The beginning of the end of the failed experiment called Reform Judaism

Reform heretics

Rabbi Levi Brackman, YNET

The Reform Movement is in the midst of an identity crisis. According to a Jewish Week article last week, this summer guest musicians came to Kutz Camp, the Reform movement’s teen leadership camp and led a jazzed-up version of the evening prayers. One by one, 40 campers in their mid-teens got up and walked out. They wanted a more traditional service, they later explained.

It seems that this is a culmination of much change that has taken pace in Kutz Camp. Everything about the camp reflects the Reform Movement’s irreverence for tradition: the food is “kosher style” rather than kosher proper, rituals are sidelined and prayers are jazzed up.

However, according to the Jewish Week, camp director Reform Rabbi Eve Rudin said that some Reform youth attending the camp are interested in making it really kosher. “We first started seeing kids lay tefillin two or three years ago,” she said. “Certainly we saw it last summer. It’s a handful of kids. Tzitzit are more widespread; quite a few kids are wearing them.”

So the elite Reform youth are getting interested in religious ritual, demanding kosher and turning their back on “innovative” types of prayer services. This growth from within the Reform Movement removes the raison d’être of Reform Judaism. Abraham Geiger (1810-1874) and Samuel Holdheim (1806-1860), who founded Reform Judaism, had one major concern in mind: how can Judaism remain relevant in the modern world, where Jews have been emancipated from the ghetto and shtetl? Their response was that Judaism needed to be modernized if it was to survive.

They thus changed around the synagogue: they took away the mechitzah (separation between men’s and women’s seating), moved the bimah to the front and brought in the organ. They felt that this made Judaism less distinct and more modern – in fact, they modeled their synagogues on Protestant churches. In addition they did away with most rituals, and prayer services were held in German rather than the traditional Hebrew. By modernizing Judaism in this way they hoped to make it relevant to the modern, emancipated Jew and thus salvage it from certain demise.

[In Toronto, the Reform movement has their own day school and are decidedly Zionist. Thus they are embracing that Jews are a people rather than Judaism is a religion. In fact in the largest Reform Temple, they have recently voted to totally renovate the sanctuary so that congregants would face Jerusalem rather than to the North West as they presently do.]

Judaism’s peaceful death
So in fact Reform Judaism was not meant to be an ideology; it was a response to a perceived problem that modern societies posed to traditional Judaism. Unfortunately that response has failed on a number of levels. Statistics show that, instead of saving Judaism, Reform just allows it a more peaceful death — this has been proven in a study by Antony Gordon and Richard Horowitz, which shows that where there are 100 Reform Jews today, there will be only 10 within four generations.

The premise that traditional Judaism could not survive modern, open-minded ideas and philosophy turns out to be incorrect too. The biggest proof of this comes from within the Reform community itself. The fact that members of the Reform Movement’s teen leadership group, brought up in the midst of liberal American culture, are returning to tradition is testament to the fact that traditional, ritualized Judaism is compatible with modernity.

[See my article, Jewish Israel is the key to its survival, not its end.]

Perhaps most surprising, however, is that at the end of the Jewish Week article, Eric Yoffie, president of the Union for Reform Judaism, was quoted as saying, “If you take it all (rituals) upon yourself as an obligation rather than as a choice, you’ve reached the point at which you’re no longer a Reform Jew.” It is strange that the higher echelons of the Reform Movement are now feeling the need to define people out of its ranks. For the first time we have people defined by the leadership of the movement as Reform heretics, who can no longer be considered Reform Jews.

Beginning of the end
This was not how the founders of Reform envisioned it. In order to preserve Judaism, they wanted to be as inclusive as possible. We have now come full circle and Reform Judaism itself is losing some of its finest members to traditional Judaism. Now they feel the need to define their boundaries. To quote Kutz Camp director Eve Rudin, “This is about the Reform Movement coming to terms with the fact that there are boundaries, and what those boundaries may be.”

Incredibly, instead of being happy that traditional Judaism can in fact thrive in a modern, liberal culture, the Reform leadership is working to stop its members from joining traditional Judaism by threatening to exclude them from the movement they were born into. Clearly, Reform Judaism has lost its very reason for existing.

Undoubtedly, what we are witnessing is the beginning of the end of a failed experiment called Reform Judaism. The leaders of the movement have realized this and are thus taking desperate measures to save what is, in fact, a sinking ship.

Rabbi Levi Brackman is executive director of Judaism in the Foothills and the author of numerous articles on a whole range of topics and issues, many of which can be found on his website

August 20, 2007 | 26 Comments »

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  1. Thanks Yamit. Very interesting as you surmised I would find. There are parallels with these Shinlung people of Myamnmar and India are there not with the Ethiopian Jews?

