Wednesday, August 28, 2019

Trying to navigate a changed Jewish landscape (part 2)

You can read part one here.

Once upon a time, when a person entered a synagogue, they could confidently assume that, unless there were a Bar or Bat Mitzvah celebration, or some other simchah (happy occasion), 95-100% of the people in attendance at any religious service were Jews.

That's no longer necessarily the case, especially in a non-Orthodox synagogue or other prayer space.

First, there's the "Who is a Jew" question, non-Orthodox version:  Do you or don't you accept the not-converted child of a non-Jewish mother as a Jew?  (See patrilineal descent.)

Conservative Judaism, like Orthodox Judaism, doesn't accept patrilineal descent, which is not in accordance with halachah (Jewish religious law).  So what's a Conservative Jew like me supposed to think of a person such as Rabbi Angela Buchdahl?  On one hand, she's ordained as both a cantor and a rabbi.  How Jewish can you get?  On the other hand, her mother's a non-Jew.  It's certainly interesting for someone of my background to try to wrap her head around the idea of a rabbi/cantor who's not halachically Jewish.

On a more practical note, what's an appropriate way for a Conservative synagogue to welcome folks who are halachically non-Jewish?  And what do we do about Hebrew School and Bar or Bat Mitzvah for their kids?

There's also the possibility that some of those present aren't Jewish by anyone's definition, meaning that neither of their parents is Jewish and they haven't converted to Judaism.  But though they're not "Members of the Tribe," they may be boyfriends, girlfriends, partners, or spouses of Jews, and/or parents of "half-Jewish" children.

It seems as if every non-Conservative prayer gathering we attend is a mixed gathering.  I'm beginning to have some sympathy for that poor rabbi whom I criticized a while back.  Given the demographics of our neighborhood, what makes us think that our own synagogue won't be forced to make a decision, soon or later, regarding whether to stick to our halachic approach or give it up as a lost cause?

Please read my September 3, 2019 post, My public apology to Rabbi Angela Buchdahl.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Rabbi Buchdahl had a conversion at the age of 21

Thu Aug 29, 10:39:00 AM 2019  
Blogger Richardf8 said...

Ha! Give it five years, and the sane Law Committee that gave us “On the Use of All Wines” will be telling us why Patrilineal descent is authentically Jewish.

Fri Aug 30, 11:56:00 PM 2019  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

I wouldn't be surprised. And frankly, at this point, I can't decide whether that's a good idea or a bad one. This whole "Who is a Jew" question--some say the real question is "Who is a rabbi?," as in "Will the Rabbanut HaRashit/Chief Rabbinate of Israel accept this rabbi's conversions, even if he's Orthodox?"--has already divided the Jewish People so thoroughly that it's already debatable whether we're still one people anymore. :(

Tue Sep 03, 11:01:00 PM 2019  
Blogger Shira Salamone said...

Copied from Facebook:

Larry Lennhoff
I personally feel the line regarding patrilineal descent was crossed when the USCJ decided to accept them as campers at Camp Ramah. When a generation of committed conservative Jews are told that their camp buddies are not really Jewish they’ll revolt.

Shira Salamone
I think you're right.

Tue Sep 03, 11:55:00 PM 2019  
Blogger X said...

@Shira Salamone: Yep--if it's perfectly legitimate for different Jewish movements to have different views as to what counts as a valid conversion to Judaism, then it should also be perfectly legitimate for different Jewish movements to have different views as to who should be considered Jewish without any conversion.

Sat Apr 01, 03:04:00 AM 2023  

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