Unanticipated responses to Orthodox-Reform fissures

You may also like...

6 Responses

  1. Neil Harris says:

    “The Orthodox interest will discern within its kabbalistic, musar or halachic traditions something akin to that which the Jews by choice, or those married to them, now find spiritually alluring; while the liberal interest in spirituality will become imbued with halachic practice.”
    Hopefully R Goldberg’s words will come true.
    Great post.

  2. CR says:

    There will always be a market for liberal heterodox Judaism (think the Karaites in prior generations). Hence the Reform movement or some successor movement sufficiently similar as to be indistinguishable will always be there to serve that market.

    The big question in my mind is what happens to the Conservative movement? With C shifting leftward as R shifts right at what point does the putative “centrist” movement become redundant? Do they become competing forces on the left much like Yeshivish/Chassidish (lehavdil) among Torah orthodoxy (small “o” intended)? Do they merge? Does one of them file Chapter 7? Do both eventually become 19th century relics to be replaced by some newer contemporary group with a “plague on both your houses” approach (think Michael Lerner’s Jewish Renewal or somesuch)?

  3. L.Oberstein says:

    Most non orthodox Jews are not interested in “converting” to orthodoxy. The frum way of life is so alien to most Jews that only someone deeply unsatisfied with his life and/or someone with real intellectual or spiritual hunger would care to make the life altering choice of becoming a Baal Teshuva. Trrah may be the best merchandise but many Jews are content enough not to want to buy in. What Conservative Judaism used to do is give one the opportunity to enjoy Jewish practices without the pain of shemiras hamitzvos, the icing without the cake. This worked for people who grew up with a little Yiddishkeit but who still wanted to ride on shabbos and eat out, but also liked some Hebrew and doing Jewish things. What the Conservative Movement never ever stood for from day one was emunah. Now, it is clear that you can’t keep Torah without believe in its truth. Hence, it’s curtains for the non believers who still like to act Jewish from time to time.That’s a shame but that’s the way it is.

  4. Moshe P. Mann says:

    2.Kudos to Hillel Goldberg for this excellent post! His main point, that the doomsday predictions of Orthodox apologists and kiruv workers on the Conservative and Reform Jews have proven dead wrong, is something I had known for a long time already.

    Does anyone remember the infamous “Will your Grandchildren be Jewish” chart predicting that there would be something like 3 Orthodox Jews for every Reform Jew in 20 years – that came out 20 years ago??!! Well, that’s already been pilloried on the internet.

    Mr. Goldberg is absolutely right when he says “liberal institutions, qua institutions, have neither redefined themselves as non-Jewish nor folded”. We cannot define the success of Reform Judaism by our own definitions of successful Judaism, and then cast them as a dismal failure in light of that definition. If a successful Reform Jew is someone who only goes to synagogue once a year or is a member of the UJA, then sociologically speaking, he is a fully fledged Reform Jew, regardless of how the kiruv movement would castigate someone like that.

    I would like to add another poignant reason as to why doomsday predictions on non-Orthodox Judaism will not materialize: Any physical rate of change, in this case birth rate and assimilation rate, is inherently not constant! Anyone who has worked in applied sciences (such as myself 🙂 ) knows that even the most expert economic, biological, and meteorological forecasts are only accurate in the short term, since all of those systems are inherently chaotic, and the forecasts are based on constants and linear relations which are not really so.

    As a sociologist once put it, “Youre better off predicting what the weather will be in 20 years than you are predicting what the Jewish community will be like.”

  5. lacosta says:

    i am reading a book from the library called Jews in the Center By Jack Wertheimer of jts , about 10 yr old profile of the jews of the C movement–by sociologists of note. if you look at the profiles of people there , 2 issues stand out to me— 1] a not insignificant amount of O raised [ ie day school or more ] wind up there ;
    2] the prevailing wind for a long genration there is egalitarianism.
    this means that anyone [female] to become BT from C movement [and i mean from those on the knowledgeble end] would have to give up their aliyahs, chazzanut, tfila leading etc egalitarian roles. i think this will stay a large impediment to jumping the divide. in C you ironically can have it all; and i dont think they would want to give it up…

  6. Reb Yid says:

    To lacosta:

    On your first point:

    Certainly true that there’s a bunch of Orthodox raised within the Conservative community. But if you probe further, this ends up being the oldest cohort within the Conservative community. There was even a time where JTS got many of its rabbinical students from Orthodox homes…but the gulf between the Conservative and Orthodox worlds has widened considerably in the past two decades. Today, there are relatively few younger Conservative Jews, and even within that cohort relatively few who were raised Orthodox.

    On your second point:

    The reason a lot of young observant Jews (including but not restricted to “Orthodox”) join Orthodox congregations and not others is because they want to feel part of a community…often, Conservative congregations don’t have the critical mass of knowledgeable young Jews that would attract others…these Conservative congregations do exist, but they’re not nearly as abundant as Orthodox alternatives.

    Some women within this group will still “have their cake and eat it too” by becoming involved in Women’s Tefila Groups (either within their Orthodox shuls or in private homes), where they can read Torah, etc. There are also the Shira Chadasha type minyanim where a woman may lead Kabbalat Shabbat davening.

    There was a comment in a related thread about Orthodoxy responding to developments within the Conservative movement. There’s no question that the increased roles of women in the synagogue are due–at least in part–to the crossover of active, knowledgeable Conservative women into Orthodoxy, as part of the broader impact of feminism upon Judaism in general and Orthodoxy in particular.

Pin It on Pinterest