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May 27, 2016 / 19 Iyar, 5776

Posts Tagged ‘Reform’

‘Losing Zuckerberg’ and Reform Judaism’s Opportunity

Monday, July 2nd, 2012

Dear Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan,

Thank you for your article in the Forward entitled “Losing Zuckerberg – Why Did Facebook King Move Away From Reform Judaism?” In the article you lament the intermarriage of Mark Zuckerberg and ask why a young man who comes from an affiliated Reform background would call himself an atheist and choose to marry out of our nation.

Poignantly you write: “For those in the Reform movement and for those who are committed to non-Orthodox American Judaism generally, we need to take the sudden interest in Zuckerberg’s personal life as an opportunity to perform cheshbon hanefesh, to take an accounting of our accomplishments and, as in this case, our failings.”

As one who taught Reform Hebrew school for many years at the flagship Temple Emanuel in Manhattan, I agree with your concerns that Reform Judaism is too lax, too undefined, as you write: “We failed Zuckerberg and will continue to fail young people like him because the pluralistic theologies of Reform Judaism articulated since the 1960s make it difficult to grasp what we Reform Jews believe on any given issue. Our faith is too amorphous… we have lost our way, ignoring scholarship in favor of any type of “spirituality,” no matter how vacuous.”

Indeed. Even in your own article you admit that as a Reform Rabbi you would not be comfortable asking a congregant to observe some form of the Sabbath or even refrain from marrying a non-Jew. These are two Jewish fundamentals, one dealing with the culture of Judaism, the other with the perpetuation of our nation, yet you feel powerless to call for adherence. And as a result, a young Jew whom you train grows up to be less of a Jew and more of a secular humanist and is it a surprise when you raise a secular humanist that he or she looks to marry a co-religionist of that faith and not the Jewish one?

But my critique is not about Reform’s rejection of classical Judaism, because that polemic has been hashed out time and again.

My argument is that in our times there are two separate tracks of Jewish continuity: Traditional Judaism and Zionism. The real failing of Reform Judaism is that it rejected both of them. You can reject one and still survive, but you can’t reject both and make it.

To remain Jewish in America, without the external aid of anti-semitism, there needs to be a glue which keeps ideology and peoplehood at the forefront of a young Jewish mind. The traditional Torah world has strong ritual, ideology and a social matrix within the community, making intermarriage almost impossible. But an American Jew who lacks tradition does not have much to separate him or her from a philo-Semitic American gentile and he or she is likely to end up marrying one.

So the question stands: barring the super-success of Chabad and other such religious movements on campus, what can deliver powerful Jewish identity to millions of young American Reform Jews?

Your conclusion, Rabbi Dana, is that Reform Judaism needs a new infusion of Judaism: “We need to ask ourselves why he [Zuckerberg] is apparently not committed to the God of his ancestors, and to take drastic steps to rebuild our religious ecosystem.”

I applaud your sentiment, but I am skeptical. Do you really think the Reform movement will abide a “Kosher-style” surge? And even if that infusion comes, do you think that it will be attractive to young people? Conservative Jewry, ostensibly more traditional, has not fared much better than Reform.

Permit me to suggest that there is a more natural and faster track to keeping young Reform Jews Jewish. Instead of trying to rebuild a ‘religious ecosystem’, how about steering our youth to take part in the rebuilding of the physical and social ecosystem of our people in our ancestral homeland? In other words, instead of pushing more Judaism in the Reform world, why not push more Zionism?

There is a future for Reform youth in Israel. In Israel, you can be a secular humanist and still remain Jewish because you will marry Jewish. Moreover, secular Israelis do not remain Jewish only by virtue of living in a Jewish society that is rejected by the neighboring gentiles. Being a secular Israeli is very much a Jewish cultural identity. Most secular Israelis connect to the beautiful narrative of being Israeli, fighting in the Israeli army, getting married under a Chuppah, having a family Seder, and building a home in the land of Israel.

Yishai Fleisher

Reform, Orthodox Kids to Celebrate Fourth of July Together

Friday, June 29th, 2012

The Americafest celebration next week, which will bring campers from the Orthodox Camp Darom in Grenada, Miss., to the Union for Reform Judaism’s Henry S. Jacobs Camp in Utica, Miss., was made possible by a grant from the Foundation for Jewish Camp.

The celebration will mark the first time the two camps have come together for an intercamp program day, and will include a Fourth of July parade featuring campers from both camps, an afternoon carnival, an outdoor concert by Jewish musician Dan Nichols and fireworks.

“While the two camps practice their Judaism differently, their missions are very much the same: to strengthen the Jewish identity of young people from small and isolated Southern Jewish communities by providing them with outstanding programs and powerful Jewish memories,” Jonathan “J.C.” Cohen, the Jacobs camp director, said in a statement. “Jacobs Camp’s motto, ‘A Jewish Place at a Southern Pace,’ will surely ring true during this one-of-a-kind celebration.”

