Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Non-Halakhically Jewish

Am I the only one out there who thinks that it's possible to be Jewish, but not halakhically so? I mean, it wouldn't have much bearing on anything halakhic, since someone whose Jewishness doesn't conform to Halakha obviously (=tautologically) wouldn't be able to effect Halakhic reality in a way that only Jews-as-defined-by-Halakha can. They couldn't fulfill my obligation for ḳiddush, or read from the Torah for the community, or marry my hypothetical child, but what would be the problem with accepting their Jew-ish-ness?

I have a friend whose parents converted Reform, and raised him as a Jew. Eventually, as he became more Orthodox in belief and practice, he realized that his parents' conversion was non-halakhic, and therefore halakhically he wasn't Jewish. But he was still Jewish to me and his other friends; just not halakhically so. So what if he couldn't count in a minyan? His thoughts were Jewish thoughts, his words were Jewish words, his actions were Jewish actions; if I were the kind of person who believed in a qualitative difference between Jewish and Non-Jewish souls, it'd be obvious to me that he always had a Jewish soul, even if it couldn't fully express itself through the stipulations of our Contract with God. Eventually, he was finally able to convert in a halakhic manner, but to me he never changed. His identity as a Jew never changed. It just got the lacking halakhic gushpanqa (stamp of approval).

What am I saying? I'm not quite sure, but look at those tribes in Africa who were converted to Christianity but then saw through it to the Jewish truth on the other side, did a hell of a lot of research, and started to live Jewish lives, raise their chidren as Jews, and even be persecuted as Jews by their neighbors. How could anyone deny their Jewishness? They may not be halakhically Jewish, and they should know that, but just pushing them away as 'imposters' is not the way to get them to make the final leap of Faith.


Anonymous brother aharon said...

I've been advocating for a while the use of the term "Ben brit" to refer to someone who shares halachic reality with you. The term "Jewish", like you pointed out, does not actually mean that what we based our observations on what our eyes see.

11/14/2006 11:29 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


Ben Brit used to label people in that way gives me bad flashbacks to Chabad bentshers were they instruct you to add "ben brit" in near the end of Birkat Hamazon so that you don't accidentally wish something positive for a Non-Jew. Ick.

In my still-much-in-working-stage zemer, i use the phrase בעלי ברית אברם וברית מים רבים for "Jews and Non-Jews".

11/14/2006 11:33 PM  
Blogger tikkunger said...

Great post Steg, its TV night and House is about to start so I am going to comeback and do a proper comment. However I wanted to be the first ( oops too late )to say I like your take on this Jewish question and BTW you are my most favorite Halachick Jew in da whole wide world!

Sincerely (in Kosher Style)

PS what is that you like about that Jericho show?

11/15/2006 12:08 AM  
Blogger Knitter of shiny things said...


First of all, great post.

Second of all, I've been debating the question in my mind. To me, if someone converts Reform and believes that is fine and isn't halachically Jewish I see no problem. Were they to become more religious they would probably doubt the validity of their original conversion and possibly reconvert. If not, they're probably not interested in marrying someone frum anyways. And then if a few generations down the line a child becomes a BT and finds out he's not Jewish, he could just convert Orthodox/halachic (I don't think that these are necessarily the same thing). The only problem would be if it was a woman who wanted to marry a cohein and then found out she wasn't halachically Jewish. That would suck.

In terms of obligation, I don't think it's ever come up for me. I don't go inquiring people asking them about their Jewishness. I sort of assume that if they say they're Jewish, they're Jewish.

I get really annoyed when people try to harass people with non-ortho conversions, or people with mothers with non-ortho conversions. *cough*wj2*cough.* If you're not trying to eat their food which you wouldn't consider kosher anyways, or if your kids aren't wanting to marry their kids, I doubt they're doing you any hard. Get over yourself. There's also the whole basic human dignity thing. Oh wait. It doesn't apply to non-Jews. **steps off her industrial-sized soapbox, made especially for short people like her**

11/15/2006 12:20 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...

Some good things, and I'm afraid, some nonsense. (I might even have written 'bullshit', but not only is 'bullshit' not nice and a strong word where I actually just mean I disagree a bit, but 'bullshit' is also a word that one isn't allow to write, even in case one is talking about real bullshit. In a non-literal sense, that is.)