    Your link in post #23 did work, but not the links in your posts #’d 24 & 25.

  2. I fully agree with your point that any article must be presented and made simple enough for the object or the
    readers to be able to understand what is written . Ok enough of the psycho and philosophic babble. The point he was trying to make is that modern man has created god and religion to mirror himself, his, needs and his comforts. Man therfore can chose what he believes in and what he believes not as there is no greater element in the world but man. Man has no inherent nature it is all learned and culturally influenced. There is no absolute truths only what one chooses at any given moment which is fluid in terms of longevity 5 min 5 days 5 years etc. You choose! Since man is all encompassing all problems begin and end with man and what he cannot master today he believes that tomorrow is another day. He believes the the seminal purpose of man is no purpose at all. We are born we die and in between the object is :life liberty and pursuit of happiness.

    Judaism is exactly the oposit:The world was created and just did not happen to be. That everything living and non living thing has a higher purpose. That man is endowed with a specific nature as are all living animals and the purpose of Judaism and the laws of the Torah are to recognize the banal attributes of his nature and through living with and obeying Torah Law we are able to subdue, refine, temper,and even change our natural evil tendencies so that we may live in harmony with all creatures and the natural environment around us.Since Jews place no positive attributes to god only what god is not, we have no choice in discussing this type of topic without dealing in the abstract to a certain degree. The Weinstein points out and Jewish Orthodoxy in general believe that the reform are modern Apostates who have rejected the unity of the Jewish People, rejected God and his laws and are a main source of Jewish assimilation into the Gentile world.
    Kahane is angry at loosing Jews to what he considers modern Hellenism, and just as the profits of old were angry and all warned and threatened of what will become of Jews who reject God and his laws so to Kahanne as most Jewish Orthodox Rabbis say essentially the same thing. All truths can not be equal nor can one say your truth is my truths unequal.

    I sent a post to Tedby EMail with the caption who would you prefer The Bnei Menasha or the reform here is the URL: I hope you enjoy! strong>http://www.israelnationalnews.com/News/Newsaspx/115991
    http://shavei.web.aplus.net/article.php?id=185

  3. Yamit,

    In your post #18 regarding Meir Kahane, you concur with his view that the major Jewish organizations and I presume all spiritual leaders, even as you say some Orthodox Leaders are assimilationist. There has to be a lot more then just rhetoric to make that charge stick.

    Whatever truths Kahane spoke of and whatever obvious concern and sadness he has mixed in with his anger, he expresses himself in an angry and extreme manner. At best he pointed in a direction that Jews should take to counter the forces of assimilation, but he provided no guidance on how to get there.

    Extremists and their extrememist expressions, even if sincere and speak to some truths, usually appeal only to fellow extremists. To reach the majority of people you want to reach, there are far better ways to express oneself to get through to them then the Kahane way.

    You said of my assessment and guide to those Jews oppressed by the increasing force of assimilation:

    We have tried your way Bill with less than positive results so I suggest we return to the way that has worked for over 3 thousand years and is still going strong.
    I agree that you see the end results of the problem but you seem blinded as to its cause ,so you can’t then have any solutions to it.

    You have badly misconstrued what I proposed as to how assimilation be faced and dealt with, by saying all I proposed had been tried before without positive results.

    Yes Yamit, some efforts along the lines I had proposed have been tried, but in ways that seem to reach those Jews who already have a fairly good sense of Jewish identity. They have failed to focus their outreach to those Jews with serious dwindling or lost Jewish idendity. Further, I have noted that the efforts thus far made have failed to emphasize showing Jews how Judaism and Jewish culture today is still relevant to them.

    I also identified political correctness as the handmaiden of assimilation. It is political correctness that must be done away with by Rabbis in their pulpits and by Organizations in their efforts to combat assimilation by openly confronting their congregations and members head on with the issue of assimilation and challenge them to take their lead in combating it.

    Read my article again. What I have dealt with and proposed is quite different then suggesting that the usual ways tried less than successfully to combat assimilation be tried yet again.

