Doss vs. Chiloni: Two Sides of the Same Shekel

“Too many dossim.”

This is the almost universal response I have received from Tel Avivim these past weeks, when I have informed them that I am considering a move to the country’s capital (though many of them probably do not even consider Jerusalem as such).

Dossim (singular doss) is Hebrew slang for the ultra-Orthodox or charedim (though it can also be used, usually less pejoratively, in relation to modern Orthodox dati’im le’umi’im).

Its dearth of dossim aside, Tel Aviv has more to offer than Jerusalem in nearly every department: arts and entertainment, food and drink, nightlife, shopping, sport. It also has the sea. Jerusalem has the Old City (though so does Jaffa), Israel Museum and Yad Vashem.

Tel Aviv nightclub

But the other thing that Tel Aviv has a lot more of than Jerusalem is poza (pose) and bullshit. Big bullshit. And I need a break from this city. And fast.

The faces on the shdera (Rothschild Boulevard) that I not so long ago greeted with warmth now elicit little more than a perfunctory smile. And, as for the regulars at the kiosk who insist on sharing their views on nearly everything – but invariably worth nothing – with anyone sufficiently unoccupied (and kind) to listen, I can hardly bring myself to look at them. Like the Israeli football pundit, each one “talks a great game” in his or her respective field or area of knowledge – real or, more often, imagined – but you can list their collective achievements on the back of a Tel Avivit’s thong.

And I find the Tel Avivi‘s “Too many dossim” verdict more than mildly offensive, sounding, as it does, rather too much like “Too many Jews”. Anyway, it is as ridiculous a generalisation as claiming that Tel Aviv is full of godless chilonim (seculars) who fornicate with strangers in nightclub toilets (most of the Tel Avivim I know would never dream of such a thing, having sufficient respect for their womenfolk to use the back alley).

Whilst I could never be referred to as a doss, my fairly typical Anglo-Jewish upbringing means that neither will I ever be labelled chiloni. And I am very pleased about that. Your average proud chiloni usually possesses a code of values not far above that of the politician or, still worse, real estate agent. And I certainly don’t see anything so wonderful in the chiloni Tel Aviv lifestyle that gives its practitioners the right to look down their noses at their compatriots forty-five minutes down Road Number 1.

Charedi riots, Jerusalem (June 2009)Israel’s charedim, too, are far from perfect. One would like to say that they don’t tell others how to lead their lives, and that they don’t “throw stones”. But, of course, they do both (the latter literally). On the whole, they set a pitiable example, providing ample ammunition to detractors who didn’t require much to start with. (See my earlier post, The Good, the Sad and the Ugly.)

It is quite clear that the overwhelming majority of Israel’s Jews fit into the category of either doss (in the widest sense) or chiloni. Those occupying the sparsely-populated centre ground are, primarily, from traditional (though not Orthodox) Sephardic (North African) families, but extremely few Ashkenazim (Jews of European origin).

Jewish practice in the Diaspora, on the other hand, being far less polarised, works a great deal better. I don’t believe I ever heard an English Jew describe Golders Green, or even Stamford Hill, as containing “Too many frummers” (the Yiddish equivalent of dossim). Anglo Jews display a solidarity – even if out of necessity – that is sadly lacking in Israel, where chiloni and charedi are in a continuous, and perhaps inevitable, scrap over the size of their respective slice of Israel’s political, social and economic cake.

Growing up in London’s United Synagogue, we would often joke about the co-religionist who would come to shul on a Shabbes morning, and then go and watch Arsenal or Spurs (his football team) on the very same Saturday afternoon. And favourite players would often even be guests of honour at bar mitzvah parties!

Such a halfway house would be virtually incomprehensible to doss and chiloni Israelis (though for opposing reasons), for whom its enabling factors and conditions – mutual religious tolerance and respect – is, tragically, as much of a pipe dream as peace with our Arab neighbours.


63 responses to “Doss vs. Chiloni: Two Sides of the Same Shekel

  1. Ellis Feigenbaum

    Mike, Jerusalem really? Dont do it, your blog might get stoned (as oppossed to the writer).
    But, seriously, 95% of the Jerusalem womenfolk are covered from head to toe, how will you ever know the thickness of the thighs?
    Where would you live, dogs are not really acceptable in the Jerusalem concrete jungles populated by charedim and Stuey and Dexxy would never feel at home in that cultural wilderness.
    As to the serious parts of your post, Israel is Israel, in order to create clear space between the various factions, everything gets politicized including cultural differences.
    Mostly, at the very centre of public opinion making policy, you will find a budget war between political parties, each vying for their fair or unfair share of the pot.
    Take the money out of it and its amazing how well everyone gets along.

  2. (Re the money) Quite, Ellis. I will soon post my views about the root of this country’s problems: there are just too many Jews here (I am allowed to say that!)

  3. I only want to mention that one’s Judaic practice does not have to be either/or. It’s not exclusively black or white. That’s why there is so much value in Masorti/Conservative & Reform. One does not have to choose between fanatic observance & fanatic non-observance. I suggest checking it out.

  4. Cultural differences divide people everywhere, not just in Israel. The same applies to religious differences. As I am secular, I suppose I am not without bias. Nevertheless, my argument is not without factual basis either. If orthodox religious men did not look at me as if I were dangerous dirt, I might not mind them being around me. As it is, they either act as if I (and other secularly dressed women) am not there or as if I am somehow tainted. Oddly, I don’t appreciate it. I have no problem with people who treat me like a human being. In Tel Aviv, since I am in the majority, people who mind the way I dress (i.e. not cover myself up from head to toe) don’t have a choice but to deal with it. The situation in Jerusalem is different, which is why I don’t feel at home there. I am not allowed to feel at home there. Hence the judgment you started your post with.

