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August 24, 2016 / 20 Av, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Reform’

What’s the problem with Reform Judaism?

Saturday, July 9th, 2016

{Originally posted to the author’s website, Abu Yehuda}

Today I came across an article by Rabbi Baruch Efrati in which he opposes cooperation between Israelis and the Reform Movement.

So what, you say. Another Orthodox attack on the heretical reformim. Perhaps so, but here is what caught my attention:

The secular Jewish world does not want to take over the religious world from a theological point of view, but to live beside it – hence, the possibility of influencing that world, listening to its hearts’ desires, elevating its holy sparks to their heavenly source. The secular are actually non-observant Orthodox, they do not present an alternative organized religion that turns transgressions into an ideology intended to take the place of the Torah. They have not invented a made up religion but are in the midst of a process where secularism is withering and faith is blossoming, as one can see over the last few years in which there is constant strengthening of ties to Torah, baruch Hashem.

“Non-observant Orthodox,” or as the saying goes, ‘the synagogue that they don’t go to is Orthodox’. At worst, thinks Efrati, they won’t interfere with the religious world while at best they might join it. On the other hand, the Reform are a threat. “It’s either we or them [sic],” he adds.

One wonders why he is worried, because only about 3% of Israeli Jews identify with the Reform movement, and most of those are English-speaking immigrants. The ‘non-observant Orthodox’ aren’t rushing to join them, either. Those that I talk to simply don’t see the point of Reform Judaism, maybe because just living in Israel provides the sense of Jewish community that many American Jews seek from their congregations, and because even the least observant Jew in Israel is likely to have a stronger background in Jewish history and ideas than most American Reform Jews. And of course, they already speak Hebrew!

The real possibility of religious change in Israel today comes from Orthodox Jews (including well-known rabbis) who ask why certain customs, in particular in respect to women, are adhered to when they are not required by Jewish law. They also ask why certain rabbis should have a monopoly on kosher certification, conversions, and so forth. These folks will certainly have a much greater effect on the nature of Jewish observance in Israel than Reform Jews, because they can’t be accused of ‘inventing a religion’.

Nevertheless, the American Union for Reform Judaism does present a problem for Israel, but it has little to do with theology.  It is because the Reform Movement is conducting a left-wing political campaign targeting both American Jews (primarily) and Israelis.

The campaign focuses on issues like mixed prayer at the Western Wall, ‘segregated’ Haredi buses, and the Rabbinate, which is widely perceived as arbitrary and even corrupt in its behavior in regard to marriage and conversion. Another issue is ‘religious pluralism’, which means the fact that Orthodox synagogues and rabbis are subsidized by the government’s Religious Affairs Ministry while liberal streams of Judaism are not. The URJ’s associated groups have filed numerous lawsuits in connection with these issues. The controversies are presented as evidence for Israel’s failure as a liberal democracy.

They resonate as civil rights issues in the US. But they haven’t ever become serious concerns for most Israelis, who are much more concerned with security and economic problems. The average secular Israeli sees both the Women of the Wall and the Haredi Rabbi of the Kotel as radical extremists, and their struggle as having nothing to do with ‘normal people’.

The URJ also takes a strong position for a ‘2-state solution’ and is critical of Israel’s settlements across the Green Line. In the US it has supported the Obama Administration’s policies (after agonizing for a time, it decided ‘not to take a position’ on the Iran deal that was strongly opposed by both the Israeli government and opposition). Many American Reform rabbis belong to J Street, and the President of the URJ, Rabbi Rick Jacobs, is a former activist in both J Street and the New Israel Fund.

Jacobs wasn’t shy about his intention to intervene in Israeli politics when he outlined his positions in his 2015 biennial address and announced that the URJ would not “check [its] commitment to tikkun olam at the door.”

The American Reform Movement, in its 1885 Pittsburgh Platform was explicitly anti-Zionist. After the state of Israel was established it was grudgingly accepted, but it wasn’t until the 1997 Miami Platform that Reform Judaism began to present itself as a Zionist movement. But two years later it began to specify the kind of Jewish state it wanted Israel to be, and the proprietary attitude has only gotten stronger. Like the Obama Administration and J Street, Reform seems to love us to death.

All of this fits neatly with the program of the tiny but loud Israeli Left, which lately has been arguing that the liberal Israel that they knew and loved is being replaced by an undemocratic, theocratic and militaristic monster, the Jewish counterpart of the Islamic State. They too want to make us better.

Just as very few Israelis are attracted to Reform Judaism, very few agree with the political point of view that the URJ espouses. And neither secular nor religious Israelis buy the idea that Israel is becoming undemocratic, theocratic and militaristic. What is happening is that the cultural elites that have set the tone here since 1948 are finally changing to match the more right-wing political landscape. Naturally, those being deposed are unhappy.

Regardless of whether they think Reform Judaism is a “made up religion” or even care, most Israelis think that decisions affecting life in this country should be made here, and not by a liberal American organization that represents very few of us. And that is the real issue.

Vic Rosenthal

I Love Reform Jews

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

The battle lines are drawn. Some Orthodox Rabbis say that we should try to bring reform Jews closer to Torah. Other Orthodox Rabbis relate to them like lepers out to destroy Judaism. If you want to know where I stand, I love reform Jews. First of all, many of them aren’t Jewish at all, and the Torah teaches us to love all people, even gentiles. Rabbi Kook writes:

“The heart must be filled with love for all: for all of Creation, for all mankind.

“Love must embrace every single individual, regardless of differences in views on religion, or differences of race, or country.

“Hatred may be directed only toward the evil and filth in the world. We must realize that the kernel of life, in its inherent light and holiness, never leaves the Divine Image in which mankind was created, and with which each person and nation is endowed” (Midot Ha’Riyah, Ahavah).

Certainly, if we should have a love for gentiles, we should love gentiles who think they are Jews.

For instance, I have a relative who divorced his Jewish wife and married a non-Jew, who had some kind of reform “conversion” which, of course, didn’t make her a Jew. They had a child, who, of course, wasn’t a Jew, but even though the child never had a Jewish education, his parents told him that he was a Jew. When he grew up, he married a Jewish girl, and they joined a reform congregation. Their children are Jews since the mother is Jewish. He became the president of his congregation, even though he is a gentile. America is loaded with mixed up situations like this.

Beyond the walls of the Orthodox world in America, it is becoming impossible to know who is Jewish and who is pretending, even though he or she believes it for real. Nonetheless, according to Rabbi Kook, even though this relative of mine isn’t Jewish, I should love him all the same. And even though his Jewish wife is a reform Jew, I should love her too. And that love should extend to their Jewish children as well, even though they are reform Jews.

The truth is, I love all Jews.

I love good Jews and I love bad Jews. I love fat Jews and I love skinny Jews. I love reform Jews and deformed Jews, progressive Jews and regressive Jews. I love assimilated Jews and Jews who have married gentiles. I love homosexual Jews and lesbian Jews. I love leftist Jews and Peace Now Jews. I love Jews who call me nasty names and Jews who say I’m a lousy writer. I even love Diaspora Jews. Some people say I’m too hard on them, but that’s because I love them so much.

If you see a blind man about to fall off a cliff, you yell out to warn him, right? What is this similar to? If a person who never heard about heart transplants wandered into the operating room of a hospital and saw a team of doctors removing the heart of a patient, he’d think they were monsters trying to kill him – but the very opposite is the case. The surgeons are trying to save him. It’s the same thing with me. Precisely out of the passionate love I feel for my brothers and sisters in exile, I try to open their eyes.

Since the Three Weeks are approaching when we mourn the destruction of Jerusalem and the Beit HaMikdash, this is a good time to stir up the embers of the love we feel for our fellow Jews, even the reform Jews amongst us. Rabbi Kook taught that since the Beit HaMikdash was destroyed because of senseless hatred, it will be rebuilt by gratuitous love.

In truth, most reform Jews are people who don’t mean any harm. They never learned anything about real Judaism, so they don’t know better. They don’t observe the commandments, not out of spite, but because they don’t believe that the Torah was really given by G-d, or they don’t believe that religion should have laws, or for whatever other reason, how errant it may be.

The problem arises with the “professional” reform Jews who wage a campaign against real Judaism. They go out of their way to wage a war against the Orthodox world and its time-honored traditions. These are the reform Jews that are rightly seen as destroyers. But Rabbi Kook teaches that we should even love them – not for the evil in them, but for the good which exists in all people. He writes:

“Though our love for people must be all-inclusive, embracing the wicked as well, this in no way blunts our hatred for evil itself – on the contrary, it strengthens it. For it is not because of the dimension of evil clinging to a person that we include him in our love, but because of the good in him, which our love tells us is to be found in everyone. Since we separate the dimension of the good in him, in order to love him for it, our hatred for the evil becomes unwavering and absolute.

“It is proper to hate a corrupt person only for his defects, but insofar as he is endowed with a Divine Image, it is proper to love him.”

In other words, we can disagree with a reform Jew and even despise his opinions, but we should love him for his connection to the Jewish Nation. In the same light, the evil actions of a Jewish homosexual or child molester should be loathed as abominations, but the person himself should still be loved for the Divine Image he shares with the rest of mankind, and for his connection to Clal Yisrael (the Community of Israel). If, for instance, a Rabbi or an Israeli politician succumbs to an evil inclination and inner sickness of the soul that drives him to engage in sexual transgression, his evil actions should be despised, but this should not negate our love for the good that surely exists in him as well.

Rabbi Kook explains:

“The pious of the generation, lofty holy men, must disregard any deficiency or flaw in every Jewish soul that is in any way attached to the Rock from which it was hewn. Instead, they must strive to raise up the point of connection to Clal Yisrael that exists in every individual soul to its heights and exalted holiness. Nothing can diminish our unlimited love for the Nation, the source of our life, as it says: ‘He has not seen beheld iniquity in Yaacov, nor has He seen perverseness in Israel’” (Orot, Orot HaTechiyah, 24).

So, as the period of the Three Weeks approaches, let’s try to love one another as much as we can, reform and Diaspora Jews included.

Tzvi Fishman

Reform Insulted by Haredi Walkout in Knesset Committee

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

The Reform movement in Israel has launched a complaint to the Knesset Ethics Committee against United Torah Judaism MKs Moshe Gafni, Israel Eichler, Uri Maklev and Yakov Asher, for walking out of a Knesset Interior Committee room during a debate over the Mikvahs Law. The Ethics Committee has forwarded the complaint to the UTJ faction, requesting an explanation.

The complaint was sent by attorney Gilad Kariv, who serves as Executive Director of the Israel Movement for Reform and Progressive Judaism, said: “In the name of the Movement for Progressive Judaism in israel we’d like to launch a complaint against the Knesset Members from the UTJ and Shas factions over their repeated behavior of leaving in a demonstrative manner Knesset committee debates whenever a speaker associated with Reform or Conservative Judaism gets the floor.”

“This behavior has been going on for several years,” Kariv wrote, “and it was most recently exposed in a debate of the Interior and Environmental Protection Committee, June 13, 2016. The debate revolved around the proposed Religious Jewish Services bill (Regulation of Intended Use of Ritual Bath amendment) 5776-2016, which directly touches on these two movements, their rabbis and members. As yours truly received the floor from Committee Chairman MK David Amsalem, MKS Moshe Gafni, Israel Eichler, akov Asher and Uri Maklev left the room in a demonstrative manner.”

Kariv argued that the departure was particularly egregious since these four MKs were among the endorsers of the bill, and their refusal to attend a hearing with citizens about the new legislation is an affront to the parliamentary process and to democracy. After all, Kariv argued, “this is why the legislator has decided on committee hearings airing a variety of opinions, including those which contradict the position of the one who proposes the bill.”

Kariv called the MKs’ behavior vulgar and said it undermines the principles of the legislative process, as well as the public and ethical obligations of MKs.

The website Bhol.co.il which reported the complaint noted that Haredi MKs have been for many years in the habit of leaving the room whenever a Reform speaker gets the floor.

David Israel

The Reform Prayer Protest at the Kotel

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Here are photos of some of the representatives from the Reform and Conservative Movements during their Protest-Prayer Rally at the Kotel plaza on June 16, 2016.

Reform Prayer Protest 2

Reform Prayer Protest 3

Photo of the Day

Legal Advisor Permits Reform’s Mixed Prayer Protest at the Kotel

Thursday, June 16th, 2016

Israel Patt, the legal advisor of the Ministry of Religious Services, on Thursday determined that the Kotel Rabbi cannot legally prevent the mixed afternoon prayer being planned by the Reform and Conservative in the Kotel Plaza.

The decision to hold the mixed service—in the common area leading up to the men’s and women’s section—was reached by the leadership of both movements in Israel in response to the confrontational prayer service with a mehitzah-divider that was conducted on Tuesday by Jerusalem Chief Rabbi, the Rishon Lezion Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar — on the platform at the southern section of the Kotel officially reserved for mixed prayers.

The mixed prayer protest in an area that is not intended for prayer at the Kotel Plaza, had been planned originally to protest the collapse of the Netanyahu government promise to provide “egalitarian” services at the Kotel, which has been reneged on due to fierce objections from the Haredi coalition partners.

Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, Rabbi of the Western Wall and the Holy Sites of Israel initially requested legal advice regarding his authority to use police forces to remove the participants in a mixed service from the plaza.

