Tuesday, September 9, 2008

Shavei Israel III - Proselytizing not kiruv/Finding Jews that don't exist

Guest Post: Recipients and Publicity's comment to "Shavei Israel II - Exploiting Law of Return Loopho...":
For once I agree with Jersey Girl's attitude here. [See JPost article she forwarded]
But Bartley, while I admit that my post was somewhat far-reaching, it does make a very good point, that in spite of Shavei Israel's posturing and to be blunt, MANIPULATION of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate's requirements for conversions, if you just take a hard cold look at what Shavei Israel is up to, and the JP article was a good example, they are searching high and low for ANY people with the remotest connections to the Jewish people, and they will work with people that halacha is clear are pure gentiles, meshumadim and outright Christians who do not have have a Jewish mother, for a few generations, and may even have been Catholics for a long time and in fact don't even want to "come back" to the Jewish people and Zion so that to get involved in "kiruv-like" activities to haul these people in that is a very controversial, and probably Halachically forbidden, activity.

Your contention that Shavei Israel is no different than a kiruv operation is wrong because they are working with the goal to reach people who THEY know will often times be gentiles and will require conversions, which is not and should not be the classical definition of "kiruv" which means reaching out to non-observant Jews and trying to mekarev them.

If you had read what I have written in some earlier posts about Kiruv that Dr. Eidensohn kindly published, you will see that what Shavei Israel is doing is like the current Reform Judaism effort of "Keruv" to non-Jews and to non-Jewish partners of Jews in the hope of bringing into the Jewish people and not even trying to convert them. This is the Achilles heel of the EJF/R. Leib Tropper/Tom Kaplan effort in spite of its counter-claims, and that is that in effect Shavei Israel, the Reform movement and even EJF are promoting a kind of evangelical Judaism that seeks to proselytize people into becoming Jews when they are neither asking for it nor need it.


  1. A response to recipients and publicity.

    Again you are confusing me. You are saying that the article in the Jerusalem post (which was specifically discussing activities in Poland) is proof that Shavei will look high and low for real or imaginary Jews.

    Imaginary Jews from Poland? Who ever heard of Jews from Poland? Chad or Vietnam may be, but has ever heard of Polish Jews?

    Also you have gleaned from that article that they are willing to work with people who not only are they not halachically Jewish, but they have no interest in joining the Jewish people. I somehow missed that part of the article. May be I was not creative enough to read between the lines.

    What I read in that article is that they are engaged at Kiruv activities with the immediate vision of strengthening and helping to rebuild the Jewish community in Poland. But that is just me. I am not that sophisticated. May be someone can clue me in as to how to interpret an article.

    You also used the verb "manipulate" in capital letters to describe tactics used by Shavei in dealing with the rabbinate. Could you please substantiate that accusation? You know that there are watch dogs in the establishment who usually make their voices known whenever they feel that there is something not kosher regarding conversions. I have not heard any over this issue. When Ariel Sharon placed Rav Druckman to set up a special conversion authority with the mandate of speeding things up for the Russians these voices came out in full voice. I have not heard any protesting over the legitimacy of Shavei's candidates or any special treatment that they are getting.

    To cut this short, you will have to demonstrate this organization is engaged in any sort of proselytizing. The definition (in my opinion) for our purposes being actively reaching out to bona fide non Jews who display no previous interest in Judaism or joining the Jewish people and teaching them Judaism with purpose of having them consider conversion.

    Now Jersey Girl did bring up a valid point that is worthy of discussion. Should we be accepting charity from non Jews with their own religious mandate? This would be an interesting topic?

  2. Response to recipients..

    I would also like to add that I never had any contention that Shavei is a regular kiruv organization. I was merely stating the fact that their activities in Poland are kiruv based. Shavei is not doing anything different in Poland than what Aish Hatorah and Chabad are doing in most places. Poland! I was only addressing their activities in Poland!

  3. Analysing the words of the Shavei Israel article in the Jewish Press.

    Bartley: It was an article in the Brooklyn based Jewish Press http://daattorah.blogspot.com/2008/09/shavei-yisroel-proselytizing-or.html , not the Israeli Jerusalam Post (same initials tho, so that is confusing).

    Anyhow, the Jewish Press article about "hidden Jews" in Poland described and hence revealed some very disturbing aspects and actvities of Shavei Israel. Reading plain English, just look at the terminology and what it said:

    "Twenty-two young Poles who recently discovered their Jewish roots"

    What "roots" are they talking about? Mother or grandmother was Jewish? Father or grandfather? All of the above? Some of the above? None of the above? Which? After all according to Shavei Israel's website they prepare people for conversions so is that what they have done, or will do, or are doing to this batch of newly-minted "hidden Polish Jews" as well as to others? How far and how wide will this effort be? Will it impact the demographics of israel if unchecked? It may, given that Michael Freund served Bintamin Netanyahu, is thus linked to the Israeli Zionist governmental establishment and is highly skilled with an MBA from Columbia and a BA from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs at Princeton University and huge resources behind him, and lots of good-will from wannabe and soon to be Jews.

    "a number of the participants have decided to remain in Israel and continue their studies"

    What studies? For conversion? Not for conversion? Since Shavei Israel's website mentions classes for supposed Anusim to convert what were the classes for the "hidden Poles" about? So are these newly discovered former "hidden Poles" like any Anusim who must convert regardless of their claims of "Jewish" lineage? Or are the "hidden Poles" real Halachick Jews? Or are they just gentiles curious about Judaism?

    This is not a game. The Shavei Israel website makes it clear how serious they take themselves and the need for Halachic conversions, but from the JP press release/article about "hidden Polish Jews" there is no indication and convergence with the geirut activities taking place at Shavei Israel world headquarters.

    "ensure that the younger generation of Polish Jews"

    By what standard can we believe that they are truly Halachically "Jews"? especially if we read the rest of what is written in the same piece.

    "Currently, there are approximately 4,000 Jews registered as living in Poland"

    What does it mean they are "registered"? Who are they "registered" with and who relies on it and what standards are being used here to define being a Jew? Do self-declarations by any Pole (the so-called "Jews by choice") who wants to claim being a Jew count? Is any proof required to be "registered" asa Jew in poland? If so what kind of proof from Jewish sources? Would the Israeli Chief Rabbinate accept these 4,000 Polish Jews as actually being Halachicaly acceptable Jews? And it gets worse...

    "experts suggest there may be tens of thousands of other Jews in Poland who to this day are either hiding their identities or are simply unaware of their family heritage."

    Wow! If they are hiding does Shavei Israel need to go searching for them? And what does "family heritage" mean? How much family connection must their be to qualify here for having a "family heritage" of being Jewish? What is the official definition of "heritage" from Shavei Israel's point of view? If they did not think this through, then either they were guilty of being simplistic or they are guilty of trying to pull the wool over discerning readers' eyes.

    "some Polish Jews chose to sever all connection with Judaism and to hide it from their children and grandchildren, who are now beginning to discover the truth."

    Ok, but it does not explain the exact relationships between and lineage of the children and grandchildren. Today's Polish youth are the grandchildren and great-grandchildren oftpeople who lived (and died) in World War iII and the Holocaust. Who is Shavei Israel's main target audience? Is this going to be like what happened in the former USSR where anyone with a connection to a Jewish person was able to be brought to Israel resulting in over 300,000 Russian gentiles coming over to Israel with the help of the Israeli authorities? And now that that that well has run dry are the avowedly Zionistic leaders of Shavei israel going to ignite the same thing in Poland, as well as all over Europe or anywhere in the world, so that the tidal wave of non-Halachic Jews who are gentiles who came from the former Soviet Union will be dwarfed by an even larger Tsunami flood of similar non-Jewish gentiles who will utterly destroy what is left of the Jewish characatee of Israel with their quasi half baaaaked ideas and notions of Torah true Judaism, if at all?

    Eizehu chacham, haro'eh et hanolad, and are the leaders of Shavei Israel doing this and wise enough to realize the serious and flawed implications of their well-intentioned efforts to encourage "hidden Jews" -- itself a highly misleading and ambiguous term -- to come over to Israel where they could well become the new majority (after all their are many people who that many nations are the descendants of the Ten Lost tribes!) and if they were to double or triple or more the numbers of the 300,000+ non_Jewish Russians in Israel? What has happened to "once bitten, twice shy" among Jews, or is it like the old saying goes, "a nation that does not remember its history is destined (doomed) to repeat it"!?

    "In other cases involving Jewish children adopted by Catholic families or institutions during the Holocaust, the adoptees or their descendants have begun to uncover their Jewish roots."

    Again the talk of "Jewish roots" but this time in the context of people who are actively Catholic so that this means they need to go into the Catholic Church's domains and Christian communities. Is this to promote a new wave of "Anusim"? It may then have the corollary that maybe Shavei Israel will launch programs to "bring back" Messianic Jews, Hebrew Christians and Jews for Jesus who would be no less than deserving than the Jews openly and willingly lost within the bowels and jaws of the Roman Catholic Church in Poland and elsewhere. By the way, if you know your Catholic history in regards to baptised Jews the Cathlic heirarchy does not allow them to return to Judaism and they fight it with all their might. So Shavei Israel might even ignite a religious holy war over this. Anyhthing is possible in these crazy time.

    So if all this is very weird and not in keeping with what Shavei Israel claims on its high falutin website with its bows to the religious establishment while it pursues quite a different dangerous missionary and proselytising agenda for its own self-created goals, making theireir efforts very questionable for those concrned about Orthodox Judaism being watered down in all sorts of weird ways.

    To sum up for now, this is very far from any form of real Kiruv. While the Shavei Israel rabbis and staff may be going through the motions of kiruv and using its parlance and modus operandi, what they are doing is more in sync with Reform Judaism's "keruv" to gentiles and gentile spouses of its members in order to help raise the number of "Jews" and bring them back to an illusory home.

    At some time or another this entire effort is going to get the same shaft that Rabbi Drukman got from the Israeli Supreme Rabbinical Courts (and he at least was doing ONLY conversions only via Batei Din, with none of this hokey outreach to "hidden Jews"), and the ultimatum, warning and Publicfity that was given to the Recipients of a warning letter from the BADATS to many rabbis not to support and get involved with the Eternal Jewish framily (EJF) efforts to reach out to the gentile spouses of Jews, also being a twisted application and practice of theoriginal Kiruv credo and work.

    Oh how the times they are a changin'...

  4. RaP,

    You and I are so much more the same than different.

    We are committed Jews who are passionate about the Jewish people.

    Although we are both very busy with our jobs, families and other commitments we spend hours, often into the wee hours of the morning writing and posting to a blog in hopes that we might have the smallest impact upon the attitudes of other Jews about such pressing issues as 'who is a Jew" and "what is Kiruv"; issues that have a profound and eternal impact upon the Jewish people. (I am not up at 5 am saying Selichot with my husband so I can't complain about how tired I am.)

    I admire and respect you and am grateful for all of the information and resources you have introduced via this blog.

    i just wanted to send you a little bit of very much deserved Hakaras Hatov from cyberspace.

    May you and your family, be inscribed for a Good Year.


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