Do we read the same bible?

I’ve been at an interreligious discussion between Christians and Jews on the topic of whether we (Christians and Jews) read the same bible, and I’d like to present some of the discussion points here. Probably most people would say that of course we don’t. The Christians have the New Testament (NT) which Jews don’t have. But the discussion focussed on the texts both Jews and Christians read, the books of the Jewish Tanach or the Christian Old Testament (OT). The two representatives did not claim to speak for their religion as a whole, rather they gave personal statements which they said were rooted in their representative traditions.

The Christian representative (CR) noted that the OT is an integral part of the Christian sacred texts and is regularly read in church. He first presented the classical Christian approach to a text from the OT. According to this approach, the main point of these texts is pointing towards Jesus and the NT. OT texts describe G-d and they contain prophesies that were fulfilled by Jesus. The laws of the OT are perceived as a negative contrast to the unversalist love of the NT. "Israel" is re-interpreted as referring to the church. But this classical approach seems to have gone out of style at the end of last century, when interreligious dialogue became a thing. Christians "discovered" that they read the same texts as Jews, they recognized that Jews have different legitimate readings of the same texts and they started to be interested in their interpretations.

The Jewish representative (JR) started with the (obvious) statement that Jesus is irrelevant for Judaism. She said she reads the Tanach as the record of the history of her ancestors with G-d. She sees herself as part of a community, a family, descendants of the people who experienced these events. Which makes it not only some ancient history, but her history. Also, she sees the texts as describing an utopia, a "constitution", laws to form a good society. So it is important to learn and keep the laws as G-d’s guidelines for mankind. The texts have to be interpreted and this interpretation is also based on history, centuries of great rabbis who passed on their insights. There are always multiple interpretations of one and the same text, but not all interpretations are valid.

In the following discussion, CR remarked that Christians also see themselves as part of the chain of tradition reaching from Abraham to Mose to David to Jesus and to today. JR countered that most of today’s Christians have pagan origins and cannot claim any family connections to Jesus or any of the other figures, while Jews see themselves as the direct descendants of the forefathers. JR mentioned that for Christians the people/nation of Israel and the land of Israel is largely irrelevant, while it is still central in Judaism. CR and JR agreed that some Christian interpretations can also be valid Jewish interpretations, especially if they are old, before the split of the two sister religions. Following this was a lot of slightly off-topic discussion on whether Christians are included in the same covenant with G-d as Jews, the Christian covenant has replaced the Jewish one (official position of the church for a long time, but not anymore) or whether each religion has its own covenant and what the implications of each option are.

So do we read the same texts? The same words maybe (even that is doubtful because translations are always interpretations, but that is a topic for another day). But with different approaches for their interpretation, different backgrounds, different assumptions and also different goals. Which does not mean we cannot learn from each other, but it is important to recognize the differences in the starting points.

Happy anniversary!

Today it is three years since my first post on this blog. It doesn’t feel like that at all, ti seems much shorter. I don’t post very often, but sometimes I feel the need to put things down "on paper" and it feels good to have this outlet. It wasn’t my intention to have a personal blog, but I’ve been posting more and more personal stuff. So far I haven’t regretted it.

To celebrate the occasion, let’s have some fun with statistics. After exactly three years, this blog has a total of 220 post, 23 comments and 6664 views. Despite my intention of not making this a personal blog, the category "Personal" is the second largest category with 37 posts, but to be fair it is a bit of a mix of my personal posts about conversion, some stories, some rants and posts related to blog management or search terms.

My readers come from all over the world, it is really fascinating. I can only get statistics per calendar year, but the picture is pretty clear. In 2013 the top three countries were the US, Germany, and Israel, and in both 2014 and 2015 the US, Israel and the UK. I guess that’s to be expected when you write in English about Jewish topics. I’m intrigued that there have been visitors from exotic places like Kenya, South Korea, Madagascar, Micronesia, Sri Lanka, Colombia and even the Palestinian Territories. The internet is so amazing.

The highest number of views on a single day is 72, this happened on Monday, April 6, 2015. On this day, 7 visitors came to this blog with the query "mishna berura english translation online" and the page "Links to Jewish texts online" got 15 views. This is very typical, this page is responsible for a lot of traffic on this blog, although I cannot understand why, all I have is a link to an incomplete scan of the Mishna Brura on Google books. People are just strange.

