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August 16, 1985 - Image 14

Resource type:
The Detroit Jewish News, 1985-08-16

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16 Friday, August 16, 1985


We Are Two

Continued from preceding page

• also shows the same polariz-
ing tendency. In 1985, the
Conservative rabbinate de-
cided to accept women as
rabbis. In the past, the Con-
servative rabbinate, led by
such stalwarts as Rabbis
Louis Finkelstein and Saul
Lieberman, would have op-
posed such a decision in
order not to offend the Or-
thodox And to avoid an open
breach with the traditional
halacha. Now, the mood is,
we want to deal with a real
need in our movement; let us
go ahead and solve it for our
maximum benefit. It doesn't
matter if the Orthodox don't
like it; they won't accept us
I believe that women in
the rabbinate will make a
major contribution to the
enrichment of Jewish life,
and that this step is a moral
upgrading of the status of
women. I respect the decision
not to wait any longer. How-
ever, the decision should
have been coupled with a
commitment to make ex-
traordinary efforts to enter
into dialogue with the Or-
thodox. It should have been
coupled with a commitment
to strengthen observance
standards so as to reassure
traditionalists that admitting
women to the rabbinate is
not another "dilution," but
rather a strengthening of
Judaism, allowing all Jews
to share in the full challenge
of intensifying Jewish life.
An offer could have been
made by women rabbis to re-
frain from serving as wit-
nesses on halachic personal
status documents for a de-
cade — on condition that an
intensive Conservative-
Orthodox dialogue to work
through the issue be pur-
sued. The failure to redouble
efforts to reach out shows
this change in psychology.
Each group meets its own
needs and lets the devil take
the others' hindmost.
In each movement, the
tendency to write off the .
others is growing. How can
the Reform rabbinate pro-
claim the right of patrilineal
descent, when they know full
well that neither the Or-
thodox nor the official Con-
servative movement will ac-
cept such children as Jewish?
The Reform rabbinate is as-
suming that when the chil-
dren of patrilineal descent
come to marriageable age,
there will not be a signific-
ant number of observant
Jews around. So few people
will really care about the
halachic rules, it will not

seriously affect the supply of
partners available for mar-
riage to such patrilinear
children. In other words, the
policy is predicated, tacitly,
on the disappearance of Or- .
thodox or seriously tradi-
tional Conservative Jews.
The exact same logic
underlies Rabbi Moshe
Feinstein's rulings. Does he
not know that there are a
million and more Jews who
follow -the Reform rabbis,
and consider them their
spiritual mentors? The an-
swer is that he is mentally
calculating that with rising
intermarriage and growing
assimilation, the non-
observant will disappear,
leaving only the Orthodox
In the past, anti-Semites
built their plans on the ex-
pectation and hope that the
Jews will disappear. We
have come to a tragic situa-
tion where good and commit-
ted Jews are predicating
their survival strategies on
the disappearance of other

Critique Of Separation

The move toward greater
polarization and increased
inter-denominational de-
legitimation is not merely
leading to a catastrophe of
social division. It is strategi-
cally, morally, and theologi-
cally wrong. •
America is the most open
society in human history.
Everyone is exposed to var-
ied alternative lifestyles. All
people face the challenge of
choice in which individuals
can define their own values
and existence. In such an
environment, the more varie-
ties of Jewish living that the
community can offer, the
greater the number of people
who will choose each indi-
vidual variety. Each group is
strengthened by the greater
effectiveness of the other. .
Each group should be build-
ing up the other, for its own
sake as well as for the
greater good of Klal Yisrael.
When the Conservative
and Reform movements grow
stronger, Orthodoxy gains.
The baal teshuva (returnee)
movement has given numeri-
cal gains and a great
psychological lift to the Or-
thodox community. Most of
the baalei teshuva are re-
cruited — not from those
who are totally out of Jewish
life, but from those outside of
Orthodoxy. Most of the
people available to become

