Chelsea Clinton had a baby girl with her Jewish husband, and the secular Jewish world is going gaga, as they shep nachas over a Jewish tragedy. Obviously, despite the histrionics of those whose Judaism is defined by a confused amalgam of cultural/historical experiences, traditions, and folklore, this baby isn’t halachically Jewish. For that unfortunate reality, we can thank Chelsea’s husband Marc Mezvinsky, who forsook his heritage through intermarriage, and threw away any chance that his offspring would be Jewish. (To compound the sin, he also gave the baby two reprehensible maternal grandparents.) And Marc in turn, can thank his two clueless parents, who clearly gave him nothing, as far as Jewish tradition goes. Mazal Tov? I think not. This is the death of Judaism! Something to weep and tear kriyah over! After two thousand years of stubbornly clinging to Torah despite the never ending threat of the gentile sword, today’s assimilated Jew can alter history with such ease, and sleep well in the process. During the Crusades, entire Jewish communities willingly gave their lives for Torah rather then leave the faith. Once upon a time, even the most secular Jews in America bemoaned the threat of Jewish intermarriage. Not in today’s world.
A Jewish tragedy? You wouldn’t think so from many of the “Jewish reactions” out there. Consider the following article from The Times of Israel, entitled “Chelsea gives birth to (Jewish?) girl”. After sharing the happy sentiments of the parents, the article noted the following:
“Interfaithfamily.com quickly seized the pregnancy as an “opportunity to share with ALL expecting parents” its various resources for new interfaith parents.”
To be fair, the general tone of the article was fairly mild. Yet the inherent bias becomes evident when the article addresses the reaction of “the other end of the spectrum”:
Meanwhile, at the other end of the spectrum, The Jewish Press chose this headline: “Chelsea Clinton Pregnant with Non-Jewish Child.” Calling the former first daughter “America’s poster child for intermarriage,” the Brooklyn-based Orthodox newspaper noted that in marrying four years ago the pair was “effectively pruning away that 3,300 year old Jewish branch of the (Mezvinsky) family.”
Brooklyn-based Orthodox newspaper. Has that “fanatic ultra-orthodox” ring to it, don’t you think? I imagine it is code for, extremist Jews who still follow the Halacha in the 21st century.
Kol Hakavod to The Jewish Press for unapologetically standing up in defense of yahadut and Torah. It is a badge of honor, despite what the assimilationists think. Jewish apologists who don’t want to come out in support of intermarriage often save their vitriol for those who strongly oppose it. As they see it, since they define their own Jewishness as one of “tolerance”, they maintain that one should at least be tolerant of other positions. They are embarrassed by any uncompromising position that declares Halacha to be the sole guide. Attacking the traditional Jewish position allows them to assuage their guilt by finding another target to condemn.
Chelsea and Marc are Exhibit A of the spiritual Holocaust that is consuming American and European Jewry. Intermarriage is rampant. The Conservative and Reform impotent attempts to “save Judaism” by warping the halachic criteria for conversions, and redefining “who is a Jew” has only thrown gasoline on a raging inferno. While the Reform Movement’s acceptance of patrilineal descent as a criteria for Jewish identity is more overt than the conservative approach on such matters, the Conservative Movement’s non-halachic conversions are just as disastrous in the long run. And lest the Israeli Jew think that he has the intermarriage problem solved, he should think again. The demographics are becoming ever more frightening in 2014, as non-halachic Jews are being classified as Jews under the ever changing “Law of Return”.
A few ground rules before discussing the issue of intermarriage from a Torah perspective. While some of these may seem obvious to many (perhaps most) readers, too many people address this subject without any proper Jewish reference points. The premises are often devoid of any true Torah perspective, and are often based on one’s personal emotional identification as a Jew:
• The Jewish ban on intermarriage has nothing to do with racism, nonsensical notions of “Jewish blood”, or the superiority of Jewish genetics. Nor is it anti-gentile. It is an entirely halachic matter whose sole purpose is to preserve halachic Judaism and perpetuate our holy tenets for future generations.
• The halachic ban on intermarriage applies to gentiles. Genuine converts to Judaism are as Jewish as any Jew who was born into the tradition. They are no longer gentiles. Those who fail to recognize this are negating an important aspect of the tradition. But it is imperative to bear in mind that conversion must be performed according to Halacha. As such, for the Torah observant Jew, a Reform or Conservative conversion cannot be accepted, since the movements do not adhere to or believe in acceptable halachic standards. On this critical point, there can be no compromise, if Judaism is to survive.
