I've spent the past few days debating whether or not this topic is appropriate for this website. Obviously, I decided I should post it here, rather than my personal journal. So, with that in mind, I want to put out a disclaimer now. This post is about religion. If you don't believe in religion, fine, whatever. I really don't want to debate it with you. There are plenty of other blogs in which you can do that. So, if you do comment by making some comment about how all religion is irrational or stupid or whatever, I'm going to ignore you. You've been warned.
I've been trying to learn more about Jewish culture on my road to conversion. I've also been looking for people facing the same things I am, and I found one in Southern California. She has a blog on livejournal, and I've been following it for a few weeks now. In one entry a few days (maybe a week or so) ago, she mentioned, in passing, a ruling that the Chief Rabbinical court made regarding Deaf (or deaf, the article makes no distinction) converts.
Basically, Rabbi Avraham Sherman of the Chief Rabbinical Court said that because the deaf are not required to fulfill the commandments given to Jews, and a conversion means that one is embracing those commandments, the deaf cannot convert.
I've read a wide variety of opinions on this ruling. One says that Rabbi Sherman only said this because the deaf woman in question may have only wanted to convert so as to marry her Jewish boyfriend. That, of course, is a lot more important in Israel than it is in the US, where interfaith marriages are abundant (relatively speaking). Another says that his idea of why people convert is all wrong; people convert in order to be Jewish, not for the purpose of fulfilling the commandments. Since being Jewish involves a lot more than just the commandments... the language, history, traditions, food, etc... someone who isn't obligated to fulfill the commandments can still be Jewish. This was the attitude taken by the minority opinion in the ruling.
Others highlight other issues with the ruling: what if a Jewish couple adopts a deaf child, can that child not be considered Jewish, then? Additionally, women are exempt from many of the commandments (the 'positive' commandments having to be done at a certain time). So, if the cornerstone of conversion is following the commandments, and women are exempt from some of them, does that mean women can't convert, then? That would make it mighty difficult for the Jewish population to grow, then, since you're only born a Jew if your mother is a Jew (by orthodox and conservative standards, at least. My understanding is that Reform will consider you Jewish if either of your parents are Jewish).
Furthermore, the Deaf now have the ability to communicate with the hearing, something that was not possible when the Bible was originally written (primarily because it was difficult to teach the deaf to read and write). So, what was considered a major handicap before is now only a minor one.
This ruling interested me thus in two ways. Having just come out of an ASL class, where we spent a good deal of time learning about Deaf Culture, it seems stupid that the court would restrict conversion based on such a trivial impediment. I consider being Deaf about the same as missing an arm or leg... you may be at a disadvantage compared to a full-bodied person, but you can do just about all the same things. The second was obviously the relation to Judaism, and the interest I've taken in it.
With so many people outraged at the verdict (I have yet to see one person who agrees with it), I wonder if it won't be stricken down sooner or later. Then again, I don't know how the Chief Rabbinical Court is run.
This is a quote from progressiveu.org by user mvenus929.
I do not know if this has made it onto AD, since I have been gone for a while and only thought to return when I got completely ticked at this ruling. While I don't fully agree with the writer's point of view on being Deaf, I will let that to the side and sit on the ruling as against the ruling.