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Wednesday, October 17, 2007


And you shall love the stranger...

A lot of people have been forwarding this article from last sunday's NY Times. It's an interesting 'inside look' at the wealthy Syrian Jewish community of Brooklyn and Deal.

They're shrewd businesspeople. They're successful. They take care of their own. They're very dedicated to family and community - all of that is great. But they're also very patriarchal -- men work while women make sure to look fabulous, take care of the kids, and cook like gourmet chefs.

And, they have a strict policy against accepting converts into the community. No gerim allowed. Ever.

First introduced in 1935, this 'takana' has been re-issued and re-ratified over the years. According to the article, more than 200 Syrian rabbis signed on the most recent version.

I'm not a rabbi, by any stretch, but don't we have a Torah obligation to welcome and love gerim? And most important, to accept them and not hold their past against them? Isn't it a direct violation of several Torah laws to issue and enforce this takana?

Granted, it's not particularly "Torah-true" to emphasize material wealth and superficial beauty, either, but that never stopped anybody on either side of the Ashkenaz/Sefarad divide. Also, plenty of people, families, and communities can have racist attitudes and consider gerim "inferior," but to codify it as law seems brazenly and unrepentantly wrong.

Is this discussed someplace? Because I'd love to get their rationale.

Is this discussed someplace?! Sure! How about Yishayau Perek III (pasuk 10 onwards).
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