Merge the Movements?
David Forman, a Reform Rabbi living in Israel, argues in the Jerusalem Post that the Conservative and Reform movements in Israel should merge. The credits describe him merely as “a Reform rabbi [and] the author of Fifty Ways to be Jewish,” but I recall him being reasonably prominent.
The dismissiveness with which he treats any distinction between Conservative and Reform would surely have drawn howls of outrage were it to have come from a charedi pen. He is also surprisingly negative about the two movements’ sum total of success on Israeli soil. [The two movements have been in Israel for many decades, and have spent tens (if not hundreds) of millions of dollars on outreach — and he calls them “fledgling.”]
In both Israel and the US there is a large population of Jews who do not want to observe Halacha on one hand, and still self-identify as Jews on the other.
In the US, we (I am a member of that group) are usually Conservative or Reform. We observe parts of Halacha, and go to a synagogue at a frequency from a few times a week to three days a year. Judaism is not something that we expect to preserve unless we do some positive actions related to it.
In Israel, most Chilonim consider themselves Jews by default – staying Jewish does not require a particular effort or action, since it is the majority position. They learn the Tanakh at school, typically don’t work on Shabbat, and don’t drive on Yom Kippur. They feel that is enough. As a result, there is little to no “market” for Reform and Conservative Judaism. Calling those movements “fledgling” is Israel is probably pretty accurate, regardless of the amount of money spent.
The problem with this theory is that is confusing american conservative with israeli masorti. if you read tshuvot of both the RA in america and the RA in israel, you will see a much more traditional version of conservative Judaism, and one that won’t mesh with reform very well.(see masorti responsa here: http://www.responsafortoday.com/ ) Is the good rabbi Forman suggesting that masorti drop their emphasis on rigourous study and observance of halacha, or is he planning to adopt one? now, I’m all for Jewish unity, but just because most dati israelis can’t tell the difference between masorti and reform doesnt mean it doesn’t exist.