There Are No Reform Jews

Jeff is right about the label “Orthodox:”

It was not “Orthodox” Jews who introduced the word “orthodox” into Jewish discussion. It was the modern “progressive” Jews who first applied the name to “old,” “backward” Jews as a derogatory term. This name was… resented by “old” Jews. And rightfully so…
Rabbi Shamshon Rephael Hirsch, 1854

But if so, I express a mild objection to Jeff’s reference to “the same Reform reader.”

If we reject the Orthodox label, we should reject that as well. Barry is a Jewish reader who affiliates with the Reform movement.

There are, of course, many definitions of affiliation as well. Attending services twice a year and paying dues (because otherwise Billy can’t become Bar Mitzvah in the Temple)… does that an “affiliation” make? Would those millions of Jews get upset at what we think of their rabbis, unless they were taught that we think they aren’t Jews?

Barry, to which Reform vision do you subscribe? Do you think prayer in Hebrew is important or unnecessary? Do you regard Mitzvot, Commandments, as “sacred obligations,” or do you think they are “primitive ideas,” more likely to obstruct than to elevate? Do you encourage aliyah, or do you regard your place of birth or citizenship as your homeland? What is your Rabbi’s position on these matters — do you know? Do you agree?

Just as the “Orthodox” are hardly a monolithic entity, so too the “Reform.” There are those who are “committed Reform,” and those who are “Reform by default.” The only important thing is that you’re a Jew. Even Jeff would admit that a Jewish Democrat is no less a Jew than a Jewish Republican. 🙂

Oh, and as for your statement: “Sometimes I think we really should engage in dialogue with the OU or whatever” — hear hear! You’re not the first to notice that Reform Temples are faster to dialogue with liberal Christians than with Orthodox Jews. Can you make that happen?

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5 Responses

  1. Shaya says:

    and what do you call someone who converted reform?

    Aren’t the orthodox the people who tend to avoid dialog w/ conservative and reform? just look at the big todo of Rabbi Hertzfeld joining the DC Board of Rabbis.

  2. Saul Guberman says:

    Isn’t the last paragraph what got Rabbi Reinman in trouble.

  3. Jack says:

    It is rather disconcerting that for some Jews it is easier to sit down with members of a different religion than our own. At my sister’s wedding the best man didn’t want to wear a kipah, but you can bet if it was some Chinese ritual he would have had no problem doing anything that they asked him to do.

  4. Gil Student says:

    I believe that there are different positions within the Orthodox community over whether dialogue with Reform and Conservative is productive and positive, and in what circumstances. I know plenty of out-of-town rabbis, away from the heated politics of New York City, who have productive dialogues with Reform and Conservative rabbis and I know the Yeshiva-world posek who permits it.

    Rabbi Reinman, unfortunately, got caught in the middle of those intra-Orthodox debate over these dialogues.

  1. January 13, 2005

    […] Torah observance on American and Israeli soil. As I mentioned in a previous article, the term Orthodox was neither chosen nor defined by […]

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