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November 26, 2015 / 14 Kislev, 5776
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Reform Judaism’

Reform Movement Won’t Back Nuclear Iran Deal

Thursday, August 20th, 2015

The Reform Movement in the United States is one of the most liberal religious denominations in America. It is also the largest denomination of Judaism in the United States. Members of the Reform movement voted for U.S. President Barack Obama in overwhelming numbers – both times.

And so the announcement on Wednesday, Aug. 19, that the Reform movement will not take a position in favor, or opposed, to the Nuclear Iran Deal is momentous.

The statement, released by the leaders of the Union for Reform Judaism, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism, the Central Conference of American Rabbis, and ARZA (Reform Israel Fund), reveals a painstaking review of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action.

The statement referred to the debate over the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action as a “makhloket l’shem shamayim,” a “debate for the sake of heaven.”

The overall position the movement took is reflected in the following statement: “The JCPOA does present a way forward, there are real dangers to rejecting it, and it does not foreclose Iran’s ability to become a nuclear weapons threshold state.” A more refined version, but not entirely different in meaning, from Cong. Brad Sherman’s (D-CA) assessment of the deal as “the good, the bad and the ugly.”

It revealed a fear not only of an Iran with nuclear weapons and of an Iran with a too-largely unfettered ability to foment and support terrorism, but also deep alarm over the fraying of the U.S.-Israel relationship and of America’s standing in the world.

The Reform movement made clear that while there was neither unanimity of opinion regarding the Nuclear Iran Deal amongst the movement’s leadership or the movement’s general membership, they were all united on the following concerns:”First, how is it possible to address our concerns about the JCPOA? Second, if the agreement is finalized, what happens the day after? Specifically, how can we work to support the strongest possible U.S.-Israel relationship going forward?”

The numerous meetings held with military leaders, political leaders and nuclear experts revealed to the statement’s drafters that their concerns can be categorized as: deterrence, Iran’s support of terror, inspections, human rights and religious freedom, and the standing of the U.S. in the world.

Based on those concerns, the Reform movement made a number of recommendations it hopes this Administration will implement, including pledging never to take any options off the table that could prevent Iran from obtaining nuclear weapons, whether at the onset of any Agreement, or at the conclusion of any Agreement, and to provide Israel with the necessary means to deter Iran and to defend itself.

Although vaguely defined, the Reform movement also recommended that the U.S. take a lead role in a broader international effort to eliminate Iran’s ability to support international terrorism.

It also believes that additional protections are necessary than the currently designed “snapback” protocol provided in the JCPOA.

And, the Reform movement avers, the U.S. must do more to encourage and push international pressure on Iran to “expand human rights, religious freedom and the development of democratic structures.”

Regardless of whether the Nuclear Iran deal passes or it does not, the Reform movement very much wants the rhetoric between those in favor and those opposed to the Agreement to be “tamped down.”

“Calling those who oppose the deal ‘war mongers’ shuts shown constructive debate; calling those who support the deal ‘enablers of a second Holocaust’ ends thoughtful discourse,” the statement admonishes.

The statement was signed by Rabbi Rick Jacobs, President, and Steve Sacks, Chair of the Board of the Union for Reform Judaism; Rabbi Denise L. Eger, President, and Rabbi Steve Fox, CEO, Central Conference of American Rabbis; Rabbi Jonah Dov Pesner, Director of Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism and Jennifer Kaufman, Chair, Commission on Social Action of Reform Judaism; and Rabbi Joshua Weinberg, President, and Rabbi Bennett Miller, Chair, Association of Reform Zionists of America.

Shas MK Begins ‘Three Week’s with ‘Senseless Hate’ against Reform Jews

Tuesday, July 7th, 2015


Minister for Religious Affairs, Shas Knesset Member David Azoulay, ridiculed approximately 2 million Jews Tuesday with the incredible statement, “A Reform Jew, from the moment he does not follow Jewish law…. I cannot allow myself to say that he is a Jew.”

His vile libel comes on the heels of the Netanyahu government’s rollback of religious reforms passed in the previous administration and which broke the gridlock that the Hareidi establishment has held over the conversion process and the approval for private and public eating facilities to be certified as kosher.

There are tens of thousands of Reform Jews who indeed are not Jews according to Jewish law because of  intermarriage. Jewish law states that if the mother is Jewish, so is the child.

But for the time being, most Reform Jews in the United States and elsewhere are Jews by birth, regardless of whether they follow Jewish law.

MK Azoulay’s rant comes during the first week of the “three weeks” of a semi-state of mourning over the destruction of the First and Second Temples on the Ninth of Av, which is observed at the end of the period.

Every year, rabbis preach that the sages teach that the Second Temple fell because of “senseless hate” among Jews,” and that every Jew today must express unlimited love.

And how does the Shas MK express his love? He told Army Radio today he cannot call them “Jews” and added:

These [Reform] Jews took the wrong path, and we need to make sure that every Jew returns to the lap of Judaism and [we need] to receive everyone with love and joy.To my sorrow, most of the Reform Jews in the Diaspora have erred. They are like babies who are hostages, and we want to make sure that every Jew will return  to Judaism according to Jewish law.

The most infuriating part of MK Azoulai’s remarks, worse than refusing to recognize Reform Jews as Jews, is his arrogant pretense that “we need to receive them with love and joy.”

The Hareidi establishment, of which the Shas Sephardi party is a major leader, does everything in its power to turn Jews off from Judaism.

Reform Judaism is not Judaism, and Reform rabbis are not rabbis, no more than alternative medicine is “medicine” and their practitioners are “doctors,” but to publicly say – or even privately think – that they are not Jews is nothing less than a blood libel.

Reform Jews never will be accepted with “love and joy” by the Israeli Hareidi establishment no more than MK Azoulay will accept national religious Jews with “love and joy.”

No matter how much Talmud we learn, and no matter how often we say the same prayers that Hareidim say – except for the addition of the Prayer for the State of Israel and the IDF that are absent from almost all Israeli Hareidi prayer books – it is not good enough for the their establishment.

Unlike the Agudah Hareidi movement in the United States, which practices “kiruv” – reaching out to non-Orthodox Jews to bring them closer to Judaism – the Hareidi  leaders in Israel are interested in power. They don’t accept others who do not dress like them, obey them like robots and contribute to their yeshivas.

There was an unconfirmed claim by the Women of the Wall yesterday that guards stopped a woman at The Western Wall because she was wearing a kippah.

The guards allegedly asked the woman to go with them to the police station, a request she refused.

Instead, she was escorted to a taxi stand outside the Western Wall Plaza.

Chief Rabbinate Bows to Pressure to Extend Rabbi Riskin’s Term

Sunday, June 28th, 2015

The attempt by the Chief Rabbinate to oust Rabbi Shlomo Riskin as Chief Rabbi or Efrat is doomed, and the rabbis will extend his term after meeting on Monday, the Hareidi Kikar Shabbat website reported.

If the rabbis could have their way, they would vote against Riskin, but they fear a media and public backlash, according to the report.

The issue arose several weeks ago when it was reported that rabbis in the Chief Rabbinate do not like Rabbi Riskin’s views on conversion and his liberal attitude towards women.

He has reached the age of 75 and needs permission from the Rabbinate to continue serving.

An argument broke out in the Rabbinate between the majority of rabbis and the legal department, which said that a rabbi’s medical condition is the only grounds they can use to refuse to extend his term.

After the attempt to oust Rabbi Riskin was exposed, Bayit Yehudi (Jewish Home) Naftali Bennett said:

I do not accept the attempt to demote a public servant because of his opinions and then say it is because of his age. Rabbi Risking helped established Efrat, and he has merits that do not allow his being used as a political target.

He is allowed to have a different opinion, and shutting the door to other opinions is prohibited.

The attitude of the Chief Rabbinate can be discerned from a recording of comments by Chief Sephardi Rabbi Yitzchak Yosef, who was quoted earlier this month by Kikar Shabbat as saying:

We say in daily prayers every morning, ‘God has not made me a woman,’ not like someone from Efrat who comes up with all kinds of new ideas makes news and wages wars.

The phrase “”make news and wage battles” is a reference to another prayer in the morning prayers, in which  it is recited that God “brings about new developments and is the Master of wars.”

A senior official in the Chief Rabbinate told Kikar Shabbat:

We estimate that his term will be extended. The rabbis in the council have an interest that Rabbi Riskin will commit himself to be subject to the Chief Rabbinate. There is a strong doubt that he will agreed to do so, but the rabbis will try.”

Legally, they cannot vote to oust Rabbis Riskin without medical proof that he is not fit for office.

Rabbi Riskin’s views on conversion and women do not fit in with the Hareidi Orthodox model.

The Chief Rabbinate, still a bastion of Hareidi power, has lost the trust of Israelis who once respected it, especially when Hareidi Rabbi Yisrael Meir Lau was in office. The charismatic rabbi never let his opinions get in the way of reaching out to all Israelis with understanding, something that is totally lacking in the Chief Rabbinate today.

