Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Response to Neshama Saver's defense of EJF I

Neshama Saver wrote [his comments are in italics]:

I shall call myself the "Neshama Saver" from now on to differentiate myself from the numerous other Anonymous' out there.

I would never be so full of hubris to say I understand the will of Hashem. I am a simple, modest, shomer Shabbos, glatt-kosher-only eating, synagogue-attending simple Yid. I will attempt to answer your questions to the best of my ability. I am not a Rav, even though I read & study Torah, Bavli, and other frum sources profusely.

Please tell me the basis for your Torah views since it is obviously not from rabbinical authorities – which you have not cited nor are you a Torah authority yourself. You haven’t cited any authoritative texts to bolster your views so I am assuming you are not basing yourself on these either. Your assertions certainly appear to be as if they are coming from one who really knows the will of G‑d as the Biblical prophets. In fact our sages respond to your style of argument by saying “these are only prophetic-like utterances.” [Eiruvin (70b), Bava Basra (12a) etc.] That is why I suggested you speak to the rabbis of EJF who are certainly accomplished talmidei chachomim. You are obviously a mature and intelligent adult – but you are making assertions as to halacha and public policy of Torah true Jews. You are criticizing me –as someone who is immoral and as one who doesn’t understand what G‑d wants. Again – what are the Jewish foundations of your criticizing of my activities. Keeping mitzvos does not make someone an authority on Judaism. The mishna in Avos (1:16) says “Make for yourself a Rav and keep away from doubt” – who is your Rav and your authoritative source of knowledge about Judaism. Did your rabbis tell you that the way to disagree with Torah scholars is to tell them to “drop dead?”

1) What I was trying to get across with my statement is that I am independent of EJF, and what I say or do has nothing to do with them. As long as I and my wife are keeping Torah, are shomer Shabbos, keep the laws of purity, eat glatt, and live a frum lifestyle, etc, they have nothing to say to us regarding what we say, do or write. That goes for any Torah-Jewish organization. This is not the Catholic Church, where one must listen to the Pope & the Magesterium or else face repercussions. Same things hold for every beis din on this planet. They don't care what I say as long as we are keeping a Torah lifestyle. Plus, I am a strong advocate of freedom of speech.

Again I find this assertion astounding. I can’t imagine any rabbi agreeing with this statement. There is a whole body of Torah literature called hashkofa. There is a halachic category of apikores or heretic. You are asserting that as long as you are orthoprax (mitzva observing) who can think and say anything you want and don’t care whether it is considered Jewish. Do you think you have the right as a Jew to assert that G‑d is physical or that the Torah wasn’t given to Moshe on Sinai – chas v’shalom?

2) …Should every Jewish male married to a goya who is seriously going through the process of gerus, divorce their wives, throw away their gentile (for now) kids, and move on. Dear sir, halachachly that may or may not be the correct thing to do. But nobody is going to do so, especially the millions of us raised, through no fault of our own, secular.

Again you are saying – the halacha is not relevant?!. Have you ever studied the halachos concerning conversion? Are you aware of the literature dealing with “leshem ishus” (conversion for the sake of marriage.) If you have – than please cite which rabbinical sources agree with what you are saying. Are you saying that a person who was born as a mamzer should not be stigmatized because it was “no fault of his own.?” That a cohen should be able to marry a divorcee because it is not his fault he fell in love with her? Are you saying that adultery should not be punishable by death because they were truly in love? What if you found out your wife was actually your biological sister - would you stay married? Would you stay married if you found out your wife was Jewish and had been married before and had not received a get from the first husband?

What EJF does is not proselytizing.

They are trying to to right a wrong that almost two centuries of being frei, secular and Torah-less perpetuated on the overwhelming majority of Yidden, especially in the U.S.

Proselytizing means trying to change a person’s religious beliefs. Trying to convince a person to convert to Judaism is proselytizing. If you want to assert that even though Judaism never proselytized but it needs to now because circumstances are different – I am open to hearing the justification. However you and EJF are both asserting that making great efforts to convince someone to convert to Judaism is not proselytizing. You are simply saying that justified proselytizing is not proselytizing. That is a great example of “doublethink”

3)I would love to honor you by sharing more about myself, but as I said in an earlier post, I do not wish to be blackballed into cherum purgatory for the rest of my life.

I don’t understand what you are afraid of – even from EJF?