To treat this first - the unfair nonsense is the bitter, sardonic claim basic human dignity doesn't apply to non-Jews according to Orthodox Judaism, or even only in the eyes of the average Orthodox Jew.

I sort of assume that if they say they're Jewish, they're Jewish.

This is something you often hear from Reform/Liberal (not necessarily liberal) as well as from "secular" people. It sounds nice, tolerant and everything, but it has two drawbacks, haloche aside:
A. It empties the word and notion 'Jewish' down to zero. We can certainly discuss if this kind of designations make sense in general, if it should be free to bear contradicting meanings, or the like - in fact Steg's post and these comments are part of such a discussion. But if you use as you wrote, you should realise it simply doesn't have any more meaning.
B. More importantly, the only meaning "Jewish" has in this use, is that "Jewish" is something better. There's no content, but I gracefully bestow to everybody the honour of calling him- or herself 'Jewish'. I'm positive you didn't mean that in any racist way, but the underlying implication is that 'Jewish' is something better, only I grant it to everybody to call themselves thus.

The question itself: I think there is, after all, something like "Jewish" independent of haloche. It's simply diffuse, or more precisely (but not more helpful), there's a long list of things that sum up to what's "Jewish", and there's not a single thing among them that is indispensable, especially if you take very divergent regional differences into account, which I do.

In my subjective experience:

A person with one Jewish and one non-Jewish parent can be anything from completely Jewish to completely goyish, independent which of the parents is the Jew. (Obviously not talking about haloche.) I've seen people that are really torn, too. One Jewish grandparent - usually goyish, even if raised with a lot of yes-we're-Jewish spite in Jewish kindergartens till high schools (usually secular/nationalist).

Adopted children: Some are completely Jewish, whatever their colour of skin etc., others aren't. Genetics is scary.

Some Russian Jews or "half Jews" who have no contact whatsoever with more visible Jewish traditions, lived exclusively among Russian non-Jews, and even bought Soviet atheism as well as Russian anti-Semitism - still Jew as Jew can. Other people born and raised among secular or observant Jews in Brooklyn or Israel - goy as goy can.

Still, studying Judaism through Christian bible translations doesn't make a person a Jew. Simplified, you may define a Jew halachically or sociologically, but if someone isn't one in either respect, I don't see what sense it makes to claim (s)he's Jewish. In Steg's examples: your friend - probably Jewish (haven't met him), even more probable because it was his parents who converted. They might have done that out of goyishe meshugaas, but even then, he was born into it, and grew up in a Jewish environment. (If this environment consisted exclusively of his parents, it might be different.) The tribes in Africa - probably not Jewish, and that's certainly not because a Caucasian goy looks more similar to a cliché Jew than a Black African. (Very unfortunately a frequent unconscious error in reasoning, to say the least.)

But to me, the most important point is that 'Jewish' doesn't equal 'superior', so it's not an insult to say someone isn't.

11/15/2006 5:17 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

I sort of assume that if they say they're Jewish, they're Jewish.

This is something you often hear from Reform/Liberal (not necessarily liberal) as well as from "secular" people.

Yes, but doesn't heloche make this same assumption (chezkes yisro'el)? If I am a stranger, and come into your shul, and ask to be sha"tz for minche because I have yohrtzait or whatever, I don't have to prove my Jewishness. (Not that it's really possible to prove my Jewishness. If a man presents a document proving that his mother was the daughter of some Hakham in North Africa in the early twentieth century, that still leaves the question of whether his mother's mother's mother's mother was Jewish. And what does that even mean? And if someone had a conversion with an apparently kosher bes din, who's to say that the dayyonem on that court weren't really Mongolian Catholics?)

See related: My Identity Post.

11/15/2006 11:35 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Sorry: This is the proper link.

11/15/2006 11:36 AM  
Anonymous brother aharon said...

Hey Lip!

I agree with you on just about everything.

Except: It's usually taken as a slap to tell someone they're not something that they believe wholeheartedly that they are and which is central for their identity. (It's not about superiority)

and regarding the Judaizing Africans, I think it depends on how they feel about other Jews. If they want to be connected to us and graft into our national-religious civilization, then they're Jews already or will be soon. But if all that interests them in being "those guys in the Old Testament" then I think you're probably right.

11/15/2006 11:36 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...

doesn't heloche make this same assumption (chezkes yisro'el)?

