May 13, 2009

Saying Kaddish for Reform and Conservative Jews?

Over the weekend, before Tuvia and I schlepped into Monsey, we were in Livingston, New Jersey, visiting with Tuvia's family for his stepmother's Adult Bat Mitzvah ceremony at a Reform synagogue. The event and Shabbos are already several days removed, and there are often things I intend on writing about but never get to because they become history rather than necessarily present memory. However, on one of my listservs this morning, someone sent out a kind of disturbing article from The Jerusalem Post: Non-Orthodox Judaism disappearing. The headline isn't exactly disturbing or surprising, but rather something in the text caught my eye as upsetting (especially in light of my weekend at a Reform shul).

"With a heavy heart we will soon say kaddish on the Reform and Conservative Movements," said Yeshiva University Chancellor Rabbi Norman Lamm, head of the Rabbi Isaac Elchanan Theological Seminary, in an interview with The Jerusalem Post.
I've been aware for a long time that the Conservative Movement is hurting, losing individuals to the Orthodox end or the Reform end at a fairly steady rate. But the Reform Movement? It's been growing at an exponential rate, it seems, as converts typically come into Judaism through Reform and because most of those who associate with Reform Judaism also associate themselves as Secular Jews, and that's a large portion of the population. Lamm, however, attributes to the loss of Reform for a different reason.
"Reform is out of the picture, because they never got into the picture, and the Conservatives are getting out of the picture," Lamm said.
I found this a little upsetting. Maybe more so than the idea of having to say Kaddish for the movements. Maybe I'm naive, but I'm also one of those holdovers who says that all newspapers aren't going to die. Some will persist, because we trust what we can hold in our hands in front of us -- technology is uncertain, unreliable, and not forever. But the idea that the Reform Movement was never in the picture is concerning. It is clear that Lamm assumes that Judaism is religious Judaism, observant Judaism, traditional Judaism. He acknowledges Reform Judaism only to the point that it exists, but beyond that, it has no authority or legitimacy and deserves no attention. It's a disturbing sentiment for such a powerful man.

I was uplifted by his sentiments at the end of the article, though, regarding how he views those of the Gay-Lesbian population. But he does make that horrible generalization that homosexuals are proselytizers of their lifestyle. I'm guessing he has a problem with flamboyantly open and loud gays? Seriously? What a narrow-minded outlook! But he does say, "Everyone should be made to feel comfortable ... I would never exclude a person because his wife does not cover hair or because he does not adhere to the laws of Shabbat or because he is a homosexual."

Enter: Glimmer of hope for someone.

But the reason this article has me a little put-off is because, although I'm about a million light years away from the Reform Movement in observance and ideologies, but because I also was in that Movement not that long ago, I see the positives it provides. Yes, they have an acoustic guitar and tambourine and piano that made my ears ring and my face turn into a scowl with irritation (reminds me of church camp, seriously), and yes they send kids to the door after services with tzedakah boxes (this was the most disturbing and shocking thing at the shul this past Shabbos), but people were there, if only for the simchas. Yes, the rabbi was taking notes on the bima on Saturday morning for his sermon (writing on Shabbos?!), and yes there were men not wearing kippot and women wearing clothing akin to string bikinis. But it's how those Jews do their Judaism and I applaud them for having some devotion to Shabbat, lifecycle events, and to their family having some knowledge of their Judaism. It isn't how I would ever choose to do my Judaism, and I can't even say that I approve of how Reform Judaism rolls. But it's how I came to Judaism, and I can understand the lens many of those people are viewing Judaism through. Sometimes it needs to be easy and accessible, but that's also the path people start upon that can lead them to Orthodox Judaism and more.

At any rate, I think it's a little early to say kaddish for the Reform and Conservative Movements, and I think it would be very, very wrong to do so. I do think, however, that Orthodox Jews need to be prepared to welcome and bring people into Orthodoxy from the Conservative Movement if need be. It isn't us versus them and we shouldn't mourn their movements, because that means we're morning the loss of thousands of Jews within those movements. Even the most secular Jews call out for a connection at some point, and we need to be prepared when that time comes.

40 comments:

JD said...

Obviously Rabbi Lamm is coming from a very biased perspective when he says that a) Reform was never in the picture, and b) that Reform is on the rise "because if you add goyim to Jews then you will do OK."