  4. Yamit, re: your post # 19, I thought it would be useful for anyone wanting to join in, to read your site reference Moral Certitude: A Modern Mimicry by Arno Weinstein which following is the lead in summary to the article:

    THE JUDAISM of the Sages and the philosophy of the classical world both confronted the idea of apostasy. There is, however, a seminal distinction between the apostasy of the ancient world and that of the modern. That is to say, upon inspection, the question of apostasy in the modern world is one of different species more than that of degrees when compared with the apostasy of old. This is in contradistinction to the commonly held view that modern apostasy is merely an “advanced” or more scientifically sound version of the ancient rejections. Certainly, the modern apostate discards tradition as did his predecessor, however, his rejection is based upon a wholly different set of presuppositions. In the essay to follow, we will examine the roots of apostasy and the transformation of the ancient idea which sought the rejection of the law into one that reformulates the nature of man. Modern apostasy, when accurately viewed, is predicated upon the redefining of G-d and man and not the interpretation or rejection of the Law. We will argue that modern apostasy has overturned man as a rational being and transformed language, history, civilization and G-d into meaningless drivel reinterpreted and redefined according to whim.

    To be candid Yamit, this is far beyond my ability to understand where this Arno Goldstein is coming from. As I read through the entire article, there were certain statements I agreed with, but more that I did not.

    It was enough to make my head spin.

    That said, my main problems with this article are:

    1. It seeks to define human nature and perception of self and others within a form of behaviour model comparatively between culturally distinct groups to ancient traditional understandings constrasted with modern understandings, which behvioral models appear to be mutually exclusive and contrasting human nature and perceptions of self and others that have evolved within specific groups, with specific reference to the Jewish world.

    I am inclined to reject that kind of thinking today as I rejected it a century ago when I was an undergrad in university taking psychology and studying the various models to define behaviour with each of those models for understanding human nature and behavior vying for the best all inclusive model. I rejected all of them as being inadequate and argued that a more eclectic approach was needed either in seeking to reconcile models of behaviour to accord more closely with some overall way of looking at things or alternatively in addressing behavioral problems or differences all models of behavior contributed something and for the clinical psychologist to be most effective, they would take from each model that which they needed in each specific case to help the troubled person under their care or to address some specific society ill that needed addressing.

    2. To the extent such kinds of philosophical analyses can be of value to most people, they must be written in a way that caters to the attention span and education of most people that would enable them to grasp what they are reading and such kinds of articles must provide answers or guidance that are easily grasped so that people can take direction from them.

    This article is way above most people in both respects and I am sorry to admit it, but much of it is way beyond me.

  5. Bill I didn’ think you would agree with my premise nor with the views of Kahane. Kahane’s views on Judaism do not differ by even a millimeter from just about all orthodox views and beliefs. They may argue and come to different conclusions on a Talmud portion , word or specific interpretations by the sages but there is no disagreement on core basics that he and I enumerated.

    You say he was angry I would say he was sad and deeply concerned. Lashing out at all American Jewish organizations ? no he was specific in naming those popular mainstream organizations that foster assimilation.In rejecting the concept and funding of all Jewish Day schools they are key factor in assimilation of American Jewry. By electing self serving moneyed Leadership with little or no idea of what is Judaism, this is assimilationist. By the Emphasis of form over content, this is assimilationist. I belonged to Benai Brith, Jewish War Vets, Knights of Pythius etc. I was educated till 3rd grade in a yeshiva that closed due to lack of Jewish community support. I was Barmitzved in an Orthodox shul studied for 7 months ea. morning from 6:30 Am till 7:45 every day except shabat and sundays. We learned with a rabbi in Heder every eve: for 2 hours. The shul I was bar mitved was founded by my great grandfather and all my fathers family were Barmitzved in the same shul. The old jews have passed on and most of their children either moved or became reform, they sold the shul to a local college about 35 years ago. No modern Temple, can match the feeling and the smells and memories we had as kids. Later my parents joined conservative Temple but I found it cold and hardly Jewish, with ref to my earlier education. It was more fun getting up at 6:Am and having a drink of shnops with the old guys who came for morning prayers. I went to school half drunk for 6months till my bar mitzva. The time me and some friends had a water pistol fight during sabbath services and the cantor went nuts but not really as in Orthodoxy they want the kids to feel natural and comfortable within Judaism. Kids even on High Holy days would run up and down making a noise but the old guys were kind and passive to our antics. I can’t see this in a reform or conservative temple. In judaism we do not have intermediaries with god it is a personal relationship of every Jew and his God. The Orthodox reflect this in the largley disorganized services they hold. The rabbi is largely ornamental.

    Kahane is or was extremely critical of Orthodox Rabbis as well.

    Bill you say unbalance and unfair? what was unbalanced or better yet what was untrue? What is fair? why should he be Fair? Where does it say in the Torah that you must be fair? He wasn’t fair just truthful.