  5. Greg, I agree with you, but – as we have seen on this blog – as soon as you dare to give your stream of Judaism another name, and to question the irrelevancies of Orthodoxy, you get pilloried. Ironically, the same fanatics have no such problem with the Shabbes-football-attending member of their own shul (to whom I refer above), or even with those who never step foot inside a synagogue, because these Jews are not pulling out ‘bricks’ from under their clearly fragile belief system.

    As for you, M (what is this paranoia? your first name doesn’t exactly identify you!), women dressed no differently from you can be seen in many, many areas of Jerusalem, where non-Orthodox men also “look at [them] as if [they] were dangerous dirt” . . . but for very different reasons.

    Do you “have no problem” with that in Tel Aviv (where it is even more prevalent)?

    And is that being “treat[ed] . . . like a human being”?

    I know a lot of women who think not.

  6. Ellis Feigenbaum

    M, it is all about perception.
    It is generally perceived that because you choose to dress or look a certain way then you are part of the general stream of people that dress and look that particular way.
    I go to work in a jacket and tie, whereas most of my co-workers wear jeans and t-shirts. There is a perception of importance given to this, for myself it reminds me I am at work and the things I do to make a living are important, for other people it lends a sense of seriousness to the occasion, and for yet others it makes them think I must be mad to get dressed when I could be wearing comfortable clothing.
    For religious men (charedi varietals) gazing upon you would in the context of their self be a transgression, both on the interpersonal level (it would be rude to look at a woman) and on the spiritual level (it would be a transgression to look at the woman).
    You perceive this behaviour to be rude, they percieve it to be enlightened and well mannered.
    Neither of those positions take into account the other’s feelings about the subject.
    And that is at the core of current Israeli society.
    But dig deeper and you find that these cultural positions have been formed by spiritual leaders on both sides of the religious divide and that any 2 Israelis thrust together by circumstance have more in common with each other than they have differences, regardless of their cultural, political, or even sexual orientation.

  7. Yes, Mike, I know, but at this point, I’m used to being pilloried. 😉 Nevertheless, the existence & viability of non-orthodox streams of Judaism bears repeating. Who knows, maybe 1 of these days, there will be full acceptance w/in Israel by both the government & the people. Az mashi’ach vet kumen!

  8. Mike, you started your post with the comment that most secular TA people have made in relation to your plan to move to J. In my post I tried to show why one secular woman may prefer TA to Jerusalem. I certainly never suggested TA was perfect and without its creeps. [Still, there’s a pretty big difference between being looked at as if you’re a sexual being as opposed to something tainted.] And the argument that religious men don’t look at secularly-dressed women due to politeness doesn’t carry much weight because it is not done for the woman’s benefit. Don’t forget that religious men thank their lord every morning for not making them a woman.

    Mike wrote that the secular attitude towards J is offensive because it reminds you of ‘too many Jews’. It is clearly a personal connotation for you, and I bet most seculars don’t mean it like that. But either way, it’s a personal choice – it’s not like TA people are stopping you, they are merely surprised you want to leave because they like the freedom of this city. You seem to take the attitude towards the J orthodox personally and at the same time you trash TA people. Why make it personal when it isn’t? The tension between seculars and orthodox in Israel is partly due to the fact that former go to the military while the latter don’t. That’s a legitimate argument. And one that goes deep here and for good reason.

    Anyway, I hope you like taking time off from TA and that you enjoy Jerusalem. Best of luck to you.

  9. I respect your opinion, M, and wasn’t trying to delegitimise it. I was just looking at the gazing thing from another angle. If I was a sexy woman (instead of a sexy man ;-)), I am not sure I would prefer an “I wanna f*ck you” look to a “You are dressed like a dirty whore” one (though I am not a woman . . . so we will never know!)

    The post is personal (as is the entire blog).

    In general, perhaps I just need a break from what I perceive – though you obviously don’t – as the emptiness, superficiality and, yes, even the “trash” of TA.

  10. Ellis Feigenbaum

    M, please the army argument? That argument lost its credibility the day Rabin stood on a stage with Aviv Gefen.

  11. Well, there is something in the “army argument”. A lot, in fact. But it is also used as a smokescreen by serial charedi bashers.

    Changing the subject . . . has anyone appreciated how the top photo above has a little bit of something for melchett mike readers of every bent?

    And, talking of “bits”, the look in the eyes of the one on the right is already making me think twice about Jerusalem . . . 😉

  12. Tel Aviv veteran

    In Israel, if you stand in the middle of the road you get run over. Politically, religiously, whatever…

  13. Michael Goldman

    Greg, Great To Have You Back!
    Far from pillorying you, I would appreciate a little clarification about the full acceptance of non-orthodox streams of Judaism for which you pine.
    Would all streams be accepted?
    Religious, Hassidic, Conservative, Reform, Constructionalist, Jews For Jesus?

    First I would like to say on behalf of all the Jerusalem Area contributors to your blog that we would be mighty proud to have you around.
    I must however come to the defence of the Tel Aviv Chilonim you so easily disparage.
    I have worked for many years with many Chilonim (including Tel Avivians who despise dossim) and on the whole find them to be honest and moral people.
    You also say about your kiosk regulars “you can list their collective achievements on the back of a Tel Avivit’s thong.”
    With all due respect, Mike, what right do you have to make these judgments?
    Have you studied their lives in such detail that you feel confident in your knowledge of their achievements?
    Your opinion of the Tel Aviv Chilonim could easily have been written by O.B. though I am sure he might have given them more credit and described them as tinokos shenishba and therefore blameless.

  14. Michael — I find your comment both disgusting & condescending. You know (or ought to know) damn well that Jews for Jesus are NOT an accepted “stream” of Judaism, so cut the crap. Also, if you’re going to insult non-ortho branches, you should at least use correct spelling: it’s Reconstructionist. And don’t forget about Renewal. I’m quite sure any exposure to them would really frost your whatevers.

    The point is that just because those on the ortho side seem to have their heads buried where the sun don’t shine does not make them right. Nor do they/you “own” Judaism nor do they/you have any right whatsoever SOLELY to determine what Judaism is or who is a Jew. Regardless of how loudly & vehemently you protest.

    Just because your Judaic practice is stuck somewhere in the 1700s does not make your practice the only acceptable way for Jews to live. You conveniently forget, or choose to ignore the FACT that Judaism continues to evolve — as it ALWAYS has.

    When more Israelis discover that it is not necessary to live by archaic restrictions, perhaps they will return to living an honest Jewish life.

    Let me ask you a question — when the temple you so regularly pray for to be rebuilt becomes a reality, are you prepared to leave your non-biblical practices behind? Because, God forbid, were that to happen, you, too, will be outside the norm.

    So stop your silly self-righteousness. Which is exactly what it is regardless of your snarky denials.

  15. Michael Goldman


    In claiming that “Jews for Jesus are NOT an accepted “stream” of Judaism”, you yourself are in effect claiming to have the right “to determine what Judaism is or who is a Jew”.

    Your ideology is so lacking in basic logic that you can’t help contradicting yourself.

    It’s really quite funny.

  16. Gee, Michael, let me make this very simple for you … someone who accepts Jesus as their personal savior is NOT Jewish. L’havdil, all the other branches of Judaism which you so enjoy trashing do NOT believe that.

    I know it must be hard to get your mind around the concept, but it’s much easier to figure out who is not a Jew than it is to say who is. Unfortunately, the rabbis who currently have the authority to ride roughshod over those who refuse to fall lockstep behind them seemingly are unable to grasp this simple concept.

    I just voted in this contest: To vote, please go to:

    If it doesn’t work the first time, try again. There is a list of ten places. You can read about the communities by clicking on the push pins.

    “If the submission receives the most amount of votes, the destination you suggested will get a visit from JTA’s Wandering Jew and a feature story that illuminates the Jewish experience there.”

    Guess my vote …

  17. Greg,

    I’ve worked out what annoys me about your brands of Jerusalem. And it’s nothing to do with religious observance.

    It’s that you’re like the guy that calls up to convince you to switch phone companies “because your one is rubbish, and what I’m offering is better”.

    People who are unhappy about their stream of religion fall into two categories:

    – Those that don’t care about the fact. They are worried about more important things. Why not leave them alone?

    – Those who care about the fact. In which case, they’ll do some research and find what stream best suits them? Why not leave them to make a decision on their own?

    It’s time-wasting and annoying. Time to put the phone down.

  18. My wife has taught at the Anglican International School in Jerusalem for almost a decade, where among the students and teachers there are several messianic Jewish families. Without claiming to speak on their behalf, I believe they would find some of what has been said about them as offensive and I would find it hard to disagree.

    Historically, the early Jewish followers of Jesus considered him to be the messiah in a similar way that many considered Bar Kochba to be or later on the Rebbe of Habad. These groups all remained (and in the case of Habad remain) part of mainstream Judaism. It was only after the Great Revolt when most of these “Jewish Christians” had been killed off and replaced by pagans and when they effectively abandoned halacha and became in many ways anti-Jewish that they ceased to be considered part of the Jewish nation. I’m aware that both the New Testament and parts of the Gemara date the religious split to Jesus’ lifetime, but I’m talking from a historical, not histosophical point of view. All that having been said I see no difference between a person born Jewish who observes halacha, sees himself as a Jew but thinks the Rebbe was the messiah and another person who is born Jewish keeps halacha but thinks that Jesus was. If they both see themselves as Jews, link their destiny with my destiny and don’t try to force their views down my throat they can even be my friends.

    As far as the contention that: “someone who accepts Jesus as their personal savior is NOT Jewish. ” is concerned, this seems a somewhat bigoted and inaccurate statement. A Jew, as we all know, is someone whose mother was Jewish or who converted. Let’s leave aside the controversy over who converted him etc. A Jew does not cease to be a Jew because of what he believes. We are not G-d and have no means of reading another Jew’s heart. He does not even cease to be a Jew because of his actions. Again, leaving aside the divisive questions, there are good Jews, bad Jews, fantastic Jews and awful ones. However, a Jew remains a Jew even when sinning and on the rare occasion when a Sanhedrin would kill a Jew or excommunicate him, both he and his children remained Jews.

    Do I agree with the ideology of Messianic Jews? Certainly not. I believe that they’ve distorted both history and many basic tenets of Judaism. However, I feel the same way about the Reform Movement and many parts of the Conservative Movement. I, of course, make room for the possibility that they think that I’m wrong too. While I believe I’m 100% right I know that they’re equally sure that they are too. I’m also aware that my belief that I’m right is just that, a belief and not a fact.

