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September 27, 2008

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Safta

The issue is not Euro-centric vs Afro-centric Jews. The issue is whether having Jewish genes — without Jewish beliefs — is sufficient justification for making aliya. Imagine (G-d forbid) American Jews for Jesus demanding the right to "return" to Israel and be supported by the Israeli government so they can undermine Judaism.


Rachel Batya

So your shul is MO, small, friendly, *and* diverse? I'm green with envy.

I just found out that the only shul in my rural town is Reform. Though I'm not at all drawn to the ritual and educational offerings there, I'll probably connect with the place doing community service, which they do very well. There are some other shuls around, including Recon and Conservative, but not Orthodox. Too bad, because I'm feeling more drawn to Orthodox services than to anything else. I visit NYC occasionally, and will probably check out an MO shul if I'm ever there over shabbos.

Anyway...As long as we're only looking for converts among the unchurched or former Sephardim, I may reconsider my stance. I'll give it some thought.

Yochanan Lavie

Rachel, I love you, but I agree with Dave. We should not, IMO, try to lure people away from their own religions. We should go after the "unchurched" of which there are millions in Asia and Africa. Only Catholics with Sephardic ancestors, in SA, should be missionized.

My shul is Modern Orthodox, and because we welcome converts, we are growing thanks to Black and Hispanic members who are undergoing an Orthodox conversion.

Dave

Rachel,
I disagree with you.
I am very much in favour of promoting Judaism, in a non-patronizing way, non-coercive way.
We are losing thousands, and hundreds thousands of Jews in the western world.
I am working on a plan to promote millions of converts. There are millions of people around the world searching for spiritual meaning.
We have a good product- the Tanach can sell itself, properly promoted.
I do not believe that Judaism is the best religion in the world.
I do know in my heart, and I am certain that Hashem/ G-d/ Allah loves every human being.
I am also certain that all humanity aspires to pure monotheism, some of us just don't know it yet. I believe that every human passes away, if they have been good, they spend all eternity in the presence of G-d, and I don't mean Jesus or Buddha or Krishna.
I see Judaism as a vehicle to promote pure monotheism. Unitarianism is too weak, the Sikhs are a very Punjab, India- centred religion, and at the moment Islam is unfortunately dominated by fanatics.
So that leaves us, as the only monotheist alternative.
I am not Orthodox.
I am willing to work with Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Karaites, Samaritans, even Lithuanian Karaim (a break-off group from the Karaites).
I am willing to work also with tolerant Orthodox.
The situation is dire. If we do not grow, we shall disappear.
Right now we are 13.5 to 15 million out of more than 6 billion.
My goal is 180 million, within 50 years.
By that time, the world population is expected to be 9 billion, so we will still be a minority- but we will be 2 percent of the world's population, instead of being less than 1/2 of 1 percent as we are now.
Another thing- I do not give a sh-t about the "frummer" than thou rabbis.
I will do my part for the rest of my life to help the Jewish people grow. I do not care if the "frummer" than thou rabbis recognize me. The goal is to get so many converts that the balance of power in Judaism, changes. Anyway I ignore the haredim and extreme orthodox. They probably think I am irrelevant. Well, I think they are irrelevant. Just imagine Minhag Brazil, Minhag Mexico, Minhag Africa, etc.
Thousands of rabbonim/ rabbanot/ hachamim of African, Latin American, and Southeast Asian heritage. Judaism must cease to be a Euro-centric religion if it is to survive.
I think we have to admit to ourselves that we, the Jews of the western world have screwed up. We have tried Reform, Conservative, Orthodox, haredi, Lubavitch, Zionist, non-Zionist, and we are still losing the demographic battle. Our great future hope is to leave this wonderful heritage to the many millions of Mexicans, Brazilians, Africans, Koreans (especially North Koreans, when that regime collapses), and African-Americans, Native-Americans, etc.
I have met many converts and read about many converts. They are, to a man and a woman, much more enthusiastic about Judaism than "born" Jews are.
If you've

Rachel Batya

I can't see how we could possibly get enough converts to make that much of a difference, especially in predominantly Catholic countries in Latin America.