    Extreme? Now who would think him extreme? the assimilationist modern day Hellenists? The establishment Elites who were the objects of his criticisms and sometimes diatribes? But the question is or was : was he wrong or right? Was it the Jewish Establishment that took up the cause of Russian Jews? Or was it Kahane and the JDL? same with freeing the Syrian Jews. Was it the 400 hundred orthodox rabbis who marched on Washington to protest FDRs inaction to save Europes Jews from being gassed or was it Steven S Wise that Great hero of the reform who sought to insulate FDR from criticism and fought against Ben Hect and others who wanted affirmative action. How many Jews went to their maker because of Steven S Wise and those reform assimilated cowardly Jews. EXTREME Iwish we had some Kahanes in America in 1942-45.

    When a Jew any Jew is in trouble especially life threatening it is the duty and obligation of every Jew to try to help and save his fellow Jews/ THIS IS JUDAISM! Every Jew is the guarantor of every other Jew. Where Have the Reform been these last hundred or so years? They march for every other liberal non Jewish cause?
    Based on the comments Isee the reform want to come here in order to influence Israelis to become like them in America. I think we have enough problems without such a missionary endeavor.We already have Jews for Jesus.

    We are experiencing a second Holocaust called assimilation and when I say we I include Israel. We have tried your way Bill with less than positive results so I suggest we return to the way that has worked for over 3 thousand years and is still going strong.
    I agree that you see the end results of the problem but you seem blinded as to its cause ,so you can’t then have any solutions to it.

  6. Yamit,

    I do not agree with Meir Kahane’s angry, accusatory, cynical approach to lash out at all Jewish organizations and all non-orthodox Rabbis, blaming them for Jews being lost to assimilation and frankly thought his comments were unbalanced and unfair. Kahane was considered extreme and his words painted him as such. I further disagree his simplistic solution to turning back the forces of assimilation being to learn and follow the Torah.

    I’ll stick with my own assessment and solutions. I hope those who have the power and ability to do something about assimilation will see the problem and the solutions as I do and act.

    As for your other link, both links you provided come up with the same, “this page is not available”.

  7. Bill I forgot: the numbers game is irrelevant to the big picture an Individual may exist and in many cases quite well out of the framework or formal religion and beliefs. Jews have lost more of their numbers to assimilation over the 3500 years than in all the wars, pogroms,inquisitions, crusader butchery,black plagues, Hitler and Stallin etc. We exist today beecause we are the productr of those Jews who would not bend, and were ready to die and sacrifice for their beliefs, down through the ages, we are a small nation but that I am afraid is the divine plan: Do I personally wish that we numbered like the chinese I don’t know but belonging to a small nation also has positive attributes such as feeling of close knit family ties. or distant cousins etc. I began to think on this and I wonder if we would be better off here in Israel with say 3-4 million comitted believing Jews than 5-6 million and more where 30-40 % either are not Jewish or are opposed to anything smacking of Jewishness? The New religion of these is Israeli a Nationalist attachment like any canadian might have for Canada but are virulently opposed to Jewishness in any form. They are our weak link in the game of ;
    assimilation today without pointing a finger at that which is responsible is self delusional.
    Bill try this:http://www.btzedek.com/law02.html

  8. Bill we have a problem and a solution: The problem is of course in defining a Jew and we will I am afraid continue to disagree. The solution is to bring more Jews to the Orthodox and Here my preference is modern orthodox not those in Black with Beards. Both follow Halacha and both are frum or pure Jews. While I am not a fully Mitzva committed Jew I do very much respect those that are and in some cases stand back in awe when I see how committed with all their being to living according to Torah Law. While I have Lived in Israel for over thirty five years I am still part of the Galut mentality or My American secular education and culture has molded my thinking. Zionism was supposed to free Jews from the Galut and I guess it will take a few more generations here to get a Unique Jew back on His land.

    Rather than debate more on this subject I refer to you and any reader the following address by R. Meir Kahane who in the mid seventieswas given a short deferment for going to prison when the Jewish agency asked him to go on a speaking tour to over 100 university ‘s and colleges and shuls accross America. It was an intensive 3 month engagement. The following address was typical of what he had to say and in the Colleges he added for the Students: That they should all come Home to Israel, that if their parents object/ DON’T LISTEN! IF THEIR RABBIS OBJECT/DON’T LISTEN!! Like the patriarch Abraham. I will add URL for this Address read it and then let me know your thoughts. It is dated but if anything the situation today is much worse than when he wrote it. http://www.kahane.org/meir/bernie.html

  9. Yamit,

    By your definition, neither you nor I are Jewish in spite of our claim to be.

    Though I am hardly the poster child for an observant Jew, feeling Jewish is as much a part of my self image and how I define myself as my name and physical characteristics.

    For me to accept your argument, I would have to concede that a part of me that I take for granted is a part of me, is in fact not a part of me. I would feel diminished to accept that.

