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[Laura Schlessinger] Dr. Laura Renounces Jewish Orthodoxy
religionnewsblog.com ^ | 08/13/2003 | LISA KEYS

Posted on 08/15/2003 5:10:35 PM PDT by Destro

[Laura Schlessinger] Dr. Laura Renounces Jewish Orthodoxy

Item 3999 • Posted: 08/13/2003 • Weblogged by Religion News Blog

http://www.religionnewsblog.com/archives/00003999.html

Forward, Aug. 15, 2003

http://www.forward.com/

By LISA KEYS, FORWARD STAFF

With 12 million Americans tuning in daily, controversial syndicated radio- show host Laura Schlessinger — known to all as "Dr. Laura" — is arguably the best-known Orthodox Jew in the United States.

Rather, she was.

In a little-noticed pronouncement, Schlessinger — who very publicly converted to Judaism five years ago — opened her radio show, "The Dr. Laura Schlessinger Program," with the revelation that she will no longer practice Judaism. Although Schlessinger says she still "considers" herself Jewish, "My identifying with this entity and my fulfilling the rituals, etcetera, of the entity — that has ended."

And with that, Orthodox Judaism lost its loudest mouthpiece and its most prominent "rabbi," as it were, with the largest American pulpit — with the exception of, perhaps, presidential candidate Joseph Lieberman.

Syndicated nationally since 1994, Schlessinger has won over listeners with her hard-edged advice and razor-sharp tongue. Yet her brash style, not to mention her espousal of a strict "moral health" code — including controversial condemnations of homosexuality as "a biological error" — put her at odds with wide swaths of the Jewish community. Many found her moralist, black-and-white, you're-with-me-or-against-me stance more representative of evangelical Christians than of Jews, who were often among her most outspoken critics.

Nonetheless, even Schlessinger's detractors were shocked by the news. "I can't tell you how significant this is," said fellow Jewish media star and "Kosher Sex" author Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, who has sparred with Schlessinger over her comments on homosexuality. "Dr. Laura always equated her morals and ethics with Jewish morals and ethics. That placed the American Jewish community in a real fix; on the one hand, she made Judaism very popular, on the other, she made it vilified and hated by many people."

"I think Judaism is better off not being saddled and directly associated with Dr. Laura's means," he said, adding, "although she is still a Jew."

Schlessinger began her program last Tuesday by noting that, prior to each broadcast, she spends an hour reading faxes from fans and listeners. "By and large the faxes from Christians have been very loving, very supportive," she said. "From my own religion, I have either gotten nothing, which is 99% of it, or two of the nastiest letters I have gotten in a long time. I guess that's my point — I don't get much back. Not much warmth coming back."

Schlessinger even hinted at a possible turn to Christianity — a move that, radio insiders say, would elevate her career far beyond the 300 stations that currently syndicate her show. "I have envied all my Christian friends who really, universally, deeply feel loved by God," she said. "They use the name Jesus when they refer to God... that was a mystery, being connected to God."

In her 25 years on radio, Schlessinger said she was moved "time and time again" by listeners who wrote and described that they had "joined a church, felt loved by God and that was my anchor."

Michael Medved, a conservative, nationally syndicated, radio talk-show host, celebrated the Sabbath with Schlessinger about a year ago. "We had talked about having Shabbat again," he said. When he heard of Schlessinger's defection, "My first response was to pick up the phone and try and expedite [the visit]."

"I think it's a shame," he said. "Though, of course, she was controversial in some eyes, she is one of the most admired women in America. Having the most admired woman in America speak joyously about Passover, Shabbat and Jewish lifestyle events — all of that was quite wonderful."

Of her conversion to Judaism, "I felt that I was putting out a tremendous amount toward that mission, that end, and not feeling return, not feeling connected, not feeling that inspired," Schlessinger said. "Trust me, I've talked to rabbis, I've read, I've prayed, I've agonized and I came to this place anyway — which is not exactly back to the beginning, but more in that direction than not."

"Was Laura naive to think, 'gosh, I'll be the queen of the Jews?' Yes, she was naive," said Medved. "Part of that comes from not growing up in the Jewish community. It's so rare to find a celebrity embrace of Jewish religiosity of any kind, I can see why Laura would think her very public embrace would have led to a more enthusiastic reaction. But given all the crosscurrents and controversies that divide our community, I can see why that expectation was wrong."

In 2001, despite the controversy surrounding her, the National Council of Young Israel honored Schlessinger for her "traditional American values." Rabbi Pesach Lerner, the executive director of Young Israel, was surprised by Schlessinger's defection but declined to comment on it.