The following • three areas of reli-
more traditional Jews. Their numbers
gious life -- converts, patrilineal descent
will undoubtedly increase in the next
and mamzerim (illegitimate children,
fifteen years.
are creating the greatest potential disaS4
MAMZERIM: More than 100 years
ter for Jewish survival. The numbers
ago, the Reform rabbinate decided to ac-
tell the story:
cept civil divorce as a legal end to a
CONVERTS: Everybody complainti Jewish marriage. For almost a century,
about intermarriage, but the other side
that decision had no serious conse-
of the open society is that a large
quences, mainly because the Jewish di-
number of people choose to join the
vorce rate was so low. Since the 1960s,
Jewish community, In the United
American values have changed, and the
States, there has been a surge of 'con-
old cultural insulation between Jews
verts, accelerating over the past few
and non-Jews has worn away. As a re-
years. A recent Wall Street Journal sur-
sult, there has been a tremendous rise
vey suggested that 10,000 convert to
in Jewish drtrorce. The American na-
Judaism annually. If the rate of conver-
tional divorce rate is now estimated at
sion remains constant, there will be an
50 percent in recent marriages. •The
additional 150,000 converts by the year
Jewish rate could easily be at the 30-40
2000. Add them • to the already-existing
percent level.
number of American Jewry- which can
The good news is that Jews have
be estimated at 150,000-250,000 — and
strong family values and commitments.
there will be 300,000-400,000 converts
Therefore, Jews have a high re-marriage
living in our community. Of them, 90
rate; indeed, the highest re-marriage
percent or more will be Reform, which is
rate among American religious groups.
to say that they will not have undergone
The bad news is that, according to
a conversion ritual which satisfies the
requirements of Orthodox Jews or of the ...haiacha (Jewish law), a marriage can be
disolved only by a get (divorce docu-
Conservative movement. for acceptance
ment). If a woman remarries without a
as Jews.
get, she is considered an adultress, and
any children of this subsequent
cent decision of the Reform rabbinate to
riage is considered a mamzer,
recognize the children,born of a Jewish
legitimate child. In Jewish la
father and a non-Jewish' motheras –Jews
no illegitimacy out of wedl
-- even without conversion — is creat-
legitimacy 'out, of in:
, or
ing another class of.Jews who are not
second marriage withn
accepted as such by the rest of the com-
legitimate children can ever merry
munity. There are an estimated 500,000
legitimate children.
children of marriages between a Jew
and non-Jew in American Jewry. In
A not-unreasonable guess, would be
one-third of those marriages, the partner
that there are 200,00e-300,000 Jewish
converted. Let us assume, then, that
weddings a year. A 20 percent to 30 per-
one-third of the 500,000 children will be
cent divorce rate would equal 60,000 di-
recognized as Jewish. (This is actually ' vorces, of whom 30-50 percent would
too optimistic.. Unfortunately, many of
remarry. That yields 30,000 second mar-
those conversions are not acceptable to
riages a year. If we assume that such
the Orthodox and Conservative move-
marriages have a lower fertility rate be-
, ments, and those children also will be
cause they occur later in life or because
deemed not Jewish.)
people may be less willing to have chil
Of the two-thirds of the intermar-
dren, and if we assess a half-or quarter-
riages in which one of the partners does
child per marriage (the current Jewish
not convert, an estimated two-thirds are
birthrate is 1.2 children per family),
between a Jewish father and a non-
that would suggest 7,000-15,000 mam-
Jewish mother. Applying that ratio to
zerim a year, a devastating number. Let
the 335,000 children left in the pool, we
us arbitrarily ignore the number of such
can estimate 220,000 children of pat-
children in existing second marriages.
rilineal descent. In the absence of con-
The totals still approach approximately
version, they will be considered Jewish
100,000 to 200,000 mamzerim by the
by the Reform movement, but not by the
year 2000.

baalei teshuva come from
movements nearby on the
spectrum. In other words,
when Conservative and Re-
form, generate young people
with greater Jewish com-
mitment or with different
religious needs than their
parents, some of them join
the pool of Orthodox retur-
nees. Others stay and
strengthen their own move-
As Conservative and Re-
form lay people have de-
veloped stronger Jewish
commitments in the past two
decades, they have become
consumers of day school edu-

cation for their children.
Thus, they provide many jobs
and opportunities for influ-
ence to Orthodox rabbis, for
the Orthodox still run the
majority of the day schools.
As the respect for tradition
engendered by Conservative
and Reform rabbis has
deepened among their
laymen, they have increas-
ingly supported Orthodox in-
stitutions. In the past, if •a
Reform Jew was busy as-
similating, he would cross
the street to avoid meeting a
chasid. Now, Reform and
Conservative money fuels
the remarkable growth of

Lubavitch, as of the other
Orthodox organizations. In-
deed, there is hardly a major
national Orthodox institution
that can survive without the
financial support of Conser-
vative and Reform Jews.
Logically, then, the Orthodox
should pray every day for the
health and welfare of the
Conservative and Reform
movements. But that is not
the way that it is going.
As Orthodox effectiveness
rises, it gives • greater
strength to the Conservative
and Reform movements. The
day schools are primarily
built, supported, and run by

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