Randy's Corner Deli Library

18 November 2009

Germany's Nazi Exception

Constitutional Court OKs Curtailing of Free Speech

By Dietmar Hipp

Neo-Nazis gather in Wunsiedel in 2001 for a parade to honor Hitler deputy Rudolf Hess.

Neo-Nazis gather in Wunsiedel in 2001 for a parade to honor Hitler deputy Rudolf Hess.

Germany's constitution strongly and explicitly protects the freedom of speech. Still, the country's highest court has now said that -- given the injustice and horrors of the Nazi regime -- it is constitutional to make an exception that bans speech glorifying Hitler's ideology.

Wunsiedel is a small town of about 10,000 in the northeastern corner of Bavaria. Every year, on one particular day, this otherwise sleepy town is on high alert. In late August, thousands of people come here from all over Germany and abroad. Dressed in black, these neo-Nazis come to march in commemoration of Rudolf Hess, the Hitler deputy and convicted war criminal who has been buried here since 1987.

Some of the locals board up their houses and get out of town. Others bring banners to protest the parade and even block it with vehicles used for transporting liquid manure. In 2004, the town's mayor, Karl-Willi Beck, launched a campaign called "Wunsiedel is colorful, not brown." Together with town councilors, church officials and citizens, he tried to block the streets. A group of skinheads insulted him as a "traitor to his fatherland" and a "grave desecrator." The neo-Nazis threatened to run him out of town.

But, since 2005, he hasn't had to deal with the crowds. In that year, the Bundestag, the lower house of Germany's federal parliament, passed an amendment that strengthened the legal article dealing with incitement to hatred. Otto Shily, who was Germany's interior minister at the time, said that it was done "in solidarity with the democratic public of Wunsiedel." The amendment was meant to make it easier to outlaw neo-Nazi commemorative marches in Wunsiedel and elsewhere. The amendment worked. And, last year, the Federal Administrative Court confirmed the decision upholding a ban on such assemblies based on the new law.

Still, Jürgen Rieger, the recently deceased Hamburg-based lawyer and neo-Nazi who organized the Hess commemorations, was determined to keep marching. To do so, he placed his hope in Germany's Federal Constitutional Court, based in Karlsruhe. Sure, the judges had already dismissed a number of Rieger's expedited motions. But, in this case, they had expressly determined that the new ban "raised a series of difficult constitutional issues." However, they also felt that these were not the type of questions that could be dealt with in expedited proceedings.

Challenging the Amendment

Now, the Constitutional Court has finally decided that the strengthening of the article in the penal code is constitutional -- and that the administrative court's ban on such assemblies can logically follow from it. Although the judges have determined that Rieger's constitutional complaint is "unfounded," their decision, announced on Tuesday, also shows the enduring trickiness surrounding the fourth paragraph of Article 130 of the German Penal Code. That paragraph prescribes a sentence of up to three years for whoever "approves of, glorifies or justifies the violent and despotic rule of the National Socialists" in a way that "disturbs the public peace in a manner that violates the dignity of the victims."

In German law, if a complainant dies, a legal case is usually closed. Accordingly, Rieger's sudden death in October almost allowed the legal dispute to remain unanswered. But, in this case, the judges believed it was warranted to still deliver a judgment that was long in the making. It was their belief that, since the decision was meant to clarify a legal issue that "transcended the highly personal matter of the complainant" and applied to "a number of future gatherings," the decision had "a general constitutional significance."

Wrangling over Wunsiedel

Neo-Nazis held their first march to honor Rudolf Hess, their "martyr of the fatherland," in Wunsiedel in 1988. Two years later, the march saw violent confrontations between skinheads and counterdemonstrators. As a response, the gathering was outlawed in 1991. For years, various courts approved the ban.

But, beginning in 2000, Rieger was given the legal green light to start marching again. The increasingly astute lawyer was able to persuade the Constitutional Court with his arguments. In 2003, the court's justices determined, on the one hand, that there was "no indication" that the police were not able to carry out "their duties" related to preventing and combating individual criminal acts and, on the other hand, that "glorifying persons and ideologies of National Socialism" could not, in and of itself, be used to justify a ban on such gatherings.

