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."
Including, as I've (unfortunately) seen in photos circulating around the web, strip.
Hardly anyone, other than someone who wants to get married....and my guess is that they cross their fingers when doing it, convert to Judaism. You have a true religion, just not a complete one. Truth is truth.....it's not meant to offend.
So WHO do you think US, and "OUR" meant...as in OUR Likeness? It's Jesus he was talking about.
"With all due respect" what incredible arrogance and bigotry. It's clear you have no idea what Judaism is about. Though Judaism does not seek converts, many people in fact, do convert to Judaism. Without any evangelizing from members of the Jewish faith.
Just one example, though I should not even bother to respond to your absurd post.
On June 19, 1998, I converted to Judaism, ending 31 years of spiritual wandering and starting another wonderful journey that will take me the rest of my life to complete, if it ever truly is complete.
The conversion process was wonderful and magical! I had the opportunity to actively open up a whole new world for myself, to explore my thoughts and feelings on many issues and finally find peace with myself. What brought me here? Why did I choose Judaism? Well, read on.
I was born a Protestant Christian. Until about sixth or seventh grade, I believed strongly that Jesus was the Messiah. As I got older, however, I found that I could not accept the divinity of Jesus, or that believing "incorrectly" would send someone to Hell. I had started my break with Christianity. Over time I learned a little about many belief systems, but none fit. I felt lost and lonely and outside. This began to change when I met my fiancee, Ali. My conversion to Judaism was not a condition of our marriage, for which I feel blessed, but she wanted to have a Jewish home and raise Jewish children. Since I didn't have any attachment to a particular faith, I agreed and started to learn something about Judaism so I could be a good husband and father. But I had no intention of converting.
In spring 1997, I spent my first Passover Seder with Ali's family. It was interesting. It impressed me that the emphasis was not completely on the Exodus from Egypt. Resisting oppression and fighting injustice on behalf of all humanity was heavily emphasized.
I thought, "Hey. Now here's a religion that believes in doing something and making a difference!" Later that year, I joined her and her family for High Holy Day services. The High Holy Days are Rosh Hashanah (the New Year) and Yom Kippur (the Day of Atonement), a joyous-somber mix in which you celebrate having lived another year, reflect on your conduct in the past year and atone for your misdeeds.
Two things touched me deeply. The first was that I felt completely comfortable and at home in the synagogue from the moment I walked in. This was someplace that was safe, peaceful, warm and welcoming. No church had made me feel this way in a long time. ---snip---
I was deeply impressed that in Judaism we are empowered, with God's help, to overcome our own sins. There is no taint of any "original sin," and we are not inherently evil. Rather, we are inclined to both good and evil, and it is very much up to us which path we choose. We are ultimately responsible for our own actions. We can't put them off on anyone or anything else.
In fact, according to Jewish teaching, God will not forgive you for a sin against another person until you have first sincerely sought forgiveness from the wronged party. Talk about making you mindful of how you treat others!
In late 1997, I started taking formal classes on Judaism. I still had no conscious intent to convert. My only goal was to learn as much as I could for Ali and for our future family. But I quickly realized that I had found my way into a group of people who valued critical intellectual examination. There is no one required belief about God, God's nature or our relationship with God. There is also no one view of, or preoccupation with, what comes after the death of our physical bodies. Jewish tradition supports ideas ranging from a classical heaven, to reincarnation, to anything in between. Suddenly all of my questions about religion, which had been very unappreciated in Christianity, were very much appreciated. In fact, the one who questions is respected far more than the one who just goes along for the ride.
Finally, I was impressed with the Jewish emphasis on making this world a better place, on focusing on our roles and responsibility here and now, in this life known as tikkun olam, "repairing the world." Helping those in need is an obligation. In April 1998, I participated in an event at my synagogue called Mitzvah Day. There was a huge turnout, and we split up into teams to go do various things. Some went to help repair homes for the poor, some worked in a food bank and shelter for the homeless. I helped an older couple with yard and housework. As a Jew, I feel that I am finally able to do concrete, meaningful things to make a positive difference. I never really knew how I could do this before. It wasn't until I was involved with my synagogue that I had help with this.
Whatever path you follow, and wherever it takes you, I pray that you find all the happiness, contentment and peace that I have found with Judaism. B'Shalom go in peace.
This illustrates not only some of the meaning of Judaism, but the utter lack of arrogance with which Jews practice their faith.
However, in modern Feminist literature, she has gone from Demon to heroin.
She has also been inspiration for a leftist feminist re-interpretation of the Bible. http://www.lilithinstitute.com/
Individuals killed Christ. It's as irrational to say "the Romans" killed Christ as to say "the Jews" killed Christ. Individuals of various ethnicities participated, but they remained individuals.
I don't think most modern Jews accept that (except when they don't want to consider someone they're ashamed of to be Jewish, like Dr. Laura). I've met any number of Jews in NY and LA, the liberal modern sort, who regard themselves as Jewish or half-Jewish irrespective of which parent is Jewish.
BTW, what reason for this rule? A talk radio caller, after discovering her own Jewish roots, claimed to have studied the issue. She said the rule exists because in ancient and medieval times, rape was common. Tribes and warriors would routinely raid each others' villages. So because rape was so common, it was often impossible to tell who the father was, but if you had a Jewish mother, you were certainly at least part Jewish.
Don't know if it's true, but it's an interesting theory.
So WHO do you think US, and "OUR" meant...as in OUR Likeness? It's Jesus he was talking about.
I've heard various other theories:
(1) God was using the "royal we." Monarchs often refer to themselves in the plural. For instance, speaking solely for herself, a queen might say, "We are not amused."
(2) God was speaking to the animals. Man is made in the image of BOTH God and beast. Man has a beastly nature, but a divine spark which allows him to know it, and choose to rise above it.
(3) God was an ancient astronaut, and was speaking to his fellow UFO flight mates.
It's only been in recent history that Jews have been given the benefit of the doubt in this regard.
If you don't know what I'm talking about, Sabertooth, it's only because you deny history. The Inquisition and the Holocost were justified by attributing Jesus's death to the Jews.
Let's look again at your original statement at #84, as I quoted it...
"She chose Judaism even though most Christians "know" that Jews killed Christ.
The word you chose was "know," which is the present tense.
Here's the greater context of that sentence, in the paragraph in which it originally appeared...Dr. Laura chose the Jewish religion while working in a Christian nation. She chose Judaism even though most Christians "know" that Jews killed Christ. That took moral courage. Her choice of Judism demonstrates that she uses neither political nor monetary considerations in her search for truth.
Clearly, you weren't referring to the Historical errors of various Christian denominations in the past, you were attempting to describe the attitudes of present day Christians, falsely stating that "most Christians "know" that Jews killed Christ," at the time of Dr. Laura's quite recent conversion to Jewish orthodoxy. Your misattribution of anti-Semitism to present-day Christians was offensive.
Can you say H*Y*P*O*C*R*I*T*E?
At this point I have more respect for J-Lo. She never pretended to be religious.
I thought I'd do it for you, since I noticed the omission, and am sure you wouldn't want the taint of plagiarism hanging over one of your posts.
She sure had real deep religious convictions.