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August 30, 2016 / 26 Av, 5776
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How Little Must One Know to Be Fired from a Reform Temple?

She became a rabbinic associate in 2008 at the temple, then agreed to enroll in a distance learning-program, but didn't.

Rescinded Reform Rabbi Keren Alpert (L), and Reform Rabbi Daniel Sime (R) on Rosh Hashana. She was too busy to take the distance-learning course and they ordained her anyway, and then, what a shanda.

Rescinded Reform Rabbi Keren Alpert (L), and Reform Rabbi Daniel Sime (R) on Rosh Hashana. She was too busy to take the distance-learning course and they ordained her anyway, and then, what a shanda.
Photo Credit: Temple Beth El

It may have something to do with the membership form one can download from the Temple Beth El website, where they’re asked to enter the membership fees they commit to paying. I suppose fewer folks would show up if the leader of the place called herself or himself social director, or community organizer—which is what they are, and many are very good at it, too. They’re just not rabbis.

“She endeared herself … in a way that is just incredible, so we feel for her” Rosenfeld told the Detroit papers. “I also feel for members of the congregation who feel they may have been deceived in some way. … It’s just a shame this happened.

Oh, and if you were wondering, Rosenfeld added that the rites Alpert performed, such as weddings, bar and bat mitzvahs and conversions, are valid. Rabbis were required only for conversions, and a rabbi joined her when she officiated those, he said.

I’d still ask for my money back…

Yori Yanover

About the Author: Yori Yanover has been a working journalist since age 17, before he enlisted and worked for Ba'Machane Nachal. Since then he has worked for Israel Shelanu, the US supplement of Yedioth, JCN18.com, USAJewish.com, Lubavitch News Service, Arutz 7 (as DJ on the high seas), and the Grand Street News. He has published Dancing and Crying, a colorful and intimate portrait of the last two years in the life of the late Lubavitch Rebbe, (in Hebrew), and two fun books in English: The Cabalist's Daughter: A Novel of Practical Messianic Redemption, and How Would God REALLY Vote.

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42 Responses to “How Little Must One Know to Be Fired from a Reform Temple?”

  1. Dan Silagi says:

    Just another cheap shot at the Reform movement by someone who doesn't even consider Reform Jews as Jewish. Tell me, Yanover, what's the percentage of Reform rabbis who are convicted criminals as compared to the percentage of Orthodox rabbis who are?

  2. Yori Yanover says:

    Fred Neulander cut off his wife's head.

    That's big, right?

  3. Dan Silagi says:

    Yori Yanover So all Reform rabbis are like Fred Neulander (a fellow Jerseyan, unfortunately)? On my side, I can start with Judah Maccabee, who beheaded many Jews whose "crime" was apostasy. I'm not sure Maccabee was an ordained rabbi, but if he was, he certainly wasn't Reform. Fact is, the proportion of orthodox crooks, from the former Chief Rabbi of Israel on down, far exceeds that of Reform and Conservative Jews, and you needn't be a reader of Shmarya Rosenberg's blog to know that. Not that I have any great love for Rosenberg; who goes off the deep end, but you get the gist.

  4. Yori Yanover says:

    Dan Silagi – yes, but cutting off the wife's head still very big. No?

  5. Sheri Knauth says:

    Yes, a good article but sad that this "journalist" needed to be like the Enquirer with a rude title. Maybe this "author" should put his foot inside a Reform congregation and learn what it means to be a spiritual and committed Reform Jew. I'd like to hear back from Mr. Yori Yanover

  6. Yori Yanover says:

    I was employed by the CCAR as designer of their prayer book. My familiarity with the Reform movement is direct and personal. But, alas, by Jewish law I am not permitted to set foot inside a Reform temple, much as I'm prohibited from entering a church. I worked over the Internet, mostly… As to being spiritual and committed — more power to you, but if you do not continue in the halachic path of our rabbis, why call yourself a rabbi? If you don't know enough Hebrew and Aramaic to learn a page of Gemorah, why pretend that you continue the rabbinic tradition? I don't begrudge anyone their Yoga classes and choir singing and even group prayer, what do I care — but don't defraud the masses by proclaiming a title that belongs to people who wouldn't enter your house if they could help it?