Peter Seisser, a member of the Social Democrats (SPD) who represented Wunseidel's district in the state parliament at the time, was not impressed with the ruling. He said that -- according to its legal reasoning -- if it gave the go ahead for a march for Hess, then it couldn't forbid a public ceremony to commemorate Adolf Hitler. In early 2005, 40 prominent residents of Wunsiedel -- from state-level politicians to Catholic priests -- traveled to Berlin to ask members of the federal parliament specializing in domestic issues to draft new criminal legislation specifically tailored to Wunsiedel's particular situation. "They really pestered us," recalls Cornelie Sonntag-Wolgast, who chaired the Bundestag's Internal Affairs Committee at the time. "It was one of the major reasons we managed to get a majority to amend this law."

Legal Wranglings

The amendment made itself felt. Whether it was in Wunsiedel, Magdeburg, Aachen or Hanover, a whole series of demonstrations were outlawed for providing "sufficient indication" that events surrounding the gatherings would violate the newly amended law.

But, in the wake of the decision, there was also serious doubt about whether the strengthening of the penal code was constitutional. It's a doubt that has now actually been confirmed by the Constitutional Court.

According to the Basic Law, the name given to Germany's constitution, limitations of freedom of speech are only permitted when they are based on a "general law." In the case of this paragraph, however, the justices determined that it is not a "general law." What's more, earlier court decisions also hold that such a law cannot "be directed toward the expression of an opinion as such." Instead, it must serve to protect a "legal right per se, without regard for a certain opinion."

The Nazi Exception

Ulli Rühl is a Bremen-based expert on constitutional law and legal philosopher. Already during the process of drafting the law, he warned that, in constitutional terms, the proposed expansion of the law against incitement was very "borderline." As he saw it, "in point of fact," the law only applied to "adherents of old- or neo-Nazi ideologies," which automatically meant it wasn't "free of bias when it comes to opinions." And Rieger criticized the law on his Web site, saying things like: "Stalin killed over 30 million people, but he can be glorified."

Still, if you look at the reasoning of the Constitution Court in a certain way, you can see that the Germans are in no way trying to pass judgment on Stalin's crimes. Rather, the real issue here is the horror of Hitler's regime.

In a sense, the fact that Germany's Basic Law was meant to consciously and decisively make a break from the Nazi era means that, in its very essence, it is designed to explicitly forbid Nazi propaganda. As the judges put it, the Basic Law can "almost be understood as the exact opposite of the totalitarianism of the Nazi regime." For this reason, they claim, it is permissible to have "regulations that set limits on the propagandistic endorsement" of the Nazi regime and that this was permissible -- as an exceptional circumstance -- as a targeted restriction on one's freedom of speech.

When it comes to Rieger's argument that the march was only meant "to honor Rudolf Hess," the Federal Administrative Court had already delivered a decision that shot it down. According to that court's decision, a "reasonable observer" would have "clearly recognized" that the commemorative march -- if it were to ever be held again -- "would endorse the totality of the National Socialist regime without restriction."

Woman wearing tallit arrested at Western Wall


Randy Shiner

JERUSALEM (JTA) -- Jerusalem police arrested a woman praying at the Western Wall for wearing a tallit.

The woman, who was participating in Rosh Chodesh services, was arrested Wednesday based on an Israeli Supreme Court ruling that the public must dress according to the customs of the site, Israel Radio reported.

Police came to the site after the Women of the Wall group asked to read from a Torah scroll, according to reports. The group usually holds its services at Robinson's Arch, located near the Wall.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the Western Wall rabbi, called the group's actions Wednesday "an act of provocation that seeks to turn the Western Wall into disputed territory," according to reports.

The chairwoman of the women's group, Anat Hoffman, said it was the first time that a woman has been arrested at the Western Wall for donning a tallit. She identified the arrested woman as Nofrat Frenkel, a medical student from Beersheba.

13 November 2009

Dick Katz, 85, Jazzman of Many Gifts Over 6 Decades, Is Dead

November 13, 2009

Dick Katz, 85, Jazzman of Many Gifts Over 6 Decades, Is Dead

Dick Katz, a pianist, record producer, educator and writer whose knowledge of jazz from the stride-piano era to 1960s modernism made him a valuable presence on New York’s jazz scene for six decades, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 85.

The cause was lung cancer, said his son Jamie.

Mr. Katz’s piano idols were soloist royalty: Teddy Wilson, Art Tatum, Fats Waller. But he was a more reserved musician, finding his place somewhere between accompanist, arranger and subtle improviser.

