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« Blogging Hiatus Update and Getting Hitched | Main | SA Human Rights Delegation to Israel Fails to Strike the Right Balance »

July 11, 2008



Having read the details of this story now, I have to disagree with my initial opinion on this which agreed with Mike’s.

The premise the Rabbinate are probably operating from is that that it dangerous to mislead others into believing something false about Torah. Speaking with Zuma and Rasool is fine because they create no misunderstanding on what the Torah view of an issue is. But the Rabbinate feels that Reform rabbis will be providing opinions in the name of Torah which isn’t true according to what the Rabbinate represents. They don’t want to be part of something that could potentially create that misunderstanding.

Rabbi Goldstein would say that embracing our constitution and all that is great, but it is always secondary to Torah and can only work within the framework of what Torah permits. He is first and foremost a Rabbi.

That said, there should be a better solution to this conflict.

We need a smart solution that can allow the Orthodox Rabbinate to participate without jeopardizing their stringency on this halacha.

Perhaps if Limmud makes it very clear that a particular lecture is by an Orthodox or Reform Rabbi it could help – i.e. a secular Jew who has no comprehension of Torah could end up at a Reform Rabbi’s lecture without knowing that what he is hearing is a reform view.

So make it very explicit – Reform Rabbi X will be speaking on…

Something that strikes me as slightly hypocritical though, is the way the Orthodox Rabbinate participates in the Jewish Report (advertising guest Rabbis, contributing to the parsha haShavuah) because they also provide space for Reform Rabbis to write on the parsha of the week and they not even that explicit about labeling the rabbi as reform. Perhaps there was some type of agreement between reform and Orthodox on the content that can be included in the parsha of the week?

El Hermo

The "ban" on Limmud by the orthodox rabbinate, while being something that is not unique to the South African experience, is symbolic of a wider range of complexities that face jewish life in south africa.

The truth of the matter is that in South Africa, the orthodox rabbinate is virtually deified, and the community (majority being orthodox of course) is mostly sympathetic or in agreement with the policies of the rabbinate in relation to dealing with the these "liberal minded" limmudniks.

The danger lies in that by the orthodox rabbinate refusing to attend, and dissuading their constituents from attending, they are depriving their congregations from engaging with new thoughts and challenging ideas. They are, once again and as usual, encouraging insularity within the community, which only works to close people's minds, and subtly encouraging narrow minded attitudes aimed at sheltering South African Jews from the real world.

I believe that even if the orthodox rabbinate says that people shouldn't go to Limmud, people should still go to Limmud. The Jewish Community needs to show some independent thought and come to their own conclusions about the good or bad effects of Limmud. The question is rather around how entrenched orthodox and rabbinical hegemony is in the it so powerful that it prevents people from engaging with Jewish Culture and religion in a new and dynamic format?



I must be honest – I hear where the Chief Rabbi is coming from. Yes – he does invite different characters to have discussions. HOWEVER, not in the name of Judaism.

Limmud is a Jewish learning program. The Chief does not recognise reform Judaism and thus to back a program where reform Rabbis teach other Jews about “Judaism” is wrong.


I must be honest – I hear where the Chief Rabbi is coming from. Yes – he does invite different characters to have discussions. HOWEVER, not in the name of Judaism.

Limmud is a Jewish learning program. The Chief does not recognise reform Judaism and thus to back a program where reform Rabbis teach other Jews about “Judaism” is wrong.


Roy, But how does boycotting Limmud have anything to do with having a different view of reform Judaism? No-one is asking the Chief to organize or even support Limmud. But how can he justify telling his congruent not to attend. If he has such strong views on reform Judaism then he should go to Limmud and speak out on that issue. You cant close down views u don’t like. That’s anti-Freedom. Intellectual people rather try and engage with them.


Mike, that is not the point. The point is that Limmud is a Jewish program. Thus having reform rabbis is against orthodox Judaism. Simple.

I am sure he will happily debate the topic of orthodox vs reform Judaism. Perhaps you should ask him to come debate?

Castor Troye

I agree with Mike. I eagerly await to see the reasons for this proactive boycott. As leaders, the UOS owe its members that.

As for sitting in the same room, discussing aspects of Judaism, I cannot comment from a strict halachic (or Jewish law) perspective but I would like to say a few points:

1. If the Chief Rabbi can share a podium with an alleged rapist, then what message does that send out?
2. If the Chief Rabbi can sit in a council of religious leaders, thus implying that religious views from Islam to Evangelicals are discussed under one roof, that does not mean the Chief Rabbi or any Rabbi accepts that religion. Why, should it be any different within the denominations of Judaism.
3. By avoiding the conference and discouraging people to attend, does that not cause confusion and split the community as well?

As I said, I cannot comment on the Halachic perspective in great detail. That said, one cannot ignore the political element involved in this. The fact is that there is a monopoly in the Jewish community. While I have much respect for most of our community Rabbi's, one cannot help but feel that by boycotting the event they are immediately disassociating themelves from 25% of the community. This, coupled with the percentage of unaffiliated or reform Jews, means the "Jewish majority" is decreasing, which begs the question, who is representing those disenfranchised then?

I sincerely hope that the leaders and Rabbi's of the community will quell my concern


I consider the Rabbinate in SA to be an unfunny joke, out of touch and out of step, there is a reason there was a Jewish reformation movement in the first place, and the Rabbinate's dogmatic stubborness and backwardness re the Boycott call reminds me why I am not an Orthodox Jew.

Israel faces daily existential threats from Iran, Hezbollah is rearming itself at a dizzying pace, our media and government practically salivates for the blood of the Jews so long as they are in Israel, when they are not deifying Palestinian terrorists, and the Rabbinate is deafening in its silence, its cowardice is blatant; yet what does the Rabbinate in SA choose to speak out on? It does not want SA Jews to go to Limmund...shock horror! What a bunch of pathetic small-minded irrelevant twerps. I don't really care for the way secular elitist Jews pour scorn on their more Orthodox brethren, but sometimes it is well-deserved, like in this instance.


I thought about my question over Shabbos and perhaps I should answer my own question:

Reform Judaism is not authentic Judaism. For the Chief Rabbi at debate the topic with a reform Rabbi would be an insult to the rabbinical designation.

Reform Judaism is watered-down Judaism and it is because of the reform and conservative movement in America that we are now seeing the highest assimilation rates in Jewish history. If we carry on at this rate, there will no longer be any Jews in America in two generations time.

We have to “conserve” Orthodox Judaism; a religion which has been around for thousands of years, and the longest living religion which still continues today.

I am sure the Chief Rabbi will give over his view on why he believes we need to stamp out Reform Judaism, but to expect him to debate the topic with a reform Rabbi (and even address him as a Rabbi) is an insult to the man.


Roy makes one or maybe two valid points. However the problem is not solely or even predominantly Reform/Conservative Judaism, but a problem of a failure across the board to educate our children properly and a failure to teach them the Jewish and human values that matter most.

As far as the widespread crises in world Jewry and wrt Jewish identity are concerned, blame cannot be laid solely at the door of the non-Orthodox Jews. I don't see the Rabbinate in SA or anywhere else in the world doing anything much to educate our youngsters on the current trials and tribulations re Israel, of real-world anti-Semitism, its causes and dynamics, and of making our history and culture accessible and meaningful to our youngsters, and preparing them for life in the real world.

A typical Orthodox education, which I had btw, is dull and largely irrelevant to the demands and challenges of the real world. Any sensitive child can only rebel against all the old-fashioned dictates and the rote paint by the numbers pedagogy of much that is Jewish Orthodox education, never mind the almost laughable arrogance of "what the Orthodox Rabbinate says is what God wants for us" style of argumentation. That sounds like the Papacy, and that's not a compliment.

I am not really secular and I think that the assimmilation and apathy of US Jewry is a disaster (who are American first and Jewish last), but I live in Israel and I don't see things as so cut and dried as I make clear in my post above. Roy clearly implies that any Jew who is not Orthodox is not an "authentic Jew", what else can he mean by "Reform Judaism is not authentic Judaism"?

So the Reform and secular Jewish boys who have died defending Israel's existence over the decades, who still risk their lives every day to defend Israel are not really Jewish to Roy? What are they then? I guess it's only the Orthodox who are Jewish then, even though in Israel many of the ultra-religious youngsters use their religiosity or what passes for it to avoid military service, while their secular contemporaries fight and die to defend the Jewish homeland! In this respect, I find the posturing of the Orthodoxy disgraceful, and hypocritical, if not outright delusional.


