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Conversion in the News Roundup: From Crypto-Jews to Black Jews to Angry Jews

“The New Assimilated Jews” (Ynetnews.com)

There are so many things wrong with this article, I don’t even know where to begin. Yael Mishali writes: “In my view, an assimilated Jew is anyone whose Judaism has no significance in his own eyes. He was born Jewish, and now just leave him alone. In my view, an assimilated Jew is a type of gentile. Perhaps even worse.” WHAT THE…. And I’m not even going to comment on the writer’s idea of what constitutes conversion.

“Sub-Saharan Shabbat: Meet the first-generation Jews of Ghana” (Tablet Magazine)

“In 1974, prompted by the vision of an itinerant preacher, Joseph Armah and several other members of the Sefwi tribe in western Ghana declared themselves the descendants of one of the lost tribes of Israel. This wasn’t as arbitrary as it sounds; for centuries, though unfamiliar with Judaism, the tribe had followed Jewish practices, performing circumcision a week after an infant’s birth, observing Shabbat, and excluding pork from their diet.

Their conversion raises interesting, if familiar, questions about who can legitimately call himself a Jew. But for Armah’s children, those questions don’t really matter. They are among the first generation of Ghanaians to be raised Jewish, and as such they must navigate for themselves what that means on a daily basis. Anna Boiko-Weyrauch spent a weekend with the Armah family, and sent us this dispatch.”

“Jewish-cemetery foes dig in” (New York Post)

A Jewish convert has filed a $1 million suit against a Bronx accountant who she says called her a “non-Jew” and told her she couldn’t be bured in Meretz Relief Association, a Jewish burial society whose members’ ancestors lived in the Lithuanian town of Merkine (Meretz in Yiddish).

“The Mask of the Marranos” (Commentary)

Allan Nadler writes: “Jewish historians have long been divided about the complex question of the Marranos’ “Jewishness.” At one pole is the so-called Jerusalem school of Jewish historiography, which has stubbornly maintained that, despite their centuries-long disconnection, the Marranos remained Jews in every meaningful respect. At the opposite pole are historians like Benzion Netanyahu (the 100-year-old father of the Israeli prime minister), who, giving weight to the overwhelming consensus of rabbinical opinion spanning almost five centuries, have insisted that in initially choosing baptism and later failing to take advantage of the opportunity to leave pre-Inquisition Portugal, the Marranos forfeited their membership in the Jewish nation and situated themselves outside Jewish history.

In an ambitious new work, the intellectual historian Yirmiyahu Yovel rejects both these -approaches, favoring instead a portrait of the Marranos as neither Jewish nor Christian but something sui generis—“the other within,” in the striking phrase that serves as the title of his book, the summa of his distinguished career as a scholar of Baruch Spinoza and premodern Jewry. More important, Yovel believes the phenomenon of Marranism marks a new and significant element in the Jewish historical narrative, one that anticipated the varieties of Jewish identity that would emerge in post-Enlightenment Europe.”

“Who is a Jew? The great debate” (The Jewish Chronicle)

The recent Court of Appeal ruling over school admissions has brought the issue of Jewish identity into sharp relief. Four thinkers, from across the communal spectrum, tackle the issue in a round table discussion with Gerald Jacobs.

“In the spotlight, rabbi gets to work” (Newsobserver.com)

“The world’s fist black female rabbi” Rabbi Alysa Stanton starts work at Congregation Bayt Shalom.

“The Inquisition: Full Circle” (Aish.com)

500 years after being forced to abandon Judaism, some descendents are starting to return.

“Former Baptist feels at home in Jewish faith” (Montgomeryadvertiser.com)

Dude converts to Judaism, his wife remains Catholic…erm, huh?

“Hispanic Sephardim seek acceptance”

Crytpo-Jews won’t drive to shul because they’re afraid of immigration sweeps. Others tell them they can’t be Jewish and Mexican.

“Rapper Shyne Released From Jail After 8 Years”

Infamous Belizean-American rapper converts in jail and finds his conversion story told in Rap Weekly.

“New Choices for New Jews” (Jewish Journal of Greater Los Angeles)

“American Jewish University (AJU) (in Los Angeles) is revamping its venerable Miller Introduction to Judaism program, which graduates about 200 students a year, many of whom go on to convert to Judaism. Meanwhile, Miller’s founder and director of 23 years, Rabbi Neil Weinberg, is leaving AJU to start his own program, Judaism by Choice, one of the country’s only independent conversion preparation programs, unattached to any movement.” Hmm.

One thought on “Conversion in the News Roundup: From Crypto-Jews to Black Jews to Angry Jews

  1. I think Mishali's article is fabulous. Among the statements that especially resonated with me:

    “You may indeed be good Israelis. Yet in Jewish terms, and please forgive this politically incorrect approach, you are assimilated Jews.” — The tragic situation in Israel is due to the fact that the early halutzim strove to create a “new Israeli”, divorced from the Diasporic Jewish past. This went so far that they deliberately adopted Middle-Eastern customs such as the Sephardic Hebrew pronunciation, falafel, and hummus, as an attempt to divorce themselves from what they saw as Judaism, viz. Ashkenazi Judaism. Now, of course, Sephardic Hebrew and hummus were not new to Sephardim, so of course the halutzim were quite ignorant and racist when they identified Judaism with Ashkenazim. However, the fact remains that in their hearts, their intention was to divorce themselves from Judaism and Jewish history. This is the source of the tragic situation in Israel today. We might add that as Rabbi Meir Kahane often noted, if you don't have a connection to Jewish history, then you have no claim to the land of Israel, and so you are doing nothing but stealing land from Arabs; only if one has a religious reason for returning to the land, intimately bound with Jewish history, is one no longer stealing from the Arabs. As Rabbi Kahane so correctly noted often, Israeli leftism is incredibly racist regarding the Arabs, whether it be discrimination or reverse-discrimination.

    “Jewish purpose has to do with culture, history, tradition, language, customs, etc. Under no circumstances do all converts have to promise to adhere to the Torah and the mitzvoth. The demands should be minimal in terms of knowledge, based on the principles of each denomination.” — Unlike the rabbis, Mishali has the Talmud, Rambam, Shulhan Arukh, Gra, and historical Jewish practice all on her side. The strict view of conversion that requires the convert to actually keep the mitzvot, has only two sources in all of halakhic literature: (1) the Hagahot Mordechai, who himself noted that his opinion was contrary to that of his teachers and was not to be relied on, and (2) Rabbi Yitzhak Shmelkes in 1878, who relied on Hagahot Mordechai and admitted that he was ignoring the Hagahot Mordechai's disclaimer. Every other major historical halakhic opinion did not require the convert to actually keep the mitzvot. According to Rambam, a convert is valid even if the convert never promised to stop worshipping idols! Mishali may be opposing the contemporary rabbinate, but she has every single notable Jewish opinion every written on her side.

    I find Mishali's article to be absolutely fantastic. She wants to restore Jewish knowledge and observance to Israeli society in lieu of this Stalinesqe socialistic/fascist idolatrous Israeli nationalism (see the appendix by university Lecturer Raissa Epstein to Moshe Feiglin's Where There are No Men, showing that Israeli politics are heavily influenced by Marxism even today); and she wants to return conversion to halakhic standards, rather than this atheistic non-religious mockery of halakhah that the rabbis today insist on.

    Israeli society is atheistic, and the Israeli rabbinate is equally G-dless. It appears to Mishali wants to return Judaism and Jewish identity and halakhah to Israeli discourse.


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