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May 06, 1983 - Image 42

Resource type:
Text
Publication:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1983-05-06

Disclaimer: Computer generated plain text may have errors. Read more about this.

42 Friday, May 6, 1983

THE DETROIT JEWISH NEWS

Liberal Judaism Israeli St le

By CARL ALPERT
certified in Israel as a Re-
HAIFA — When 32- form rabbi. The title was
year-old Mordechai Rotem confirmed upon him after he
was -ordained as a rabbi in had earned a BA degree and
February 1980, he was a Master's degree at the He-
chalking up a "first" in his- brew University, a Master's
tory: He was the first degree at the Hebrew Union
native-born Israeli to be College in Jerusalem, and

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finally semikha as a rabbi,
also at Jerusalem's HUC.
He is an adherent of the
philosophy of Reform, or
Liberal Judaism, in every
sense, but his practice of Re-
form is more in consonance
with the spirit of this coun-
try. At his congregational
services, here in Haifa, both
he and all males in the con-
gregation wear head cover-
ing. Personally, he observes
kashrut, and preaches it to
his members, but he does
not pry into their homes to
ascertain their practice.
Shabat is extremely im-
portant to him, as a Jewish
sanctity, but his observance
may differ from that gener-
ally follpwed by the Or-
thodox. Says Rabbi Rotem:
"The beauty of ,Shabat
comes from what you do on
that day, and not from what
you refrain from doing.
Ceremonial on the arrival of
the day of rest; Havdala at
its departure; atmosphere of
peace and enjoyment; true
oneg Shabat, rather than
ascetic denial — these make
the day holy."
To the Orthodox estab-
lishment he is not a rabbi.
While battle lines are
drawn over the right of
Reform rabbis to per-
form marriages in Israel,
he reveals that local offi-
cials permit him to take
part in funeral cere-
monies and on such occa-
sions even refer to him as
"Ray." Does that show
some progress? "It's not
my progress, it's theirs,"
he smiles,
Rabbi Rotem (many of his
congregants call him Motty)
comes from a family that
was traditional but not reli-
gious. Educated at the Leo
Ba.eck School in Haifa, and
participant in a high school
exchange program with an
American temple, he de-
cided at about the age of 16
that he would like to study
for the rabbinate. His par-
ents took it calmly. It was as
if a child were saying he
wants to be a policeman
when he grows up; he'll get
over it.
His congregation, Or
Chadash, is one of 15 such
Congregations in Israel, but

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Finance SeminA _ r at U. of Windsor

3

The 17th annual Study
Seminar for Financial
Analysts will be held Sun-
day through May 14 at the
University of Windsor.
Speakers will include Dr,.
Robert J. Stalla of
McDonald & Co., Robert R.
Skinner, Dr. Gerald Keller

growth of the movement has
been very slow here. The
reason, he says, is lack of
rabbinical leadership. Two
more local products were
ordained last year, and two
more are in training, but
these are not sufficient to do
the field work that is neces-
sary. American Reform
rabbis who come here to re-
tire usually do not know
enough Hebrew to lead a
local group, and the lan-
guage of the country, after
all, is Hebrew. •
How does an Israel Re-
form congregation differ
from an American one? The
local members are all prod-
ucts of the Israel school sys-
tem where they have been
taught not only the lan-
guage but also the Jewish
sources. Local high school
gradutes are well versed in
Jewish history, Bible, He-
brew literature, often better
than many American-
trained Reform rabbis, but
they lack a sense of identifi-
cation with the Jewish,
people, Rotem says. They
what it is to be
an
an Israeli, but the essence of
being Jewish is alien to
them.
They reject these prac-
tices, and lacking an al-
ternative they consider
themselves secularists.
Reform (and Conserva-
tive) Judaism can pro-
vide that intelligent al-
ternative, he maintains.
There has always been a
diversity of views in Jewish
life, his movement says.
Even in Orthodoxy today
there' is a pluralism which
ranges all the way from the
fanaticism of Mea Shearim
to the neo-Orthodoxy of the
modern young Bnai Akiba.
Why cannot this pluralism
extend also to Jews who
different views on the
nature of observance?
He is aware of the accusa-
tions that some American
Reform rabbis perform "in-
stant conversions," and he
opposes these. He himself
will perform conversions,
but only after the prospect
undergoes a long and inten-
sive course. He insists that
his conversion is strictly ac-
cording to Halakha, but is
not recognized by the estab-
lishment because it is done
by him.
There is one difference he
admits. The Orthodox rab-
bis exact a promise from
each convert"that he will ob- •
serve all the mitzvot and all
the practices, and most lie
about it in order to obtain
the final approval. Rotem
does not require such a
promise, because he prefers
honesty in such matters.
Reform gets no financial
support from the Ministry of
Religions, as Moslem and
Christian bodies in Israel
do, and it is not recognized,
but otherwise \ it has free-
dom to worship and to pre-
ach and to think as it
wishes. The only trouble
Rabbi Rotem ever had was
with tenants in a building
where his congregation had
rented a flat for prayer serv-
ices. But the objectors were
devout atheists, rather than
Orthodox adherents.

4 t• •

.

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of Laurier University and
many others.
For information about the
seminars, call the director,
Dr. Edward Rosenbaum,
this weekend in Southfield,
357-0575, or at the Univer-
sity of Windsor, (519) 253-
4232.

ALEXANDER'S
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WED. ... BAKED CHICKEN
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THURS. . SPAGHETTI YUMEAT SAUCE
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SAT. . ... BROILED CHOPPED SIRLOIN
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