Your newspaper does its readers a disservice by not adequately detailing a contributor’s biography. Rabbi David Golinkin (“‘Who is a Jew?’ debate returns,” CJN Perspectives, July 31) is merely identified at the end of the article as the president of the Schechter Institute of Jewish Studies. It would have been helpful to have mentioned that this institute is aligned with the Conservative Movement. Then we would have a context for understanding Rabbi Golinkin’s criticism of the recent ruling of the High Rabbinical Court of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel that certain conversions are retroactively annulled.
Aside from Rabbi Golinkin’s inaccurate halachic analysis, he omits a fundamental premise of the halachic process, namely, the reliance on authoritative halachic personalities. Of the two lists of rabbis that he categorized into so-called “strict” and “lenient,” it is most obvious which list would be considered as rabbis of a stature who would command almost universal acceptance as halachic decisors. The rabbis of the “strict” list do indeed embody what journalist Jonathan Rosenbloom characterized as “the overwhelming consensus of halachic opinion.”
Moreover, Rabbi Golinkin glosses over that rabbinical court’s Rabbi Avraham Sherman himself, and some of the names on the “strict” list, are far from being one-dimensionally haredi. And one stands incredulous that Rabbi Golinkin would invoke the Israeli Supreme Court as qualified to overturn decisions of the rabbinate in matters of Halachah.
What is most telling of the deficiencies of Rabbi Golinkin’s article is his “social” analysis. The misguided policy of bringing so many non-Jewish Russians into Israel under the Law of Return is indeed an intractable problem. Nevertheless, that does not give the secular institutions of the state any licence to intervene in halachic issues of conversion to solve a social problem, a problem that is of their own making.
This is why a biography of Rabbi Golinkin, no matter how short, should have included his affiliation.
Robert J. Levine
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Israel won’t be accepted as a Jewish state
The Muslim denial of the historicity of the Temple Mount as Judaism’s central religious location is very disturbing (“Muslim denial of Jewish links to Temple Mount is the biggest barrier to peace,” CJN Perspectives, July 10). It is, however, readily explained. It is parallel to the Qur’an’s substitution of Ishmael for Isaac in the story of the Akedah (the binding of Isaac).
Author Bernard Lewis explains what is surely obvious – that the selection of the Dome of the Rock “on the site of the ancient Jewish Temple and in the style and the vicinity of Christian monuments such as the Holy Sepulchre and the Church of the Ascension, sent a clear message to the Jews, and more important, to the Christians.” The message was one of supersession: these faiths were replaced by Islam.
Yitzhak Reiter, in this article, claims that this “denial” is the biggest barrier to peace. I take issue with this view. The overriding barrier to peace, in my opinion, is the extraordinary mindset that underlies this denial. It involves two components. One is the demonization of the Jew. The second Arab/Islamic factor is psychological and ideological in nature. Factual truth emanates from what is deemed to be ideological truth. If Islamic ideology requires that the Jewish claim of historical connection to the land of Israel, to Jerusalem and to the Temple and its site, be deemed false, then that becomes historical fact.
At the beginning of his article, Leiter suggests that the other “issues” separating Israel and the Palestinians/Arabs can be resolved. Not from what I see. The Palestinians have said they will demand from Israel that the principle of their right of return be agreed upon in writing. And all Palestinian leaders have said that the only agreement they would adhere to will be with a “generic” Israel, not a Jewish one. They will not accept Israel as a Jewish state.
Putting aside the question of other Arabs, are Israel’s Arab citizens ready to accept the country as a Jewish state? Absolutely not. Prof. Moshe Sharon of the Hebrew University and Dan Schueften, deputy director of the National Security Studies Center at the University of Haifa, have both written on this subject. Sharon has said that “we must understand that the goal of all Arab peace initiatives is the same – the liquidation of the State of Israel. There is no Arab initiative that is not Islamic in essence.”
Rabbi Abraham Cohen