Unwelcome Stranger

On December 5, 1985, the "Los Angeles Community bulletin" ran the following headlines: "Outreach to Intermarrieds, Welcoming the Stranger," by Jay Schuster. "Why should we be afraid to ask the non-Jewish president of the temple sisterhood to convert," Nancy Kleiman asked rhetorically. She was relating her experience with just such a person at a recent meeting of the Jewish Federation Council's Commission on Outreach to Intermarrieds. "When asked why she had never converted, she said, "Nobody asked me." Obviously, that was not the major reason for her never getting around to it. But it points up the timidity with which the Jewish community has approached the issue of conversion for the non-Jewish partner in a mixed marriage," she said.

The article continues in the following bold manner, "Kleiman herself was once "timid" about taking the step towards conversion. The former Nancy Kelly had spent three years in a Roman Catholic convent when she met her husband, Ed, while they were teachers at a special education school. For the first ten years of their marriage she attended Shabbat services on Friday night and morning mass at her local church each Sunday."

This article ran together with a Chanukah editorial in the "Viewpoint" section called, "Symbol of Jewish Survival." The editorial was rather to be an inspirational piece on the meaning of Chanukah. The editorial stated the following, "Southland Jews will observe the eight day Hanukah festival starting at sundown on Saturday, December 7, to commemorate a victory against both foreign oppression and cultural assimilation. Then the editorial explains how the Jewish nation triumphed over a Syrian despot, etc. "Even as the traditionalist Maccabees won, they began a process of assimilating certain Greek values and practices which are reflected today in Israeli sports competitions, architecture and even in the very word, "synagogue," says Rabbi Moshe Tutnauer of Sinai Temple.

"The fact is that Judaism has always fought a dual battle," he notes, - to preserve that which is unique and essential, and to incorporate within itself that which is positive in non-Jewish culture. The key has been the balance between these two forces. When the balance is lost, the structure may tumble. How clearly distorted the article was to me. Very unfair to orthodox thinking, indeed equating the words oppression and assimilation to reac oppression and cultural assimilation, I find a new dimension in Chanukah. It would seem that the war had been waged against a cultural oppression and was not a religious event. Well, religious freedom and cultural freedom are very different indeed, if not opposites. A war for cultural freedom would not be waged by the high priest, Mattathias. On the other hand, for religious practice, it would be a mitzvah. "To preserve that which is unique and essential" means 100 percent kosher, observing the Sabbath and realizing the uniqueness of being a balanced Jew as interpreted by Hallachic - Torah Law. - In discussing the origin of the name, Hanukah, Rabbi Samuel J. Fox declared, "The term could be taken to mean "dedication" or "rededication," -  referring to the cleansing of the desecrated Temple in Jerusalem and its reconsecration as a holy place of Jewish worship - that means to keep mitzvahs.  Good old-fashioned mitzvahs  - like "dedication" to laws of mikvah and purity. I wonder if a Macabee would be comfortable in a gay reform temple or with a non-Jewish sisterhood president.

Far be it right that I sit back and let the editorial fly by me. It is well-known as stated in the scroll of Hasmoneans, written in both Aramaic and Hebrew by the five sons of Mattathias, as attested by Rabbi Saadyeh Goan, that the main was not against the Jewish people per se, but was against the pureness and uniqueness of the "Jewishness" of the Jewish people. As I quote an address by Antiochus to his officers in the following recorded speech, "You are aware that the Jews of Jerusalem are in our midst. They neither offer sacrifices to our gods nor observe our laws; they abandon the king's laws to practice their own. . . It is, indeed, a disgrace for the royal government to let them remain on the face of the earth. Come, now, let us attack them and abolish the covenant made with them: Sabbath, new moon festivals and circumcision." From the writings we become aware that the main problem the Greeks had with the Jews was  that they were simply different and practicing. As we read in the above mentioned scroll, the wicked King Bagris said, "You Jews, surrender to us! Eat of our bread, drink of our wine and do what we do!" The Macabeen answer to the evil Bagris is recorded as follows, "But the Jews said to one another, - We remember that we were commanded on Mount Sinai: "Six days you shall labor and do all your work; on the seventh day you shall rest." It is better for us to die than to desecrate the Sabbath." Finally, Bagris said to King Antiochus, "O King, you have issued a decree abolishing Sabbath, new moon festivals and circumcision in Judea, and now there is complete rebellion there." Consequently, all the rebellion that took place during the story of Chanukah had to do with the simple traditional practice: the observance of Sabbath, circumcision, Rosh Chodesh and the new moon, etc.

This is stated clearly in a scroll written and authenticated hundreds of years before the birth of Conservative and Reform notions that it was a revolution for culture and not for the religious practice. I believe in Chanukah,  - the symbol of Jewish survival, - if we remember that Macabee stands for a word composed of the initial letter of the four Hebrew words, "Mi Komocho Bo-eilim Hashem," "Who is like unto the, O G‑d."

How be it that the message of Chanukah which is looked upon for inspiration and rededication to religious commitment now becomes an excuse for the perversion of our noble heritage?

The front page story of the Bulletin asks us to accept this "un-Jewish" behavior - "Welcoming the Stranger." The people of the temple asked the non-Jewish president of the sisterhood to become Jewish. I ask why in the world did they elect her in the first place? What kind of life can a temple have when you don't have to be Jewish to be a Jewish spokeswoman? The story should have been a nightmare, or, at best, a fairy tale, and not placed on the front page. How incredibly naive we have become to allow this to happen and then to write it up as a feature story!

This may be due to Jewish leadership that speaks about yielding  and bending and to be more compassionate and understanding. However a noble a cause, this is incorrect. We cannot live with this fallacy. Our rabbis tell us that one cannot plead compassion in the face of such disrespect of the Torah. "For in an area where G‑d's name is desecrated, one does not give honor." I, for one, protest the Viewpoint editorial, nor can I idly sit by and allow the outreach program to continue in the manner in which it does. I must quote again from the article. Mrs. Kleiman says, "Asked why she never converted, she said, "Nobody asked me."" The truth is that nobody had the chutzpah to. For that matter, the Jewish community may never accept her and will never accept any stranger who does not convert according to the ways of Hallacha - Torah Law. A woman who attends Mass and her husband attends synagogue can only bring destruction to the Jewish nation. By no way or means can a mixed, practicing marriage be explained or rationalized to the Jewish mind.

It would be more important to support outreach programs to keep Jews from straying away from the honorable way of Jewish living and I mean by marrying Jewish in the first place! Sure, we want to keep the nation healthy and growing, but not at the expense of losing the uniqueness of being a Torah Jew. We ought to be interested in keeping our children and families together and not turning them into strangers.