Why the Orthodox Union’s Ruling on Female Clergy Won’t Change Anything

Feb. 16 2018

The Orthodox Union (OU)—Orthodox Jewry’s major American organization—recently issued an ultimatum to four congregations that had violated its policies by hiring female rabbis, giving them three years to find a way to comply or to face expulsion. Since then, vigorous debate about the question of whether women can be rabbis has re-erupted in Orthodox circles and in the pages of Jewish publications. But, argues Gil Student, the decisions of the OU, or the rulings of its rabbinic advisers, are not, in the end, what will determine the direction taken by Orthodox Jewry:

In past centuries, Jewish communal organizations ruled in a literal sense. They had governmental authority to set rules, levy taxes, and punish disobedient members. . . . If a pre-modern Jewish communal body disallowed a synagogue practice, all of the synagogues under its authority had to cease the practice immediately or face punishment. People would not dare set foot in a defiant synagogue. In those days, excommunication meant expulsion from the community. . . .

But the Jewish community is no longer organized in a fashion that allows for excommunication. If the OU expels a synagogue, will that synagogue operate any differently? Will people stop attending that synagogue? Not necessarily. People affiliate voluntarily. They can join whichever community they want, start their own communities, or choose to live a life without a formal religious community. People make their own decisions on how, or if, they observe their religion and which synagogue, if any, they attend. . . .

In sum, while the OU may revoke the organizational membership of a synagogue with women clergy, it cannot expel the synagogue from Orthodoxy. . . . [In this case, the threatened] expulsion, for all intents and purposes, already occurred before the OU’s announcement.

Read more at Jewish Press

More about: American Judaism, Modern Orthodoxy, Open Orthodoxy, Orthodox Union, Religion & Holidays

Syria’s Druze Uprising, and What It Means for the Region

When the Arab Spring came to Syria in 2011, the Druze for the most part remained loyal to the regime—which has generally depended on the support of religious minorities such as the Druze and thus afforded them a modicum of protection. But in the past several weeks that has changed, with sustained anti-government protests in the Druze-dominated southwestern province of Suwayda. Ehud Yaari evaluates the implications of this shift:

The disillusionment of the Druze with Bashar al-Assad, their suspicion of militias backed by Iran and Hizballah on the outskirts of their region, and growing economic hardships are fanning the flames of revolt. In Syrian Druze circles, there is now open discussion of “self-rule,” for example replacing government offices and services with local Druze alternative bodies.

Is there a politically acceptable way to assist the Druze and prevent the regime from the violent reoccupation of Jebel al-Druze, [as they call the area in which they live]? The answer is yes. It would require Jordan to open a short humanitarian corridor through the village of al-Anat, the southernmost point of the Druze community, less than three kilometers from the Syrian-Jordanian border.

Setting up a corridor to the Druze would require a broad consensus among Western and Gulf Arab states, which have currently suspended the process of normalization with Assad. . . . The cost of such an operation would not be high compared to the humanitarian corridors currently operating in northern Syria. It could be developed in stages, and perhaps ultimately include, if necessary, providing the Druze with weapons to defend their territory. A quick reminder: during the Islamic State attack on Suwayda province in 2018, the Druze demonstrated an ability to assemble close to 50,000 militia men almost overnight.

Read more at Jerusalem Strategic Tribune

More about: Druze, Iran, Israeli Security, Syrian civil war, U.S. Foreign policy