Thursday, October 23, 2014

"The Shabbos Project" - Problems which cannot be ignored!

Guest post by RaP
What will be "the morning after the day before" ?
That is the $64,000 question so to speak if one thinks about it!

To what does this really refer?

No question about it that something truly extraordinary has happened with the way the Shabbos Project has caught on worldwide. Best wishes to everyone concerned for its greatest success. Mazel Tov to South Africa's Chief Rabbi Warren Goldstein on his great milestone, who has now become a truly global outreach Kiruv rabbi following in the footsteps of Rav Noach Weinberg and the last Lubavitcher Rebbe and in fact building on their great successes and examples.

But coming back to the big question, the Shabbos Project begs the REALLY big questions that come in its wake! With its great successes come the great questions, challenges and problems that cannot be ignored or pushed aside under the rug of the current catchy euphoria.

How does the whole notion behind the Shabbos Project (to make people more observant of Torah Judaism via Shemiras Shabbos, a noble goal) mesh with TODAY's reality that in many places around the world, the MAJORITY of people who regard themselves as "Jews" are either married to gentiles given the skyrocketing intermarriage rate, or are the children of non-Jewish mothers (father Jewish and mother gentile and never converted), or are converts of Reform, Conservative, civil marriages and various non-Orthodox denominations of Judaism who "think" they are "Jews" but according to Orthodox Jewish Law (the Halachah) they are still 100% gentiles.

This is the reality that faces us:

"Interfaith marriage in Judaism [Wikipedia]: A 2013 survey conducted in the United States by the Pew Research Center’s Religion & Public Life Project found that intermarriage rate to be 58% among all Jews and 71% among non-Orthodox Jews." [Reference:] Poll Shows Major Shift in Identity of U.S. Jews The New York Times, October 1, 2013: "The first major survey of American Jews in more than 10 years finds a significant rise in those who are not religious, marry outside the faith and are not raising their children Jewish — resulting in rapid assimilation that is sweeping through every branch of Judaism except the Orthodox. The intermarriage rate, a bellwether statistic, has reached a high of 58 percent for all Jews, and 71 percent for non-Orthodox Jews — a huge change from before 1970 when only 17 percent of Jews married outside the faith. Two-thirds of Jews do not belong to a synagogue, one-fourth do not believe in God and one-third had a Christmas tree in their home last year...The survey uses a wide definition of who is a Jew, a much-debated topic. The researchers included the 22 percent of Jews who describe themselves as having 'no religion,' but who identify as Jewish because they have a Jewish parent or were raised Jewish, and feel Jewish by culture or ethnicity. However, the percentage of 'Jews of no religion' has grown with each successive generation, peaking with the millennials (those born after 1980), of whom 32 percent say they have no religion...Reform Judaism remains the largest American Jewish movement, at 35 percent. Conservative Jews are 18 percent, Orthodox 10 percent, and groups such as Reconstructionist and Jewish Renewal make up 6 percent combined. Thirty percent of Jews do not identify with any denomination. In a surprising finding, 34 percent said you could still be Jewish if you believe that Jesus was the Messiah...Jews from the former Soviet Union and their offspring make up about 10 percent of the American Jewish population...Steven M. Cohen, a sociologist of American Jewry at Hebrew Union College-Jewish Institute of Religion, in New York, and a paid consultant on the poll, said the report foretold 'a sharply declining non-Orthodox population in the second half of the 21st century, and a rising fraction of Jews who are Orthodox.' The survey also portends 'growing polarization' between religious and nonreligious Jews, said Laurence Kotler-Berkowitz, senior director of research and analysis at the Jewish Federations of North America..."

The above sources are brief descriptions of the situation of Jewry in North America and certainly worldwide since if anything it is worse in the UK, Europe, South America, and even Australia and New Zealand, all places with significant Jewish populations.

South African Jewry, home and epicenter of the Shabbos Project, is unique because in spite of its slipping from Halachic observance of Judaism, such as keeping Shabbos properly, yet nevertheless South African Jews have remained loyal to the concept of attending Orthodox shulls where men and women sit separately, employing only duly ordained Orthodox rabbis, subscribing to the standards laid down by the South African Orthodox Bais Din in all matters, and just considering themselves "Orthodox" -- but once they land up in places like the USA and Canada and even Israel they find out very quickly that they are not regarded as truly Orthodox since they do not observe Shabbos according to Halachah and do not send their children to Orthodox yeshivas etc.

The point being that while the Shabbos Project and other similar initiatives to enhance a more Orthodox mode of Judaism works within South Africa for South African Jews given their unique heritage and milieu, it does not automatically translate the same way in far-off America, Israel and elsewhere where the local Jews are VERY assimilated, intermarried, have irrevocably abandoned their faith altogether by even becoming Christians.

So the question is, once the Shabbos Project "hits" this "reality" in the way that an "irresistible force (i.e. Shabbos Project) hits an immovable object (assimilation & intermarriage") aka "the morning after the night before" -- the big question is, what will happen and are the people in charge aware of what they are up against outside of South Africa? And note, even with international rabbis involved, those rabbis do NOT deal with such questions because outside of South Africa they service strictly Orthodox or Charedi populations most of the time.

Logically speaking there may come a "project" that will have to face how to deal with masses of intermarried Jews and how to inform people who are not Halachically Jewish that things like he Shabbos Project are not meant for them and that they should please step back. This may sound "messianic" but there have been efforts from very Orthodox outreach sources in this direction, such as by the failed EJF project, that have come seriously asunder and crashed on the rocks due to this very question because the rabbis do not have one approach to CONVERSION and even more troubling PROSELYTIZATION to gentiles, a hugely DIVISIVE issue, unlike something as universally marketable as proper Shabbat observance for Jews who wish to do so!

Have the South African Chief Rabbi and his planners and rabbinic partners all over the world thought this through to its end game and final conclusion or are they just riding on the wave of "ignorance is bliss, 'tis folly to be wise"?

What happens a few "projects" down the line or even what happens now during an actual Shabbos Project someplace when the gentiles married to Jews or those who consider themselves to be "Jews" etc discover or are informed, as they invariably will be, that they are NOT truly Jewish in the sense of Jewish Law-Halachah? Do they leave the Shabbos table? What about the wine? Who answers the Halachic Shaylos at the end of the day and has a suitable body of Poskim been chosen already and in place to deal with the tidal wave of inevitable questions?!

These are serious questions for all those involved to seriously come to terms with and be prepared to face as the time comes closer. In South Africa there is the acceptance of the local one and only Orthodox Bais Din, something that does not exist in most places, except in Israel and perhaps in the UK.

To be forewarned is to be forearmed! or as the boy scouts succinctly put it "be prepared"! And as always, life is stranger than fiction!  Once again Mazel Tov to everyone who has made the Shabbos Project such a popular success and here's wishing for the success of the Shabbos Project and many more that will bring Klal Yisroel to a Teshuva Gemura, Amen!


  1. watch the video of Rabbi T. Lieff of flatbush where he answers halachick issues mentioned here


  3. you asked for the link. it was/is posted below. [before you even asked] kol tuv
    [btw i dont see why rabbi goldsteinneeds to give psakim..for all the hosts wirldwide. rather each person could/should ask his own rav.]


please use either your real name or a pseudonym.