I will tell you what I can. Yes, I 100% observe Shabbos, yontif, kashrus and as many mitzvos as I can. I decided to become religious as a result of being married to a goya. …I'm not sure if you are being facetious when you say it took courage to do what I did. But I am not the only one. I have met scores of couples in similar situations, and they have told me I have been a sort of beacon in the pitch black world of mixed marriage-land. If I can do it, so can they.

I am not being facetious. I admire people who strive for the truth – in spite of great obstacles. I also admire those who are willing to present their views for public discussion and possible rejection. I admire these people – including yourself - even though I might disagree with them.

My wife has decided to convert for many reasons. One has to do with children. Another is me badgering her over & over with the truth of Torah that it finally took hold, and she truly sees it also as the truth.

Are your children converted? Are they enrolled in yeshiva? If you decided not to keep mitzvos and didn’t insist on your wife converting – would she still convert? After all a non‑Jew can still be righteous and get the World to Come. Does she really want to be a Jewess independent of making you happy?

I found out about EJF from their ads. WE were already involved for years with kiruv groups and had already attended numerous shabbatons, retreats, classes, etc.

Were you referred to the EJF by a rabbi or did you contact them on your own through their application form on the internet or through the contact number on their ads?

EJF I believe is a great organization that can help others like us who don't know how to traverse the path we have…. That is why what you are doing infuriated me. It's not a pipe dream. The world is ripe for tens, if not, hundreds of thousands of non-Jews to join klal Yisrael. These goyim already have a heart for a Jew, Hashem, Torah & Mitzvas. Why push sincere potential converts, as well as their Jewish spouses as well as their precious children away? We should be rescuing them, not trying to destroy them.

So why not gear up for a massive program to convert goyim? What you are expressing is already mainstream in the Reform movement. Why not encourage intermarriage and then convert the non-Jewish spouse. According to you why be upset about intermarriage since it is truly an effective outreach tool?

I want to thank you for your efforts to try to explain your views to me. I apologize if some of my comments come across as too sharp or disrespectful – it was not meant as such. I do however take strong issue with your viewpoint. You have provided me – and the others reading my blog - for the first time an intimate window into what is actually going on in the world of intermarriage and EJF. Until now I had to make do with second hand reports.

With great respect and appreciation,


  1. Rabbi Eidensohn,

    You have explained the issue very well, lets hope this brings to some real clarification now from Neshama saver or the EJF.

    I admire your strength in striving for the truth.

    Truth is not what we perceive as such , rather the will of G-d and His Torah. This is not easy to come by, by any means.

    The trait of our Patriarch Jacob was of truth, this shows us that it can not be an easy task and definitely not something one can dream up with his own small mind without having extensive background in the Torah.

    Rabbi; keep strong in your quest and G-d will make sure that the truth will prevail.

  2. The Reform movement with which the vast majority of American Jews identify is an expression of the social and political climate of a free and prosperous country such as the US (and historically Germany).

    It is very difficult sometimes for many American Jews to separate "what seems right" according to the secular and Christian culture we live among vs. "what IS right" according to our Torah. For example that it is "good" to "discriminate" against a non Jew for marriage, or that it is "right" to leave a non Jewish woman and her children to whom one halachically has NO relationship is COMPLETELY against the prevailing sense of "Right and Wrong" in American society. Bloody shehita is more "humane" than neat stun guns because our Torah says so. And Brit milah which seems so awful for the baby is the right thing to do because the Torah "says so" (Reform Jews have eliminated both shehita and brit mila from their practice in most cases).

    Conversely, for Jews who live in countries other than America to try to understand the "a-halachic" nature that has pervaded American Judaism even including those who would identify as "Chassidishe" or "strictly Orthodox" is also nearly impossible.

    When Neshama Saver says "This is not the Catholic Church, where one must listen to the Pope & the Magesterium or else face repercussions." this is reflective of a unique religious expression that has become "Orthodox Judaism" in the US. Of course this is not Torah Judaism, observant Jews follow the Psak of Gedolei Yisrael and our Sages throughout history. And while the Psak of the Gedolim might vary according to the community or tradition one is from, an observant Jew follows Gedolim.

    In America, by contrast, a person can call themselves any religion they wish and that is defined according to personal belief, rather than any accepted and predefined doctrine, as opposed to other countries where there is an official Church or State religion and its leaders define the doctrine of the faith.

