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I know I'm coming in very late to this party, but I'd like to speak up since I am a non-moderator. This site--and especially its policies--seem to be very much "by the moderators, for the moderators" as of yet. As much as I love the moderators--and seriously appreciate their work--there isn't much of a community here so long as that's true.

Mi.Yodeya is considered the "Jewish" category of Stackexchange; its tagline is "Jewish life and learning." ("Learning" to most people does not necessarily mean "Torah learning" as it does to Jewish-English speakers.) As I mention here, the site's topic is "Judaism" rather than "Yiddishkeit." I propose that we edit the in- and out- list to reflect this reality.

I'd welcome ideas about how to classify a new, slightly broader scope. One idea would be to allow any questions that might be addressed within the Jewish Studies department at a university (assuming the university has a separate Hebrew department). So Hebrew language is out, but "Do Jews consider the New Testament part of the Bible?" and "Do Jews think plants are self-aware?" are in. Also "in": this category, which I think was very egregiously placed on the "out" list:

Jews, Jewish history, and Israel

I don't think this is the recipe for sitewide anarchy that others seem to think it would be. We have tags here for a reason. People interested only in halacha can search for items tagged with "halacha." Other categories can have their own tags. For now, almost everything is, or should be, tagged "halacha." That's hardly the whole of Judaism.

In sum:

It's not torah.stackexchange.com;

It's not even yiddishkeit.stackexchange.com.

It's JUDAISM.stackexchange.com!

++Adding a piece to discuss why I think it is important to change the scope of the site, beyond being true to our domain name:

First-time posters with minimal Jewish knowledge frequently come to the site, ask a question, and don't stay. They take the time and trouble to register here--you have to register for each individual Stackexchange category, unlike in a place like Yahoo Answers--presumably because they are interested in the topic and hope for a serious answer to their question (and possibly more questions in the future). And they post a question--often exactly the questions we have to discuss because they are at the border of our current scope. What happens--not all the time, but often enough to notice--is that the questions are downvoted or closed for being off-topic; a discussion goes on in Meta and always ends the same way; the visitors leave; and we never see them again.

There is potential for this site to do actual good in the world--not that helping well-educated Jews with their trickiest Torah questions is not good!--and I think we should take the opportunity to do it. The fact is that if someone who knows little about Judaism seeks answers, they have only a few venues where they can get them, and none are ideal. They can get a very religiously-angled answer from Chabad's Ask the Rabbi service or another frum service, or they can ask somewhere like Yahoo Answers, where the likelihood of getting an intelligent, thorough, and fair-to-Jews answer is very random. We occupy an intermediate position, and, in my opinion, we should use it in part to make a good name for Judaism and share our Jewish knowledge for those at the greatest risk of not getting it.

NEW STUFF

At Isaac Moses's, suggestion, I went digging for examples of closed questions that I think should have been kept open under the principles I have adumbrated here.

It was shockingly easy to do so so.

I had hoped to write a little bit about each example, and explain why it fits within my proposed principles, even if it isn't a stellar question in other ways. (Many of these questions do need revision; please keep in mind that part of my premise here is encouraging newcomers to stay, and often newcomers don't know how to fit their thoughts into the form of a Stackexchange question.) But I ended up with way too many examples to do that for all of them. So feel free to ask about whichever ones seem puzzling.

(Please note that the questions below represent my selections from the first two pages of closed questions. There are twelve more pages of closed questions that I didn't go through. I hope this gets some message across.)

EXAMPLES of questions I think should not have been closed, per the argument above:

https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/26752/who-is-a-gentile

Are there any Jewish miracles?

need for civil marriage license in the frum world

Difference between Torah and the first five books in Christian bible

https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/34672/origin-of-the-trojan-horse-paul-legend

Will editing genome of embryo having Jewish parents diminish Jewish status of later child?

What's with the foreskin?

Who developed the " symbol, to be used for rashei teyvot or acronyms?

Etymology of "yochevetzville"?

Americans and Kippas

Why are there so many accounts of the Hebrews' killing their neighbors and so few of their being kind or good?

Respected Haskamot

https://judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/22190/arab-suicide-bombers

many traditions are deep rooted, and thusly fought over (why?) ......but don't we have bigger fish to fry?