In an urgent response letter he sent to Rabbi Rabinovitch, Patt insisted that “After examining the issue, after consulting the relevant legal authorities, and on the opinion of the Attorney General, we’ve reached the conclusion that under the current circumstances there is no room for you to exercise your authority to prevent mixed prayer in the upper Kotel plaza.”

The intended mixed prayer service is planned not for the “Kotel sundeck” platform erected by former Religious Services Minister Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi) in 2013, which was re-divided and staked by Rabbi Amar on Tuesday, but rather in the area of the plaza which is past the security check post and before the side-by-side men’s and women’s sections.

The Movement for a Jewish State on Wednesday appealed to the Justice Minister and the Chief of Police to prevent the mixed prayer service in its planned location, calling it a violation of the law and a show of contempt for the legal authorities.

Some photos from the prayer protest can be seen here.

JNi.Media

Analysis: Jerusalem Chief Rabbi’s ‘Protest Prayer’ May Be Just What Reform Campaign Needed

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

On Tuesday morning, Jerusalem Chief Rabbi, the Rishon Lezion Rabbi Shlomo Moshe Amar conducted a heartfelt prayer with a few dozen supporters in the remote area of the Western Wall known as the “Israelite Section,” which had been designated by the Israeli government for the mixed prayer services of Reform and Conservative visitors.

The chief rabbi’s followers erected an improvised mehitza-divider to separate men and women, in defiance of the government program. After the morning service, Rabbi Amar spoke tearfully, saying “there’s no such thing as the Reform Kotel, there’s only the Holy Kotel.”

“No one can revoke this holiness,” Rabbi Amar continued, “not the government, not the court, you can’t, it’s a hekdesh-sanctuary, it’s the Temple Mount. Not the goyim, not the UN, no power can revoke it. We stand guard and declare that our entire purpose is for the sake of God’s honor, only God’s honor, and the Shechina-emanation of God, and the people of Israel and the Land of Israel.”

Rabbi Amar’s prayer service reflected a perception on the part of many Haredi leaders that the Reform and Conservative movements are making inroads in Israel through the Supreme Court and certain government officials, and are threatening the classic status quo, whereby secular Israelis did not go to shul, but the shul they didn’t go to was Orthodox. Most Israelis are not interested in these American imports, but the fact that the Chief Rabbi of Jerusalem went out of his way to condemn Reform access to the Kotel probably gave those two-minute movements a new lease on life.

For the record, the idea for the mixed prayer area by the Kotel came from an Orthodox Jewish politician, then Minister of Religious Services Naftali Bennett (Habayit Hayehudi), who in 2013 announced the creation of a new prayer area, south of the Mugrabim Gate and north of Robinson’s Arch, an area of 4,844 sq. ft., which is a non-contiguous extension of the Kotel Plaza. It was Bennett’s attempt at solving a 28-year long dispute between the Women of the Wall, a group of largely non-Orthodox Jewish women who have been praying in the Kotel’s women’s section on the first of each Jewish month as well as on select holidays, singing and donning talit and tefillin—all acts which have been provoking ultra-Orthodox Jews since the early 1990s.

While a broad section of ultra-Orthodox public figures attacked the Bennett solution, going as far as to dub it “tzelem ba’heikhal” or a statue in God’s temple, the Women of the Wall group also rejected the minister’s peaceful solution, accusing Bennett of aligning himself with the “extremist” views of Rabbi Shmuel Rabinovitch, the government-appointed Kotel Rabbi, and of Israel’s chief rabbis (of course, when one accuses the mainstream religious and political leadership of extremism, it would be difficult for her to claim the center).

The WOW also called the special fenced wooden platform Bennett provided for mixed prayers a “sundeck overlooking the Western Wall,” which, come to think of it, could be the name for a bangup real estate bonanza. And the Reform movement over in the US, where they dominate Jewish life, at least on paper, with some two million members (in largely Orthodox Israel they may be noisy but their numbers are puny), announced that the Kotel must be open and accessible to all the Jews and men and women must be treated equally there. In other words, why can’t you all be more Reform, like the rest of us.

The fact is that the Bennett solution, while acquiescing that Israelis who are Reform and Conservative have the right to use a state-owned and funded religious facility, resolves the conflict in a peaceful way, which is not something the Reform and Conservative movements want. Since the platform has been erected, it has been standing empty, first because very few Reform and Conservative Israelis have the time or inclination to regularly fight Jerusalem traffic to go pray at the Kotel when most of them hardly ever pray in their own synagogues during the week; and second because without the opportunity to provoke the Orthodox, what’s the point of schlepping all the way to Jerusalem?