The rest of the known search terms on that day were related to kitniot. Also a very typical reason for people to visit this blog, although more seasonal. The category "Pessach" is the biggest category on this blog with 44 posts. The vast majority of the Pessach posts is about kitniot, the topic that I obsessed about in the beginning of this blog in 2013. With 30 posts "kitniot" is the second-most used tag, the most-used one is "food".

In 2015 I started to write lists connected to kashrut. The post about kosher birds is the third-most viewed post in the last year with 533 views (after the Jewish texts page with 1852 and the home page with 668 views). That post is only a year old, but it holds the third place even in the all-time statistics (535 views, first place the Jewish texts with 2279 and the home page with 1218).

In my first post on this blog I declared my intention to blog on conservative Judaism. There is a total of 5 posts with this tag – for comparison, there are 10 posts on orthodox Judaism. Have I abandoned it? Well, I do not have any real connection to the movement, so I’m not really in the position to write so much about this branch of Judaism itself. But it is still the denomination I feel closest to and I would at least hope that my posts on other topics reflect that.

Enough for today, on we go to the next three years and more! Thank you for reading!

Positive surprise

I found this question:

I want to convert to Judaism, but I am married to a Christian, Is this at all possible. […]
(JewishValuesOnline)

Most people would answer "no". I have heard countless times that this is the number one reason that you cannot convert. So first the Reform answer by Rabbi Debra Kassoff (relevant snippet only):

[…] So it is certainly possible, in the eyes of Reform Judaism, for you to convert. If you can convince a sponsoring rabbi that you are whole-hearted in your wish to convert to Judaism and that your current family and your new religious life can flourish together and support one another, then you will be well on your way. I wish you all the best.

So let’s move on to the relevant part of the Conservative answer by Rabbi Joel Rembaum (Emeritus):

[…] A married gentile may convert to Judaism even though the convert intends to remain married to the unconverted gentile spouse. Such conversion should take place, however, only after proper counseling and consultation assuring that the convert will be able to practice the Jewish religion without interference by the non-Jewish member of the family. Under these conditions, those who seek… ‘to shelter under the wings of the Shekhinah’ – … ‘may their numbers increase in Israel,’ … ‘and may blessings be bestowed upon them.’”

And finally a snippet from Orthodox answer by Rabbi David Feldman, Z”L

May one be converted to Judaism if the other spouse does not? The question has a straightforward answer: Yes, providing the proper circumstances accompany the response. […]

Maybe some expected a positive answer from a Reform rabbi (me not, as I have met people who told me otherwise), maybe a few even from a Conservative rabbi, but the Orthodox rabbi? Just wow! Thank you for returning my hope!

Why did you give up on conversion?

Good question. I have been somehow involved with Judaism for over 10 years now. First, I had mainly studied and practiced on my own, but during the studies for my Master I was involved in a community and finally took the decision to convert, but it was not possible to convert in that country (no Beit Din).

After my Master’s degree I moved to another city in another country and I talked to the orthodox rabbi there. He didn’t reject me, but also nothing more happened for two years. I went to a few classes, but most people there were weird evangelical Christians and all were at least double my age. The community was very small, no young people. I didn’t connect to the rabbi’s very strict, very chassidic world view. Nobody had converted with this rabbi for a long time, despite several people who had been studying for years. So I didn’t (and still don’t) see a lot of chances of converting through him and didn’t push it.

Then, I came into contact with some people from the Reform movement. In the beginning I was very sceptical, but I liked the people, so I stayed for a while and found that my views actually aligned more with Conservative Judaism than Orthodox Judaism and I enjoyed living Jewishly more and felt more fulfilled and more myself than in the years before. The group was just starting and there was no rabbi. Alas, while I was trying to find a rabbi elsewhere, there was an incident with a messianic conversion candidate and the representatives decided that they first needed to focus on building up the group and would only then admit more conversion candidates. So after more than a year with classes there, I was suddenly out. It hurt so much that I haven’t talked to the people there since. Rationally I can undestand their decision, but it was just so hard emotionally.

