What are the mods final judment on the non-orthodox versus orthodox viewpoint question are we here to answer question which should likely be adressed to the JTS? (migrate to the original orthdoxy question after it seems we have no final answer)

3 Answers 3


Our FAQ currently defines this site as:

... for those who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition and anyone interested in learning more.

This formulation is based on the one that I wrote up in our Area51 Definition phase. I explained my precise wording choice at the time in what were then called "definition comments" (now called "announcements"):

"People who base their lives on Jewish law and tradition" // "Professional Jews": The Jewish Life equivalent of pilots, lawyers, or professional photographers. (Unless you want to build a site for rabbis.) // People who consider Jewish law to be binding think about it every day and are most likely to be invested enough in it to come up with high-quality answers (standard SE dogma). // Pre-existing basic agreement on the need for authoritative sources to back up statements about law maximizes answer quality and minimizes the chances of people talking past each other.

"Anyone interested in learning more" // Unlike flying, law, or photography, Judaism intrinsically contains a mandate to educate. // Questions (and askers) welcome on all levels of sophistication. The experts in the core population are able and willing to address even the simplest questions with serious, backed-up answers. // Some types of questions (e.g. "Can you recommend an alternative for a talit bag with these specifications?") lend themselves to useful answers from unexpected sources.

There are two separate but related concerns in the first clause, the second of which is, I think, particularly relevant here:

  1. To ensure a high-functioning SE site, we target as a core user-base people who spend roughly as much (or more) time and care thinking about Jewish issues as a professional photographer thinks about photography - people who consider Jewish law and tradition binding on their lives. Of course, as formulated in the second clause, we're more than happy to welcome questions and information from people with less knowledge of or personal commitment to Judaism.

  2. To ensure that we're not all talking past each other or degenerating into endless religious war, I think that we ought to maintain a standard underlying point of view for all content on the site that Jewish law and tradition are, in fact, binding and that statements about Jewish law, at least, need to be backed up by authoritative sources as much as possible.

Due to the second concern, I would object to a question like "What are some fun and appropriate things to do on Shabbat for those who don't mind kindling flames on Shabbat?" or to an answer like "Don't worry; the prohibition against lashon hara doesn't apply anymore."

Under this assumption, I think we ought to allow questions or answers that assume a point of view that Jewish law and tradition are binding and that (e.g.) Conservative rabbis who make this same assumption constitute authoritative sources within the tradition.

Every member of the community is, of course, free to upvote or downvote based on whatever criteria they see fit. In general, administrative steps like closure and deletion, when based on content or point of view, should probably err on the side of inclusion. In particular, on the present issue, I think each instance would probably need to be addressed on a case-by-case basis, but again, the bias should be toward inclusion.

(I've been meaning to write something along these lines for the previous question on this issue and not getting around to it. I may yet adapt and extend this for there.)

  • this answer was referenced here judaism.stackexchange.com/questions/64837/… (i'm posting here mostly to ping Isaac into that conversation)
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented Nov 20, 2015 at 19:07
  • "Under this assumption, I think we ought to allow questions or answers that assume a point of view that Jewish law and tradition are binding and that (e.g.) Conservative rabbis who make this same assumption constitute authoritative sources within the tradition." - Isn't that a contradiction in terms? Doesn't Conservative by definition reject at least some parts of the ideological tradition (e.g. Torah misinai) that are considered to be so binding by traditional Judasim as to qualify as outright heresy?
    – Loewian
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 14:03
  • 1
    @Loewian The historical and current constitution of the Conservative movement are much more complicated than that, with affiliated rabbis maintaining all sorts of views. To take an admittedly extreme example, there's no way that a post here that quoted R' Shaul Lieberman as an authority could be considered off-topic or deletable, though there are many people who'd consider him treif due to his association with the Conservative movement. What people say and do says a lot more about their attitude toward Tradition than their nominal affiliation.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 14:48

I was under the impression that this site was open to a broader range of questions. Even within Orthodoxy there's not universal agreement yet all manage to get along anyway -- the chassidim probably don't answer the modern-O questions and the modern-O probably don't answer the chareidim, but they can co-exist nonetheless.

Edit: I just came across this chat log. While the focus there is on language accessibility, the discussion there also suggests that non-Orthodox Jews are welcome to participate here as first-class members. I am having difficulty reconciling that with the downvotes on this answer.