One of his breakthrough moments was his role as pianist on the saxophonist and composer Benny Carter’s 1961 album “Further Definitions,” meshing with a first-class multigenerational crew including swing-era veterans and younger musicians. Another was his 1965 collaboration with the singer Helen Merrill, “The Feeling Is Mutual,” an arty, cooled-out album of jazz standards of which he was co-leader, arranger and producer.

Richard Aaron Katz, born in Baltimore on March 13, 1924, was already playing in local clubs there as a teenager before he left for the University of North Carolina to study music. He joined the Navy in 1942 and fought in the battle of Saipan; in 1946 he became a professional musician in New York.

While working for his father’s advertising agency, he studied at the Manhattan School of Music, where John Lewis, later of the Modern Jazz Quartet, was a fellow student. In 1950 he took private lessons with Wilson. By the early 1950s he was performing regularly with the clarinetist Tony Scott’s group at Minton’s Playhouse in Harlem and making a string of records with Mr. Scott, including “Music After Midnight” and “Jazz for G.I.’s.”

For several years in the mid-’50s, Mr. Katz played in the house rhythm section at the Cafe Bohemia in the West Village with the bassist Oscar Pettiford and the drummer Kenny Clarke, backing Miles Davis, among others. He also toured with the popular twin-trombone band led by J. J. Johnson and Kai Winding and played with the trumpeter Kenny Dorham’s Jazz Prophets.

His old friend Lewis helped Mr. Katz secure a record deal with Atlantic in 1958, which resulted in the album “Piano and Pen.” Through the ’50s and ‘60s he appeared frequently as a sideman, on records by the vocalist Carmen McRae, the saxophonist Sonny Rollins and others. Starting in the late ’60s, two of his most frequent collaborators were the trumpeter Roy Eldridge and the saxophonist Lee Konitz — brilliant players on opposite chronological sides of bebop, jazz’s great stylistic divide.

In 1966 Mr. Katz and the veteran record producer Orrin Keepnews founded the jazz label Milestone. Staying with the company until the early ’70s, he produced records by Mr. Konitz and others, as well as “Alone Together,” a highly regarded duet album by the guitarist Jim Hall and the bassist Ron Carter.

Beginning in the middle ‘80s Mr. Katz worked with the American Jazz Orchestra, a repertory ensemble directed by Lewis, and the saxophonist Loren Schoenberg’s big band. From the ’80s onward he taught at the New School, the Manhattan School of Music and Jazz at Lincoln Center.

Mr. Katz was also among a select group of jazz musicians who wrote well about their art. His astute essays about Davis and Tatum in The Jazz Review, published in 1959 and 1960, led to other writings, for books and album liner notes. He received Grammy Award nominations for the notes he wrote for “Jazz Piano: A Smithsonian Collection” (1990) and “The Complete Capitol Recordings of the Nat King Cole Trio” (1993).

Mr. Katz’s first marriage, to the former Edith Shapiro, ended in divorce. He is survived by his wife, the former Joan Seifer, as well as four sons — Jamie and Frank, of Manhattan; Jeffrey, of Washington; and Ivan, of Brooklyn — and two grandchildren.

12 November 2009

Death At Fort Hood - The Coming Storm for Muslims in America

I am heartbroken at the loss of life at Fort Hood, Texas. I kind of always suspected that psychiatrists, listening to their patients' tales of pain, rage, anger and hurt couldn't help themselves and become just as pained, angry and hurt as their patients. Professional objectivity is obviously measured in very subjective ways. Until some kind of break. As a lawyer, believe me, it is a difficult proposition not to put myself- my self - two words - into all that I do for a client whose rights I am being paid to protect or assert. But this is exactly why people hire me - because I care, and it shows in what I do.

But psychiatry is a different animal. I have never been on the other end of a therapy session - except when I find myself the defacto therapist myself -- part of, I suppose, my job at times, but to state the obvious: everyone has their breaking point, especially when we attempt to comprehend the endless possibilities that lie within each of our minds, even violent ones.

But what could be the causes behind a rampage like that which took place at Ft. Hood? That will be for a battalion of psychiatrists, behavioralists, lawyers and clerics to determine as Major Hasan proceeds through the military justice system. For anyone to speculate that it was one cause or another is to simplify the man to a caricature, which I assure you is impossible if we are to attempt to treat Major Hasan fairly and do justice to ourselves in judging what he did and why.

