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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: lelio
ROFLMAO!!
161 posted on 08/17/2003 6:30:59 AM PDT by honeygrl
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To: SerpentDove
This is what she said:

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."

Your interpretation of what she said is different from mine. Unless you're psychic, she's talking about faxes and letters from her fans, saying "[b]y and large the faxes from Christians have been very loving, very supportive" but faxes from members of her own religion are described this way" "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."

162 posted on 08/17/2003 6:38:38 AM PDT by Catspaw
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To: RLK
I perfectly understood what the person was saying. If you can't figure it out, you are the one with the problem. A typo is not some mortal sin.
163 posted on 08/17/2003 6:44:39 AM PDT by honeygrl
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To: Yeti
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.

Pets!? Pets!? I wasn't thinking of keeping them for pets! Pets are a lot of trouble--you have to feed them, exercise them, take them to the vet, groom them, etc. ad infinitum. Dogs and horses are enough in that department, thanks. No, I was thinking of keeping the Canadians as slaves, for goodness' sake. How do they work out as field hands and house slaves? Any good?

164 posted on 08/17/2003 7:29:23 AM PDT by Capriole (Foi vainquera)
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To: Antoninus
Your just pissed cause I put the Catholics to the hammer sometimes. Ever publish an apologia on the fraud that is the Donation of Constantine?
165 posted on 08/17/2003 8:18:10 AM PDT by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorisim by visiting www.johnathangaltfilms.com)
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To: veronica
And religion is about one's relationship with God, not about one's relationship with one's fanbase.

Certainly, but the way we see God, most oft, is by observing His followers. She appears to have seen more of God--his mercy, judgment, and grace--through her Christian audience than through her Jewish audience.

Maybe Dr. Laura's Jewish listeners were more disturbed by her hypocrisy. Since Jews tend to be live and let live, perhaps her moralistic tone, which turned out to be a facade, grated on them.

Anyone whose life becomes public property is going to have some measure of his/her hypocrisy exposed. Hypocrisy is with us. It doesn't follow, however, that unrestricted "live and let live" is a logical response to hypocrisy. Serial monogamy and children left behind without parents would be wrong even if it were a message expounded by an adulterer. If any sizeable portion of her Jewish audience were arguing against God's law, her response was understandable.
166 posted on 08/17/2003 8:37:47 AM PDT by farmer18th
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To: farmer18th
Anyone whose life becomes public property is going to have some measure of his/her hypocrisy exposed.

Only if one sets oneself up as a paragon of virtue, which Dr. Laura did, all the while making exceptions for herself regarding rules she imperiously dictated to others. Her religious conversion to Judaism was obviously shallow and made for the wrong reasons, *as will the next one be*, as she searches for something that will bring her the EGO gratification she appears to so desperately require.

167 posted on 08/17/2003 8:46:56 AM PDT by veronica (http://www.petitiononline.com/KN50711/petition.html - Confirm Daniel Pipes to USIPF ......sign this!)
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To: Catspaw
Perhaps you missed this:

"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. Trust me, I've talked to rabbis, I've read, I've prayed, I've agonized and I came to this place anyway (emphasis mine)..."

Quite a difference from your assumption that she just read a few emails, that and her faith was so shallow, she changed it based on the emails alone. You are making quite an accusation with such flimsy evidence as a tiny snippet from an article.

Do you really think that is fair? I don't.

168 posted on 08/17/2003 8:49:32 AM PDT by SerpentDove (Each post focus-group tested for maximum wallop.)
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To: veronica
I have never understood how Christians can find Judasim to be anything but the Father of their own religion. And Christian anti-semitism is cognitive dissonance in the extreme.

I pretty much share your take on Dr. Laura. She really did preach a good game, but I'm shocked at the words she chose to defend her disavowal of Judasim. FEELINGS? I mean, really.

Nobody can count the number of hapless callers who began their on-air plea for help w/her, lamenting that they weren't feeling good about such and such, only to be lambasted by her telling them that she wasn't interested in their feelings, as feelings were transitory, and not substantive enough to base a decision on.

And while I don't want to too harshly judger her on the occurrence w/her mother, it is shocking that she could have remained deceased for so long without anyone in the family knowing about it. She has counseled even children who were abused, and whose Mothers enabled the abuse to continue by their living in denial, to make sure that their parents had the basics that were necessary for life. Talk about not passing the smell test!

I remember her saying once that the Torah taught that just because something was true, that was not license to verbalize it. Yet she seemed to take such relish in calling women SLUT! And that's what it was that was always so off-putting about her, she seemed to so enjoy meting out the lashes. That's what made her on-air personality so objectionable to me, and to many others I would guess.