No. Apart from the fact that the technical point of view of heloche was explicitly not what we're talking about here, this is something completely different: What Nita said (correct me if I'm wrong) wasn't about how do I find out if the person is Jewish in a pre-defined sense and can I believe her or his words - no, it's about the idea that the very fact he considers him- or herself Jewish makes her or him Jewish.

It's usually taken as a slap to tell someone they're not something that they believe wholeheartedly that they are and which is central for their identity.

Granted. In real life, that'd be somebody whom we'd consider Jewish in a reasonable degree, and so outside of heloche, we wouldn't deny the Jewishness. In a minority of cases, chances are a goy gomur posing as a Jew is a psychopath, and then entirely different rules of what to say, how far to join the game in order to appease the patient etc. apply.

11/15/2006 1:03 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


Thanks! I'm still amazed that you (and other people) aren't offended. It's like giving a consolation prize. A practically useless one, at that.

I like that Jericho show because it's an idea i've been thinking about for a long long long time... imagine what it would be like to live in a post-apocalyptic world. How would you rebuild society? How would you survive at all? i find the questions involved intriguing.


Thanks for adding your opinions and ending sarcasm :-P , but i was explicitly trying to avoid making any references to any individuals or fora. That's also why i didn't give my friend a pseudonym of any kind.


My point about the 'jewish' label has nothing to do with any kind of higher or lower status; it has to do with seeing someone as a member of your family, your extended family, or your extended extended family. Levels of connection, like those defined in the guidelines for precedence of tzedaqa.

11/15/2006 2:33 PM  
Blogger Knitter of shiny things said...

I agree with Brother Aharon's response to your point b- if someone believes they are Jewish and you tell them they're not, then that's going to be hurtful to them. I'm not implying that Jewish is better, but people like to be considered by others as how they themselves identify. Like if I have a halachically Jewish friend who keeps kosher and shabbat, and eats only hekshered products and [since she's female] wears only skirts and long sleeves and doesn't touch guys, but still identifies as Reform, I'm not going to go and call her Orthodox.

As for the sociology question- just because someone had a non-Ortho conversion doesn't mean that they're studying from a Christian bible. One of the friends I'm thinking of is studying to be a Reform Rabbi. Sure, she's not socially Orthodox, but if we're not looking at this halachically anyways, then why does it matter whether or not she's socialogically Orthodox as opposed to Reform? She considers herself Jewish.

In terms of halacha- I'm thinking along the same lines as Mar Gavriel- like if I'm making a zimun or minyan or something, I'm not going to question people's Jewishness. Assuming doesn't make them Jewish, but if they're someone who cares about fulfilling a communal obligation, I assume that they would know whether or not they are halachically Jewish, and wouldn't say they were Jewish if they weren't.

If we were talking about a marriage situation, I actually would care about the halachic status. But in everyday life it isn't a problem for me to consider people who consider themselves Jewish to be Jewish.

In general it's pointless to try to convince people who believe they are Jewish that they are not. If they believe in halacha in an Orthodox sense, they'd know that their conversion wasn't valid. If not, no arguement of halacha is going to convince them, and they see being Jewish as something different.

And as for the bitterness- I guess I was a bit too harsh. I've just been encountering a lot of hateful people online lately, and it hurts to see them being mean to some of my close friends. By writing these hurtful statements they give Orthodoxy a bad name and make me sick.

And you do know that I'm not Reform/Renewal/Reconstructionist/Conservative/Secular, right?

Oh, my bad.

11/15/2006 3:19 PM  
Blogger tikkunger said...

This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

11/15/2006 3:31 PM  
Blogger tikkunger said...

Take with 2 fixed a few typos

Hey Steg

Why would I be offended and why should I see it as a useless consolation prize?

I think it only looks like one looking out from the Orthodox perspective to me it's a very gracious recognition on your part. This is because you could take the typical hard-line stance and refuse to acknowledge people such as myself as having any real Jewishness at all.

You're the person who helped me see the distinction between being a halachick Jew and a non-halachick Jew and I see this distinction makes sense and is appropriate. I'm sure there are many Orthodox Jews who would strongly disagree with any such distinction opting for the view that there is only halachick Judaism and nothing else but as a reform Jew that certainly not my stance.

I can't claim to have done a halachick conversion although I believe my conversion to be valid and thorough. So I don't believe that someone who is halachickly observant should feel a need to consider me a halachick Jew because I am not after all. There was a time when I was concerned about this however after researching and discussing it with numerous people, having numerous perspectives I've come to the conclusion that there are so many different takes on what Judaism is, could be and is not that there is no one stranglehold on the truth.