I cannot help but think that as more news comes out about Major Hasan's affiliation with jihadi imams around the world we will start to see a backlash against fundamentalist Islam here in this country such as has not been seen since FDR signed the executive order to round up all persons of Japanese descent on the West Coast as an alleged matter of national security after the sneak attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941. And that, frankly, as a Jew, scares me, but at the same time makes me question a system of belief - jihad, dhimmitude, the worst that Sharia has to offer - can possibly be so attractive -- perversely so -- to a smart, educated man like Major Hasan who is as American as me, with a story not unlike any one of us whose descendants did not arrive in this country on the Mayflower.

When can we honestly point to certain things and say to the world in all honesty that a certain set of beliefs is anathema to Western civilized society? I am no expert on Sharia law. But I can understand how, when the world seems stacked against you, it's exactly as then-candidate Obama said -- people reach for the perceived solidity and morality of their religion - "the clingers" -- and it happens in every religion, regardless. There are those of us (and I speak obviously from a Jewish perspective) whose lives can spiral so out of control, those of us whose desperation cannot be slaked by anything other than a closed fist around whatever belief system one happens to guide oneself by. And in the case of Major Hasan, obviously a rational human being, something in him made the notion of killing his fellow soldiers in the name of Allah a burning desire within him which directly resulted in the horror at Ft. Hood.

One has to think about this: if Major Hasan's name was Washington or Cohen, would the country be so concerned with the killer's religious beliefs? No. The world's experience with terror has been almost exclusively with those whose views and reading of the Koran are literal and therefore dangerous. The same was true with the killer of Yitzhak Rabin and other Jewish terrorists. So it is that as a country, we are at a crossroads: in my view, there will be a deserved backlash against those individuals who have such fundamentalist and literalist views of the Koran that it will spread to the entirety of the Koran itself and all of its adherents, whether they are fundamentalist jihadis or not. And that is sad, because, again, to state the obvious, not all Muslims are terrorists.

But if a system of belief can create generations of people who want to die for Allah, what does that say about that system of belief? For me, as for Judaism in general, the first tenet is to live. God wants us all to live and be happy and, to borrow that oft-quoted phrase of Rodney King's after the LA riots, to just get along. Any system of belief that contributes to those things is worthy of anyone's attention, attention in a positive way.

But suffice it to say that all fundamentalist positions on all religions can only lead to badness when they are attempted to be imposed on others without their consent. And therein lies the heart of the matter: I know enough about Islam to say this: that the Koran and actions based on it which could in any way contribute to what Major Hasan did must be brought into question as a valid belief structure. Any religion that empowers people to die or gives them reasons to die and not live is contrary to the very fundamental basis of all life on earth, at least to my way of thinking.

I do not buy into the notion that Islam is all wrong. There is much beauty and are many decent life lessons there, I am sure. No religion has it all right; there is plenty in my bible that I find utterly abhorrent. But there are those ultra-Orthodox fundamentalists who would and do disagree with me. That's fine, as long as there is respect going both ways, and it is this lack of respect for divergent viewpoints in the fundamentalist weltanschauung that to me makes for most of the problems we humans on earth face. Fundamentalists think they have it all right, as if it were up to them to decide. Fealty to one point of view without consideration of others' is just another way of attempting to intellectually and religiously (and in some cases physically) dominate another people or person. It is intolerable. And if there's one thing that I don't tolerate, it's intolerance.

And so it is that I am afraid for American Muslims who will, I think, face the wrath of those that think all Muslims are killers or terrorists or that somehow Muslims have to be controlled in the way that American Japanese were. What amounted to a suicide attack at Ft. Hood does not bode well for millions of Muslims who would have nothing to do with what Major Hasan did. Who left the Middle East long ago or even recently because of the incessant fighting and intransigence.

That backlash, I fear, is coming, though, much to my dismay and angst. Let cool heads prevail, but in the meantime, the first duty is to preserve the nation, and if there is a fifth column (and there is -- did you see the FBI attacks on Jihadi Muslims in Detroit a couple of weeks ago?) of jihadi Muslims being home-grown as they are in the United Kingdom, we would do well to act with a great deal of caution but just as much resolve, and this will take the active participation of moderate, real Muslims who do not subscribe to the fundamentalist viewpoints espoused on a daily basis in too many mosques in this country. It is time for those people to stand up against fundamentalist teachings and be heard. I stand with them. But I fear the coming storm.

