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Letter to a Reform Jew


Rabbi Meir Kahane

Suppose a lecturer in medical school taught that the most effective treatment to cure a disease was to remove the patient’s heart. Obviously, you couldn’t call this person a professor of medicine. Similarly, if a reform “rabbi” teaches that a Jew doesn’t have to follow the commandments of the Torah, obviously he isn’t a real rabbi.

I was going to write about the poisonous decision of the Attorney General of Israel to force the government to pay salaries to imposters who pretend to be rabbis. But why listen to me when you can get the explanation from the world’s first and best blogger of all time – Rabbi Meir Kahane, of blessed memory, may the Almighty avenge his murder.

Of course, his thirty-year column in The Jewish Press wasn’t called a blog back then. Since its establishment, The Jewish Press hasn’t simply reported the news like other newspapers, week after week, The Jewish Press made the news. I wrote about the important role which The Jewish Press played in the initial success of the Volunteers for Israel/Sarel, and in helping free the “Jewish Underground.” With holy boldness, The Jewish Press has led scores of campaigns on behalf of the Jewish People and Israel. But, perhaps more than anything else, The Jewish Press has been a beacon of Torah to millions of Jews, and perhaps the greatest light of all came from the pen of Rabbi Meir Kahane, who spoke the truth and nothing but the truth about Judaism and the Jewish People for 30 years in the pages of the Press.

As Book Week begins, it is only fitting that we dedicate a series of blogs to the incomparable writings and books of Rav Kahane. This essay, “A Letter to a Reform Jew,” which first appeared in The Jewish Press, has been reprinted in an incredible set of seven volumes, Beyond Words, a collection of articles written by one of the greatest Jewish leaders of our time. These books belong in every Jewish library and in every Jewish home. Rabbi Kahane’s insights into Judaism and Jewish life in Israel and the Diaspora are as fresh and true for today as they were when he wrote them. In upcoming blogs, we will speak more about the Rabbi and dig through the archives of The Jewish Press to republish some more of his mindblogging writings. First, in answer to the latest issue of the day, “A Letter to a Reform Jew” …

From Rabbi Meir Kahane

My dear Brother/Sister Jew,

This letter is long overdue and for that I apologize. But its lateness is compensated for, I hope, by my love for you and for all those who describe themselves as “Reform Jews,” a love that motivates the letter and that permeates its every word. In short, it would not have been written did I not care for you as my brother/sister. And, most important, it is written as a cry to you to help prevent the greatest of all tragedies: the permanent division of the Jewish people into two camps, separate and forever apart. And so, I beg you to have the patience and courage to read this letter fully, and think it over carefully.

Let me preface my message by saying that I really do not want to refer to you as “Reform.” I really believe that there is no such thing as a “Reform Jew,” (can you really give me a positive definition of this, that goes beyond the anarchy of “a Jew who decides for himself what Jewish laws, customs or idiosyncrasies he will observe?) No, there are no Reform Jews, there are only Reform rabbis and temples; and that is the crux of my words to you.

It is, one might argue, a personal choice that one makes when he decides to abandon the traditions of Judaism (that which you call “Orthodoxy,” another word I abhor). The personal decision of a Jew to cease observing the Sabbath or eating kosher food or adhering to the rituals of the commandments is a source of great sorrow but it is, hopefully, not a national or, certainly, not a permanent tragedy. For on the one hand, this is a personal decision that in no way directly affects other Jews, and, on the other hand, it is a thing that is reversible, that can be changed through personal decision to return to the ways of Torah. In a word, the desecration of the Sabbath this week, by an individual, can, hopefully, be turned into observance next week and the damage repaired. And so, until a certain point in modern Jewish history, the growth of Reform was sad but not necessarily a national tragedy.

But that has changed and, today, my brother/sister, Reform poses a national threat to the Jewish people and a permanent one that opens the door to the division of the Jewish people into two nations that will not be able to marry or join together in the special unity of Judaism or Jewishness. And that, my brother/sister, is the greatest sin and crime that a Jew can ever commit.

Of course, you would never dream of such a horror and, of course, you are not to blame. Not you but your leaders, those who are your rabbis and lay guides — they are the ones who stand poised on the brink of national murder. And only you can stop them.

For the Reform rabbinate has gone beyond the destruction of those personal commandments that could be repaired by tshuva, penitence. They have entered the Holy of Holies, the area of national life, and endangered the very existence of a Jewish people that is one and indivisible. It began with their tampering with the laws of marriage and divorce, and their opening the doors to illegitimacy and bastardy. Their decisions to marry civilly-divorced Jews, previously wed but who had not obtained the halachic get (divorce) that is mandatory, opened the doors to “marriages” by women who were still married, in the eyes of Judaism, to their former spouses, and worse, the creation of a generation of mamzerim, illegitimate children unable to marry other Jews. Only an incredibly brave presumption of Reform weddings as invalid because of the lack of proper witnesses saved us from wholesale catastrophe until now.

But Reform leaders continued their chipping away at the sanctuary of Jewish unity. Adopted children, children of gentile mothers, were passed off as Jewish by the temple rabbis to well-meaning and hungry Jewish couples. And so, today, who knows how many gentiles, adopted by Jewish parents, walk in our midst with both they and their parents, AND US, sincerely believing that they are Jewish? The Reform rabbis who — for their own psychological reasons — needed to divest themselves of Sinai, had begun the process of bringing the mountain crashing down upon you. Upon us.

And on it went, the juggernaut of national destruction. As the cancer of intermarriage — created in such great measure by the Reform rabbis and their interfaith and melting pot crusades, spiced by the pepper of vapid and empty religious “education” conceived in Bar Mitzvah and buried in ostentatious fraud — spread, the rabbis rubbed our wounds in vinegar by healing them with the Band-Aid of “conversion.”

Thanks to the emptiness of the “Judaism” they had experienced in their Reform and Conservative temples, young Jews by the hundreds of thousands threw off their albatross (as they saw it) of Judaism and happily chased gentiles as future partners in marriage.

At first, the Jewish parents were horrified. (The irony is exquisitely heartbreaking. The same parents who had broken with the traditional Judaism that, alone, might have saved their children through Jewish knowledge and pride; the same parents who had thrust their children into the melting pot of Reform Judaism, interfaith services and the public school; now were heartbroken over the results of their folly: their children marrying gentiles. Did they really expect anything else?)

But as the stubborn children refused to give up their beloved gentile, the desperate parents snatched at the last straw, the broken reed of “conversion.” It mattered little to them that a “conversion” of a gentile made merely to soothe the tired conscience of the future Jewish mother or father-in-law was a travesty. The main thing was to be able to face the neighbors, family, friends and conscience with the fait accompli of a “Jewish” son/daughter-in-law…

And so, the Reform rabbis were faced with increasing demands for “conversions.” Of course, many of these rabbis never insisted upon them. Many Reform rabbis were prepared to perform an interfaith marriage without requiring a conversion (in the name of universal brotherhood and humanism). But others, with a modicum of Jewish conscience still clinging to them, refused that and demanded “conversion.” The halachic insistence that a gentile who sought to become Jewish must agree to abide by that Jewish halacha was, of course, not relevant, since the rabbis themselves did not recognize the binding character of halacha. And so, the great mass conversion began, a mockery of the “convert,” of the families and of Judaism itself. Many tens of thousands of gentiles now became “Jews,” and the first step had been taken to that most horrifying of dangers — a split in the Jewish people.

Many Jews, both Orthodox and traditional, could no longer be sure of the authenticity of the Jewishness of the young man or woman their child had met. The first calls arose for the establishment of a sefer yuchsin, a documented genealogy that would have inscribed in it only those Jews who were clearly Jewish. The Reform rabbinate had set into motion the first step in the division of the Jewish people. And now the next step has been taken, and we are but moments before the midnight of Jewish collapse.

