web analytics
August 5, 2015 / 20 Av, 5775
At a Glance
InDepth
Sponsored Post


The Growing Extremism of Reform Leader Eric Yoffie

None of this is a criticism of Reform Jews who are my brothers in every way.
moses

Rabbi Eric Yoffie is one of those courageous souls, prepared to throw stones while living in a glass house. Not content to criticize the Chabad movement as offering feel-good, commitment-free, money-chasing Judaism (“Reform rabbis tell me of Chabad rabbis who come into their communities and spend most of their time cultivating a handful of very wealthy people”), the former head of American Reform Judaism has now turned his sites on Sheldon Adelson, the global Jewish philanthropist, who he believes should be all but ostracized from Jewish communal dialogue (“Perhaps the time has come for important leaders of our community to decline invitations to appear at Mr. Adelson’s side.”)

I do not know Rabbi Yoffie but mutual acquaintances tell me he is a good, measured, and decent man. But surely he is aware that radical attacks on movements and individuals with impeccable credentials of dedication to the Jewish community, however imperfect, will lead others to examine his own record of leadership, particularly given the reverberations of the recent Pew Research report that paints so devastating a portrait of the state of Reform Jewry of which Yoffie, according to his Wikipedia page, served as “unchallenged head… from 1996 to 2012.”

The Pew study tells us that Reform Jewish religious attendance has plummeted to 17 percent attending services at least once a month. Fewer than one in five (16 percent) Reform Jews say that religion is very important in their lives. More than half of Reform Jewish families do not enroll their children in any Jewish programs like Hebrew school or youth groups and, perhaps as a direct result, only four percent of Reform Jews reported knowing how to read Hebrew. When it comes to connection to the Jewish state, 60 percent of Reform Jews have never visited Israel. Most significantly, one of out of every two Jews who affiliate with Reform marry outside the community.

Now, none of this is a criticism of Reform Jews who are my brothers in every way. I lecture to Reform groups much more than orthodox audiences. They welcome me with love, are eager to hear the relevance of Jewish values to modern life, and I can bear personal witness to their deep attachment to their Jewishness and their dedication to Israel’s future. They are immensely philanthropic to Jewish causes and exhibit a deep sense of social justice. It is, rather, a critique of leaders like Rabbi Yoffie who seem so preoccupied with firing torpedoes at those trying to right the Jewish ship (Yoffie himself admits that without Adelson there would be no Birthright) rather than focusing on saving their own liner from sinking.

Writing in Mosaic just last month on the high number of intermarriages Yoffie said this: “The simple fact is that no feasible strategy is available to lower those rates in any dramatic way. Doing so would require Jews in this country to pull back from full, enthusiastic participation in American life and to construct barricades and bunkers to separate themselves from the American mainstream.”

This copout confession would have us believe that there is no way of internalizing Jewish commitment and that assimilation can only be combatted by returning to the ghetto. Yet, hundreds of thousands of Jews – many of them Reform – go out every day to work, play, and live in mainstream America, taking their Jewishness with them because they have had a solid Jewish education and have found ongoing sources of inspiration, like Synagogues and study groups, to bolster Jewish identity.

But Rabbi Yoffie’s belief that Jewishness cannot flourish in non-Jewish society is perhaps informed by his puzzling attitude toward non-Jews. Writing in the Jerusalem Post in September 2011, he said, “I care about humankind, but I love my own group a bit more. I am more comfortable with them.”

This strange statement would deny the existence of a common human family. I am an orthodox Rabbi but I am immediately comfortable neither around Jews nor non-Jews but with those who treat me with love and respect, whatever their ethnicity or religion. Readers of my columns are well aware of my two-decade bond with Cory Booker, our newly elected Senator from New Jersey, who served as President of my Jewish student organization at Oxford, or Mike Benson, grandson of Mormon prophet Ezra Taft Benson, who is today the President of Eastern Kentucky University. In Englewood, our Shabbos table has as many non-Jews as it does Jews.

Perhaps this is why, in an astonishing act of willful blindness, while almost all segments of affiliated Jewry translated the results of the Pew study as alarming, even catastrophic, particularly in its finding on the growing disconnection of Reform Jews, Yoffie actually published two recent columns analyzing the Pew study but did not mention the words ‘Reform Judaism’ even once, not in his Haaretz column of October 16, or his Jerusalem Post column of October 7th, which offers the cheery conclusion that “American Jews are deeply committed to Israel.”

Yet, it is a commitment that Yoffie has himself suppressed at times. In June 2001, when terror attacks in Israel were increasing, The Los Angeles Times reported that “the U.S. Reform movement… announced last week that it was canceling its summer youth programs in Israel. Politicians in Israel denounced the cancellations… as an abandonment of the Jewish state in its hour of need by those who should be its biggest supporters. ‘If at this hour Jews do not come visit here, what is the significance of their solidarity with Israel?’ Transportation Minister Ephraim Sneh said.”

In ordering the cancellations, Rabbi Yoffie’s actions as head of Reform is troubling. The Reform Jews I know stand steadfastly and unswervingly behind Israel, especially when it is under attack. Why did Yoffie make this decision for 30% of American Jewry without consulting them?

