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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: rwfromkansas
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.

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

I don't believe that Jesus and God are the same person.

I am saved regardless of that unimportant detail. I've accepted God into my life. That, and loving my neighbors as I love myself, is all that is required.

141 posted on 08/16/2003 10:23:00 PM PDT by exodus
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To: Ann Archy; veronica
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.

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

Judism is a complete religion. Jews are the chosen people of God. That was true in Jesus's time, and it's still true today. It has not changed.

142 posted on 08/16/2003 10:29:47 PM PDT by exodus
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To: Catspaw
>>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.<<

She said nothing of the kind. She said plainly that her sincere practice of Judaism din't fulfill a need she had. She was quite clear about that.

You are on dangerous ground when you begin passing judgment on someone's deeply-held spiritual convictions.

143 posted on 08/16/2003 10:39:19 PM PDT by SerpentDove (Each post focus-group tested for maximum wallop.)
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To: bethelgrad
I agree. A tone of "grace" would be just what she needs.

I had to quit listening to her, because every time I did, I walked away depressed by what a rotten person I am.

There's a difference between conviction and condemnation.

;-)
144 posted on 08/16/2003 10:45:00 PM PDT by SerpentDove (Each post focus-group tested for maximum wallop.)
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To: Capriole
Frankly I have no idea what the answer is and I'm hoping Dr. Laura will tell us that it's actually okay to own Canadians.

I had a couple Canadians, but I traded them for a bass guitar and a scanner. They make good pets -- just keep 'em out of the sun and don't let 'em get drunk.

145 posted on 08/16/2003 10:49:12 PM PDT by Yeti
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To: farmer18th
Jesus, before His death and resurrection:

John 14: Let not your heart be troubled: believe in God, believe also in me.

In my Father's house are many mansions; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

And if I go and prepare a place for you, I come again, and will receive you unto myself; that where I am, there ye may be also.

And whither I go, ye know the way.

Thomas saith unto him, Lord, we know not whither thou goest; how know we the way?

Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, and the truth, and the life: no one cometh unto the Father, but by me.

---

;-)
146 posted on 08/16/2003 11:04:36 PM PDT by SerpentDove (Each post focus-group tested for maximum wallop.)
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To: exodus
You are still waiting for your Messiah, but how will you recognize him??? You have no record of linage from David.

Jews were the chosen people....that's the people God sent his only SON, Jesus to....to tell them the Good News of the Kingdom of heaven. "No one comes to ME unless the FATHER sends them."

Have you ever thought about the early Christians??? 10 out of the 11 apostles were martyred?? Beheaded....Crucified upside down...etc. Do you think these people followed Christ because it was EASY? They all saw it as the Prophets words coming to fulfillment...

147 posted on 08/16/2003 11:06:48 PM PDT by Ann Archy
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To: veronica
>>Her conversion sounds more like a career move than a deeply-felt religious experience. <<

Your posts on this thread have been brash, pompous, hateful and arrogant.

Never mind that you have no business presuming you can judge the spiritual condition of someone else. Have you considered common etiquette? It might really suit you.
148 posted on 08/16/2003 11:06:56 PM PDT by SerpentDove (Each post focus-group tested for maximum wallop.)
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To: shhrubbery!
Lilith magamize is a feminist attack on Judaism.
149 posted on 08/16/2003 11:42:17 PM PDT by rmlew ("Millions for defense, but not one cent for tribute.")
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bookmark
150 posted on 08/16/2003 11:54:01 PM PDT by lonevoice
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To: exodus
uninportant detail?

If you don't believe who Jesus says He is clearly in Scripture, how can you be saved?

It sure as heck isn't an unimportant detail.

If Jesus was just the Son, it takes a lot away from what is so amazing about the Cross and you don't fully understand the depth of the gospel.

Hey, you seem like a good person and I don't want to harp on this....but you need to think it over. I hope you have a good night and great Sunday.
151 posted on 08/17/2003 12:30:54 AM PDT by rwfromkansas (http://www.collegemedianews.com *some interesting radio news reports here; check it out*)
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To: exodus
Why the venom?

I don't understand your question, Salman.

If you meant no venom, I apologize. We Jews do tend to be (understandably) touchy.

152 posted on 08/17/2003 3:25:02 AM PDT by Salman (Mickey Akbar)
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To: Ann Archy
(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)

Not to get into a theological argument, which will probably happen, now, but the Bible says our G-d is one. I would flinch in same way if he praised Zeus.

If there was a Jesus, he was here to lead the gentiles to Judaism, and vice versa.
153 posted on 08/17/2003 5:10:29 AM PDT by Daveinyork
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To: Ann Archy
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.

Judaism is a complete religion, but you are fully entitled to have another belief system if you wish to. As I stated, Jews are not taught to be arrogant about their religion, merely to practice it. That's why we don't seek to convert.

154 posted on 08/17/2003 5:20:47 AM PDT by veronica (http://www.petitiononline.com/KN50711/petition.html - Confirm Daniel Pipes to USIPF ......sign this!)
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To: Commie Basher
Even so, a disproportionately large number of librtarians are also atheists......


So true and usually they try and deny this. I will flat out say that legalizing poisons such as heroin, crack and meth is a Godless act. The devil loves to see people shoot up dope and become more open to his imprecations.
155 posted on 08/17/2003 5:29:50 AM PDT by dennisw (G_d is at war with Amalek for all generations)
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To: SerpentDove
If you notice, I have not attacked any poster in this thread, nor did I say one negative word about Christianity, nor did I try and convince anyone that Judaism is for them. All I did was state my opinon of the article, and Dr. Laura, and give my opinion of Islam, when asked. If you don't agree with my opinion fine with me. If you feel compelled to attack me, that is your problem.

Never mind that you have no business presuming you can judge the spiritual condition of someone else.

This article was posted to engender debate. It's about religion. As I stated, I found Dr. Laura to be hypocrital and preachy long before this, I am entitled to my opinon. :)

Don't like it, don't read it.

156 posted on 08/17/2003 5:32:52 AM PDT by veronica (http://www.petitiononline.com/KN50711/petition.html - Confirm Daniel Pipes to USIPF ......sign this!)
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To: exodus
Jews are the chosen people of God.

An atheist libertarian (who is also part Jewish) told me that Spinoza said that there can be more than one chosen people, and that even if someone is chosen, they might only be chosen for a specific task at a specific period in history. I thought that was an interesting perspective.

157 posted on 08/17/2003 6:13:30 AM PDT by Commie Basher
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To: rmlew
Lilith magamize is a feminist attack on Judaism.

BTW, isn't Lilith the first wife of Adam? Where does that come from? I don't think it's in the Bible.

158 posted on 08/17/2003 6:16:17 AM PDT by Commie Basher
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To: Daveinyork
Not to get into a theological argument, which will probably happen, now, but the Bible says our G-d is one. I would flinch in same way if he praised Zeus.

FWIW, the New Agers take the opposite tact. They say that God is one, in that he is in everything, as in "I am God." So if you were to praise Zeus, or yourself, or the sun, you're really praising God, since he's in everything. Pantheism, I think it's called.

159 posted on 08/17/2003 6:18:51 AM PDT by Commie Basher
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To: Destro
"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. "

Poor orthodox jews... They should talk Lieberman into renouncing he faith too just so he's not the only one with camera time trying to speak for them.
160 posted on 08/17/2003 6:22:06 AM PDT by honeygrl
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