The Jewish Observancy Schism

Point of View

by Rabbi Daniel Schur

For but a second, let us put aside our personal, religious identification labels, religious affiliation, synagogue or Temple membership -- and let us think not in particular terms, but in universal Jewish terms. Let us not think of ourselves, but of our children and grandchildren -- but for a few moments, let us not think of past and present, but of the future.

Jews have been in business for Thrity Five Hundred years. We overcame Pharaoh, Hamen, Crusades, Blood libels and Hitler. We outlived them all because we were united as Jews, united in conviction, spirit and goal, united in knowing who Jews were.

Never in our history was there a doubt or question that being Jewish meant not simply an emotional, spiritual, psychological or social bond -- it meant being Jewish in a legal sense.

One was a Jew if born to a Jewish mother, or if converted, in accordance with the Jewish historical, religious, legal definition of conversion. There never, ever was any other way of establishing one's Jewish identity. Thus, even if Jews were less observant, knowledgeable or religious, they were one people relating to each other, marrying each other, perpetuating an eternal existence. No one questioned, or even challenged, the Jewish legal - Halachic definition of what constituted being Jewish -- either through birth or through proper conversion. Today's American Jewish community is threatening its own future existence. If the present trend continues, and the Torah Halachic laws of marriage, divorce, and conversion continue to be disregarded, a vast majority of the American Jewish community could disappear, G-d Forbid!

This schism between observant and non-observant communities continues to widen specifically because of total disregard of marriage, divorce and conversion Torah laws, by the non-observant religious leaders. The concern at hand is the unity of the Jewish people, a unity that has been preserved for thousands of years, and that is now being challenged and quesitoned by the non-observant religious leadership, which is unwilling to acknowledge and continue the age long definition of Jewish peoplehood and identity.

It is the "Eleventh hour!" If action is not taken soon, by the non-observant community to rectify the causes of the growing schism among contemporary American Jews, it may soon be too late. Just as the Saducees and Karaites cut themselves off from mainstream Judaism, and subsequently disappeared, so will those who ignore the religious historical sense of identity and reject the basic definition of who and what a Jew is will also disappear G-d Forbid!

Compromises on questions of fundamental Jewishness does nothing to reverse the progressive erosion of Jewish identity, and man, in fact, contribute to it. The more the non-observant communities cut away at the very soul of Judaism, the less remains to be preserved. Their Judaism becomes a body without a soul.

Children of intermarried couples, even if they are declared Jewish, contrary to Halacha, are in the main, further removed form Jewish observance, identity and affiliation. It is now almost irrelevant whether the marriage of the Jew and non-Jew is accompanied by the growing number of liberal clergy, who seek to "SAVE AT LEAST ONE JEW FOR THE COMMUNITY!"

In the meantime, we face an awesome rupture. The mere contemplation of this bitter reality is tragic and depressing and calls for action.

The social chaos resulting from the disregard of the Torah laws of marriage, divorce and conversion will close all doors to marital interrelationship for responsible Jews concerned about Jewish continuity.