Reform has been in the picture, and will continue to be in the picture for years to come. I'm wondering if you really find that comment troubling because you believe Rabbi Lamm in that he Reform movement was never in it and are troubled by what that implies, or if you don't believe it and are troubled by the fact that such a ridiculous statement is coming out of the mouth of relatively mainstream Orthodox rabbi.

I continually take issue when people make a distinction between "religious" Judaism and Reform Judaism, as if to say those of us in the Reform movement are not religious and are not observant. We may not scowl at the use of instruments during services or at the idea of men without head coverings, or (gasp!) writing on Shabbat, but that doesn't mean or beliefs and practices are any less valid than yours or that we are any less religious.

I'm sorry, but saying the Reform Judaism is easy is just ignorant. There are plenty of Reform Jews who take their path incredibly seriously and work hard at their spirituality and at their understanding of observance. Reform isn't just a pathway to Orthodox Judaism.

I also take issue with your statement that "most of those who associate with Reform Judaism also associate themselves as Secular Jews." I don't believe that most of the Reform movement is just made up of secular Jews and I think it is incredibly insulting to insinuate that Reform is equivalent to secularism, when in reality it is far from it.

I began reading your blog before you really dove so far into observance, and I had enjoyed reading through your journey. But I can't help but feel you have become more and more judgmental of anyone who is not taking your same path and it honestly turns me off. As for your backhanded compliments about "those Jews who do their Judaism and [you] applaud them for having some devotion to Shabbat, lifecyle events, and to their family having some knowledge of their Judaism" do you think you could be anymore insulting? Seriously?

You seem to want to come across as defending the Reform movement in some way in this post, but in reality you are doing the exact same thing as Rabbi Lamm, just in a more insidious way. He at least comes out and says pretty directly that he doesn't believe Reform to be a valid form of Judaism. You are much more subtle, and therefore much more insulting.

Chaviva said...

Hey JD. I'm sorry you read my blog post with the tone that you did, but it wasn't meant at all to diminish the importance of Reform Judaism or invalidate it at all. I've been dealing with this a lot lately from people, people who think I'm negating or bashing the Reform movement with my words or actions, and that is so, so, so not what I'm about. Individual experiences are different, and I spent three+ years in the Reform movement loving it. I still love it. When I go back to Nebraska, I go to that synagogue still!

But even when I went to that synagogue, I disliked the organ music and guitars. It irked me when people didn't wear yarmulkes, etc. Those are my sentiments, and my sentiments alone. That doesn't mean I'm bashing how Reform does Judaism; it's perfectly valid.

I know a lot of Reform Jews who observe Shabbat, do a meal, light candles, walk to shul, wear kippot all week, etc. I know these Jews, and they're just as awesome as those Jews who don't. That goes for the Conservative movement, Orthodox, Haredi, everything. A Jew is a Jew in my mind, believe me, that is my hard and fast rule. How people do things is not my business. I can express my personal opinions about how those actions affect me, but that's just me describing how they affect me. I'm not passing judgment, I'm making personal, emotionally, reactionary observations. That's what a blog does, no?

I've found that a lot of people who knew me before I became more religious, people who I had co-blogged with or who had been on a similar journey as me have rejected my ongoing journey, and it upsets me. I have had individuals completely disregard me as a friend and person in their life because they think I've gone off the deep end. I get comments weekly from people about how far I've gone. Isn't that just as harsh as what you're reading into what I'm saying? I'm not saying you are judging me, but maybe you are, just a little. Maybe my path has you upset, and that's fine. But say that, don't attack me. You can disagree with my journey and me, it's all good.

Reform Judaism is a perfectly valid form of Judaism. I wasn't implying that I wasn't. I wasn't being sneaky at all. I was defending Reform Judaism because I haven't forgotten where I came from. Reform Judaism is my first family, darn't. The Reform movement brought me into Judaism. What it does is wonderful. If it can rally troops through its own means, than I encourage it to do so. It's not how I roll anymore, but I see many Reform Jews who I know as completely devout Jewish individuals with a personal and emotional devotion to being Jewish.

Oh, and as a clarification: That "most" should be many. A lot of Israelis consider themselves secular but still observe Shabbat and have a lot of beliefs that put them fairly on par with the tenets of Reform Judaism. This is what I was getting at. Many who say they're secular still often participate in meals, shul, holidays, and lifecycle events. They're more apt to attend a Reform shul and identify with Reform than with say Conservative or Orthodox.

