web analytics
November 25, 2014 / 3 Kislev, 5775
At a Glance

Posts Tagged ‘Reform Judaism’

How I Lost My Liberal View of Reform Jews and Started to Fear Them

Monday, June 10th, 2013

Back around the year 2000, I was invited by my very good friend, Rabbi Judi Abrams, to come on board a new project of the Central Conference of American Rabbis (CCAR), a comprehensive prayer book that would streamline and organize the countless versions of Reform prayer books that had been out there.

I use the title Rabbi in Judi’s case, even though it isn’t the policy of our publication to use this honorarium for non-Orthodox clergy, much less women clergy, because she has earned it. She is one of my non-Orthodox friends who truly love the Talmud and know how to learn. So, when she invited me to be the designer of the new prayer book, I grabbed it. I needed the money—this was at the bursting phase of the first Internet bubble, and all my online clients had been massacred. But the project also offered me an interesting fig leaf, which I could use to justify my collaboration: this was going to be the first Reform siddur in history to include the full Sh’ma Israel reading, all three passages.

Previous siddurim have omitted the middle passage, which warns us what would happen if we don’t obey the commandments. Those earlier siddurim also omitted the third passage, about the tzitzit, but that part introduces a reminder of how to keep the commandments in our everyday life—so that without the middle part it’s kind of pointless.

During my two years, on and off, working on the siddur project, I began to develop a theory that the Reform, despite their anti-halachic, or a-halachic stance, were still inside the rabbinic umbrella. Based on my encounters with the more learned in the movement (I also met many stereotypical Reform rabbis who couldn’t fight their way out of a paper bag made of blatts of gemora), I began to think of the Reform, especially the rank and file, as amaratzim — (lingo for Amei Ha’aratzot) the equivalent of the uneducated masses at the time just after the destruction of the second temple. The sages, who originally abhorred and loathed those amaratzim, once the temple was gone and the dark Diaspora had begun, started to view them as inseparable from the rest of the Jewish nation.

I felt that, despite its abysmal relationship with classical and traditional Judaism, the Reform movement was not beyond hope. And I offered, on a number of occasions, the following illustration to support my view:

We were at a large editorial meeting, discussing the texts of the Eighteen Blessings, the silent prayer or “Amida.” The Reform versions of the Amida range from ridiculously cumbersome to infuriatingly PC—compared with the traditional text, which is smooth and elegant, even in the Sephard version, which offers several alternative phrases in a number of places. No question, the Reform Amida was begging for a streamlining job.

Then one of the editors, a female clergy, suggested we add a special shmoneh-esreh blessing for our suffering LGBT brothers and sisters.

Needless to say, my little brain was working overtime trying to find justifications for that one. Was there any way that I, as an observant Jew, could lend my name to a siddur that included a special prayer for folks who break a major commandment? Might as well add a blessing for folks breaking Shabbes and another, special one, for our brothers and sisters who suffer from trichinosis. I was done for—the Yanover family would be going without fish Friday night.

But then the moderator told this nice lady: “Bring me a pasuk,” meaning offer a verse in the entire Jewish Bible that would support and illustrate the above mentioned suffering.

He spoke like a Jew. Never mind the outcome (I was let go a few months later, because of my tendency to open my big mouth to my superiors, so I never found out) – the man approached prayer from within the tradition, not as a sworn violator of the tradition. There was hope.

That episode also cost me a job with a new Haredi magazine, a competitor to Mishpacha, which hired me for a scary amount of money as senior editor—only to let me go after my boss had discovered my notes online regarding my hope for the Reform.

Susan Rice Says Defending Israel Swallows Much of Her UN time

Tuesday, April 23rd, 2013

Defending Israel’s legitimacy is a “huge part” of her work as U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice told a Reform Judaism event Sunday evening.

“It’s a huge part of my work to the United Nations,” she said at the launching of this year’s social activists’ Consultation on Conscience, organized by the Religious Action Center.

She likened the volume of work to her efforts to coordinate Syria’s isolation and to contain violence and abuses in Sudan, and added that she often works in “lockstep” with the Israeli delegation.

“We will not rest in the crucial work of defending Israel’s security and legitimacy every day at the United Nations,” Rice said.

She noted that Israel’s success at the United Nations often is not reported, for instance in joining the boards of the U.N. Development Program and UNICEF, and in advancing development initiatives.

Netanyahu Approves Egalitarian Section at Western Wall

Monday, April 22nd, 2013

Women finally have the official nod to pray with a tallis, read from a Torah scroll and do more or less as they wish in a new “egalitarian” section to be enlarged at the southern end of the Western Wall, Haaretz reported Monday.

The newspaper said that Prime Minister Netanyahu told Jewish Agency chairman Natan Sharansky, who formulated the proposal, to draw up a timetable for establishing an egalitarian section at the Western Wall, popularly known by the Hebrew term “Kotel.” Sharansky is to meet with Office of the Prime Minister director Tzvi Hauser and with National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror, who is orthodox, to move the proposal off the drawing boards.

