Volume 56 Number 10
                    Produced: Mon Dec 24 15:03:52 EST 2007

Subjects Discussed In This Issue: 

Convert as Synagogue President (3)
         [Mordechai Horowitz, Russell Jay Hendel, Robert A. Book]
Converts/women as Synagogue President
         [I. Balbin]
Intermarriage, Assimilation and Responsibilities of Non Jewish women
         [Russell Jay Hendel]


From: Mordechai Horowitz <mordechai@...>
Date: Mon, 24 Dec 2007 07:32:05 -0500
Subject: Convert as Synagogue President

> From: <chips@...>
> Once again, the Political Correct thought stream is trying to take over.
> I am getting more convinced that the present 'becoming frum' movement is
> just a fad that is a continuation of the flocking of Jews to 'Eastern
> Religions' from the previous generation.
> Jewish Frum Halacha is NOT based on "what feels good to me". That you
> don't like something on gut level that a Posek has decided means nothing
> unless you are a Posek yourself or can convince a Posek to challenge and
> can back up your claim with the Halachic Process.
> As for the claim that one is not allowed to remind a convert that they
> are a convert so no Halacha can discriminate on a convert - excuse me,
> but which religion are you talking about? Without even thinking, there
> is the Halacha that a male Kohein is not to marry a convert and if he
> does the children are not qualified to be called Kohein.

What evidence do you have that suggest that everyone criticizing this
decision is a Baal Teshuva?

I find it quite offensive this ideology attacking the teshuva movement.
Ironically it represents the extremist charedi worlds ideology that you
have to be born to a charedi family to be a real Jew, which supports
boycotts of marrying the children of Baalei Teshuva because they are
somehow less Jewish.

While the Young Israel movement may have a halachic source to stand on
for their extremist psak it is certainly not the norm of mainstream
Torah Judaism.  Anyone who has been in a shul knows it is a joke to say
the shul President has any power in most shuls.  Can a shul president
coerce people into paying dues.  Not in any shul I've been in.  They
certainly can't force people to give a dime beyond dues which is why we
have to beg with dinners, auctions etc for enough money etc.  If its
about money then we should also be banning converts from being
treasurer.  In most shuls thats the person on the board actually trying
to get people to pay dues.  Unless its the non Jewish shul secretary
making the phone call. The Young Israel movement is not really being
consistent in this psak.  In any shul I've been in the Rabbi has more
power than the President (who is typically hand picked by the Rabbi
"unofficially") Yet no one suggests that we ban converts from being shul
Rabbis.  Indeed as posters have pointed out that even though their are
very clear limitations on a convert serving in a Beit Din (which has
coercive power) everyone agrees that the participants in a din torah can
choose to use that Rabbi anyway.  So too the members of a shul should at
least have the option to choose a convert as President.

This post strikes me as one where being extremist feels good to the 
poster.  The impression I receive when I read it is the idea that not 
being politically correct and offending converts, balei teshuva and 
anyone not born haredi feels good to the poster.  I feel that because on 
the unnecessary and irrelevant swipe at Baalei Teshuva shows a desire to 
offend and not to promote Torah. 

From: Russell Jay Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 23 Dec 2007 19:17:41 GMT
Subject: Convert as Synagogue President

Before presenting my analysis let me emphasize what two discussants -
Batya and Paul - have mentioned: It is a grave Biblical prohibition to
remind a convert of his past. Needless to say if there is a conflicting
Biblical prohibition we must honor it. My point here is that we must be
cautious and there is a possibility of severe sinning if we simply play
conservative and say no.

Next, as is my custom when discussing a controversial topic, we analyze
the underlying (Biblical) source of the law. Dr Backon (and several
others) has pointed out that this source is a Dt verse which states
"when you place a king then place place him from your brothers..." The
repeated word 'place' emphasizes that all placements must be from
brothers, non-converts.

To be fair there is an additional verse (Which Rambam brings in the laws
of Sanhedrin). In Nu11 God tells Moses in appointing a Sanhedrin "...and
gather them and ...they will stand there WITH YOU...and I will take from
the spirit on you and give to them..." From the words WITH YOU we infer
that court appointees have to be WITH MOSES, that is full fledged Jews
like him.

The previous postings have gotten into a discussion of the technical
Aramaic term used "Serrah". However I would prefer to study the Biblical
examples used-Kingship and Courtship.  Let us try and analyze them to
find their distinguishing characteristics.

About 8 years ago I suggested in a mail-jewish posting that this law was
not discriminatory - rather its purpose was to create
atmosphere. Suppose a King had to make a decision whether to declare war
on a non-Jewish country. If he was a convert from there people would
look askance at his decision "Perhaps his background influenced him."

Similarly it is common when you lose money in a court case to rank out
the judges. If one of the judges was a convert there would be a natural
tendency to make improper comments about his past.

