I Reject

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The Orthodox Rabbinical Council of America just made it official: they are banning women from rabbinic positions. Oh hum.

The Israeli religious public school curriculum is raising a generation of Jews to believe that sacrificing animals in a rebuilt Temple is the pinnacle of Judaism and Zionism. Yeah, whatever.

Women still lack complete access to the Western Wall. Sure, what did you expect?

Israel Rabbis Yitzhak Shapira and Yosef Elitzure published The King’s Torah justifying the killing of Palestinian children to prevent them from growing up and killing Jews. Yawn. So, what else is new?

While I’m inundated with petitions calling upon imams to reject extremist Islam, and swamped by claims from these same imams that extremist Islam isn’t really Islam, I have yet to hear a call for liberal rabbis to denounce extremist rabbis and the Judaisms they profess. At what point do we liberal and largely secular Jews stop excusing the madness of Medieval Judaisms and publically declare them illegitimate? After all, medieval Judaisms reject Conservative, Reconstructionist, Reform, Renewal, Polydox, Humanistic, and even other Orthodox Judaisms as unJewish. Why can’t we liberal Jews do the same in reverse?

I’m tired of the “big tent” argument. I’m tired of excusing Medieval Judaisms and pretending that misogyny, homophobia, xenophobia, and Iron Age mores have any place in the 21st century. I’m tired of bending over backward to meet their standards of kashrut and Shabbos observance in order to make them feel comfortable at community-wide Jewish events only to have them refuse to eat, pray, and love with the rest of us anyway. I’m tired of trying to widen the Jewish tent to accommodate those among us who reject most of us. So:

I reject as unJewish any Judaism that rejects women rabbis and the full enfranchisement of women. I reject as unJewish any Judaism that rejects LGBTQ rabbis and the full enfranchisement of the LGBTQ community. I reject as UnJewish any Judaism that tells a rabbi whom to love. I reject as unJewish any Judaism that wants to rebuild the Temple and reinstitute animal sacrifice. I reject as unJewish any Judaism that rejects science, critical thinking, and rational thought. I reject as unJewish any Judaism that sanctions apartheid and excuses the oppression of Palestinians. I reject as unJewish any Judaism that worships the Land rather than God. I reject as unJewish any Judaism that, contra Abraham Joshua Heschel, makes Judaism a religion of space rather than time. *

It is time to say “no” to the madness of medievalism regardless of which religion it proclaims.

*Yes, I realize that the only Jews left after my blanket rejections are Jews like me, and I’m cool with that. After all, that’s the whole point of rejecting people in the first place.

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14 Responses to I Reject

  1. Jay Gold November 2, 2015 at 2:02 pm #

    While i, too, disagree with the RCA resolution, I can’t really call unJewish what’s been standard Jewish practice for millennia. I’d rather just say that it’s time for orthodoxy to evolve as other denominations have.

  2. Aguinaldo Wechesler Dinazio November 2, 2015 at 4:11 pm #

    Perfect, Rabi!

  3. George F November 2, 2015 at 5:15 pm #


  4. Ted November 2, 2015 at 5:30 pm #

    So leave. (or have you already)
    As Nash and Wittgenstein, and many other philosophers have pointed out. RJudaism like many other religions are systems with rules. Game theory if you wish. You are certainly entitled to not play the game. You can change the rules, But you are not entitled to change the rules and still claim you are playing the same game.
    Smicha ended about 2000 years ago. What we have now is merely a person who has hopefully passed an exam stating that they are proficient in the laws, as written in the standard compendiums of laws, such as the Shulchan Aruch, the Mishna Bruera, etc.
    If you wish to reject Judaism, but want to quote some aphorisms, because they make you feel good. Fine, there are a lot of good sayings in Judaism, and good stories, and good ideas. If they are meaningful for you but, you can’t take the rest of it. Fine, take what you wish, but don’t say that these stories are Judaism. Judaism is much more.
    Boo hoo, the Orthodox eat with you non-Kosher? My wife is Celiac. She can not have any gluten above 20 parts per million. let us say that you are having a charity event to which she is invited. It will be a sit-down meal, with pancakes, beer, baked fish with a bread crust coating. She asks if she can bring her own food, but the caterer explains that they can not guarantee that there will be no cross-contamination. My wife politely declines your invitation. Most people would understand, some do not, “what’s the matter they ask, is she too good to eat with us?” You explain, that it is a matter of health. But the Orthodox believe that non-Kosher food is damaging to their soul and body. Well, that’s different, because you don’t believe that it does affect them.
    Please understand, I am not defending the Orthos. I think most of them don’t know their own laws. As I mentioned, specifically in this matter of Women Rabbis, I think they are wrong, by their own laws. But to reject them because they don’t want to play your game, even if you are calling your game by the same name they use for their game, seems a little disingenuous.

  5. Drew Staffenberg November 2, 2015 at 8:55 pm #

    This is a bad decision. Women have all the rights in the world in the Jewish religion. No one should deny them access to any profession they want to pursue.

  6. Devin November 2, 2015 at 10:06 pm #

    I reject as unJewish and stupid and suicidal the idea that responding to knife-wielding Palestinians with guns is “disproportionate” and wrong.

  7. Agnes Dippner November 3, 2015 at 6:41 am #

    Over 2000 years ago Jesus said a similar no to the Orthodox Jews of his time. They were unteachable then and they seam to be unteachable now. Their hearts were untransformable then and they seam to be untransformable now. What does this make with our own heart ? It produced antisemitism then and it produces antisemitism now. Is there no better way ? Underneath the big no to the behaviour of Orthodox Jews is the unstoppable love and peace of God for humanity. How can we remember this love and peace in the face of unloveable behaviour ? I don’t know … Surrender ? Yes to your no, your rejections, and simultaneously surrender to God’s Love and Peace ?

  8. Sue Black November 3, 2015 at 1:45 pm #

    I liked the way the article started out but then it went too far. I guess it all comes down to where each of us draws our own line. There are definitely some groups in Judaism we all could oust and be the better for it such as Neturi Carta (sp ?).

  9. M. McArthur November 3, 2015 at 4:44 pm #

    Thanks for this, Rabbi Rami. It all gets easier to understand when one realizes that religions are human constructs, not divinely created ones. Humans will be humans, with all humanity’s inherent self-serving flaws. As my friends and I used to say when, as young Catholic teens, we’d hear a religious pronouncement like this one, “Who died and left *them* God?”

  10. Steve November 4, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

    Right on!!! The rationalization appears to lack pragmatism and rationale. Behavior is interesting and at times faith dictates behavior in a way that may be challenging to understand or navigate. In short, we strive to practice our faith in a society that is in flux and changing. However, refuse to allow our faith to change simultaneously when everything around us is changing. We no longer live in a patriarchal society! I suppose this can be disputed. However, Judaism is maternal. How can we deny to recognize women rabbis, allow them to read from the Torah or restrict them from praying in certain areas. Its internal discrimination based on archaic ideologies that should not be ignored but modified to meet our current society. Really!!! What would we do without women ….we would not exist without them!! Hypocrisy at best.

  11. Eric November 17, 2015 at 2:19 am #

    This is EXACTLY how we feel. I’m passing this on!

  12. Eric November 17, 2015 at 2:31 am #

    You plan on visiting the Virginia Beach/Norfolk area? Would love to meet you!

  13. Brett Segal November 25, 2015 at 7:53 pm #

    I’m an atheist (listening to your sermons for years will do that to you), so I don’t have a dog in this fight. That being said, you officiated my Bar Mitzvah at Beth or. After reading this, I feel dirty that I sat I. Your congregation for years. This article is utterly deplorable and you are going to get people killed. I need to be reBar Mitzvah’d

    I’m Brett Segal. Son of Ellen Bukstel.

  14. Ron November 26, 2015 at 7:40 am #

    It’s irrelevent. The simple reality is that your progressive views are sterile, it’s adherents literally incapable of reproducing to even replacement rates.

    So you can say anything you like, in whatever way you wish, about whoever it pleases you to say it, but at the end of the day, your ideas are utterly irrelevent because in a generation no one will follow them.

    You are just another failed movement towards assimilation. In a few generations people will read about you as a pointless footnote in some some obscure discussion on Western Judaism.

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