Now, the pushback from the Jerusalem Chief Rabbi has revived the non-Orthodox, whose fundraising and membership largely depends on being the victims of Orthodox “repression.” And so, once again, spokespersons for both movements have condemned the aging rabbi, whose salary is provided by the taxpayers, and who attacks the principles of equality, freedom and the American way.

Perhaps the good chief rabbi of Jerusalem should have taken a hint from the fact that he and his followers were the only ones praying on the Reform “sundeck,” because no one else ever prays there on any given day, and even the Baha’i movement in Israel represents a bigger threat to Orthodox Judaism at the Kotel than do the Reform and Conservative.

The best cure for the WOW phenomenon is probably to let them have their way until they get bored with it. The most recent new month celebration of the WOW, a week ago, attracted fewer than 90 women, and the only coverage it received was a provocation by its CEO, who showed local cops at the end of the service that she had “smuggled” a Torah scroll into the women’s section. Otherwise even she couldn’t get arrested by a largely disinterested police, and couldn’t get covered by the media which is inundated with much bigger stories.

JNi.Media

Likely Compromise Found in Coalition Rift over Reform, Conservative Mikvahs

Monday, June 13th, 2016

Coalition chairman David Bitan (Likud) on Monday morning presented a compromise solution for the problem caused by last Thursday’s Supreme Court ruling siding with the demands of Reform and Conservative petitioners for equal access to state-run mikvahs-ritual baths. Last February, the Supreme Court ruled that local religious councils must make state-run mikvahs available for conversion ceremonies run by Israeli Reform and Conservative clergy.

Last week, the Knesset Interior Committee debated a bill proposed by Shas and UTJ, the two ultra-Orthodox coalition partners, determining that the use of public mikvahs in Israel will be conducted strictly according to halakha and under the supervision of the Chief Rabbinate.

Finance Committee Chairman MK Moshe Gafni (UTJ) for his part on Friday announced that he plans to submit the bill in order to prevent the implementation of the court’s ruling. This would be in keeping with the coalition agreement between UTJ and Likud, which says that each time the Supreme Court issues a ruling that jeopardizes issues close to the heart of the Orthodox-Jewish party, the government must submit a bill to bypass the court.

Gafni, who argued that the court’s new ruling violates the national status quo on issues of religion and state, also cited the coalition’s obligation to maintain the same status quo.

Judge Elyakim Rubinstein, an Orthodox Jew who was part of the unanimous decision in favor of the Reform and Conservative petitioners, suggested in his ruling that the religious council in question, in Be’er Sheva, illegally segregated against Israeli citizens. “From the moment the state has constructed public mikvahs and made them available to the public — including for use in conversions — it cannot practice inequality in their usage,” Elyakim wrote. Rubinstein added that “the state’s decision not to supervise dipping in the mikvah that is conducted as part of a private conversion does not justify preventing it.”

One of the other two judges on the panel was Salim Joubran, a Christian Arab. Chief Justice Miriam Naor was the third judge. It should be noted that while last week Ha’aretz complained about a decision by Judge Rubinstein favoring the Chief Rabbinate, implying he should have recused himself from deciding Orthodox Jewish issues because he wears a yarmulke (sic), the same paper did not make a similar complaint in this case.

The MK Bitan compromise will suspend the application of the Mikvah law for nine months, during which time two to four mikvahs would be built for the Reform and Conservative public. The Jewish Agency is expected to bear the costs of construction. Meanwhile, the coalition would work on a softer version of the Shas-UTJ bill, which would skirt the Supreme Court ruling but not actually bypass it. The first draft was scheduled to be presented to the Interior committee Monday morning.

According to MK Bitan, “We are not planning to pass a Supreme Court bypassing law, but instead to find solutions to the problems raised by the court’s ruling. According to the understanding, we will build between two to four mikvahs in various locations in the country for the Reform and Conservative public so they can dip there according to their method.” Bitan stressed that “we must maintain equality for everyone in spending resources.”

A Haredi party source that spoke to JNi.media on the condition of anonymity said the Bitan compromise will most likely be accepted since it does not actually compel religious councils to share existing mikvahs with the Reform and Conservative, but allocates to them new mikvahs. Nevertheless, the Haredi coalition parties are likely going to be subjected to attacks from the Haredi media, which see the very idea of allowing the two non-Orthodox movement a foot in the door as ushering disaster. Some in the Haredi media, such as Ha’peles, would like to see the Haredi parties using their critical role in Netanyahu’s small coalition to extract deeper concessions regarding the non-Orthodox mikvahs.

JNi.Media

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/news/breaking-news/likely-compromise-found-in-coalition-rift-over-reform-conservative-mikvahs/2016/06/13/

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