The bottom line here at least to me in terms of your view and acceptance is that it opens up the door for tolerance and mutual respect. I don't mean this in some sort of the thin edge of the wedge fashion where I'm going to baby step you to accepting me as a full Jew simply that we can find a level of agreement and move onto more important issues in our individual lives.

I would never try to force you or expect you to accept me as part of a minion at your shul just as I would not accept your criticism or mocking of a female rabbi at my Temple. It's simply a question of mutual respect, know what I mean?

11/15/2006 4:33 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Couldn't resist:

Dig: I'm Jewish. Count Basie's Jewish. Ray Charles is Jewish. Eddie Cantor's goyish.

B'nai Brith is goyish; Hadassah, Jewish. Marine corps--heavy goyim, dangerous.

Kool-Aid is goyish. All Drake's cakes are goyish. Pumpernickel is Jewish, and, as you know, white bread is very goyish. Instant potatoes--goyish. Black cherry soda's very Jewish. Macaroons are very Jewish--very Jewish cake. Fruit salad is Jewish. Lime jello is goyish. Lime soda is very goyish.

Trailer parks are so goyish that Jews won't go near them. Jack Paar Show is very goyish.

Underwear is definitely goyish. Balls are goyish. Titties are Jewish. Mouths are Jewish.

All Italians are Jewish. Greeks are goyish--bad sauce.

11/15/2006 5:53 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

An interesting post.

Slight veer off into left field: If Jewish logically means 'like a Jew', then most goyim and many yidden are not 'Jewish'. But Ger Tzadik is (or was - does anyone know what happened to him). But if Jewish means that someone is a Jew, or something pertains to Jews, that distinction is lost.

The description 'kinda Jewishy, in some ways', is not unfamiliar.

Feel-good conversions are dubious. A conversion l'halocho is a more stringent test. And not all Gerim are inclined that way.

Identity, in the modern world, is not a simple thing.

Perhaps time to popularize the brocho "Baruch Ata Adonai Elokeinu Melech ha olam, shel asani Goy" for such cases?

11/15/2006 6:25 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

studying Judaism through Christian bible translations
Problematic at best. Translators see what they expect to see. So do subsequent readers.

The tribes in Africa - probably not Jewish
Let us put it this way: not Jews, but Jew-like. If their exposure to Jewishness is from scripture, then probably not even very Jew-like. But more Jewish than the many people who claim to be, or to be heir to, the lost tribes.

it's about the idea that the very fact he considers him- or herself Jewish makes her or him Jewish
Unlike social circles or fanclubs, Judaism stresses not what the person thinks about themselves as regards identity, but sets certain benchmarks instead.

For Goyim to become Jewish, the bar should be high. For those people whose fathers were Jewish, the bar should be lowered. But one cannot arbitrarily chuck the standards aside, even for someone who has talked himself into believing that he is Jewish. Just because someone calls me brother does not mean that he is kin.

That being said, I'm a little baffled by the people who take an all or nothing approach. Is there anything wrong with being not a Jew, but nevertheless being 'Jewish'?

While I despise the term 'Ben Noach' (an invented term if ever there was one), and the term 'Ger' has only a limited applicability, what about the term 'fellow traveler'? How perfect a description for the Erev Rav! And how equally perfect for 'God-fearers' (the converts and unconverted fellow travellers in the Roman Empire - by extension in this context, their equivalents in the modern age)!

Plus it suggests a certain snarky rejection of any opprobrium that might adhere to being Jewish, Judeo-phile, or pro-Israel.

On the other hand, if someone considers themselves Jewish, and clearly has reasons to consider themselves Jewish, is considered Jewish by other Jews, and conforms to a certain level of Jewishness, it makes little sense to question their Jewishness, outside of matters pertaining to marriage, burial, and certain employments. There has always been a level of 'take it on faith' regarding the Jewishness of most Jews.

[But I still can't accept the Lesbian Womyn's Empowerment Wicca Minyan in Berkeley as being Jewish. That is a case where I will insist that my definition of Jewish over-rules their definition.]

11/15/2006 8:15 PM  
Blogger e-kvetcher said...

Just got paranoid that someone wouldn't get that I was quoting Lenny Bruce in my prev comment...

