Editor’s Wrapup: Controversial
Controversies used to be simple. Rabbis in Israel and the diaspora once argued over “Who is a Jew?” But after Israel’s High Rabbinic Court ruled last May that a woman who converted 15 years ago—under Orthodox auspices—was no longer Jewish because her religious observance was deemed deficient, the issue got more complicated. Given the impact of the ruling on the conversion process and on the woman’s children, the question became: Who is, was or will be a Jew?
The debate over the ruling—which could be challenged by Israel’s secular Supreme Court—makes clear that the fault line over conversion, which once ran between the Orthodox and non-Orthodox camps of Judaism, now runs through the middle of Orthodox territory. With that in mind, this month’s issue offers two Orthodox perspectives on the issue, one from our regular contributor Gershom Gorenberg, an incisive observer of Israel’s religious and political scenes (page 10), the other from Marc D. Angel, rabbi emeritus of New York’s Spanish and Portuguese Synagogue—the oldest congregation in the United States (page 16).
Conservative and Reform Judaism have long battled for respect in Israel, but one American ritual is flourishing there. New York-born Jessica Steinberg describes Thanksgiving in her new home and how her table now attracts guests from the old country. “There has…been a steady stream of visitors from abroad during the last weeks of November,” she writes (page 24), “and while it could be because airline tickets are slightly cheaper that time of year, I think the real reason is we offer a great alternative to the family Thanksgiving.”
Perhaps inevitably, Steinberg points out, the imported holiday has split into orthodox and nonorthodox versions. Since the fourth Thursday in November is a workday in Israel, nontraditionalists have moved their feasts to Friday night; purists insist on Thursday.
Despite the split, Israel’s Thanksgiving controversy remains simple, and filling.
—Alan M. Tigay