Over at The Atheist Rabbi, Rabbi Jeffrey Falick has a post addressing the sudden realization of Steven Cohen and Kerry Olitzky that maybe there’s a way to welcome people to the Jewish community and Jewish identity without forcing them to undergo a halakhic conversion.
I won’t add much to Rabbi Falick’s observations, except to say this: something like this has existed for at least two thousand years: the ger toshav.
Naturally, things change–because halakhah changes, and because we don’t accept the binding nature of it as humanist Jews–but this is a notion with deep roots in both the written and oral Torah.
And because it has existed all this time–the idea that someone could take upon themselves Jewish life without being halakhically converted to Judaism–it’s frankly disturbing to me that Cohen, Olitzky, or Rabbi Andy Bachman’s somewhat flip response to Cohen and Olitzky should forget not only about the Humanistic Judaism they already know about, but the lessons of the tradition itself.
I would hope we learned our lesson two thousand years ago, when another radical Jew suggested that those who would insist on circumcision should be cut off, or perhaps emasculated.
Perhaps you’ve heard of him. His name was Saul; on the road to Damascus he changed it to Paul. And the Jewish world has suffered ever since because of early Jewish Christians’ rejection of him.
- Op-Ed: Conversion shouldn’t be the only path to joining the Jewish people (jta.org)
- Another path besides conversion (timesofisrael.com)