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Sunday, October 21, 2007

Fundamentally Freud is Fundamentally Wrong

Michael Freund is a very sincere guy and his organization Shavei Israel has traveled around the world seeking out lost Jews. But the lost Jews he seeks are rarely Jews. They are on occasion may have a Jewish many times Great-Grandfather somewhere down the line, but that does not make them Jewish.

Now Michael Freund is outraged because the conversion of the so-called Bnei Menashe has been aborted by the government. "This is an immoral decision, motivated by ignorance and based on post-Zionist and racist considerations," Freund said.

This is as stupid a comment as was ever uttered by someone on the right. It's worse than Post-Zionist to import thousands of non-Jews to Israel and convert them. It's Post-Jewish. It's what the Jewish Agency did and thanks to them we now have Neo-Nazi attacks taking place inside Israel itself. As for racist-- the only possible racism as applied by Jews can be to converts. Jews cannot be racist to other Jews because Jews are a single race. We are not Christians or Buddihists or Muslims, we are not a "faith", we are a "people of faith."

"Amazingly enough, though, Sheetrit himself was born in the town of Ksar Souk, Morocco in 1948 and made aliya at the age of 9. He undoubtedly endured various types of discrimination as he was growing up here, as many veteran Israelis looked down on Sephardic immigrants from Morocco. It is therefore all the more astonishing that he would now adopt the very same prejudices about the Bnei Menashe that were hurled against him and his fellow Moroccan immigrants, merely because of their complexion or national origin," Michael Freund writes in his Jerusalem Post column.

This an astonishingly Post-Jewish statement. Freund is seemingly unable to understand that the issue is not some phantom idea of complexion or national origin, but Jewishness. Aliyah is not premised on bringing third worlders to Israel who might agree to convert. It's premised on restoring the Jewish people to Israel.

Shavei Israel has made it its specialty to travel the third world and find people there who picked up some distorted custom from some missionary and promptly label them Jews. Many people in the third world reached by Christian missionaries routinely internalize the story of Israel as their own story. This is fairly natural because Christianity is based around the Jews, yet provides them with no modern context of who Jews are. This is so commonplace that even Europeans have done it and continue to do it. British Israelism was based around this premise. So is the entire Mormon religion that currently fields a leading Presidential candidate. Even racist ideologies such as the Black Hebrews or Aryan Christians have emerged believing themselves to be "the true Jews".

It is apparent that just because a group of people believe they are Jews and practice some fragments of Jewish custom is not evidence that they are Jewish. Otherwise all of Christianity, which after all practices fragments of Jewish customs and believes itself grafted into the Jewish people, would be Jewish. That is the end result of this kind of absurdity.

In some cases Shavei Israel may actually find the descendants of Spanish or Portuguese Jews. In Latin America though these descendants tend to be too far afield to seriously even describe them as Jews. The irony is that there are "Lost Jews" that can be found right in Israel and the United States and Europe. Jews who were born Jews but simply don't live Jewish lives. Those are the "Lost Jews" we should be focusing on, rather than beating the jungle and importing Indian tribes to Israel.

Centuries ago the Jesuits made a concerted effort to find the "Lost Tribes" usually in America and Asia. They turned up much the same results as Shavei Israel and in some cases Shavei Israel is literally following in their footsteps.

There is a fundamental difference between Aliyah for Jews and Aliyah for any third worlder with some fragment of Jewish customs and a desire to move to Israel. There is a fundamental difference between real individual conversion which expresses an individual commitment and the mass conversion of whatever tribes, Shavei Israel finds. The latter is far more suggestive of the Idumeans than anything else. And that is why Freud is Fundamentally Wrong. Let's focus our energies on our brothers and sisters who actively need to be returned to Judaism. Considering that more Jews today are non-religious than religious, that should above all else be our priority.


  1. Anonymous21/10/07

    I may be wrong but were not the "Jews" of Ethiopia called descendent of the tribe of Dan by a Rav in Egypt over one hundred years ago? Usually there is some Kabbala/tradition linking groups to the Jewish People. Also, Freud seems to indicate that these people go through an Orthodox conversion. So in the worse case they are no different then a righteous convert. Granted we have much work to do amongst our own. But, that need not stop someone if they is how the chose to spend their time. A much bigger issue would be the Arabs from Darfur.

  2. Anonymous21/10/07

    This is about taking Israel away from physical Jews and turning it over step by step to those who are not entitled to the land itself.
    If Israel were to be full of converted peoples, they would lose the right to the land of Israel as only those belonging to the physical tribes can inherit the land itself.
    This is a treacherous and insidious thing going on.