    Surely what defines a Jew must be more than just the Orthodox way of strict observance of and belief in all that is written in the Tanakh and writings of our sages coupled with an unshakeable faith in the existence of G_D.

    There were 17 million Jews in the world in 1939 and 11 million by 1945. Those numbers have only grown to about 13.5 million.

    I would expect the Orthodox Jews number in the minority.

    By excluding non-Orthodox Jews from the circle of true Orthodox Jews, is suicidal for world Jewry, for Orthodox Jews alone cannot replenish the world with enough Jews to assure the survival of Jews and Judaism.

    Assimilation is taking Jews from the world Jewish community at an frightening rate and weakening the Jewish identity of many who remain within that community.

    I do not have all the answers Yamit but I think it more prudent to avoid defining who is a Jew too closely and setting one’s sights on both answering that question more inclusively and at the same time mounting a counter offensive against the world Jewish community’s greatest enemy, assimilation.

    I wrote an article, Declaring War on Assimilation on that subject last year, which can be found at: http://netwmd.com/blog/2006/09/20/980on

  10. You are right Bill: I myself am not religious but if I were I would opt for Orthodoxy. In Hebrew we have an expression that a woman can’t be half pregnant! Take a look at the video that Ted posted yesterday. That should partly answer all your questions posed. Thes Blacks from a Chicago ghetto, would have you believe that not only are they Jews but the only authentic Jews! Now for past 30 years or so we got these SOB living here. They came in as tourists congregated in Dimona amongst illiterate N, african residents who didn” and still don’t know anybetter and squatted illegally in Dimona. They are and were considered a cult by all definitions yet the Israeli authorities were afraid of deporting these abos for want of a stronger term; because of feared backlash in America. This is backround and part of my argument which is: I couldn’t give a HOOT whether the reform or conservatives agree with me and 99.9% of all orthodox and traditional Jews are on my side not the plaurlistic side. Day is not night and nightr is not day there are certain truthsthat must be upheld, in this type of discussion. Judaism is not a religion it is a belief system based on common History from Abraham. It is God centered and bases its core belief on the revelation at Sinai where all the Hebrew people were gathered in one place at a specific time to receive this revelation and heavenly contract with God. From Sinai and the reception to the Torah we Jews made a deal with God.We would receive and obey His Torah and God would not only protect the Hebrew people forever but we would multiply, prosper, and he would give us a land flowing with milk and Honey etc. The other side of the coin is that if we break the contract with God we will pay a price. The land of Israel was meant to redeem the children of Israel, a land were we could lead real Jewish Lives according to gods laws and not have to worry about the influences of the Gentile world. We would therefore show the world by example that the Torah is the Supreme Law and that God is: Under this contract since Jews are gods rep here on earth everything we do reflects upon how god is perceived by the Gentiles. We cant’t lose because then God loses. God will eventually protect us and allow us to survive no matter how wicked and how far we stray from Torah in order to protect Gods name in the face of those forces who stand agaisnt Torah and God. These are Jewish Beliefs but only a small tiny part. Without God there is no Judaism! without absolute to the best of our ability to learn and abide by the Laws of Torah there are no Jews. Without accepting the servitude to God and his Laws as laid out in the torah and commentarys of the Talmud how can one say all sects of judaism are equal? A religiousJew does not have the Luxuary of deceiding for himself what is Jewish and what is not 3500 years of History have deceided that for us.

    Judaism is Peoplehood= the nation of Israel
    Judaism is Land defined = THE LAND OF ISRAEL(NOT THE STATE)!
    Judaism is Torah with all that implys!

    VIEW IT AS SORT OF A TRIANGLE; any side missing from this triangle means incomplete Jews!

    Judaism is not a democracy where any majority has the right to define Torah and what is a Jew.
    I always say this in concluding that if a person can’t answer WHY BE JEWISH? He will cease to be Jewish.

  11. Yamit,

    Essentially what you are saying is that only Orthodox Judaism is true Judaism. Conservative and Reform Jews alike would disagree with such statement.

    They might agree with your saying Conservative and Reform Judaism are a watered down form of Judaism by comparison to Orthodoxy, but would maintian that the essential aspects of Judaism are retained and thus they are every bit as Jewish and the Judaism they practice, is every bit as valid as Orthodox Judaism.

    That in itself would make for an interesting discussion.

    As I recall the smattering of history I have read, early Christianity was a sect of Judaism, until Paul created the substantive theological differences that transformed that sect of Judaism into a brand new religion. Reform Judaism is far from that point.

    Still, I think you are probably right that Reform Judaism has the weakest grip holding Jews to their Judaism and thus the weakest defences against their congregants being lost to the forces of assimilation. I do not know of statistics that confirm that, but that is my general sense from what I have read over the years.