I still celebrate the holidays, I dress and eat the same, but I have for now dropped the idea of conversion and of having a community. There is a lot of other stuff going on in my life and I feel I can put my energy somewhere where it is appreciated instead of chasing smoke. I still spend an inordinate amount reading Jewish blogs though. And who knows what the future will bring…

Jewish vampires

Have you ever speculated about the issues Jewish vampires would face? Well, I seem to have too much time on my hands…

The most pressing question is of course what to do about the drinking blood thing. It is well known that Jewish halacha forbids the consumption of animal blood, that’s the reason for going to all of the trouble with kosher slaughtering. But many people may be surprised to learn that this refers only to animal bood, human blood is actually allowed (The Beis Medrash blog: Kashrut for Vampires)! There is an issue of marit ayin (people mistakenly think that one is doing something forbidden because it looks like it to the casual observer), but that can be avoided by making it clear that the vampire is consuming human blood, not animal blood, for example by drinking directly from the neck of a person.

But what about shabat? Can a vampire drink from a person’s blood on shabat? Causing an animal or a person to bleed is a violation of the melacha of shochet (slaughtering), even if the living being in question does not die of the wound.. Even if our vampire were to somehow take advantage of a wound that’s already there, the drawing of blood is forbidden due to the malacha of dosh (squeezing). So an adult vampire will probably need to fast or prepare some blood in advance (while taking care of the marit ayin issue, see above). Similar to the argument that nursing a baby is allowed on shabat even though liquid (milk) is squeezed out, an argument might be made for very young vampires where regular nourishment is vital for their health so that they may be allowed to squeeze blood out of a wound.

What about prayer times and praying with a minyan (for male vampires, females can simply pray on their own whenever they please)? Vampires are nocturnal and don’t approve of (or maybe even die when exposed to) direct sunlight. So I think they would form their own minyanim instead of going to regular ones. They would put shacharit (morning prayer) as early as possible, then go sleep during the day and rise again for a very late mincha (afternoon prayer). As far as I could find out, most parts of shacharit (morning prayer) may be said starting from Olot HaShachar (72 minutes before sunrise) or MeSheyakir (some amount of minutes before sunrise that I couldn’t figure out). I guess anything before sunrise would still be dark enough for a vampire. They would need to pray fast, though, to be finished until sunrise. According to some opinions mincha (afternoon prayer) may be said "until nighttime", so I guess if you squeeze it in just before nightfall, it would be suitably dark (Halachipedia: When Is the Earliest and Latest Time to Pray?). Aravit (evening prayer) is not a problem anyway, because it has to be said after the new day starts, which is usually at nightfall. Shabat and holidays start one hour earlier, that might be a problem, but I am not sure how to apply the earliest/latest times for mincha and aravit there. Anyway, thick curtains and underground passages may solve the whole issue even if the sun still needs to be up for the prayers.

An important question from the victim’s side is whether others can protect themselves against Jewish vampires by using holy symbols. The question here is really whether any holy symbol is effective against any vampire or whether only the holy symbols of the vampire’s own (former) religion work. Literature seems to disagree on this point. In any case, what Jewish symbols could possibly be used? Today, the star of David would be an obvious choice, but this hasn’t been a uniquely Jewish symbol until the 19th century and vampires are quite old-fashioned. So maybe a menora? Or an item with religious use such as tallit, tefilin, lulav, shofar or even a chanukia? There seems to be little available data on this point, but one thing is for sure, only very few of the victims are going to have any Jewish religious item at hand or will even know what to look for. So it will be really hard to further investigate this point.

And last but not least, the final question: Garlic. It is inconceivable that Jewish vampires would have a problem with garlic, so they should have at least one advantage about Christian vampires!

To sum up, a Jewish vampire would have some logistics to work out, mainly related to food on shabat and prayer times – but isn’t that the same for all Jews?

I’ll miss you, Richard!

It seems that Richard C Schneider, currently head of the Tel Aviv office for the main German national news (ARD), is leaving Israel (Jüdische Allgemeine on 24.12.15: "Ich wäre verdammt gerne geblieben"). I am sorry to see him go. For years now he has provided the German public with a very balanced view on Israel and Palestine (I translated one of his texts on the Gaza war to English for this blog). This is not something to take for granted in a journalist at this place.