Born to a Jewish father and an Italian Catholic mother, Schlessinger was raised in Brooklyn in a home that was without religion. Approximately 10 years ago, prompted by a question from her son during a viewing of a Holocaust documentary, Schlessinger, 56, began exploring her Jewish roots.

Yet last week's revelation was far from the first time Schlessinger has been wracked with religious doubts. Lacking a religious background, she has spent a lifetime searching for that missing something, and "each thing I tried left me feeling empty," she told Philadelphia's Inside magazine in 1998. Having already undergone a Conservative conversion in 1997, after a debacle with the Jewish Federation of Greater Dallas — a now-legendary affair in which she allegedly rejected three hotel suites, wouldn't ride in taxis and offended the entire audience at a $500 plate fundraiser — Schlessinger was tempted to give up on Judaism completely, but decided to undergo an Orthodox conversion instead.

"A large part of me wanted to make a statement after that experience, to stand even taller about Jewish values," she told the Jewish Telegraphic Agency in 2001. "Besides, if you don't have an Orthodox conversion, you can't get buried in Israel. I want to be close to ground zero."

Rabbi Reuven Bulka, a fellow radio host who presided over Schlessinger's Orthodox conversion, said he was "stunned" by his friend's 180-degree turn. "It didn't make my day, shall we say."

"She obviously has a tremendous impact," said the congregational rabbi from Ottawa, Ont. "When she went through the evolutionary stage of her journey, a lot of people were inspired by her own excitement about it. I can't tell you I know 100 people who became Sabbath observant because of it, but certainly it was a feel-good message for a lot of people. That these feel-good messages won't be coming anymore is certainly a loss."

Other Jews within earshot are far from sad to see her go. "I don't think this is any great loss to the Jewish universe," said Susan Weidman Schneider, the executive editor of Lilith magazine. "I don't think she was a particularly effective or useful spokesperson. She doubtless alienated more people than she drew toward Judaism."

"So, let her say she's no longer a practicing Jew," she added. "Let her be just a garden variety, anti-choice conservative."

"I still see myself as a Jew," Schlessinger said on the air last week. "But the spiritual journey and that direction, as hardcore as I was at it, just didn't fulfill something in me that I needed."

"All I know is, in my experiences with her — which have been considerable — I haven't known her to do anything less than 100%," Bulka said. "Anything she did, she did fully. The scary thing is if she said she's leaving, it's very forboding."

"I thought she was a tough little lady — I didn't think she'd chicken out so easily," said Rabbi Isaac Levy, the chairman of Jews for Morality, who has staunchly supported Schlessinger's conservative agenda. "She's gotten a couple of kicks in the chin and she's succumbed to it."

"It seems incredible that an ethicist and moralist of her standing would invoke such shallow arguments," said Boteach, who was en route to an appearance on the titillating syndicated television show "Blind Date." "I never got great applause from my work from the Jewish community — but my people are my people, whether they love or hate me."


TOPICS: Culture/Society; Extended News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: drlaura; jewishorthodoxy; lauraschlessinger; spiritualjourney
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To: veronica
"While I always defending her right to express her views, I have also always found Dr. Laura to be a preachy, judgemental shrew. Now it turns out she is a hypocrite on many levels.

She preaches family values, but ends up having posed nude, to say nothing of letting her mother die alone in an apartment, rotting away for weeks, undiscovered.

Now we find out her religious beliefs are paper-thin, and she' shopping for another way. She's a phoney."

Doesn't calling someone "judgemental" and they being judgemental about them make you a hypocrite?
Which is funny because you also declared her a hypocrite.

121 posted on 08/16/2003 9:22:31 PM PDT by TXFireman
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To: Destro
That is more than I can say for your posts. At least you remember reading mine.

I'd rather be unremembered than remembered as a dingbat.
122 posted on 08/16/2003 9:36:19 PM PDT by Antoninus (In hoc signo, vinces )
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To: Destro
"So, let her say she's no longer a practicing Jew," she [Schneider of 'Lilith' magazine]added. "Let her be just a garden variety, anti-choice conservative."

That's why they hate her. She's pro-life. That's what it's all about.

It's why they hate Bush too.

In fact, being pro-abortion is so central to the lives of most liberals, Jewish or not, that it's what EVERYTHING is about; it's the ulterior motive in all they do, from protesting the appointment of conservative judges to opposing the war against terrorism.