    As I have said. I believe that many people who were born Jews and see themselves as such but have a different way of expressing their Judaism would find much of what has been said about them to be both odious and hateful and would be all the more surprised to discover that it was written by someone who sees himself as a Reform religious leader. To them, on his behalf, I sincerely apologize.

  19. Daniel Marks said: “A Jew does not cease to be a Jew because of what he believes.”

    I feel intuitively that that makes sense. You are born a Jew just as you are born a man or a woman. Changing your mind makes no difference and even surgery has limited potential.

    Greg said: “…someone who accepts Jesus as their personal savior is NOT Jewish.”

    That also intuitively makes some sense to me. Belief in the divinity of Jesus is for Christians only (and Muslims to some extent).

    On balance I think I agree with Daniel, mostly because although it is antithetical to JudaISM to believe in the divinity of Jesus, I do not think that belief robs a person of whatever Jewishness s/he was born with.

    But that is just my belief.

    PS To be very clear, I do not believe that if you are not born a Jew you cannot become a Jew. Halacha and masorah are very clear that conversions are legitimate. I was just musing, trying to articulate why I felt that what Daniel said appealed to me intuitively.

  20. Jeremy,

    Of course I agree with you. I wrote:
    “A Jew, as we all know, is someone whose mother was Jewish or who converted.”

    I know that it ought to be obvious, but I commend the intelligent and cultured style of your writing. To my mind, it contrasts so favorably with:
    “disgusting & condescending”
    “so cut the crap”
    “frost your whatevers”
    “heads buried where the sun don’t shine”
    “So stop your silly self-righteousness”
    “your snarky denials”

    And that was all in one short posting?!

    Hodesh Tov to all readers of the very excellent Melchett Mike, may it be a month of tolerance, intelligent discussion and light.

  21. Michael Goldman

    You write:
    “Gee, Michael, let me make this very simple for you … someone who accepts Jesus as their personal savior is NOT Jewish.”
    For some reason, when the Rabbis make decisions concerning who is Jewish and who isn’t, you claim they have no right, but when you make these decisions it’s OK.

  22. I think the rabbis did make that decision. You’ve never heard of an apostate? Such a one has to go through a form of re-conversion. They can’t just say “oh, it was only a passing fancy” & expect to be welcomed back w/ open arms. Judaism allows for excommunication — that makes the former Jew not-a-Jew.

    If, as you say “a Jew does not cease to be a Jew because of what he believes,” then you can’t claim that Reform, et al. are not valid forms of Judaism. Sorry, but you can’t have it both ways.

    Jesus was born & died a Jew. It only became Christianity after Paul did his PR thing. However, those who choose to follow that path cease being Jewish. One cannot be a capitalist & a communist @ the same time.

    Another major distinction between Jews & Christians is that Christians believe Jesus is Lord. While the Bar Kochba-ites & the Schneerson-ites were totally wrong about the messianic nature of their respective gurus, neither group went so far as to proclaim him God. Christians also believe in the reported teaching of Jesus (the words may have been put in his mouth) that the only way to God the Father, is through him. Bei undz siz a local call.

    Someone who is a messianic Schneerson-ite ought not be compared to a messianic Jesus-ite. While I find chabad odious, they have not (yet) tried to annihilate us in the name of their lord. Did you forget about the crusades & Torquemada?

    Conservative Judaism, after about 100 years of claiming that they did not need a statement of who they are because they saw themselves to be normative Judaism (whether you agree or not), did just that in Emet V’emunah. While I found that small tome to be an enormous soporific, my revered & brilliant teacher, Rabbi Neil Gillman, found 10 profound statements in it. The one that sticks w/ me says that Conservative Judaism believes in “theological humility.” That means they do not say they are the only ones who have the right answer. Sadly, this is a quality sorely lacking in a number of posters to this blog.

    I am not trying to convert anyone. My sole purpose is to get y’all to see that there is validity to the non-ortho branches of Judaism. (But I’m not sure we even have room for unswerving ideologues.)

    Daniel claims that the Js4J do not try to ram their beliefs down our throats. You are completely mistaken! The Campus Crusade for Christ used to be headquartered in my city. They were the primary support for Js4J — & their primary purpose on college campuses throughout the US was to make Jewish kids into believers in Jesus — as Lord, as the physical son of God, as the physical embodiment of God come to earth as a human being, as the one who unquestionably fits the job description of the messaiah, etc. I maintain that anyone who accepts all that is not & cannot be a Jew.

    I wonder how you can, w/ a straight face, say that anyone who believes all that can also be a Jew. Unless you’re Hitler or Torquemada. But don’t get me wrong — I’m not saying that people have no right to those beliefs or that those beliefs are terrible (or … whatever) — I’m only saying that holding those beliefs makes them not-Jewish.

    Besides, I’ve seen them in action. Once, during the winter holiday season, we had an”ask the rabbi” session regarding the similarities & differences of Judaism & Christianity & the “issues” that always seem to come up @ that time of year that was open to the entire community. Our local Hebrew Christian minister & some of his flock came & did, indeed, try to convert some of our people — in our shul. Fortunately, I was there to intervene … to such an extent that at least 1 of them began to question the theological BS into which he had been indoctrinated.

    They are a cult. They lure the unwary in w/ Jewish style trappings only to close the trap & foist their foreign beliefs on those of our people who are least prepared to cling to their authentic Judaism.

  23. I feel sure that if Greg would have gone to the trouble of thinking through his last diatribe before penning it to blog he would need not now recoil and recognize the narrow-mindedness of his words.