  3. a hundred years ago is a long way from 2500 years ago and that's a long way from a meaningful kabbalah

    bluntly put if ethiopian jews were jews, they wouldn't be black, it's not a racist statement, just a common sense statement about ethnicity, in the same way that if a white couple has a black baby, he's probably not their son

    importing tens of thousands of people and processing them through conversions tends to backfire, look at the idumeans or the russians today

    it's not equivalent to an individual ger who seeks to convert

  4. I'd be VERY leery about mass conversions as a backdoor to obtain Israeli citizenship for impoverished people from third world country.

    Just my opinion and I could be wrong but haven't forced coversions to Judaism in the past brought only trouble for the Jewish people?

    Wouldn't mass conversions strictly for immigration purposes possibly carry the same dangers as forced conversions?

    I don't know. Anti-semitism runs pretty deep with a lot of people. If these Indians or others are not truly Jewish and aren't observant Jews...I just see the potential for latent anti-Semitism to manifest itself once the immigrants are brought into a Jewish country--with diasterous results.

  5. Sultan - I don't understand your last comment about the Russians. They are not converting, they simply aren't Jews. When I attended ulpan 10 years ago, my class of 25 (20 Russians, 2 French, 2 Argentinian, and 1 American) had 12 Jews.

    The Argentinians were gentiles (paternal grandfather Jewish), and 10 of the Russians were gentiles (3 of which were loud-xians, making a point of wearing huge crosses). About 5 of the Russians were honestly interested in learning about Judaism, customs and holidays.

    There's no issue with converting Russians, the majority aren't interested and those few that are tend to be honestly interested.

    In-reach is too hard, it requires one to cross lines and involve oneself with people you've been taught your whole life to stay away from. Easier to just leave it to Chabad & Aish and the occasional inspired rav like Rav Amnon Yitzchok.

    After all, to interact with "those people", you have to be sure you have enough strength not to be affected by "their" bad ways.

  6. there's a definite push through conversions for russians, particularly in the army... these people have no interest in actually converting which is why it's being dumbed down as much as possible ... even without reform butting it



    "rime Minister Ehud Olmert is expected to close the Conversion Authority operating within his office and to replace it with a new one to oversee all of the country's conversion institutions, according to Immigrant Absorption Ministry officials.

    The final report of a panel set up by the ministry to improve the Orthodox conversion process in Israel has recommended the establishment of a new Conversion Authority.

    The committee, which has been working on a solution to the conversion problems facing the approximately 300,000 immigrants from the former Soviet Union who arrived under the Law of Return but are not considered Jewish according to Halacha, will present its recommendations to Olmert on Monday.

    The committee's aim is to increase the number of conversions among immigrants from the FSU. To do this, it hopes to bring under its control the special conversion courts that currently act in conjunction with the Orthodox rabbinical establishment."

    in-reach is hard, it's also extremely hard to do it right and to see which compromises to make and unfortunately outside of chabad, breslov, etc few really go out and talk to their fellow jews and do it

    it may in some ways be easier to reach out to indians than to fellow jews

  7. Anonymous22/10/07

    The issue of conversions is a tricky one. If you are opposed to Indians, that at least "think (even if not true)" they have some connection to the Jewish People, what about goyim in general. Should there be any conversions and under what conditions? Personally, I think this is an issue that does not belong here. Let the Leading Orthodox Rabbis work it out.

  8. conversions should be individual, based on a person coming forward and deciding they want to be part of the jewish people

    this is diametrically opposed to digging up some people in a backward country, telling them they're jewish and inviting them to convert and move to israel

  9. Anonymous22/10/07

    The push to bring in nonJews for "aliyah" and then convert them should make people sit up and take note.
    Once Israel is no longer a majority of actual genetic Jews, they will lose the right to the land.

  10. Anonymous22/10/07

    I have a lot invested in this only because I am of another color and my mother is a Jew who had not been taught anything about Judaism. Her parents took the atheist stand and excused any and all religion as where "all the troubles of the world come from."
    She was never taught to identify or care about the Jewish people.

    Fast forward and as a young girl she falls in love with a black man when that just wasn't what was done by white woman. Only then did her being Jewish matter. No other time in her life had being Jewish been an issue to her parents. But some how she was to automatically know to only marry a Jew. But it had nothing to do with marrying a Jew, it had to do with marrying someone of her own color.

