Volume 58 Number 50 
      Produced: Wed, 04 Aug 2010 15:56:54 EDT

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

"Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim  (3)
    [Martin Stern]
In defense of Yitz and Blu Greenberg 
    [Jeanette  Friedman]
Kosher Bacon and Scampi 
    [Martin Stern]
NON "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim 
    [Freda B Birnbaum]


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

On Wed, Aug 4,2010, Frank Silbermann <frank_silbermann@...> wrote:

> People have been debating whether a person who participates in the
> "Egalitarian Orthodox Partnership Minyanim"are "not Orthodox."
> I was told, in the context of the "who is a Jew?" issue, that the main
> objection to the Conservative movement is not any specific halachic ruling but
> rather the teaching of "Biblical criticism" (ideas that the Torah was
> assembled from the writings of four authors rather than dictated by G-d to
> Moses).

I would take issue with Frank on this. It is not the teaching of "Biblical
criticism" per se that is the objection, it is the acceptance of its
principles and findings. The difference is between treating it as a hava
amina [initial hypothesis], as was done by such irreproachably Orthodox
scholars as Rav David Tzvi Hoffman, rather than the maskanah [final
conclusion], as seems to be the opinion of Conservative scholars such as
Louis Jacobs. 

In my recently published book "A Time to Speak" (Devora Publishing) I have
written an analysis of why the latter approach is based on a circular
argument and cannot, therefore, be upheld on purely rational grounds.

Martin Stern

From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim 

On Wed, Aug 4,2010, Michael Rogovin <mrogovin118@...> wrote:
> Martin Stern wrote (MJ 58#48):
>> "...those who are ideologically committed to [non-orthodox] movements...
>> are essentially minim [heretics]"
> I think one must be very careful about calling people minim or kofrim and we
> must be very careful about rushing to "expel" committed, observant Jews from
> Orthodoxy.
> ...
> But I am not so quick to write off these people as heretics.
> Misguided, well meaning perhaps, but not heretics. Calling them heretics
> means more than just not giving them kibbudim (synagogue honors); it implies
> total disassociation with them, possibly leading to not marrying them, etc.
> I think that there must be better approaches even when condemning their
> actions.

Perhaps I did not express myself clearly enough and I certainly did not
intend the use of the term "minim" to have the ramifications Michael
suggests. I apologise for the lack of clarity.

The distinction I had intended was between the "misguided" tinokot
shenishbu [Jewishly ignorant] and those ideologically committed to the
non-Orthodox movements who must thereby deny some of the basic principles on
which Torah Judaism is based.

As regards "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim, I only made the
conditional statement that:

> If we deem such "Egalitarian Orthodox" congregations as effectively
> non-Orthodox then such a person would be as disqualified as someone who
> officiates at, for example, a Conservative synagogue.

I did not pass any judgement on whether they were in fact non-Orthodox.

Martin Stern

From: Leah S.R. Gordon <leah@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Thank you very much to Susan Kane and Stuart Wise for furthering a
productive discussion of Partnership Minyanim.

Ms. Kane alludes to, and Mr. Wise, mentions, the question of "how do we know
that a Partnership Minyan won't become like a Conservative shul, i.e.
nominally following halakha but not really, and not with frum members?"  I
think that this is a fair question, and something to watch out for, in the
next few decades.  People thought that co-education like Maimonides School
(Boston area) would lead to Jews leaving the derech, and it seems not to
have happened.  Others continue to rail against Orthodox women's tefila
groups, and those continue to attract/educate some of the most Orthodox
women around.

On the other hand, it is hard to find a Conservative shul in which the
members adhere to halakha as interpreted by the Conservative Rabbinate, so
that seems to have gone a different way.  (I would say, that there are some
Conservative shuls, particularly lay-led minyanim and campus-based
minyanim,  that do not have this problem, along with a more general move
toward tradition in all the movements including Reform, in the past decade
or so.)

So, it is hard to know where a movement will lead.  My feeling is that there
is such an important impetus to Partnership Minyanim, i.e. women's spiritual
inclusion, that it is worth trying, with full love of Hashem and devotion to
Torah Judaism.  Critics (as we saw right here on M.J) can make ad-hominem
comments and say terrible things about me, or about my shul, but it does not
detract from the true Avodat Hashem and Mitzvot that characterize our

Mr. Stern asks whether "we" (members of M.J?) consider a Partnership Minyan
to be outside of halakha.  I do not think that this has been resolved.  It
is certainly the case that some Orthodox rabbis get all worked up whenever a
woman sticks a tentative toe into public spirituality, but I don't consider
that an answer to Mr. Stern's question.  I do not think his question has
been answered yet, nor can it be, for a few generations.  Certainly,
historically, Orthodox minyanim have engaged in lots of sinat chinam against
each other, not counting each other's tefila as valid, and so forth.  And
also, there have been legitimate grievances, but these are fewer.  Only time
will tell.  I know that Mr. Stern in particular is sensitive to not
following peer-pressure about such shul politics.

To answer some more of Mr. Wise's questions:

> Thank you for your comprehensive explanation, and you are correct, I still
> don't quite understand it all. Why, for instance, is it important for a
> woman to read the Torah in public?

This is hard to answer as phrased, but I will try.  (I would rather the
question be asked, why would any Jew add on to restrictions against him/her,
to refrain from publicizing/learning/teaching Gd's Torah in every way
possible - given that one accepts the minority opinion that women are
eligible to be called to [and thus read] Torah.)

For me, it is less about my own reading, though I do feel obligated to read
whenever I can find time to volunteer and learn the portion.  It is more
about being part of a congregation where all humans are learning and
teaching each other Torah, and I do feel more of a kinship/understanding
when someone represents *me* reading the parsha aloud.  A person's
spiritual/emotional connection to the Torah is very special, and I may not
be explaining it well.  Suffice it to say, there are many Orthodox women who
feel this need, as demonstrated by the rise of Women's Tefila groups and the
huge influx of such women to minyanim like mine.  Sometimes women cry the
first time they hear another woman have an aliya or read Torah, finally
feeling that unbroken connection to our tradition.

> What does having this type of equality mean
> to an Orthodox woman?

See for me, it's not really equal, or about equality.  It's about feeling a
spiritual Judaism that eluded me while I was only "represented" by men whom
I could barely see/hear.  Honestly, my shul is not really equal for me vs.
my husband or my sons.  Equality for me, and I do value it, is about how I
want respect as a scientist, and pay, commensurate with any man.  Or about
how I want equal attention when I speak to a contractor doing work in our
home, even if I'm not the "man of the house" - yes I know how to work a
screwdriver.  And about how I want people not to snicker when I say that I
am the captain of an intramural hockey team each spring, even though I'm a
normal-sized woman.   Things like that.

I would, on the other hand, demand equality for things like voting rights in
a shul, and I would expect equal things to be asked of me like moving chairs
or whatever is needed.  I just don't put spirituality in the same boat.  As
a religious Jew, I am willing to work within Gd's framework/halakha.  But
I'm not satisfied to take on additional chumrot, in the form of following
opinions based on women's rights a thousand years ago, when alternate
opinions exist to be followed.

> When I read your post, visions of Blu Greenberg kept popping
> into my mind, and quite honestly, I am not sure that what she
> and her husband practice is what most of would call Orthodoxy.

I know that a lot of people disagree with the Greenbergs, specifically about
reinventing the contract with Hashem.  From a feminist perspective, Blu's
religious ideals are not exactly cutting-edge, and I haven't seen any
connection between her work and Partnership Minyanim.  Last I knew, she was
more about the Women's Tefila groups and maybe a female "rabbinical advisor"

I don't know what "most of us would call Orthodoxy"; I've stated elsewhere
that the label is not particularly dear to me.  So I'm not the best person
to really defend that angle
But I understand that lots of my shul's members do find that important.
Maybe they read M.J and can chime in!

> Generations of men and women have realized their distinct roles in
> Yiddishkeit without crying foul. My wife and daughters are quite happy in
> the roles they have elected to fill, and they respect our traditions. I
> can see their devotion to Hashem in the way they do the mitzvos and daven, 
> and in conversation and observation I never got the impression that they
> felt something was missing.

Not every person feels every possible feeling :) of course.  All I can say
is that many, many women feel a profoundly increased sense of connection to
an Orthodox service when a woman (herself or another) leads a portion of
it.  I would add, that my compatriots and I also respect our traditions.
Otherwise we would not bother with any limitations and we would go to an
Egalitarian shul; the choices are readily available.

As a side note, have your wife or daughters participated in any kinds of
davening where women lead?  For example, when I was in sixth grade in Chorev
School in Jerusalem, a chazanit led us each morning in shacharit; it was a
profound experience for me to be both peer-led and female-led.  This was a
very Orthodox (by any definition) environment.  Probably different
individuals are affected differently, which I think is always true.

> Still, while I do respect other people's views and practices, I must  say
> this does sound like a hybrid form of Conservative Judaism, which on the
> books calls for observance along the lines of Orthodoxy but with their
> unique
> twists.
As I mentioned above, I think it is too early to determine if this is the
case, but I understand your perspective.

Mr. Horowitz has written an angry objection to me, and to Partnership
Minyanim in general.  I don't know how to answer it, except to say that I
consider it polemic to use phrases like, "all Torah Jews reject your
non-Orthodox minyan".  Where does one start with that?  Let alone,
"feminists demonize Torah Jews in the name of feminism".  I would so much
rather engage in rational discussion.  Using stronger and angrier language,
and re-labeling other people, doesn't really get anywhere.