Their refusal to accept any other opinion in the Orthodox world only makes them more vulnerable to a collapse of their authority under the weight of pressure from the Reform community.


Below is a video of Rabbi Riskin’s explanation on this week’s Torah reading of Balak:

Wasserman-Schultz Puts Stamp of Approval on Intermarriage

Friday, February 6th, 2015

Florida Democratic Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz has done somersaults after making a comment noting the “the problem of intermarriage” in the Jewish community and then insisting she does not oppose it.

It is a bit bewildering that Wasserman Schultz, who also is head of the Democratic National Committee (DNC), felt the need to retract a comment that should not have raised too many eyebrows.

Her remarks were made at a Jewish Federation event, in which she said:

We have the problem of assimilation. We have the problem of intermarriage. We have the problem that too many generations of Jews don’t realize the importance of our institutions strengthening our community—particularly with the rise of anti-Semitism and global intolerance.

The playback must have sounded too committed to her and anyone, mostly in the Reform Movement, whose idea of “commitment” is not to be committed to anything, such as the Torah, that interferes with the individual as the judge and jury of what is wrong and right.

Here is how she backtracked:

At an annual Jewish community event in my congressional district, I spoke about my personal connection to Judaism and in a larger context about the loss of Jewish identity and the importance of connecting younger generations to the institutions and values that make up our community. I do not oppose intermarriage; in fact, members of my family, including my husband, are a product of it.

Is it guilt that was behind her repentance? Does she feel guilty for saying intermarriage is a “problem” when members of her family are a “product of intermarriage”?

Is it forbidden to say that intermarriage is a problem?

Apparently so.

Wasserman Schultz has implicitly put her stamp of approval on the “problem” of assimilation, which is estimated at 60 percent in the United States.

Reform Judaism does not officially oppose or favor intermarriage, although there is a clear trend of its clergy to officiate at weddings between a Jew and a non-Jew.

Polls show that only 25 percent of children of intermarried couples identify themselves as Jewish, and the term “Jewish” can be understood in its widest and most liberal interpretation that gives a person the self-satisfaction of calling himself a Jew while wolfing down a cheeseburger on Yom Kippur.

The Florida Sun-Sentinel quoted Ira M. Sheskin, of Cooper City, director of the University of Miami’s Jewish Demography Project, as saying, “There’s no question that there’s significant concern in the Jewish community over the percentage of people who are choosing not to marry Jews… From the point of view of a community that wants to see itself around in the next 100 years, it’s not a good trend.”

Wasserman Schultz’ Conservative synagogue Rabbi Adam Watstein told the Florida newspaper that “intermarriage is a feature of the reality of the Jewish community in the United States.”

That is true if the Jewish community accepts intermarriage. It is not true if it does not.

Prof. Sheskin mentioned that there is intermarriage in his own family, but that didn’t stop him from forecasting the obvious result of intermarriage for Judaism.

Wasserman Schultz couldn’t go that far, and her justification of what she admits is a “problem” is one more alarm siren for what remains of American Jewry.

Gwyneth Paltrow ‘Quietly’ Converting to Judaism [video]

Saturday, September 6th, 2014

Recently divorced actress Gwyneth Paltrow is moving on from Kabbalah studies to converting to Judaism, The New York Post reported.

She has two children from her marriage with British singer Chris Martin, from whom she divorced this year, and she said she wants to bring them up as Jews.

Her late father was Jewish, but her mother is a Christian, which determines the religion of the child, according to Jewish law.

She has been dabbling in Kabbalah, a favorite pastime among Hollywood stars who like to find instant spirituality, but Paltrow has something special going for her.

She discovered several years ago that she comes from a long line of prominent rabbis, as described in the video below from NBC”s “Who Do You Think You Are” program.

She was so thrilled to discover her lineage that she told an interviewer in 2006, “I really am a Jewish princess!”

So if she really wants to be a Jewish American Princess, she has to convert. The question is whether she will go for instant Judaism and go through a Reform conversion or if the knowledge of her lineage will persuade her to enter the tribe according to the same rules that her great-grandfather followed.

So far, her approach reflects the typical surface understanding of Hollywood stars. She has been quoted as saying that being raised by a Jewish father and Christian mother “was such a nice way to grow up.”

Paltrow is big on cooking, and she calls herself “the original Jewish mother: because she likes cooking for others. “ I am the original Jewish mother,” she told You magazine.

Gwyneth, sorry to bring the news, but there is bit more to Judaism to feeling Jewish and being a good cook, or even a good actress, and it certainly means more than studying Kabbalah, which for you and Madonna is like someone studying to be a doctor starting with medical school before learning Biology 101.