    What gives him the authority to judge and determine that “Jews for Jesus are NOT an accepted “stream” of Judaism.” I know several members who would take serious issue with his blinkered view.

  24. Michael Goldman

    Yes Greg, that’s just the point.
    The Rabbis made the decision and Reform and Conservative are not parts of Judaism.
    This makes you very angry, though you yourself have made a similar decision in claiming that Jews for Jesus are not part of Judaism.

  25. I think that we should avoid turning this argument personal. The question is to my mind much more interesting and important than any exchange of insults could be. However, and just to clarify I did not say what I was accredited with having said:

    “Daniel claims that the Js4J do not try to ram their beliefs down our throats. You are completely mistaken!”

    What I said was:

    “If they both (Habad and Messianic Jews) see themselves as Jews, link their destiny with my destiny and don’t try to force their views down my throat they can even be my friends.”

    Attack my opinions by all means, but respect yourself enough to read them first. It saves you having to back-track later.

    Now the real question is not whether a Jew who believes that Jesus is the messiah remains a Jew. Of course he does, naturally assuming he was been a Jew in the first place. The question is not whether a messianic Jew remains Jewish, the question is whether messianic Jewish movements can claim to be authentically Jewish movements or not. In the words Aviezer Ravitsky the question is not, “Who is a Jew?” but “Who is a rabbi?”

    Here, right or wrong, my opinion is quite unambiguous. Neither are Jews for Jesus nor the Reform movement authentic Jewish movements. To my mind, while their members might be Jewish and may in many cases be wonderful people (I’m aware that not all Messianic or Reform Jews are halachically Jewish), their doctrine is wrong, the former for effectively abandoning halachah and the latter for believing in a false messiah. I don’t believe that any random group of Jews has the right just make up a new set of rules and call it authentic Judaism.

    However, I thought that Reform Judaism does believe just this. They disagree with Orthodox, Conservative, Reconstructionists etc but believe, in the name of pluralism, that it is every Jew’s almost inalienable right to make up his own rules. You can be break Sabbath still be a splendid Jew, you can be a homosexual chazzan or a rabbit-eating rabbi. In some cases they’ll officiate at your marriage to a real gentile. So why indiscriminately draw the line over a theological question as to whether a man who lived 2,000 ago was/is the messiah or not?

    My question is largely rhetorical as I anticipate another barrage of name-calling and abuse rather than a coherent , response, but that’s fine too. It’s all good.

  26. Michael, I thought that the skekel had finally dropped, but it seems that you need to be reminded once again: I know it sits uneasily with you, but I don’t need “rights” here! (Sounds like you could also do with revisiting About this Blog . . . especially the bits about the expression of my personal “opinions, thoughts and feelings”.)

    Your continually contemptuous attitude towards Greg – whom you welcome back (“Great To Have You Back!”) with all the innocence and guile of a paedophile welcoming back potential prey – not to mention the vile email that you once sent me makes any talk from you of a lack of respect/tolerance for others extremely rich.

    But, since you bring it up, I know the characters who I have sat with for four years pretty well. You don’t know Greg at all. Yet, I have showed those unnamed kiosk regulars far less contempt than you persist in showing Greg and his religious affiliation and beliefs.

  27. In the interest of avoiding any misunderstanding I should like to point out that the Daniel who posted on this excellent blog, November 17, 2009 at 12:15 am was not I but another writer sharing my first name.

    Daniel is not an uncommon name for males, according to verifiable statistics, in the year I was born it was the 17th most popular name (USA) but by the turn of the millennium had risen to number 9 and this rocketed to the number 5 spot last year.

    While these statistics may attest to the name’s high regard, the scores of Daniel alive today are occasionally confused for each other and thus I urge the other Daniel to make use of his family name to in order to avoid misunderstandings.

    Readers may have noticed that the author of this excellent blog shares his name (2nd place, 2008) with the esteemed Michael Goldman. However, while the former has adopted the nom de plume melchettmike the latter avails himself of his family name to circumvent confusion.

  28. Michael Goldman

    I don’t recall having mentioned respect or tolerance.
    I have shown Greg no disrespect.
    I have simply disagreed with what he has said, wheras he has been very rude to me, which I have ignored.
    It seems to me that you are the one showing him disrespect in that you feel he is in constant need of your defence.

  29. I haven’t read the whole discussion and apologise if this point has been made already.

    Abraham the first Jew would not be considered Jewish as his mother was a gentile.

  30. Excellent point, Dovid. 🙂

    Michael — you wrote “The Rabbis made the decision and Reform and Conservative are not parts of Judaism.” And Daniel quotes “who is a rabbi.” So now you’re switching horses mid-stream.

    My question is the same — how dare these self-called rabbis declare some of the horrible things they have? If they want to be recognized as rabbis, they need to return the favor.

    Daniel, you continue (although you got the order backwards) by saying “believing in a false messiah.” That exactly is what the Schneerson-ites have done. So do I take it that you reject the validity of the decisions of their rabbis? Just because they pretend to observe halakhah doesn’t make it kosher. Chabad, as well as the messianic groups all are cults.

    The haredi who throw stones on shabbat are m’chaleil shabbat & therefore not halakhic. Or is it OK to observe halakhah some of the time, but it’s OK to violate it when they choose to do so … and you get to say when it’s OK to violate halakhah … where’s your smichah?

    Chabad & the haredi are clear examples of hypocrisy, yet you fail to condemn them as you do Reform.