Anonymous said...

The biggest problem I see with the Reform movement is that they've redefined what a Jew is*. That act alone will eventually completely separate the Reform from Jews (Orthodox, Conservative, Secular, whatever). Now, with only one generation behind us, and with decent records, it still isn't much of a problem, but wait a few more generations and the only choice for a Jew will be to consider the Reform to be of another religion.

Mark


* Specifically two issues:

1. Patrilineal descent (regardless of whether it used to be that way or not).

http://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/jsource/Judaism/patrilineal.html

and

2. Sham/invalid conversions, or those done almost solely for the purposes of marriage, and those done without fulfilling the proper requirements for a valid conversion.

Nadav said...

"I've been aware for a long time that the Conservative Movement is hurting, losing individuals to the Orthodox end or the Reform end at a fairly steady rate." Could you provide a reference for that? Thanks.

nadav

Nadav said...

I can see how JD is reading your entry that way--it seems that what you're saying is that Orthodox needs to take it easy on Reform, because even though they aren't observant enough for you, there is a possibility that one day former members of Reform congregations will knock on Orthodox's door for inclusion. While detailing your experience in the Reform movement, you subtly add in negative comment after negative comment (bikini-like clothing, writing on shabbat, etc.). Can you see that you're doing this? Then, you tweet about how someone disagrees with you and draw attention back to yourself. That seems pretty passive aggressive.

Orthodox Judaism has far fewer members than Conservative or Reform, so it should probably be concerned with its own kaddish. Right now, you're not even Jewish in the eyes of the Orthodox movement you so eagerly champion. I know you mean well, but I can totally see one could read your entry as JD has and be legitimately offended.

Chaviva said...

@Nadav The information you request can be found in the following works:

Jack Wertheimer, "The Perplexities of Conservative Judaism."
and
"Conservative Movement in Judaism" by Daniel Elazer and Rela Mintz Geffen.

Happy reading! My comment about people coming to Orthodoxy is based in thought. There is a blog post of mine over on JewsByChoice.org from some time ago where many rabbis of varying movements were asked why people CHOOSE Orthodoxy. It's really compelling, especially the words that come from Liberal rabbis. Give it a read, let me know what you think.

http://jewsbychoice.org/2008/07/22/rabbis-explain-why-people-become-orthodox/

Also, your comment regarding Orthodoxy's few members? Orthodox Judaism has a retention rate of 89 percent, compared to Reform/Conservative were are by far lower. This can be found in Elazer and Geffen's book.

Scholastica said...

As a Conservative Jew, statements like this depress me. In the more vibrant Conservative groups I've been part of, I've certainly noticed that the trend of adults who leave is to become Orthodox. While I can understand their desire for a more cohesive observant community, and I'm not anti-Orthodox, it does sadden me...particularly since I feel that many of those who leave the Conservative movement for Orthodoxy, along with some baalei teshuva and converts, do so because they have bought into the "Orthodoxy is the only authentic Judaism" story. Some of them may have issues with the role of women or the concept of Torah mi-Sinai, but they sweep those problematic parts under the rug because they feel the only way to be a "real Jew" is to be Orthodox. I think the Orthodox are winning the PR game on that front, by propagating the message that Orthodoxy is the only historic, halakhic, and genuine form of Judaism and the rest are, at best, Judaism Lite, at worst, not Judaism at all. Now, I believe there are some genuine problems and weaknesses within the culture of liberal Judaism that have contributed to this and people's dissatisfaction with these shortcomings is real and fair, so it's not as if we non-Orthodox Jews can simply blame the Orthodox for magically luring other Jews away. Liberal Jews tend to reinforce the "Orthodoxy is the most authentic" way of thinking by attempting to seek Orthodox approval and recognition, while Orthodoxy as a general rule doesn't give a flying fricassee whether or not the liberal streams recognize or support its actions. You also see this with secular Jews who give money to Chabad and other such kiruv organizations because they feel that this the only way we can preserve Jewish culture. Don't even get me started on those people who seem to think the only authentic form of Judaism is an exact replication of life in 17th century Poland!

We could also get into the issue of demographics, about how liberal Jews have fertility rates below replacement level, some of the lowest of all ethnic groups, while Orthodox Jews are having a comparative baby boom, though that's a whole 'nother can of worms.