    The more tightly defined the religious doctrine of the prevailing society, the more likely that Jewish society will follow suit. (Intermarriage was rarely an issue in Muslim countries, but in proselytizing Christian countries, historically intermarriage and conversion for marriage both to and from Judaism was a historical problem). And when American Rabbis say that "Israeli Rabbis cannot understand" I agree wholeheartedly. EJF is truly only the "tip of the iceberg", one of MANY "kiruv" organizations that have become conversion mills for Gentile women and children with Jewish surnames.

    The whole concept of different roles in Judaism (Kohen, Levy, Yisrael, Ger, mamzer) or for men and women is antithetical to the ideals of American culture and society. And this is why so many Rabbis in the US have felt compelled to try to change the halacha to reflect the prevailing culture they live among and to facilitate the elimination of FUNDAMENTAL Jewish beliefs (including the ban against intermarriage, homosexuality, separate roles for men and women)that are in conflict with those of American society.

  3. I have received a number of comments questioning the veracity of others. I have no way of verifying the truth of these assertions. However as long as the comments don't involve slander or lashon harah I will publish the comments. However even those comments which pass the lashon harah standard will be rejected if they stifle the flow of discussion and make people fearful of opening up.

  4. Rabbi, my views are my own. I cannot reference any sources. I am speaking from the heart, utilizing my life experiences growing up in the extreme frei world.
    The criticism of you and those who wish to shut EJF and other kiruv organizations down is not personal. It is all about saving Jews. If organizations like EJF and the other kiruv groups ceased to exist, then Torah Judaism would hemorrhage even worse than it is now. Have you read the book "Off the Derech". Thousands of frum from birth Jew are rejecting Hashem, Torah & Mitzvas. Nobody in the frum world is even trying to stem the loss there. Combine that with the 85% of non-Orthodox Jews continuing on their journey to assimilation, falling prey to missionaries & cults, etc, then the future of Torah Judaism becomes extremely bleak.
    Yes I have not one Rav, but two. They would tell me that my comment about dropping dead was wrong and inappropriate. And I would agree (as I apologized).
    These two Ravs have been guiding my family on it's journey to Torah Judaism for a while now.

    Sorry you find that statement astounding. I know what hashkafa is. However there are hundreds of diverging paths regarding hashkafa with Torah Judaism. Which is correct? Yeshivish, Satmar, Chabad, Laewood, Monsey, YU, Rabbi Avi Weiss, Modern Machmir, Mosern Liberal, etc. These are all considered Orthodox "Jewish". As long as one stays within boundaries regarding belief, then they are all kosher, correct? Of course anyone who rejects that the Torah wasn't given to Moshe on Har Sinai or that G-d is physical would be considered an apikores. That is what the overwhelming majority of Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, humanistic, atheistic and agnostic Jews believe.
    Thinking one way doesn't make one a rasha.
    You must LOVE Rabbi Slifkin and Dr. Gerald Shroeder, huh?

    The scriptural & halachic references I will need to ask you to ask those involved in kiruv. I do not know.Regarding a mamzer, a Cohen marrying a divorcee, adultery, incest by mistake, etc, these examples aren't related to the overwhelming majority of Jews who have married out. The question is "do we let them die out or do we do whatever it takes to save them?", all within halachic guidelines of course.
    This is how EJF differs from the Reform & Conservative. Everything is to be done according to halacha.

    If I found out my wife was really Jewish, but divorced without a get, I would leave. Please check for me to see if the halacha is more stringent regarding marriage to an agunah or marriage to a goy(a), especially when it was done out of ignorance and children may be involved. I'm curious as to what you find out.

    Regarding proselytizing, I truly do not believe EJF is doing so. If they were, I may be for it as a way to stop the above mentioned hemorrhage. But they are not. Like I said in an earlier post, they are attempting to stop the flow of Jews assimilating into nothingness by showing Jews in mixed marriages the beauty of Torah Judaism, and if the spouses & families show an interest, to be directed to a beis din or a competent Rabbi who can guide him or her to finding out if conversion is the right thing for them. I have met scores of Yidden who were clueless about Torah Judaism before they became involved with EJF. Now their families are on a path to becoming frum Yidden.
    I also know unfortunately many Hebrew Christians (messianic Jews) who have taken the easy way out and have become Jewish-flavored Christians. These people and their families will be lost to the Jewish people forever.
    Rabbi, are you against conversion for anyone, period?
    How do we fight the overwhelming tsunami of assimilation, the missionaries who lovingly embrace us with Jewish-flavored Christianity?

    Groups like EJF are part of the solution. Instead of trying to shut them down, why not take a look at the non-frum world and see what exactly is going on?

    Regarding me sharing, I am protecting my privacy. Imagine I work for a large investment banking firm, would you want to invest with me, the heretic? Or if I owned a pas & chalav Yisrael kosher pizza shop, would you eat at my establishment. I can tell you this much, I live somewhere in North America.

    Thank you for not being facetious. I most definitely am a truth seeker, and am willing to put my views out there to be accepted or rejected.
    I hope my life experiences have shed some light on what truly is going on in the non-Orthodox world.

    No info regarding my family. Privacy issues again.

    I was referred to the EJF via their advertisement.

    Regarding converting goyim, why? I am interested in Jews who by no fault of their own, married goyim. There is a solution to our problem, and EJF has been the only group proactive in dealing with it. Now that all this pressure from you and other Rabbis has made them retreat into a corner, perhaps now it's time to have a sit down with EJF and truly make what they are doing kosher according to your standards?
    Those Rabbis are no slouches. I'm sure you can hammer something out.

    Also, please stop comparing this to what the Reform and the other jokers are doing. To comvert through them, one just has to attend a few 3-hour classes and then sign a piece of paper. There are no halachas to keep at all.
    No, it would be a huge mistake to encourage intermarriage and then convert the non-Jewish partner.
    EJF is not doing this. They are tackling an already existing situation and providing solutions.

    The missionaries & the Reform use intermarriage as an effective outreach tool. I am 100% against that.

    You are welcome. It is my pleasure to help clarify my position. Sorry about the privacy issue, but what one writes online stays online forever.
    You have been very respectful. Some of the other comment writers, though, have their collective heads buried in the sand. Intermarriage exists. We shouldn't be like ostriches and ignore the problem.

    I'm glad I can provide a window into the insane non-frum Jewish world.
    Frum Jews need to step up to the plate and mekarev these people, not jettison us into the Jewish dustbin of history.

  5. Here's an interesting article regarding a messianic Hebrew-Christian church in Brooklyn, NY.

    Brighton Beach Pastors Working To
    Convert Jews To Christianity


    They Use Jewish Symbols, But Many Local Leaders Resent Them

    By Matt Mabe
    Special to Brooklyn Daily Eagle
    BRIGHTON BEACH — The Hope of Israel Congregation occupies the second floor of a swanky new building in Brighton Beach. Looming above a glitzy Russian produce market the angled façade of the four-story citadel straddles an obtuse corner of the neighborhood’s busiest intersection. A banner hugging its wall reads, “Hope of Israel – Savior and Light of the World.”

    An observant passer-by might notice something peculiar, even comical, in the message. Especially if he were Jewish. The words of the banner are book-ended by the image of a menorah that is discreetly superimposed by a cross.

    The Hope of Israel is a Christian church targeting Jews for conversion to Christianity. The church and its pastor have drawn criticism from neighborhood rabbis and some Jewish residents who disapprove of their conspicuous location and aggressive methods of recruitment.

    But the four-year-old ministry does not exert much influence. The pastor of Hope of Israel, Jan Berkmans, counts only 70 members in an area of New York that is home to some 160,000 Russian and Ukrainian Jews. Berkmans, 38, shares the same building and his facilities with a separate but similar ministry led by Michael King, 51, whose congregation is Baptist and about half that of Berkmans’.

    The fundamental difference between the two is that Berkmans, a Rwandan educated in Moscow and married to a Russian Jew, conducts his services in Russian while King, a South Carolinian with a Jewish father, preaches in English. “We saw a great need to plant the church here,” said King. “In all reality, the church should have been established 20 years prior.”

    The ministries are part of a larger movement with 300 to 500 congregations worldwide attempting to attract Jews to Christianity, according to Dr. Uri Yosef, of the Messiah Youth Project, a non-profit organization dedicated to Jewish education and outreach. Dr. Yosef, who is critical of the movement, estimates a total Jewish evangelical membership of 250,000 to 350,000. At least 10 percent of these evangelists are estimated to be Jewish by Halachic law, because they were born of a Jewish mother.

    Annually, about $250 million are spent on Jewish evangelism, Yosef said. “But they are not really getting a lot of bang for the buck.”

    Not Affiliated with Jews for Jesus
    Berkmans said he is not affiliated with the most well-known of these evangelists, Jews for Jesus. Still, the message and methods of both Berkmans’ and King’s ministries bear a striking resemblance to that of most evangelical groups. The fundamental precept of the movement is anchored to Romans 1:16, which Berkmans and King both cite as their works’ mandate: “For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.”

    Mordechai Weiner, a 73-year-old native of Bensonhurst and a member of King’s congregation, converted from Judaism to Christianity 21 years ago. “That’s why we are here,” he said. “To convert these Russian Jews.”

    It is precisely that kind of aggressive language, coupled with equally aggressive tactics, that local Jewish leaders resent. This summer alone, the combined ministries handed out 8,000 Russian and Hebrew-language bibles emblazoned with Stars of David and 20,000 Russian-language tracts.

    Volunteers stood on street corners and attended neighborhood cultural events to hand out the Bibles. On his Web site, Berkmans can be seen blowing a shofar, or ram’s horn, on the historic Boardwalk in Brighton Beach. In Judaism, the shofar is used at Rosh Hashanah to summon Jews to religious services.

    “Any Jew that has a little bit of something up in his head will stay away from that church,” said Rabbi Faivel Rimler, 73, who has been the leader of the New Brighton Jewish Center for 35 years.

    Ministers Seek Dialogue With Rabbis
    Both pastors are cognizant of local resentment and try to diffuse controversy through dialogue and community involvement. They provide outreach services for crisis prevention, pregnancies and drug problems. “Our goal is to avoid any conflict whatsoever,” said King.

    Unconvinced, community rabbis try to limit the activities of Berkmans and King by educating their own congregations about Jewish evangelism. Rabbi Mordechai Tokarsky’s Russian American Jewish Experience (RAJE) has invited Jewish scholars to lecture on the topic and who use the churches’ own Web sites to attempt to discredit their movements. RAJE is an organization that brings college students and young professionals back to the faith through seminars, retreats, and trips abroad.

    Rimler even hired a lawyer who told him there was nothing they could do to prevent the ministries from continuing their work. “We are the ones who feel the hurt the worst,” said Rimler, whose modest, ground-level synagogue is dwarfed by the commanding four-story structure that houses the Hope of Israel next door.

    According to Dr. Yosef, most Jews who convert to Christianity do so for three main reasons: because they have little or no formal Jewish education, to accommodate a significant other, or because the Jewish community failed them in times of need.

    Most of Brighton Beach’s Jews came from the former Soviet Union where their traditions and faith were whittled down over decades of intolerant Soviet rule. “They’re preying on people who don’t have any background,” said Ester Lamm, 27, who worked for a strategic marketing firm before switching in May to work as Director of Marketing and Development at RAJE.

    Such spiritual revivals among the community’s young Jews do not deter Berkmans, who considers resistance to his ministry normal. “Even Jesus had problems getting through,” he said. “People like the darkness more than the light.”

  6. I used to volunteer for an anti Missionary organization and became involved with members of Messianic churches throughout the country.

    It has been my own experience that while there are exceptions, the majority of people attracted to these churches are NOT Jewish k'halacha.

    There has been an 80% intermarriage rate in the FSU for the past four generations. I believe that this means that less than 10% of those from the FSU with Jewish surnames would be Jewish k'halacha. The observation that Gentiles from the FSU are attracted to Christianity should not be surprising, even if those Gentiles have Jewish sounding surnames.

    Inviting a Jew for Jesus into your home for Shabbos can be very hard difficult and can also get dangerous. Before I would get involved, I would always make certain that the person is actually Jewish, k'halacha.

    Along with the Gentile children of biological Jewish fathers who are attracted to Jews for Jesus, there are also a great number of Hispanics who are encouraged by missionaries to identify themselves as "anusim" in order to boost the numbers of "Jesus believing Jews".

    I have met a few Messianics who were Jewish k'halacha, and sadly these tended to be elderly suffering from mental problems and the accompanying alienation and disorientation of these illnesses. I, sadly failed to help reconnect these people with the Jewish community.

    Belief in a messiah who returns from the dead is so antithetical to the religious indoctrination that every Jewish child receives even before learning to speak, that it is almost a mental illness in and of itself for those who are Jewish k'halacha to embrace such beliefs.

    If your purpose in posting this article about Jews for Jesus is to defend "kiruv" organizations who outreach to Gentiles, I think that you may have inadvertently made a case for disowning those who intermarry as a safeguard AGAINST bringing Christianity into our communities and calling it Judaism.
    (Lubavitch for example has been proselytizing to Gentiles married to Jews and their children for decades).

    From what I have seen personally, it is more likely that any Jewish education given to Gentiles will be ultimately used to promote Christianity to Jews rather than to create true observant Jewish homes.


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