But then again, I'm very much against the idea of seeking converts at all. I don't mind if we set a good example and people come asking about us, but I'm really against the idea of going out and eliciting conversions. For one thing, there is Hillel's dictum "What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor." Plus, there is nothing wrong with a non-Jew practicing another religion. And anyway, what would we say to people: come join us, learn a difficult language, and risk having your conversion overturned by this week's frummer-than-thou rabbi? I just don't see it.

I think we should let the born-again-ers live in the illusion that by supporting Israel, they are bringing us closer to Christ. They're happy with their belief system. Why should we deny them their happiness?

Yochanan Lavie

Dave: Why not do both? I am all for more converts, but we also can't place all our hopes in the developing world. Shanah tovah.

Dave

Yochanan and Rachel, you both make some good points.
However, as I have pointed out, my personal feeling is that the true future of the Jewish people is promoting Judaism in the 3rd world and among "visible" minorities in North and South America and Europe.
As long as we hope that the West will save us, we really are doomed.

Rachel Batya

Dave, I understand your feelings about evangelicals, because I share them, but I think Yochanan is right about working with them. They can keep trying to convert us until they're blue in the face, but we don't have to pay any attention to it, or respond to it in anyway. Let them waste their breath.

Meanwhile, they are helping to support Israel, which means that, among other things, they are helping to support the Ethiopian Jews, who are the original subjects of this thread. The Jews that have been left behind in Ethiopia live in extreme poverty and will die of starvation and disease if they don't get out of there. Israel exists precisely to rescue people like this; the fact that the Israeli government is allowing them to languish is unconscionable. But tens of thousands have already been brought to Israel and saved from persecution at the hands of their Christian neighbors, and I hope the aliyah will continue until all the Falash Mura are home.

So it's fine with me if American Evangelicals want to support Israel for their own theological reasons. They're supporting the only country in the world that exists to rescue Jews from persecution. Considering that the persecution has come mainly at the hands of Christians, that sounds like justice to me.

Yochanan Lavie

Dave: The USA supports Israel not because of the vaunted "Jewish Lobby" but because of the millions upon millions of Born Again Christians. The Jewish community is actually shrinking in absolute numbers, let alone proportion, and many Jews actually don't give a shit about Israel anymore. And without the USA, no more Israel, and ultimately no more Jewish people.

Dave

I am sorry, Yochanan.
I do not believe in working with the born-agains for any reason at all. We do not have to say anything to them, we should just politely ignore them. They want to turn us into Christians, that's all, and they'll never stop trying, unless we totally ignore them.

Aharon Varady

Heh. and Sun Tzu wrote, "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer."

Yochanan Lavie

Rachel is correct. That's also why I believe in working with born-agains for political reasons, because we need their political support (there are a hell of a lot more of them than there are affiliated Jews). But we should always be vigilant, and not trust too much. Their agenda is not ours, even if our interests sometimes converge. Don't shun them, but keep an eye on them.

Rachel Batya

--If you have to lie, cheat and steal to sell your religion, folks, your religion isn't true. --

Amen to that. The MJAA is also:

--Taking advantage of people's desperation in order to bring their followers to Israel and attempt to convert the rest of us

and

--Taking the focus off the 8700 Falash Mura, who should have been in Israel years ago, and who are almost entirely made up of Jews who practice Judaism

On the other hand, when faced with the possibility that 70,000 "messianic Jews" may be muddying the waters sufficiently to make the Falash Mura's status look more questionable, the Israeli government may decide that it would be worthwhile to accept the Falash Mura, get them to Israel, and permanently close down any further possibility of aliyah from Ethiopia.

But given the number of times the Israeli government has slowed or stopped the process of Ethiopian Jews making aliyah, I'm not all that optimistic.

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