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I think "Do Jews consider the New Testament part of the Bible?" and "Do Jews think plants are self-aware?" should be in. I think they already are in, so if that's not clear from our documentation then we should address that. (Is it not clear? Ok, I guess the "dogs" question is in flux, but is the first one in doubt?)

On the subject of comparative-religion questions, I agree strongly with HodofHod's answer here that "it depends", and I think we are sometimes hasty in closing those. The key is that the question must seek a Jewish perspective on something that we might reasonably have a perspective on, and that enough information about the thing being asked about is available. To pick on a highly-upvoted one, "is Christianity avodah zarah" is fine if it is understood as "...according to Jewish sources", but it is not fine if it's a request for a broad philosophical discussion.

Or, to quote that answer in part:

If someone asks a question like "How does Judaism or Jewish Law view <various aspect> of <religion x>?", then that question should be absolutely on-topic. These are questions specifically about Jewish Law (Halacha), and Jewish views (Hashkafa).

However, if someone asks something like "What are the differences between how Jews do <thing>, and how <religion x> does it?", then that's off-topic. This is a question that compares two different religions, one of which is out of the scope of this site, so the whole question is off-topic.

I do not want to fling the doors open to history questions that are about Jews rather than Judaism. "What were Jackie Mason's influences" or a question about the making of the movie Schindler's List should remain out of scope. Questions about history affecting the Jewish people, like the antisemitism question you quote, are closer to being a fit here, but I worry that this could get out of hand.

Questions about trivia like the number of Jewish congressmen are a poor fit, probably for any SE site. Why do we care, and will it still be useful content after the next election? I don't want to clutter up our site with stuff like that.

  • Dear Monica, thank you for your answer. Re: the last part, I shouldn't have quoted those questions, because indeed they are bad questions and far out of scope. They were two of msh210's (deliberately egregious?) examples of "questions about Jews, Jewish history, and Israel" from this page [ meta.judaism.stackexchange.com/a/196/1516 ]. I have no idea why I quoted them, and I have since cut that part of my question. Some better examples might be: What might explain the Jews' historic "immunity" to alcoholism?/Where did the Satmar movement originate?/Has Dor Yeshorim really + – SAH Sep 5 '14 at 12:49
  • lowered the rate of Jewish genetic diseases? / Do Jews disproportionately vote Democrat? – SAH Sep 5 '14 at 12:51
  • ...To your point about comparative-religion questions, I want to advocate for a little more tolerance for questions similar to your second example. Imagine you were a Muslim with zero knowledge about Judaism, and you just wanted to know if Jews followed the same dietary laws as you. So you come here and you ask, "What are the differences between kashrus and halal?" ...Shouldn't we have some patience with that kind of situation? Sure, no one here is necessarily an expert on halal--but consider that that question is basically the same as "Is kashrus the same as halal? If not, what's the ... + – SAH Sep 5 '14 at 12:59
  • ...difference?" --which is in turn similar to, "Is kashrus the same as vegetarianism? If not, what's the difference?" Now, the latter question may be trivially easy and somewhat stupid, but it is certainly not out of scope for this site, because if someone knows what vegetarianism is, they can answer it. Same with halal. Therefore I think we should let the hypothetical kashrus/halal question remain. – SAH Sep 5 '14 at 13:01
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    @SAH The difference between vegetarianism and halal is that a native English speaker can realistically be expected to know what vegetarianism is. Not necessarily so for halal. – Daniel Dec 15 '15 at 17:56
  • @Daniel Not necessarily so for a lot of stuff that is mentioned on this site. – SAH Dec 15 '15 at 18:46
  • @SAH Then those questions should be closed. If it requires knowledge of something that an expert in Judaism wouldn't know about without an explanation of that thing, it's off-topic. – Daniel Dec 15 '15 at 18:47
  • @Daniel "Expert in Judaism" != "native English speaker." (PS -Interesting points, but iy"H I'm going to stop replying; I find Meta terribly exhausting. Please feel free to keep posting though) – SAH Dec 15 '15 at 18:55
  • @SAH Well you don't have to be a native English speaker to know what "vegetarian" means. I think it is safe to assume that X% of M.Y. users know what the word "vegetarian" means for some X that is very close to 100. There is some subjectivity involved, but I think that is the basic requirement for a question to not be considered off-topic. – Daniel Dec 15 '15 at 19:30

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