mail-jewish Vol.65 #22 Digest

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Dec 25, 2021, 1:51:39 PM12/25/21
Mail.Jewish Mailing List
Volume 65 Number 22
Produced: Sat, 25 Dec 21 13:51:36 -0500

Subjects Discussed In This Issue:

Ben & Jerry's may lose US kashrut renewal over settler boycott (2)
[Martin Stern Irwin Weiss]
Haredi yeshiva student discovers he's not Jewish
[Martin Stern]
Is Israel A Jewish State or a State whose population is Jewish?
[Prof. L. Levine]
Israel's Problem with Russian Immigrants
[Martin Stern]
Why is our Hebrew writing Ashurit and not the ancient Hebrew character
[Sammy Finkelman]


From: Martin Stern <>
Date: Wed, Dec 22,2021 at 10:17 AM
Subject: Ben & Jerry's may lose US kashrut renewal over settler boycott

Prof. L. Levine wrote (MJ 65#21):

> Further to our recent discussions on whether kashrut supervision should be
> withdrawn from Ben & Jerry's in view of its decision to withdraw sales from
> territories beyond the Green line ...
> I believe that Jews have to stand up to antisemitism in any and all ways.
> What Ben and Jerry's threatened to do was antisemitism in my opinion. I do
> hope that they reverse course and do this soon.

While it is undoubtedly true that most those who claim to be anti-Zionist, or
even only opponents of 'Israeli apartheid', are motivated by antisemitism, we
have to recognise that, in some rare cases, these claims are genuine. After all,
it is, at least theoretically, possible to oppose Zionism or Israeli policies
while having a totally benevolent attitude to Jews, for example the Satmar
Chassidim. Conversely, one can be a rabid antisemite while supporting Zionism
(at least because it would get remove Jews from one's own country).

Making a blanket claim of equivalence is counter productive when it is usually
quite easy to demonstrate that a critic of Israel is hostile to Jews in general.

Martin Stern


From: Irwin Weiss <>
Date: Thu, Dec 23,2021 at 12:17 PM
Subject: Ben & Jerry's may lose US kashrut renewal over settler boycott

Prof. L. Levine wrote (MJ 65#21):

> Further to our recent discussions on whether kashrut supervision should be
> withdrawn from Ben & Jerry's in view of its decision to withdraw sales from
> territories beyond the Green line, the following was reported on Kosher Today:
>> Several sources including the prestigious Israeli business publication Globes
>> are reporting that the British multinational consumer goods company Unilever,
>> may be ready to change course on its controversial Ben & Jerry's decision.

According to the report:

Illinois (and several other US States) are selling their investments in
Unilever, the company that owns Ben and Jerrys, over the ice cream company's
decision to stop selling ice cream in the West Bank.

Personally, I"d never invest any money in any ice cream company. After all,
most of their assets are frozen.

Irwin Weiss


From: Martin Stern <>
Date: Wed, Dec 22,2021 at 09:17 AM
Subject: Haredi yeshiva student discovers he's not Jewish

Prof. L. Levine wrote (MK 65#21):

> Who knows how many other young people there are in Israel whose mothers were
> allowed to come to Israel without checking if they were Jewish according to
> Halacha? And do you think that amongst the non-religious there will be much
> real checking about the status of the mother when a young person wants to get
> married? I sincerely doubt this. Furthermore, how was his father allowed to
> marry his mother in Israel if she was not Jewish. (It may be that they married
> before they came to Israel.)

I think it is almost certain that his parents married in the Ukraine and his
mother immigrated under the Law of Return as the wife of someone deemed to be
Jewish under its terms.

> Israel is going to end up with two nations - one that is halachically Jewish
> and another whose Jewishness is questionable and may not be verifiable. I
> believe that about 300,000 immigrants from Russia have come to Israel. How
> many of them are halachically Jewish is anyone's guess.

I have heard that they may be as few as 10% but this is likely welcome to the left
wing secular parties because it gives them a further opportunity to vilify the
religious when such 'Jews' who 'serve in the army get into difficulties when
they wish to marry. It is quite possible that the Jewish Agency officials in the
former USSR deliberately encouraged such non-halachic 'Jews' to emigrate to
Israel in order to counterbalance the high birth rate of the chareidi population
(they breed like rabbis!) which threatened to undermine their vision of a state
for a "new Jew free of the old golus mentality".

Martin Stern


From: Prof. L. Levine <>
Date: Fri, Dec 24,2021 at 01:17 PM
Subject: Is Israel A Jewish State or a State whose population is Jewish?

What I mean by this subject line is whether Judaism is the primary factor
driving Israel or is the driving force just the fact that many Jews live there,
some of whom practice Judaism to varying degrees.

Almost all of the early Zionists were not religious nor were they in favour of
Jewish religious observance.

Herzl was the second child of Jeanette and Jakob Herzl, who were
German-speaking, assimilated Jews. His only son Hans was given a secular
upbringing, and Herzl notably refused to allow him to be circumcised. After
Herzl's early death, Hans successively converted and became a Baptist, then a
Catholic, and flirted with other Protestant denominations.