Thus the underlying attribute prohibiting a convert from placements
POSSESSIONS. In any other type of placement however there would be no

I would conclude that the prohibitions of using a convert on a court or
for the monarchy is not a statement of lack of ability in these people
but rather a creation of atmosphere where people would not make
comments.  (An analogy would be the American prohibition of having a non
native born American as President...it is not a discriminatory
prohibition but an atmosphere prohibtiion).

Note: This explanation is fully consistent with the severe prohibition
against reminding a convert of his past. In fact the reason the convert
can't be a judge is so that others will not insult him about his past
when he renders judgement against them!!

Let us now examine the Rabbinate, the Synagogue Presidency and the Gabbi
Tzedakah. Certainly if synagogue attendees come to their Rabbi for
monetary decisions the Rabbi should not be a convert. But modern day
Rabbis would refer any monetary questions to a Beth Din. Modern day
Rabbis have 3 primary purposes a) Teaching b) Sermonizing and exhorting
and c) social work to congregants with personal problems. There is no
reason in the world to disallow a convert from being a Rabbi (provided
he is competent). (I would even argue that there is no reason to
prohibit a woman from being a Rabbi...after all exhortating and social
advice might be listened to more from a woman than from a man). (NOTE: A
reconstructionist criticism of orthodoxy is the lack of application of
Jewish civil law in monetary matters today).

I can see arguments to prohibit converts from being synagogue treasurers
or distributors of money since when ill feelings arise they would point
to their past But I can also see arguments the other way: The King
declares war, The judge deprives one person of money and gives to the
other...the Charity distributors PRIMARY function is not to take from
one to the other but to give; the PRIMARY function of the treasurer is
not to deprive anyone of money but to make sure the books
balance. Therefore there would be no reason to prohibit.

Ditto for the synagogue presidency. The presidents job is to a) assist
in scheduling, room assignments and general synagogue resource
allocation, b) redirect appropriate problems that arise to the Rabbi
Treasurer and other synagogue officers, c) oversee special projects
(like buidling expansions), d) assist in appeals e) Act (with the Rabbi)
as a representative to the general community. (F) Note that the
President may have check signing authority shared with the treasurer and
other officers.  Let me put it this way: When hiring a judge you look
for fairness; when electing a synagogue president you look for
cheerfulness,a good attitude, and a capacity to get along well with

There is room for stringency here since the president does have the
capacity to sign checks. I would argue as above that the president
unlike the judge does not TAKE money from one person and give to another
but oversees flow of funds. Similarly unlike the King who has the right
to declare war on foreign countries and take their land the president is
simply a REPRESENTATIVE of the synagogue to the non-jewish community. In
fact his former non jewish status may assist him in this role.

Personally I would like this thread to continue by studying attributes
not by analysis of the word Serara (The discussant who concluded that
converts cant be Choirmasters made this point more eloquently).

Finally I note that I have presented two sides above since there is room
to rule both ways. However I believe the arguments for allowing converts
to be president are strong.

Russell Jay Hendel; http://www.RashiYomi.com/

From: Robert A. Book <rbook@...>
Date: Sun, 23 Dec 2007 18:58:35 -0500 (EST)
Subject: Re: Convert as Synagogue President

> From: Dr. Josh Backon <backon@...>
> >The National Council of Young Israel has issued (or re-issued) a ruling
> >that a convert cannot be president of an affiliated Young Israel
> >congregation, but has provided minimal justification.
> >
> >What is the halachic basis for this ruling? Are there responsa that
> >support such a seemingly convert-unfriendly attitude when halacha
> >generally shows great sensitivity to the feelings of converts?
> On the basis of the gemara in Yevamot 45b, Kiddushin 76b, and Yerushalmi
> Kiddushin 4:5 (on the prohibition of having a king not of Jewish stock)
> [see also Minchat Chinuch 498], the Rambam in Hilchot Melachim 1:4 rules
> that a convert can have no "sherara" [authority] over a Jew and this is
> also codified by the Beit Yosef TUR Yoreh Deah 269 and Beit Yosef TUR
> Choshen Mishpat 7.
> The term to be defined is "serara". The Iggrot Moshe YD IV 26 has no
> problem with a convert being a rosh yeshiva nor does the Tzitz Eliezer
> XIX 47 on whether a convert can be a dayan.  The Encyclopedia Talmudit
> Volume on "gabay tzedaka" does indicate that a convert shouldn't be a
> gabay tzedaka (person responsible for disbursement of funds).

Perhaps it's just a characteristic of communities in which I've lived ... 
But seriously, what sort of "authority" does any shul president
have?  It's always seemed to me that the main job of a shul president
is to ask for volunteers to do things -- with a degree of success that
implies the "authority" flows in the other direction!  ;-)

--Robert Book    


From: I. Balbin <Isaac.Balbin@...>
Date: Mon, 24 Dec 2007 13:29:38 +1100
Subject: Re: Converts/women as Synagogue President

> From: Esther and Aryeh Frimer <frimera@...>
> The issue of a convert as synagogue president is not that different
> from that of a woman as Shul president - with the central issue one of
> serara (discretional Authority).  According to many if not most modern
> authorities, Democratic elections changes the halakhic reality and,
> hence, allows for a permissive ruling.

I am not sure why Rabbi Frimer in his English Shiur seemingly dismissed
the possibility of a qualitative lessening of Seroro on account of one's
ability to appeal to a higher court.  Would the interplay between the
decision of an arbiter/ruler vs the Rule of the Sanhedrin/Beis Din
inform the definition?

As an aside, we have recently witnessed (for the first time) elections
for a Chassidic Rebbe. I'd suggest that this also doesn't mean the
losers accept the winner. Rather, losers form their own (new)
group. This is also how many new Shules are borne :-) on the back of
Machlokes following an election. Is Machlokes ironically a Darwinian
progenitor behind the creation of Kehillos? If a new Kehilla is born
*because* it wanted a (particular) female president, is there a clearer
example of Minuy +Seroro than this?


From: Russell Jay Hendel <rjhendel@...>
Date: Sun, 23 Dec 2007 20:17:34 GMT
Subject: Intermarriage, Assimilation and Responsibilities of Non Jewish women

I was a bit disappointed that the thread on intermarriage/assimilation
died out. Let me put it this way: Looking over the subject headings of
the last 10 issues there were 2-3 on assimilation and about a dozen on
the time to daven in the morning. I think assimilation deserves more
than two issues.

To recap the thread: I had mentioned that the seduction by Moabite women
of Jewish men (Nu24,25) that led to a declaration of war on Moab
justified the Rambam's assertion that a non-jewish woman who had an
affair with a jewish man should be executed.

Several postings in Vol56 (#93,#94) by Bernie and Frank raised some
interesting questions: 

> (a)Do gentiles have a halachic obligation to promote Yiddishkeit?  (b)
> In the vast majority of cases, the non-Jewish woman has no interest in
> or awareness of her impact on the "Jewish people".  (c) Are you
> suggesting that gentile women are persistently trying to seduce
> Orthodox men, ignoring their pleas to be left alone?

Note: These are not questions on my posting but rather questions on why
there was a declaration of war on Moab. The Jews were in a place called
SHITIM possibly from the Hebrew word STH to SWIM. It was sort of a BEACH
resort. The Bible relates that they had parties and intimate
relationships began. This is NOT much different from an American beach
scene. I would argue that most of the Moabite women involved were not
interested in destroying the Jewish people - they were responding to an
opportunity to have some fun with a people known as being caring and
charitable. I do not believe that the gentile women were being overly
persistent or ignoring pleas to be left alone.

The question then arises: If the men participated why declare war on
Moab? True the government was against the Jews but the government did
not use weapons of destruction - it simply mingled the men and women,
let nature take her course, and assumed that the resulting unions would
prevent a military attack on Moab by the Jews(Which was what Moab was
afraid of).

It would seem that a logical conclusion (at least according to
Maimonides' point of view) is that BESIDES the 7 laws of Noach there are
other obligations that Noachides have. While we don't attempt to convert
non-Jews they are suppose to be respectful of national and religious

This is a novel view but I dont see any other way to defend the
declaration of war (even if you say the Moabity women were "agressive"
that still doesnt justify a war...true, rape is prohibited by the 7 laws
of Noach--but seduction and female pushiness is not so prohibited--the
question remains how can you declare war when no crime has been

A few years ago I pointed out that Dt31-12 seems to imply that noachides
must listen to the reading of the Torah by the king in the seven year
cycle "in order that they fear God." It would seem that Noachides have
an obligation to believe in prophecy (otherwise how could they observe
the 7 laws of Noach as Gods will). Thus there are other "noachide" laws
besides the big 7 and this matter requires further investigation.

Finally I point out the intellectual aspects of this law. If we say that
non-Jewesses are NOT liable for who they are intimate with it would
follow that American Jewry might God forbid assimilate and we would not
blaim anyone--after all it is our own fault for participating. My point
here is that American woman must have some responsibility on who they
consort with.

I know full well (like everyone else) that America is Israel's biggest
friend. However the assimilation in America is possibly the largest in
human history. I am simply raising the issue of what responsibility
non-Jewish woman have. I think this deserves more discussion (since it
affects all of us).

Russell Jay Hendel;Ph.d. A.S.A.;http://www.Rashiyomi.com/


End of Volume 56 Issue 10