The decision ostensibly undermines the authority of the orthodox Rabbinate at the Western Wall, where there is a men’s and women’s section but no permission for women to pray in a non-traditional way.

However, the “victory” of the “Women of the Wall”, led primarily by American immigrants belonging to the Reform movement, is not necessarily the opening shot to challenge orthodox Judaism as the authority in Israel.

Indeed, it may be the last shot as well as the first.

The Prime Minister reportedly was encouraged by the massive support from American Jews for the women’s demands at the Western Wall, the most popular religious site for Jews visiting Israel.

The sight of policemen arresting women for the crime of disturbing public order by wearing a tallis or trying to carry a Torah scroll to the Western Wall was too much for American Jews, offended by the apparent affront to the pluralistic understanding of “equality.”

Buoyed by massive coverage in the American media, led by The New York Times, the Diaspora shouted from the rooftops, although not from the women’s sections of synagogues. The shouting was no match for the austere face of the orthodox Rabbinate, which often does everything it can to distance Jews who don’t do as they say.

The Haaretz report that the adoption of the plan “would wrest exclusive control of prayer at the wall from the Orthodox” may be wishful thinking for the newspaper, known for its bitter opposition to anything that smacks of religious authority if it is by orthodox Jewry.

If the women think that the Sharansky plan sets the stage for the Reform movement to challenge the orthodox rabbinate, they may have to say a lot of prayers to fulfill their wishes.

As much as the American Jewish committee thinks it influences what happens in Israel, one important factor in Netanyahu’s decision is that most of the Israeli public could care less one way or the other about the issue.

Most Israelis are not orthodox but most also are steeped in tradition and Middle East culture. They consider many American customs a bit odd, if not weird. Westernization is fine at the malls, and if women want to pray like men, fine.

The right of women to wear a tallis and read from a Torah scroll in their own egalitarian space does not mean that Israelis won’t stay quiet if the Reform movement wages a war on the entire orthodox establishment.

As secular as Israelis appear to be to Americans, scantily or oddly-dressed women often are seen in Israel reciting Psalms while traveling on buses or waiting at the bus stop.

Secular Israelis have a common cause with non-Orthodox Americans on the issues of civil marriages and divorces, but they will not necessarily be in a hurry to support a direct challenge to the orthodox rabbinate, which is a crucial part of modern Israeli culture.

The fact is that the Women of the Wall’s “victory” confines them to a special area, away from the popular Western Wall area. True equality, in their view, would be able to pray exactly where everyone else prays.

In effect, they may have lost the war by winning the battle.

Women of Wall Rabbi Calls Knesset ‘Achasverosh’

Monday, February 25th, 2013

Women of the Wall Reform Rabbi Susan Silverman has compared the Knesset with King Achasverosh, the wicked king in the story of Purim, because the Israeli legislature listens to Haredim who “claim authority over Jewish religious practice.”

Imagine the uproar if Rabbi Ovadia Yosef, the spiritual leader of Sephardic Jews, had made that comment. Israeli and foreign media would already have condemned him as spewing hatred against fellow-Jews and for being anti-Zionist.

But when Silverman writes the same thing in the Huffington Post, as she did on Purim, that’s fine – because she speaks in the name of equality, and who can argue with that?

We all probably would be better off if the Haredim were to let the Women of the Wall wail at the Kotel all they want and let them read from the Torah.

The Woman of the Wall make it a point to try to pray at the Western Wall every Rosh Chodesh in their prayer shawls and with a Torah scroll, because they say it is their equal right to do pray as men do.

Equal? Has anyone  noticed that they do not try to pray every day at the Kotel, let alone three times a day?

Silverman’s rant in the Huffington Post sounded familiar to anyone who recalls the biblical Korach, who complained to Moses that all Jews are holy and equal, and who in the H is he to tell everyone what God says?

Silverman wrote, “All Jews who take Sinai as their paradigm for authority and purpose — God’s command that we become a Kingdom of Priests, each one of us in direct relationship with and an interpreter of God — are obligated to reveal ourselves as brave and proactive Jews, like Esther. And the few who seek to hoard God, idol-like, for themselves, in their own images, are obligated to learn from Mordecai’s humility and ask: Who knows?…

“We end public readings of the Scroll of Esther with a blessing: ’Blessed are you, God, who takes up our grievance, judges our claim and avenges the wrongs against us. You bring retribution on our enemies and vengeance on our foes.’

“It’s a tragedy when those we have in mind are other Jews,” Silverman concluded.

Police Let Sarah Silverman’s Niece Visit Western Wall on Purim

Wednesday, February 20th, 2013

Police have agreed to allow the niece of American comedian Sarah Silverman will be allowed to attend a women’s Megillah reading at the Western Wall despite being banned from the site.

Hallel Abramowitz Silverman, 17, was one of 10 female worshipers arrested for wearing prayer shawls during a women’s Rosh Chodesh prayer service at the Western Wall earlier this month. Her mother, Rabbi Susan Abramowitz Silverman, also was arrested.