Lawrence, although I hear your point, I do not agree with your argument.

Yes I believe that Reform Judaism is not authentic Judaism. But that does not mean to say that Reform Jews are not Jews. If they are born to a Jewish mother (or have had an Orthodox conversion), then they are Jewish and they should be treated as Jews.

If I one day dreamt up a form of Judaism, got 100,000 followers and called myself a Rabbi, it would not make my form of Judaism right. Similiarly, Reform Judaism cannot replace authentic Orthodox Judaism, and to try and equate Reform Judaism as merely another form if Judaism is ludicrous. Even if I created this form of Judaism, I would still be a Jew, but my new form of Judaism would not be valid.

Perhaps what Rabbis should be focusing on is to create a kiruv (return) movement for Reform and secular Jews to find the right path. I am not saying anything negative towards irreligious Jews, nor lost Jews (such as Reform Jews), but what I am saying is that Orthodox Judaism is the only true form of Judaism.


The point of contention in this matter revolves around one key question, and that is whether or not the reform movement has any credibility as a form of Judaism. Once you accept that they do, you have no place arguing that Limmud should be boycotted.

Objectively speaking though, no rationally thinking person can give them such credit. Reform's practices bare only a superficial resemblance to that of Judaism's and movement ignores that fundamentals that have defined the religion since its beginning more than 3000 years ago. If people wish to claim Judaism to be outdated they have a right, and if they wish to not practice these aspects whilst still maintaining the parts they like then this too is within their rights. But they cannot then call this new religion Judaism. Just because it originated from Judaism, or because many of its followers are does not mean that it is Judaism.

The Orthodox Rabbinate monopoly does not have a monopoly on Judaism in SA - They are Judaism in SA! If the reform, conservative or Jews for Jesus (yes I make no differentiation) communities wish to from their own communal leadership, as have the Catholics and Dutch Reform churches etc, then let them, but what gives them the right to be part of the Jewish communities religious leadership. Limmud is giving legitimacy to these other religions as being part of Judaism, by not boycotting Limmud the Chief Rabbinate would be indirectly accepting this premise. If it is a Jewish learning programme and Judaism should be taught.

Castor, the reason they can sit at the council of religions is because non of the religions there are claiming to be Judaism. There is no conflict of interest. As for sharing a podium with the rapist, supporters of Western legal systems (I am not) are forced to say that since he was aquited there is no problem. If like me you think thats a load of trash then there is lot of room for criticism, but that is irrelevant to this discussion. They were sitting with the potential and likely next leader of SA, they were not conferring debatable legitimacy on his claims.

Lawrence, I am sorry to hear you found your "typical Orthodox" education boring, but I know many who did not and your personal experience is no basis for an objective label as you have given it. Secondly, you can hypothesize all you want as to the reason for assimilation and you can try and claim that reform and conservative are not to blame, but the statistics are clear. A study a couple of years ago looked at the likehood of you grandchildren being Jewish depending on you affiliation.Orthodox was around 80%, conservative around 5%, reform close to zero.(If anyone can find the study I would appreciate it, I read it about 3 years ago and I can't remember where).
Thirdly, as Roy pointed out, Jews who associate themselves with reform are still Jews and to say that we do not recognize their contributions in the defense of our home is untruthful. The IDF has soldiers from every sect of Judaism, every religion claiming to be Judaism and from other religions including Christianity and Islam. (this is not a debate on whether this is a good thing, this is a fact). Judaism's unwillingness to acknowledge that a religion that rejects the fundamentals of Judaism, is not Judaism, is irrelevant to its approach to those same Jews serving in the IDF.
Lastly, Chareidim not serving in the army is irrelevant to the discussion. We are talking about the legitimacy of other religion claiming to be Judaism. Chareidim do not hide behind their religion, they do not serve because of many practical and some ideological difficulties that occur in the army.And they ideological issues are not, as many believe related to defending the country, but more to issues of missing vital Torah learning years. BUT, since you took the oppertunity to take a cheap shot I think the readers should be informed. Firstly, many chareidim do serve, they defer their serve while they are young in order to learn and get drafted when they around 24 years old, albeit for a shorter period, indeed on the day of my draft I happened to be with such a group. Secondly, and most importantly, the percentage of elligable Israeli teenagers that get drafted is just over 50% and only a third of those finish their full service. This stat excludes chareidim. This means that in the secular world, half the people are dodging the draft, and not any ideological grounds (other than a small ultra left).Indeed the highest rates of draft dodging are from the Tel Aviv and particularly the secular areas such as Ramat Aviv. I'm not making this up, all this was in the Israeli press around a year ago. So with all due respect as far as secular Israeli's criticizing chareidim for not serving - people in glass houses and all. If anyone could criticize it is the national zionist community who have extremely high draft rates, but they are still Orthodox and so your argument is still irrelevant.


I'm with Brett on this one, and pretty much every point.

But there's one additional point:

Why not bother getting a reasoned and thought out response from both the Chief Rabbi and Rabbi Rose, both of whom are eminently reasonable, fair and deep thinkers before hypothesizing as to what they may or may not be thinking?

This premature post will undoubtedly create a stink, loshen hora and chilul hashem with zero to'elet.


Brett, when you write that there is no difference between Reform Jews and Jews for Jesus, as you see it... well that is laughable if it weren't so insulting and makes it difficult to take anything you have to say after that seriously. Jews for Jesus by definition aren't Jewish, the fact that they call themselves Jewish doesn't make them so, I can call my cat a dog, doesn't make him one. Likewise if there were ever a group of so-called Jews who called themselves Jews for the prophet Muhammed, by defintion they wouldn't be Jewish. If you want to seek some raprochement at least on the political/cultural/Israel front with Reform and secular Jews (I realise a religious raprochement is by definition not on), that is if we want to see them steer away from misguided Leftist political/cultural/assimmilation suicide (I"m grossly generalising of course, but true to a degree), then equating them with ex-JewsforJesus is not the way to do it. They will just give you the finger and not listen to anything else you have to say on principle (and the other things you have to say are important and vital, which is thus unfortunate)

As far as secular Jews draft dodging, I am well aware of it, especially in the Tel Aviv area and I think it a disgrace. But this is a straw man, first off I write above that I am not really secular, secondly I never said all or even most chareidim don't serve, I said a lot don't, and a lot don't. I am well aware that many secular Jews don't serve in the IDF neither, and your point? Brett, like you I am appalled at the apathy, lack of pride and even viscious contempt that Reform and secular Jews have for the Orthodoxy, and even the contempt they appear to have for Israel and Jewry/Judaica, I'm not shooting for the other team on this one.

You are missing the point I want to make, which is this - that both "sides" have valid criticisms of the other and wrt the SA Rabbinate's decision on the Limmud boycott call, it is something I criticise as both high-handed and petty-minded. Naturally you don't, but then that is where you are coming from, the Orthodoxy. You also don't see why there was a Jewish Reform Movement in the first place and a stifling, narrow and rigid Orthodoxy had everything to do with it. And I for one am no fan of the Reform nor Conservative Movements, I think they have lost their way almost totally, and I am harshly critical of them (to be fair to Brett, sometimes they are so non-Jewish in their social/cultural mentality and behaviour that I often don't consider them too Jewish myself, but I don't see the problem here as pertaining strictly to theological matters, its roots and dynamics are complex and it would take a book..)

What's needed is a common recognition of what is vital to the interests of Jews, and Israel, I think that common ground could potentially be Zionism in other words, albeit in this respect the secular part of Jewry is failing dismally. But when the SA Rabbinate calls for a boycott of Limmud but otherwise cowardly keeps its collective head buried in the sand over matters that are urgent to Jewry in SA, well the proof is in the pudding, and the SA Rabbinate are found wanting on matters that count the most.


Lawrence, it is ironic that the example you bring to disprove me is exactly what I would bring in support. I can call my cat a dog, but that doesn't make him a dog. I can cut my bee in half, he is no longer a bee, perhaps a demi-bee. Refrom can call themselves what they want, they have no connection to Judaism other than a historical one and Judaism doesn't need, nor should it want, to invest energy finding common ground with them. If zionism is a common point then I regard them the same as I do Christian Envangelists - except that I am more weary of the Reformists as they claim to be Jewish. Any legitimacy we give them risks people thinking it is a valid way 0of life and as soon as someone joins their community their children will almost definitely not be Jewish and their grandchildren definitely won't.

As far as comparing the to J for J. I don't see the difference - reformists re-interperet any number of commandments from Kashrut to Shabbos etc,J for J do the same, but primarily on the whole one G-d thing. Qualitatively it is the same concept, although I conceed that motives may be different.

Regarding a "stiffling" Orthodox being to trigger for Reform - yes Orthodox was stiffling in that it would not allow assimillation, those who wanted to assimillate rejected thats aspects of their religion that prevented them from doing so and so then assimillated.

Intersting fact. A few years back was the centery of the first reform Bnei Brith shul in NY, that tried to get decendents of the founding members to attend the big function. NOT ONE OF THE DECENDENTS OF THE FOUNDING MEMBERS WAS JEWISH - EVEN BY REFORM DEFINITIONS.


Lawrence, I think you miss Brett's point re the equating of Reform and J4J.

Indeed, people who are Jewish by birth may choose to belong to either organisation and nevertheless retain their status of being "Jewish" in the sense that their mother was Jewish.

However, neither religion (Reform J or J4J) can claim to be Judaism except to the extent that they borrowed a real noun and changed its meaning by adding a qualifying adjective.

The fact that reform judaism may ostensibly share more common ground with Judaism than Jews for Mo (pbuh) doesn't imply that it is judaism.

I reiterate though, the religion/organisation's inability to be classified as Judaism does not per se or necessarily say anything whatsoever about the quality, character or "jewishness" of the individuals who choose to practice reform judaism or judaism for Mo pbuh, except for the obvious.


Hillel, I take offense to your claim that this post was ‘premature’ and that it will undoubtedly create a stink, loshen hora and chilul hashem with zero to'elet. The story was broken in the Jewish report over a week ago. I contacted the editor to find out if the Rabbinate had issued a formal response as of last week Wednesday they had not. I would of course be happy to publish their response.

Yesterday I was at a function where I happened to bump into the chief. I spoke to him about the issue. And the logic as I explained it in the post and the ideas expressed in the comments here defending the chief are correct.

I actually think that creating more public debate around this issue has been very good for our community. Everywhere I have been this weekend people have come up to me to discuss it. Lots of my friends (the majority of whom are frum) have come out in support of the chief. Like most of the comments here they argue that by taking part orthodox rabbis would be legitimizing reform. Thrashing out this argument has made many (including myself) much more sensitive to the dilemma faced by the Orthodox establishment.

Another friend who is strongly involved in the religious Zionist movement made another interesting point. He argued that the rabbinate should take the same approach to Limmud as the religious Zionist movement has take to the state of Israel. From an Orthodox perspective the fact that a reform rabbi may be speaking makes Limmud problematic just as the fact that the state of Israel is not run on religious Jewish law. But by engaging and taking part Religious Zionism has been able to infuse at least some Judaism into the state. The more orthodox people and rabbis that become involved in Limmud, the more chance that it will have a stronger orthodox flavour.

Finally, I don’t think this issue is unique to Limmud. Many other a religious Jewish organizations face a similar dilemma. If a reform Rabbi speaks does that mean that the orthodox won’t come. We need a broad community wide policy on this matter to solve the problem.



I have to admit that the Reli Zion idea crossed my mind. Those that are aware of the historical roots of the rift between chareidi and RZ orthodox Jews will know that it essentially revolved around that attitude a frum Jew should take towards a secular state. The chareidim said that we need to distance ourselves as far as possible because the leadership (especially at that stage) were often not just irreligious but anti-religious. The RZ camp said that in the common ground we do have we should work together. Given that I am essentially a religious zionist (albeit with strong chareidi sympathies) I asked myself why I don't feel the same way with regards to reform.

I believe the answer - for me - is that the early and the current secular zionists do not pose a threat to jews wanting to be frum. They don't claim to have a new or better understanding of our religion. They claim to have no religion at all. They are not a wolf in sheep;s clothing, they are wolf in wolf's clothing. I believe that strong separation should be maintained in order to prevent people becoming secular but I think is is room for limited cooperation on common ground. Further more, there is no alternative - the secular people run this place. If we the religious people want nothing to do with them then we have to leave, and thats not an option. The reform issue is different. They do not claim to have no religion, they claim to have the correct form of what we practice. This is too dangerous to allow even the slightest cooperation, regardless of any common ground that may exist. And with reform there is a choice. There is no reason that Judaism needs to cooperate with reform, and the argument that they make up a large percentage of world Jewry is not a reason to cooperate, it is possibly a reason to distance ourselves further.


Brett I share your concerns about the disaster of assimilation, this is exactly what our enemies want, whether they be Leftist anti-Semites in the West or supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt. However we disagree on the ways to counter this negative trend. I think your solution, the Orthodox way or the highway, is not only oversimplistic and stubborn, but counter-productive.

I do think though that the Reform/Conservative movement has been a failure by any standards (that is by the standards of preserving and enriching even a tentatively Jewish way of life, by the very fact that they are assimilating so). This pains me more than anybody, I promise you. I don't have any easy answers though to this big problem though, heck it is a euphemism to call it a problem, it is a disaster.

I disagree with you Brett on the reasons for the Jewish Reformation Movement, it had absolutely nothing to do with desiring assimilation, this was certainly not the intent of the pionneers of the Jewish Reform, which had to do with adapting to living in the rapidly changing, modernising and industrialising world, and throwing off rigid excessive ceremonialism and ritual (what I mean by stifling). Assimilation was unintended, at best an unforeseen albeit disastrous consequence, not a motive. Nowhere will you find even the smallest mention of an intent/plan for assimmilation in the writings of the founders of the Jewish Reformation Movement such as Israel Jacobson, Zunz, Mannheimer, Chorin and others.

Once again - the arrogance of the Orthodoxy in deciding who is a Jew and who isn't according to the self-proclaimed bombast of the Rabbinate is a reminder of why I have not returned to the Orthodox fold, there are other reasons, this is just one of them, an elitism, a self-proclaimed authority. You have to be outside the circle to see it.

Judaism is a complex and multilayered religion with many aspects, mysteries and ambiguities, as complex and as rich as Hinduism for example. And most rabbis frankly don't know what they are talking about, be they Orthodox, Reform or Conservative. Jewish identity is likewise complex and cannot be pigeonholed into any neat category, despite attempts to do so, which are doomed to fail.

The opinions of the Rabbinate and the Jewish Orthodoxy on what it means to be a Jew are water off a duck's back to me, kind of like the opinions of secular Jews, both reacting off one another. There is much more I would want to write re the Jewish faith, but this is not really the place, a comments thread at IAS, for abstruse exegesis on the Jewish religion. Plus I am not going to change anybody's mind here...



"adapting to living in the rapidly changing, modernising and industrialising world, and throwing off rigid excessive ceremonialism and ritual"

You cannot suddenly, after 4000 years decide that you, Moses Mendelson (yes I know he wasn't actually the founder but I use him as the example) believe that the ceremonialism and ritualism are excessive. You take them out and you no longer have Judaism.

It's Orthodox Judaism or the highway. As I tried to explain, its Orthodox Judaism or its not Judaism.

Orthodox Rabbi's are not arrogant in deciding who is Jewish. Adaraba, they they are the only ones who have an objective source, ie. outside of them as a body, defining such a thing. The arrogance is in the Reform and Conservatives belief that 4000 years of men far greater in knowledge and intellect, and more importantly much closer to the source of the religion, were wrong and theat they, great enlightened men of the 21st century know the answers.
Orthodox rabbis don't decide what makes a Jew, they read the book that tells them, its the reform and conservatives that decide.


I think many of us have lost proportion.

Brett, Calling reform not Jewish may be a bit harsh, even if many of there practices seem to reflect Mass rather than Synagogue. Despite this it needs to be made crystal clear that a born Jew will always be a Jew regardless of weather they are followers of reform, conservative, Orthodox Islam or Buddhist.
On the issue of giving credence or legitimacy to reform or conservative via the Limmud conference and the infamous who is a Jews debate. Perhaps both of these questions can be resolved as follows.
“A Jew is someone who has Jewish Grandchildren!”
With this simplistic view, I now pose the following questions to the Orthodox, reform, secular and Conservative community.
Who has had the most success educating the next generations of Jews?
Who has the highest affiliation rate?
Who has the highest assimilation and disaffiliation rates?
Whose participation in Jewish practice and worship decreases in later generations?
Internationally, who has the highest rate of Aliyah?

Perhaps the SA rabbinate simply has nothing to gain by going to Limmud.


There are some important questions to consider...

If Zuma had converted to Reform Judaism, would The Chief Rabbi have shared a platform with him at Investec?
How would Zuma's ANC backers have reacted to such a conversion?
Would Zuma be forced to join Kasril's "Not in My Name"?


Shaun, the Reform and Conservative movements have by far higher assimilation and disaffiliation rates. Both movements were created on a kind of expediency, where Orthodox Judaism was too rigorous and rigid, and a change towards a more modern and free movement was sought. There are many cases where this watered-down Judaism is rejected outright and full-blown Catholicism (for example) is taken on instead.

While I don't discriminate against "Jewish born" Jews that don't choose to practise Orthodoxy, I do discriminate against the Reform and Conservative movements as they create false perceptions amongst their observers and the outside world. The conversion process is entirely problematic as once one has 'converted' via these movements, one is considered Jewish by these movements and that is not the case. Many young people have been devastated when they find out that they can't marry another (Orthodox) Jew as they weren't Jewish themselves, as they had been raised to believe.

South Africa has a unique situation where the Orthodox community does not reject secular Jews, and secular Jews still identify very strongly with Orthodox Judaism. Most are of the understanding that they know what they 'should' be doing in terms of religiosity, but reject the idea that what they 'should' be doing is wrong and must be changed or modernised.

And this then leads to the problem of Limmud. Reformist and Conservative movements are misrepresentations of Judaism, and can't be sanctioned by the Orthodox community to give comment on 'true' Judaism. It may seem extreme at first that a boycott is called by the Rosh Beth Din and the chief Rabbi, but in the true spirit of leading by example both the religious and politic rabbinic heads of the community need to unite and show their standing points.


Reading through this long comment thread and where its seems to be gone I thought I would interject this quote from Stephan Fry:

I've always believed that everything that is said from authority is either the authority of one's own heart, one's own brain, one's own reading, one's own trust, but not the authority of someone who claims it because they're speaking for God and they know the truth because it's written in a book. That, essentially, is where I come from. In a sense, tolerance is my religion. Reason is my religion.

And before we all get too caught up in who is and isn't a Jew. E. M. Foster made the point (in the 30s in "two cheers to democracy" I think) that even the Prince of Wales, who comes from probably the most well known and documented family on earth, probably cannot name his eighth great grandparents and if he can't what chance do we have?


The Chief Rabbi wants to "dissuade people" form attending Limmud.
Perhaps he can now supply a whole list of other events that I should not attend?


It is, of course, quite possible that the Chief Rabbi, like the rest of us isn't halachically Jewish.
Our "Jewishness" is inherently a figment of our imaginations.


Mike. No offense was intended, but I stand by the comment. The fact that a rag of discontent chose to spew even more prematurely is no excuse.
That the Rabbi's opinions, garnered in a "hearsay" fashion are in fact correctly presented is also irrelevant. Official comment has yet to be made.

Lawrence wrote:
" Once again - the arrogance of the Orthodoxy in deciding who is a Jew and who isn't according to the self-proclaimed bombast of the Rabbinate "

Lawrence, please pay attention. As Brett put it : "I can call my cat a dog, but that doesn't make him a dog" or in other words once you pick up the ball, it ain't soccer. You can call it football, you can even make an entire league - but it's not soccer and never will be.

As to the later comments re authority. When you allow the body corporate of your cosy little sectional title tuscan villa to be dictated to by the body corporate of the tuscan villa down the street then come talk. Until such time, live with the fact that people make groups and rules (whether by divine or drug induced inspiration) If you don't like the rules and opt out, then the new group you start, even though it might look the same and sound the same is indeed NOT the same.

Who ever heard of a Tuscan villa at the butt end of africa anyway? How tuscan is it? Does that make you italian?


BD you made me giggle



Steven Fry's opinion is then not that of Judaism so the quote you bring is irrelavent. Throwing around quotes by intellectuals doesn't make a point.

Maybe the Prince of Wales can't there are many jews that can, there a families who can trace their roots, naming every generation, to King David. We can name the leaders of every generation going back to Abraham and we we have their original writings (those who wrote - from the Men of the Great Assembly onwards).



Not sure what then not of Judaism means?

Reform Jews don't need the authority of anyone but themselves to claim they are Jews (I am not asking anyone to accept that they are Jews or even have anything to do with them). That is the point I was trying to make - and thought the quote made. The definition of being Jewish is not as black and white (perhaps it is for some) as the difference between a cat and a dog. It seems high and mighty to claim ultimate authority to proclaim who is and isn't Jewish.

I am surprised, happy and slightly sceptical to learn that anyone can trace their heritage that far back through the fog of history. It doesn't change Fosters point for the majority of us.


Ben, you're just not making the logic leap.

Obviously, you can with pleasure start an organisation and call it Reform Jewry, (or Jews for Mo, J4J, Jews for Hinduism, Jews for Idolatry, Jews for Darfur, Jews for [fill in your choice of fashionable cause], and you can also do as you see fit without "the authority of anyone but themselves".

That doesn't however make checkers into chess. Which is precisely the problem the Limmud introduces and if you as a self declared intellectual can't make the leap of logic then for sure the average Yankel Cohen in the street is going to get horribly confused.


And as an aside, if Reform Jewry get to make up their own rules with no regard to "the authority of anyone but themselves", at least give Orthodox Jews (Orthodox as in the sense of still true to Halacha and mesora) the opportunity to make their rules as they see fit and exclude or include people on that basis.

Hasn't this thread gone rather beyond the scope of this blog?



Regarding your aside I agree and said:
I am not asking anyone to accept that they are Jews or even have anything to do with them

you as a self declared intellectual Self declared? Where? What does that mean anyway??? What is the alternative? Should I be a self declared anti-intellectual!

I was not commenting on the original post (which I agreed with and had no comments) but on other comments. I am not commenting about the dispute over Limmud.

I agree with anonymous: this has gone beyond the scope of this blog.


Actually In believe that anon is wrong. The central point of dispute is the legitimacy of Reform/Conservative movements. If they have none, then who can argue with the Rabbinate, if they done, then the Rabbinate have some explaining to do

"The central point of dispute is the legitimacy of Reform/Conservative movements."

Which is why I think it's gone beyond the scope of the blog.


Sorry Ben, I thought you were trying to pass yourself off as an intellectual. I must have got the wrong impression.

Perhaps I stand corrected on the "self declaration" but I think the last time this debate was held on this blog you did in fact describe yourself as such.

Nevertheless, the point remains, you clearly consider yourself a thinking person, bring quotes from other thinkers to support your position etc.

As to the alternative. I suppose anyone not meeting the conditions set out by the dictionary of your choice. Unless of course, there's a Reform Intellectual society of which I am not aware that prefers a completely novel meaning of the word that has as yet not been added to a mainstream/orthodox dictionary.


At a time when Jews and Judaism are virtually dead-ducks (intermarriage and low birth rates post-holocaust), it is more than a little weird/stupid that Limmud is being criticized.

We are not far away from the time when the declaration " I am an orthodox Jew" will be followed by " Is there any other Jew out there?"


BD, you've hit the nail on the head.

The point is that Limmud is part of the problem, not part of the solution. If the only "type" of Judaism to survive is to be Orthodox Judaism, then why are you throwing good money after bad to prop up non viable forms?


"I am a Reform Jew...Is there any other Jew out there."

Any Jew has the freedom to attend either a Reform or orthodox synagogue. I have attended both and can assure you that there is hardly any difference.


Apparently I misunderstood your point then. I took you to mean that only orthodoxy would survive, whereas you imply no one will survive. I don't think you're correct.

Re the difference in synagogue services:
I haven't been to a reform temple in some time (or have they changed that word too?) But if I recall, services held in the vernacular, mixed seating and female service leaders might be a bit of a give-away?

More importantly, superficial/external differences are NOT the issue, per se. The issues are theological and revolve perhaps primarily on the centrality of Halacha and the means or ideology by which it is to be applied. Not to mention the centrality of torah learning.

Additionally, not all Orthodox shuls today are at the height of their glory and perhaps you're just not comparing apples with apples.



Please explain why you think that I am incorrect re my prognosis.

I do agree that there are differences between the two services but the similarities are more important.


I think you're wrong in your prognosis for two reasons:
1) See statistics quoted above re assimilation, inter-marriage etc
2) G-d's promise.

I disagree that the similarities are more important. The differences are what is driving the long term differential sustainability.

Praying in English or Hebrew will not, per se, be the decisor in your grandchildren being Jewish. This is a superficial difference that is symptomatic of deep ideological and perhaps theological divides. Those deep divides are the decisive factors in sustainability.



Everyone, who isn't brain dead, is a "thinking person". I have never called myself an "intellectual" - whatever you think that is. Quotes can be used by anyone. Next time I suggest you address the substance of the quote, not the existence of it. Then perhaps we can avoid these absurd discussions.



As I understand it, the central point of your quote is that according to the person being quoted, tolerance is his religion. And he doesn't like quoting other people/books to support his position as being authoratative.

Very nice.

This doesn't however say anything about how Judaism views the world, establishes authority etc, understands the need for a limits of tolerance etc.

It also says nothing about authority, weltaunshaung, tolernace in other religions that like to base themselves on Judaism (e.g. Christianity, Islam, Jews for Buddha, Jews for Reform, etc)

El Hermo

I conducted an interesting exercise with a religious, orthodox friend of mine. I asked him to defend the decision of the orthodox rabbinate and then to offer the counterargument immediately afterwards.

The argument for the orthodox boycott of limmud was based primarily on the religious tenets of orthodox jewry, while the counterargument was informed by the words of a secular philosopher.

Without getting into the content of either argument, the point is that when one supports the decision to "boycott" limmud, one informs their opinions by religious doctrine and halacha that dictates, as many respondents have mentioned in this debate, that Limmud offers a watered down sense of judaism. This belief stems, not from fact, but rather from the reputations of the organisers of Limmud as drivers of a "reform" agenda. While this may have a basis, it strikes me that this boycott is personality driven as opposed to factually driven.

The fact that the counterargument against the boycott is based primarily in secular thought is worrying and true. Modern logic and philosophy would suggest that there is nothing wrong with free speech, nothing wrong with hearing views that are alternative without presuming to be absolute. However, this is worrying because it goes back to the issue that religious thought and secular thought are completely distinct, especially in the south african community. The fact that it is impossible to defend limmud halachically, and impossible to bash it using secular thought, indicates a major disconnect between the two, which is a gap that Limmud, with an orthodox endorsement, could work to bridge.

Limmud can be dynamic for everyone, orthodox and reform, if both sides work to not position it as a polarising event. The desire to push the debate and argument in favour of Limmud, only works to position its organisers as counter establishment. The desire to boycott Limmud and ignore this debate is an attempt by the orthodox hegemony to position Limmud as counterestablishment.

Find a midpoint between the two, make limmud part of the establishment by working together with orthodoxy to ensure that their views are heard and respected, and maybe there is a way to change the narrow minded discourse of south african jewry from the inside. I fear that a crusade to force an orthodox endorsement is hopeless as Limmud will inevitably polarise itself as a crew of rabble/rabbi rousing "reformers" who are out to destabilize the insular, pseudo utopian orthodox community upon which we find ourselves imprisoned.


Nice points El Hermo. However, Limmud per definition is a polarising event, at least to the extent that it justifies positions outside orothodoxy. As you put it, the argument for Limmud is secular, and thus not one that Orthodoxy accepts as being relevant.

Regarding your imprisonment. That's a rather melodramatic way of describing the situation.

You're obviously free to attend Limmud, last I checked SA still nominally preached freedom. And secondly, you're being asked not to impose your secular ideas on the orthodox population, lead by orthodox leaders. Neither constitutes hegemony or imprisonment.


As a further aside:I would guess that some 80% of SA's Jewish Community would find it extremely difficult to tell the difference between christian doctrine and thought and Jewish doctrine and thought. Consequently, it's a very big ask to suggest they should come to be made aware of the differences between Reform and Judaism and expect them to reasonably make an informed judgement between the two.

On the basis that Reform is of equal if not greater threat to the long term viability of an individual's judaism than christianity (as an example) it is completely valid if not imperative that the Orthodox establishment reject and in fact fight the Limmud program.

Being balanced or "midpoint" is only reasonable if both alternatives are acceptable. e.g. a balance of carbs and proteins. A balance between poison and food is just a stupid notion.



For me the central point of the quote is: beliefs don't need a central authority to define or ratify them. I quoted it because it seems (to me anyway) arrogant when someone assumes that authority.

I wasn't trying to say anything about how Judaism views the world nor any other religious views.



Without recourse to something other than the belief itself, or something absolute, then the belief remains just that, and nothing more.

Indeed it is arrogant when someone assumes that authority in an of themselves. It's equally arrogant to assume one's belief has some value if it is baseless. In other words, it is arrogant to assume that a person's belief has some value simply because the person somehow conceived of it.


To go back to the question of whether the Reform and Conservative movements can call themselves Jewish... Jews are the descendants of Jacob, received the Torah at Mt Sinai, conquered and inhabited the land of Canaan (Israel). They lived by Torah values and laws, which included a very concise definition of who is and isn't Jewish, and what does and does not constitute Judaism.

A Jew is one who is born of a mother descended from Jacob, or alternatively from a covert to Judaism. One can convert to Judaism (only willingly, not through force) and this conversion must be accepted by the halachic authority of the time. Those are the only people that are Jewish.

Judaism is the application of all the various applicable laws of the Torah in one's life.
If you cast off, change or disregard these laws, you cannot still call it Judaism - it is not Judaism. A simple example is that I cannot call myself Belgian if I am not from Belgium. It makes no sense. If I am not practising what is the proper definition of Judaism, then it is not Judaism but something else.

Investec, for example, cannot claim to be a form of Judaism just because its founders were Jewish, it has many Jewish employees who share common viewpoints. They are not a form of investment-Judaism. This may seem like a puerile example but, none-the-less, the other movements even if comprising of halachically-accepted Jewish born persons, cannot claim to be Jewish movements if they do not follow the laws of the Torah.


You write:
"However, Limmud per definition is a polarising event, at least to the extent that it justifies positions outside orothodoxy. As you put it, the argument for Limmud is secular, and thus not one that Orthodoxy accepts as being relevant."

I disagree with the above..
Limmud isn't a "polarising event". Just because you, and many others, do not wish to attend it, does not make it "polarising".

Are seminars run by the Chief Rabbi "polarising"?

Limmud "justifies" nothing. Many different lecturers make presentations and many of them have no religious content whatsoever. I doubt whether you attended the event last year and I also doubt that you can comment on the lectures without knowing much about their content.

"Fight" the Limmud programme if you (or the Orthodox establishment so wish) but bear in mind that religious fundamentalism is a thorn in the side of Western civilization.



Western Civilisation has a lot of development and growth to undergo before it is in a position to beign preaching with the moral authority you apparently assume it to have.

But thanks for comparing not attending Limmud with attaching bombs to one's back and murdering children. It's heart warming.

Western Civilisation's downfall will be its own lack of self confidence in the values it preaches. Religious fundamentalism, by which you mean Islamic Fundamentalism is merely the current opportunistic enemy.


BD, this hardly qualifies as religious fundamentalism.


Religious fundamentalism is not only about death and destruction. It can also include people who fervently believe that they,and only they, are following the divine will.
If the orthodox Jewish establishment in South Africa urge people not to attend Limmud it is, in my view, following a religious fundamentalist path.

El Hermo

Religious Fundamentalism is not limited to "Islam" - in fact, fundamentalism itself is not limited to religion - fanatical behavior is on the whole dangerous and can lead to some seriously dark paths being walked.

The way that fundamentalism manifests itself in this Limmud story is through the inability of the orthodox rabbinate to accept that knowledge sharing and collaborative learning is a good thing. The rabbinate assumes that the knowledge it disseminates is absolute and divine. This is a fundamentalist notion. They fundamentally believe, much like islam, that secular knowledge is dangerous and will dilute the religion.

The problem in this case is that in defending the sanctity of orthodox knowledge, the rabbinate runs the blatantly does not care about the claim that others have to jewish knowledge, which falls outside the umbrella of orthodoxy. This story is part of a long history, not just limited to the rabbinate but of the community as a whole, who refuse to accept the possibility that being exposed to new and refreshing views, will empower us as jews going forward.

Limmud needs an orthodox endorsement...but it needs it so that it can create a questioning environment that will destabilise the orthodox hegemony, and work to create an understanding that jewish identity is multiple and manifold, and has unlimited opportunities. Jewish Learning isn't limited to Yeshivot - this is what the rabbinate should accept, and that is why they should endorse Limmud.


Of course, orthodox rabbis are not obliged to attend Limmud. I would describe such a position as narrow-minded.
However, suggesting that Jews should boycott Limmud, certainly smacks of religious fundamentalism.


