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 Questions in Interaction with Other Faiths
My girlfriend runs a business selling hand-spun tzitzit (fringes for a ritual prayer shawl). Recently, a customer asked her if he could send her his tallit (prayer shawl) and have her tie the new tzitzit directly onto it. She agreed, but was surprised to find, when the tallit arrived, that it was a Messianic (a non-Jewish, fully Christian group that usurps Jewish ritual and incorrectly incorporates it into non-Jewish worship) tallit, complete with a New-Testament quote on the atarah (the neckpiece). Would it still be OK to sell tzitzit to this customer? On the one hand, we're profiting from an arguably idolatrous practice, but, on the other, she's helping a (presumably) fellow Jew (albeit an apostate one) fulfill the mitzvah of wearing tzitzit. What Jewish values are at work here? And what should we do?
I have a question regarding a charitable endeavor my shul is involved in. For many years, we have hosted homeless guests (from a nearby shelter) for a week in our building. About three years ago, we started taking them in during the week of Christmas. Our homeless guests are non-Jews, and we have had a Christmas tree placed in our building for them. We have even brought in a "Santa Claus" to pay a visit to the children. As we are a Conservative congregation, there are, naturally, members who oppose the tree and other signs of Christmas in the shul building. I am one of those who also dislike the practice, however, I continue to volunteer to care for our guests. But I wonder, are we going too far, in terms of the Christmas celebrations? Our rabbi states that we shouldn't take offense because, after all, many of the symbols connected with this holiday are from pagan origins, rather than being specifically connected with Jesus. Personally, I view that (pagan symbols) as being just as bad, perhaps even worse! It is my opinion that we should go back to hosting the homeless on a week other than that involving the Christmas holiday. This would solve the problem about causing offense to some of our more traditionally-minded congregants (regarding the tree and Santa). I was wondering what your take on this situation might be.
I have a question regarding a charitable endeavor my shul is involved in. For many years, we have hosted homeless guests (from a nearby shelter) for a week in our building. About three years ago, we started taking them in during the week of Christmas. Our homeless guests are non-Jews. Someone from our shul contacts the local media (newspapers, TV) so that they would come out to film what we, a Jewish congregation, are doing for these non-Jewish homeless folks on Christmas. I find it very disturbing when the camera crew not only comes into the building, but also wants to go into the social hall/dining room, where our homeless guests usually congregate, to film in this area. I was there last week when the news crew came and, at that particular time, our guests were having breakfast in the dining room. One of our volunteers came to brief the guests about this, stating that, in filming guests at the table, only their hands and feet would be shown. Immediately after she left, all of our guests got up and left the room. I felt awful about this and I too left, in disgust. Every evening, we take the guests from the shelter, where they stay with us for dinner and sleep in our building overnight. In the morning, we then take them back to the shelter. But because this was Christmas day, the guests were to stay with us the entire day. This was their only day to have a leisurely breakfast, a time when they did not have to hurry to get ready to be taken back to the shelter. I felt that we spoiled their chance to have a (rare) peaceful morning by bringing in this TV crew. In a way, I also feel that we are "using" the homeless to gain attention, honor, and (perhaps) donations from the public for our shul. My own feelings are that we brought embarrassment upon our guests, and I believe it is wrong to shame or exploit the poor, especially for our own aggrandizement. It is my opinion that we should go back to hosting the homeless on a week other than that involving the Christmas holiday. This would solve the problem about causing offense or embarassment to some of our guests, as well as put an end to media coverage of how we, a Jewish organization, shelter the homeless at Christmas. I was wondering what your take on this situation might be.
I am interested in converting to Judaism. While I currently have no friends or family who are Jewish, I have been doing quite a bit of personal study, while praying to G-d for discernment on the matter, and feel deeply that this is the right choice for myself and my family. My husband is very supportive and has agreed for our family to live a Jewish lifestyle, he would like to learn more before making the decision to convert himself. I have two questions. First, is it possible for myself and our son (he is 4) to convert, with my husband's blessing, if my husband does not choose to as well? Second, there are only 2 synagogues in my area, both of which are at least a 40 minute drive from our home. One is conservative, the other reform. The nearest orthodox synagogue is about 2 hours away. Is it possible to receive our instructing of Judaism in a conservative synagogue, but the actual conversion (mikvah and so forth) in the orthodox one due to proximity reasons? I hope that makes sense.

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