    So I come back to my questions:

    1. What specifically do non-Reform Jews feel threatened by from Reform Judaism?

    2. Is the feeling of Reform Judaism warranted?

    3. If Reform Judaism does threaten non-Reform Jews is it because of anything deliberate on the part of Reform Judaism in advancing their own agenda or is it that the existence of Reform Judaism is threatening?

    4. Is this sense of Jews being threatened a phenomena felt mostly in Britain where Chameleon is or is that phenomena transnational?

    5. Yamit has already alluded to this, but Reform Judaism is not uniform as a number of congretations seem to have branched out further from traditional Judaism then others. If so, is it the entire Reform movement that threatens non-Reform Jews or only these more out there Reform congregations and leaders?

    6. Yamit made another statement that more Jews from the ranks of Reform Judaism lose their Jewish identity to assimilation then any other branch of Judaism. If that is correct, does that not give Reform Judaism reason to be concerned with itself?

  12. Bill many years ago my conservative shuls cantor led a group to tour Israel and Yamit was on their tour. He found me and I invited them to our home but since my home was not Kosher they refused food or drink except fresh fruit and a cold drink of water from plastic cups. He asked why my home was not Kosher and I gave him some stupid excuse. But he explained that no Orthodox or traditional Jew who kept kosher could feel comfortable in a non Kosher home and advised that as a gesture for keeping the unity of the Jewish people that we consider keeping Kosher. Since I never thought about it in this way it did to me make some sense especially in Israel where most products sold are Kosher anyway. So Orthodox do not feel threatened they are too strong and solid in their beliefs to feel threatened but lets say a Jew from a reform congregation in Canada or America wants to marry a Jew here in Israel, The rabbinate here may want to investigate the Jewish pedigree of the reform Jew before stamping and approving a marriage. Same with death and burial, I would think that a Jew would prefer to have a Jewish ceremony and be buried in a Jewish cematary and not a potters field.

    Orthodox judaism here is institutionalized they have the courts, and the kashrut,and the burial society locked up. Why should a Jew who has followed a tradition going back thousands of years accept sects or cults that have sprung up in the name of modernity or any other reason? The Yemmini Jew kept his version of orthodoxy for thousands of years cut off from mainstream judaism, likewise the Ethiopian,or the Bnei Yisrael from India, or the morranos of Spain and from Spain in more recent times. If you want to be a member of a club there are rules and requirements and not all are accepted just because they desire to be let in. Anybody can start a new religion but don’t call it Judaism when it has almost no relationship to the 3500 year old tradition and belief system called Judaism. The reform movement was supposed to be the admittance ticket of German Jewry into Gentile society after the emancipation. It Took hold in America when German Jews wo predated most E. European Jews arrival to America. It took almost a hundred years before the Reform movement could claim success in attracting a majority of affiliated Jews.
    But Paul after being rejected by mainstream Jews of his time set about converting the Pagans of the Roman Empire. The early Christians also thought they were Jewish and most were accepted By Jews as Jews until Paul went out to change Judaism first by eliminating circumcision, then dietary laws. and when he was through \there was not much left of Judaism. I guess Paul was very pissed at being rejected and became as antisemetic as one can get.
    I compare REFORM JUDAISM, in the same class as early Christianity who maintained some semblance of Judaism but after changing and watering down Judaism it ceased to be Judaism and became the Great religion of Christianity.

  13. Ted,

    I have more questions.

    This 1999 sermon by Reform Rabbi Henry Block you posted, makes note of the initiative of Rabbi Richard Levy, the then President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis to reform Reform Judaism, which initiative Rabbi Block rejects for he believed Reform Judaism must remain true to its founding principles. Rabbi Block stated it thusly:

    Rabbi Richard Levy of Los Angeles became the President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the international organization of the Reform rabbinate. He quickly called on his colleagues to reject the founding philosophy of Reform Judaism, and to adopt new Principles for our movement. He and his supporters accused our Reform forebears of wantonly rejecting Jewish tradition. They ridiculed Classical Reform worship, saying that it is no longer meaningful. He urged us to embrace rituals quite foreign to most Reform Jews, to lay tefillin for worship and to make our homes and stomachs kosher. He de-emphasized the concept that the individual must exercise autonomy in deciding which rituals to practice and which to avoid.

    At one and the same time, Rabbi Levy seemed to be asking us to resurrect the traditions of Judaism and to renounce our Reform heritage.

