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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: veronica
What is a more basic element of any religion, than honor thy mother and father?

You would agree that a "father or mother" who required you to break the first commandment, or the second, or the third, forfeits the right to be honoured? We don't know the circumstances of that episode in her life, and--while I don't agree with every one of her on air pronouncements--she seems to be on the path to the truth. Judaism is an incomplete religion. She merely discovered that.
61 posted on 08/16/2003 5:28:42 AM PDT by farmer18th
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To: farmer18th
Judaism is an incomplete religion. She merely discovered that.

Glad to see you are not a religious bigot. /sarcasm

I would never say Christianity is not a complete religion, I would merely say it's not for me.

Then again, Judaism is not a religion that is into prosthletizing or seeks to convert.

62 posted on 08/16/2003 5:34:27 AM PDT by veronica (http://www.petitiononline.com/KN50711/petition.html - Confirm Daniel Pipes to USIPF ......sign this!)
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To: veronica
What is a more basic element of any religion, than honor thy mother and father? That most basic of human callings was beyond her ability to fulfill.

From what I have read, the meaning of that commandment in the original teachings is to honor them because they have given you life and supported you. There is no basis to "homor you mother and father" if they abandon you or physically or mentally abuse you. That would be honoring evil.

From things I have read about the situation, Dr. Laura's mother was at least mentally and emotionally abusive and some indications are that she may have been physically abusinve. Dr. Laura did the bibically compelled thing - she made certain that her mother's physical needs were taken care of and distanced herself and her family from the abuse.

Coming from a similar situation in our family between my wife and her mother, I can see why Dr. Laura did not want the poison in her life.

63 posted on 08/16/2003 5:34:57 AM PDT by Crusher138 (crush her? I don't even know her!)
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To: veronica
I would never say Christianity is not a complete religion, I would merely say it's not for me.

The problem here is that Christ Himself, by your definition, is a "religious bigot." When He said, "No man cometh unto the Father but by me," you either have to accept or reject that claim. Perhaps without vocalizing it, Dr. Laura is considering that claim?
64 posted on 08/16/2003 5:38:44 AM PDT by farmer18th
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To: Crusher138
Interesting, that if Dr. Laura's mother was abusive, IF that is so, that Dr. Laura in some sense became her mother. If in fact - There is no basis to "honor you mother and father" if they abandon you or physically or mentally abuse you. -- didn't Laura repeat her mother's sin by abandoning her? Shouldn't such a skilled therapist be able to make some sort of peace with her mother?

And to be honest, while Dr. Laura was telling the rest of the world how to live, should she not have been honest about her own life, and her own failings?

65 posted on 08/16/2003 5:40:03 AM PDT by veronica (http://www.petitiononline.com/KN50711/petition.html - Confirm Daniel Pipes to USIPF ......sign this!)
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To: farmer18th
There is really no debating with someone who thinks their way is the only way, as you apparently do.
66 posted on 08/16/2003 5:42:03 AM PDT by veronica (http://www.petitiononline.com/KN50711/petition.html - Confirm Daniel Pipes to USIPF ......sign this!)
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To: veronica
What is a more basic element of any religion, than honor thy mother and father?

This is true but I get the impression that Dr.Laura's mother was into a very unhealthy life style and had chosen herself to cut contact with both her children. There is only so much one can do for a person who is unwilling to receive or who is asking things of you that are unhealthy. For example if Dr. Laura's mom was a heroin addict should she have gone over and loaded her syringe. That might make mom happy but is that all one's life is about. Dr. Laura said that she and other family had sought on several occasions to get their Mom to seek psychiatric help. She refused. She cut off contact with her family. That's all mom's choice. Maybe in this case honoring her mother involved honoring her choice to have the live she made for herself. That it ended in tragedy may will be the consequences of her choice not that her children didn't honor her enough

67 posted on 08/16/2003 5:46:18 AM PDT by foolscap
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To: RLK
Judaism and Jews have long tended toward the direction of the Episcopal church and Marxism.

Not Orthodox Jews.

68 posted on 08/16/2003 5:51:06 AM PDT by Salman (Mickey Akbar)
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To: veronica
There is really no debating with someone who thinks their way is the only way, as you apparently do.

You've got me wrong. I know I make lots of mistakes. However, Christ claimed that "no man" comes to Father in Heaven "but by" Him. When someone makes an absolute claim, it's wrong, and false-hearted, to pretend the claim was not made. We can disagree, but--given the consequences--we shouldn't be too comfortable in that disagreement.
69 posted on 08/16/2003 5:51:23 AM PDT by farmer18th
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To: Destro
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."