Randy Shiner

08 November 2009

A Failure of Common Sense

FromRandy Shiner <randy.shiner@gmail.com>
11622 El Camino Real
Suite 100
San Diego, CA 92130
ToSan Diego Union-Tribune, North County Times, San Diego Daily Transcript
SubjectA Failure of Common Sense
MessageLast night, the House of Representatives passed the most sweeping social legislation since Medicare, which Ronald Reagan himself compared at the time to a communist takeover.

Sadly, the Republican party has not learned a thing in over four decades since that groundbreaking legislation was passed. How can our elected representatives, most of whom presumably have minds and consciences within them, not see the common sense that is health care reform in this country? A healthy country is a more prosperous country and a prosperous country is a better country. It should not take simple logical syllogisms like that to prove the point, but the fact that only ONE Republican congressman, the first ever Vietnamese immigrant to ever reach the House of Representatives, Rep. Cao (Joe)Anh (LA-2), voted for this legislation?

Do not our Republican members of Congress possess an ounce of common sense? Or has it all been bought off by insurance company money and pandering to the "tea partiers" who have seemingly hijacked what used to be an intellectually respectable party? Whatever is said in the aftermath of this historic vote, I hope that those reading this will remember those Congressmen and women who voted against improving the health of their constituents. That is the bottom line. Nothing more, nothing less. The entire Republican party, the party of no ideas, has lost even a measure of common sense. Sad.

Sunday Wax Bits


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Who Is a Jew? Court Ruling in Britain Raises Question

View from a booth:
The world view of mainstream Orthodox Judaism, represented by Rabbi Jonathan Sacks who made the decision to bar "M" from the Jews' Free School is closed, insular and stulted. As is pointed out at the end of this article, the order barring "M" because his mother was not converted according (allegedly) to Orthodox standards (too much of which is purely political) would bar 40% of those who consider themselves Jewish and who practice Judaism. The same people who will shry like banshees over this ruling are the same ones who think Sharia law -- or at least some elements of it -- is awful, when in fact those that follow the mainstream Orthodox line are the same rigid thinkers as are Sunni or Wahabbi Muslims -- no room to wake up to the reality that it's 2010 almost, not circa 1800 Poland. Either Judaism accepts change, either halacha changes organically like any other body of law, or it will devolve, if it already hasn't, into a moribund weltanschaaung that will eventually die. Too many Jews who do their best to practice Judaism with the right intention are being turned off by rules that those within the current Jewish power structure do not want to see change at any cost. This is a recipe for disaster for the future of Judaism, which should be a living, breathing organism, not what those on "the inside" say it should be, to the exclusion of far too many people. Can Orthodox Judaism afford to continue its present path? For me, no. The Court in Britain that decided that "M" was discriminated against was correct: if the JFS is going to accept government money, then it has to live by government rules.
Of course, there will be those who say "we have to maintain standards", a proposition with which I essentially agree, but it should not be up to one body or stream of Judaism to say what those standards are. Anyone or any group which claims a monopoly on what they think Jewish standards are correct and true to Jewish thought are to be viewed at least with skepticism. Judaism is too complex for one view to be right and all others to be wrong. That is a simplistic zeitgeist that only serves the simple minded who do not wish to explore the true essence and meaning of what it is to be Jewish.

Randy Shiner

November 8, 2009

LONDON — The questions before the judges in Courtroom No. 1 of Britain’s Supreme Court were as ancient and as complex as Judaism itself.

Who is a Jew? And who gets to decide?

On the surface, the court was considering a straightforward challenge to the admissions policy of a Jewish high school in London. But the case, in which arguments concluded Oct. 30, has potential repercussions for thousands of other parochial schools across Britain. And in addressing issues at the heart of Jewish identity, it has exposed bitter divisions in Britain’s community of 300,000 or so Jews, pitting members of various Jewish denominations against one another.

“This is potentially the biggest case in the British Jewish community’s modern history,” said Stephen Pollard, editor of the Jewish Chronicle newspaper here. “It speaks directly to the right of the state to intervene in how a religion operates.”

The case began when a 12-year-old boy, an observant Jew whose father is Jewish and whose mother is a Jewish convert, applied to the school, JFS. Founded in 1732 as the Jews’ Free School, it is a centerpiece of North London’s Jewish community. It has around 1,900 students, but it gets far more applicants than it accepts.

Britain has nearly 7,000 publicly financed religious schools, representing Judaism as well as the Church of England, Catholicism and Islam, among others. Under a 2006 law, the schools can in busy years give preference to applicants within their own faiths, using criteria laid down by a designated religious authority.

By many standards, the JFS applicant, identified in court papers as “M,” is Jewish. But not in the eyes of the school, which defines Judaism under the Orthodox definition set out by Jonathan Sacks, chief rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth. Because M’s mother converted in a progressive, not an Orthodox, synagogue, the school said, she was not a Jew — nor was her son. It turned down his application.

That would have been the end of it. But M’s family sued, saying that the school had discriminated against him. They lost, but the ruling was overturned by the Court of Appeal this summer.

In an explosive decision, the court concluded that basing school admissions on a classic test of Judaism — whether one’s mother is Jewish — was by definition discriminatory. Whether the rationale was “benign or malignant, theological or supremacist,” the court wrote, “makes it no less and no more unlawful.”

The case rested on whether the school’s test of Jewishness was based on religion, which would be legal, or on race or ethnicity, which would not. The court ruled that it was an ethnic test because it concerned the status of M’s mother rather than whether M considered himself Jewish and practiced Judaism.

“The requirement that if a pupil is to qualify for admission his mother must be Jewish, whether by descent or conversion, is a test of ethnicity which contravenes the Race Relations Act,” the court said. It added that while it was fair that Jewish schools should give preference to Jewish children, the admissions criteria must depend not on family ties, but “on faith, however defined.”

The same reasoning would apply to a Christian school that “refused to admit a child on the ground that, albeit practicing Christians, the child’s family were of Jewish origin,” the court said.

The school appealed to the Supreme Court, which is likely to rule sometime before the end of the year.

The case’s importance was driven home by the sheer number of lawyers in the courtroom last week, representing not just M’s family and the school, but also the British government, the Equalities and Human Rights Commission, the United Synagogue, the British Humanist Association and the Board of Deputies of British Jews.

Meanwhile, the Court of Appeal ruling threw the school into a panicked scramble to put together a new admissions policy. It introduced a “religious practice test,” in which prospective students amass points for things like going to synagogue and doing charitable work.

That has led to all sorts of awkward practical issues, said Jon Benjamin, chief executive of the Board of Deputies of British Jews, because Orthodox Judaism forbids writing or using a computer on the Sabbath. That means that children who go to synagogue can’t “sign in,” but have to use methods like dropping prewritten postcards into boxes.

It is unclear what effect the ruling, if it is upheld, will have on other religious schools. Some Catholic schools, accustomed to using baptism as a baseline admissions criterion, are worried that they will have to adopt similar practice tests.

The case has stirred up long-simmering resentments among the leaders of different Jewish denominations, who, for starters, disagree vehemently on the definition of Jewishness. They also disagree on the issue of whether an Orthodox leader is entitled to speak for the entire community.

“Whatever happens in this case, there must be some resolution sorted out between different denominations,” Mr. Benjamin said in an interview. “That the community has failed to grasp this has had the very unfortunate result of having a judgment foisted on it by a civil court.”

Orthodox Jews, of course, sympathize with the school, saying that observance is no test of Jewishness, and that all that matters is whether one’s mother is Jewish. So little does observance matter, in fact, that “having a ham sandwich on the afternoon of Yom Kippur doesn’t make you less Jewish,” Rabbi Yitzchak Schochet, chairman of the Rabbinical Council of the United Synagogue, said recently.

Lauren Lesin-Davis, chairman of the board of governors at King David, a Jewish school in Liverpool, told the BBC that the ruling violated more than 5,000 years of Jewish tradition.

“You cannot come in and start telling people how their whole lives should change, that the whole essence of their life and their religion is completely wrong,” she said.

But others are in complete sympathy with M.

“How dare they question our beliefs and our Jewishness?” David Lightman, an observant Jewish father whose daughter was also denied a place at the school because it did not recognize her mother’s conversion, told reporters recently. “I find it offensive and very upsetting.”

Rabbi Danny Rich, chief executive of Liberal Judaism here, said the lower court’s ruling, if upheld, would help make Judaism more inclusive.

“JFS is a state-funded school where my grandfather taught, and it’s selecting applicants on the basis of religious politics,” he said in an interview. “The Orthodox definition of Jewish excludes 40 percent of the Jewish community in this country.”