Thursday, February 24, 2022

The Most Staggering Deception and Hypocrisy

Should the Kotel have an area for egalitarian prayer services? Should Conservative and Reform and unaffiliated Jews have a space to pray in a way that they feel comfortable and to which they are accustomed? 

Most people have a knee-jerk reaction to this question, but there are in fact complicated issues and reasonable arguments to be made. I'm not going to get into them here, but what I'd like to marvel at is the sheer dishonesty of the organization spearheading the fight against any change.

If you're going to argue that there should be no change, that the site should follow traditional Jewish forms of prayer, that the authenticity/ historical power of tradition should carry more weight than pleasing relatively recent movements, and it's irrelevant if people in those movements are delegitimized and will not feel at home at the Kotel, fine. You can call your organization "Defenders of Tradition" or "Guardians of the Temple" or something like that.

Incredibly, however, the organization taking on this cause calls itself "Am Echad - One People"!

Their tagline is an extraordinary accomplishment of dishonest talk: "Am Echad aims to unite Jews from the Diaspora and Israel around the goals of preserving our 3,000-year-old heritage, deepening cooperation among our communities, and upholding Jewish interests in Israel and around the world." Of course, what they are actually doing is trying to prevent any cooperation between the Orthodox community and other communities. The only "unity" that they want to promote is that of the Orthodox community, and only so that they can fight together to delegitimize other communities.

It's obvious why they decided to be deceptive in their description of themselves - unity is a much more appealing motif than being exclusionary. But the dishonesty is galling. And take a look at how they describe the first of the areas in which they operate, "Religious Freedom":

Freedom of religion should be an unalienable right of every individual. For Jews, religious practice has been the bedrock of our national existence for over 3,000 years. Our rich tradition informs every facet of Jewish individual and communal life. Preserving the ability of every Jew to observe the laws and customs of our tradition freely is a critical goal of Am Echad. We work with local Jewish communities around the world to stem attempts to infringe on religious liberties.

In other words, when they speak about the importance of "Religious Freedom," they mean the exact opposite! They mean that Orthodox Judaism is the only legitimate expression of religion, and any other expression is not be legitimized!

And it gets even worse. This organization is not just dishonest - it's extraordinarily hypocritical.

At the Jewish Federations of North America General Assembly (JFNAGA) several years ago, Am Echad was furious that Orthodox voices did not receive sufficient representation. They campaigned about this as follows:




"As the the rift between different sectors of the American Jewish community widens and points of identification become no longer in common, we find it vital that all Jews be represented at the #JFNAGA, because after all is said and done, we are still One Nation."

"Anybody purporting to be the voice of an entire nation should have representative voices from all sectors of that nation."

The hypocrisy is simply staggering!

Am Echad should either live by their own stated principles or admit that they don't actually believe in them.


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89 comments:

  1. I'm not down with this post. Putting aside poor marketing strategies, the villain is not this random org. Why this is the post we get and not one on the sheer unsustainable joke that is progressive Judaism is beyond me. Please.

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    Replies
    1. This is not a random org but a front for Agudath Israel of America and its counterparty Haredi political parties in Israel.

      Delete
    2. Let's focus on what is really important here without busting chops on lesser important issues.

      Reform Judaism is a worthless hollow shell. They're losing adherents rapidly because there is nothing to sign up for. The youth know its empty speeches to old farts and nothing more. I think the average age there is 62 (that was a joke, but probably not much younger).

      Worse yet, Reform spits on the basic principles of faith, as codified by Rambam. Their claim to rights relating to Judaism is akin to a vegetarian yelling about vegetarianism while chomping on a steak.

      Besides, many aren't even Jewish. And the ones who are don't keep its laws. If they have rights to Jewish sites, I have rights to an Indian reserve.

      Anyone with any Jewish backbone sees this for what it is.

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    3. "Anyone with any Jewish backbone sees this for what it is."

      It's doesn't take backbone to see. It takes backbone to do. Or, in some cases, not to do.

      So the question is what is to be done?

      I can tell you what should have not been done. Hoffman's little provocative monthly shtick should have been ignored. She wasn't exactly drawing a huge following. Was there really going to be a mass awakening among the Reform and a renewed interest in davening with a minyan regularly?