Dr. Laura might want to look into Jews for Jesus


70 posted on 08/16/2003 6:01:06 AM PDT by Sabertooth (Viva la 187!)
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To: William Creel
No, it's the filmmaker, John.
71 posted on 08/16/2003 6:03:12 AM PDT by paulklenk (Freedom isn't free.)
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To: Sabertooth; dennisw
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."

Her conversion sounds more like a career move than a deeply-felt religious experience. She tried Judaism, but her Jewish fans were, apparently, not appropropriately sycophantic, so now she'll see if she gets the "proper respect" from her Christian fans. What a superficial lady.

72 posted on 08/16/2003 6:14:05 AM PDT by veronica (http://www.petitiononline.com/KN50711/petition.html - Confirm Daniel Pipes to USIPF ......sign this!)
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To: Crusher138
From things I have read about the situation, Dr. Laura's mother was at least mentally and emotionally abusive and some indications are that she may have been physically abusinve. Dr. Laura did the bibically compelled thing - she made certain that her mother's physical needs were taken care of and distanced herself and her family from the abuse.

In light your defense of Laura's abandonment of her "abusive" mother, which for the sake of this argument I will accept, it's interesting to note that this supposedly terrible mother was the Catholic parent, and that Laura's father was the Jewish parent.

73 posted on 08/16/2003 6:22:13 AM PDT by veronica (http://www.petitiononline.com/KN50711/petition.html - Confirm Daniel Pipes to USIPF ......sign this!)
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To: Antoninus; Destro
Maybe you can answer question #2 then:

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?
74 posted on 08/16/2003 6:44:13 AM PDT by lelio
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To: veronica
I don't know enough to draw any real conclusions. I listen to an hour or two of her show once or twice a month.

To my eyes there are a few subjects, like religious inclinations, or tastes in a mate, or the experience of grieving, where people are so publicly diffferent about matters that are so innately personal, that it's a wonder that we're all from the same species. It's a really random list, I know, but I think that is a nice reflection of the unpredictability of people. I like to give a lot of latitude in those areas.

Speaking of grieving, didn't Dr. Laura's estranged mother pass away in the last six months? I understand she was estranged by her own choice from her own family, not just Dr. Laura. Sometimes a painful situation like that can have blowback in other areas of our lives. Just a thought.


75 posted on 08/16/2003 6:55:54 AM PDT by Sabertooth (Viva la 187!)
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To: veronica
"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.".

The reason is obvious. Her audience has few Jewish listeners. By and large Jews are too liberal to appreciate her perspective. She seems to have a lot of committed Christians phone her up. If she becomes Christian she'll be more like her target audience. I'll bet in the next year or two she will come out as Christian.
76 posted on 08/16/2003 7:10:51 AM PDT by dennisw (G_d is at war with Amalek for all generations)
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To: dennisw
I'll bet in the next year or two she will come out as Christian.

I agree. For those of us who have listened to her, on and off, since she was the silent one at the "Meeting of the Mouths" on KFI, (meaning she was too shy to speak up in the presence of the Rush-master), it's apparent that her political and spiritual migration has been ongoing. Ever notice that most thinking people become more conservative and more Christian as time passes?
77 posted on 08/16/2003 7:18:18 AM PDT by farmer18th
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To: farmer18th; dennisw
Ever notice that most thinking people become more conservative and more Christian as time passes?

More conservative perhaps, not necessarily more Christian. There are many conservative Jews, more all the time.

And religion is about one's relationship with God, not about one's relationship with one's fanbase. 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.

78 posted on 08/16/2003 8:57:21 AM PDT by veronica (http://www.petitiononline.com/KN50711/petition.html - Confirm Daniel Pipes to USIPF ......sign this!)
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To: dennisw
If she becomes Christian she'll be more like her target audience.

So it's all about ratings...how sad for her. She's very confused. Physician - heal thyself.

79 posted on 08/16/2003 9:03:34 AM PDT by veronica (http://www.petitiononline.com/KN50711/petition.html - Confirm Daniel Pipes to USIPF ......sign this!)
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To: foolscap
Your post was probably the best thing I have read on this forum in 5 years. Thank you very much for taking the effort to share your well-thought out insight. I think my 18 year old daughter will get something out of it too.
Peace.
80 posted on 08/16/2003 11:23:49 AM PDT by truthkeeper
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