The women were released on condition that they not visit the site for 15 days and were required by police to sign a document agreeing to the condition.

After realizing she would not be able to attend the Women of the Wall organization’s women’s Megillah reading at the Kotel because of the restriction, the younger Silverman went to the Old City of Jerusalem police station and presented a letter to request an exception to the ban. She arrived with her lawyer and her father.

Police agreed to allow her to visit the Western Wall on Shushan Purim in Jerusalem  Sunday night and Monday, one day after the Purim holiday is celebrated in most other places.

“I wasn’t going to sign, but my mom had a flight leaving in a few hours, and we were afraid there would be complications and she would miss her flight,” she told Haaretz. “Plus, I was nervous. After all, I am 17 years old and I was being held in a police station.

“I was feeling so pressured, I didn’t realize it would mean missing the Megillah,” she told the newspaper. “If I had really understood this, I don’t know if I would have signed.”

Lapid: Let Conservatives and Reform in

Thursday, January 24th, 2013

Yair Lapid, chairman and founder of the Yesh Atid Party, which ended with a surprisingly strong second place finish in the Israeli election Tuesday, had his first and only major appearance in the United States at last year’s convention of the Rabbinical Assembly. In May 2012, Lapid addressed the Atlanta convention of the international umbrella organization for Conservative rabbis.

During his address to the RA, Lapid focused on the need for increased religious pluralism in Israel, as can be seen in this online video excerpt of his remarks.

The full video of


Lapid’s entire remarks is also available. Highlights can be found at the following points:

9:00: “This is really important because I believe that Jewish identity is in danger, and you are the gatekeepers … You are part of the last line of defense that believes that Judaism shouldn’t be the jailhouse of ideas, but the liberator if ideas. Judaism should not be the disintegrator of people but what gets people together. And Judaism shouldn’t be subordinated to small politics because it answers a higher rule.”

19:34: “I’m going to do whatever is necessary, whatever is in my power, to make it feasible to women, Conservative or Reform, to pray at the wailing wall, wearing their prayer shawls.

“Why? Because Israel cannot be the only country in the Western World that has no freedom of religion for Jews. This is just wrong.”

20:20: “I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure that there are going to be civil marriages in Israel.

“The total dominance of the Israeli Rabbanut over marriage and divorce in Israel is an insult to every free man. This is just wrong. “I’m going to do everything in my power to ensure the equality of all movements of Judaism in Israel … in conversion, in budgets, in the eyes of the law.”

21:45: “The majority of Israelis are actually Conservative, they just don’t know it. “The majority of Israelis want a pluralistic, sane, welcoming Judaism; they are just not aware of the fact that there is such a thing.”

Why Ha’aretz is an Evil Newspaper

Sunday, September 30th, 2012

Here’s an excerpt from the Haaretz interview with Israel’s Refrom Judaism Executive Director Gilad Kariv. Notice how the interviewer slips in the nasty question:

…there’s no point in using the prettified language of reconciliation here. There is a direct connection between the book “Torah Hamelech” and the recent lynch in Jerusalem. To get a group of youths to carry out such an attack on an Arab youth, it takes a good few years of dehumanization of the Arab. We started the month of Elul with a Molotov cocktail that burned an Arab family in the territories, and with an Arab young man lying in intensive care as a result of a pogrom.

The threshold is going up. All the time. And here there is a planned, orchestrated, ideological effort that relies entirely on the distorted structuring of relations between religion and state in Israel, which gives these rabbis immunity, and budgets, and public positions and status. There is a grand project of dehumanization of whoever is not a Jew.

And of the other in general. The Arab is number one, although now he has competition for that ranking − from the migrant worker. While we’re sitting here in this air-conditioned office, refugees and their little children are in tents in Ketziot.

Like the concentration camps Leibowitz prophesied. Yes. There is also a detention facility where dozens of African youths have been sitting for many months because no framework was found for them. We’ve negated their humanity, we’ve removed them from the circle of human beings whom we must treat with dignity. And then this fellow − You know, I don’t want to use such words in talking about Eli Yishai …

For sure, there is no “direct connection” between the book, Torat HaMelech, and the youth who carried out the vicious attack on an Arab in Zion Square although since the trial hasn’t begun, we really do not know much, neither I nor the Reform Rabbi. A Rabbi, by the way, would steer clear of such an accusation, especially during the Ten Days of Penitence.

But “concentration camps”?

Yes, Kariv considers Lebowitz his teacher even though Leibowitz though this of the sect of Reform:

Yeshayahu Leibowitz had a harsh saying about you Reform Jews. He said: “It’s very nice and all, but it’s not religion.”

To ask him about Leibowitz would seem proper. But not to repeat a calumny. Goading and promoting Nazi comparisons is an evil discourse agenda. Done so easily, so flippantly. So carelessly.

And the editor let it through.

Visit the My Right Word blog.

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/my-right-word/why-haaretz-is-an-evil-newspaper/2012/09/30/

Scan this QR code to visit this page online: