From the Desk - a Jew who Converts to Islam
Shalom Friends! I hope you are having a great week. Some Past Events Last weekend was both very busy and very meaningful at Congregation Beth Ora. Shabbat saw a series of celebrations. In the course of one morning, we celebrated the birthday of one of our members and two wedding anniversaries as well as marking the first anniversary of the Hetzroni family joining Beth Ora, the forthcoming birthdays of two children in our community and of course, the wedding of the daughter of Hana and Ernie Lipkowitz which took place on Sunday. Shabbat afternoon also saw a successful Shabbat on the Lawn as members of Beth Ora gathered to discuss the question of why we often fail to follow our calling in life. Sunday morning was much more solemn as many members gathered at the Beth Ora cemetery to mark our Holocaust memorial event. Leon Celemencki and Willie Glaser spoke movingly and the event was well organised by Dora and Saul Edelstein. Well done to everyone who contributed and to all those who attended to support our message: We will never forget the victims of the Holocaust. Some Future Events As you have seen from our letters, newsletters and posters, we are currently offering a range of exciting events and programs at Beth Ora. I won't mention all of them here. I'll only highlight a few. Shabbat is a wonderful gift but often we don't really understand its meaning, its significance and why we do what we do on Shabbat. I'll be exploring all of these things in my pre-Mincha class, starting this Shabbat. If you haven't been to the Shabbat afternoon class for a while or even if you've never been, why not try it out this Shabbat and join us on a journey of deepening our appreciation for this beautiful day. Please also remember our special community building event - the giant fruit salad making on September 10th. In particular, if you are able to donate fruit or if you can deliver fruit salad to Eldercare of St. Moritz, please let me know. We are also excited for the evening of Saturday September 16th. We always have a memorial service and a special service called selichot a few days before Rosh Hashanah but this year we are adding a special program featuring addiction specialist Rabbi Benyamin Bresinger. Rabbi Bresinger, reflecting on his work, will be asking the questions 'Do we believe in change? Can we forgive others? Can we forgive ourselves?' Please join us for what promises to be a fascinating evening. Houston You will all surely have heard of the devastating storm that has flooded many neighbourhoods in Houston. We share the pain of our fellow human beings who have to endure such trauma. As Jews, we believe in the power of prayer. Please use this link to commit to recite Tehillim for the Houston community. You can also post messages of support that will be passed directly to members of the community. You can also click here to donate to the OU's disaster relief fund in support of the Jewish community in Houston. You can also make a donation to help Jewish and general communities in Houston through the Greater Miami Jewish Federation. Inspiring Video Thanks to Debbie Smith for recommending this amazing video about kindness. If you have seen something inspiring on the internet, why not let me know so I can share it with the rest of the community. Last Week in Synagogue
Last Shabbat, I spoke about the importance of gratitude. I mentioned the story of world renowned violinist Joshua Bell who played in a Washington Subway for 45 minutes and earned a grand total of $32! So often, we don’t notice the blessings that are around us and we take them for granted. You can watch the video here.
Wishing you all a wonderful Shabbat! Rabbi Anthony and Carly Knopf
What’s the Deal with... a Jew Who Converts to Islam? This question was asked by Joe Salem and Joseph Bitton. Does a Jew who converts to Islam remain a Jew? For this answer, I am indebted to the writings of Rabbi Dr Judah Goldberg. There are at least three different views on this question. One view, represented by Rabbi Shlomo ben Aderet (1235-1310), is that once a Jew, always a Jew! Rabbi Shlomo derives his opinion from the Talmud which says that, if a Jew who has converted to another religion marries a Jewess, the marriage is valid from the perspective of Jewish law. A Jew who converts remains a Jew. The second opinion is a minority opinion. Authorities subscribing to this view, hold that an apostate completely loses his Jewish identity. Nevertheless, even according to this perspective, things might not be quite so simple. One important commentary explains that, if the apostate were to abandon his new religion and return to Judaism, there would be no need to formally convert back to Judaism. Repentance is sufficient. The third opinion was advanced by Rabbi Chaim Soloveitchik (1853-1918). According to Rabbi Soloveitchik, a Jew who follows the practices of another religion is still a Jew as long as he doesn’t suppress his Jewish identity. If, on the other hand, he totally alienates himself from the Jewish people and its history and assimilates into Gentile society, he loses his Jewishness. It is difficult to determine whether this applies in any given case. Rabbi Aharon Lichtenstein (1933-2015) suggests that the person who converts to another faith can never really eradicate his connection with the Jewish People. This may not apply though to his children and descendants who emerge into a context that is bereft of any hint of Jewish belonging. Alternatively, suggests Rabbi Lichtenstein, the process of losing one’s Jewish identity may take several generations. It is possible, though, to consider that an apostate himself loses his Jewish identity, either as a result of following another religion (as the second opinion would have it) or, in accordance with Rabbi Soloveitchik, through his severance of ties with the Jewish People. Nevertheless, Rabbi Lichtenstein argues that, even in that case, something of his original identity remains. Hence, he remains formally obligated to keep the mitzvoth and, possibly, he doesn’t need to follow a conversion process if he wants to come back to Judaism. This may not apply, however, to his children and later generations.