Jerusalem & Babylon / Why liberal Judaism is in free fall

When the Reform movement started, it rejected the peoplehood of the Jews and wanted to be a religion only, like Protestantism.. In doing so it rejected Zionism also. Turned out it wasn’t a religion either. It has become an empty shell just like it’s cavernous temples. They tried to fill the void by later embracing Zionism which, loosely translated means, peoplehood.

Liberal movements, whether Christian or Jewish, are losing its members and becoming irrelevant. They are no more than social action clubs. People seem to want “that old time religion”. Something with meat on it. The more ritual the better. The more biblical and G-d centered the better. Something you can believe in. But children must be taught to embrace religion or nationality or any other value. The evangelicals and the orthodox put much emphasis on this.

American Jews have opted for Americanism and liberalism leaving little room for Judaism and Zionism. T. Belman

The real enemy confronting the Reform and Conservative movements, both in Israel and America and other countries around the world, is apathy.
By Anshel Pfeffer, HAARETZ

Membership of the liberal streams of Judaism in the United States, Reform, Conservative and Reconstructionist, are in free fall, or so the Jewish American media tells us. Their increasingly embattled leaderships are in disarray, finding it harder to keep their rabbis and lay leaders in line, let alone tend to their dwindling flocks.

The reasons for this are myriad, a combination of demographic trends, theological uncertainty, exorbitant membership fees in a time of financial hardship and the ravages of new-ageist and kabbalist sects on the one hand, and Orthodox streams such as Lubavitch on the other.

But upon reading the reports of the liberal troubles across the Atlantic, I couldn’t help but think, not for the first time, that once again, Israel is in front of the curve. We have been told for so long that the Reform and Conservative movements are the largest Jewish streams in the world, and that it was just a matter of time before the secular majority in Israel also realizes that there is a much more user-friendly brand of Judaism. But it simply failed to materialize.

No fault of the local leadership ? they did everything possible. They built fancy temples and centers, offering far more community services and cultural events than any Israeli Orthodox synagogue could ever imagine. When they were accused of being “Anglo-Saxon” movements, out of touch with the local scene, they recruited young, bright Israeli-born rabbis. They fought in the Knesset and the Supreme Court on behalf of disenfranchised immigrants from the former Soviet Union, not recognized as Jews by the Orthodox rabbinate and forbidden from marrying in Israel.

Nothing worked ? non-Orthodox communities remained small and isolated as the Orthodox and Haredi streams grew, and secular Israelis continued to prefer the Orthodox version for their rare synagogue visits.

Does the generation-long failure of progressive Judaism to establish itself as a force to be reckoned with in Israel have any lessons for the decline of the parent movements in the United States?

An Orthodox columnist would find it very easy answering that question ? yes, he would say ?(well it wouldn’t be a she?), both Israelis and Americans have seen through the artificial facade of these new-fangled German-American neo-Christian heresies masquerading as Jewishness, and now they are either coming back to the fold of true yiddishkeit or have been lost forever in the sea of assimilation.

As unpalatable as this answer may be to those who do not share the Orthodox persuasion, it is hard to argue with success. But it is an inaccurate argument. Almost all the increase in Orthodox ranks is due to internal demography, and while there are those who have crossed the lines, there is no proof that their number is larger than those who have made the journey in the opposite direction.

The liberal movements are losing, not to their Orthodox competitors, as they rarely are competing for the same Jews. A Reform temple member who allows his or her family’s membership to lapse, stops participating in communal activities and loses contact, doesn’t start attending the neighborhood shul instead. The real enemy confronting the Reform and Conservative movements, both in Israel and America and other countries around the world, is apathy.

Or course, the Orthodox have an inbuilt advantage, a religious obligation to pray in a minyan three times a day, and even the most lax frummer will make the effort to do so at least twice on the holy day of rest. Orthodox synagogues don’t need to offer much more than a room to pray in, a couple of Torah scrolls and some prayer books. But that is not their only advantage. Orthodox communities have no need for an umbrella organization to set up or fund their synagogues, tend to be much more locally based and spring up almost automatically wherever a dozen families settle within walking distance. Not all the members will necessarily be fully observant ? some are certainly closet heretics ? but the familiar surroundings that even a makeshift minyan provides will serve as a powerful attraction. A successful minyan is also a social club, the first port of call for new families in the neighborhood and often also becomes an important center of community work. And many of these local synagogues are totally independent and do very well without a rabbi.

Do the Reform and Conservatives have any chance of imitating the Orthodox take on localism? Certainly it will be an uphill struggle, as the basic instinct is lacking there, but the local and national organizations have to find a way of encouraging and supplying the tools, while refraining from the urge to direct from above. It may be their only chance to reverse the inexorable trend of descent into irrelevancy.

