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Jews and Judaism

by Rabbi Berel Wein

I have often stated that one should never confuse Jews with Judaism itself. Jews, aside from being Jewish, are human beings, prone to error, folly and foolishness. Judaism however sets Godly standards and goals and though it is vastly tolerant of all sorts of human beings, it does not adjust its standards or worldview to make wrong right, bad good or aberrant behavior normal and acceptable.

The State of Israel as currently constituted, governed and ruled is a state of Jews. But it is not a Jewish state. In that I mean that it does not look to Judaism - to Torah - to set its goals or influence its policies. It is committed to the welfare of Jewish individuals but is lacking in historical traditional Judaism’s worldview. Its militant and Jewishly ignorant devotion to secularism at all costs when coupled with its resultant insensitivity to the norms of traditional Jewish behavior, leads it to often behave in a very foolish and counterproductive manner.

In dealing only with Jews and ignoring Judaism, it almost always shoots itself in the foot on what, at first glance; appear to be relatively minor issues. These, however, predictably blossom into great controversies and harmful situations. It ends up, in its current political correctness, in satisfying no one and only exacerbating the existing divisions within Israeli and Jewish society. By not having a sense of Judaism, but only of Jews, it forfeits its chance of being a Jewish state and not merely a state of Jews.

The recent contretemps regarding El Al and Shabat and kashrut is an example of this. Is there no one at El Al that realizes that serving non-kosher food and flying on Shabat will bring about an automatic reaction of rage from the religiously observant public that comprises a significant base of its regular customers? Just good business sense would make anyone realize that the profit engendered from one flight on Shabat is not worth the lost revenue and public relations debacle that such a flight causes.

But El Al is merely an airline of Jews and it does not consider itself a Jewish airline. Many of its executives and employees are not trained to know and respect Judaism as a value all unto itself. A Jewish airline that is sensitive to Judaism would not have allowed itself to become embroiled in such a foolish and unnecessary brouhaha.

But without a sense of Judaism, and not merely Jews, they will just never catch on – they just won’t “get it.” El Al served non-kosher food on one of its flights. It “had” to do so because its regular kosher food spoiled because of the airport strike. On the plane therefore the steward announced that the kosher passengers would be given fruit while the other Jews would be given the non-kosher meals. Now, that shows a complete insensitivity to Judaism and to the pain of religious Jews who paid the same fare as the other ones for their seats to be treated as “fruit eaters” and be forced to watch Jews serve other Jews food that Judaism explicitly disapproves of.

There is a reason that I and thousands of other observant Jews fly El Al and not Continental. One of the main factors is that I do not have to witness Jews eating treif. El Al just doesn’t “get it.” After due apologies about the spoiled food, serve fruit to everybody.

The Conservative movement in the United States in its headlong plunge towards self destruction recently approved its clergy solemnizing same sex “marriages.” Again, in complete disregard for Judaism, it agreed to pander to a small sliver of individual Jews. It continued its decades-long slide into progressive, politically correct extinction. For if there is anything that guarantees that there will be no Jews left, God forbid, it is intermarriage and same-sex unions.

Judaism opposes both without compromise or flinching. But if same-sex marriages are forbidden by the Torah and Judaism and nevertheless allowed by the Conservative movement, then why not intermarriage? There are Jews who intermarry and there are Jews who are same-sex partners. But a Jewish organization, especially one that claims that somehow its purpose is to conserve and preserve Judaism that, nevertheless, caters to Jews but not to Judaism, will not stand the test of time and circumstances.

The Conservative movement by abandoning Jewish tradition and the divinity of the Bible has shrunk in size and influence over the past decades. Its own leaders admit to its problems and incipient weakness. So why continue to abandon Judaism in order to cater to some individual Jews? Will its membership rolls increase or attendance at synagogue services grow because of this “bold, historic” decision and policy change?

Forget the religious aspect of the matter – is this a business plan for success? It is Judaism that we must be committed to. Only then can we truly serve the needs of individual Jews as well.

Reprinted with permission from



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