US Jewish Groups Work to Sign People Up for Health Care

Wednesday, February 19th, 2014

American Jewish organizations are going to bat for ObamaCare and are using social media to reach as many people as possible in an effort to convince them to sign up for health care under the Affordable Care Act.

During Tuesday’s Jewish Community Day led by the left-leaning National Council of Jewish Women, or NCJW, Jewish activists reached out to as many people as possible to educate them about the health insurance marketplace.

“Access to affordable and comprehensive healthcare is fundamental for living a long and healthy life, which is why NCJW worked for the passage of the Affordable Care Act and has been focused on its full implementation ever since,” said Nancy Kaufman, CEO of the National Council of Jewish Women

“Our goal for community education is non-partisan and apolitical. Our aim is to make sure that as many people as possible have the opportunity to enroll in affordable healthcare that best suits their individual needs and budget ahead of March 31,” said Kaufman. “I am encouraged by the array of participants in this Day of Action, spanning local and national groups across the country.”

Those participating in the action day were encouraged to host a special Shabbat centered on health care, hold a text study, write about the issue in their newsletters and speak to individuals in an effort to encourage more people to enroll.

Other participating groups included the Religion Action Center for Reform Judaism, the Jewish Council for Public Affairs, the Rabbinical Assembly, Keshet, the Jewish Labor Committee and Uri L’Tzedek.

Uproar over Jewish Candidate’s Refusal to Shake Hands with Women

Tuesday, February 18th, 2014

An Orthodox Jewish candidate for the European Parliament has caused an uproar in Britain by refusing to shake women’s hands.

Shneur Odze told the members of the right-wing populist UK Independence Party, or UKIP, that he will not shake women’s hands due to his religious beliefs, which proscribe physical contact with any woman other than his wife. Some party activists told the Times of London that they are offended by Odze’s stance and say it will alienate half the electorate.

Senior party officials have called the activists “rude” and “wrong” for not respecting Odze’s beliefs.

Ozde, 31, is fourth on the UKIP’s candidate’s list for member of the European Parliament from the North West of England. The Europe-wide election to the parliament is scheduled for late May.

A party regional organizer, Fred McGlade, resigned from his position with the party to protest the decision to include Odze on the list. He warned Crowther that he would stand down if Odze was chosen by the party because of his attitude towards women

That is how an ignorant person, Jewish or not, judges an Orthodox Jew. He assumes that a Jew thinks women are second-class citizens since a religious man won’t shake her hand. Jews, especially those whose understanding of Jewish law is not even on the level, so to speak, of Reform Judaism, often think the same of Orthodox Jews for not praying together with women.

The nose-in-the-air Jews like to think that when a Jewish man thanks God that he was not created a woman, the man couldn’t possibly be thinking of all the mitzvahs he would not be able to perform if he were a women. He obviously is a sexist who considers women to be the scum of the earth.

If that is the way the snobs look at others, perhaps it is they are sexist for even thinking like that.

Perhaps they are the sexists for not having marital relations according to Jewish law, which protects the woman from lust. Consult your synagogue’s Code of Jewish Law for details.

Perhaps it is the better-than-thou men, and women, who seem to think that “equality” means “sameness.” God must have made a mistake by not allowing men to give birth. On the other hand, as most wives know, if men were to give birth, the world would have ended after the first birth because he wouldn’t go through the pains of labor a second time around.

And it’s the same crowd of people who, when visiting a mosque, are the first to wear proper dress and take off their shoes, but wouldn’t dare cover their shorts in order to respect the customs of Haredi orthodox neighborhoods in Jerusalem.

If Ozde does get elected, it certainly won’t be with vote of those who encourage the Women of the Wall to practice secular coercion on the majority Orthodox Jewish population at the Wall.

But there are some, hopefully a majority, in Britain who are not so ignorant. UKIP chairman Steve Crowther told the London newspaper, “We have a policy of tolerance for and acceptance of people’s own religious observance. We do not consider it grounds for complaint. It harms no one.”

In a tweet on Monday, Ozde said, “Thanks for all the supportive emails, calls, texts, its been rather heartwarming Recon it’s had the reverse effect?”

A supporter also tweeted, referring to former Chief Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks: “Pretty standard among very Orthodox Jews. The Chief Rabbi didn’t shake Queen’s hand when he became a Lord.”

The Queen seems to have gotten over it.

JTA contributed to this report.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/uproar-over-jewish-candidates-refusal-to-shake-hands-with-women/2014/02/18/

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