February 19, 2011 | 19 Comments »

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19 Comments / 19 Comments

  1. Dave Funnell says:
    February 24, 2011 at 5:58 pm

    Who can walk in the light while denying the very basis of covenant, the truth of the Creator’s Written Word!?

    Christianity does exactly that. Go to the mirror, boy!

  2. Hey great piece, Ted! I want to observe something I find a smidgeon awry about your latest post here, that Religion when taken seriously gives meaning and purpose to life. Which takes us back to the Bible. Islam continued this tradition and gave its followers a mission in life as did Christianity..
    Islam did NOT continue this tradition. Nor did all of “Christianity!” When the church “fathers” abandoned the pilgrimage festivals and – following, I believe the evil inclination spurred on by the Prince of Greece to change times and laws – wrested the celebration of Yeshua’s resurrection away from its halachic basis in 14 Nissan, they were about the REPLACEMENT of the Old Testament by the New Testament in direct contravention of Yeshua’s commandment. Greek thinking completely misses the meaning of Brit Chadashah!
    When Mohammed saw the apparent political success of the Christians’ uprooting of faith from the ‘Emunah of Abraham in the ascendant Byzantine Empire, he was tempted merely to follow suit and play with his own mythological constructs by means of syncretizing assorted fabulous material in his own surroundings.
    The crazy-mixed-up story that replaces the Offering on Moriah makes vivid proof that all Muslim claims to succession are bogus, and in fact it is this lie that has disinherited the modern children of Ishmael of their most precious heritage from Aveinu, that is, his TRUST in the one true God! Who can walk in the light while denying the very basis of covenant, the truth of the Creator’s Written Word!?
    Reform Judaism essentially did the same thing (if for vastly different reasons) in the nineteenth-century U.S., as PBS’s The Jews in America series demonstrated: “The heck with Scripture,” they might as well have said, “let’s have fun making a name for ourselves!”

    And then last night I watched on MSNBC as their self-conceited analyst skewered Glenn Beck for attempting clumsily to explain the Reformed rabbis so heavily siding against Israel, missing the point entirely: ethical high-grounders all end up on the hill of Samaria with their latest golden calves!

  3. Yamit: Your posts brings to mind some marvellous quotations that I read many years ago.

    ‘I feel sorry for people who don’t drink. When they wake up in the morning, that’s as good as they’re going to feel all day. ‘
    ~Frank Sinatra

    WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may create the illusion that you are tougher, smarter, faster and better looking than most people.

    ~~~~~ ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    ‘When I read about the evils of drinking, I gave up reading.’
    ~ Henny Youngman

    WARNING: The consumption of alcohol may lead you to think people are laughing WITH you.

  4. Yamit:<blockquotebgfv8c6tf2y3bv6 says:
    February 19, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    P.P.S. Just so you understand where I’m coming from, politically regarding Israel I tend to agree with Israeli’s like Netanyahu, I don’t agree with the liberal jews who are a constantly criticising Israel. I’m a US citizen. try Montreal Canada.

    Yesterday, upon the stair,
    I met a man who wasn’t there
    He wasn’t there again today
    I wish, I wish he’d go away…

    When I came home last night at three
    The man was waiting there for me
    But when I looked around the hall
    I couldn’t see him there at all!
    Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
    Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door… (slam!)

    Last night I saw upon the stair
    A little man who wasn’t there
    He wasn’t there again today
    Oh, how I wish he’d go away
    Marvellous poetry, is it original or have done another cut and paste job, as is your wont? Where are you going with this or are you just being post modern? Say what you mean, please.

    A T. S. Eliot, you are not!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

  5. I would be remiss to not point out that Islam is not a “laissez faire” religion. It makes demands on its people and makes it a capital crime to leave the religion. It is attracting converts all over Europe.

    Man does not live by baseball games (or was it bread) alone. Viktor Frankl in his classic holocaust study of what ensures man’s survival most or what is the most basic drive in man, is man’s search for meaning. Religion when taken seriously gives meaning and purpose to life. Which takes us back to the Bible. Islam continued this tradition and gave its followers a mission in life as did Christianity.

    The religions that survive, take their mission seriously.

  6. Living in America tends to be an easy, profitable thing, and so people turn away from God.

    Deut 31:20 When I have brought them to the land flowing with milk and honey, of which I swore to their fathers, and they have eaten and filled themselves and grown fat,
    then they will turn to other gods and serve them; and they will provoke Me and break My covenant.

  7. Hi, Ted

    I can’t comment on Reform Judaism with any depth. I personally know mostly Conservative and Renewal Jews, and — thanks to Israpundit — some of the noisier Modern Orthodox of the planet. They’re all schisms, as far as I’m concerned, each one trying to prove to the others that they’re the “One True Religion”. I’ve seen enough of this over the past 63 years of living in the US, and its many religious splits. The Radio Church of God is full of splits; the Mormons, the same; the Lutherans even have two churches in the middle of the country, with no houses anywhere near them, erected side by side; and neither one acknowledges the other. After a while, it all gets rather boring. You did say something which interested me, though:

    Liberal movements, whether Christian or Jewish, are losing its members and becoming irrelevant. They are no more than social action clubs. People seem to want “that old time religion”. Something with meat on it. The more ritual the better. The more biblical and G-d centered the better. Something you can believe in. But children must be taught to embrace religion or nationality or any other value. The evangelicals and the orthodox put much emphasis on this.

    You said some things which aren’t exactly true. In terms of ritual, you may be correct with respect to the Ultra-Orthodox, particularly Chabad Lubavitch. They are very ritualistic, and very busy winning converts. This is not true among Mormons, so far as I know (They are family-centered, rather than ritual-centered), nor among the really fast-growing churches of “Middle America”. I confess that I have not been part of any kind of church for over 20 years; but many of our friends are Christians; and what I see is this: The real growth in “Middle America” is in small house meetings — very informal, with minimal ritual. The largest churches to spring up in the past 40-odd years seem to be “mega churches”, which are charismatic-leader- and music- centered. The real life in those churches in in the house meetings, some of which are very similar to Shabbat services I was part of in Jewish congregations: They focus on Torah, food and fellowship, not ritual.

    If you want an example of a really ritualistic Christian church, you need look no further than the Old Catholic churches attended by Mel Gibson and Pat Buchannan. Perhaps they are attracting members; I don’t know — I don’t move in those circles. They certainly don’t seem to spawn much love for the Jewish people or for Israel. The latter honor seems confined to (1) the Southern Baptists (some of the least ritualistic of Christian denominations), (2) the megachurches and independent/nondenominational Christians, and (3) the Mormons. In the case of the Mormons, who seem to be the most solidly pro-Israel group in the world, there are many who would question how Bible-centered they are. (Ditto, in my opinion, for the Orthodox Jews).

  8. Does it perpetuate?

    A Reform Rabbi I once knew back in the 70’s said to me (in a moment of qiet contemplation) there is no fourth generation Reform Jew in his community! I think that says it all! And that was in 1972!

  9. @yamit82:

    I am not jewish; everything you wrote is truthful, and also can be applied to true christianity. I am a christian by heart, and lifestyle, and refuse to belong to any ‘organized’ religion, because they do not follow the Script of The Bible, and teach. They preach, they mislead, having homosexuals lead a church as minister, blessing homosexuals marriages, involved in politics, supporting abortions, you get my drift.

    Many christians also a suffering from apathy, many are belonging to churches, who no teach, and are lukewarm in their beliefs.

    There many silent christians, who continue in their spiritual growth, believing what the Word Of Gord is all about, and follow the guidelines in a more evil world. I can only hope, that many more christians wake up.

    As far as my true jewish friends: I will always stand with you!

  10. bgfv8c6tf2y3bv6 says:
    February 19, 2011 at 4:56 pm

    P.P.S. Just so you understand where I’m coming from, politically regarding Israel I tend to agree with Israeli’s like Netanyahu, I don’t agree with the liberal jews who are a constantly criticising Israel. I’m a US citizen. try Montreal Canada.

    Yesterday, upon the stair,
    I met a man who wasn’t there
    He wasn’t there again today
    I wish, I wish he’d go away…

    When I came home last night at three
    The man was waiting there for me
    But when I looked around the hall
    I couldn’t see him there at all!
    Go away, go away, don’t you come back any more!
    Go away, go away, and please don’t slam the door… (slam!)

    Last night I saw upon the stair
    A little man who wasn’t there
    He wasn’t there again today
    Oh, how I wish he’d go away

    🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂 🙂

  11. Thank you Yamit, that brought back a flood of memories of my journey in life and ties it all neatly into one package.

  12. Bert says:
    February 19, 2011 at 4:53 pm

    WOW!!! All this was true back then and, sadly, it is even more true today.

    According to the American Jewish Identity Survey 2001, out of approximately 5.5 million American adults who are either Jewish by religion or of Jewish parentage and/or upbringing, nearly 1.4 million say they are members of a non-Jewish religion.

    We are not talking here about secularism, not about Jews who opt out of going to synagogue in favor of a baseball game or the movies, but rather in favor of church. Since the vast majority of American Jews are of Ashkenazic descent, this means that 25% of the descendants of European Jews who resisted the blandishments and threats of Christianity for some sixty generations, often at the cost of their lives, are now voluntary apostates.

    American Jews have been occupied for four decades in a desperate attempt to stay the tide of assimilation and intermarriage (not to even speak of their more hideous confrere: conversion). I remember as a teenager sitting through sermons where our rabbi pontificated on the various solutions to The Problem. Yet exactly what is the Jewish leadership trying to perpetuate? Jewish genes? Jewish culture? A fondness for kreplach and klezmer and Isaac Bashevis Singer?

    If so, no wonder the Catholics are winning. They don’t strive to inculcate in their children a love for Catholic culture. They don’t try to whip up enthusiasm for the celebration of St. Patrick’s Day nor spend millions to make sure that every Catholic child decorates an Easter egg. They are propagating a religion, complete with God and soul and afterlife. We are pushing a culture, complete with Sholem Aleichem and dreidels and lithographs of the Western Wall. But for a culture, no matter how engaging, no one is ready to sacrifice one’s life — nor the love of one’s life. Against Christianity we have pitted not Judaism, but Judaica.

    History shows that substitutes for halachic Judaism have a shelf life of four generations or less. Reform Judaism’s founder Moses Mendelssohn had nine grandchildren; eight of them were baptized as Christians. Zionist founder Theodore Herzl’s children were not only not Zionists, they were not Jews. How many of the grandchildren of the great Yiddish writer I.L. Peretz married under a chupah? How many of his great-grandchildren know what a chupah is?

    To perpetuate Jewish culture, outside of museums and university courses, at the very least you need Jews. But Jews, as all the population surveys prove, are rapidly disappearing.

  13. P.P.P.S. To be fair I have to say that I am a very religious person, I pray daily and my relationship with God has it’s origin in my childhood where reform judaism taught me to pray and that God hears our prayers. As an adult I was surprised to learn that sometimes other people have no relationship with God and do not pray or know how to pray or feel uncomfortable praying. So I have to say that is one good thing that came to me from reform judaism – my relationship with god and my use of prayer. Ask God, “please show me how to…” fill in the blank. It works like magic.

  14. P.P.S. Just so you understand where I’m coming from, politically regarding Israel I tend to agree with Israeli’s like Netanyahu, I don’t agree with the liberal jews who are a constantly criticising Israel. I’m a US citizen.

  15. WOW!!! All this was true back then and, sadly, it is even more true today. Even The Forward has published articles on the decline of non-Orthodox Judaism in America. This article also describes my community as well including the Orthodox congregation where I was a member for 30 years. In addition to general apathy there was also a lack of human warmth as well. After 30 years I simply walked out and no one even noticed. In addition to assimilation there seems to be an increase in Jewish anti-Semitism with the rise of J Street, and similar groups. We are in big trouble and need to study Deuteronomy Chapter 28 before it is too late.

  16. P.S. No I don’t hate jews just reform judaism. I am pro Israel. I make friends with jews better than other people.

  17. You can rate a religious sect in different ways. Does it perpetuate? Is it healthy? My experience with reform judaism is that it is not healthy and I don’t know if it will survive in the long run but I think it is better if it doesn’t survive. I don’t know if other forms of judaism are more healthy – I guess I hope they are for their practitioners sake.

    What I know from my experience with reform judaism is that it is not healthy. It taught me to be paranoid, neurotic, and bigoted. “Jews are the best people, God’s favorites, and everyone hates us, and God punishes us every few thousand years because we don’t practice judaism right.”

    That’s a great way to bring people closer to God. All it’s missing is eternal damnation.

    I never studied any other forms of judaism. Are the other forms any better?

    Why should I care if reform judaism dies out or not? Am I going to hell if I don’t practice judaism? Is God going to abandon me? As if He cared during the Holocaust.

    There are many better religions out there. Buddhism is a great religion for athiests. Spiritualism is great for deists and theists. In fact Spiritualism is a great refuge from idiotic religions. Most spiritualists are refugees from Caltholcism, the next biggest demographis is Jews. Look it up, it’s based on modern objective observations of repeatable phenomena, not sumerian and egyptian myths.

  18. What Makes Bernie Run?
    by rabbi Kahane H”YD

    Once there was a television program which centered about the theme of intermarriage. The heroes of the piece were named Bernie and Brigitte. The American Jewish Establishment put great pressure on the particular network that televised the series and the program was ultimately dropped. Bernie and Brigitte were no longer. They had been canceled…

    How relatively simple it was to cancel Bernie and Brigitte on television and how much more difficult to struggle against the curse and cancer of intermarriage and assimilation that exists in real American Jewish life. How simple to picket a television series to death and how hard to stamp out the disease that afflicts us daily in the real-life existence that is the lot of American Jewry. lf we no longer find Bernie and Brigitte strolling hand in hand across our television screens we need only look at our campuses, at our streets at our neighborhoods, Bernie is alive and well.

    What makes Bernie run? What makes Bernie run after Brigitte? What makes Bernie run away from Judaism and cut the chain of generations? What makes Bernie run away from the Judaism that his great-grandfather clutched at the risk of loss of happiness material wealth and so often very life? What makes Bernie run?

    This is the question that drives the American Jewish Establishment to frantically set up committees, study groups, surveys and commissions. This is the question that drives them to study the problem again and again and then again. This is the question to which they allocate so much time and so much communal money. This is the question that is at the top of their puzzled order of priorities, over which they scratch their collective well-groomed heads: What makes Bernie run?

    The puzzled shepherds of the American Jewish communities can close down their study groups and their commissions and their committees: they can put an end to the learned and expensive surveys. They can stop spending Jewish communal funds. What makes Bernie run away from Judaism? Who created that Bernie who turns from Judaism in disgust or in indifference? Who created the Bernie who pants after a shiksa or who marches for Jesus or Trotsky or Arafat or for nothing Jewish? Who created a Bernie who finds Judaism as unimportant as the color of his hair?

    Why, the answer is obvious: The very same Establishment groups who are busily creating the committees, commissions, study groups and surveys to find out the answer to these questions. Who made Bernie run away from Judaism? The American Jewish Committee, the American Jewish Congress, the B’nai Brith, the federations on every level and in every locality, the temple rabbis and Bernie’s most intimate Establishment figures- his parents.

    All of these are the criminals. All of these had a hand in murdering Bernie as a Jew. All of these robbed him of his heritage, of the beauties of his inheritance. All of these make Bernie run.

    The Jewish Establishment groups – The AJCommittee, the Congress, the B’nai Brith, the federations, ALL the spokesmen for the American Jewish community – the ruling clique, uniformly marched down the American road with a melting pot under their arms, beating it over and over again and shouting forth the Eleventh Commandment to the American Jew: Thou shalt melt!

    Thou shalt melt, thou shalt integrate, thou shalt amalgamate, thou shalt be an American as all others. They beat the drums for interfaith, exchanging pulpits with ministers enthusiastically, in a frantic effort to prove to Christian and Jew alike that there is essentially no difference between them. They were partially successful – the Christians were not convinced but the Jews were.

    Thou shalt melt, thou shalt integrate, thou shalt Americanize thyself and so they raised high the banner of the public school and fought, with a zeal no one knew that they possessed, the one weapon that might have given Bernie knowledge, and a sense of pride and roots. In fear and with hostility, they declared a holy war against the Jewish Day school, the parochial school, the yeshiva. They piously rationalized their struggle on the sacred grounds of separation of church and state but the real reason for their war (and they took the lead among all Americans in fighting the slightest aid to parochial schools) was their fear and consequent hatred of the parochialism and separatism of the yeshiva. The yeshiva threatened them with too much Jewishness! What would the gentile say if Jews were too Jewish, If they looked and behaved too differently, if their profile was not properly low? How did one mix easily with gentiles in the non-kosher country clubs they were so eager to join; how did one assimilate if Jews did not learn to drop the embarrassing customs, habits and old ritual baggage?

    The public school! This was the way to equality, to uniformity, to mixing and assimilating and to the death of anti-Semitism. And so, they urged their flock to send Bernie to the public school (and the flock, as eager to mix as the shepherds, needed little urging). Bernie went to public school.

    And today as the shepherds run frenziedly about surveying Bernie and asking him, where did you meet Brigitte? he calmly answers: “Why, in the public school in the public school; in the public school to which you sent me!”

    Who made Bernie what he is? Who made Bernie run? The Establishment groups, and leaders who took a Judaism of particularism, of separatism, of uniqueness, of DIFFERENCE, and who- in their fears, insecurities and ignorance- created an American brand that leveled all uniqueness, ‘proved’ that Jews and Christians were no different, and eliminated every logical and moral reason to be different. They created Bernie: they made Bernie run.