>> Apologetics about "different roles" aside, we all know the statistics
>> that religious women leave Orthodoxy more often than do men, and
>> that they do it because of being marginalized in terms of participation
>> and leadership.  It is the rare Jewish woman in 2010 who is satisfied
>> sitting where she can neither see nor hear, much less participate, in
>> the davening in shul.
>> Orthodox men can shout us down as much as they like, but those feelings
>> are real, and we are not under lock and key.
> What evidence do you have that it's Orthodox men?  Your statement is
> nothing more than bigotry and sexism.

Ok, let's count it as "one Orthodox man" for now.  :)

> Recently I received an email from the anti-Orthodox JOFA announcing they
> were having an anti-Israel demonstration last July 22nd over Anat Hoffman's
> arrest for disrupting prayer at the women's side of the Kotel with their 
> monthly demonstration with a sefer Torah.

If you believe that JOFA is anti-Orthodox, then perhaps you aren't a good
candidate for their email list invitations to demonstrations.  I find it
dubious to the highest degree that JOFA had an anti-Israel anything.  And my
impression is that WOW is pretty tame in feminist terms, just trying to
daven (not "demonstrate with a sefer Torah") in spite of rampant and
well-publicized abuse from men in the area.

> As long as you see halacha not as a source of guidance, you are outside of
> Torah Judaism. So its not Orthodox men who are against you, its halacha that 
> is against you.

This could well be true, but it is not relevant to anyone in the discussion
of Partnership Minyanim so far.  Who has said they "see halacha not as a
source of guidance"?

--Leah Sarah Reingold Gordon


From: Jeanette  Friedman <FriedmanJ@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 09:01 AM
Subject: In defense of Yitz and Blu Greenberg

Stuart Wise wrote (MJ 58#48): 

> When I read your (Leah Gordon's) post, visions of Blu Greenberg kept popping
> into my mind, and quite honestly, I am not sure that what she and her husband 
> practice is what most of would call Orthodoxy.
I have known Yitz and Blu for 30 years. What this is is nothing less than  
smearing a Modern Orthodox couple who has helped Klal beyond belief. They  
are shomrei mitzvot and shabbat and kashrut-.. Blu was never "comfortable" 
about  women taking over "men's roles" in shul, but the first time she got an  
aliyah in a women's minyan, she felt a connection to the Torah that until 
then had been reserved for the men in her family.
Blu founded JOFA because of agunot. Unfortunately, her motto, "where there  
is a halachic will there is a halachic way" proved to be too much for the 
men in  charge. As a result, women will NEVER get gittin from recalcitrant 
husbands who  beat them up no matter what until they pay up and hand over 
custody, and maybe  not even then. IMHO, JOFA has copped out and resigned itself
to  feeding the ugly beast by using the prenup only, leaving the pikuach 
nefesh of battered women married to batterers in the dust.
Maybe, when another frum woman is battered or beaten or stabbed to death by 
her "frum" husband, the rabbinate will take pikuach nefesh seriously. 
Until  then, women's lives are at stake.
In the meantime, do not smear the Greenbergs.  They do not deserve it.
Jeanette  Friedman co-author with David Gold
Why Should I Care? Lessons from the  Holocaust


From: Martin Stern <md.stern@...>
Date: Tue, Aug 3,2010 at 07:01 AM
Subject: Kosher Bacon and Scampi

Rabbi Ari Zivotofsky has drawn my attention to an article he has written on
this subject "Baco Bits and Non-Kosher Taste: Halacha and Hashkafa" that
appeared in The Journal of Halacha and Contemporary Society vol. 50 (Fall
'05), in which he analyses all the relevant sources and also discusses
contemporary attitudes to a "craving to taste the forbidden".

Unfortunately, there seems to be something missing from note 25 (on page 98 in
the printed version) which ends in mid-sentence but Rabbi Zivotofsky has
supplied me with what was omitted, obviously the result of a  a typesetting error:

"be too strong and lead him to violate the prohibition. God therefore
provided, and the rabbis revealed, the permitted substitutes to assist a
person in fighting his temptations."

Martin Stern


From: Freda B Birnbaum <fbb6@...>
Date: Wed, Aug 4,2010 at 01:01 PM
Subject: NON "Egalitarian Orthodox" (Partnership) Minyanim

Joseph Kaplan rightly notes:

>  [...] But one thing they are NOT is egalitarian.  If they were 
> egalitarian, then women would lead ma'ariv and shacharit as well and 
> there would be no mechitza.  They clearly and emphatically do treat 
> women and men differently.  Thus, to call them egalitarian is simply 
> false and makes the debate over them unfair and less honest.

This is SO reminiscent of the labeling of halachic women's davening groups 
as "women's minyanim" 25-30 years ago, when they davka were NOT 
minyanim.  Sometimes it was carelessness and I suspect other times 
deliberately disingenuous.

More (perhaps) when I've fully caught up on this thread.

Thanks, Joseph!

Freda Birnbaum, <fbb6@...>
"Call on God, but row away from the rocks"


End of Volume 58 Issue 50