• While Jews who identify with the Reform, Conservative, and other movements are apt to react negatively to any “Orthodox” position that deems their definitions of Judaism as contrary to Halacha; Jews who believe the Torah to be divine cannot play games with Halacha. Those who choose to alter halachic concepts cannot expect those who see such a process as heretical, to react any other way. Halachic Jews view all non-halachic definitions of Judaism as representing the death of our tradition.
Halachic Judaism vs. Lenny Bruce Judaism
Being that the Halacha is what kept Am Yisroel Jewish throughout the exile, it is tragic that Israel’s “Law of Return” is such a fundamentally anti-Jewish one at odds with Jewish tenets. This flawed law seeks to inflate the numbers of non-Arabs in the country, even if Judaism suffers in the process; and it surely does. For the Torah committed Jew, the halachic definition of who is a Jew is matrilineal, based on the criteria that was codified as Jewish law long ago by the preeminent decisors of Jewish law. Any other interpretation by definition denies this ancient safeguard and immediately endangers the perpetuation of our Jewish beliefs.
Many liberal Jews (I have even heard Torah observant Jews utter such lunacy) believe that since many non-Jews were also killed by Hitler (who identified them as Jews even though they were not Jewish), then Israel should adopt a more flexible interpretation of who is a Jew. As they see it, “if it was good enough for Hitler…” This is a skewed and sick way of thinking. As sad as this historical fact may be, Adolph Hitler (yemach shmo) doesn’t define for us who is a Jew. And an Israeli law that allows untold numbers of non-Jews into Israel as Jews, is destroying the Jewish people by inviting the diaspora’s assimilation problem into the country. Many of today’s olim are practicing Christians, and more than a few are actual missionaries committed to bringing Jews to Jesus.
Lenny Bruce was a brilliant, albeit profane, Jewish comedian who had his pulse on the tragic, neurotic, American Jew. He himself was a sad and depressing man who was so alienated and strained from his own faith, despite his tragically funny observations. He had a routine which took different ethnic groups, foods, and items and classified them as either “Jewish or goyish.” Thus, Italians were Jewish, as were blacks; The Irish were certainly goyish. White bread was goyish; Rye Bread was Jewish. Red Jello was Jewish; Lemon Jello was very goyish. You get the point. Naturally, a definition of Judaism based on such socio-cultural references will only breed a generation of more Lenny Bruces. True Judaism has halacha and without that, we have the death of the Jewish soul.
Rabbi Meir Kahane’s brilliant book, “Why Be Jewish?” should be a standard text for every committed Jew. Written in the late 1970′s, it suffers slightly because the many cultural references, contexts, and statistics are both dated and outdated. (The current statistics on intermarriage and sham conversions are much worse today.) This could easily be remedied by republishing the work with additional comments to explain and elucidate points that would be lost on a readership who never had the opportunity to watch reruns of “All in the Family.” Tragically, much like Rabbi Kahane’s other positions, time has proven his words to be prophetic. Our age sees an even more damaged Jewry. Nevertheless, despite these unavoidable shortcomings, it is a dignified, intelligent, non-apologetic work, which explains the reasons to be Jewish. As Rabbi Kahane explained, the only reason to be Jewish is because of the Torah. Any other reason is nonsensical. Many other cultures have profound events and historical moments that figure prominently in their self-identification.
True to form, “Why Be Jewish?” is replete with Rabbi Kahane’s razor sharp wit, which gives this bittersweet read a human face. As such, it is a text that can be appreciated by Jew and gentile alike, since the subject matter is presented in such a sensitive and intellectually honest manner, which affords the gentile an understanding of the Jewish ban on intermarriage, without denigrating, patronizing, or demeaning him. I encourage the reader to give this book a permanent home on his Jewish bookshelf. Many formerly alienated Jews cite this book as one of the main reasons they returned to Judaism.
Rabbi Kahane laid much of the blame for the high intermarriage rates of his day on the American Jewish Establishment, for their failure to provide a proper Jewish education to American Jews.These groups, as hapless today as they were back then, are as culpable today, as when Rabbi Kahane noted the following:
“The puzzled shepherds of the American Jewish community can close down their study groups and their commissions and their committees; they can put an end to the learned and expensive surveys. They can stop spending Jewish communal funds. What makes Bernie run away from Judaism? Who created the Bernie who pants after a shiksa or who marches for Jesus or Trotsky, or Arafat, or for nothing Jewish? Who created a Bernie who finds Judaism as unimportant as the color of his hair?” (Why Be Jewish? Page 34).
Without Torah, there is no good answer to give young Jews, if they should ask why they cannot marry a non-Jewish girl. Unfortunately, it doesn’t appear that either Marc or his parents were terribly bothered by this issue. Another sign of these dark times.
In light of the above, the following are silly reasons to be/remain Jewish:
• Those who define their Jewishness because of the modern state of Israel. While I appreciate that many “secular” Jews wish to remain in Israel, personally, if I didn’t believe that G-d gave the land exclusively to us Jews, I wouldn’t choose to live in Israel. Furthermore, without appreciating the miracles of the modern state of Israel and accepting the subsequent Halachic challenges, the creation of such a state was always doomed to become what it has become today: a secular state more concerned with world opinion than Jewish survival, a state committed to appeasing the anti-semites of the world rather than relying on the Almighty. In the absence of my own personal recognition of the Divine law as the most moral system in the world and eternally true, the words of the bible relating to non-Jewish inhabitants would strike me as barbaric and primitive.
• Those who define their Jewishness because of the Holocaust. A former Rebbe of mine was wont to say, (strictly in jest) that on the contrary, this is a reason not to be Jewish. What attraction does the Holocaust offer? The Holocaust figures prominently in Jewish Halachic /Hashkafic thought, as it should for a host of reasons, but a secular Judaism that uses this unfortunate event as its sole reason for being, is destined to abandon it.
• Jews because of….. you can fill in the blank. Whole movements of “Judaism” are premised on the notion that Judaism means radical social activism and the pursuit of social justice. Jews against the death penalty. Jews against circumcision. Jews for Gaza. Jews for the environment, PETA, “gay rights”, “woman’s rights”/abortion on demand, workers’ rights/unions, etc., all of these are the tragic byproducts of a G-dless identity.This kind of Judaism is one step away from the more intellectually honest fools of the ethical culture movement who finally wake up and say, “Let’s throw this whole charade away and become a brotherhood of men.
The only reason to be a Jew is because we have a Divine Torah that was given to us by The Almighty. We are only unique as a nation, if we keep the Law and pass it on. Otherwise, there is no reason to be proud of being a Jew, nor is there any reason to remain one.
A “Jewish Clinton” Returning to Chelsea’s new baby. The desire to make this baby Jewish is sad on so many levels. Liberals desperately want a “Clinton Jew,” despite the fact that the Clintons’ views on a host of issues are antithetical to Jewish values. It shows how detached liberal Jews are from Torah. Furthermore, Hillary and Bill Clinton are both fundamentally flawed people who should act as a role model for no one. The desire to see them as people worthy of identifying with is another tragedy.
Yet the worst sin here, is the erosion of Halacha which puts a kosher stamp on the treif. Jews who have cast aside Halacha for secular Jewish ideals have no qualms following the un-Jewish patrilineal descent to make this baby Jewish. The Reform movement explicitly states that Halacha for them is what the Reform leaders deem it to be. This is why American Jewry is gasping for air. It is dying. So is the European equivalent. Judaism without Torah will not survive. Since the early years of the Haskalah movement, many better intended (if not misguided), educated Jews, were unable to combat assimilation. For all of his many mistakes, Moses Mendelssohn never could have thought that he would lose his children to intermarriage and conversion. Naked and unarmed of any real Torah concepts, what chance does today’s secular Jew have?
My final statement on this issue is a call to all alienated, disaffected, and detached Jews to be intellectually honest with themselves. I challenge them to explore our beautiful Jewish faith before casting it away, either willfully, or through the process of intermarriage. There is a proper reason that we Jews suffered torture and death for two thousand years in order to preserve our faith. We weren’t stubbornly clinging to mere sentiment, or a desire to live longer and eat good Jewish food. We were slaughtered because we remained eternally committed to The Almighty and the Torah, even during the darkest nights of exile.
One who decides to throw his Judaism away, should at the very least understand what he is abandoning. Marc Mezvinsky publicly spurned his Jewish heritage on the international stage. He is the tragic byproduct of an insidious process of Jewish assimilation that predated his own intermarriage by many years. In that sense, he epitomizes the spiritual Holocaust of American Jewry.
With this New Year, let us pray to The Almighty that the Jewish people will merit a year of blessing and true Jewish nachas. May we merit to see the births of many more jewish babies who will cling to the Torah, as they will cling to their mothers. And may we merit to see the end of this long and bitter exile, and witness the arrival of Moshiach.