His weekly videoblog from the region was always intersting, sometimes fun and sometimes thought-provoking. His light reporting on sofa design in the Westbank, ballet performances in Israel, or archeological discoveries showed normal or quirky life in the region which is not usually the topic of news. But he also managed to interview both Saeb Erekat and settlers from Yitzhar, in an objective, quiet way that gave them time to explain their views, but he also asked the hard questions and insisted on answers. He understood the complexity of the situation and was able to convey some of it to his viewers. He seemed to know everybody and his language skills are amazing (so far I have counted Hebrew, Yidish, French, and Italian, besides his native German and Hungarian and of course English).

Good-bye Richard. I will miss you, your reports and especially the videoblog. I wish you could stay. But as you can’t (or won’t), I wish you all the best for your new assignment.

Jewish fellow citizens

As a follow-up to my last post, for those of you who were struck by the convoluted language the lady was using to say "Jew".

Most Germans associate the word "Jew" primarily with the Shoa (Holocaust). They are acutely aware of the past. They put a lot of stock into politically correct language. They have never met a Jew (only about 0.1% of the population in Germany are Jewish). And they are not really sure whether it is correct to call a Jew a Jew or if maybe there is some vague insult in that word, probably because of the Shoa-connection. Somehow is seems to be something only a Nazi would use. So, most people cannot bring themselves to use the word "Jude" ("Jew"). You will also only very rarely see/hear it used in the news.

Instead people use adjective-noun combinations with "Jüdisch" ("Jewish"), somehow apparently that sounds/feels better. They talk about people from the "jüdische Gemeinschaft" (Jewish community), "jüdische Mitbürger" (Jewish fellow citizens), a person being of "jüdischen Glaubens" (Jewish faith), "jüdischen Bekenntnisses" (Jewish denomination), "jüdischer Konfession" (Jewish denomination), "jüdischer Herkunft" (Jewish origin), "jüdischer Abstammung" (Jewish ancestry) or similar.

So, the curious statistician’s question is now of course how often are the above expressions used in comparison with combining the same expressions with "muslimisch" (Muslim) or "christlich" (Christian). As a totally scientific experiment I searched all of them in Google (in Germany with language set to German). I always used the expression in quotes and in the correct spelling and case-ending. I haven’t looked at the returned pages at all, only the count of pages found. Here are some results:

X jüdische/r/n X (Jewish X) muslimische/r/n X (Muslim X) christliche/r/n X (Christian)
Mitbürger (fellow citizen) 30.400 16.300 605
Bürger (citizen) 31.700 3.380 2.570
Glaubens (faith) 141.000 69.200 402.000
Bekenntnisses (denomination) 3.090 5.990 7.510
Konfession (denomination) 8.750 1.070 3.890
Herkunft (origin) 96.400 8.170 6.330
Person … Herkunft (person of … origin) 530 1 1
Menschen … Herkunft (human beings of … origin) 4.730 2.910 36
Abstammung (ancestry) 63.200 2.160 1.140
Jude (Jew) Moslem (Muslim) Christ (Christian)
73.200.000 10.700.000 344.000.000

So, surprisingly, Jews are most often actually just "Jews". Next comes the Jewish "origin" and "ancestry", where we can also see that the vast majority of overall uses is in combination with "Jewish", it is not used with other religions. Which sort or makes sense because only Jews claims to be a people as well as a religion, but which also may leave a taste of racism. What I had expected to be the winner, "fellow citizens", is used often, but just "citizens" is nearly as frequent. Muslims have it worse there. And finally, defining Jews by faith seems to be the least common, at least in comparison to doing the same for other faiths.

I don’t claim this to have any significance in terms of actual research, but maybe someone found it interesting.

PS: Hat tip to Juna in Darf man eigentlich Jude sagen for discussing the same question.

Well-meaning is the opposite of good

Yesterday I talked to some well-meaning elderly lady at an event and it made me so angry that I have to write about it. We were talking about interfaith discussions where she is involved and at some point she asked me:

"So how did you develop an interest in … the Jewish … let me say, religion?"

I looked at her a bit confused, I guess, so she added:

"Well, you cannot be born that way. And [some representative of some community] said you have to be born that way."

I hate when people assume that because of my name or because of my looks I cannot be Jewish. I hate it when someone denies my identity as a convert and declares conversion to be impossible. And I hate Jewish "officials" or those taken to speak for the community who misrepresent Judaism. So I tried to explain to her that it definitely is possible to convert, only very hard in some places, when there is no Jewish infrastructure to speak of. I don’t think she listened.

