Expatriate Owl

A politically-incorrect perspective that does not necessarily tow the party line, on various matters including but not limited to taxation, academia, government and religion.

Sunday, November 20, 2005

Deform Judaism and the Religious Right


Here's the first two sentences of the 19 November 2005 posting by AP writer Kristen Hayes on the Union for Reform Judaism's convention in Houston:

"HOUSTON - The leader of the largest branch of American Judaism blasted conservative religious activists in a speech Saturday, calling them "zealots" who claim a 'monopoly on God' while promoting anti-gay policies akin to Adolf Hitler's. Rabbi Eric Yoffie, president of the liberal Union for Reform Judaism, said 'religious right' leaders believe 'unless you attend my church, accept my God and study my sacred text you cannot be a moral person.'"

The official press release gives details.


Two sentences, and already I have lots of problems, but first I must frankly disclose that my own upbringing included family memberships in Conservative and Reform Jewish congregations.


In the first place, the Deform Movement (okay, so I confused the resh with the dalet) is NOT true Torah Judaism. Though they say that they recognize the Torah, the then proceed to go against its values in almost every aspect of their teachings, including but not limited to same-gender marriages, desecration of the Sabbath (note that this Houston convention, with all of its chillul Shabbat, was held on Saturday), and the very definition of who is and who is not a Jew.

And Eric Yoffie is "Mister Yoffie" because he is not a rabbi and I will not refer to him as such. The Deform Movement's qualifications for ordination are so flimsy that anyone claiming "rabbinical" credentials under them cannot be taken seriously.

But enough of the theological emotionalism! Let us look at the practical real-world applications. There is no denying that, even as they expand their qualifications for including people among their group, the Reform Movement has a piss poor record for keeping its children in the fold. The attrition rate from even what the Reform Movement designates as "Judaism" is astronomical. Remember that this is based upon self-identification of the people involved!

Challenge: Is anyone out there a person who (a) identifies themselves as a "Reform Jew" and (b) had at least 7 great-grandparents who identified themselves as "Reform Jews?" If so, please step forward!

As for the content of Mr. Yoffie's message: Without denying my own concerns about certain elements of the religious right, I recall that not too long ago Deform Movement was preaching the message of ecumenicalism and brotherhood, and many Deform leaders were criticizing certain groups for offending our Christian brethren by bringing to light their targeting the Jewish community for missionizing. The party line was that Israel and the Jewish people need all the friends they can get, and that we should not question the motives of those who speak out in our favor. Howcum it's now okay for Mr. Yoffie to do it?

As a parting comment, many clergy of the Reform Movement (remember that they are not Rabbis and will not be referred to as such) specifically assail "the Orthodox" (The use of the singular proper noun to refer to the plural is often done with negative and denigrating implications) in their sermons. This has happened in Roanoke, Virginia, in Hudson, Ohio, in Louisville, Kentucky, and who knows where else. In my own congregation (it is Orthodox, if you must label it), during the past 18 years our Rabbi (and he's a real rabbi) has only once, in passing, said something mildly critical of certain specific Jewish leaders allied with the so-called "Conservative Judaism" movement.

I won't ask you to tell me what is Jewish about that group that calls itself "Conservative Judaism," but will someone please tell me what about it is conservative?

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