My fellow brother/sister, it is important that you know that your Reform rabbinate has now “ruled” that the child of a gentile mother and Jewish father is Jewish. My brother/sister, it is important that you know that Jewish Law clearly, starkly declares that ONLY the child of a Jewish mother can be considered Jewish. My fellow brother/sister, it is important that you know that your rabbis are moving to the day when I may no longer be sure that your child is my brother/sister.

Can you understand what I say to you? Do you appreciate the magnitude of the crime that the Reform rabbinate has committed? There can be no forgiveness for people who, through egoism or pressure, brazenly trample upon the National Law and who split us into two peoples, barred from marriage and joining together! And it is the same fraud that they perpetrated upon you when they disguised the efforts of religious Jews in Israel to insist on conversion only according to halacha, as aimed at making Reform Jews second-class or non-Jews.

Nonsense! Any Jew is as much a Jew as any other, in the eyes of Torah law, and no Jew who calls himself “Reform” is any less of a Jew than the one who is “Orthodox.” The issue never was one of the Reform Jew but of the definition of a Jew per se and of the status of the Reform rabbi. The real anger of the Reform rabbis was not that the Orthodox did not recognize the Reform Jew but that they recognize the illegitimacy of the Reform rabbi. Any Reform Jew who is born of a Jewish mother is recognized as being FULLY JEWISH. And any Reform Jew in Israel can set up his own temple (there are many such institutions there). Anyone can set up his own form of service and hire his own leader of the service whom he calls a rabbi. His rights are in no way stopped.

What the religious Jews in Israel do not recognize is the Reform rabbi and his right to manipulate the law. The fact that a Reform Jew wishes to adopt a counterfeit form of “Judaism” is his affair. But the religious Jew is not bound by that. The State of Israel does not have to recognize on an official level the falsehood that every Jew may adopt on a private level. And so, what infuriates the Reform rabbis is not that you, my brother/sister, are not recognized, but the fact that he, the rabbi, (or she) is not.

And now, another fraud. Reform rabbis would have you believe that a Jew is anything they say he is. He is not. To be Jewish is not some game to be played with rules we change to suit ourselves. Because influential Jews have so many of their children intermarrying, they have pressured Reform rabbis to find them a solution. And the rabbis accommodate them.

But in so doing, they guarantee the division of the Jewish people into two separate camps, separated from each other, unable to marry or to join together. My dear brother/sister. Is that what you want? Are you prepared, by your silence, to acquiesce in this? Do you not realize the immense difference between your throwing away the Jewish law on a private level and this destruction of the very foundation of the Jewish nation? Who are your rabbis to do that to all of us? You, and only you, can prevent it. Speak up and tell your rabbis that you reject their ruling. After all, if Reform Judaism is based on the fact that the Torah is not Divine and can be rejected or changed as we see fit, then surely you can tell your rabbis that the time has come to reject their dangerous tampering with the foundation of Judaism. We are One people. Let us keep it that way.

June 3, 1983

About the Author: Tzvi Fishman was awarded the Israel Ministry of Education Prize for Creativity and Jewish Culture for his novel "Tevye in the Promised Land." For the past several years, he has written a popular and controversial blog at Arutz 7. A wide selection of his books are available at Amazon. The views expressed in this blog are solely those of the author and do not represent the views of The Jewish Press


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15 Responses to “Letter to a Reform Jew”

  1. Muriel Coudurier-Curveur says:

    I thinks this letter shows a dangerous hatred of those who differ from you in their understanding of Judaism. While I am not a Reform Jew, I think that it isn't for you, but for Hashem alone to decide who is a Jew among those who claim to be. According to your letter, the Reform Jews are destroying the unity of Israel, and I disagree with you: All Jews, from the most ignorant -or deluded- to the most enlightened in the Torah, are part of Israel. I fear more those who profess their hatred of Israel, like the pro-Palestinian extreme left and the Neturei Karta, than I do those who are loyal to both Israel and the Torah, whether or not they have same conception of Mitzvot I have.