Next step was then to go over to anti-semitism – as a self-declared interfaith-dialogue-oriented person she probably would reject any association with anti-semitism, but what am I supposed to think when confronted with this statement:

Well Jesus was Jewish, this is now recognized by the church, and I think it is very important to learn about the roots of the church. But what the Israelis do, that is of course a problem.

Whatever the connection between these two sentences was supposed to be. I tried to at least get the point across that not all Jews are Israelis, but she kept interrupting me with:

Well, these camps for the Palestinians, this is not ok.

That was the point when I simply left. I didn’t want to get into a long discussion about Israel with a clueless person who doesn’t listen.

Afterwards of course I was angry at myself for leaving. I should at least asked what she thinks who build the camps, I should have asked her what she thinks of the French reaction to the terror in Paris and why it is wrong when the Israelis do the same thing. But I cannot fight every fight, sometimes I have to protect my emotional well-being and just leave. People are so stupid!!!!

Non-Jews in Halacha

Probably every modern Jew grapples with issues where the Talmud and the passed down traditions simply do not go together with our modern sensibilities. One of these issues is the treatment and the status of non-Jews. Anti-semites love to cite derogatory statements about non-Jews from the Talmud and they do not even need to invent them, twist them or cite them out of context. The statements are there and in some places the attitude seems to be there as well (I do not personally know any such people, but some such statements have made the news). This has bothered and continues to bother me a lot. I have been raised in an environment where respect for every human being has been one of the highest values, also it is a personal issue, as my family and most of my friends are non-Jews.

I was glad to discover last week the article Jews and Gentiles on Shabbat: A Rationalist Perspective on the Rationalist Medical Halacha blog which addresses the topic in the context of saving a non-Jew’s life on Shabat. The article is very long, but absolutely worth the read. The author brings many sources that support the view that we are required to treat gentiles the same way as we treat Jews. The same way Islam has a category for people from other monotheistic religions (called "dhimmi" I believe), Jewish tradition has the category of "ba’alei haDat" (people of religion). He cites the Meiri (Menachem Meiri, a 13th century rabbi?) who reasons that a society of ba’alei haDat is moral and just and would have the same status as Jews in halacha. Two other possible ways are to include all monotheistic non-Jews in the categories of "Bnei Noach" (the children of Noach, those who follow the seven laws of Noach, including a justice system and monotheism), or "Ger Toshav" (righteous gentile).

In both cases, the categories require believe in the one G-d, so the next part of the article talks about non-monotheists (Hindus, Buddhists, Atheists, etc). Basically, like pretty much all people from his time period, the Meiri found it inconceivable that a just and moral society could be formed on any basis other than monotheism. This is why the category was chosen this way. But the issue is not really the belief. So if there were a just and moral society created by non-monotheists, the people living in it would receive the status of "Ba’alei haDat" and would be considered equal to Jews. And I think we agree that most societies on our planet are moral and just.

The above is my summary of my own imperfect understanding of the article. I lack much of the background in Talmud and halacha, so please read the original article.

The terror is coming to Europe

For many of my fellow Europeans, terror has suddenly become a reality. It’s not the first terror attack in Europe, but this time it has made terror real in a way that the previous attacks haven’t (at least judging by the reaction of people around me). People ask themselves whether they should do this or that. Tourists return from Paris in panic.

What will this mean for Israel? My boyfriend hopes that it will make the world understand Israel better, but I doubt it. I see double standards everywhere. France is bombing Syria in vengeance for Friday’s attacks, hitting civilians. How would the world react if this were Israel doing the bombing? The Muslim leaders in Europe are finally taking position against terror. Why didn’t they do that when the victims were "only" Jews, Christians or Yesidis? Solidarity with France is everywhere. Where is the solidarity with the terror victims of Lebanon (44 dead last Thursday) or Russia (224 dead two weeks ago), not to mention Israel? I don’t really think anything will change.

What will this mean for the Jews in Europe? The year 2015 started for my community with soldiers and machine guns in front of the synagogue because of the January attacks in Paris. I haven’t been there last Shabat, but I guess they are back. Will Europeans turn against Muslims? Or the refugees? And in the end against everything foreign, including the Jews (who after all because of Israel are responsible for everything in the Middle East)?

