Memo to all rabbis, bishops, priests, preachers who train clerics: A good Jew, Catholic, or Protestant never tells someone else that he is not a Jew or Christian, because he disagrees with his politics or morality. Ever! The only time clergy has a right to determine whether someone is a Jew, is for Bris, Bat/Bar Mitzvah purposes, marriage, burial, participating in a synagogue religious practice or synagogue membership; the only time clergy has a right to determine whether someone is a Christian is similarly related to church religious practice.
In the late seventies, I was teaching Hebrew School at an Orthodox Synagogue in the Bronx. The name of another Orthodox rabbi came up in conversation. “He’s no Jew,” exclaimed the rabbi with whom I worked. More than a modicum of disgust and disdain could be discerned in his voice. However callow I may have been at the time, I knew with all my heart that the rabbi with whom I worked, in addition to having a reputation of being hot headed and saying stupid things, “misspoke”, big time!
Clergy! Wake up and smell the smoke of the freshly extinguished Havdalah candle! Do you think that the early Church fathers or even contemporary Christian clergy could/can always tolerate the views and behavior of all of their worshipers? Aren’t the doors of the church open to all, sinners and saints alike, as well as the vast majority who are neither complete sinners nor total saints? Isn’t it a shanda for a minister, priest, bishop, etc. to come out with statements as far as what qualifies a person to be a Christian, unless it’s in the realm of theology, birth, or conversion? Doesn’t the same hold true for rabbis? If Moses, in his darkest hour had wished for an eleventh plague with which he would make every attempt to persuade HaShem to smite the Israelites, why should contemporary rabbis feel they have the right to determine who is a Jew just because they don’t like the way the individual treats his wife or children, or both? And should say, Morris Rabinowitz, a fictitious member of equally fictitious Congregation Shaarei Tzorres, be exceedingly frugal, despite his ample wealth – does that give his rabbi the right to say “Morris Rabinowitz is no Jew”, even though Congregation Shaarei Tzorres might very well be in dire financial straits? Morris Rabinowitz may be a lot of things, but he’s still a Jew…much to the chagrin of many of his fellow Jews and perhaps even his own family.
There’s a certain irony when clergy dares to cast aspersions upon the Christianity or Jewishness of the member of one’s faith outside the realms of theology. In many cases, it makes the clergy look bad and turns the chastised into a victim. It is in no way unusual for those of us who are products of our culture, while fundamentally agreeing with the clerical assessment to hastily add, “But he (the cleric) shouldn’t have come out publicly and said that.” One would do well to ask: What has the minister, priest or rabbi accomplished with his assessment?
If Jewish history has taught us anything, it’s that it makes no different to the murderous enemy whether the rabbi thought that a certain member of the community qualified as a Jew because of his politics or morality. To the murderous enemy, we were all Jews and those who were unfortunate enough to become victims all met the same fate, saint and sinner alike. With western civilization living under the threat of Isis or other murderous Moslems, Christian clerics would do well to realize that when it comes to so called “martyrs” beheading Christians, it makes no difference to these “martyrs” whether the soon to be beheaded meets the criteria of his or her minister, priest, bishop, cardinal or even the Holy See, as to who is a Christian.
Memo to all rabbis, bishops, priests, preachers who train clerics: Commit the following teaching to memory and make sure that your students commit it to memory as well: Chachamim, Hiz’haru b’divreichem! Wise ones! Exercise extreme caution with your words!