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."
Let's see.......you probably plagiarized that some place.
Hang in, gal.
That was good info.
Yes..homosexuality is not only condemned as sin in Leviticus, but also in the New Testament and EVERYWHERE it is mentioned in scripture.
However many of the other commandments you mention are addressed to and intended only for the theocratic state of Israel and have nothing to do with universal moral codes.
Who wrote this letter? A five year old?
Now, what kind of person would I be if I did that?
Where do you think I'm from, the greater Miami Area?
The advice I gave was to be forthright and apologize, which she did, just like you d...
Oh. I guess you didn't.
So Jews are "non-believers"? Only your way is the REAL way? Your posts get more revealing of your TRUE nature with every one you make. :)
Please don't be so darn sensitive...there are facts that are undenieable...Jews are non-believers in what Christians believe...if you want to twist that to call me a bigot, so be it.
Christians also believe in one God, but in the form of the Trinity....3 Persons...One God....Father...Son...Holy Spirit.
Right on. I know plenty of people who would benefit from a 2 x 4 to the head. More Dr. Laura, less Oprah.
In any event, your position is irrational if you accept the notion of military or governmental action. It's true that D-Day, for example, was the work of individuals but most people accept the concept that the Allies(as a group)landed at Normandy. Hence, individual Syrian mercenaries may have scourged Jesus and pounded the nails but they did so, as soldiers do, while "Following Orders" of the Roman Governor who spoke for the Roman Empire.
It is the Romans who killed Christ in the sense that I've outlined, a sense that most people would understand.
As for what I know, I'll make use of it when I choose to do so.
But, after a year of suffering through the well documented and endless false accusations, innuendo and unfounded personal attacks made by you here at FR, on other forums and by e-mail, I consider this statement and your recent actions to be threatening to my personal well being. I am now going to formally request that you cease posting to me.
Were you in too much of a rush to actually cite the primer? How is this a logical excuse?
If you continue to harass me, I will take action.
You're posting in a public forum. You may get responses when you do things like post the work of others without attribution. An easily avoidable problem, if you think about it.
Take any action you like, there has been no harassment by me, nor any threat at all to your personal well-being.
To say the least.
From what I've read she changes with the wind on just about every issue under the sun. ....Fairly unusual for a person of her age. Searching and changing is perfectly fine at any age, of course. But if one does it enough times and then speaks of one's brand new position with an air of self righteousness (as is Laura's wont), I find it difficult to take such a person seriously.
And there is also doctrine (I think it's the Catholic Chruch's Good Works Doctrine) that one can only reach heaven through Jesus. However, by doing Good Works, one has accepted Jesus and his sacrifice, even if one doesn't know who Jesus is.
Well, the Pharasees were Jewish leaders, of sort. And they tried to convince the Roman authorities that Jesus had committed treason against Caeser, because only the Romans could put someone to death. So the Jewish leaders certainly played their part. But that doesn't mean "the Jews" killed Jesus.
In a sense, it always seeemed to me that Jesus committed suicide. He wanted to die on the cross, no? He had the opportunity to avoid the cross, simply by telling the truth. If He'd simply told Pilate that, no, He wasn't calling for revolution against Caeser, He could have gotten off, no?
BTW, while I look forward to Mel Gibson's The Passion, I thought Scorsese's Last Temptation Of Christ was the most powerfully pro-Christian film I've ever seen. The first film in which Jesus was not a caricature.
I don't think God would "need" to use the royal we, but the King James Bible is an interpretation that was written in royal times. Is it "we" in other editions?
I personally favor the interpretation that God was speaking to the animals. The notion that Man is made in the image of both God and beast seems to gel nicely with the rest of the Bible's message.
Radio's Dennis Prager once said that the Christian Trinity qualified as one God under Judaism. Prager added that this was lucky, since under Jewish law, Jews are forbidden from doing business with pagans (polytheists). So without the Trinity, Christians might be regarded as polytheists, and religious Jews would be forbidden from doing business with them.
Why, then, did they burn heretics?
Probably something they read in Exodus or Leviticus. "Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live," or some other not so nice stuff in there about stoning or smiting.
Seriously, Christianity has Jewish roots -- for good and bad. So let's not point fingers.
You need lessons in reading comprehension.
I never said God NEEDED help from the animals. God chose to make Man part beast, part divine.
Are YOU saying that Man is a god, the equal of God? No? Then you must agree with me, that Man has a carnal nature. In which case, who made Man part animal? God, obviously.
I say the "US" and "OUR" he is talking about is Jesus....you say he was talking to the animals!!! Are you perhaps Jewish?
YOU think YOU are GOD! You think you are made ENTIRELY in the image of God and Jesus, and nothing else. Gee, I thought Man had a dark, animal nature. But I guess not.
Are you perhaps Jewish?
I don't know if anyone is perhaps anything. I think religion is a choice.
I'm a lapsed Catholic. I have 12 years of Catholic education under my belt.
And being human, I'm also an animal. It's strange, since you assure me that I am ENTIRELY divine, the equal of God and Jesus, but as near as I can tell, I'm at least part animal.
That is an interesting comment. It does not ring familiar. That is, it does not remotely sound familiar to me. Would you have links to sources available?
I doubt that you were EVER Catholic. You know so little of the religion.
No mortal is divine? Then it seems you think that Man IS made in the image of God AND animals. Make up your mind!
Are you learning-disabled, or do you just enjoy putting words into people's mouths? I never said man was divine or and animal. I said (one more time!) that Man is made in the image of both God and animal.
That's what that Genesis passage means, when God says "let us make Man in OUR image, after OUR likeness." He's talking to animals, so Man is made in both image of God and animal.
You're the one claiming to be made entirely in the image of God and Jesus, hence, divine.