11/15/2006 10:55 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

No need for Paranoia. Most probably recognized that.

Heh heh heh.

11/15/2006 11:10 PM  
Blogger Kylopod said...

Steg: You're just noticing the dilemma that halacha is extremely technical, and there are countless situations when it seems to defy common sense. The only problem is, what alternative do you have? Without the halacha, there would be no concept of "Jew" today. The sociological definition may have diverged from the traditional one, but it does have a halachic origin. Thus, your whole "common sense" definition of Jewishness is ultimately rooted in halacha, but you're allowing the definition to be more flexible because it feels right to you. It's a little like learning the legal definition of an adult and then saying, "My 18th birthday is five hours away, but nothing fundamental about me will change in that five hours; I'll be pretty much the same person I am now. Therefore, I choose to consider myself an adult now." In a sense, you'd be right, but what's the point of thinking that way? You're not coming up with a better definition of adulthood (or Jewishness), you're just observing that no matter where you draw the line the matter will always remain fuzzy at the margins.

11/15/2006 11:17 PM  
Blogger Kylopod said...

Actually, if I recall, there's a word for the fallacy I just described. It's called the fallacy of the heap, as described in this essay:

"If you start with a heap of sand and take one grain away, you're still left with a heap, but if you keep repeating the process you wind up saying that a single grain of sand is a heap all by itself."

11/15/2006 11:22 PM  
Blogger Kylopod said...

Oh, and one unrelated question: how can I put that neat "links to this post" feature on my blog?

11/15/2006 11:30 PM  
Blogger Ari Kinsberg said...


"Chabad bentshers were they instruct you to add "ben brit" in near the end of Birkat Hamazon so that you don't accidentally wish something positive for a Non-Jew. Ick."

are you serious?

11/16/2006 1:58 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...

add "ben brit" in near the end of Birkat Hamazon so that you don't accidentally wish something positive for a Non-Jew.

This kind of stuff always looks like their Jewish consciousness is standing on feet of clay.

Lenny Bruce

When I first read that (on bangitout, I think), I wondered why the most striking example of US TV wasn't included: Despite the official rôle labels, Chandler is 110% Jewish, and Rachel is goyish. (Ross is neutral, and Monica - well, cleaning neurosis doth not a Jew make.)

Reading the thread again, I think it boils down to this:
A. If X doesn't have a Jewish family connexion and hasn't underwent a valid conversion, doesn't live according to the Tôre's rules for Jews, doesn't act Jewishly in your eyes (Chandler effect™), and the only thing is, X claims Jewishness, does it make any sense to accept this claim? (Supposing you don't think it's a medal of honour, or entirely empty.)

B. If X doesn't fulfil the formal criteria (no conversion, no family connexion) and does things you consider unJewish, but others consider Jewish, would you say X is Jewish?
Say, as a female, X chants as a precentrix on Shabbes some KJB translated psalms and a speech by MLK to a Britney Spears tune for a webcast Reform service. Or X walks around with "Mavet la-aravim" tee-shirts and dreams of promiscuous Israelis. (Please replace these examples in case you find this Jewish.) Except for circular arguments, why would I say X is Jewish?

11/16/2006 9:31 AM  
Anonymous Mike S said...

There is also the opposite problem of those who do not consider themselves Jewish, but who are, halachicly. For instance, someone whose Jewish parents converted to another faith, and who was raised in that other faith.

11/16/2006 10:10 AM  
Anonymous brother aharon said...

All Drake's cakes are goyish.


You don't get any more frum than a Drake's Cake. What do you think gives yeshivah buchars in NY the stamina to keep steiging away??

11/16/2006 10:31 AM  
Anonymous Yehuda said...

I am a Chabad chassid, I have never seen this added into the Bentching. Are you sure about this?

11/16/2006 10:51 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

I have heard from Rav Yosef Blau shlit"a that the Ge'ônim would not consider such a person Jewish: "kol hamHalleil shabbosôs [or is it ho`ôveid `avôdo zoro?] ke-gôy domei", and hence they would not be able to produce Jewish children.

The Rishônim reject this shitto, which both solves and creates problems.

(Spamblocking word: uidwjew.)

11/16/2006 11:04 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

Sorry, I forgot the word "be-farhesyo" in the quote above.

11/16/2006 11:05 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


The way i think of it is like someone 17 years old who acts and thinks in a completely adult manner. They don't have the legal status of an adult, but are adult in every other way.

