fbpx
Saturday, June 6, 2020

Creating Pariahs in the Jewish Community

Enjoying this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Pity the children. Rabbi Simeon Bar Yochai declared “Throw yourself into a blazing furnace rather than shame a neighbor in public.” (Talmud Berachoth 43b)

Now consider Camp Ramah's “Statement of Religious Qualifications for Children.” The recently floated statement (“Ramah's Policy in Black and White,” Feb. 25), declares that Ramah, the Conservative movement's nationwide network of camps, has decided to admit only halachically Jewish children; that is, children whose mothers are Jewish. How disturbing. This is the first such public written proclamation of policy in Camp Ramah's 53 year history of extraordinarily successful summer camping.

Why now? Avowedly because of the fear of intermarriage and the Reform movement's adoption of patrilineal descent.

I am troubled by that decision. Consider Lucy Cohen (not her real name), who attends a Hebrew school, became a bat mitzvah, is involved in her Jewish youth movement and has planned a summer of learning and fellowship at Camp Ramah with her synagogue friends. Her decision itself is significant. Lucy's father is Jewish and the home clearly has encouraged her Jewishness. But her mother is not Jewish. Lucy therefore will be barred from the Camp Ramah experience.

Leaving the issue of patriliniality aside, and the wisdom of turning such children into outcasts, what of the shame experienced by Lucy and her family of that rejection? What is the ethical implication of such a ruling? How do we as a community stand on visiting the alleged transgressions of parents upon children?

We have an important precedent. In one of our major rabbinic sources (Numbers Rabbah, chapter 33) Moses challenged God: “Terach worshiped idols, but [his son] Abraham was a righteous man; Ahaz was a wicked king, but his son Hezekiah was a righteous man; King Amon was wicked but his son King Josiah was righteous. Is it proper that the righteous should be punished for the iniquity of the fathers?”

God does not chastise Moses for his dissent. To the contrary. The Holy One responds “I shall correct My own words and confirm yours.” Therefore it is written in Deuteronomy 24:16 “The fathers shall not be put to death for the children, neither shall the children be put to death for the fathers.” Here a Biblical law promulgated by God is superseded on the grounds of moral justice. Such is the way of compassionate halacha.

From one halachic point of view, Lucy's father has transgressed. He has married out of his faith. But the question before us as well is what has this to do with Lucy? Why should she be shamed, penalized and made an outcast? Why should the child Lucy be publicly delegitimized for the action of her parents?

Is her lot not reminiscent of a rabbinic discussion of law concerning “illegitimate” children in Deuteronomy 23:3 “No one misbegotten, no mamzer, shall be admitted into the congregation of the Lord. None of his descendants, either in the tenth generation shall be admitted into the congregation of the Lord.” The rabbis did not let this ruling go unchallenged. In a remarkable passage in Leviticus Rabbah, chapter 32 they cite the protest of Daniel, the tailor. “If the parents of these poor misbegotten committed transgression, what concern is it of these poor suffering children?” So powerful is Daniel's protest that the Midrash records that the Holy One is moved to declare “It is upon Me to comfort them.” Some interpret this to mean that in the time of the Messiah the “illegitimate” who are wronged will be seated on the throne made of pure gold. Do we have to wait for the Messiah?

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

CA to Allow Bars, Gyms, Schools, Sporting Events to Reopen June 12

California will start allowing bars, gyms, schools, summer camps and professional sporting events to start reopening on June 12. The Associated Press reported the state...

Meet the Boogaloo Bois, the Violent Right-Wing Extremists Who (Mostly) Don’t Hate the Jews

There are men showing up to the George Floyd protests in body armor and Hawaiian shirts and they want to start a civil war.

Israeli BDS Activist Seeking Asylum in Canada Will Be Deported Back to Israel

An Israeli activist who had tried to claim asylum in Canada as a refugee is getting deported back to Israel.

Jewish Federation of L.A. Calls for ‘Immediate Action’ From Government Officials to Hold Police Accountable

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (JFLA) will not tolerate system racism or police brutality within the Jewish community or any community. In its...

