Saturday, March 22, 2008

No words...

The following is an article that my grandma thought my family would find interesting ('cause we're frum, and she saw something about a Jewish holiday in a secular newspaper). I don't even have words to describe how annoyed the article made me. So here it is, and you all can get annoyed as well! This is from the free Metro newspaper that one can get by almost any subway station, and the article is written by "Rabbi" Kerry Olitzky.
It's called
Jewish Holiday of Acceptance

The story of the Jewish holiday of Purim sounds like it could have been written by crime novelist Raymond Chandler. A pretty young dame with a secret marries a guy with a whole lot of dough. What follows is a tale of intrigue, deception, money, sex, murder and, ultimately, redemption.
It’s also a story of intermarriage. The pretty young dame was Esther, and she had to hide her Jewish identity from the Persian king, Ahashuerus.

But all those adult-themed components of the story — the thinly veiled sexual innuendoes, the horrendous slaughter of the villain Haman's relatives in revenge for his misdeeds, and any difficult questions about an intermarriage gone right — are swept under the rug to create a kinder, gentler holiday we can share with our children.

Esther was raised in a household, where the religion of power and influence was of greater importance than the religion of her ancestors. Synagogue attendance and Jewish education were not priorities.

So when she meets someone who isn’t Jewish but can give her everything she wants and more, they marry. Eventually she comes to identify strongly with her people and, luckily for all of us, her husband the king also throws in his lot with the Jews at a crucial moment in history.
Today, it’s no secret that intermarriage is not looked upon favorably by many in the Jewish community. Other ethnic and religious groups in America feel challenged by intermarriage as well. In extreme cases, family ties are severed, but mostly it causes a lot of heartache. The reason is usually attributed to assimilation. Parents fear that if their children marry outside of the religion, the religion won’t last very long.

But that doesn’t have to be the case. Certainly some Jews have left the fold, but we also have hundreds of thousands of non-Jewish family members who are equally dedicated to preserving the Jewish identity. Purim is a good opportunity to honor and thank them.
In the Purim story, Esther and her uncle Mordechai were heroes, but so was King Ahashuerus, who “married in” to the Jewish people. If we are willing to bring the intermarried into our Jewish family, we too will live to see another day.

Rabbi Kerry Olitzky is the Executive Director of the Jewish Outreach Institute.

29 comments:

frummy said...

What on earth???!!!! I want to cry. This guy (or girl??) totally missed the point of purim by a gazillion miles. What newspaper is this?

Moshe said...

Missed the point?! Was anything even accurate in the article?! Sounds like a hollywood movie where all that's left is the name of the story and the names of the characters!
Guys, click on the "tell us what you think" link and leave a comment and tell your friends to do it too.

Jessica said...

Wow. Someone clearly needs to start reading the megilah before they write newspaper articles...

Moshe said...

The guy twisted the story to promote his own agenda. He's a big advocate of intermarriage.

Moshe said...

Send an email to letters@metro.us and voice your opinion.

frumcollegegirl said...

wow. i thought i'd read something wrong cuz i'm tired.

this guys's nuts

frumcollegegirl said...

...unless it's like a purim spoof or something...

Moshe said...

not a spoof, google his name

frumskeptic said...

oh yea. no spoof. i googled his name before I posted... oyyy...
the guy is head of an "outreach" program. Its like Kiruv gone wrong!

Jewish Sceptic said...

lol, kiruv gone wrong. I like that term :P

It does seem like he twisted the story to fit his own agenda...but there is a little truth to it.

It is true that Esther essentially married out, a concept that our sages grapple with by saying she was completely passive during sex and therefore not blameworthy (also, how did they know this?), also saying that she would have been killed if she didnt marry him (though this isn't consistant with other laws, she should have died to preserve the halacha, shouldn't she?) and that she was permitted to do this because she was saving her people (but would Hashem really give people tests that went against Halacha? Think avraham and yitzchak and the shechita that never was - even if this was a test, I find it inconceivable Hashem would have wanted Esther to break such important halachos as those of marriage and sex).

It is true that Achashverosh essentially 'married in' in the sense that he now had a Jewish connection - but he wasn't Jewish and certainly didn't gain acceptance as being a Jew within any Jewish community, that we know of at least.

But yes, otherwise outraging that he should take advantage of a lack of knowledge to pursue his own ends.

Dave said...

"The offspring of a Jew who marries a wife who is not Jewish, but who is a woman of good heart, modesty and charity, must be preferred to the children of a Jewish woman by birth who is, however, destitute of the same qualities."

Something from the Reform movement?

No.

A translation from the "Book of the Pious", arguably one of the formative works in Ashkenazic history. If your family comes from Eastern Europe, your family history was almost certainly shaped by the Pious of Asheknaz in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The history of intermarriage and Judaism is more complex than most people like to imagine.

Moshe said...

Jewish Sceptic
It's a lot worse than you think actually. Esther was married to Mordechai. In the beginning she was passive and was therefore allowed to go back to her husband. When she went to petition Achashverosh, she began to actively participate and became forbidden to Mordechai.
btw, don't forget Yael who had sex with Sisera before she killed him.

Moshe said...

And is this talking about a non-Jew or a convert? On which page is this written?

Dave said...

Moshe:

I can't give you the page, I took the translation from Paul Kriwaczek's "Yiddish Civilisation: The Rise and Fall of a Forgotten Nation".

However, since the Book of the Pious (same source) also was strict on never reminding a convert of their prior status, I would assume it was not speaking of a convert.

(Both references are on page 124 of the hardbound edition)

Moshe said...

Gemara uses similar language to distinguish between Jews and converts. The translation can be wrong or misquoted. Without reading the original, you don't know what it actually says. What is true is that a Jew who takes a non-Jew for a wife, his children are not Jewish. A woman may not convert in order to marry. A man who marries a non-Jew, his soul is cut off.
btw, the author doesn't seem to be religious and I would be very interested in finding out whether his wife is Jewish.

mlevin said...

"The offspring of a Jew who marries a wife who is not Jewish, but who is a woman of good heart, modesty and charity, must be preferred to the children of a Jewish woman by birth who is, however, destitute of the same qualities."

I did not interpret this statment as an acceptance of an intermarriage, rather a criticism of certain Jewish women who act holier than thou but lack in good heart, modesty and charity.

Dave said...

The only English translation of the Sefer Chasidim is $200 and up, and I'm certainly not up to medieval Hebrew.

(Just checked, from the endnotes, the quote is actually from the English translation by Avraham Yaakov Finkel, published in 1997 by Jason Aronson Inc)

Dave said...

Oh, I'd also be leary of trying to impute the claims based on the supposed interests of the author.

While it is true that someone who is intermarried would have an interest in evidence showing that that had happened in the past in Jewish history, it is also true that those for whom intermarriage is anathema have a strong vested interet in denying it.

After all, if intermarriage were common (or even just not unheard of) in the 13th century, there is no way of knowing who is halachically Jewish or not.

So I would argue that it is best to leave the aspirations of either side out of the question, and try to see what the evidence is. With that in mind, anyone here up to some translation?

Moshe said...

The book is available in Hebrew as a PDF online. It's 700+ pages. Go ahead.
btw, I just reread the quote. It doesn't say it's better to marry a virtuous non-Jew rather than a bad Jew. All it says is the children of this one are better than the ones of the other. The quote is regarding post-facto children not about the parents.
Notice that the quote is not complete and it's not clear to what it's referring to. This may be referring to business dealings. Not one mention is made about marriage with them.

Dave said...

Notice that the quote is not complete and it's not clear to what it's referring to.

Anyone up to finding and translating it from the Hebrew? That would provide more context.

the opinion said...

what do people think they are

Yehudi Hilchati said...

frumskeptic,

Obviously Rabbi Olitsky doesn't mean that the story of Purim was about the joys of intermarriage. He's using the megillah allegorically and intergrating the nimshal poetically into his retelling.

Also, while I also don't agree with his stance in intermarriage either, I am surprised that you, as skeptical as you are about the social mores and prejudices of the frum world, would choose fall into the frum habit of delegitimizing his staus of rabbi by enclosing it in quotes.

Disagree with his message if you wish (I do), but keep in mind that he is a Rabbi to the people that are involved in the Jewish Outreach Institute and is considered a rabbi by the Reform movement, which has over a million members. For the sake of interdenominational dialogue and mutual respect, it would be appropriate not to mock his title.

Yehudi Hilchati said...

It's a lot worse than you think actually. Esther was married to Mordechai.

There is no indication of that in the text of the megillah. Yes, yhe gemara speculates about the possibility that she was married to Mordechai and discusses how she could approach Ahashveirosh if she were an eishet ish, but makes no conclusion that she was definitely married to Mordechai.

Moshe said...

And a woman rabbi is also a rabbi?
Retelling? Esther grew up not frum?
"So when she meets someone who isn’t Jewish but can give her everything she wants and more, they marry."
What?!
Dude, I think you have a problem with reading comprehension or you also don't know the story of Purim.
Palestinians are also retelling history and the land actually does belong to them according to you, right?

frumskeptic said...

Yehudi: The guy didn't poetically retell the megiallah, he completely perverted the story to maintain his ignorant following.

"Rabbi to the people that are involved in the Jewish Outreach Institute and is considered a rabbi by the Reform movement, which has over a million members. For the sake of interdenominational dialogue and mutual respect, it would be appropriate not to mock his title."

I think its perfectly appropriate. I respect Judaism, and I hate it when people completely pervert it for their agenda. Whether they are extremists on the left or extremists on the right.

The entire foundation of Judaism rests on traditions and its law. As wacko and outdated some of the traditions and laws are, if we try to fully reverse them too quickly Jews will disappear.

Intermarraige is a SURE way of the quick loss of Jewish tradition. As much respect as a non-Jewish spouse may have for Jewish traditions, she/he will not know how to appropriately pass them down to the children.

Here is a study I came across a while ago, thought it would fit here:

http://www.simpletoremember.com/vitals/WillYourGrandchildrenBeJews.htm

frumskeptic said...

should have quoted law in:

As wacko and outdated some of the traditions and "laws" are

Yehudi Hilchati said...

I respect Judaism, and I hate it when people completely pervert it for their agenda. Whether they are extremists on the left or extremists on the right.

Frumskeptic,

I'm surprised at you.

Skepticism imnplies a willingness to learn and understand differing perspectives. Your statement implies that despite referring to yourself as a skeptic, at age 20 you have already made up your mind about what is right & wrong and which ideas are nonsense and which are not.

How is that different from the groupthink that you decried when you started your blog?

Yehudi Hilchati said...

Frumskeptic,

I try to keep a civil discourse on blogs and looking back at my comment in this thread yesterday, I think I came off a little too condescending. I apologize.

I still disagree with you though. But respectfully :-)

Hailega Yeshiva said...

He should actually look at the statistics. How many children of intermarriages have any connection to their Judaism? (assuming it's the mother who's Jewish - the other way around the kid's not even Jewish.)

Esther & Achashveirosh's child was Koreish. He was good to the Jews - he let them rebuild the Beit haMikdash. But did he consider himself Jewish in any way? No! So this is a pretty bad example to use for the writer of the article.