JTA

Reform Congregations in Hungary Lose State Recognition

Wednesday, June 27th, 2012

The European Union for Progressive Judaism and Hungary’s two Reform congregations took their case against Hungary’s new law on religion to the European Court of Human Rights in The Hague.

The two synagogues, Sim Shalom and Bet Orim, said in a statement that they had submitted an application Tuesday to the Court “concerning the violation of their human rights” caused by the entry into force of the new Hungarian “Church Law.”

The new law, which came into force Jan. 1, grants official recognition to only three streams of Judaism in Hungary: Neolog (Hungarian Conservative), Orthodox and Status-quo (associated with Chabad Lubavitch) congregations.

“As a consequence of the entry in force of the Act, the ‘church’ status of the Hungarian [Reform] congregations was revoked,” the statement said.  The two Reform communities consider the new law on religion “illegal” and “discriminatory,” the statement said, and had already called on the Hungarian Constitutional Court to annul it.

JTA

Female Rabbis Make Less than Male Counterparts, But Some Fare Better

Thursday, June 21st, 2012

Female Reform rabbis are paid less than their male counterparts, according to a new study by the Central Conference of American Rabbis. But when you look at the percentage differences, they’re a far cry from the normal disparities between male and female employees in other capacities in America.

At worst, a female Reform rabbi would make 20% less than male rabbi’s salary for the same position. The median salary disparity in the U.S. is 77%, meaning a woman makes 23% less than a man for the same job.

Except that the percentages are misleading. In the report you find that large disparity at the very top, among male and female rabbis who lead congregations of 600 members and more. There just aren’t that many female rabbis working those huge rackets – only 21, compared to 122 male rabbis. One can hope that over time, as more star female rabbis take over the really big temples, we’ll see those numbers get closer.

In smaller congregations they already are much closer. In mid-size congregations of 151 to 250 members, the salaries are virtually equal. The 68 male rabbis in the survey earn an average $101,574 a year, compared with $98,627 for female rabbis, a mere 3% difference.

Also, the average income of those highest echelon female rabbis, although only four fifths of their male colleagues, is still a staggering $154,954 annually. I wish that kind of money on all my Orthodox rabbi friends.

The figures turn around when it comes to associate rabbis. In temples with 400 to 600 members, the average income for a male associate rabbi is $91,838, compared to $101,560 for females, that’s an 11% advantage for the ladies.

Likewise in temples of 800 to 1000 members (yes, they exist). In those enormous congregations the guy associate rabbi makes only $100,796 a year, while the lady associate rabbi next-door makes $122,743, or 22% better.

In temples with more than 1801 members (that’s like a mega-church already, can you imagine just the size of their parking lot?) there are only female associate rabbis, six of them, actually, each averaging $175,342 a year.

In my own dealing with CCAR – I was on the editorial team of their new prayer book – I’ve come to recognize that the Reform movement is becoming very female-oriented, being led by increasingly more women, but, more importantly, attracting a membership that is heavily female. This is my impression and not the result of a scientific study. But it appears to me that these less prominent stats, about the growing mass of female associate rabbis, meaning leaders in the making, confirm my impression.

CCAR Chief Executive Rabbi Steven Fox told JTA that “the results were troubling but not surprising; it quantified that which we knew anecdotally. A salary gap in 2012 is unacceptable.”

Perhaps the good rabbi should read his own report more closely, because soon there’s likely to be a much better looking rabbi, probably in a pants suit, occupying his office and making about what he’s making.

Fox also said that “as the rabbinic voice of the Reform movement, we must take the lead on this issue. When we see data confirming that few women are serving large congregations on a full-time basis, we need to ask why and what we can do about that.”

But to this reporter it appears that those lady rabbis are quite capable of taking care of business all by themselves.

Yori Yanover

Knesset Committee Ejects Top Reform Clergyman from Meeting

Wednesday, June 13th, 2012

The head of the Reform movement in Israel was ejected from a discussion on state funding for non-Orthodox rabbis Tuesday.

Gilad Kariv, a Reform rabbi and director of the Israel Movement for Progressive Judaism, was thrown out of Tuesday’s debate in the Knesset Finance Committee for speaking out of turn and using aggressive language.

Kariv was ejected by the head of the panel, Moshe Gafni, of the United Torah Judaism Party, who called non-Orthodox rabbis “clowns” and said they “did not exist.”

Late last month, the Israeli government agreed to begin paying some non-Orthodox rabbis and recognizing them as community leaders in response to a Supreme Court lawsuit.

The non-Orthodox rabbis will receive their salaries through the Culture and Sports Ministry rather than the Religious Services Ministry, which funds Orthodox rabbis, in order to prevent the resignation of Minister for Religious Services Yaakov Margi of the Orthodox Shas party.

JTA

Arizona Jewish family, Israeli Wife, in Murder-Suicide

Thursday, June 7th, 2012

Police have identified a Jewish family from Tempe, Ariz., the Butwins, as the subjects of a suspected murder-suicide.

Police said that James Butwin, a board member of his local synagogue, Temple Emanuel, was the primary suspect in the killing of his Israeli born wife and three daughters. The bodies were found on Saturday in a burning SUV registered to the Butwins after having been missing from the family home.

While authorities were working to identify the remains, the Pinal County sheriff said he believed the deaths were the work of a drug cartel, but police now believe James Butwin, 47, killed himself after killing his wife Yafit, 40, daughter Malissa, 16, and sons Daniel, 14, and Matthew, 7, according to the Tucson Citizen.

The Butwins were going through a divorce and James had serious financial and medical problems, the paper reported.

A crisis response team from Tempe’s Jewish Family & Children’s Services was dispatched to Temple Emanuel on Wednesday, the Jewish News of Greater Phoenix reported, and professionals were also sent to the East Valley Jewish Community Center, where the youngest Butwin child was to have been a summer camper. Team members were planning to offer counseling to those attending a 7 p.m. service of grief at the Reform congregation on Wednesday.

JTA

Beyond Words – Rabbi Meir Kahane at His Very Best

Sunday, June 3rd, 2012

One of Rabbi Kahane’s most powerful essays, “What Makes Bernie Run?” was published in The Jewish Press in 1976. Unfortunately, its scathing message is as true today as it was back then, almost 35 years ago.

We have written about programs like Birthright in the past. Sure it’s a great thing to send young Jews to Israel for an inspirational visit. If even one Jew ends up marrying a Jewish mate because of it, and coming on aliyah, then all of the millions of dollars are worth it. But, after these kids return to their college campuses and their enticing shiksa classmates, their experience in Israel will all too often turn into a fading memory with snapshots they can show to the shiksas they marry. If he is still charged up from his visit, maybe Bernie will insist that Brigette undergo some worthless conversion. Maybe he’ll get her to light Sabbath candles and tell their kids that they’re Jews. And when they grow up, maybe Bernie’s gentile’s children will pass themselves off as the real thing and get some poor Jewish sucker to marry them. What a mess it will be! There will even be “Jewish” weddings where both the bride and groom are gentiles. Soon in America, you won’t be able to know if the person you are marrying is really a Jew, or if he or she innocently believes they’re Jewish because that’s what their parents told them, and the rabbis and temples and Jewish establishment all went along with the charade. And now that the Attorney General in Israel has cleared the way to pay reform “rabbis,” thus recognizing their services to their communities, this terrible danger may spread to the Holy Land where intermarriage has been less than one percent up till now.

Rabbi Kahane envisioned it all. Here is his article. It’s long, but it’s an incredible, dynamite piece of writing that tells the truth in the brilliant, straight-to-the-jugular way which characterizes the Rabbi’s writings. He published 22 books and authored well over 1,000 articles before being assassinated in 1990. With the brave backing of The Jewish Press, he wrote scores of essays for the newspaper using a variety of pen names. But until last year, the overwhelming majority of his articles were only available in the archives of The Jewish Press building. Now, after a heroic ten-year effort by David Fine, a seven-volume set containing many of these articles has been published. Called Beyond Words: Selected Writings, 1960-1990, the collection spans 3,500 pages with most of the best articles that Rabbi Kahane ever wrote.

Beyond Words also includes several indexes in Volume 7 that enable the reader to find articles by subject, by title, and even by the references in the article to specific quotations from the Torah and the Talmud. To order in Israel, call 02-582-3540.

WHAT MAKES BERNIE RUN?

Rabbi Meir Kahane

(Federal prison, Manhattan, Lag Ba’Omer, April 29, 1975)

Once there was a television program, which centered about the theme of intermarriage. The heroes of the piece were named Bernie and Brigitte. The American Jewish Establishment put great pressure on the particular network that televised the series and the program was ultimately dropped. Bernie and Brigitte were no longer. They had been canceled…

How relatively simple it was to cancel Bernie and Brigitte on television and how much more difficult to struggle against the curse and cancer of intermarriage and assimilation that exists in real American Jewish life. How simple to picket a television series to death and how hard to stamp out the disease that afflicts us daily in the real-life existence that is the lot of American Jewry. lf we no longer find Bernie and Brigitte strolling hand in hand across our television screens we need only look at our campuses, at our streets at our neighborhoods, Bernie is alive and well.

What makes Bernie run? What makes Bernie run after Brigitte? What makes Bernie run away from Judaism and cut the chain of generations? What makes Bernie run away from the Judaism that his great-grandfather clutched at the risk of loss of happiness material wealth and so often very life? What makes Bernie run? This is the question that drives the American Jewish Establishment to frantically set up committees, study groups, surveys and commissions. This is the question that drives them to study the problem again and again and then again. This is the question to which they allocate so much time and so much communal money. This is the question that is at the top of their puzzled order of priorities, over which they scratch their collective well-groomed heads: What makes Bernie run?

Tzvi Fishman

Printed from: http://www.jewishpress.com/blogs/felafel-on-rye/beyond-words-rabbi-meir-kahane-at-his-very-best/2012/06/03/

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