The feature is i think called 'Trackback', it should be in the blog settings.

Ari Kinsberg:

Yup. I don't have one myself, to check for sure, but i remember seeing it.

Mike S:

Such a person i would consider Halakhically Jewish, but otherwise Not Jewish. I have a number of friends like that, who are technically Jewish but have little to no Jewish background, knowledge or consciousness. They don't see themselves (usually) as Jews, so there's no reason to relate to them as such, unless you're desperate for a minyan or something like that.

Brother Aharon:

I agree. It's Twinkies that are undeniably 'goyish'.


Maybe it's only some benchers that have it? I think i remember seeing it in some Nusahh [Pseudo-]Sfard bentshers, also.

11/16/2006 4:45 PM  
Blogger Izzy said...

I knew a fellow, raised Jewish, who became frum in college. He went to study at Morristown (Chabad Ba'al Tshuvah yeshivah in NJ). He began investigating the geneology of his family, and found out that his mother's mother was not Jewish. Lo, and behold, he's not Jewish. After a long series of discussions with the Rabbis there, he decided NOT to convert!

He felt that a person is held up to such a high standard as a Jew, that he could easily meet the standards of a Ben Noach.

11/16/2006 8:33 PM  
Blogger The back of the hill said...

He felt that a person is held up to such a high standard as a Jew, that he could easily meet the standards of a Ben Noach.

Slightly snarky comment - Isn't it better to try and fail, than to try to fail and succeed?

Although I can definitely see his point.

11/16/2006 9:10 PM  
Blogger tikkunger said...


thanks for sharing the story is there somewhere i can read more about it.

11/16/2006 10:41 PM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...

I've heard that Beney Noahh find it incredibly hard to find spouses.

11/16/2006 11:27 PM  
Blogger tikkunger said...

Steg are you telling me that?


11/17/2006 12:20 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...


a friend who lerned at Brovender's told me such a story about a guy in Israel, too. That basically corresponds to the utter lack of understanding that some traditional Orthodox have, i. e. not people who are BT or otherwise assimilated to today's chareidi spirituality stuff (you know, like the astrocorporal spirituality of a women who went to the mikve). I've heard such people ask in complete sincerity "Huh? XY wants to convert? Why on earth would anyone do that?!"

I've heard that Beney Noahh find it incredibly hard to find spouses.

You probably mean Beney Noahh as a religion of its own. As I understand the poskem, the consensus is that bnei nôech don't even have to know they are bnei nôech. I'm aware of the minority opinion that they basically have to believe (in) the entire Tôre and Jewish tradition, which led to strange cults in America, but I think this is not correct.

11/17/2006 7:18 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


ha ha no i was talking to Izzy in relation to the story about the friend.


right, i meant 'beney noahh' not in its basic traditional sense but in the modern 'non-jews who explicitly believe in judaism' sense.

11/17/2006 7:34 AM  
Anonymous brother aharon said...

Lippy I love you in this thread..

"which led to strange cults in America"

so so true...go down parts of Texas, check it out....creepy stuff

11/17/2006 8:03 AM  
Blogger Mar Gavriel said...

That basically corresponds to the utter lack of understanding that some traditional Orthodox have....

Well, don't we altortodox people come out of 1,000+ years in which it was virtually (though not entirely) impossible for anyone to be mithgayyeir to Jooshaism?

11/17/2006 9:58 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...


yes, but that's only one aspect, and not what the 60-year old sound chareidi people would mean if they lack understanding. You're actually talking about "why should anyone want to be Jewish, after all, we're suppressed and hated?" I meant "Why would anyone want to be Jewish unless (s)he is, and take on all these restrictions? They're fine like that, and they don't have to, I mean, they aren't Jewish anyway."

I think this was clear because we were talking about cases of people who lived as O Jews and found out they weren't helochically Jewish. (I wasn't talking about giyurim in general, because this whole discussion is dafke not about heloche concepts, but about other concepts of Jewishness.)

[Two side-notes:
Should I put "sound chareidi" on my list of O subdenominations? OToneH, I coined it ad hoc, OTother, I actually have a certain type before my eyes.
What's behind the your writing "Jooshaism", except for your regular irregular whimsiness, of course: derived from 'Jewish' [dzhu:sh]?]

11/19/2006 8:31 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...