  7. Tany Berman says:

    even if she was " ordained " they are NOT rabbis…

  8. Sheri Knauth says:

    Yori Yanover I completely agree that there are varying degrees of commitment in all movements of Judaism. Just because this one person did not adhere to her commitments to Torah and learning, does not mean the entire movement is false. I am a Yeshiva elementary school graduate and have been a part of each movement. I can tell you from personal experience that there are those who follow Torah in each synagogue. It's the rude title that "got me". Reporting the news is one thing but … check your Torah, embarrassing an entire movement is another.

  9. Yori Yanover says:

    Sheri Knauth – I couldn't disagree more. The reform movement is a threat to normative Jews and Judaism, spreading values that are foreign to the very notion of Avodat Hashem. They reject the very idea of Halacha, authority of the sages and tradition of Psika, without which we are nothing but self-centered spiritual narcissists. You cannot be a practicing Reform Jew and be following the Torah, it's an oxymoron.

  10. James Bloyd says:

    As a conservative I walk the middle …i understand yori on the one hand…if you can't read from the to'rah scroll fluently you cannot call yourself a rabbi…that is silly….i follow reform newsletters and I definitely believe the movements commitment to Judaic values and culture..and appreciate their emphasis on kindness when interpreting law…Dan definitely makes a good point about ultra orthodox rabbis..their intellectual suppression of their congregations,mafiaesque financial scandals, and the most heinous,the epidemic pedophiliac sex scandals make them much more of an embarrassment to Judaism

  11. James Bloyd says:

    But don't think I don't love you yori…i think you are great and read you everyday..shavua tov

  12. Wow, another Jew telling Jews they aren’t Jewish enough. Or even Jews if they don’t do it his way. Thank goodness for Israel where Jews can be secular and no one argues about their identification as a Jew. Except those who literally throw stones.

  13. Allan Pogrund says:

    How little must one know to write for this rag?

  14. Anonymous says:

    The entire movement IS false, not because of their requirements for "ordination," but because of their misguided belief that the Torah was written by HUMANS and is not the word of Hashem given at Sinai to the Jewish People for all time and can't be changed, and that we made a covenant to accept it! All their "reforms" are justified by that basic error.

  15. Anonymous says:

    The so-called "Conservative" movement also does not accept that the Torah is the Word of Hashem. (I was raised Conservative.) It's the worst of both worlds, neither miclchick nor fleishick, with a skewed level of observance, which is why it's losing so many members.

  16. Anonymous says:

    Reform Jews are Jewish if their mother is Halachically Jewish, and are as valued as any other member of Klal Yisrael. The problem is that that the so-called Reform Movement has redefined who is a Jew, so in many congregations, the majority of "Jews" aren't legally Jewish! Either they have a shiksa mother, or they've undergone a Reform "conversion," which doesn't hold water. I live in a U.S. city that has one of the largest Reform congregations, and they brag that they have more non-Jews as members (even by their own loose standards) than Jews and welcome "interfaith" and "blended" families.

  17. Ben Plonie says:

    I don't believe that the proportion of Orthodox crooks exceeds that of Reform and Conservative at all. They are just more visible; the 'man bites dog' phenomenon. It is wishful thinking on your part and that of that vile pervert 'shmarya' Rosenberg, who banned me for disputing his hateful performance with facts and logic. The crime and perversion rate for Orthodox Jews is near zero, while the rate for Conservative and Reform Jews approaches that of the general population in direct proportion to their distance from Orthodoxy.

    No, don't tell me to prove it. It is obvious. YOU prove it.

  18. Yori Yanover says:

    Dan Silagi – The question is not whether or not the Torah is a scientific document, which it obviously isn't. The question is whether a movement that on principle does not follow traditional Jewish law — which the Conservative, by the way, do, in their fashion — can call its leaders rabbis.

    Can a person one day declare themselves a doctor even if they never attended medical school and have no ability to read a medical text book? Would you not call the cops on someone who's doing surgery in his den the way he or she feel it should be done, without official confirmation?

    The debate in this instance is not about the veracity of Judaism — you can hold whatever opinion you wish on that — but on whether or not someone who rejects the very letter and spirit of the laws associated for many centuries with Judaism is entitled to call the,selves a rabbi.

    I would be very happy if they called themselves social directors, community organizers, group supporters, spiritual instructors — because they really do a great job in those areas, certainly much better than many Orthodox rabbis are doing. Why must they call the,selves rabbis? Is it really for the donations and membership fees?

  19. Dan Silagi says:

    Yori Yanover Whatever religion it is that forbids you from entering a Reform (or Conservative) temple, it's not Judaism. Back in 2009, a bunch of rabbis issued a psak in Yiddish saying that if a Jew attends the inauguration of Cardinal Dolan or even watches it on TV, that Jew is hereby excommunicated. I watched it, boring as it was, then wrote a "go ahead, make my day" letter to the chief of of these rabbis telling them that yes, I watched it on TV, now excommunicate me. I'll sill waiting for correspondence from one of these fools, although I'm not holding my breath.

  20. "Reform Rabbi" is an oxymoron.

  21. Sheri Knauth , the Reform Movement embarrasses itself. Yori is just pointing out the facts.

  22. uunlisted That's exactly the problem. Then these poor non Jews fall in love with a halachic Jew, and find out that they aren't accepted anywhere outside their "movement". It's not fair to them, or their children, because they were sold a bill of goods that was fraudulent.

  23. Dan Silagi says:

    Yocheved Rotenberg I was unaware that intolerance is a Jewish value. Apparently I was misinformed.

  24. Yori Yanover says:

    Dan Silagi – You misunderstand entirely the process of halachic decision making. We don't have fatwas in Jewish tradition. A thousand rabbis may stand outside my window, each more prominent than the other, and declare that I must do something, and I'm still absolutely and completely free to act as I see fit.

    All halachic inquiries are from the bottom up. I seek the rabbi — or any teacher — I choose, who best fits my needs on many different levels, and I ask them my question. But if in my entire life I have no issue which puzzles me, if I think and feel that I know exactly what to do as per my understanding of halacha — that's what I must do.

    Now, I could be wrong in my conviction, at which point I need to atone for my error and labor to fix it. But the Torah wants me to be a strong and intuitive man, unafraid to be myself and embracing a personal and inspired relationship with God through the commandments — as I understand them.

    As to entering a reform temple — those are my standards, not anything forced on me. I sought guidance about it, embraced it and am acting on it. BTW — I don't hold the same standard regarding Conservative synagogues. I don't view them as an attempt to uproot halacha, but merely to forge halacha as the Conservative see fit. I may not love the results, but they're not the same destructive force in our nation.

  25. Dan Silagi says:

    Yori Yanover They are rabbis. In most cases Reform rabbis are better educated than Orthodox ones, and certainly Hasidim. Deal with it.

  26. Dan Silagi says:

    Yori Yanover Don't have fatwas? You just issued one yourself, when you said Reform rabbis aren't really rabbis, and that Reform Jews aren't really Jewish. Was it Hashem who forbade you from entering a Reform synagogue? If it wasn't Hashem Himself, it was a man, or a group of men (not women, they don't count) who issued that psak. Shame on them.

  27. Dan Silagi says:

    In Sholem Aleichem's stories, Tevya was portrayed as an old fool, set in his ways. He and his attitudes were satirized, none too gently. Now the play and the movie were shmaltzed up and romanticized, and Tevya was made a mostly sympathetic character. But Sholem Aleichem made him a , and very strongly implied Tevya deserved his fate.

  28. Jennifer Badani says:

    Okay, so there's one bad apple in the crowd of Reform Judaism. Moses Mendlesohn came out of Germany the same time that Chabad came out of the Soviet Union. Many Jewish people were assimilating. So there was different movements within Judaism to have Jewish people more involved.

  29. Lea Majer says:

    Jew is someone who was born from a Jewish mother. Period. Torah is clearly giving certain rules about how to keep, or not to keep Judaism. It’s up to each one of us to decide if we want to keep it or not. But one thing has to be clear my dear sister Sheryl, you can’t decide to be secular and saying this is also okay like this. Because it is not. Cerain things, like Shabbat, Kosher, for instance, are the basic of Judaism. And us not in our hands to decide if and how to change it.

  30. Yori Yanover says:

    Moses Mendelssohn 1729 – 1786)

    Soviet Union 1917 – 1991

    You probably meant Russia, or, more precisely, Belarus, the birthplace of Chabad.. That aside, there is no Judaism without the commandments. There are Jews without the commandments, for sure, but to qualify as a Jewish movement it must be under the rabbinical umbrella, erected some time in the first or second century CE.