Aside from the reform/orthodox issue there are other things to attend at Limmud. When I attended last year, I went to see a Jew who was in the anti-apartheid movement, a lecture about Jews and community, a talk about Jewish demography and a group of Ugandans who used to be christian but now want to be Jewish, amoung a whole lot of other things.

The Ugandans were particularly interesting, the "who is a jew" debate as pointed out above is one of the thorniest we have. More than that the claim that the Ugandans have to be being Jewish is unsual to put it midly. Yet from what I have heard after the talk they got donations from King David, and their Yamulkes that they make are now being sold by everyone from WIZO to Kollel, they even got an audience with the UOS about conversion. Given the somewhat insular nature of Jewish SA in general I cant really see how people such as these could ever have been given this kind of a voice without a programme such as Limmud.

I thought that a number of people at last years Limmud had idiotic points of view, but I cant see most of these talks are outside the Halachic realm. I have a -20 interest in any reform topics and do not intend to attend any at this years Limmud but I will attending the event because I believe it is a good thing for our community.


Circles, going round in circles.

Bd and El

Your entire argument is based on the premise that Conservative and Reform have some legitimacy. If that premise is rejected you can no longer argue that Orthodoxy should accept Limmud, you can only argue the premise.

Religious fundamentalism. it means sticking to the fundamentals of the religion. This is only a bad thing because a bunch of distant cousins of ours have started going around killing people in the name of their fundamentals. (As an aside, it is interesting to see the number of Moslem communities that have unequivically condemned these actions).

The reason Limmud is being bycotted is because there are a bunch of people there claimingmto be teaching a form of Judaism, which Orthodoxy clearly believes is not. The fact that there may be some acceptable lectures is irrelevant as the danger of the others outweighs this.Would Sony attend a trade fair where Chinese pirate goods are being sold?


Circles, going round in circles.

Bd and El

Your entire argument is based on the premise that Conservative and Reform have some legitimacy. If that premise is rejected you can no longer argue that Orthodoxy should accept Limmud, you can only argue the premise.

Religious fundamentalism. it means sticking to the fundamentals of the religion. This is only a bad thing because a bunch of distant cousins of ours have started going around killing people in the name of their fundamentals. (As an aside, it is interesting to see the number of Moslem communities that have unequivically condemned these actions).

The reason Limmud is being bycotted is because there are a bunch of people there claimingmto be teaching a form of Judaism, which Orthodoxy clearly believes is not. The fact that there may be some acceptable lectures is irrelevant as the danger of the others outweighs this.Would Sony attend a trade fair where Chinese pirate goods are being sold?



It's clear you haven't sat down to a decent discussion with an Orthodox Rabbi of calibre, or you just didn't understand what he had to say.

"the inability of the orthodox rabbinate to accept that knowledge sharing and collaborative learning is a good thing. " This is a blatant lie. The Rabbinate does however reject falsehood.

"The rabbinate assumes that the knowledge it disseminates is absolute and divine." - again, you're off the money.

"fundamentally believe, much like islam, that secular knowledge is dangerous and will dilute the religion. " - Once again you show yourself to be ignorant of fundamental Jewish beliefs.

"it blatantly does not care about the claim that others have to jewish knowledge" - au contraire, in fact, Orthodoxy is most worried that people claim to have Torah true jewish knowledge and are passing off their cheap rip-offs as the real deal.

"Limmud needs an orthodox endorsement...but it needs it so that it can create a questioning environment that will destabilise the orthodox hegemony" - If you can't see the pure irony and idiocy in this statement then there is just no arguing to be done.

"and work to create an understanding that jewish identity is multiple and manifold, and has unlimited opportunities" - Indeed, this has been going on since Abraham, HOWEVER it is Jewish identity we are talking about and just like Jesus, Mohammed and Buddha are beyond the pale, there are fundamental theological issues that place Reform beyond that pale too.

Instead of trying to argue that Reform should be listened too, and basking in the relativistic "we're all correct", "we all need to feel loved and validated" claptrap - why not spend a decent amount of time learning the fundamentals of Orthodox theology and then do the same with Reform and then come back and show us why we should listen. The burden of proof lies with the challenger.


Do you agree with what Brett has written about religious fundamentalism?
Is it not legitimate to describe the orthodox establishment as being religious fundamentalists?


BD, according to Brett's definition, then yes this is fundamentalism.

However, to say (as El Hermo does) that the rabbinate believes "secular knowledge is dangerous and will dilute the religion" is very incorrect.

Secular knowledge is not discouraged and is, often, encouraged. The Rambam said, "You will certainly not doubt the necessity of studying astronomy and physics, if you are desirous of comprehending the relation between the world and Providence as it is in reality, and not according to imagination".

The Lubavitcher Rebbe was a qualified engineer and studied mathematics at a variety of institutions. Secular knowledge is not considered dangerous in any way. However, false knowledge is regarded as potentially dangerous - thus the boycott. The boycott has to do with Reform and Conservative theology being presented as true Judaism.



In the sense Brett described it (i.e. maintaining the fundamentals i.e. mesora, halacha etc in this case) I'd have to agree. And that's essentially what I've argued consistently and I don't see it as being stigmatic or otherwise negative in any way.

However, I find it hard to believe that is what you first intended in the statements " certainly smacks of religious fundamentalism" and "but bear in mind that religious fundamentalism is a thorn in the side of Western civilization. ", in particular because the thorn in the side of western civilisation is neither Christian Evangelists nor Chassidic Dynasties.

Furthermore, Bin Laden et al, are not closed to the west in the sense of not listening to its ideas. And these ARE the folks that spring first to mind when most people speak of "fundamentalists". In fact you'll find the vast number of recent terrorists in particular in western countries have been well educated in the finest western intellectual institutions, Bin Laden included. They're simply hell bent on domination and submission of everyone. (i.e. not only the people who nominally belong to their club).

Consequently, I don't think your comparison is in any way fair or reasonable if at all relevant. And further, I think you're now trying to weasle your way out of what you said by latching onto Brett's definition. Stand by it and fall by it, or admit you exagerated.


El Hermo,

I very much like your first point. But I don’t this it is possible to find a compromise. Brett’s comment “would Sony attend a trade fair where Chinese pirate goods are being sold?” clearly articulates this (a very clever analogy by the way).

So lets see if we can discuss under what circumstances the Orthodox Rabbinate would endorse Limmud.

I have heard some suggestions they are as follows:

No discussions on Torah at all, or
Discussions on Torah by only Orthodox Rabbis.

Are there any more?

What if a reform rabbi came but spoke on say Jewish music would that be ok?

Lets see if we can find the boundaries.


I believe that encouraging Jews to boycott Limmud is within the parameters of religious fundamentalism. If you agree with the orthodox rabbinate in this regard then I would label you as a "religious fundamentalist".

Please be clear..I am not trying to "weasle" my way out. I am the Blacklisted Dicator. You, in my opinion, are a religious fundamentalist. Perhaps you should now have the courage of your convictions and blog using this pseudonym?

You are wasting your time trying to get the orthodox Rabbinate to participate in Limmud. Moreover, your new suggested guidelines with regard to participation are verging on the ridiculous.
I have no problem with "the orthodox" not wanting to participate. There is no obligation on anyone to come to the "party." However, I do not believe that they should encourage Jews to boycott the event.



Your have missed the point entirely. The Rabbinate is not worried about Reform preaching their religion at Limmud. The problem is in there participation at a Jewish learning event. They can talk about candy floss and bunnies, if they're doing it at a Jewish event then that gives them credibility as a form of Judaism.

BD. By definition smething that is fundamental to a system is something that that system relies upon and cannot do without. Therefor someone who is not a religious fundamentalist has disregardrd the foundations and therefor essentially the religion. I therefor,and I know Hillel too, am happy to be called a religious fundamentalist.

If however you were going for the connotation rather than the denotation aspect then I find it particularly offensive that you would compare Torah observant jews to people who blow up women and children - that is afterall the current connotation of the phrase.


So it seems that you are happy to label yourself as a "religious fundamentalist". Don't worry about the spin that I might, or might not, put onto it. Just have the courage of your convictions.. you can blog as "religious fundamentalist (1)" and Hillel can, perhaps, follow you as "religious fundamentalist (2)".


Well dodged BD


As a religious fundamentalist are you, like Hillel, supporting the orthodox rabbinate's decision to dissuade people from attending Limmud?
If you aren't, perhaps you are not quite as fundamentalist as you should be?