All that said, I wouldn't signal the death knoll for liberal Judaism as yet. There may be a shaking of the foundation, but I think there will still be people who, for example, feel strongly about egalitarian and GLBT issues but are just as committed to Judaism, Jewish practice, and learning.

BZ said...

Mark writes:
The biggest problem I see with the Reform movement is that they've redefined what a Jew is*. See this post -- the existence of multiple definitions of "who is a Jew" was not caused by any particular Reform movement policy, and could not be fixed by any reasonable change in policy.

2. Sham/invalid conversions, or those done almost solely for the purposes of marriage, and those done without fulfilling the proper requirements for a valid conversion.Given that, according to the Orthodox community, "the proper requirements for a valid conversion" include that the beit din must be made up of Orthodox rabbis, there is no way to do a Reform (or Conservative) conversion that would satisfy these requirements. As long as the Orthodox world is uncompromisingly schismatic on this issue, it makes no difference what the liberal movements do; the existence of multiple definitions of Jewishness is inevitable.

BZ said...

Chaviva writes:
I'm sorry you read my blog post with the tone that you did, but it wasn't meant at all to diminish the importance of Reform Judaism or invalidate it at all.
[...]
I've found that a lot of people who knew me before I became more religious...
When you equate going from Reform to Orthodox with becoming "more religious" (rather than differently religious), you are in fact invalidating Reform Judaism.

Dunking Rachel said...

I have been feeling a bit on the defensive side regarding my Jewishness. I'm not sure if it is a word, but it is the best way for me to describe it. I too read those statements....it is a shanda!


What is a Jew?...ok now those of you who can quote verse in your sleep will give me the answer...but I am sure you can hold your comments....so many other Jews would say I am not. So many others have attitudes and opinions that can be hurtful and some downright prejudicial. It can be exclusionary and detrimental to individuals and ultimately to the greater Jewish world. Let’s face it, the world has not always been kind to the Jews…need we give the anti-Semites a roadmap of how to divide us?



In the Jewish world including the blogosphere there are so many who have a subtle and sometimes not so subtle point of view/perception that choosing an orthodox world view is being “more Jewish.”

I was taught that the souls of all Jews, from all times, came together to hear the Ten Commandments from the divine on Shavuot. So I see that as meaning we are all equal, and “chosen” in our own individual ways. I may not be from Eastern European ancestry, or had grown up going to shul, or summer camp, cover my married hair, or any other event/test that can be thrown my way, but I am a Jew.

This shavuot I stand with all the Jews, I stand in the history and the faith wearing the symbolic cloak of Ruth. I am proud to be a convert, and I am proud to be in the Conservative stream of Judaism. I embrace all Jews as my brothers and sisters in faith, even if they do not embrace me.

Dunking Rachel said...

I have been feeling a bit on the defensive side regarding my Jewishness. I'm not sure if it is a word, but it is the best way for me to describe it.
I too read what you read...it is a shanda!

What is a Jew?...now those of you who feel this is your moment to lecture me, please hold back, I don't want to hear you quote verse/tracts to me.

so many other Jews would say I am not. So many others have attitudes and opinions that can be hurtful and some downright prejudicial. It can be exclusionary and detrimental to individuals and ultimately to the greater Jewish world. Let’s face it, the world has not always been kind to the Jews…need we give the anti-Semites a roadmap of how to divide us?


In the Jewish world emphasised by the blogosphere there is subtle and sometimes not so subtle points of view/perception that choosing an orthodox world view is being “more Jewish.”


I was taught that the souls of all Jews, from all times, came together to hear the Ten Commandments from the divine on Shavuot. So I see that as meaning we are all equal, and “chosen” in our own individual ways. I may not be from Eastern European ancestry, or had grown up going to shul, or summer camp or cover my married hair or any other event/test that can be thrown my way, but I am a Jew.

This shavuot I stand with all the Jews, I stand in the history and the faith wearing the symbolic cloak of Ruth. I am proud to be a convert, and I am proud to be in the Conservative stream of Judaism. I embrace all Jews as my brothers and sisters in faith, even if they do not embrace me.

Chaviva said...

@BZ I am sorry that my choice of words offends you. I tried more religious, it upset people. I tried more observant, it upset people. I tried more traditional, it upset people.

I cannot please everyone. What I mean to say is that since I took upon more mitzvot, under the auspices of Orthodoxy.

I don't know what you all want from me. I am not flawless and my choice of words will not please everyone. To my converted and Reform friends? I am too right, too orthodox. To strangers on the right, I am not Jewish. It is hard for me right now, and the only people supporting me are those among me. Everyone else seems to attack my choices.

So much for my relaxing day!

BZ said...

It's not a question of pleasing everyone or of offending people - I was merely explaing how someone might have inferred from your words that you are treating Reform as less valid.

JD said...

You know, I'm sorry you feel attacked, but you put this post out in the world and people are going to react because this is a sensitive subject. You say that you have had Reform friends not understand you and Jews on the right say you aren't Jewish, and for that I am sorry. But I don't believe that anyone who has commented here has attacked your pursuit of taking on more mitzvot. We are simply taking issue with what we see as an invalidation of Reform, whether you meant it or not.

As a blogger you ate welcoming in the opinions of others every time you post. You said in your comment to me that I can disagree but not attack. Except you don't really want me to actually voice that disagreement.

Chaviva said...

I know I am putting myself out there, it is why I blog. But I feel attacked.

If I did not welcome dissent, there would be no conversation - I wouldn't approve any of these comments. But that isn't who I am.

nadav said...

I really don't think you're being attacked. People are only stating their minds. But I do think you put a post out there in the Jewish blogosphere that inferred that the only true Judaism is that of Orthodoxy. As a Conservative Jew, I am offended that being observant to you means being Orthodox. Since you are a Reform convert, you should be even more highly sensitive to this kind of rhetoric.

You have opened up a great discussion, but you also need to be accountable for the fact that your statements are incendiary to those of us in Reform and Conservative Judaism who have to deal with a minority of Jews (orthodoxy) telling us we're not Jewish enough or Jewish at all. Since you are included among us because of your Reform conversion, as I said, your sensitivity should be more heightened and you are off-base making comments like you made. For example, citing one source and not raw data on the levels of attrition in the Conservative community amounts is naive. My Conservative congregation is one of the most dynamic and altruistic in the city and would not be happy to be called secular or less observant simply because we are not orthodox.

I think you need to be more accountable in your response to postings that you make like this, and please not pull the victim card when people are simply disagreeing with you. It's your responsibility as a Jew and as a blogger.

Anonymous said...

Mark - The biggest problem I see with the Reform movement is that they've redefined what a Jew is.

BZ - The existence of multiple definitions of "who is a Jew" was not caused by any particular Reform movement policy, and could not be fixed by any reasonable change in policy.
[space]

You've got to be kidding? The most reasonable "change in policy" that completely solves the problem is for Jews to marry Jews. Then there is zero doubt about the status of a child's Judaism (regardless of whether you believe in matrilineal descent or patrilineal descent or both).

Mark - Sham/invalid conversions, or those done almost solely for the purposes of marriage, and those done without fulfilling the proper requirements for a valid conversion.

BZ - Given that, according to the Orthodox community, "the proper requirements for a valid conversion" include that the beit din must be made up of Orthodox rabbis, there is no way to do a Reform (or Conservative) conversion that would satisfy these requirements. As long as the Orthodox world is uncompromisingly schismatic on this issue, it makes no difference what the liberal movements do; the existence of multiple definitions of Jewishness is inevitable.
[space]

Nope. The "orthodox community" is irrelevant, and that phrase or group didn't even exist about 6 or 7 generations ago. The only thing relevant is the halacha which has remained relatively constant for hundreds, and parts of it for thousands, of years. As far as I know, and I am far from being an expert, what is required for a proper conversion is:

* Acceptance of the one and true God ("Ol Malchut Shamaim" etc) and forsaking all other Gods or forms thereof.
* Adoption and practice of halacha (which requires significant study beforehand, even for someone born a Jew).
* Immersion in a mikvah.
* Circumcision for males (also required for those males born a Jew).

The Reform have done away with most of these requirements. They also often make a mockery of the entire conversion process, especially when a "quickie" conversion is desired for marriage purposes (or even for celebrity publicity in rare cases). And they've made a mockery of many other parts of the religion (often for the most mundane reasons).

That said, I also think the Charedi movement has perverted the religion so much that pretty soon they will also not be part of Judaism anymore (or perhaps might erroneously consider themselves the only true Jews). Soon I think we can call them the wearers-of-17th-century-non-Jewish-noblemans-clothes religion, or perhaps the not-permitted-to-do-anything religion, or perhaps the independent-thinking-not-permitted religion. The way they rely solely on their Rabbi to determine their every move smacks more of a cult that a religion.

For an analogy, the reform have perverted the Jewish religion by clearcutting the forest leaving hardly any trees, while the Charedim have perverted the religion by planting the trees so close to each other that barely a sliver of daylight can be seen between them. Both of those forests are dysfunctional.

Chaviva - the only people supporting me are those among me.[space]

I am not among you, but I support you.

Mark

Kate said...

Knowing me and my views as you do, I think I can probably keep my opinions to myself on this one rather than launching into everything that's running through my head. I don't think it's particularly necessary.

That said, I wish Jews would quit judging other Jews, bottom line. There aren't very many of us to begin with - and when we start saying Kaddish for the death of one another's movement, we diminish and degrade our peoplehood. When we turn other Jews or would-be Jews away for being not Jewish enough, for being differently Jewish, for being not-observant-enough Jewish, we only hurt ourselves, our religion. Why do we need Christians or Muslims or non-believers to tear us down if we do it to ourselves? Those who attack other Jews for the stream of Judaism they choose should be ashamed of themselves for contributing to the pain of our people on the whole. I hate to bring it back to this example, but during the Shoah, we all would've been gassed exactly the same way, all shoved together in one little chamber, regardless of who wrote on Shabbas & who wore a yarmulke & who dated a goy & who used a guitar on the bima. To the rest of the world, we are all the same - and for that reason, if noting else, we should see ourselves as the same, as one people. By dividing ourselves as we do & then tearing one another down, we give the rest of the world more excuses to take shots at us, and we stand less strongly against their fire.

I'm proud to be a Reform Jew. I'm even proud to be a secular Jew, and I respect & will passionately defend my Reform friends & colleagues who choose to express their Judaism "more observantly," "more religiously" or any differently than I do - and similarly, I respect the right of any & every Jew to decide for him or herself what is "Jewish enough" for him or her - I just want the same respect in return. If we can't even respect one another, how can we ever except respect from non-Jews?

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
EYR said...

Hi Chaviva,

I think the difference between your outlook and that of Rabbi Lamm can be defined thus: the Reform movement occupies a middle ground between Orthodoxy and complete Secularism, and as such, acts many times as a gateway between the two. While there are naturally people that remain Reform all their life, by virtue of being in between two extremes it allows others a comfortable transition point from one community to the other. And so, while from your experience the Reform movement was a doorway into Orthodox Judaism, for others it is an essential stage on the way out, one without which they might have stayed Orthodox. I believe that it is this critical perspective that Rabbi Lamm is taking.

So, which is the more dominant role of the Reform movement in the history and future of the Jewish people? Whatever my personal beliefs on this topic, in the end only G-d and time will tell

ilanadavita said...

Well you seem to have attracted some interesting comments here.
Some of the things that interested me in your post was what you described about the Reform shul you went to last week. You'd never see that in a French Reform synagogue. The men wear kippot. They wear modern looking clothes but not so beach-like as in your description and the rabbi wouldn't write on Shabbas. One shul in Paris may be a bit less strict but it is an exception.
Similarly the Masorti shuls look quite traditional.
Maybe some of yor readers feel insulted at your remarks because you need to justify your actions.
As for me I have problems with Reform Judaism for the 2 reasons mentioned above. Therefore they are making things more difficult for Jewish people not less.

BZ said...

Mark writes:
You've got to be kidding? The most reasonable "change in policy" that completely solves the problem is for Jews to marry Jews. Then there is zero doubt about the status of a child's Judaism (regardless of whether you believe in matrilineal descent or patrilineal descent or both).1) And we should also make Judaism unappealing enough that no one will want to convert to it?

2) Before, you said "The biggest problem I see with the Reform movement...", suggesting that you were talking about institutional decisions. You know as well as I do that no institution (Reform or Orthodox) has the power to enforce a policy like "Jews should marry Jews" on all the Jews of the world.

3) Even if, going forward, every Jew in the world reads your comment and only marries Jews, there are still many people already in existence with one Jewish and one non-Jewish parent.