Oh, freak coincidence: I remember Sießche and I were called "sound Orthodox" some years ago by a (chareidi) woman in Yerushelayem. That was right in front of the uncommon shop in the Old City that propagates Bennoahdom (selling stickers "Keep the 7, Go to Heaven" - very funny)!

11/19/2006 8:39 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Post Steg- sorry I found it so late in the conversation- I guess my issue is that no matter what, there is someone out there who won't recognize a conversion no matter WHAT WAS DONE! A person can have an orthodox conversion here in the States and STILL not be recognized as a Jew in Israel. So what the hell is ANYONE supposed to do? This is reflective of the sad state of Jewry today. Anyway, its a great question- I think everyone should ask themselves, Can I prove my ancestry back 3000 years? If you can't then you ought to keep your mouth shut and let them in the minyan if they are sincere.

11/22/2006 2:27 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Great Post Steg- sorry I found it so late in the conversation- I guess my issue is that no matter what, there is someone out there who won't recognize a conversion no matter WHAT WAS DONE! A person can have an orthodox conversion here in the States and STILL not be recognized as a Jew in Israel. So what the hell is ANYONE supposed to do? This is reflective of the sad state of Jewry today. Anyway, its a great question- I think everyone should ask themselves, Can I prove my ancestry back 3000 years? If you can't then you ought to keep your mouth shut and let them in the minyan if they are sincere.

11/22/2006 2:27 PM  
Blogger Lipman said...

Oh, I think it's still easier to prove minyenability if you have a good giyur than if you're just Jewish, especially if during the last generations, your ancestors weren't traditional and so, no ksubbes are there to show.

(And you know the joke that moshiach was here already, only he went away again, because the rabbanut didn't accept his grandmother's giyur papers?)

But still, this post was really dafke not about heloche, including the question of geiresn, I think.

11/22/2006 3:17 PM  
Blogger Ben-Yehudah said...

B"H Hmmm...well, a goy who keeps SHabbath is hayav mthah. A goy who has relations witha bath Yisarel is,...hayav mthah. A goy who learns Torah sheb'al peh if I remember correctly, is hayav mthah biydei Shamayim. Any questions?

At the most some of these pseudo-conversions are safeq.

How we "feel" is almost never relavent to Hallachic determination.

Politically-incorrect? Probably. Non-Western? Definitely.

11/24/2006 4:58 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...

Er, yes. Though from what you write, I'm not sure you're free of feelings here either.

But still, this post was really dafke not about heloche, including the question of geiresn, I think.

11/25/2006 5:48 PM  
Blogger Lipman said...

re: non-halakhic Jewish - Do you regard the recent legal acknowledgement of same-sex marriages from abroad an example for non-helochically Jewish Israel?

11/28/2006 4:48 AM  
Blogger Steg (dos iz nit der šteg) said...


Interesting question.
Israel is weird for many reasons, but one is the lack of separation of Synagogue and State, and yet it's not a theocracy. So you have strange legal situations such as the one you just mentioned, where Jews who want to get married within the country have to do so according to Halakha, but marriages that don't even 'catch' Halakhically are acknowledged if they happened somewheres else!

I'm not sure whether it'd fit, though. Describing someone as "Jewish, but not halakhically so" is an origins claim. It's saying that they never went through the "proper halakhic channels", but yet are somehow 'Jewish' nevertheless.

I think it'd be more parallel to ask those who hold that Jewish sovereignty before the Messianic age is forbidden, whether the State of Israel is nevertheless Jewish.

To me it just looks like a Jewish state making not-necessarily-Halakhic decisions.

11/28/2006 6:27 AM  
Blogger Lipman said...

Yes. And what I meant in particular was that things like equal treatment of homosexuals are often regarded to be typically Jewish concerns - only in this case not even neutral, but probably contrary to the common view of heloche.

11/28/2006 12:40 PM  
Blogger Larry Lennhoff said...


Your post came up during a related discussion over on LiveJournal. You might find the associated discussion of interest.

12/08/2006 8:42 AM  
Blogger evanstonjew said...

Great post...sorry I didn't notice it before.

I think the proper name and exact definition of the new category comes last. Why not begin by asking which non halachic Jews you would like if they threw their lot in with halachic Jews. I for one would like children of patrilineal descent to remain Jewish.Once u settle on who you care about , the rule becomes easier.

12/13/2006 3:31 PM  
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