How Jews Can Be Better Allies to Black Americans

Many Jews are looking to be better allies against racism. Here's how.

Ohio Gov Removes National Guard Member From D.C. for Allegedly Espousing White Supremacy

Ohio Gov. Mike DeWine (R) announced on June 5 that he was removing a member of the Ohio National Guard from Washington, D.C., due...

York University Announces Measures to Address Anti-Semitism on Campus

York University in Toronto announced on June 2 that the university is going to be undertaking a series of measures to address anti-Semitism on...

This Week Taught Me How Out of Touch I Am About Race

Like many Americans, my opinions on these subjects, although well-meaning and no doubt PC, were nonetheless shallow.

Should My Business Be Sacrificed to Fight Police Brutality?

How does a business owner deal with this reality?

Watching ‘Uncut Gems’ Will Inspire You to Reexamine Black-Jewish Relations

Describing “Uncut Gems” as that movie that brought Adam Sandler rave reviews for playing a New York Jewish diamond dealer doesn’t do it justice.

Culture

Watching ‘Uncut Gems’ Will Inspire You to Reexamine Black-Jewish Relations

Describing “Uncut Gems” as that movie that brought Adam Sandler rave reviews for playing a New York Jewish diamond dealer doesn’t do it justice.

The Israel Film Center Festival Goes Virtual this Year. Here’s What You Need to Know

With theaters closed because of the COVID-19 pandemic, movie releases largely have gone virtual, allowing fans to screen the latest films at home. This...

Black Jewish Woman Speaks out on Racism She Experienced at L.A. Jewish Day Schools

"As a black Jew, I've never faced more racism in my life than I have from the Jewish community and Jewish schools."

‘Mrs. America’ Is a Love Letter to Jewish Women

Who else could stand up to a figure as formidable, organized and savvy as Phyllis Schlafly?

Amid Accusations, Lea Michele Apologizes for Racist Behavior

The meal-kit company HelloFresh also responded quickly, terminating its relationship with Michele.

Latest Articles
Latest

CA to Allow Bars, Gyms, Schools, Sporting Events to Reopen June 12

California will start allowing bars, gyms, schools, summer camps and professional sporting events to start reopening on June 12. The Associated Press reported the state...

Meet the Boogaloo Bois, the Violent Right-Wing Extremists Who (Mostly) Don’t Hate the Jews

There are men showing up to the George Floyd protests in body armor and Hawaiian shirts and they want to start a civil war.

Israeli BDS Activist Seeking Asylum in Canada Will Be Deported Back to Israel

An Israeli activist who had tried to claim asylum in Canada as a refugee is getting deported back to Israel.

Jewish Federation of L.A. Calls for ‘Immediate Action’ From Government Officials to Hold Police Accountable

The Jewish Federation of Greater Los Angeles (JFLA) will not tolerate system racism or police brutality within the Jewish community or any community. In its...

How Jews Can Be Better Allies to Black Americans

Many Jews are looking to be better allies against racism. Here's how.

Hollywood

Harvey Weinstein Accused of Sexual Assault by 4 More Women, Including Minor in New York Lawsuit

A new lawsuit filed against Harvey Weinstein in New York city accuses the former film producer of raping four women, including one who was...

Lil Dicky Is the Larry David of Rap in His Show ‘Dave’

If you haven’t heard of the comic rapper Lil Dicky, and you are at least tangentially interested in rap or comedy, you should familiarize...


‘Love & Stuff’ Sees Life, Death and Motherhood Through a Jewish Lens

How do you cope with both the death of a parent and the artifacts she left behind, while preparing to become a mother yourself...

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 53: Are We Turning the Corner of Pandemic Times?

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning. Reflections on how one mega-story has taken over another, and what it means moving forward. How do we manage our...

Pandemic Times Episode 52: Dealing with the Rise of Jew-Hatred

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning. Author Severyn Ashkenazy discusses the plague of anti-Semitism and his new book, Swords of the Vatican, Reflections of a...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x