Dr. Max Nordau was a co-founder of the Zionist Organization together with
Theodor Herzl, and president or vice president of several Zionist congresses.
Simon (Simcha) Maximilian Sdfeld (later Max Nordau) was born in Pest, Kingdom of
Hungary, then part of the Austrian Empire. His father, Gabriel Sdfeld, was a
rabbi, but earned his livelihood as a Hebrew tutor. As an Orthodox Jew, Nordau
attended a Jewish elementary school and earned a medical degree from the
University of Pest in 1872. He then traveled for six years, visiting the
principal countries of Europe. He changed his name before going to Berlin in
1873. Nordau was an example of a fully assimilated and acculturated European
Jew. Despite being raised religious, Nordau was an agnostic. He married a
Christian woman of Danish origin.

I think it is clear that Herzl and Nordau were not interested in establishing a
Jewish State in which Judaism would have great importance. I recall, but can no
longer find, a quote from Herzl when Nordau asked what would happen to his
Christian wife in the state they wanted to establish. Herzl answered something
like "We will never let the rabbis dictate anything to us."

While it is certainly true that there were some religious Zionists who wanted a
truly Jewish state, they were in the minority. For many years after the State
was founded the Prime Ministers were not very sympathetic toward having a Jewish
State. They were happy to have a State in which many Jews lived. Begin was an
exception in that he respected traditional Judaism. Bennet is observant,
something that is wonderful IMHO.

However, the "tug" between a truly Jewish State and a State in which many Jews
live continues to this day. Israel took in over 300,000 immigrants from the
former Soviet Union, even though no one was sure of their halachic status as
Jews. And now there is a move to "make" these immigrants and their descendants
Jews through questionable conversions. IMHO converting these immigrants and
their offspring in this manner will not strengthen Israel Jewishly nor be a step
towards making it a truly Jewish State.

Professor Yitzchok Levine,


From: Martin Stern <>
Date: Wed, Dec 22,2021 at 10:17 AM
Subject: Israel's Problem with Russian Immigrants

Arthur G Sapper wrote (MJ 65#21):

> Aren't Israel's problems with Russian immigrants and others who are 'zera
> yisroel' traceable to a reaction to Reform that may no longer be justifiable?
> ...
> Jews raised to be observant but who go off the derech do not become Reform;
> they just assimilate (a tragedy in and of itself).
> I would be interested in the views of others on the subject of whether a
> number of our problems today are caused by reactions to Reform that, even if
> they were justifiable in earlier years, are no longer justifiable today.

I think the attitude of the Rabbinate to 'zera yisroel' is a reaction to
assimilation, and resulting intermarriage, rather than to the Reform
movement per se. That the latter conducted halachically invalid conversions
and, more recently, has decided to accept such 'Jews' even without any form
of conversion as 'patrilineal Jews' has only exacerbated matters.

Where such individuals genuinely wish to adopt a life of Torah and mitzvot,
as in the case mentioned by Prof. L. Levine (MJ 65#21), conversion is almost a
formality. Unfortunately most of the Russian immigrants are not in the least
interested in doing so and consider themselves already to be Jewish enough.

Martin Stern


From: Sammy Finkelman <>
Date: Fri, Dec 24,2021 at 02:17 PM
Subject: Why is our Hebrew writing Ashurit and not the ancient Hebrew character

David Ziants wrote (MJ 65#21)

> Why is our Hebrew writing that of K'tav Ashurit (Assyrian letters) and not of
> the ancient Hebrew characters (which I will call here K'tav Ivri)?

At this point, and for many generations before, it makes no difference because
the script had to be purposely taught to children to learn Torah, but at the
time when Ezra HaSofer made the switch, the reason obviously was because people
knew how to read K'tav Ashurit but they didn't know how to read K'tav Ivri.

A switch could be made on a 1 to 1 basis, but what could not be changed was the
language, because it would have an altered meaning. No translation can be
perfect. That's also a reason court evidence is not translated.

So they instituted the practice of having a meturgaman translate the Torah,
verse by verse, into Aramaic as it was read, in a non-fixed translation
(although eventually there became standard translatons).

But this was stopped after the time of Geonim, when the people no longer knew
Aramaic (which was the only language for which this was done).

> As a nation who holds onto its traditions, why were we allowed to make this
> change and why did Chazal endorse it?

Because most people could no longer read it. They often, however wrote Hashem's
name in K'tav Ivri in material written for private use, so the Greeks thought
the name of God was Pie-pie (interpreting it as Greek letters).

> The understanding is that originally all books of the Tanach were written in
> K'tav Ivri, and only the Asseret haDibrot were always engraved in K'tav
> Ashurit.

This deals with the question of which letters truly were original.

I don't know where these Assyrian letters came from or why Aramaic became the
lingua franca of the entire Middle East after the end of the Assyrian empire. I
don't think a thing like this ever happened anywhere else before or later.


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