And finally, what will it mean for Europe? Will it turn into a mess of small paranoid, xenophobic, nationalist states? Will it be able to handle a constant threat and still uphold the values of freedom, democracy and all that? Will we have big-brother-type surveillance all around? How many people actually trust in Europe and have positive associations with it?

According to an Urban legend, a Chinese curse says "May you live in interesting times" — I fear we are living in interesting times indeed.

Hundreds of Proofs of God’s Existence [fun]

Hundreds of Proofs of God’s Existence – Enjoy!

Some favourites:

COSMOLOGICAL ARGUMENT, a.k.a. FIRST CAUSE ARGUMENT (I)
(1) If I say something must have a cause, it has a cause.
(2) I say the universe must have a cause.
(3) Therefore, the universe has a cause.
(4) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM DESIGN, a.k.a. GOD OF THE GAPS, a.k.a. TELEOLOGICAL ARGUMENT (I)
(1) Check out the world/universe/giraffe. Isn’t it complex?
(2) Only God could have made them so complex.
(3) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM HISTORY
(1) The Bible is true.
(2) Therefore, the Bible is historical fact.
(3) The Bible says that God exists.
(4) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM SHAME
(1) The Bible showed a group of people performing embarassing actions.
(2) It must be true if the book describes negative events.
(3) Therefore, the Bible is describing historical events.
(4) Therefore, God exists.

ARGUMENT FROM HALF A WING
(1) Half of a wing is useless!
(2) Therefore, God exists.

Reading the news

I’m just sad when reading the news. Or angry and sad. Why? One example from today:

Israel und die Palästinensergebiete werden seit Wochen von neuer Gewalt erschüttert. Bislang wurden knapp 50 Palästinenser sowie ein arabischer und acht jüdische Israelis getötet.
(Erneute Messerattacke in Israel, Tagesschau 22.10.2015)

Translation:

For weeks, Israel and the Palestinian territories have been unsettled by a new wave of violence. To this date, nearly 50 Palestinians, one Arab Israeli and eight Jewish Israelis have been killed.

What they don’t mention is that the 50 Palestinians were mostly killed while they were attacking others and the killed Israelis were mostly just random people going about their business. The image that the news paint is more along the lines of "both sides kill each other" and "as always, there are more Palestinians killed". I don’t even have the energy to talk to people about it any more, I’m so tired of it all.

Labels and boxes

About two weeks ago I was hiking in the mountains with a group. I walked somewhat behind the group. Two men walked in the opposite direction and stopped to briefly talk to our group (in English, none of the group realized they were Israelis). Before I reached the group, the men continued their walk towards me. When they passed me, one of them greeted me with "ma nishma" ("how are you" in Hebrew). I was confused, but automatically answered "hakol beseder" ("all is fine" in Hebrew). He must have seen my confused look and explained that he saw me and just thought I had to be a Jew in with my skirt and headscarf (no visible star of David or any Hebrew writing that day). I answered something in the direction of "only to Israelis" and we went our separate ways.

This is the first time somebody has spoken to me in Hebrew spontaneously on the street just because I look like a Jew. I felt (in this order)

  1. Happy that I was able to carry out a conversation in Hebrew.
  2. Proud that I was recognized as a member of the tribe by others.
  3. Embarrassed that my way of dressing apparently is so stereotypical.
  4. Worried that today might be some holiday that I had forgotten, that they’d know there is no kosher restaurant anywhere near, …

I am not sure what exactly I was worried about. If I was hiking on a holiday, so were they. If I had no possibility of eating kosher food, neither had they. But they didn’t look religious, so they wouldn’t care. Whereas I looked religious and that sort of thing should have been important for me. I guess I was afraid they’d call me a hypocrite for looking the way I do, but behaving in a way that doesn’t fit. Which is sort of true, I dress more orthodox than I behave. For example I wear a headcovering like an orthodox woman would, but eat vegetarian food in nonkosher restaurants which most orthodox Jew wouldn’t do. Does that make me a hypocrite?

Little Mosque S1E8 – The Archdeacon Cometh

The Archdeacon is coming to evaluate the Anglican church. To avoid the church getting shut down, the Muslims decide to fake being Anglican and come to the service on Sunday. Of course the Archdeacon finds out, but he is in favor of the "interfaith experiment" – as long as it brings in money.

