Identity, Israel, Mishegas, Religion

This Just In: Fackenheim's Grandson Declared Treyf

Sitting down?¬† According to a recent Jerusalem Post report, Yossi Fackenheim, grandson of famed theologian Emil Fackenheim (right) has had his conversion revoked by a Jerusalem Rabbinical Court judge. This is the same Emil Fackenheim, it should be pointed out, who survived the Holocaust and who famously urged Jews to transmit their heritage lest they grant Hitler a “posthumous victory.”
Apparently Yossi’s mother was not Jewish at the time of his birth, but she later converted. He himself was converted as well at the age of two by an orthodox rabbinical court in Toronto. Now that he is seeking a get, however, the Jerusalem court is declaring him treyf because he was too young to have made a “conscious decision” to convert and because he “never adhered to an orthodox lifestyle.”
If all this isn’t surreal enough for you, check out this priceless eyewitness report of the court proceedings:

(The) judge began to ask Yossi what he does for a living. Yossi told him that he was a Shakespearean actor. The judge responded that Shakespeare was anti-Semitic. We all thought he was referring to a Merchant of Venice. There was an attempt to convince him that in other plays Shakespeare came off as philo-Semitic.
But we quickly realized that he was not referring to Shakespeare’s work. He said that all goyim are anti-Semites. Then he turned to Yossi and said, “you aren’t Jewish either.” The implication was clear.

Oh what fools these mortal rabbis be…

8 thoughts on “This Just In: Fackenheim's Grandson Declared Treyf

  1. Funny story and all, but I don’t find it more notable because the person in question is Fackenheim’s grandson; for the purposes of marriage and divorce in the state of Israel, one’s grandparents are unimportant. Maybe the state of Israel should get out of the religion business…

  2. I don’t know anything about this case beside what was written. It seems very unusual to “revoke” someone being a Jew. I don’t know what physical court can strip a Jew of his soul… Perhaps they said that the original conversion is not valid, and that no Jewish soul was granted/given in the first place. Anyway, such a decision is very problematic. We should remember that often those sitting on Rabbinic courts, particularly in Israel, for some reason, are there more out of privilege and politics than ability and wisdom.
    That said, I don’t understand why someone would wish to convert and join the Jewish people if they reject the basic premises of Jewish peoplehood, encapsulated by Jewish tradition and service. It’s one thing for a Jew to not be observant of certain traditions – they remain Jewish whether they like it or not – but another for someone to “wish” to be Jewish, without taking upon themselves completely the spiritual burden of our people.

  3. And again, for the purposes of marriage and divorce in the state of Israel, one’s coming from “Jewish stock” is unimportant, except when the “stock” in question is a mother with a valid ketubah or other forms of documentary evidence – and, as Yossi’s mother’s example shows, even that is often not sufficient.
    Perhaps the state of Israel should get out of the religion business.

  4. Yossi Fackenheim is the son of Emile Fackenheim. When one writes for the the illumination of others, one strains for accuracy. This is such an important fact I do not know how you could have got it wrong. Emile Fackenheim’s entire life was about striving for Jewish unity between secular and religious after the Holocaust. The story is profound- the fact you raised it is important- your failure to read carefully the story and transmit it with accuracy ought to lead you to take greater care in your writing and lead you to question what is your motivation for writing- illumination or some other motivation. I do not mean to be harsh- it is just that many of us are increasingly troubled by blogging and internet reporting as leading to a demise of the attention to detail- grandson- son- what does it matter-? well to to Yossi it matters a great deal- in your haste to score points against the Rabbis, you diminish Yossi’s being, his identity and who he is. If your concern was with Yossi, which it should be in part, then you ought not to have been careless with a pretty important part of his identity. The Rabbis purported to take one part of his identity away- you in your zeal to discredit them, have done the same.

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