  2. Gideon Jones says:

    Muriel,

    Did you even read the letter? I believe Kahane openly stated at least two-separate times that Reform Jews are as Jewish as Orthodox and vice versa. It is the Reform Movement which perverts and otherwise simply throws out long standing Jewish Law which is the problem. I suggest you re-read the letter.

    But since you are having trouble I'll give you the Cliff's Notes version: Judaism has always said that in order to be considered a Jew you have to have come from a Jewish mother or converted in a very specific way. The leadership of Reform Judaism however has perverted that long standing Jewish Law to serve their own purposes stating (without basis) that neither is necessary. Thus as a result individuals who are not actually Jewish according to Judaism itself (Jewish Law) grown up thinking they are Jewish, and having children who believe the same & so on. The problem is that Judaism isn't some game where the Reform Movement can just change the rules as they please – it is a G-d given religion. So, although generation of people might think they are Jews, they won't actually be counted as such because they do not satisfy the legal requirements.

    Thus, the perversion of Jewish Law by Reform Judaism (not Reform Jews) has created a situation where those following Jewish Law (often called Orthodox) won't be able to marry the actually non-Jewish so-called "Jews". This creates a horrible division between the One Nation of Israel. ("Israel" meaning Am Yisroel (the People), not Medinat Yisroel (The State)).

  3. Muriel Coudurier-Curveur says:

    Thank you for the clarification

  4. what was it like when The Temple stood…Hashem the same yesterday today and forever….who is the closest to this, some are richer in wisdom leaving lies behind , who's evolving into what and joining who.

  5. Interesting opinion. However, I don't think Kahane understands the complex challenges liberal Jews face living in an open free society. Judaism has always adapted to changing times. Yet the fundamental difference lies on the belief that Torah is or is not divine from Sinai.

  6. Max Chaiken says:

    Disgusting and enraging.

  7. what was so disgusting and ENRAGING???

  8. Max Chaiken says:

    Responding in full would take time that I don't have right now. But I will say that this is little more than hatred—שנאת חינם—for any Jew who does not believe exactly as Fishman does. This kind of hatred is not just about patrilineal descent or the fairness of women being allowed to initiate divorce. The State of Israel is unquestionably doing the right thing by recognizing Reform Rabbis, in my opinion, whether or not Fishman and the Orthodox world likes it or agrees with it.

  9. But a JEWISH State recognizing the Reform movement would be like the United States recognizing Communism. They're two complete opposites.

  10. Max Chaiken says:

    I'm sorry to say that to me, at least, your comments are hateful and misguided.

  11. I think you're a bit extremist and narrow minded. I never said anything hateful, racist or negative whatsoever. If you are capable of hearing a different opinion then do so… if not, then you're the hateful one. The "thing" that made Jews what they are… Jews… is the Torah. The Torah says (for example) no pork (EVER). Then a group comes and says NO!. we will eat it because we don't believe the Torah is right on this one. It's basically denying the basis of what made the Jewish Nation. So then it's evidently like two complete opposites.

  12. Doug Molina says:

    Thank you. Never argue with an idiot.

  13. Muriel Coudurier-Curveur says:

    La critique est aisée, mais l'art est difficile. Rather than insulting me, it would have been more constructive to let us know your actual thought on the matter. I may be an idiot, but at least I try to think for myself

  14. Misha Ben-david says:

    How cynical and narrow minded. I am a liberal Jew ( not reform ) and I don't care what the ultra orthodox think about me and my practices. I do care when they seek to make me a second class citizen.

  15. Misha Ben-david says:

    How cynical and narrow minded. I am a liberal Jew ( not reform ) and I don't care what the ultra orthodox think about me and my practices. I do care when they seek to make me a second class citizen.

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Tzvi Fishman, author of the Jewish Press blog Felafel on Rye and author of more than a dozen books.
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