I am very disappointed with your last remark. So basically you are saying that Reform Rabbis should be banned from speak at all at Limmud. You had a bit of a point with regard to Torah but when it comes to other topics like music or history you dead wrong. You are now attacking them as people and not their beliefs. So should they thus be banned from all Jewish events?

I met a girl last night who was reform. I went to this awful play at Sandton called Hardlove. She was telling me that she feels like a second class Jew because she goes to the reform shul. I think that’s bad. If she is halachically Jewish (I didn’t ask) then she should be treated no different to me and you. I think that in opposing reform, ou must be very careful not to inflict pain and suffering on the people who practice it.


So the play wasn't up to much, but what was the girl like?

(I might be wrong but I think you misunderstood that Brett was just stating the orthodox position re Limmud and Reform Rabbis. I don't think that you can conclude that he agrees with it.)

For the record, I have been to Reform shul and don't feel like a second class Jew. My mother, of course, assures me that she is Jewish so it seems that I am "halachically" Jewish. However there is a fly in our kosher family ointment. There is a rumour that in 500BCE (about 2500 yrsago) my great ,great etc grandfather married a very attractive pagan woman. There is no documentary proof (the records were destroyed in a fire) so I go to bed with "Jewish" fingers crossed.

Religious Fundamentalist (opposed to Terrorism) 1 (formerly known as Hillel)


As I've replied before Brett, I've appropriated the number one for myself in terms of the "fundamentalist doctrine" of Kol Hokodem Zoche. I reserve the right to abridge or amend it at a later stage.

I thank you for this title which I will bear with honour as you bear your title. I will treat it with the seriousness you ascribe to your own nom de plume given where it comes from. ;-)

I think that Brett would agree that the individual must be treated with the utmost respect, manners and dignity. If the person is Jewish, then they should be made to feel welcome in a shul.

This, I would think, applies to the the spiritual leaders of the reform community as well.

However, this clearly has boundaries and that precludes giving credence to their views on theology. It perhaps also extends to actively preventing their efforts at "missionising".

Consequently, someone who accepts the mantle of public leadership must accept that at times they will bear the brunt of the backlash at their community despite their personal worth.

There remains a big divide between making someone welcome at an event, and perhaps even engaging at a private and appropriate level to public credence being given. And unfortunately that is where Limmud is setting the bar.


Religious Fundamentalist (opposed to Terrorism) 1 (formerly known as Hillel),

As far as I know, no reform rabbis at Limmud have been "missionising".

I will agree to your Number 1 status but only if you can confirm that you
would do your best to dissuade a Jewish friend or relation from attending Limmud.

I hope, of course, that you will continue to blog with your new extended title.

(Btw, do you think that it would be appropriate for Mike to date the "Reform" girl that he met at the theatre? Assuming, of course that there was a spiritual connection.)


BD and Mike

I whole heartedly support the Orthodox Rabbinatea position.

As RF(OTT) so clearly put it the respect with which I treat an individual is in no way linked the how the movement should be treated. The girl is Jewish and should be treated as such in every way. The religion she choses to practice is not Judaism and should be treated as such in every way. If she feels like a second class Jew that is a pity but it is very easy for he to rectify that.

Mike, I haven't crossed any boundries. As I have stated many times in this thread. Orthodoxy appearing together, at a Jewish event, with Reform, implies they accept Reform as part of Judaism. The topics of discussion are irrelevant.

Yes, in opposing Reform we must be care no to hurt those the follow it, but only in as much as not to hurt them personally, this does not apply if they are hurt simply by our opposition.


(Where x represents a large number of reprehensible things done in the name of religion)

I do hereby confirm that I would in general do my utmost to persuade someone not to attend Limmud. (with the caveat's generally floating throughout the rest of my posts).

I would be most pleased if Mike decided to date the young lady in question. If she indeed is of sufficient calibre to date Mike, then we can assume she will lend ear and quickly see the theological errors she has probably not given thought to. She will yet drag Mike with her for a few years in Yeshiva.

Assuming the relationship progresses, I will be happy to host Sheva Brochos for the young couple and extend them all the appropriate blessings and any more I can think of while dancing breathlessly at the chupa. (Assuming Mike is not too offended by my post above and actually invites me to the wedding)


Hillel, that’s very kind of you. But I think we getting way ahead of ourselves on this one. To be honest, I didn’t even take her number. I very strict dating criteria. Having an Orthodox semi-religious home is very important to me. Given her strong feelings of alienation from Orthodoxy, I reckoned that asking if she would be prepared (for example) to have a kosher home with me would come across as slightly insensitive. Not to say very forward.

Also I could not take the risk that if I started dating a reform girl, Brett, the rabbinate and co might boycott this blog.

When I do find an appropriate girl friend I will be sure to let all you guys vet her.


RF aka Brett,
You write:
"The religion she chooses to practice is not Judaism."
Seems that your religious fundamentalism has impaired your common-sense.


Religious Fundamentalist (1),
Would your friends and family take any notice of your attempts to dissuade them from attending Limmud? Do they have minds of their own?
Btw, please can you can provide me with a list of the most dangerous lectures at Limmud? I want to make sure that I attend them.

I wonder why the young lady in question has such strong feelings of
alienation from orthodoxy? Perhaps she wants to attend Limmud?
If she does, you might find out whether she would be prepared to have a kosher home. Ironic if she does, particularly as Limmud is "off-limits"!



Poor character

insulting me personally is fine if you can back it up with fact, logic or reason. But you did not.
I have spent much time through this thread explaining why the religion she chooses to practice is not Judaism, and neither you, nor anyone else on the blog has made a counter argument to that logic.

Lets leave my common sense out of this and stick to intellectual discussion (and Mike's wedding)



Please explain how your orthodox "logic" differs from the "logic" of other religious fundamentalists (Catholics, Protestants, Shiites, Sunnis etc )

To put it bluntly, it is impossible to have an "intellectual discussion" with a religious fundamentalist. Your arguments are based purely on faith. They exclude "logic" and common-sense.

What logical proof can you provide that only a single sect of Judaism, namely orthodoxy, is "Judaism"?


Also bear in mind that it is highly unlikely that you are halachically "Jewish".
You certainly cannot provide proof that your maternal line over the last few thousand years is 100% Jewish.
As I stated previously our "Jewishness" is nothing more than a figment of our imaginations.

Ironically enough, the girl that Mike met at the theatre might actaully be halachically Jewish whilst you might not be.



The closed minded Orthodox dogma that you criticize is the very same dogma that suggests that I am Jewish. The fact that my parents would not have been able to marry had they not produced their parents' ketubahs, the their parents the same, is what makes it more likely than not that I am Jewish.

Now, let me explain again. I'll try using smaller words.

The logical proof I have is this. For close on 4000 years there has been a religion called Judaism. There have been many sects but they have all had the common ground of unreservedly accepting all aspects of the Torah and the wisdom of those who came before them. Any sects who do not fit this were, even at the time, called Jews. (sajusees, ot however you spell it, I know them in the Hebrew).

Around 150 years ago a bunch of Jews said, hey, we don't want all this strict law, ceremony and restriction so we'll form our own sect and do what we want. At this point they ceased to be following Judaism but rather their own new religion. (The other option is that at that point they changed the definition of Judaism, but they did not have universal or even majority agreement to do so, so this would not be valid).

Judaism has had the same meaning for 4000 years - the followers of the Torah (written and oral of equal importance). The fact that a bunch of Jews 150 years ago didn't like this doesn't change history.

That is what make reform not Judaism.

The brazen faced cheek comes from the reform side who reject all orthodox standards of Kashrut, conversion, shabbat etc and demand that orthodox accept them as equals.

I once again would like to point out my disgust at you comparing, by connotation, those who follow Torah Judaism to those who blow up innocent people.


Thank you for your "small words". Has your orthodoxy taught you to be condescending to those who are not as intelligent as yourself? Perhaps you can provide me with chapter and verse form the Torah?

However, I can only assume that your unwillingness to deal with the points that I raised about other religions reveals that you, unfortunately, are not well versed in the histories of other religions. As a result, you are unable to see that all religious fundamentalists have similar views with regard to the sanctity of their particular views.

With regard to it being more likely than not that you are halachically Jewish, please can you tell us about your family history over the last couple of thousand years. Where were your descendants living 1000 or even 500 years ago? Did anybody on your maternal line convert to Judaism? If so, how were that converted?

I assume that your "disgust" towards me is because I mentioned Shiites and Sunnis. You should remember that not all of them are blowing people up. It is only a small minority. Did you also know that not all Jewish religious fundamentalists went around murdering, and justifying the murder,of President Rabin

With regard to South African Jews who attend an orthodox service what % of them can translate the Hebrew that they are reading? How many years of yeshivah training does one need to undergo, before one can translate the torah whilst reading it?

