Volume 23 Number 91
                       Produced: Thu May  9  0:10:49 1996

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Attitudes to learning and work
         [Waldo Horowitz]
Eisenstein and Reconstructionism
         [David Roth]
Halakhik Rulings in Response to non-Orthodox Decisions
         [Eli Clark]
Ira Eisenstein
         [Michael and Abby Pitkowsky]
J. D. Eisenstein
         [Gideon Miller]
J.D. Eisenstein
         [Jeanette Friedman]
The First Bat Mitzvah - J. D. Eisnestein
         [Gilad J. Gevaryahu]
Yom Ha'atzma'ut and Conservatism


From: Waldo Horowitz <waldoh@...>
Date: Thu, 2 May 1996 02:17:37 -0400 (EDT)
Subject: Attitudes to learning and work

One writer said that there seems to be little or no happy medium between
those who learn exclusively and those who work and are detached
from learning.

In this regard I came across the following quote from a non-Jewish

"Among those who, for example, live their lives today in Germany apart
from all religion, I find men of many sorts, ... but particularly
a majority whose religious instincts have been destroyed by industriousness:
they no longer have any idea of what religions are for, and only register
.... a kind of apathetic amazement at their own presence in the world.
They feel that there are already plenty of claims upon them ... whether
made by their business, their pleasures, not to mention their fatherland
and the newspapers."


From: David Roth <droth@...>
Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 10:03:31 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Eisenstein and Reconstructionism

Asher Breatross asked about J. D. Eisenstein:
> J. D. Eisenstein was a very prolific author who lived from 1854 to 1956.
> Among his works were a Jewish Encyclopedia called Otzar Yisrael and Otzros
> on all types of subjects.  He also wrote his memoirs in 1929 and in 1942
> followed it up with an article in which he mentioned some of his
> unpublished works.  Is there any way I can find out whether any of these
> unpublished works were printed?  Also does anyone know anything about his
> current descendents?
> When I sent this e-message out on the Jewish Genealogy list I received the
> following responses from two Reconstructionist Rabbis:
> Response No. 1 [deleted -DR]
> Response No. 2
> >I saw your inquiry concerning J.D. Eisenstein. I do not know about the
> >extended family of descendants. However, I do know that he has a
> >distinguished grandson.  Rabbi Ira Eisenstein is a founder of the
> >Reconstructionist Movement. His father-in- law was the famous Mordecai
> >M. Kaplan. He is a Conservative rabbi and I knew him as a member of
> >that group for many years.  My directory lists him as a resident of
> >New York. However, I do know thathe recently suffered the death of his
> >wife, Judith. (The first Bat Mitzvah). The obituary mentioned that
> >they are residents of Maryland. When they moved I do not
> >know. However, you might be able to get his address etc. from the
> >Reconstructionist Seminary in Philadelphia.(215 - 567 0800). I am
> >certain that they would know where to reach him. He certainly is your
> >best source for information about his grandfather.
> In my opinion it is unfortunate if this is the sole claim to fame of this
> great man.  It is very interesting how Eisenstein himself regarded this
> grandson.  In the 1942 article he refers to him as a Conservative Rabbi and
> that he wrote a work on a particular subject (I am unsure how it is
> translated into English).  There was nothing mentioned about the
> Reconstructionism, which I think is very significant.

First, Eisenstein has obviously more than one claim to fame; otherwise,
you wouldn't be seeking his writings.

Second, it seems presumptious and incorrect to draw inference about his
description of his grandson.  The Reconstructionist movement was quite
young in 1942 (it had no rabbinical school (not formed until 1967), and
was clearly a subgroup within Conservative Judaism) and certainly didn't
form a denomination (in the sense of "Liberal," "Orthodox,"
Conservative").  Considering that the response you quoted refers to Ira
Eisenstein as a Conservative rabbi, just like his grandfather did, your
implication seems to be without basis.

At any rate, is it necessary to insult people in order to ask for
> So if anyone can provide me information about his works and if he has any
> FRUM descendents, it would be greatly appreciated.

I hope this isn't as xenophobic as it sounds.  Do you really have any 
objection to asking a Conservative/Reconstructionist rabbi about his
grandfather?  I can't imagine him [n.b. I do not know any of those
involved personally] being anything but happy to discuss and pass on
his grandfather's writings [assuming you don't insult him as you ask].