      Yes, it was a provocation & a desecration. But it was relatively small and inconsequential. The reaction against her turned her into a celebrity, and her eccentric little club meeting into a mass movement.

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    4. Orthodox Jewish exclusivity is actually inclusive; it includes all legitimate forms of Judaism.

      Delete
  2. This is not a new situation. For a few decades, any call from an Orthodox organization for "Jewish Unity!" (or bemoaning the lack of "Jewish Unity") really reduced to:

    . . . We should all observe Orthodox norms of behavior.

    So to fight for a sex-segregated Kotel in the name of "Jewish Unity" is nothing to be surprised about.

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  3. As far as the Kosel goes, who cares? The main thing is to prevent the construction of a rival non-Orthodox Kosel section.

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    Replies
    1. There already is one. Has been for years. It's almost always empty except for Orthodox smachot looking for a nice space.

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    2. I once went to that plaza and it was totally empty. There irony of Orthodox Jews making simchas there can't be understated.

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  4. Both sides are engaging in hyperbolic false rhetoric here. A relative of mine asked me to explain the Kotel situation and I was unable to find anything online which explained things in an at all evenhanded manner.

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    Replies
    1. I thought that there already is a prayer section for the Reform and Conservative, further south, towards שער אשפות. What's wrong with only having that?

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    2. They claim the entrance isn't close enough to the rest of the Kotel or something. I mean, the latest ructions are really an argument about nothing. It's a good way to stir up fundraising for both sides.

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  5. This organization stands in stark contrast to this great song of the same name:
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RYJuz8fjXbY

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    Replies
    1. No, that video suffers from the same hypocrisy as the organization. No Jews of color, no women. Apparently am echad means we're all one nation except anyone we don't want to include.

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    2. "Jews of color"? How many of those are there out there?

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    3. Nachum your very question underscores the problem of their invisibility to the majority. The short answer is about a million, although estimates do vary. Often when people preach unity they're interested in unifying only people similar to them.

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    4. There are about twelve million Jews in the world. Over 99% of them are white. (That means the remainder number a *lot* less than a million.)

      There are Jews who would very much not like the above fact to be true, but facts don't care about one's feelings.

      Don't get me wrong, I'm all in favor of Jewish unity among all colors of Jews. But let's not twist facts in pursuit of an admirable goal.

      Delete
    5. What is really interesting about that video is that includes Ari dressed a Jew without a Kipa, yet on the album cover, someone decided that an album called "Am Echad" couldn't include someone bareheaded, so a Kip was added to the bareheaded individual.

      With regard to the comment "no Jews of Color, no Women" - the people on the stage are all the same person, just dressed differently. If he had also dressed as a "Jew of Color", he would have been accused of racisms (every heard of blackface), if he had dressed as a woman, that would have lead to all kinds of accusations.

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    6. Michael, obviously I'm not talking about the 5 appearances of Ari, but all the other people in the video. No Ethiopian Jews, Moroccan Jews, Yemenite Jews, Indian Jews, Asian Jews, etc. Nachum: I'm not interested in a statistics war with you, but they comprise much more than 1%.
      There's nothing wrong with making a video with just Ashkenazi Jews, but it kind of misses the point if it's supposed to be about national unity. By the way, if you want to claim that nobody else was around, you can see someone with darker skin schlepping the sound system at 1:10, and some women in the crowd scene at the end for a second

      Delete
  6. It is also dishonest to view animal sacrifice as primitive and barbaric and to claim that the Makom Hamikdash is sacred.

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    Replies
    1. Maybe they hold like the Rambam.

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    2. The Rambam believes in korbanot.

      And to Larry, so do I, but let's be honest, how many *Orthodox* people at the Kotel *really* want to see the Mikdash rebuilt? Close to zero.

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    3. Maybe they believe like Rav Kook (Ktav Yad Kodsho II, pp. 15-17) that in the future there might not be animal sacrifices in the Beit Hamikdash

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    4. They'll get their wish...building worship and korbanot worship and misogyny are so BC...

      Delete
  7. I didnt sign for that very reason

    When Moshiach comes and Shlomo Hamelech wants to let the Goyim into the Beis Hamikdosh you know who will be protesting that the site is for their community only

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Shlomo won't be king when Mashiach comes. Mashiach will.

      Non-Jews not being allowed into the Mikdash is a halakha, and halakha won't change with Mashiach.

      Also, the non-Jews won't be having communal prayer.

      Delete
    2. Melochim 1, Ch 8 Verse 42: "For they shall hear of Your great Name, and of Your mighty hand, and of Your outstretched arm, and he will come and pray TOWARDS THIS HOUSE."

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    3. "Towards" being the operative word there.

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    4. Nahum rejoices in the spiritual caste system... Jokes gonna be on you when Moshiach comes...

      Delete
  8. I am Orthodox, and Aguda does not speak for me.

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  9. Thanks for this post. Now I'm 100% sure you're a joke

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  10. The kuzari says that the worst thing about the karaites was the fact that they created a התפלגות הדעות,and dividing the unity of the nation. Fighting a movement which distorts the Torah IS in fact fighting for jewish unity. There's one Torah for one nation.

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  11. I don't think it's hypocritical. They're just trying to convey that all Jews should adhere to one single tradition of prayer and worship. As for the having the egalitarian section in the first place, I find the Conservative/Reform demands to be laughable chutzpah. They don't attend Shul, the majority of them would not hesitate to intermarry, so why should they be allowed to display their practices, which traditional Jews find offensive, at Judaism's holiest place?

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  12. You conveniently leave out the most important part:

    "The religious status quo in effect at the founding of Israel has helped ensure the Jewish nature of Israel. Challenges to the status quo are divisive and threaten the delicate fabric of national unity.

    More specifically, Israel recognizes every Jew as a part of the Jewish people, no matter their level of observance or affiliation. Yet, a single standard for personal status issues is the only way to maintain one Jewish Nation in Israel and abroad."

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Well then who gets to decide the "single standard"?

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    2. Until the 1980s, Reform Judaism didn't engage in conversions. Up until then, if a person converted to Judaism, it was only by Orthodox standards.

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    3. @Yehudah P., fascinating. Source?

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  13. The Torah abounds in the concept of "freedom of religion" being anathema to Judaism. The Chanukkah story is the most obvious historical example of this.

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    Replies
    1. Hmmm, so you'd have to wonder why an Orthodox group like Am Echad is promoting an idea which is anathema to Judaism.

      Delete
  14. This is an issue with all fundamental groups.

    They "KNOW" they have the "ONLY ONE THRUTH" to the exclusion of all the others. All fundamental groups take umbrage and protest vigorously at the slightest infringement on their views or the slightest offence but have no qualms at all ridiculing or infringing on others.

    The reason is because they don't see any equality of opinions, their opinions are "TRUE" and other people's opinions are obviously "FALSE", so they don't have to to to others as they demand others do to them.

    The asymmetry is built into their worldview from the get go.

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    Replies
    1. @na, does the Reform establishment consider Orthodoxy true? Could they? And their view on the Conservative establishment? And the Conservatives on them? And on Orthodoxy? Can they?

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  15. What is the problem? Our Sages say that a Jew who ignores the commandments (according to the tradition) should be considered as a Gentle.
    Jewish nation is not about biology. A practicing convert is considered as a Jew even if he is descent of Haman ha-rasha. The same is about the opposite.
    As for freedom of religion: who said you it is anathema to Judaism? Not at all! So long you practice idolatry it secret or far away from the Jewish Land, no one is in charge or has a right to follow after you to check what you are doing.

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  16. The "MOST STAGGERING" deception & hypocrisy!! Lol, classic Slifkin hyperbole & and hypocrisy!

    The leftists have been piously preaching "tolerance" for thirty years, all while attempting to stigmatize, undermine, or criminalize anything important to the religious. Get back to us after you've tackled that little bit of hypocrisy first.

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  17. This post indicates that the author has become a very confused individual who is going off the derech. It's regrettable.

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    Replies
    1. Right. Any true Torah Jew knows that Reform Jews are so evil that they must be distanced in any way possible, even with lies. Anything to prevent them from davening at the Kosel.

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    2. Nobody tries to prevent reformed Jews or anyone else in the world population from davening at the Kosel.

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    3. They've been davening there till now.

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    4. Well, we should stop them! It's a threat to the Torah!!!

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    5. The Gdoilim do not see a thereat to the Torah here.

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    6. @Anonymous February 25, 2022 at 10:51 AM, "Well, we should stop them! It's a threat to the Torah!!!"

      A new argument. But
      1- there are larger issues.
      2- the early Zionists did exactly this on a much much larger scale to the religious, actively and not preventatively, such as brainwashing children against their parents' deepest wishes, or kidnapping them, and lesser pieties, in effect ... stopping them! They're a threat to the new state!

      Delete
  18. The people enmasse in the nonOrthodox movements who feel a connection to Judaism feel comfortable going to the Kotel as is. You're also talking about movements where most people in them are not going to Shul. The leadership is trying to stir up their own movements and expand outward. They cannot exist though without a Diaspora community and if you can't daven with your fellow Jews requiring a special area and you also threaten that you will not support Israel as if you are still the power that's sticking around and as if most people in your movements are even thinking about Judaism or Israel on a scale that would make a difference to Israel or Jewish continuity is not appealing to unity or the Kotel experience either.

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  19. Is this post a subtle admission that the author views Reform "Judaism" as Judaism? I fear that the writer is not being clear regarding his own true leanings...

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  20. Would Rabbi Slifkin support giving serious consideration to a Jews for Jesus type group demanding space at the Kotel as well? (Assume for the sake of the hypothetical that the group in question does not recognize Jesus as divine, but only as prophet and messiah, so no avoda zara in its colloquial sense.) Probably has the same mix in the movement of Jews and non-Jews as contemporary Reform, and probably even more supportive of Israel than Reform provided they're not "delegitimized". Never mind the turning off of traditional Jews.

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  21. Rabbi, Rabbi, in one of his books, Hanoch Teller tells of a lady who went into labor during an international flight. The pilot prepared for emergency landing and also announced, "Is there a doctor on the flight?" But all that was available was a podiatrist. He rushed over and pulled off her shoe. Noticing something unusual on one of her toes, he took out his tools and started working on her. In another version, he called out to the pilot, "Emergency! Land ASAP."

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  22. The Jewish nation is engaged in the evolutionary struggle for the preservation of its purity and identity. Morality is what benefits this struggle and leads to its success. The charedim have the best track record so far. Judaism in the service of humanism, secularism and Zionism has a very poor track record. Why side with losers in the evolutionary struggle? People who do so may be lacking in the evolutionary fitness.

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    Replies
    1. Zionism had a bad track record?? Ahh, do you live in Israel?

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    2. Judaism in the service of Zionism has a a very poor record. I wasn't addressing Zionism, which is not a religious movementl.

      Delete
  23. The Reform establishment has a totally different concept of what prayer (with reporters on hand of course) is in the first place. The following from Rabbi E. Feldman's “Tales out of Shul” chapter seven gives you an idea.

    ---

    A telephone call from a national organization urging all rabbis to sponsor a day of prayer for Jews behind the Iron Curtain: “We want to mobilize all of America's synagogues for this day of prayer,” said the official.

    “Sounds like a good idea to me,” I responded.

    Then he added something not in the script: “I don't know how much good the prayers will do, but it will arouse public opinion if we publicize it and the media pick it up.”

    Only after he hung up did I realize just how sad this last statement really was. For him, prayer has no value in its own right. It is strictly a PR gimmick, another kind of technique. He probably sends his prayers up to heaven with a notation in the upper right-hand margin: FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE TO ALL MEDIA.

    This was not much different from the request by an influential community leader: “Rabbi, we're planning a Bar Mitzvah for our son this summer in Israel. I thought of Masada, but it's stifling hot up there in August. We also considered the Wall, but I hate to say it, that's old hat already. I need a place that's dramatic, moving, you know, and not too hot in the summertime. Can you recommend a spot for me?

    ---

    I'll only note that the official on the phone made no mention of the PR aspect, and that Prayer itself is in all likelihood a farce ח”ו, (similar for the Wall), until he was secure that Rabbi F. was on board. That contains an element of duplicity and/or ignorance. Sad indeed.

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  24. Just think Slifkin. If you’d been alive a few centuries ago, you’d be fighting for the Karaites. A few millennia, and you’d be the flag bearer for the Sadduccees.
    A organization that is clearly unaligned with Authentic Judaism has no place at the Kotel.
    I understand your position. That at one point in the future if the fight against reform succeeds, that it’ll move on to the conservatives and egalitarians and eventually to the non-Haredim.
    Hopefully the line will be clear as to what constitutes unauthentic versus just a few basic Halachic arguments.
    Shabbat Shalom

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    Replies
    1. The difference, of course, is that the Kotel today exists in the context of the State of Israel as a modern liberal (lowercase "L") democracy (not a rabbinic theocracy—of which we could debate the merits), which exists to foster "freedom on conscience" and protect the religious rights of all.

      Perhaps this gets back to the (disturbing) idea that "Israel can either be Jewish or democratic—not both." Who decides what constitutes "Authentic Judaism" (in your words), after all?

      Delete
    2. As to your second point, precisely what "fight against reform" are you you referring to?

      No frum leader (or layperson, for that matter) I've ever heard/met could give half a fig for the Reform. The Reform have written themselves into Jewish and historical irrelevancy (as even the heterodox Jack Wertheimer's demographic studies have shown; on top of that, there was the extraordinary finding in the recent Pew survey in which more American Jews self-report "engagement" with Chabad than with Reform), and they will continue, sadly, to reap the demographic fruits of the ineffectual seeds they have sown.

      All that said, they are still guaranteed religious rights under a democratic government.

      Delete
  25. This is not at all a simple subject. Nor is it a holy war. Nor is it avodas Hashem. The preservation of Torah and mitzvos cannot, should not, must not, come at the expense of Shalom among Jews, and ahavas Yisrael, whose boundaries aren't decided by either zealots in the name of Torah, or those who make up their own rules and call it just as valid. Everyone should understand the blessing that comes to our Nation when we stop seeing the other, as "the other" or "them", and the spiritual destruction and delaying the tikun that will allow Moshiach to come, when there is hatred (especially in the name of Hashem and Torah).

    Whoever thinks that they know the right way to handle things, doesn't. I, personally, am grateful that I don't have to support anyone's beliefs, because nobody's going to be asking me to bear the weight of this problem. (Just speculating here, but I would bet that there is no one voicing their criticisms on this forum, and many others, that don't Jewish leaders banging down their door because their opinion is sooooo important, that it's worth the amount of sinas chinam, that is generated here, and in "Comments" sections all over the internet.)

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    1. Nice but what's the plan while the other party is belligerent? Be at peace while they do whatever they want?

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  26. Let's be real here, though. It's not as if the non-orthodox movements are being honest as well. The very framing of this issue in the general media as the "Kotel compromise" is a good example of this - the arrangement they're fighting for was *not* agreed upon by the two sides in negotiations, but was forced upon the elected Israeli government by the unelected high court. (You may not like chareidi parliamentary influence, but those are the facts.) Ditto the claims about "religious freedom" - the non-orthodox, and their liberal dati allies, spit on the Jews that want to pray on the Temple Mount and have not lifted a finger in support of their freedom of worship. This is a power struggle between liberal and (lower-case) conservative Jews, and Chareidi spin-jobs should not blind you to the far more egregious Reform spin-jobs.

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  27. To almost all the commenters on this post:

    1. There is a difference between defending Reform Judaism and between pointing out hypocrisy on the part of this Am Echad Orthodox Judaism. Rabbi Slifkin's post dealt with the second of these issues, not the first. So most of the comments here are irrelevant at best.
    2. Having said that, at worst, your collective comments reveal a deep-seated antagonistic stance towards Reform Judaism that I find hard to accept. First, they are still Jews. So, a more pleasant attitude should be extended. Second, the war over 'who gets to decide what is legitimate Judaism' is over - years ago. Fighting over this issue is as stupid as American's fighting over whether blacks have the same rights as whites. Intelligent people realized years ago that these fights are stupid. Learn to get on with each other. Live side by side, if not together. But the hatred should really stop. The open hatred displayed here is not דרכי נועם at all.

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    Replies
    1. "Learn to get on with each other. Live side by side, if not together. But the hatred should really stop. The open hatred displayed here is not דרכי נועם at all."

      On this blog you write this. Lol. No self awareness whatsoever.

      Delete
    2. At least you agree with my main point.

