Photo Credit: Women of the Wall at the Kotel
Women of the Wall at the Kotel, the Western Wall

{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.

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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.

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Vic Rosenthal created FresnoZionism.org to provide a forum for publishing and discussing issues about Israel and the Mideast conflict, especially where there is a local connection. Rosenthal believes that America’s interests are best served by supporting the democratic state of Israel, the front line in the struggle between Western civilization and radical Islam. The viewpoint is not intended to be liberal or conservative — just pro-Israel.

16 COMMENTS

  1. Being a Conservative Jew I have felt that Reform Judaism was more social (in nature) than faith based which makes the Orthodox uneasy. But, on the other hand, the Orthodox (which contribute so little toward the welfare of Israel) are a welfare state with to much sway.

  2. Being a Viet Nam era veteran I have nothing but contempt for the Reform movement. While Jewish boys were fighting and dying for their country, the Reform movement turned their back on them and refused to send chaplins, whose only duty was to serve Jewish soldiers' religious needs, into the armed forces. The Orthodox movement, which was more concerned about the welfare of young Jewish men than politics, made up the difference. The Reform movement wrote my fellow soldiers and me off, I want nothing to do with them.

  3. Well said Vic, most of these hypocrite Jews you talking about made liberalism as their religion, not judaism their loyalty is to the Dem's party, not Israel. some of them do not believe in G-D they just like the idea of being called Jewish.

  4. I love reform Jews. I love Orthodox Jews. I love Ashkenazi and Sephardi Jews. Never will I allow myself to dis-include any Jew that loves Israel and fellow Jews. In October 1973 somewhere in the Sinai I noted that all Jews bleed the same color! Reform or secular or orthodox cry for their mothers exactly the same way. Imagine!

  5. Pasi, you are passee!
    Your religion is no longer relevant to the survival of Judaism. con Judaism is today a variation of reform and unitarianism with no moral compassing facing the due North of torah judaism. When your leaders chose to go in every direction except North, you lost the game. The educational and commitment level of your members is pathetically low, Your preachers are produced to cater to the whims of your members who keep wanting to lower and lower the bar.
    Your children intermarry in tragic numbers and bow out of judaism altogether joining other flocks and cults – BRAVO, YOUR JTS BOARD APPROVED YOUR TEENAGERS INTERDATING!!! NOW THERE IS A SOUL SEARCHING AND SURRENDERING LOSER LEADERSHIP! aND look how many of your progeny produce Jewish souls-One child, maybe two and a few uncommon 3 offspring- enjoy your 2nd cars, vacations & 2nd homes and other misplaced priorities.
    Con Jews are today Jewish conartists pretending to be something that just does not work- in the historic context of Halachic Judaism. Hellenism perhaps is a more fitting classification and we know where that went!
    So what do you have? a social club, with once a week updates of a mix of prayer and politics and polemics against orthos. very inspirational.
    I hope the JPS gets their $$ worth out of the new branding program which will bring in some great low common denominator Jews who will temporarily help
    pay the bills but who will also throw the bar out altogether! I know, I was there, my eyes were and are quite open and if you can't admit to any of this, your condition is quite severe.
    That you choose to attack the orthos is so indicative of your condition. Your words come out of the mouths of fellow con artists and faux rabbis who are also on the attack- what else can they fight for and against.
    Just so you know and avoid embarassing yourself further, orthos are growing and succeeding in leaps and bounds and assuming you don't live in Israel, your glib and libelous statements about orthos and Israel is an incidious figment of your brainwashed imagination. If the orthos were to suddenly disappear, so would Israel!
    *the orthos are the only jews left maintaining the Contract agreed to on Sinai and
    do not tinker with the terms, by following halacha and strongly living by mitzvot observance- and if you don’t think this has any impact on Israel’s survival, you’re a goner!
    * the orthos are the only ones bringing more Jews into this world and especially Israel,
    and if you don’t think this has an impact on Israel’s security and safety, you just can’t accept truths.
    * the orthos, through their large families generate enormous tax revenues –17% of most purchases and only Jew-hating Jews will spew out venomous statements about their heavy
    weight on the Israeli economy- You just don’t know how to read the scales. AND
    while many men may study during 50-80% of the day (getting stipends which means some income) a large majority of their wives work providing much needed financial stability to the family. True, there are large jewish families who need support and there are many more small jewish families, non-religious as well who need support, but that is what Jewish life is all about. Do you give 20% of your income (ding! a mitzvah) to help such Jewish families out or are you
    stuck in the traditional federation scheme of giving your holy $100, $500, 1,000 or even more but way short of 20% each year helping local causes and who knows what israeli causes?
    Orthos give 20% and if you can do any math, you will see that this is why they survive and thrive when living a true Jewish life every day. Israel would be in tough shape if the ortho contributions did not cover the many social/health issues all groups of Jewish people are faced with today in the holy land. So there you have it from a one time Con Jew
    and now a practicing jew who appreciates every word of Torah, who learns from peers and many others who have greater insights and understanding than all of your con-rabbis,
    and who has a very deep respect for our sages who forge the links of past strong generations with our future. My con rabbi of the 50’s and 60’s was very astute and honest-
    by saying Jews must continue to learn and move to the right in knowledge, wisdom and practice. He wouldn't last a day in your con shuls. I appreciated his attempt to keep us heading due Torah North while today, you guys have no idea where that direction is unless you throw out your faulty compasses and bring back True Torah into your halls.

  6. Yaakov Zelig 'Reform 'Judaism IS disappearing especially in Cincinnati which used to be their headquarters. They self destructed thru assimilation and intermarriage.

    We need to keep that garbage out of Israel with their circus side show at the kotel where these hussies wear tefillin and carry a Sefer Torah while their emasculated excuses for men stand at the sides.

  7. Michael Sykora No they R brainwashed and greedy, and you R the brainless here, these so called jews you talking about ,100% of them voted fot the incompetent person in the Oval Office R you happy with the current news in America to day? like our Justice Dept. that all became a Joke.

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