  • 3
    I can't account for the two downvotes (neither of which are mine, FTR), but I'd like to point out that, at least in my opinion, it's important to distinguish between post-Traditional (for lack of a better term) points of view in content on one hand and non-Orthodox Jews on the other, also and between traditional points of view and denominationally "Orthodox" points of view. In short, I think that being so broad as to not all assume within discussion here that there's a binding Tradition would not work well, that anyone interested is a first-class member of the community, ...
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 17:35
  • 1
    ... but that those who consider Jewish Law and Tradition binding on their lives (regardless of denomination) are the core "expert" community that we should target to result in high-quality Q&A. Do you see any conflict between these ideas, my answer here, and what I said in that chat?
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 17:38
  • 1
    @IsaacMoses, thanks. I don't see a conflict in what you've said. If you don't accept tradition as a core value then there's not much to talk about, but different movements and individuals, within and outside of the "Orthodox" label, can understand those traditions differently, and I think it's perfectly ok to bring answers (and questions) from those perspectives with citation. I've seen comments and downvotes to suggest otherwise, though, like a criticism of a history of liturgy (not halacha, not psak, just history) written by a C rabbi (IIRC), and the C davening q I ended up deleting. Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 17:56
  • 2
    Not everyone here necessarily shares my opinions on all of these points.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 18:14
  • 1
    @IsaacMoses, but, but... you have a diamond after your name! :-) (Just kidding!) So I'm guessing that the community isn't going to reach consensus on this (the question was asked weeks ago and has not attracted much discussion) and we'll just have to muddle along. Commented Dec 22, 2011 at 18:22
  • 2
    +1. The anti-commentless-downvote-ninja (heretofore referred to as the ACD-Ninja) strikes again!
    – HodofHod
    Commented Dec 23, 2011 at 7:40

While it might at times seem less than diplomatic, it makes little sense to broaden the scope of the site to include as "Judaism" views of offshoots of Judaism that promote ideas generally considered to be heretical by the overwhelming majority of mainstream authorities (e.g. the outright rejection of Maimonides 13 principles of faith and/or the denigration of the Jewish sages). If one were to include such outside sects, the boundaries defining the scope of the site become, at best, capricious. After all, Christianity also claimed to be the "true" Judaism. Islam, as well, is an offshoot of and/or borrows heavily from the faith. Furthermore, atheistic and/or Reconstructionist Jews have their own religion they christen "Judaism". What remains off-topic? I think it's important to be able to distinguish being appropriately respectful of persons from other socio-religious backgrounds while still maintaining one's pride in one's own religious identity and traditions.

  • 2
    Capricious isn't exactly the worst situation for a stack exchange site. Stack exchange sites actually have the ability to regularly modify guidelines and optimize for practical communities not theoretical ones. Traditional ideological positions are entirely irrelevant to the stack exchange model. It's just pragmatism: who groups together in interest in some topic, however broadly or narrowly that topic is defined to be useful. You seem to be confusing site guidelines with Higher Approval. Be proud of your own identity all you want but don't look for validation in arbitrary internet guidelines.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented May 1, 2018 at 17:40
  • @do I'm not sure we're using the same meaning of "capricious". My point isn't that the guidelines shouldn't reflect the changing opinions of the community - it's that they should be clearly defined so as to be followable by the community. And seeing as the community now prefers that the site reflect traditional/classical Judaism - as opposed to later offshoots that were and are considered antithetical to its values - it doesn't make sense to make rules that are internally inconsistent and self-contradictory in the name of being PC.
    – Loewian
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:13
  • 1
    Who made any rules in the name of being PC? You're attacking a strawman. "the community now prefers that the site reflect traditional/classical Judaism" how do you know that? "rules that are internally inconsistent and self-contradictory" what rules have been made that have those properties? Strawman. Strawman. Strawman.
    – Double AA Mod
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:17
  • Note that the answer to this post with presently, and for some years, the overwhelmingly highest score (which makes it a decent representation of relevant community consensus) recommends a common baseline of traditional Judaism and could fairly be accused of being not PC, in that it advocates excluding points of view that many Jews consider to be a correct or even the correct approach to Judaism.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 14:35
  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat.
    – Isaac Moses Mod
    Commented May 2, 2018 at 20:23

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .