Guest Post: Jersey Girl's comment to "Evangelicals & Hedonistic Secularism vs. Judaism":
I urge everyone to study the history of Pre Expulsion Spain, which sadly, is no longer taught in our day schools.
In Spain, Jews enjoyed social freedoms and economic prosperity similar to that enjoyed by Jews in the US today. Because of the status enjoyed by Spanish Jewry, thousands of converts were drawn to join the Jewish nation.
The Iberian peninsula was marked by a battle between Christianity and Islam for about 500 years before the completion of the Christian conquest in 1492. Many Jews under the influence of the Rosh (Rabbi Asher Ben Yehiel 1250-1328 who felt that Sephardic philosophy was too entrenched is Islamic thought)felt it better for Jews to live under Christian rule than the more open and permissive Moorish society.
As the Christians gained in power, their intensive outreach efforts convinced hundreds of thousands of Jews to convert. There was no Reform or Conservative in Spain nor was any Jew "assimilated" out from the Jewish community.
Many Rabbis and community leaders converted to Christianity (including the father and brother of Don Isaac Abarbanel). On the eve of the Expulsion, the vast majority of Spanish Jewry chose conversion to Christianity over exile. And the vast majority of those who converted fully and willingly assimilated to Christianity, lost to the Jewish people forever.
Our family is fortunate to have access to letters and documents authored by my ancestors in pre Expulsion Spain (they are now in the museum of Bevis Marks, London). The words written then, ring timely and true to us today, as observant Jews in the US.
For example, mentioned in one of the letters which was written by a father to his grown daughters (Naomi Ragen adapted the actual letter in the "Ghost of Hannah Mendes") is the influence of Catholic maids on children and the potential socialization to Christianity.
We may "say it isn't so", but how can we deny the growing numbers of "kids at risk" emerging from frum homes? Ask any Rabbi who works with these kids and he will tell you that many of them harbor a skepticism towards Judaism that they say was instilled by their Gentile maids or secular studies teachers, etc. (One of the anti Missionary orgs, had a copy of a letter that was sent by a Protestant pastor to the women of his middle class congregations telling them to take jobs as maids in Orthodox Jewish homes in order to influence the children).
Those who have studied the Kuzari know that Judah HaLevi regarded the influx of converts, along with many of "the proselyte's pious saint-like sub-prophetic inspirations" as a dire threat to the character of the Jewish people as a whole.
(Introduction Daniel J. Lasker "Proselyte Judaism, Christianity and Islam in the Thought of Judah HaLevi").
Reflecting upon some of the changes in the norms and mores of Orthodox Judaism over the past decades (ie marked increase in rulings on tznius, bans of music, chumros etc etc) Halevi's admonitions seem to read current rather than past tense.
There is no question that freedom and enlightenment is destructive to the Jewish people, (ie Emancipation of the Jews 1849 which began Haskala and birthed a 50% intermarriage rate in Pre WWII Germany by the 1920s) but we should examine why Jews in historically liberal Ottoman society, did not assimilate as have Jews emancipated in Europe and the US. I do not believe that we can discount the evangelical component of Christianity even as a factor in secular assimilation.