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Sympathy for the Devil Sympathy for the Devil
Monday, May 23, 2011 by Allan Nadler | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Occupying a place of particular infamy in Jewish collective memory is an 18th-century serial apostate, sexual deviant, messianic pretender, and chameleonic charlatan. His name was Jacob Frank.
Identity = ? Identity = ?
Thursday, March 10, 2011 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

In discussions of that elusive entity known as "Jewishness," few terms have become so ubiquitous, and as a consequence so elusive, as "Jewish identity." The phrase regularly serves as the name of a communal dream: the wished-for end product that vast apparatuses of education, institution-building, and programming aim to instill and perpetuate. But what is it?
Skeletons in the Closet of Hasidism Skeletons in the Closet of Hasidism
Friday, February 11, 2011 by Lawrence Grossman | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Popular demands for transparency in our institutions and the availability of technological means to achieve it have made it hard to keep secrets. This has affected the conduct not only of government and business but also of religion.
The Seed of Israel The Seed of Israel
Wednesday, January 26, 2011 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Until modern times, the boundaries of Jewish identity were cut and dried. If you were born to a Jewish mother, or if you were a convert according to Jewish religious law (halakhah), you were Jewish. If not, you weren't.
Lost & Found Lost & Found
Tuesday, January 4, 2011 by Aryeh Tepper | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

In 1974, a strange letter from northeastern India landed on the desk of Israel's then Prime Minister Golda Meir. It was sent by a group of Indians claiming to be descendants of the biblical tribe of Menashe.
The Conversion Conundrum The Conversion Conundrum
Monday, July 26, 2010 by Yehudah Mirsky | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Late last week, narrowly averting a looming crisis within world Jewry, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu secured a postponement, possibly indefinite, of prospective Knesset legislation making the Chief Rabbinate the arbiter of conversion in the Jewish state and thus of who may be eligible for citizenship under Israel's foundational Law of Return. The measure has stirred impassioned debate in and between Israel and the Diaspora, much of it a depressing if also revealing exercise in talking past each other.
Let My People In Let My People In
Thursday, January 14, 2010 | Jewish Ideas Daily » Daily Features

Debates over conversion to Judaism show no sign of abating, least of all in Israel. Last week, the legal adviser to the country's chief rabbinate declared that all conversions may retroactively be annulled at any time. In the ensuing firestorm of criticism, even some on the religious Right chimed in, especially those reflecting a historically more lenient Sephardi approach. A great deal of institutional politics is involved here, including between the ultra-Orthodox in Israel and the Modern Orthodox in the United States; some of this came to light in the recent disgrace and resignation of an ultra-Orthodox foe of the moderates....
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Editors' Picks
Cancelling Conversions Shlomo Brody, Jerusalem Post. Fraud? Sin? A romantic link to a Gentile? Under what circumstances can a conversion to Judaism be annulled?
The Stranger in Our Midst David Ellenson, Daniel Gordis, Times of Israel. Even if we cannot eradicate the complexity of our tradition's attitude to conversion, we must understand the pain it causes for those who seek to join us.
Standards and Practices Shlomo Brody, Jerusalem Post. The idea that one may convert without intent to carry out mitzvot is a minority opinion.
Genetic Threads Josh Fischman, Chronicle of Higher Education. The story of Jewish origins, once the province of historians and scholars of religion, is now being told by DNA—and it decisively refutes the counter-narratives promulgated by Shlomo Sand.
The Patrilineal Predicament Naomi Zeveloff, Forward. Nearly three decades after the Reform movement's landmark decision to accept patrilineal Jews, statistics confirm that the worst fears of critics have come true.
Under African Skies Bernard Starr, Huffington Post. When a teenage member of a Pentecostal church in Cameroon decided to convert to Judaism, he was at a loss as to how to proceed, having never met a single Jew or heard of any in the country.
Cancelling Conversion Gil Student, Torah Musings. While many Orthodox rabbis have become too willing to annul conversions, even the non-Orthodox world recognizes that there are some circumstances in which a conversion must be overturned.
"Subbotniks" Eli Ashkenazi, Haaretz. In 1876, a community of converts left their native Russia to settle in the Galilee, forsaking their Christian past. Now their descendants are rediscovering their roots.
The Seed of Israel David Ellenson, Jewish Review of Books. He has been accused of heresy and expelled from Shas, but Haim Amsalem's lenient approach to conversion in Israel may yet be a blueprint for a more unified nation.
Wrong Assumptions Jack Wertheimer, Jewish Week. A new report on intermarriage provides no evidence that the supposed cold shoulder that intermarried families receive is the cause of their staggeringly high rates of non-affiliation.