The Blemishes of Orthodoxy

“Either/Orthodoxy
Lawrence Grossman
Jewish Ideas Daily
May 15, 2012

Lawrence Grossman of the American Jewish Committee sparks an thoughtful debate about the relevance of Orthodox Judaism when even some of its adherants are perplexed.

For his part, Grossman mounts a pithy assault on one book that argues against the divine inspiration of Torah, and another that defends Orthodoxy yet tries to frame Orthodoxy in the cast of modern spirituality.

In the end, Grossman poses a question: if, in fact, Torah is not from a divine source, and thus the justification for the mitzvot weak, why does Orthodox Judaism remain so “vibrant and successful?”

Read the article, but read it as you would attend a shiur: in other words, read the comments as well. They are in many respects the best part.

Bill Bishop Wonders about China’s Latent Anti-Semitism

Today’s China Readings May 24, 2012 | Sinocism.

On his excellent Sinocism blog, the thoughtful and prolific Bill Bishop examines whether China Central Television‘s (CCTV) talk show host is an anti-Semite, a subject broached by the Shanghaiist editorial staff.

While he reaches no conclusion either way, Bishop, whom I do not believe is a member of the Tribe, approaches the topic with tact and care.

When asked how Jews are perceived in China, I always fall back on the words of Rebbetzin Dini Freundlich of Chabad of Beijing, who once said, “Chinese say the same [stereotypical] things about Jews that everybody else in the world says. The difference is that they say it with respect.”

My experience over 17 years living in China and ten years traveling here before that is that most Chinese have a healthy admiration for Jewish people, albeit one based too much on hearsay for my comfort. (After all, a positive reputation based on hearsay can turn into a negative one when the hearsay changes, all without reference to the facts.)

It behooves every Jew with the ability to visit China to do so, and to make no effort to hide your Judaism, any more than an American should hide his origins. If the Chinese are to know us, they must know who we are, and I believe that the more they know us, the better we’ll be liked. (Especially if we act according to Torah in the process.)

Partners in Torah

Judaism, Torah, Jews | Partners in Torah.

This site promises you the opportunity to learn any Jewish subject with your own private teacher for 30-45 minutes a week over the phone.

Very cool…

Another Tribe Returns Home

Chinese Jews feel more at home in Israel – latimes.com.

Fantastic story in the L.A. Times describing the physical and spiritual journey of a small group Jews from Kaifeng to Israel.

I totally get their initial indignation to “convert” to Judaism after having been raised Jewish. In the face of that initial frustration, their persistence is admirable. And they won’t be the last, please G-d.

I wonder what the Rebbe would have thought.

Still Paying After Sixty Years

Jewish Museum - Fallen Leaves

In a superb Hoover Institution review of Timothy Snyder’s new book Bloodlands: Europe Between Hitler and Stalin, James Kirchick notes:

To this day, the populations of the former Soviet Bloc, and some elements of their intelligentsia, have yet to come to terms with their historical complicity in the Holocaust, painting their ancestors as victims, which indeed many of them no doubt were, while ignoring the fact that many were erstwhile collaborators. In Lithuania, for instance, where over 95 percent of the country’s Jewish population died in the Holocaust with widespread Lithuanian complicity, the government has actually attempted to bring legal charges against Holocaust survivors who participated in the anti-Nazi underground because they happened to collaborate with communists.

The diaspora has ben a wonderful thing for Jews in many ways, in that it has given us footholds throughout the world. But it has also taught us that there are lands where it is possible we really do not belong. Indeed, if anything affirms my belief in the importance of both Israel and a diverse diaspora, it is matters like these. Clearly, the welcome mat in former centers of Torah learning like Vilna have, for Jews, been rolled up and burned.

Two Paths

Interesting quote from the first volume of Rabbi. Joseph Telushkin’s magisterial A Code of Jewish Ethics:

The Midrash teaches that if a person wishes to become a priest (Kohen) or a Levite, he cannot do so, since these roles are passed down by heredity from father to child. But any person, Jew and non-Jew alike, can become a tzaddik, a righteous person (Midrash Psalms).

Indeed.

O, Hashem. If it is your will that I shall never be a Get Tzedek, make me instead a goyische tzaddik.

Enriching the Haskalah

A Reform synagogue with mixed seating and equa...

Image via Wikipedia

While the Haskalah, the Jewish Enlightenment movement, probaly saved millions of Jews from total assimilation, in its rejection of the Oral Law and much tradition as well as practice, did it not deny generations of Reform jews all knowledge of the richness of their legacy?

What I must wonder is how many we lost because of a shallow understanding of Judaism, and an ignorance of the true depths of its heritage.

Is it not time to consider turning the tide, to consider bringing to Reform and Conservative Jews a greater exposure to the parts of their heritage arbitrarily cast aside a century and a half ago?