    1. Since 1999 just how far has Rabbi Levy and the Central Conference of American Rabbis gotten with this initiative?

    2. Is Reform Judaism today split into subgroups such as Orthodox, Conservative and Liberal Reform Judaism?

    3. This posting and that of Yamits still does not directly answer the questions I first raised in my post #4. What are at least some answers to my questions?

  14. This discussion has revolved around form over content. Individual or community external rituals and not on the commandments of the Torah itself. To the believing Jew and I emphasize the word BELIEVING JEW! the commandments are a non negotiable given. Either one believes and accepts the the Torah was given to the Jewish or Hebrew people as the revelation of God or not. If Not then Judaism can be viewed as a Chinese Menue Some from column A Some rom Column B etc. This ritual is personally compatible this not and what is not I discard! This is not a revolutionary idea it is opostacy. What ever it is it is not and cannot resemble Judaism. The core of the Jewish Faith is Naaseh v Neshma First we do then try to understand why. The meaning of Judaism is servitude to God by obeying the Commandments in the Torah even if we do not understand why or personally may disagree. The more difficult a commandment may be for any Jew to perform the greater is its worth in the eyes of God. Judaism places man below God not his equal. A believing Jew may love and fear God at the same time and will never take it upon hmself to question the veracity and holiness of the Torah as this would constitute Helul ha Shem the cursing of Gods name. I respect an ethiest with no denominational affiliation rather than a cult that defames the Name and meaning of Judaism. Without Belief in God and belief in the sanctity of Torah Law as given to the Jewish Nation as a gift and obligation one can still be part of the Jewish peoplehood but can not be considerd a Jew in any religious framework. Judaism does not care what some Jews call themselves but they if not grounded in belief and faith in Torah and all its commandments they can never be condiderd as real Jews no matter what any sect or cult calls themselves. At least the basis of Conservatice movement was based on Halacha but changed some rituals and form. Depending on which congregation and which rabbi some of them have not been rejectedby traditional Judaisms adherants.
    Now the Left here are trying to advocate the reform movement as a means to destroy Orthodoxy in Israel. They will never succeed in this but I raise the point to show how decadent is the reform movement.

  15. Reform Judaism

    Both the ancient Rabbis and the early Reformers adapted the format of Jewish practice to face the future. At the same time, they preserved the essential core of Jewish tradition: the strength of the Jewish people, the study and observance of Torah, and the sacred service of God.

    Two years ago, Rabbi Richard Levy of Los Angeles became the President of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, the international organization of the Reform rabbinate. He quickly called on his colleagues to reject the founding philosophy of Reform Judaism, and to adopt new Principles for our movement. He and his supporters accused our Reform forebears of wantonly rejecting Jewish tradition. They ridiculed Classical Reform worship, saying that it is no longer meaningful. He urged us to embrace rituals quite foreign to most Reform Jews, to lay tefillin for worship and to make our homes and stomachs kosher. He de-emphasized the concept that the individual must exercise autonomy in deciding which rituals to practice and which to avoid.

    At one and the same time, Rabbi Levy seemed to be asking us to resurrect the traditions of Judaism and to renounce our Reform heritage.

    Much truth can be found in Rabbi Levy’s arguments. Reform Judaism has never been fixed or monolithic, but has evolved significantly over the course of more than a century. Many Reform Jews are choosing new rituals, many of them previously associated with Conservative and Orthodox Judaism. Growing numbers within our movement are not moved by Classical Reform worship, by a stately choir with organ accompaniment, but prefer a more participatory, less formal style of congregational prayer.

    Sadly, though, Rabbi Levy failed to appreciate that many of us revere our Reform heritage. We are proud that our movement’s founders faced the future, changed with the times, and preserved the core of our Jewish faith. We cherish individual autonomy as a hallmark of Reform Judaism. We urgently believe that Reform Judaism requires that each of us possesses the right and responsibility, after serious Jewish study, to embrace rituals that move our unique spirits, and to eschew those that do not. We can appreciate, respect, and even endorse greater respect for Jewish tradition within our Reform movement. The forms of Reform Jewish practice may indeed change. However, the central values of our beloved Reform movement must be preserved.

  16. Are you therefore suggesting Ted that with the exception of die hard Jewish left wing ideologues in the Reform Judaic movement, Reform Judaism is in the process of transforming back to Conservative and Orthodox Judaism?

  17. The reform movement began in an attempt to remove Judaism from the idea of Jewish peoplehood. The reformers wanted Judaism to be a religion only. Thus they rejected Jewish peoplehood and Zionism. Zionism was the exact opposite.

    In the last fifty years, the Reform movement has embraced Zionism thereby creating conflict with the original intent. I should point out that the left in Israel are carrying the torch that the reform started lofting. The left want to exclude concepts of peoplehood and land.

    They will not succeed. The only way for Jews or Israel to survive is to embrace these concepts and not reject them.

  18. These following questions are directed to Chameleon and all others who wish to contribute their insights into what could be a very interesting discussion.

    Chameleon states that:

    Rabbi Brackman’s article is typical of those from Jews who feel threatened by Reform Judaism

    That statement raises questions:

    1. What specifically do non-Reform Jews feel threatened by from Reform Judaism?

    2. Is the feeling of Reform Judaism warranted?

    3. If Reform Judaism does threaten non-Reform Jews is it because of anything deliberate on the part of Reform Judaism in advancing their own agenda or is it that the existence of Reform Judaism is threatening?

    4. Is this sense of Jews being threatened a phenomena felt mostly in Britain where Chameleon is or is that phenomena transnational?

    5. Yamit has already alluded to this, but Reform Judaism is not uniform as a number of congretations seem to have branched out further from traditional Judaism then others. If so, is it the entire Reform movement that threatens non-Reform Jews or only these more out there Reform congregations and leaders?

    6. Yamit made another statement that more Jews from the ranks of Reform Judaism lose their Jewish identity to assimilation then any other branch of Judaism. If that is correct, does that not give Reform Judaism reason to be concerned with itself?

    There are of course many other questions, but I do believe a discussion on comparative aspects of sectarian Judaism would be most interesting for all.

  19. In spite of the difficulties, most gentiles who convert to Judaism are converts to orthodox variety.I exclude here those gentiles who opt for make believe conversion to please their spouses. Without going into details I will pit youth brought up orthodox against those of reform and conservative in : the raw numbers of those jews dropping out all together, converting to Buddhism, Christianity or anything else but Judaism. It is no secret that those raised in the strict forms of the religion tend to stay within the broadest and narrowest concepts of Judaism. Jewish Young people are very intelligent and they are correct to reject a so called form of Judaism that is deficient in all things traditionally Jewish. How many reform Jews Place Israel at the top or near the top of the personal life agendas? Most Orthodox place Israel on or near the top! How many reform Jews made Aliya? Most new Immigrants to Israel from the States and Europe are Orthodox! If I want a copy of a church I will go to a real church and If I need a priest I will go to a real priest. All Belief systems have ethics and a ll are positive. Jews have ethics but that is not Judaism. Kosher style is not Kosher! Reform Judaism likewise is not Judaism is is more like a cult or like Karaite movement who accepted Tanakh but rejected oral law the Talmud. At least the Karaites believed in God and the Torah Some reform congregations have moved so far out of Traditional Judaism that the is little left of Judaism in it except; Name! the bottom line which branch of Judaism has the Largest assimilation rate? A sect that does not believe in God or Torah, do not believe in the revelation at Sinai, performs same sex marriages has Women and Homo rabbis, can’t be considerd Jewish ,they can steal the Name but can’t fool their intelligent youth for more than 1-2 generations. Most will assimilate and be lost to the Jewish People this is the result of FALSE Judaism and those who keep it going!

  20. Rabbi Brackman’s article is typical of those from Jews who feel threatened by Reform Judaism, and I agree with Bill Narvey – he has constructed a thesis almost out of thin air.

    I am a Reform Jew by choice, and I know many others who found that their Judaism was enriched by this choice. I don’t know of any Reform Jew of choice who has returned to Orthodox Judaism. I know of nobody who has been threatened if they wanted to leave the Reform Movement.

    In my shul there are observant Jews who are shomrei Shabbat and shomrei Kashrut, and many many people (women included) who are learned in Torah and Jewish Law. This is hardly the basis for disillusionment, as Rabbi Brackman seems to think. This leaning to traditionalism by Reform Jews is their right – traditionalism is not and must never be the domain of the strictly Orthodox.

  21. Unless Rabbi Brackman can point to a much greater number of similar Kutz camp experiences throughout the world, he has constructed a thesis almost out of thin air.

    Rabbi Yoffie is hardly about to start looking for a new job because his pulpit and bimah are being taken out from under him. That he has made the statement attributed to him was no doubt said in a particular context which context is noticeably absent from Rabbi Brackman’s lift of Yoffie’s words.

    If the Reform movement is beginning to introduce some traditional aspects of conservative and even orthodox Judaism into their synagogues, that hardly spells the end of Reform Judaism. What it may be a sign of is that the differences between Reform and Conservative Judaism might be lessening somewhat in some ways. That per se might spell something good.

    Then again is Reform Judaism substantively changing or only making a few peripheral changes?

    Rabbi Brackman has a very long way to go before he can even begin to try to seriously answer that question.

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