    And who else made Bernie run away from Judaism? Who else made Bernie what he is and is not? The massive, gaudy musoleums that dot the landscape of every Jewish suburb. The temples. The temples whose senior rabbi is the caterer. The temples that perform human sacrifice rites each Sabbath morning, and they call them, The Bar Mitzvah.

    The Bar Mitzvah, that is not the beginning of a Jew but his end, his spiritual death.

    The Bar Mitzvah – that culmination of an empty, vapid, childish, shallow Jewish “education” taught by men and women whose ignorance and lack of Jewish content makes them superb vehicles for the “education” they pass on. The Bar Mitzvah, that obscene cult of ostentatiousness, the ultimate in Jewish status seeking, the competitive drive to bankrupt that pathetic and hapless “father of the Bar Mitzvah.” The Bar Mitzvah where the young lamb babbles the words he neither understands nor cares to, to the accompanying nachas, pride, of beaming women and men who would not know a correct word from a mistake, whose ignorance is sublime and whose disgusting display of conspicuous vulgarity sends G-d fleeing from the musoleum in wrath…

    The Bar Mitzvah whose necessary “religious” interlude long ago was subordinated to the piece-de-resistance of the entire immorality play – the “reception”. The sickening waste of money and degrading of Judaism, where materialism runs amok in the guise of religion, where drunks and half-dressed women dance and give praise to the L-rd, with African dance, American tunes, and universal abomination. The Bar Mitzvah where the assimilationists, ignoramuses and despoilers of Judaism, beam with patronizing pleasure as the decrepit grandmother – Bubby – is resurrected from her nursing home or Miami Beach condominium and trotted out to light a candleto the applause of the go-go girls and dirty comedians waiting to do their act.

    The temple, that was created to give G-d a Place on earth on condition that He know exactly what His place is. The temple, where man thinks up G-d rather than admit that He made him. The temple, where the Jew can create any kind of religion that he cares to and call it Judaism. The temple, where things too difficult are junked and where from the Board of Directors shall come forth Torah and the voice of the L-rd from the approving Sisterhood membership. The temple, run by men whose ignorance of Judaism is exceeded only by their arrogant insistence on saluting it. The temple, where Bernie visits “G-d” and meets “Judaism” and flees from it in horror. The temples: they created Bernie, they made Bernie run.

    And who else made Bernie run from Judaism? The temple rabbis. The kept theologians who knowingly preside over fraud and grotesque jokes. The well-paid functionaries whose salaries are payments to hold their silence and to declare light, darkness and darkness, light: to give their stamp of kashrut on the impure meat that their temples serve up as “Judaism”. The bribe takers whose eyes are blinded and consciences dulled by kavod, the honor of sitting on the pulpit before the eyes of the congregants, and by the comfortable salary augmented by the offerings of thankful beneficiaries of weddings, funerals and unveilings. The false prophets who hold their silence as Judaism is twisted, perverted, turned into a humorless joke and who, knowing their own corruptness and fraud of soul, rush to justify the fraud by ‘rabbinical’ or lingo that pronounce them “good”. The temple rabbis who take a Judaism of Divinity and truth and go about Reconstructing it and Reforming it and making a mockery of Conserving it.

    The temple rabbis who took the age-old axiom of Revelation, real Revelation, upon which is built the Divinity of Torah and junked it. The temple rabbis who made Judaism the product of “wise men” (and if so, are there not wise Christians and Buddhists and atheists) and thus removed any sacredness and necessary reason for observance. The temple rabbis, so many of whom do not believe in G-d, who took the real and awesome Jewish G-d of history who made man and Created all and who rewards and punishes, and exchanged Him for a “god” who is “the spirit within man”, indistinguishable from indigestion…They are the models of Jewish “religious” leadership we give unto Bernie, these empty vessels whose greatest fortune is that their congregants know even less, about Judaism than they do.

    These are your rabbis, Oh Bernie, and then we wonder why he refuses to enter the temple over which they preside. Only they themselves know what frauds they are; only they, in their hearts, know what a life of lies they lead: only they, in the inner recesses of their being, know the self- hate and contempt they feel for themselves each day that they have to perform acts of faith they no longer believe in and teach a religion that long ago they secretly began to doubt. The temple rabbis; they created Bernie, they made Bernie run.

    And who else made Bernie run away from the embrace of Judaism into Brigitte’s waiting arms? The parents, the good Jewish parents. The loving Jewish mother who took off her golden nose rings and made a Golden Calf which she worships avidly. The Golden Calf called “success” and “money” and “making it” and “my son-the-doctor.” The Golden Calf of material success before which she burns incense and for which she threw the G-d of Jewish values into the trash cans of medieval obscurantism. The Jewish father whose values are those of the garment center and the race track and bagels and lox on Sunday morning before taking the family out to the Chinese restaurant on Sunday after-noon. The Jewish father who tries to think like a gentile, act like a gentile, dress like a gentile, drink like a gentile, and curse like a gentile and then demand that Bernie marry a “nice Jewish girl”.