However, please bear in mind that your feelings of antipathy towards me are not unique. You are in hallowed company and can commiserate with Ronno Einstein and Na'eem Jeenah if you so wish.

RFoX1 aka Hillel

On the question you ask me. I think I would have success with my friends and family because they know I wouldn't make such a suggestion without having thought it through, and I would be happy to answer their challenges in an intellectually rigorous fashion.

As to your challenges to my co-Religious Fundamentalist. I think you've gone a little off the wall and either haven't been following the thread or have chosen to attack him personally for some or other reason. Go back to the ball, leave the man out of it. (And you begged for his condescending response)

His reason(s) for declaring reform not to be authentic Judaims are simple. The fact that Reform chooses to include the word "judaism" in their proper noun doesn't make them any more Jewish than Investec (see comment above).

As to calling into question his lineage. You present a peurile argument easily refuted and do yourself no (intellectual) service with the line of (un)reasoning.

I find your comments about intellectual discussions to, again, be rather short sighted, and a strong reflection of a lack of interaction with a truly Jewish world view and its views on dogma. Indeed, if someone brings "faith" or dogma as an argument there is no arguing but I think you would find that someone deeply knowledgable in Orthodox thought would not likely turn to such a lame argument.

Regarding reading and understanding Hebrew. This is a major failure of the education system and says little if nothing about orthodoxy, per se.

I also suspect that with a little effort you could be reading and translating Jewish texts within about 4 months at the most, or a year if you spend 5 hours a week - do you have the intellectual rigour and fortitude to accept such a challenge?


RFoX1 aka Hillel,

Re being halachically Jewish, you write: "You present a peurile argument easily refuted ."
Please refute it and while you are at it, perhpas you can address another couple of "puerile" questions...
Do you know how women were converted to Judaism 1500 years ago? Would it meet the standards of the South African orthodox rabbinate?

You have not addressed my point about how Jewish religious fundamentalism adopts some of the some (not all!) attitudes as Christain and Islamic religious fundamentantalists.

If you are offering to teach me, I would certainly accept your challenge although I cannot promise that I have the "intellectual rigour".
How much would you charge? Or perhaps you haven't got the time or inclination to teach me?


RFoX1 aka Hillel,

I think that you have implied that many Jews who attend orthodox synagogue cannot understand what they are reading. This is not a new phenomenon. Wasn't it one of the reasons why the Reform movement was started? Many Jews (who are unable to translate Hebrew) understand the shul service better when it is partially in the vernacular.



In order for Brett to "prove" that he is Jewish. All he needs to do is show that his mother is Jewish, or that he himself has dipped in a mikva. (cf the Gemora, Rambam, Shulchan Aruch Yoreh Deah, Igros Moshe and subsequent responsa.)

If he has his mother's ksuba, then that's all the proof he requires. Your (peurile) argument about 3000 years and generations etc is irrelevant, except to the extent that he has a family tradition of always being Jewish.

I'm not sure to what you specifically refer regarding "1500 years ago" - but I suspect if you bothered to speak to the conversion dept of the Beth Din or your local knowledgeable Rabbi, with something resembling an honest desire to know and not the shoddy attitude you portray in your posts you'd find the instance to which you refer extensively dealt with in responsa.

Regarding a teacher, I would love to sit with you. I suspect geography might get in the way. Email Mike or Steve for my email address and I will gladly put you in touch with someone who will help, if I can't help myself. Rigour is perhaps not the right word, but a genuine desire to be open minded is required. Open minded should not be confused with morally relativistic though.

Re the vernacular. You are right it is one of the reasons reform started. It's not the key reason, perhaps not a reason in and of itself either, for opposition to reform.

Yes, it may be better to pray in the vernacular. This is a long discussion - I'm waiting for your email to continue the discussion, I think it's beyond the scope of the blog.

With the plethora of siddurim in English, to someone with the slightest cheder or day school background, it's hardly an excuse to opt out though.

Religous Fundamentalist 1


One huge point you've missed by not reading the thread:

"What logical proof can you provide that only a single sect of Judaism, namely orthodoxy, is "Judaism"? "

This is a non starter of a question.

Orthodoxy is the original Judaism, of this their is no dispute. The term "orthodox" was only invented by reform. Reform may try to show why they are more "true" to the tradition, and how "orthodoxy" has gone wrong, but they will still admit (except the revisionists) that they are the new comers. They may try to claim that they're reverting to "prophetic" Judaism as opposed to rabbinic judaism, but all of this is a (in my opinion, lame) attempt to shift and redefine Judaism and consequently legitimise their movement.

Therefore, the burden of proof must rest with them to show why they are right. The same as the burden of proof sits with Christianity to prove JC was the messia.



Mike has my email, so perhaps you can kindly contact him direct. I appreciate your assistance.

I will hold fire with regard to the minor provocations/insults in your last post (totally out of character and should not be seen as weakness or defeat or a lack of desire to continue the discussion in the public realm.)


Religous Fundamentalist 1, (Hillel or Brett?)

Why use a term ( "orthodox") that was invented by Reform?

Religious Fundamentalist 1 formerly known as symbol/Hillel

Good point, why indeed use a term invented by reform. The answer is, simply, because otherwise ignorant people would get confused.


Religious Fundamentalist 1 formerly known as symbol/Hillel ,

Are you confused about your identity? So many recent changes to your name! If it wasn't for "copy and paste" I would have given up with your full title.

Re "orthodoxy"..
Seems like the Reform have got one over you.
Might be best if you invent a new term.

Guys can't we stick to the arguments and leave the personal attacks out of it?

This is getting ugly...


I haven't followed this thread but from what I have read I can certainly confirm one thing.

The play Mike saw was indeed awful. I saw it on Saturday night. What trash.

Religious Fundamentalist 1

I seem to remember you went through an iteration or two before settling on your current nome de plume.

Here's a new term: "Nikey", it's a shoe that looks sort of like Nike but costs less, lacks the research and quality but is indistinguishable from Nike itself to the untrained eye. (After some use it is guaranteed to give you sore feet, blisters and possibly back ache).

In addition to your crusade to Fix the FXI, which seems to be going so well, get Nike to invent a new trade name.

When you're done with that, start work on Sohnee, Soviyet, Pierre Kardin and ...

Besides, what is with the personal attack, I thought you were going to politely wait for an email?


Ok, so you've been having fun while I'm at work


Your question regarding other religions is irrelevent. But I'm happy to answer it. In as much as Jewish RFs are true to the fundamentals of our religion we are the same. We mdiffer from other religions in what those fundamentals are. One religion says kill all who don't believe. Another says preach to all that don't believe (Although they too used to say kill those who don't believe) and another says we try stay out of everyones way while we follow a whole bunch of spiritual laws. I'll leave you to match the collumns. As I saud, I still don't see the relevence to our discussion.

I have a concession to make, and in conceding, or rather clarfying, this point I hope what I'm saying will be clearer. I have not stated in this thread that reform is wrong. Although Im may believe this the arguments to support this are far too long and complex for this blog and have no relevence to the topic. I have mearly tried to proof through logical thought that reform is not Judaism. It does not prove Orthodox right, it leaves open the option that the founders of reform were onto something, a new covenant (sorry, cheap shot), but it does not leave open the option that it is Judaism.

Regarding the tne of my last post, I apologize. I was annoyed at your not answering my questions or countering my points but this is no reason to be mean. I do however believe that accusing Judaism of condoning or even teaching such behviour, on the basis the I claim to be rekigious, is childish. You know very well that not everyone can live up to the necessary standards of ANY religion all the time and to claim that when a person stumbles that the religion taught such behaviour is pure baseless slander.


Religious Fundamentalist 1 ,
"Besides, what is with the personal attack, I thought you were going to politely wait for an email?"

I didn't post the "personal attack" comment!

Re my nom de plume... It emerged on the battlefield... "the dictator" was awarded to me by Ronno Einstein and I was "blacklisted" by Freedom House for emailing them about the FXI.

"pure baseless slander."??
A bit OTT!
I think that it might be best to now terminate this debate.

Religious Fundamentalist 1

Terminated at your request. (no prejudice)


As far as the Reform/Conservative/Orthodox debate go's my position is that a Jew can be or believe what he or she wishes providing they remember that they are of Am Israel and their first allegiance is to Am Israel and Eretz Israel.

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