Best quote:

Sarah: Don’t we have a New Testament hanging around somewhere around here?
Yasir: New Testament?
Sarah: Yeah or an Old Testament?
Yasir: If we had a new testament surely I would have thrown the old one.

If this were a Jewish congregation instead of a Muslim one, there are several questions: May a Jew go to an Anglican service? May he pretend to be Christian? And how convincing would he be?

I’m afraid the answer to the first question is most probably no. There are some orthodox Jews who do not enter churches at all, not even for a concert or to admire the art and architecture. Many Jews will in general enter churches, but not attend a Christian service. Some will attend services, for example the (orthodox) then-Chief Rabbi Jonathan Sacks generated some uproar when he attended the wedding service of Prince William in a church. There might be quite a few people who would attend a service for the wedding of a friend or family member, but to attend some regular Sunday service to save the Anglican church? I don’t think so.

As far as pretending to be Christian goes, there might be an issue of "marit ayin", giving a false impression. I’m not entirely sure the concept is applicable here, as usually it is discussed in contexts where something that is technically allowed could give a false impression of what a religious Jew is allowed to do. So for example if a man with a kippah walks into a non-kosher restaurant, an observer could think that it is allowed for religious Jews to eat there. Or if you as a known kosher-keeping Jew serve meat in a sauce that looks like milk. As in the case under discussion there is no "identifyable Jew" involved, I’m not sure marit ayin applies, but I am no rabbi. There might also be other issues with pretending to be a Christian.

Next question, if we assume for dramatical reasons that a Jewish community decides to attend Reverend Magee’s service, would they be able to put on a convincing performance? Well, kippot are easier to hide than headscarves. But (orthodox) Jewish services are much more disorganized and have less of this "awed silence" than Christian ones, I guess there would be more talking among the congregation than the Archdeacon expects. Also singing with an organ, loudly speaking whole prayers in unison and sitting and standing all at the same time will be unfamiliar and could go wrong. I’m not sure if Anglicans kneel, if they do this would present a halachic problem. Also, do Anglicans say the Credo aloud? No Jew would do that, ever (some might maybe sing songs that mention Jesus or Mary, but saying "I believe in Jesus"? No way!).

So, while it would be equally fun to watch a Jewish "Christian" congregation, it would be pretty unrealistic, at least if we take an orthodox community as the example. For a bit of background reading on opinions about Jews in churches you can read Is a Jew permitted to enter a church […]? on JewishValuesOnline.

Little Mosque S1E7 – Playing with Fire

A (non-Muslim) fireman hits on Rayyan. Yasir, Baber and Amaar are concerned about this. Out of annoyance, Rayyan goes on a date with the guy, but realizes Islam is too important to her to date non-Muslims.

Best quote:

Yasser: What kind of normal person has any interest in Islam?

[Indeed the same can be said about Judaism – especially if you have crazy people like Baber running around representing it. I actually think Rayyan handles the interest in Islam pretty well, she must have lots of practice with questions from outsiders.]

Being part of a religious minority that insists on marrying people from the same faith has the disadvantage that it’s nearly impossible to find a partner – simply because there isn’t anyone to even consider. I’m not sure how many members Mercy mosque is supposed to have, but probably there is no unmarried man in the age range suitable for Rayyan (besides Amaar). That sucks.

So what do you do? I think every young person in that situation has at least considered dating somebody from outside the faith [though to be fair to Rayyan, he is the one who initiates the whole thing and she rejects his advances several times in the beginning]. Especially if your parents and others freak out about the mere possibility and try to "save" you. Luckily for Yasir and the rest, she decides after a very short time that her faith is too important for her to consider dating a non-Muslim. I guess this is the result all parents of Jewish children wish for when they tell their children about the importance of marrying a Jew. Why is this the one important thing? Yasir is not really that religious, why is it so important for him that his daughter marries a Muslim? Especially when he himself didn’t (well, he married someone who converted for him, half points?). I don’t know. But I do know why he got his wish, why Rayyan decided to only date Muslims from now on: Because Islam actually means something to her, it is an important part of her daily life. So how can we prevent intermarriage? Make Judaism relevant for our children so that they cannot imagine living with someone who doesn’t share this part of their life [and move somewhere where they can actually find a Jewish partner].