    The Jewish parents whose credo is upward and upward in wealth and status and who created a comfortable Judaism that would accommodate their needs. Who moved to the suburbs and created a suburban Judaism, and a suburban G-d, ethical and cultured and nice- a vaguely Jewish Santa Claus. Who turned down the Orthodox synagogue of their parents, grandparents and generations beyond because it was too Jewish and too out of step with modern times and too difficult and too outmoded and not compatible with the new pagan-Jewish lifestyle they were creating. Who turned either to the Reform that gave both status (how familiar their Christian friends would find it if ever they stopped by) as well as license (one could be almost anything and do the same in that incredible anarchy known as Reform or – better still – to that new and upcoming movement known as “Conservatism”.

    How many Jewish refugees from Brooklyn and the Bronx arrived in their new status symbols in Massapequa find themselves surrounded by strange natives known generally as “goyim” with large tribal groups called “Protestants”? How many of the Jews, in panic, fearing that Bernie would come home with a Mary rather than a Shirley banded together to build a quick temple of “Jewish Center” to save their precious ones? How many of them who did not know a Jewish concept from a Catholic catechism decided to call it ‘Conservative’ because Orthodox is ‘too old-fashioned’ and Reform is ‘like a church?’ And how amazed was the minuscule, unimportant Conservative movement to be suddenly besieged with requests for ‘Conservative rabbis’ that did not exist? And how many Conservative temples were suddenly hiring Orthodox rabbis who prostituted themselves to the Long Island god of gold? And how true it is that it was not the Conservative movement (sic) that built all the new temples that suddenly made them so prominent but the ordinary, ignorant Jews who bought a temple just as they bought any other commodity they needed and who set the terms of the deal.

    Bernie’s Parents bought their temple and their rabbi and proceeded to create Judaism and G-d in their own image. The garment center knew exactly how to cut a suit to fit…

    Judaism, but not too much, If Bernie was sent to that vast cultural wasteland known as the “religious” or “Hebrew” school which he so despised, it was not so much that he become religious as so that he might acquire ‘culture.’ (At least enough to let him babble the proper words on the great day of Bar Mitzvah initiation rites.) lf he came home and mentioned something about Sabbath observance or a ban on ham and bacon, his parents smiled and told him that “we are not sending you there for that” or “you do not have to listen to everything the teacher says”. They played games with Bernie and thought that they could deceive him never realizing in their own stupidity, that no one can ultimately deceive a child. They created a fraud and thought that they could foist it on their Bernie. They created a Judaism that was created in their own image- a Cohenism or a Goldbergism or a Schwartzism and tried to pretend that it was Judaism.

    They defrauded themselves because it so suited them and thought that Bernie would grow up to be as fraudulent, hypocritical, materialistic and disgusting as they. But he did not. That which makes Sammy run does not necessarily affect Bernie.

    They thought that Judaism was a faucet that could be turned on and off at will. They wanted to give up the uncomfortable and the inconvenient things but still keep the ‘important’ things, like marrying a Shirley. Bernie was honest. He took the whole thing and junked it. He turned on the faucet all the way and Judaism spilled out in to it. He married Brigitte to the wailing of hisparents who shrieked to one and all: Where did we go wrong??

    Where did they go wrong??

    Where did they go right??

    When one thinks about it, the gall and the arrogance of Bernie’s murderers are stupefying. All of them- sleek Jewish Establishment organizations and their portly leaders; the million-dollar temple-musoleums; the temple rabbi-functionaries; the pitiful and hapless parents. All those whose yardstick was “what will the gentile say” and who proceeded to tailor their ‘Judaism’ to fit not the Jew but the gentile; all those spiritual schizophrenics who did not know whether they were Jews or not, fish or fowl, meat or milk; all these now point their grubby accusing fingers at Bernie and shout indignantly:

    “Why are you such a bad Jew? Why are you a traitor to your people? Why can’t you marry a nice Jewish girl, Iike your mother? Why do you want to marry Brigitte the shiksa?”

    The hypocrisy is nauseating and amusing at the same time, but Bernie listens and finds nothing humorous in it. “Why do I want to marry Brigitte? Why not? She is good looking, polite and doesn’t nag. Why do I want to marry Brigitte? Why not?

    What is a nice Jewish girl like my mother? One who desecrates the Sabbath like my mother? So does Brigitte. One who eats non kosher food like dear Mom? So does Brigitte. One who comes to synagogue three times a year to parade about it in our version of Eastern parade? Brigitte has the real thing.”

    Of course, what Bernie is really saying — NO, CRYlNG OUT — is: “Tell me someone. Why should I be a Jew? Why is it so important to be a Jew? What difference does it make? Why not knock down the barriers between religions, nations and groups once and for all? What is there to Judaism that is so unique and special that I should adhere to it faithfully and marry within my faith? Why be a Jew!!!”

    It is an agonizing cry from the souls of tens of thousands of young Jews who assimilate, integrate and disappear into the outer space beyond Judaism. It is THE cry, THE question. It is asked by young men and women who have seen the emptiness and the vapidness of the Judaism they grew up with. It is asked by young Jews who have seen the ugliness and the vulgarity of their empty temples and the fraud and bankruptcy of their temple rabbis. It is asked by young people whose ‘Judaism’ gives nothing, absolutely nothing, in terms of ideals, self-sacrifice and meaning. It comes from those who equate the ‘Judaism’ they know with ostentatious wealth, fat and contented leaders paying lip service to G-d and ‘religion’ and the reality of that religion in the form of rabbis who do not believe in the Divinity of Torah or (increasingly) in G-d and in lay people whose ignorance of anything Jewish is compensated for by Hadassah and UJA checks.

    Those who murdered Bernie took a Judaism of their ancestors that was strong and powerful enough to withstand inquisitions and Crusades and pogroms and Kishinevs and Auschwitzes, big and small. It was a Judaism that lived because its adherents were ready to die for it. It was a Judaism of the zeyde who believed in G-d and proved it by observing His commandments. It was a Judaism that came from G-d and not from man. It was a Judaism whose rabbis and leaders knew Torah, not the latest best-selling book list and who did as they said, setting a supreme example for the Bernies of old who knew why Judaism was different, who never for a moment thought of Brigitte.

    The murderers took this and threw it away, exchanging it for ‘American Judaism,’ a grotesque mixture of Myron Cohen jokes, Miami Beach, UJA checks, Hadassah membership, Jewish food and Moshe Dayan eye-patches. It was a ‘Judaism’ that was stripped of all non-essentials so as to lighten the burden on the long-distance Jewish swimmer through the American waters of assimilation, equality and brotherhood. It was a “Judaism” whose adherents beamed as their leaders got it down to “ethics.” Ethics! As if that was the beginning and end of Judaism. As if Christians and Shintoists could not be ethical, too. As if Brigitte was necessarily less ethical than Shirley. Ethics- intoned the well-paid rabbi from his magnificently furnished pulpit. Ethics- that is Judaism. lf that’s all there is, then Bernie knows that Judaism has lost any exclusive hold on him.

    Everyone, today, is ethical. George Meany is ethical and Nelson Rockeffeller is ethical and Rev. Moon is ethical and Prince Sihanouk is ethical and the late King Faisel was ethical as are his un-countable sons. Is that all there is to Judaism? lf that is all there is, then stop lecturing Bernie as he marches into the sun with his ethical shiksa. Bernie wants to know what is exclusive about Judaism, what is unique, what is special, what it has that others do not. Bernie wants to know this and those who murdered him have no answers for him. The head of the B’nai Brith has no answer for him. The temple caterer has no answer for him, nor the Board Chairman, nor the Sisterhood president. The temple rabbi has no answer for him. Mother and father surely have no answer for him. All of these have no answers for him because all of these have no answers for themselves.

    Judaism lives or dies on the unique fact that G-d Revealed Himself at Mount Sinai and gave the Jew a truth that no one else has. Judaism lives or dies on the fact that the Bible and the Talmud with their laws, commandments, statutes and ordinances were divinely revealed and that the only way to holiness and true goodness comes from the observance of Torah laws. This is what kept Bernie’s zeyde and bubby Jewish; nothing else. This is a reason for being Jewish. This is a reason for not marrying Brigitte. All the rest is fraud and buff. Poor Bernie, victim of the worst kind of robbery – the taking of his heritage and reason for being. lf only he would realize that the ‘Judaism’ that he saw his entire life was anything but that. lf only he realized that he was the victim of the worst kind of spiritual swindle.

    How fortunate he would be. How joyous and happy and how meaningful would his life become if he rediscovered the Judaism of his ancestors that was sold on the American continent for thirty pieces of dross. Jewish is beautiful if you do not play games with it- or with yourself. lf only Bernie understood. How fortunate he would be. He could then turn in his Brigitte for a reason for being. A reason for being Jewish.