      Delete
  28. It seems that ore 1948 there was no mechitza at the kotel. So it is hard to understand the claim there has always been a Michitza and UT acted as an orthodox shul. It is also disturbing that an organization that claims An Echad really means my way in the high way. If you look at old pictures of the kotel men and women are together
    Unfortunately the sites do not let me copy an example. I only daven with a mechitza but I imagine that if we really wanted am echad we could work something out.

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    Replies
    1. At one time there was no Rabbi of the Wall. You could have a Church service or Hindu service if all it is just a wall we can be lucky enough to daven at, as in the past.

      Delete
  29. Presented w/o comment:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YGrklgvPi_8

    (except to say that this frum comedy group makes some very clever videos)

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  30. You can't call for "Jewish unity" on non-Jewish terms. Along with the Reform section, we would also get a, what, "Messianic Judaism" section perhaps?

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    Replies
    1. Well, that's the thing, isn't it.
      What would you call 'non-Jewish'?
      And what makes you think you are the one who makes the call?

      How would you feel if it went the other way round and secular Israel decided it wasn't going to offer rights to Aliya or defense by the IDF in times of war to Orthodox Jews who insist on supporting Rambam's 13 principles?

      THe Jewish People is a mixed bag. We have to support the whole group, despite differences.

      Delete
  31. what is shtick and what is real, when it comes to religion? Do religious people of different kinds ever look at one another and see the a reflection of themselves, just with different theology? Does it ever make them wonder how "beliefs" travel the distance to "undisputable truths?" I believe in G-d. My father does not. Is he wrong? Am I? Where is the humility? The part of us that says a "belief," a "tradition," is not a fact, not a truly known? What is the fear in saying that out loud? It would go a LONG way towards people seeing each other more charitably, and less through the lens of hate or fear or disgust.

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    1. Let's draw that out. What's wrong with hate or fear or disgust?

      Delete
    2. I think it's fine to feel any feeling you want. But, people are equal under the law. Everyone can feel and express themselves. But, you can’t abridge the rights of others.

      Religion, in the orthodox form, tends to act against others, based on the religious not “feeling” the others have the correct (or maybe just the same) opinions as they do.

      The religious have a feeling. A hunch. An idea. But, they take it too far. They demand the “other” comply with their hunches. The demand the other obey. That part is fascistic, and self-serving and self-indulgent. It’s something people do when they get drunk with power and the guardrails come off.

      Treat others under the law as you would be treated. Think what you like. But recognize, as all of us are human beings, no one “knows” a thing about what is actually true. (Even the religious.) Don’t let the law reflect otherwise. Show some modesty.

      Delete
  32. >>happygoluckypersonageFebruary 27, 2022 at 5:54 PM

    >>"On this blog you write this. Lol. No self awareness whatsoever."

    Seriously? Do you justify hateful bitterness because you believe that R. Slifkin's blog is a place where vile hatred is the accepted norm? It is clear to any adult that your response was neither self-aware, nor Torah aware. Imo.

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    Replies
    1. To be clear, I don't consider any of the comments here hateful. Just pointing out that Reform is not Judaism. But to the extent that somebody does, yet that same person greedily laps up this blog's near-constant hatred of chareidim, and zestfully participates, that person indeed lacks self-awareness.

      Delete
  33. I don't understand why the current arrangement at the Kotel is at all exclusionary to Reform and Conservative, it's not like they can't be there, the men and women are just separated. Is it a tenet of their faith that prayer must be egalitarian?

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    Replies
    1. No the movements' leaders have been doing this to attack all the Orthodox. Also if they go down they don't want Orthodoxy to survive them.

      Delete
    2. Do you mind if men and women pray together at the Kotel?
      If so, then you answered your own question. The current arrangement is exclusionary to those who dont think that the Orthodox way is the only way.

      Or in keeping with the theme of this post... we'll be inclusive to all those who are the same as me.
      Which is, as you pointed out, exclusive, not inclusive.

      Delete
  34. If the status of the Wall is legally reduced to a Wall then you can have Church services there.If it has a rabbi over it then it has rules. If the Conservative and Reform movements want to have one of their own as the rabbi it would more easily happen if they would have massive immigration to Israel. With the high intermarriage rate it's hard enough to bring their masses to Shul let alone identify with Israel as not just another country.

    ReplyDelete

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