    We've had movements, like the Karaites, who tried to be both Jewish and outside the rabbinical umbrella. It didn't last. Indeed, today's Reform movement includes a vast constituency of non-Jews. They become very upset when we mention this. we have a regular reader who rebukes me personally when I say it. That's OK. The bottom line is: as the years go by, there are fewer and fewer reform Jews, while the reform membership remains about the same. Why? Because any Jewish movement that ignores the commandments will eventually cease to be Jewish.

    Pass it on.

  31. Yori Yanover says:

    Dan Silagi – Repeating a false claim, even printing it, does not make it true.

    I've come in direct and daily work contact with leaders of the CCAR, the Rabbi di tuti Rabbis of the reform movement, and one of the reason they used my services was because I knew where stuff they remembered from kindergarten actually was, in the gemora or midrashim. And I ain't no rabbi, just went to yeshiva a couple years.

  32. Yori Yanover says:

    Dan Silagi – I suspect you never read Tuvia the Milkman. Because nothing of what you wrote there reflects knowledge of the actual masterpiece. I encourage you to return to the work and discover the love and affection of the author to the main character, as he attempts to confront the sweeping changes around him, as well as poverty and antisemitism, with wit and grace.

    I'll consent that you probably stayed up through much of the movie.

  33. Ahron Ebert says:

    Reform and Conservative a different religions then Judaism and they can call ther leaders Reform Rabbis and Concervative Rabbis. But Rabbi is only for Judasim.

  34. Dan Silagi says:

    Yori Yanover "I ain't no rabbi…" It shows.

  35. Dan Silagi says:

    Yori Yanover I read it many years ago, and re-read it. "Wit and grace" does not comprise disowning his daughter. Tevya's a , and represents the old establishment unwilling and unable to change. He's portrayed sympathetically, but he's not the only in literature to be portrayed so. Of course, Topol is a wonderful actor, and the music is terrific. But the telling line is when Topol asks the rhetorical question, "And why do we follow these'traditions'"? And his answer is, "I don't know."

    My maternal great-grandparents came here from Slutsk, Belarus (then Czarist Russia) in the first decade of the 20th century. They most defintely did NOT romanticize Slutsk, and all their children (my grandparents, great-aunts, and great-uncles) rebelled from their tyrannial orthodox father and became atheists, which I'm not.

  36. Yori Yanover says:

    Dan Silagi – Now I get it. You're schlepping your personal "original sin" everywhere, making it impossible for you to even appreciate the portrayal of a fictional character without interjecting your own pain of rejection over marrying a non-Jew.

    How sad it must be for you that we not only reject your life choices, but are doing well and thriving, thank God, in the process. And as the Reform movement and you and your choices continue to drift away from mainstream Jewish history, which is busy with serious, existential issues, we bid you a warm adieu.

  37. Dan Silagi says:

    Yori Yanover About half of my family are intermarried, and the Jewish ones do not reject the non-Jewish ones. Not at all. Unlike you, we believe in religious freedom and tolerance. Yes, 100 years ago, my maternal grandmother rejected her Tevye-like father and moved from Belarus to Jersey City, age 16, where she married a Jewish man very much like the Communist revolutionary who married one of Tevye's daughters. She may have not been religious, but she was a pintele Yid until her dying day. As were her three children, one of whom is still alive.

  38. Dan Silagi says:

    Yori Yanover He meant Russia, not the USSR. Then his dates would be approximately correct.

  39. Jennifer Badani says:

    Many people who serve the IDF who are Pro-Israel are conservative or reform. A Yid is a Yid. Love your fellow Yid.

  40. Robin Rosenblatt says:

    Most Reform Rabbis are so left they support the Palestinians. Some support both Israel and the Palestinians not knowing or ignoring that the Palestinians want to destroy Israel.

  41. Robin Rosenblatt says:

    Most Reform Rabbis are so left they support the Palestinians. Some support both Israel and the Palestinians not knowing or ignoring that the Palestinians want to destroy Israel.

  42. It is so sad that most Reformed Rabbis are supporting Palestinians who hate Israel and Jews. They are stabbing their own country and other Jews in the back!

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