    But the point is there are plenty of us "mixed" people out there. Would I have the chance at Aliyah? Would I be treated as a Jew by Jews? The only thing I can tell you is over the time I have spent researching Judaism, I have met the good and bad. I have come across some Rabbis who would speak to me, and others who brushed me off.

    So I know from personal experience that even though my mother is a Jew, Jews don't view me as being a Jew. I am black and my mother is a Jew.

    So if color or where you are born determines being "Jewish" then it's not for me.

    But I do understand what you are talking about in this article. What I am saying has very little to do with the subject. But on it I do agree.

  11. yes eb, my point isn't that color is what determines being Jewish, in their case it simply makes it much less likely that they are what Freund claims they are

    being jewish is determined by who your mother is and who you choose to be, that's the way it is and always has been

    but that's individually, the freund case is a situation where being jewish by choice and jewish by ancestry is conflated on a large scale with a group of people for whom there's little basis to claim that they are jewish either by parentage or choice

  12. Anonymous24/10/07

    I detest your characterization of the Russian aliyah as non-Jewish, even though there is a percentage of people who are offspring of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother or plain goyim with a Jewish grandfather. But even those chose to share their fate with the Jews in Israel and serve in the IDF unlike the vast majority of American "Jews". And don't tell me how the Americans are making the supreme sacrifice by abandoning their fleshpots and bestowing their grace upon poor little Israel. In spite of what you think the vast majority of the Russians were not doing badly before they made aliyah. Quite a few of them took quite a fall socially and financially afterwards.
    There can be no such thing as "proof of Jewishness". I understand that "the proof of Jewishness" requested in Israel of the Russians is a lot more stringent than that requested of the Americans and there is a separate office for the Americans and another office for the Russians and the Ethiopians (sug alef and sug bet, I guess). That in spite of the fact that the rate of intermarriage there was nowhere near the rate of the Americans, neither were the loose sexual behaviour or the divorce rate. There is not one born American Jew that can "prove" his Jewishness. I personally know of a family in the Ukraine that has 4 generations of halachic Jews and probably no way of "proving" it. And I seriously doubt that they would be helped toward that end if they made aliyah. There are also full Jews from the FSU who are professing Christians due to ignorance of thir own heritage and this doesn't make them goyim. Of course, it's very convenient to declare FSU Jews goyim so there is no reason to feel guilty of abandoning them to the murderous Soviet government and the Nazis by the Jewish Agency, by Israel's Jews and the American Jews.

  13. Anonymous24/10/07

    "being jewish is determined by who your mother is and who you choose to be, that's the way it is and always has been"....So, the offspring of Ruth?

  14. the early russian aliyah was jewish, into the 90's the aliyah became increasingly non-jewish and is non-jewish today by a significant percentage, that's a fact that has been admitted by virtually everyone involved

    yes some non-jewish russians serve in the IDF, some Bedouins also serve in the IDF

    jews who can link back a century in russia or america can generally be considered jewish, so yes it can be known, proving it is trickier but again we are dealing with a vast majority of cases now where 'proof' isn't even an issue, where the people coming are simply not jewish by even the loosest halachic standard and are not trying to cover that up

    the simple reality is that there are few jews left in russia who aren't there by choice, there are more remaining in some of the republics where emigration is more precarious but the majority being brought out today are not jews

    this is not an american jews vs russian jews issue, as you pointed out american jews may well be in the same boat a few generations from now

  15. joeli,

    "by who your mother is and who you choose to be"

    note the latter half of that sentence

  16. Anonymous24/10/07

    There is room for error, corruption or forgery in anybody's case. At the end of the day we have to TRUST that observant Jewish merchants will sell us only kosher foodstuffs, and we do get burned sometimes. But we have to keep trusting them.
    When Moshiach comes he will know everyone's yichus and, I think, we might be in for some interesting surprises.

  17. many Jews in America and around the world can link a century back, I'm not an American Jew and I can do it

    my own grandfather was born in the 19th century more than a hundred years ago

    I can link back to my great-grandparents who lived in russia too

    the persecution in some cases cut the links but unless a family specifically wanted to forget the past, those links remained

    my own great-uncle saw his brothers shot down by the Soviet authorities, most of my father's families was murdered by the Nazis and most of their family history was lost... but I can still do something as basic as this

    but as I've already said this isn't even about verifying who is a jew anymore, this is about the simple that today's russian aliyah is mostly non-jewish and not even trying to hide it anymore

    I'm not trying to position American Jews as superior to Russian Jews.