    & now, you’ve separated Reform from the other non-ortho groups. So have you changed your mind & now accept their validity? If so, you run in contradistinction to those ortho rabbis who publicly declared that one who hears the shofar in a non-ortho shul has not heard it. By your insistence that christianized-former-Jews still are Jews, do you mean to say you can go to their church-shuls & be yotsei of the mitsvah of lishmo’a kol shofar?

    You can’t have it both ways. Jews are Jews (except when they accept the beliefs of Christians … or Islam … or ???). Also, exactly because there are people who do believe a 2,000 year old dead man is the messiah makes it as relevant as questioning the validity of those who believe a man who died only 15 years ago is the messiah.

    Again, you reform the question … you’ve now boiled it down to who is a splendid Jew. That is a highly subjective criterion, which makes you as arbitrary as those whom your “rabbis” declare to be splendid Jews.

    Our tradition says of the torah that you can turn it & turn it & find all things in it. However, you arrogate to yourself to sole right to do just that. I believe you do not have that right.

    Please, lets not get into sexual behavior again because despite your protestations, homosexuality is both accepted & rejected in TaNaKh. That’s an indisputable fact. And do you look into the bedrooms of every rabbi you accept? I think you might be surprised.

  31. It’s an odd thing to think that Esau would have been considered Jewish and admitted to school whereas Abraham would not have been admitted.

    As they say in the States, ‘Go figure!’

  32. Again, I urge that we discuss the question at hand in a polite and rational way, which will do justice to the seriousness of the subject matter under consideration.

    Correct me if I’m wrong but you have asked me whether I consider Habad today to be following a false messiah in a similar way that the early Jewish followers of Jesus did. My answer is a resounding, “Yes, I do.” I reject their doctrine totally and fear greatly that they could go the way of other followers of false messiahs. I should say that “false messiah” is not directed at the Rebbe himself, who to the best of my knowledge never categorically declared himself to be the messiah, but at many of his “followers”.

    Again there is no rejection of individuals as Jews, and again some of them may do great things but I do not believe that they can truthfully claim to on the one hand believe that the messiah has already come or is still alive, and on the other hand to remain part of mainstream Judaism.

    Interestingly, when abroad I make a point of not making use of Habad houses and here I will not pray in a Habad synagogue. In fitting with my harmonious viewpoint I do, however, call Habad Jews up to the Torah in my own synagogue as I have no reason to question the fact of their being Jews. I’ve also called up Reform and Conservative Jews on occasion. You may argue that a person who publicly desecrates the Sabbath should not be called up at all, but I’d reply that this mainly applies to those who are doing so in order to antagonize others, not those who are doing it for personal reasons or because they don’t fully understand halachah.

    In conclusion, I think it’s very important that we all clearly distinguish between the questions “Who is a Jew?” and “What is an ideal Jew?”. Over the latter question we may disagree and even argue – that is just one of the things that make us into such a great nation. However, as regards the former we should never say that anyone who was either born a Jew or converted is not really a Jew. I believe that to say such a thing is not only halachically incorrect but could cause peoples’ feelings to be unduly upset and surely, if nothing else, we can agree that hurting peoples’ sensitivities is abhorrent to us all – Orthodox, Haredi, Habad, Messianic, Reform etc.

  33. Daniel — I guess we’ll have to agree to disagree. I maintain that one who has rejected Judaism is no longer a Jew, regardless of parentage. I also maintain that those who keep 1 foot on each side of the line also have rejected Judaism & therefore are no longer Jews. Believe what you will, gezunterheit.

    I’m curious … how is it that you justify calling a non-ortho Jew to the torah when you, at the same time, reject their Judaism? Why doesn’t that “treif up” the mitsvot associated w/ k’ri’at hatorah especially vis a vis your regular congregants, since you know a priori that they are not shomeir mitsvot? Again, I see this as an attempt to have it both ways. No can do.

  34. It’s funny you raise this question because my good friend Yossi Sa-Nes studied it briefly today in our shiur.

    Admittedly, shu”t (questions and answers) Hacham Zvi (17th century) says that someone who regularly breaks Shabbat should not be called up to the reading of the law “..even if doing so may harm the synagogue” (basing his ruling on Tractates Eruvin and Holin.)

    Later, Rav Moshe Finstein (mid to late 20th century), however, in his monumental Igrot Moshe sees those who sin because it is their “appetite” or their livelihood as opposed to those who do so just to annoy as being suitable candidates for aliyot, though he says that this should not be done too often.

    More recently, most modern rabbis have preferred the latter opinion and even taken it a stage further. An excellent example being Rav Uri Sharki (2009) who considers us to be living in a period of “A time to do for G-d” and positively recommends such aliyot, as a way of bringing such people “closer”.

    Just one wonderful example of halachah’s dynamism and ability to answer the differing needs of different generations.

    I could elaborate more about the last point, but I think it would fall outside the scope of this excellent blog. If you want we could do it by email.

    Hodesh tov and all the best,

  35. You write: “Just one wonderful example of halachah’s dynamism and ability to answer the differing needs of different generations.” It’s not quite the same, but that’s how I prefer to frame the liberal branches of Judaism — they have the dynamic ability to answer the differing needs of different generations. If that’s not Rabbi Mordecai Kaplan’s (founder of Reconstructionism) definition of Judaism as an evolving civilization, I don’t know what is. Score 1 for Darwin. Also, bringing Jews who would not set foot in an ortho shul closer to Judaism (& even God) is exactly what Liberal Judaism does. It’s even beginning to work w/in Israel.

    What a miracle — at long last we finally have something we (almost) can agree upon! Will wonders never cease?!

  36. You’re right that we can agree upon something:

    “It’s not quite the same..”

  37. Daniel (not Marks)

    In deference to the other Daniel’s request, I’ll point out that I’m not him.

    I apologize for the non-use of my surname, a flagrant violation of the posting rules, but (as they would say in Hasmo), “Greg started it”.

    Yet another blog page hijacked into “Orthodox vs non-Orthodox”, quite different from the “Dos vs Chiloni” thread that Mike posted.

    Greg, Daniel (Marks) – now that you have both found something to agree on, can we keep future Melchett Mike comment pages free of off-topic discussions?

    (if you think hard, you’ll realize that this post is a follow-up to my previous posting, not in contradiction to it).

  38. Yitzchak Landau

    In the context of the most recent exchanges between Daniel Marks and Greg, it may be useful to summarise the main difference between the Orthodox and reform as follows:-

    Whereas Orthodoxy does indeed “answer the differing needs of different generations” (see DM’s comment above) and can change accordingly, this must always be within certain halachic parameters, namely those set down by the Torah and our Rabbinical leaders who, through their total immersion in the Torah have been accepted as worthy of interpreting the Torah (as indeed the Torah gives them the authority to do) to arrive at the correct halachic decisons required by each generation.

    This does not mean that different halachic authorities must always arrive at the same answer to each question – the Torah does not necessarily demand that. It suffices that each opinion is grounded in halacha and can be substantiated within the afore-mentioned parameters.

    The essence of the reform movement by contrast is that the Jewish religion should evolve, again to answer the needs of each generation but, unlike the Orthodox, it feels it has the right to do this outside of the framework provided by the Torah.

    One good example of this difference, again in the context of the most recent exchanges re. the question “Who is a Jew?” Unusually, the Orthodox viewpoint for once provides what might appear on the surface as a more “liberal” opinion in classifying a J4J 100% Jewish if he meets the requirement of having a Jewish mother. According to Greg however, the mere thought of considering such a person Jewish is repugnant – see Greg’s comment above, “those who choose to follow that path cease being Jewish.”

  39. I understand what you’re saying, oh Daniel who is not me. However, the conversation has pretty much concluded itself anyway. It wasn’t as if our postings were preventing others from expressing their opinions – plenty of room for everyone.

    I enjoyed the original posting, although I too thought that Mike went down a little hard on the secular community of Israel. Most of my Machon Lander students are secular Israeli Jews as are my neighbors and many friends.

    It’s true that their every action isn’t driven by Zionism or ideology, but they’re mainly people who live in a difficult situation (the Middle East, army etc) and do what they can to get through life. There is not one Jewish area Religious or secular in Israel where I’d be scared to let my children walk alone at night and not every American or Brit can say that about their homeland.

    I have a lot to say about haredim too in earlier postings. I guess the real question that “modern-orthodox” Jews, like myself, ask each other in this context is:

    “Would you rather to have a secular or a haredi child?”

  40. Maurice came home from the Reform synagogue one Saturday with a black eye.
    “Maurice, what ever happened?” asked his wife Becky.
    “Well,” said Maurice, “it was like this. During the service, we had to stand several times and on one occasion I noticed that Mrs Levy, who was sitting in front of me, had her dress stuck in the crease of her bottom, so I leaned forward and pulled it out. But Mrs Levy didn’t like this at all – she turned around and hit me full in the face with her prayer book.”
    The following week, Maurice comes back from synagogue with the other eye blackened.
    “And what happened this time, Maurice?” asked Becky.
    “Well,” says Maurice, “it was like this. Once again Mrs Levy had her dress trapped, but this time my friend Issy saw it. He leaned over and carefully pulled out the dress. But I know that Mrs Levy doesn’t like this – so I tucked it back in again!”

  41. Just to clarify, Reform does say that tradition (read halakhah) has a voice, not a vote (in making decisions). Nevertheless, I know that Reform rabbis do, indeed, wrestle w/ masorah before reaching their conclusions.

    Also, while you may not like their decisions, the Law Committee of the RA (Conservative) does base their papers on halakhah. Fortunately, sometimes they are creative enough to find a different path.

    Both rabbinical groups are steeped in torah & talmud, etc. When I was @ JTS there was a talmud professor who could tell you everything that is on any specific page were a pin to be stuck into the book. I think you’d be surprised at how much some of these rabbis know.

    The real problem comes in figuring out who gets to do the accepting. I believe that orthodox authorities do not own the sole right to interpret torah.

    And Dan, your funny-yet-sexist joke has been told in many different settings. While it doesn’t have to be a Reform shul, it obviously can’t be a traditional ortho shul, so it argues in favor of a mechitsah. (Please note that there are “modern orthodox” congs that allow mixed seating.)

  42. Michael Goldman

    Daniel (the Marks one)
    You write:
    “There is not one Jewish area Religious or secular in Israel where I’d be scared to let my children walk alone at night ”

    Gaza,Ramalla,Genin,Hevron,Schunat Htikva,Eliss’s bedroom !?

  43. Greg

    how many oxymorons can you fit in one sentance
    ” (Please note that there are “modern orthodox” congs that allow mixed seating.)”

  44. Dude — that’s exactly what they call themselves — “modern orthodox” is their term, not mine & mixed seating is one of their hallmarks.

  45. Which orthodox modern or not allows mixed seating?

  46. blame it on the colonies 😉 … they’re in NY & LA & I don’t know where else

  47. Edgar Leibovici

    Hi Greg,

    Don’t even know who you are but you sound like a lovely fella. Anyway, I keep checking back to this excellent blog to see if there have been any amusing posts but sadly it is not happening today.
    Anyway, in my boredom, I ran a Google search on “modern+orthodox+mixed+seating” and it spat out the following article from the left leaning Forward publication from August 2005:

    I enjoyed this paragraph:
    “On the Orthodox side of the denominational divide, officials at the O.U., have said that they no longer would admit a congregation with mixed seating. In the late 1980s the O.U., which represents about 1,000 congregations, launched a concerted effort to encourage the dozen or so member synagogues with mixed seating to change their policies. Since then, all have either instituted separate seating or left the O.U. — with the exception of BMH/BJ.”

    Can anyone be bothered to check what has happened to the BJ Congregation since then?

  48. Dan Gins, I am trying to work out whether your Maurice & Mrs. Levy joke has a deeper message about Reform: is the fact that Mrs. Levy doesn’t punch Issy for pulling out the dress the second time (but only Maurice for tucking it back in again) supposed to be indicative of the ever-increasing laxity of Reform? Or am I just too deep?! 😉

    Anyway, contrary to Greg, I’d say the joke is not remotely “sexist” . . . but also not funny. And I’d ask you to get your bro’ to test future efforts on his discerning congregants before you post them on melchett mike!

  49. Oh for goodness sake how can that joke be sexist dammit? If it was about a man in tight trousers it would be homophobic! So whose derrieres CAN we make jokes about….only hermaphrodites?

  50. Issy, a reform Jew, is invited to his nephew’s barmitzvah. The invitation also says that they would like to jonour him with an aliyah. Not being a regular shul goer, he learns how to do it.

    Every day he practises, “barachu et hashem hamevorach… baruch hashem hamevorach leolam vaed.”

    On the day before the barmitzvah, he practises it one more time and when he went to sleep that night, he was confident that he knew it well.

    The day of the barmitzvah arrives and soon it was his turn in the shul. He goes up and says, “barachu et hashem hamevorach.”

    Everyone behind him then responds, “baruch hashem hamevorach leolam vaed.”

    “SHUT UP,” he shouts, “I can do it myself!”

  51. Like there’s a paucity of amratsis among the orthodox?

  52. Greg,

    You once professed some expertise in the area of transliteration.

    Is “amratsis” an authentic transliteration as I would have thought it would be something more like “amaratzut”?

    In Hebrew we call someone an “Am Ha’aretz”, I think in Polish Yiddish it’s something like, “Ama’aretz” or maybe “Oma’aretz” so I don’t see how the noun would become “amratsis”

  53. It’s a Yiddishism implying the plural state of being amei ha’arets … = idiocy.

  54. How can a state of being be plural?

    Two states of being or the single (uncountable) state of being a plural.

  55. Daniel, why do you never pull up the countless semi-illiterate frum commenters to melchett mike (Ex hasmo, Choirboy) about their mistakes . . . rather than just Greg, the Reform one?

    You guys are just so transparent.

    Quite honestly, it’s pathetic, and you should know better.

    Get a life!

  56. Mike,

    I shall ignore the last line, but remember you to be rightly upset when various people wrote you emails in a similar vein.

    Are you unable to understand that this is/was a conversation about transliterations where no criticism was made and no disrespect was shown by either Greg or myself.

    Incidentally, I’ve criticized Shuli, Choirboy etc etc but this time you’re really barking up the wrong tree.

  57. Great joke though, no?

  58. Daniel, as I told you on the phone, I’d be interested to hear how Greg takes it. Anyway, apology accepted. 😉

    Dan Gins, a significant improvement . . . though “great” might be pushing it!

  59. no prob 🙂

  60. I’m wondering if Mike can ever post anything again, on any subject, without the comments descending into an orthodox/reform slanging match.

    But however tedious those arguments have become, they are no match for the sheer brain-shredding terror of Ginsbury’s “jokes”.

  61. Thanks Allan

    (And when not complimenting me in this well-deserved manner, he’s still out moonlighting as Elvis Costello in his spare time…. )

  62. Whilst I would sometimes concur with your sentiments, Allan, I think recent debate has been quite lively and interesting.

    Anyway, it keeps Settler commenters from harassing innocent Arabs, and gives NW11 ones something more interesting to do on a Sunday morning than shmy aimlessly down Golders Green Road!

  63. David Kornbluth


    No one would say that being a good Jew is easy unless they blindly follow their “rabbi”.

    In Judaism we believe that the ultimate “level” is Truth, in Kabalistic terms truth is the balance between the other “middos”. Now it is relatively easy to be “Strict” identified with “Gevurah and similarly to be “Kind” = “Chessed” but to find the correct balance is the highest level.

    Now there are some people who may find this balance lies in a different place to ones own, however this should not discourage one from working on his own honest response to the pulls of their own middos.

    As there is no point in entering into the “discussion” on streams of religion i will not comment, other than to say it”s certainly not my place to judge anyone, be it fanatical right winger or conservative reform.

    Mike would love to see you in Jerusalem and you are welcome to come for shabbat meals, i think you will be pleasantly surprised to see that it is such a small section of the population that manages to get so much attention for their shabbat lunacy. You will also find that there are plenty of normal anglo girls to date, and when frustrated simply look at.

    p.s. the four legged friend in most neighborhoods is more than common.

    As we are approaching the festival of lights, perhaps its time to rise to the higher grounds.

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