123 posted on 08/16/2003 9:40:35 PM PDT by shhrubbery!
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To: Catspaw
Oh gee, you are here. What a friggin' surprise.
124 posted on 08/16/2003 9:46:27 PM PDT by rwfromkansas (http://www.collegemedianews.com *some interesting radio news reports here; check it out*)
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To: RLK
He's always here to play games.
125 posted on 08/16/2003 9:46:44 PM PDT by rwfromkansas (http://www.collegemedianews.com *some interesting radio news reports here; check it out*)
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To: veronica
Oh, so you apparently don't believe you have the true religion?

Then you are pathetic.
126 posted on 08/16/2003 9:49:43 PM PDT by rwfromkansas (http://www.collegemedianews.com *some interesting radio news reports here; check it out*)
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To: lelio
Shut up and think of some intelligent questions.
127 posted on 08/16/2003 9:52:41 PM PDT by rwfromkansas (http://www.collegemedianews.com *some interesting radio news reports here; check it out*)
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To: veronica
Sorry, she can't heal herself, and neither can you. You and her need the Great Physician.
128 posted on 08/16/2003 9:55:09 PM PDT by rwfromkansas (http://www.collegemedianews.com *some interesting radio news reports here; check it out*)
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To: exodus
Everyone killed Christ, including myself, though it is not common to truly realize that....we all had a hand in it.
129 posted on 08/16/2003 9:59:00 PM PDT by rwfromkansas (http://www.collegemedianews.com *some interesting radio news reports here; check it out*)
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To: McGavin999
Jesus is what's she's searching for.....the loving arms of Jesus. Knowing that someone DIED so that you may live is what she's searching for.
130 posted on 08/16/2003 10:01:00 PM PDT by Ann Archy
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To: exodus
The founding fathers were libertarian.

lol!!!!!!!!!

Stop me from laughing....this is the funniest thing I have heard all day!!!!!!!!

ROTFL!!!!

Oh you kill me with your humor.
131 posted on 08/16/2003 10:06:15 PM PDT by rwfromkansas (http://www.collegemedianews.com *some interesting radio news reports here; check it out*)
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To: rwfromkansas
Well, I thought I was being serious. :)
132 posted on 08/16/2003 10:07:48 PM PDT by exodus
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To: TXFireman; veronica
Doesn't calling someone "judgemental" and then being judgemental about them make you a hypocrite?

Which is funny because you also declared her a hypocrite.

133 posted on 08/16/2003 10:08:07 PM PDT by TXFireman
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To: Daveinyork
You said that you Flinch when your brother mentions Jesus....Why do you do that...I think it's very telling...and I think you know why you do it....yu will come to grips with it someday....God Willing.

You are waitig at the bus stop, but the bus came 2000 years ago, and those people got to their destination.

How will you know when the bus comes AGAIN???

Your brother could help you.

134 posted on 08/16/2003 10:14:37 PM PDT by Ann Archy
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To: TXFireman; carenot
Hello, TXFireman.

It's been a while since I've seen you, I believe on the CHIEF murder threads.

135 posted on 08/16/2003 10:15:47 PM PDT by exodus
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To: exodus
You are a saint according to the Bible.

Not the messed up modern usage of the term, but Biblically, you are if you are a believer.
136 posted on 08/16/2003 10:16:50 PM PDT by rwfromkansas (http://www.collegemedianews.com *some interesting radio news reports here; check it out*)
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To: veronica
Veronica....she didn't LET her mother die alone.....her mother lived alone and they were estranged. It's not like she took away her food and water, shut off her electricity and phone and padlockd the door!!! Give it up...you don't like her, but she's going to find something VERY important to her...her salvation.
137 posted on 08/16/2003 10:17:46 PM PDT by Ann Archy
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To: exodus
You are no Christian if you don't accept who Jesus said he was: "I and the Father are one."

Repent and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you shall be saved exodus.
138 posted on 08/16/2003 10:18:32 PM PDT by rwfromkansas (http://www.collegemedianews.com *some interesting radio news reports here; check it out*)
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To: rwfromkansas
You are a saint according to the Bible. Not the messed up modern usage of the term, but Biblically, you are if you are a believer.

***************

Neat. I can't wait to tell my mother.

She'll be so proud of me!

139 posted on 08/16/2003 10:19:29 PM PDT by exodus
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To: veronica
Incomplete is a good word. Christianity is the completion of Judaism. That's why it's called the Leap of Faith. We have taken that next step.
140 posted on 08/16/2003 10:20:13 PM PDT by Ann Archy
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