Rabbi Yoffie has taken a similarly curious posture toward Israel more recently, with his June 2013 column entitled, “Why U.S. Jews must embrace Kerry’s appeal to put pressure on Netanyahu.” Rather than objecting to our President’s diplomatic overtures to Iran while the rogue state continues to fund Hezbollah and Hamas terrorists that kill Jews and Americans, enrich uranium, and prior to Rouhani’s repudiation of Ayatollah Khamenei and Ahmadinejad’s genocidal threats against Israel, Yoffie believes that it is Bibi who is the problem. I do not believe that the majority of Reform Jews would agree with Yoffie’s appeal to pressure the Israeli government into concessions that would endanger its security.

I have no problem with Rabbi Yoffie criticizing Chabad, Sheldon Adelson’s comments about a nuclear detonation in an empty Iranian desert, or me for that matter. Lord knows, all three come in for their share of reproach, and Judaism thrives on healthy intellectual debates. But it would be nice to see Yoffie as committed to rescuing Judaism from decline as he is to knocking fellow Jews down.

About the Author: Shmuley Boteach, whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous rabbi in America,” is the founder of The World Values Network and the international bestselling author of 30 books, including “The Fed-up Man of Faith: Challenging God in the Face of Tragedy and Suffering.” Follow him on Twitter @RabbiShmuley.


If you don't see your comment after publishing it, refresh the page.

Our comments section is intended for meaningful responses and debates in a civilized manner. We ask that you respect the fact that we are a religious Jewish website and avoid inappropriate language at all cost.

If you promote any foreign religions, gods or messiahs, lies about Israel, anti-Semitism, or advocate violence (except against terrorists), your permission to comment may be revoked.

2 Responses to “The Growing Extremism of Reform Leader Eric Yoffie”

  1. Eran Spiro says:

    "it would be nice to see Yoffie as committed to rescuing Judaism from decline as he is to knocking fellow Jews down". This your quote and it says it all.

  2. Perhaps Rabbi Yoffe has his faults, but Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, was likely transmuted via Alzheimer's disease into the foulest element of Judaism on earth, his statements about the purpose of non-Jews appalling to all. Why is he now celebrated? One gathers he thought he would be winding up now in some sort of heaven, being sexually serviced by hundreds of thousands of gentiles. Such foulness is not something wondrous.

Comments are closed.

Current Top Story
The Quran
Dawa* at Chautauqua
Latest Indepth Stories
The Quran

Islamists spoke of “Love and Justice in a World of Suffering,” skipping the horrors caused by Islam

President  Barack Obama.

How and when is it appropriate for pulpit rabbis to comment publicly on the Iran issue?

David Menachem Gordon

David was many things: Brother, son, grandson, nephew, uncle, cousin, talmid, comrade, AND a WARRIOR

Graffiti at Duma home that was torched in Samara.

Some Israelis seem to have forgotten no one has yet tracked down the murderers of Ali Bawabsheh.

Aside from my own 485-page tome on the subject, Red Army, I think Jamie Glazov did an excellent job at framing things in United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror.

“Isn’t it enough that the whole world hates us? WHy do we have to hate each other?”

Who said Kerry won no concessions from Iran? He secured pistachios and Beluga caviar for America!

In 2015, Israel’s fertility rate (3+ births per woman) is higher than all Arab countries except 3

The New Israel Fund, as usual, condemns the State of Israel rather than condemning a horrible act.

I sought a Muslim group that claims to preach a peaceful and accepting posture of Islam, Ahmadiyya

While Orthodox men are encouraged to achieve and celebrated for it, Orthodox women too often are not

Jonathan remember, as long as you’re denied your right to come home to Israel you’re still in prison

Reports of a dead baby, a devastated family, and indications of a gloating attacker.

“The fear of being exposed publicly is the only thing that will stop people,” observed Seewald.

“Yesha” and Binyamin Regional Council leaders said the attack “is not the path of Jews in Judea and Samaria.”

The occasion? The rarely performed mitzvah of pidyon peter chamor: Redemption of a firstborn donkey.

More Articles from Rabbi Shmuley Boteach
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach

Now is not the time to lay down our arms; it is the time to fight back against Israel’s demonization

Russian President Vladimir Putin (R) and Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu meet in the Kremlin, Nov. 20, 2013.

On the one hand, Putin has been a friend to Chabad and to Israel. On the other hand, Putin is a brutal dictator.

The gradual trickle of self-hatred into the Jewish soul is evidencing itself in the American Jewish public.

Rabbi Schochet wrote the Johannesburg Beis Din: It is totally prohibited and unacceptable to hear someone like Boteach.

If you’re feeling down, stop reading right now. You’re only going to be more depressed.

The world and the United State continue to give Rouhani a pass.

American Jews – especially those working on campus – don’t accept that we have a battle on our hands.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/indepth/columns/america-rabbi-shmuley-boteach/the-growing-extremism-of-reform-leader-eric-yoffie/2013/10/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: