Skip to comments.[Laura Schlessinger] Dr. Laura Renounces Jewish Orthodoxy
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
Forward, Aug. 15, 2003
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."
I posted this for Freepers who are like her show. Do not direct any comments about her to me because I know next to nothing about her.
Amen. What a sad and poignant article. I'm only an occasional listener and I missed this. Thanks very much for posting it.
It appears Laura's search for the meaning of life will continue on another path, in another place. I wish her well.
How sad that she chooses to reject her religion by the faxes her fans and listeners send her. It would seem her committment--or lack thereof--to Judaism is predicated on her fan base.
Thank you for doing so much to educate people regarding God's law. I have learned a great deal from your show, and try to share this knowledge with as many people as I can. When someone tries to defend the homosexual lifestyle, for example, I simply remind them that Leviticus 18:22 clearly states it to be an abomination. End of debate.
I do need some advice from you, however, regarding some of the other specific laws and how to apply them.
1. When I burn a bull on the altar as a sacrifice, I know it creates a pleasing odor for the Lord-Lev 1:9. The problem is my neighbors. They claim the odor is not pleasing to them. Should I smite them?
2. I would like to sell my daughter into slavery, as sanctioned in Exodus 21:7. In this day and age, what do you think would be a fair price for her?
3. I know that I am allowed no contact with a woman while she is in her period of menstrual unseemliness-Lev. 15:19-24. The problem is, how do I tell? I have tried asking, but most women take offense.
4. Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims that this applies to Mexicans, but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?
5. I have a neighbor who insists on working on the Sabbath. Exodus 3:2 clearly states he should be put to death. Am I morally obligated to kill him myself?
6. A friend of mine feels that even though eating shellfish is an abomination-Lev. 11:10, it is a lesser abomination than homosexuality. I don't agree can you settle this?
7. Lev. 21:20 states that I may not approach the altar of God if I have a defect in my sight. I have to admit that I wear reading glasses. Does my vision have to be 20/20, or is there some wiggle room here?
8. Most of my male friends get their hair trimmed, including the hair around their temples, even though this is expressly forbidden by Lev. 19:27. How should they die?
9. I know from Lev. 11:6-8 that touching the skin of a dead pig makes me unclean, but may I still play football if I wear gloves?
10. My uncle has a farm. He violates Lev 19:19 by planting two different crops in the same field, as does his wife by wearing a garment made of two different kinds of thread (cotton/polyester blend). He also tends to curse and blaspheme a lot. Is it really necessary that we go to all the trouble of getting the whole town together to shone them? Lev 24:10-16. Couldn't we just burn them to death at a private family affair like we do with people who sleep with their in-laws? (Lev.20: 14)
I know you have studied these things extensively, so I am confident you can help. Thanks you again for reminding us that God's word is eternal and unchanging.
Your devoted disciple and adoring fan,
It's the other way around. Dr. Laura is better off not being saddled with Judaism. Judaism and Jews have long tended toward the direction of the Episcopal church and Marxism. Jews and Jdaism tend to chase the latest fad in both an attempt to be fashionable and in the belief that if the ludicrous is acceptable they are building a society in which Jews and Judaism will not be subjected to criticism.<p. It used to irk me that when playboy Hugh Hefner was selling his Playboy Philosophy he did so with the support of panels of rabbis.
Her doctorate is in areas of physiology. Your comments lead me to believe there is a toruch in you of what you are trying to smear her with.
Correct. She also went back for graduate study in the counseling area.
Not necessarily. When you get consisten irrational criticism from a group of people it's time to realize your philosopy is at odds with that groups. Therefore, go ye from among them and be ye separate.