  18. and in fact if you look at israel, it's the authentic russian jewish figures who are saying this

    while the russian jewish politicians, whether it's sharansky or lieberman or gaydamak, who are pandering to an increasingly non-jewish and anti-religious demographic


    Guess again then because as a Sephardi I can trace back my family tree pre Revolutionary War in America.. thats pre 1776 when my mothers family came to America

  20. Anonymous24/10/07

    I am also detesting that as a hindu you reject me from being the jew that I truly am. I am migrating to Israel for good life with my people.
    When the temple to Krisha is built in Israel you will eat your hat sir.
    May Ganesha and Lord Krisha forgive the crap you say I am not a jewish hindu.

  21. Anonymous24/10/07

    TO: Sultan Knish and Lemon: instead of trading in generalities and hearsay, could you please explain specifically what you mean by "linking back"? Do you mean to say that you HAVE IN YOUR HANDS NOW original authenticated notarized birth certificates and marriage documents for the unbroken chain on at least the mother's side that state the jewishness of the people involved going back at least a century and back to 1776 respectively? And IF NOT, how do you SPECIFICALLY propose to restore those "links that were cut but remained"? And IF NOT, why do you expect someone to believe YOUR Jewishness, but not the Jewishness of Jews who are in the same boat in regards to their "cut links"?

  22. I didnt say anything involving linking back to anything.
    I simply said that the statement that no Jew can trace their lineage back is not the truth.
    Especially in families of kohanim, some can trace pretty far back indeed.
    But yes I can trace back over 100 years with documents and a real geneaology since that side of my family have been in America for a very long time. That's all I said.
    But at no time did I say other people are not jewish.
    I am not debating that with anyone.
    I simply corrected what I know to be a not completely true statement on tracing your family.

  23. Anonymous25/10/07

    by who your mother is and who you choose to be"

    note the latter half of that sentence

    The latter half goes against your statements in your blog on Indian"Jews". Whether by birth,or by choice,they then are "Jews". There were "ger" in the exodus,they saw the same miracles,heard the laws read, and were included in the covenant. So jew or ger, as long as they follow the Tanakh. I was saddenend reading this article. I had just told a friend how your writings so clearly parallel my understanding, the very night I read this. An atheist person of jewish heritage can make aliyah, but a poor person who worships The Creator,loves the Tanakh,and is obedient to the laws,is willing to risk everything,cannot? Are they then just poor gluttons for punishment? Even though the Tanakh has a place for them in Israel? So now I know Zionism is broken down religous or national lines, just when Zionism most needs built up.
    ...P.S. you didn't touch the Ruth comment. Please, would she have been a ger? her children jewish,could they have made aliyah?

  24. Anonymous25/10/07

    Where are the stupid arguements coming from about gerim?
    I do not see at all where the Sultan has said converts are not valid.
    What he did say is that converting large masses of people is a problem.
    It is a large problem when they make aliyah. Note that Yitro did not go to EY.
    I agree with other posters here that there is a push to water down genetic Jews in Israel in order to invalidate the right to the land.
    This must be addressed.
    Mass converstions are just not right.
    As for Rut can anyone prove she was not a Jew already?
    Saying there was an exemption to marrying a woman of Moav is a weak and tenuous arguement made only to explain away why Boaz would marry a woman of Moav when Torah forbid for a long long time.
    In the past it only denoted where one resided as you can see in ancient literature.
    Many jews were called Egyptian etc because they lived in those lands.

  25. Anonymous25/10/07

    it may in some ways be easier to reach out to indians than to fellow jews"

    Sorry to post so soon but I must also respond to this.
    We do not proselytize for converts.
    Fellow Jews are the first concern, not seeking converts

  26. as I had also written choice means individual choice

    a convert comes to judaism to convert

    by contrast what's going on here is a bunch of people in an impoverished third world country being told they're really jewish and that they need to convert

    the two clash to begin with which is what my post addresses, they can either be jews by heritage or jews by choice, here Freund and their defenders are trying to set them out as both

    as I already said, Ruth was a Geret

    "An atheist person of jewish heritage can make aliyah, but a poor person who worships The Creator,loves the Tanakh,and is obedient to the laws,is willing to risk everything,cannot?"

    poor people who worship the creator and love the tanach and obey the laws have been making aliyah for some time

    you're missing my point, we are not talking about sincere individuals, we're talking about entire groups being roped in under the pretext that they were supposedly jewish and then mass converted



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