The difficulties of halakhah, or Jewish law. One of the lesser-told stories in the Jewish world, of course, is the way in which halakhah is dividing the world's two great Jewish communities: Israel's, and America's. In most corners of American Jewry, halakhah, and halakhic conversion, is simply irrelevant. In Israel it's a fetish:

A Jerusalem rabbinic court ruled that the adopted son of the late, famed Jewish philosopher Emil Fackenheim was not Jewish, and had never been Jewish, even though he had undergone an ultra-Orthodox conversion at age 2 and was married under the auspices of the Israeli Chief Rabbinate in 2001. Ha'aretz reports that the court made the decision when Yossi Fackenheim and his wife went to the court for a religious divorce. You don't need a divorce, the court told him, because you were never really married under Jewish law, because you are not a Jew, because you do not observe halakhah.

Under halakhah, however, someone who has converted remains Jewish even if he or she ceases to observe halakhah. Therefore, the court was not observing halakhah. Therefore, if one of the judges was actually a convert, he should by his own logic declare himself not Jewish, thereby negating the court's decision and reinstating Fackenheim.

We want to hear what you think about this article. Submit a letter to the editor or write to