reasonable to assume that only an organization that's literally an ocean away can judge who's serious about choosing to become Jewish and who's not. I defend the right of local marei d'atra/rabbis, who actually know their prospective converts as individuals, to be the judge of a would-be Jew's sincerity and commitment.

Wed May 18, 01:04:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Benjy said...

I dont think anyone is saying that all conversions should be authorized by them, only those in Israel. But someone who wishes to move there will have to meet their standards as well. They don't have to have some kind of reciprocity like we do here from state to state. The very fact that peole convert with no intent on following Jewish law is the reason that they have cracked down on it. Wouldst that they did the same here. What they do here is a mockery. Kosher style isn't kosher. And someone who converts in a non-Orthodox venue here, even if they do follow everything, doesn't pass either. Im happy your friends follow it all. But putting feathers on a dog won't make it a bird and it surely won't fly.

Wed May 18, 03:40:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

"I dont think anyone is saying that all conversions should be authorized by them . . . "

They most certainly are!

Wed May 18, 04:44:00 PM 2011  
Anonymous Benjy said...

You proved my point. It only applies if you wish to move to Israel. They won't accept the conversion there. It doesn't nullify the conversion if you stay here at all.

Wed May 18, 09:40:00 PM 2011  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Which is why several Jews by Choice who are bloggers have said that they are literally afraid to make aliyah, lest they have to go through the whole multi-year conversion process all over again.

And supposing a convert's kid decides to make aliyah? Despite the fact that the child was educated in a yeshiva (as the convert had promised the Bet Din/Court), the convert's child would probably also have to convert.

Wed May 18, 11:43:00 PM 2011  

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