169 posted on 08/17/2003 9:23:52 AM PDT by AlbionGirl (A kite flies highest against the wind, not with it. - Winston Churchill)
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To: AlbionGirl
Excellent post. My sentiments exactly, but expressed better than my posts were perhaps. :)
170 posted on 08/17/2003 9:39:57 AM PDT by veronica (http://www.petitiononline.com/KN50711/petition.html - Confirm Daniel Pipes to USIPF ......sign this!)
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To: AlbionGirl
People who calls her program already know she will come down on them. If you married a man who left his wife for
you and you wanted sympathy from her when he did the same thing to you then you out of luck. Notice cheating husbands never call, it' s always the victims. Lying, cheating men know better.
171 posted on 08/17/2003 9:54:40 AM PDT by Chantal
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To: exodus
Not to put too fine a point on it, and certainly not necessarily to contradict you, but the Romans killed Christ. They used Syrian mercenaries to drive the nails. The Jewish authorities were perhaps not blameless but the killing was done to satisfy a Roman sentence that the Jews of the time were prohibited from imposing.

Any historical guilt, as irrational as that concept is, must be born by the heirs to the Roman empire or the Syrian mercenaries if anybody must.

172 posted on 08/17/2003 10:19:44 AM PDT by muir_redwoods
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To: Destro
I never knew she was a a half jewish (non-Jew) who underwent a conversion.

I would have sworn she was dyed in the wool Jewish.

A bit shrill but more right than wrong.
173 posted on 08/17/2003 10:23:25 AM PDT by wardaddy (lost in a knuckledragger wilderness)
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To: Destro

>>I am not a fan of Dr. Laura's radio show and would rather get root canal than listen to her. <<

LOL. I posted something similar and got volumes of hatemail on FR cuz of it. ROFL.

174 posted on 08/17/2003 10:28:07 AM PDT by Malsua
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To: veronica
Only if one sets oneself up as a paragon of virtue,

Between you and I and the gatepost, Dr. Laura does come across as imperious and a bit impetuous in her on air presence. But... she runs an ADVICE talk show. Ever listen to Rush? Tom Leykis? (Gag) Larry King? All of these folks have a kill button in front of them and they give themselves the last word on everything. That's the nature of the format. Dr. Laura deals with terribly confused and befogged callers who usually need a rhetorical slap in the face. Her advice, nevertheless--and I imagine her personal life--have moved in a consistent direction--towards objectivity, God's law, and political conservatism. She's right most of the time--and that galls the licentious left. That's a good thing.
175 posted on 08/17/2003 10:38:46 AM PDT by farmer18th
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To: exodus
Theoretical religion is not the exclusive provence of religious leaders, farmer18th. I study the theoretical basis of religion on my own, and if I decide a point in a certain way, no "leader" is going to change my mind based upon his authority to proclaim the truth. He'd better be able to show me why his understanding is better than mine.

My sentiments exactly. I was merely indicating that applied theology is what occurs during the week, and that, however eloquent the theoretical theologians may be, they can't make a herd of sickly sheep look healthy. "By ther fruits you shall know them." (Divorcing Baptists take note..)
176 posted on 08/17/2003 10:45:26 AM PDT by farmer18th
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To: Destro
"Born to a Jewish father and an Italian Catholic mother"

She's actually NOT Jewish. To be Jewish her mother must be Jewish. Her mother is Catholic.

177 posted on 08/17/2003 10:49:52 AM PDT by nmh
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To: nmh; wardaddy
Well in reality your wrong on a technicality. Jewish is a religion not an ethnicity. The term when translated is Hebrew. Your mother needs to be Hebrew to be considered a Hebrew. In the English language Jewish has become a catch all for Hebrew.
178 posted on 08/17/2003 11:08:43 AM PDT by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorisim by visiting www.johnathangaltfilms.com)
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To: Destro
I think in reality, Jewish has become an "identity" as much as anything. Most Jews I know are agnostic but practice the history on holidays.

The religion is Judaism.
179 posted on 08/17/2003 11:13:25 AM PDT by wardaddy (lost in a knuckledragger wilderness)
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To: wardaddy
Exactly--The religion is Judaism but not an ethnicity. Not even the Old Testament or the Torah claims that you are a Jew by birth because you have to attain that through ritual circumsion, studies and other ritual rites like Bar'Mitzvah. What has gotten mistranslated over time in English is that you need to have your mother be "Hebrew" to be "Hebrew" ypurself.

Or something like that.

180 posted on 08/17/2003 11:21:20 AM PDT by Destro (Know your enemy! Help fight Islamic terrorisim by visiting www.johnathangaltfilms.com)
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