From: Eli Clark <ECLARK@...>
Date: Tue, 07 May 1996 10:40:23 -0400
Subject: Halakhik Rulings in Response to non-Orthodox Decisions

From: <StevenJ81@...> (Steve White)
>I suspect there are two reasons(why the same g'dolei hador (leaders
>of our generation) who instituted a special order of prayers for Yom
>HaAtzmaut did not formulate a special prayer of thanks to be inserted in
>the brakha of Modim (thanks)).  One is that in general the ability of later
>generations to modify the seder tefila outside the Shemone Esrei
>(or outside the S.E. and the Shma and Berachot) is much greater than
>our ability to modify the seder tefila WITHIN those core sections.

>The second reason is that the Conservative movement DOES do just this.
>And I think that often in modern times Orthodoxy avoids lenient but
>halachically legitimate psak because Conservatism already does it, and
>Orthodoxy doesn't want to be seen as "conceding" to Conservatism.

>Now, I think the first of these two reasons is more important -- don't get
>me wrong.  But does anybody besides me see the second reason at
>work from time to time?  And if so, is this a halchically legitimate reason
>for avoiding a halachically legitimate psak?

The second reason of which Steve speaks -- avoiding legitimate pesak
(rulings) because of the decisions of non-Orthodox movements -- is not a
rare phenomenon.  In modern times it dates back at least to the birth of
non-Orthodox movements in 19th century Germany (though there is also
ample precedent in Hazal (talmudic sages) for halakhot (laws) aimed at
"disproving" the Tzaddukim (Saduccees)).  The very first instance was
likely the issue of praying in a language other than Hebrew.  This was
an early example of reform and was bitterly opposed by all
traditionalist rabbis (the term "Orthodoxy" had not yet been coined),
although Halakhah (e.g. Rambam and Shulhan Arukh) seemed clearly to
permit it.

Another historical example is the wealth of teshuvot (responsa) opposing
the moving of the bimah to the front of the shul (synagogue), a common
Reform practice in Germany in imitation of the church altar.  In fact,
R. Moshe Feinstein writes in a teshuvah (responsum) that such a move is
no longer problematic, but was only prohibited when it typified Reform.

IMHO the many teshuvot written in the 1950's at the height of the
"Mehitzah wars" (including that of R. Moshe Feinstein) absolutely
prohibiting entering a shul without a mehitzah (partition) under any
circumstances should also be read in this light.

Today many contemporary posekim (decisors) cite Conservative and Reform
practices as a reason to oppose the expansion of women's role in shul.
R. Emanuel Feldman made such an argument in a recent issue in Tradition.
R. Lau, the Israeli chief rabbi, cited this reason in a teshuvah
(responsum) opposing the recitation of kaddish (mourner's prayer) by
women.  In contrast, Joel Wolowelsky (an advocate for a larger role for
women) quotes a statement of R. Aharon Soloveichik which makes the
opposite argument: if the Orthodox world prohibits to women activity
that is really permitted, then we will certainly chase them into the
hands of the non-Orthodox.



From: Michael and Abby Pitkowsky <pitab@...>
Date: Sun,  5 May 96 00:58:57 PDT
Subject: Ira Eisenstein

I have a more down to earth reason why J.D. Eisenstein referred to his
grandson in a 1942 article as a Conservative rabbi, there simply was no
Reconstructionist movement at the time.  While Mordechai Kaplan had
already published most of his ideas about Reconstructionism, it was not
until decades later that a separate movement came into being.  Like
Kaplan, Eisenstein came from and was part of the Conservative movement
for many years.

Name: Michael and Abby Pitkowsky
E-mail: <pitab@...>


From: <Gideon_Miller@...> (Gideon Miller)
Date: Thu, 2 May 96 13:51:18 EDT
Subject: Re: J. D. Eisenstein

In MJ vol. 23 #82, Asher Breatross requested information on
J.D. Eisenstein and his works.  I have always admired his works- I have
tried to get my hands on a copy of my favorite, Otzer Vicuchim, a
collection of Judeo-Christian polemics, for many years.  Once, in the
Yeshiva University Library, I came across a book of his entitled
"Commentary on the Bible", published after his death by his grandson,
Ira.  While I have always been impressed with his prolific and eclectic
style, I have found dissappointment in some of his interpretations.  One
such interpretation is in the aforementioned work, where he states that
Moshe wrote Bereishis from historic scrolls that had been passed down
from generation to generation.  That is not exactly the tradition I was
taught in Yeshiva day school.  Another questionable interpretation that
a friend showed me, is in his Otzer Haminhagim.  In discussing the four
death penalties carried out by Bais Din, he twists a phrase " zo mitzvas
haniskalin" from Sanhedrin 7:1 to mean that R' Shimon held there were
only three types of punishment.  The misreading is "Neusneresque".  The
above examples, as well the path taken by his decendants, has left me
skeptical about Eisenstein's own background and affiliation.

Gideon Miller 

From: <FriedmanJ@...> (Jeanette Friedman)
Date: Fri, 3 May 1996 07:05:29 -0400
Subject: J.D. Eisenstein

Ozar Yisroel was printed in 1951. (I have my father's set.  I took them
after he was nifter.)  The title page reads as follows in English and on
the oppsite page in Hebrew:

Ozar Yisrael
An Encyclopedia
of all matters concerning Jews and Judaism in Hebrew
complete in 10 volumes

J.D. Eisenstein, editor
assisted by H. Bernstein, A.H. Rosenberg, Dr. G. Deutsch
and scholars of various countries

Volume I
(then in Hebrew it says Aleph-Aleph-Beiz)
Copyright 1951
by Pardes Publishing House, Inc. and J.D. Eisenstein
New York, New York

The Pardes Publishing House was run by Y.Z. Buchbinder (figures!:-)) and
was located at 28 Canal St. in New York City.


From: <Gevaryahu@...> (Gilad J. Gevaryahu)
Date: Sat, 4 May 1996 23:49:02 -0400
Subject: The First Bat Mitzvah - J. D. Eisnestein 

Asher Breatross reported the claim about the First Bat Mitzvah in MJ 23#82.
I recently send the following letter to the editor of the Jewish Exponent in
Philadelphia, PA (USA). It is quite interesting that two Recon. rabbies and
the Eisenstein family are working to prepetuate this fallacy. 

I was saddened to read in the Exponent (February 22, 1996) of the death
of Dr. Judith K. Eisenstein. However, the statement in the obituary:
"... in 1922, [she] became the first girl to have a Bat Mitzvah" is
simply incorrect.  Fully twenty years earlier, in 1902 the first Bat
Mitzvah was celebrated in the "Enlightened" congregation (i.e., the
precursor to Conservative/Reform) of Rabbi Yechezkel Karo in Lvov,
Ukraine. It was quite controversial at the time, and was widely
publicized. I venture to guess that the reports coming from the East
gave Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan the idea for his own daughter's Bat
Mitzvah. (Source: Dat Israel u'Medinat Israel, (Hebrew) New York, 1951,
an article by Dov Sadan, pp.136-143).

Gilad J. Gevaryahu


From: <Michael_Lipkin@...>
Date: Tue, 07 May 96 15:56:48 EST
Subject: Yom Ha'atzma'ut and Conservatism

>From: <StevenJ81@...> (Steve White) 

>The second reason is that the Conservative movement DOES do just 
>this. And I think that often in modern times Orthodoxy avoids lenient 
>but halachically legitimate psak because Conservatism already does 
>it, and Orthodoxy doesn't want to be seen as "conceding" to 

>But does anybody besides me see the second reason at work from time 
>to time?  And if so, is this a halchically legitimate reason for 
>avoiding a halachically legitimate psak?

I'm not sure if it is legitimate for us to modify the Amidah in modern
times or not.  However, even if it is legitimate I believe there is a
source for distancing Orthodoxy from Conservative practice.

The gemorah in Succah, in the beginning of the second perek (21a),
describes an extremely elaborate procedure instituted to obtain pure
water to purify the Kohen for the Para Aduma process.  Rashi says that
this was necessary because the Tzedukim (Saduces) correctly held (i.e.
a legitimate psak) that once the Kohen became impure he could not again
be purified that day until nightfall.

In order to distance themselves from the Tzedukim the rabbis, relying on
a more lenient source, instituted the practice of purposely causing the
Kohen to become impure and then purifying him again the same day, BEFORE

Now I'm not saying that Conservative Jews are Tzedukim, but there are
parallels.  In the final analysis both movements led Jews to practices
that were (are) incompatible with traditional halachic Judaism.

It seems to me, not even knowing any concrete examples, that it's a good
idea for Orthodoxy to alter it's practice occasionally, especially where
Conservatism has a legitimate practice, so people shouldn't be led to
believe that even the non-legitimate practices are OK.



End of Volume 23 Issue 91