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 Questions in Customs & Minhags
While I support tolerance, acceptance and unity for the Jewish people, I can’t help noticing that when I have visited the Kotel many times during morning hours, there does not appear to be even a minute base of women that want to pray in an egalitarian style minyan. At the same time there are thousands davening at the Kotel every morning peacefully, representing many threads of Judaism. Why all the commotion to create an area for egalitarian minyanim (prayer groups) on a regular basis at the Kotel, when there doesn’t appear to be the numbers to justify using very limited prime real estate for this purpose? My question is more about the need to accommodate a very small specific group for a once a month event. Wouldn’t it be great to see thousands of Jews show up at the Kotel every morning demanding an egalitarian style minyan? That would show a different level of seriousness to the Women of the Wall (WOW) cause. But, as of now, that doesn’t appear to be the case. Wishing for peace and unity for the Jewish people, I want to know what this is really about.
Should I refrain from consuming media produced by celebrities who later became known as Anti-Semites? For example, the Lethal Weapon series includes Mel Gibson, although it was produced before he became known as an Anti-Semite. Another example is the music of Pink Floyd, which included Roger Waters, but was produced before Waters became known as an Anti-Semite. [Administrator's note: This issue appears in various forms. For example, one question on the website has to do with purchasing German-made autos (and other products): http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=991. In another context, many rabbis advise the couples they counsel not to use any music at their wedding composed by Wagner or Mendelsohn because they either worked with/supported the Nazi regime, or they were seen as destroyers of Judaism - which is why it is rare to hear "The Wedding March" by Mendelsohn at a Jewish wedding. Not too long ago, a fashion designer expressed vile anti-Semitic views, and there were repercussions, including at least one famous person publicly refusing to wear anything by him, or from the design house he worked for, raising a massive amount of negative publicity for that fashion house. The issue that underlies this question is whether the person, and their actions/politics, can be separated from the art they create. It deals with memory, repentance, forgiveness, compassion, and punishment, among other matters.]
I have a question regarding a charitable endeavor my shul is involved in. For many years, we have hosted homeless guests (from a nearby shelter) for a week in our building. About three years ago, we started taking them in during the week of Christmas. Our homeless guests are non-Jews, and we have had a Christmas tree placed in our building for them. We have even brought in a "Santa Claus" to pay a visit to the children. As we are a Conservative congregation, there are, naturally, members who oppose the tree and other signs of Christmas in the shul building. I am one of those who also dislike the practice, however, I continue to volunteer to care for our guests. But I wonder, are we going too far, in terms of the Christmas celebrations? Our rabbi states that we shouldn't take offense because, after all, many of the symbols connected with this holiday are from pagan origins, rather than being specifically connected with Jesus. Personally, I view that (pagan symbols) as being just as bad, perhaps even worse! It is my opinion that we should go back to hosting the homeless on a week other than that involving the Christmas holiday. This would solve the problem about causing offense to some of our more traditionally-minded congregants (regarding the tree and Santa). I was wondering what your take on this situation might be.
My brother recently married a non-Jewish woman. I went to the wedding, not because I wanted to, but because my mother insisted I go. My husband and I sat in a corner with our kosher store-bought sandwiches (no kosher food in sight) and made a presence. It was a very uncomfortable evening, and has led to even more questions for me. I love my brother very much and want to be part of his life, but I truly do not want to be around his non-Jewish wife. We do not live in the same city, so it's not like we run into each other frequently, but I am not sure what I am supposed to do for the occasions that we do meet. I would consider myself modern Orthodox and my brother has gone beyond non-observant; he now considers himself an atheist. What is the Jewish view on these situations? Does one just try to be polite to the non-Jewish spouse to maintain a relationship with the Jewish family member? My husband and I hope to have a family soon. How do you handle exposing your children to something you are teaching them is wrong? I know the fact that I do not want to be at a table (or in the same room) as his wife hurts my mother tremendously (she does not like what my brother has done either, but fears losing him). Is my difficulty with my brother and his wife a lack of respect for my mother as her children cannot spend quality time together? I know there are several questions listed here. I thank you in advance for your assistance with this.
I have been self employed for over 6 years and have been trying to find full-time work that would provide me a consistent cash flow. I am a Conservative Jew born to Orthodox parents. I mention all of this background because I have a company who is about to make me a job offer; however, they are in the business of manufacturing crab cakes. Would it be wrong for me to work for a company that produces non-kosher products even though I try to maintain a kosher life style for myself? I truly could use the job assuming an offer is made to me, but I am worried that this would be viewed as unethical or immoral. Can someone let me know what Judaic Law says about such actions? [Administrator's note: some related questions on JVO can be found at: http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=944 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=847 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=444 http://www.jewishvaluesonline.org/question.php?id=850]
I have a question regarding a charitable endeavor my shul is involved in. For many years, we have hosted homeless guests (from a nearby shelter) for a week in our building. About three years ago, we started taking them in during the week of Christmas. Our homeless guests are non-Jews. Someone from our shul contacts the local media (newspapers, TV) so that they would come out to film what we, a Jewish congregation, are doing for these non-Jewish homeless folks on Christmas. I find it very disturbing when the camera crew not only comes into the building, but also wants to go into the social hall/dining room, where our homeless guests usually congregate, to film in this area. I was there last week when the news crew came and, at that particular time, our guests were having breakfast in the dining room. One of our volunteers came to brief the guests about this, stating that, in filming guests at the table, only their hands and feet would be shown. Immediately after she left, all of our guests got up and left the room. I felt awful about this and I too left, in disgust. Every evening, we take the guests from the shelter, where they stay with us for dinner and sleep in our building overnight. In the morning, we then take them back to the shelter. But because this was Christmas day, the guests were to stay with us the entire day. This was their only day to have a leisurely breakfast, a time when they did not have to hurry to get ready to be taken back to the shelter. I felt that we spoiled their chance to have a (rare) peaceful morning by bringing in this TV crew. In a way, I also feel that we are "using" the homeless to gain attention, honor, and (perhaps) donations from the public for our shul. My own feelings are that we brought embarrassment upon our guests, and I believe it is wrong to shame or exploit the poor, especially for our own aggrandizement. It is my opinion that we should go back to hosting the homeless on a week other than that involving the Christmas holiday. This would solve the problem about causing offense or embarassment to some of our guests, as well as put an end to media coverage of how we, a Jewish organization, shelter the homeless at Christmas. I was wondering what your take on this situation might be.
I have a question about names. I am converting to Judaism, and my mikvah date is in just a few weeks. I have been exploring Judaism and learning for about 3 years. I have already picked a Hebrew name, which my rabbi at the time began to call me by. I found that I liked being called my Hebrew name, and began to use that name rather than my birth name/English name. I don't ask my parents or siblings to refer to me by my Hebrew name, though they know I use it. I want to legally change my first name to my Hebrew name. However, a friend suggested that maybe this would be disrespectful to my father, who named me for his deceased mother. My friend made the case that even though my English name is not a Jewish one, since my parents followed the Jewish tradition of naming for a deceased relative, I should not legally change my name. Is it disrespectful to my father to change my name? What is the Jewish perspective on name changes?