As far as I know, and I am far from being an expert, what is required for a proper conversion is:

* Acceptance of the one and true God ("Ol Malchut Shamaim" etc) and forsaking all other Gods or forms thereof.
* Adoption and practice of halacha (which requires significant study beforehand, even for someone born a Jew).
* Immersion in a mikvah.
* Circumcision for males (also required for those males born a Jew).
Plenty of Reform and Conservative conversions meet requirements 1, 3, and 4 on this list. These conversions are treated by the Orthodox world as just as invalid as those that meet none of these requirements. Therefore, from a k'lal Yisrael perspective, these three requirements are irrelevant - even if every conversion met these requirements, it would make no difference to the larger issue of Jewish unity.

The sticking point is requirement #2. It is impossible for Reform and Conservative conversions to meet this requirement in a way that will satisfy the Orthodox world, because Reform and Conservative Judaism are deemed by the Orthodox world to be "not halacha", and therefore anyone who intends to live a Reform/Conservative lifestyle is definitionally not meeting the requirement of "adoption and practice of halacha". Therefore, there is nothing that the Reform and Conservative movements can do to fix this problem, except 1) not do any more conversions of any kind, or 2) become Orthodox.

Dunking Rachel said...

so sorry you are feeling attacked.
What has happened here is a micro version of what is happening in the larger Jewish world.

Words count...and words are subject to perception.

I feel attacked often in certain parts of the Jewish world and jewish blog world. That happens because I am a convert and in the conservative stream of practice.

I do have a live and let live point of veiew but others do not...

what we can do as a community of concerned people is to see how we can contibute to peace between all Jewish sisters and Brothers.

The leaders of certain movements refuse to cooperate...it does not mean we can not seek new pathways to understanding ourselves.

You have choosen to explore your path....that is lovely...we all can do our own explorations... but perhaps it is an opportunity to help extend the concept of understanding...

In my community we are always seeking ways to work with our Brother and Sister Jews from other paths...what can you do in your new orthodox world?...

We have had bone marrow drives and blood drives, and although not all groups participate one of the Modern Orthodox groups have found a way to work with us.....it is a long road to get the others on board...but we never stop trying

all of you, if you are of the mind that we should "just get along"/ then what have you done to move it forward?

This applies strongest to those of you in communities that have more difficulties seeing all Jews as Jews...what have you done?

Anonymous said...

What seems odd is everyone is so concerned with what other PEOPLE think about their movement. What about what G-d thinks?? Is anyone concerned how each movement reflects G-d's desire for His people on earth?

The only way we can know this is by turning to the Torah.

Maybe we will be saying Kaddish for some movements because although they have been validated by human minds, they are not valid by the word of G-d himself.

We shouldn't judge other PEOPLE but judging a "movement" is necessary to preserve the word of G-d.

I can't imagine people from Reform genuinely believe G-d thought "Ooops made a mistake with everything I told Moishe, please ignore and do what makes sense to you".

Everyone wants to think with a goyish politically correct head.

It's not POLITICALLY correct to say Reform is not a valid movement, but it is HALACHICALLY correct.

Chaviva said...

When I said "you all" I was not referring to liberal or reform or conservative Jews ... I was referring to my mix of commentors on this blog, the greater web and Jewish community.

What have I done, you ask? As if I need to qualify myself? To prove I am not a Reform and conservative movement nullifier? Seriously?

Oy.

Chaviva said...

I received this via email from what I am guessing is a PR company this morning. Thought I'd post it.

A RESPONSE TO RABBI NORMAN LAMM

By Rabbi Julie Schonfeld

Incoming executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly



New York, NY (May 13, 2009) – One week ago today, I returned from the AIPAC conference in Washington, DC energized not only by the thrilling program but by the realization that out of the 200-plus rabbis in attendance, more than half were my colleagues, ordained by the Conservative movement and now standing at the helms of the leading Jewish communal organizations of the day. They came with delegations of committed Conservative Jews from their congregations and institutions.



During my time in our nation’s capital I also met with the Conservative rabbis who were heading up our new Office of Public Policy and Office of Israel Advocacy, respectively. These initiatives are part of a five-platform agenda of the Rabbinical Assembly which includes Social Justice Partnerships, Interfaith Work and Hekhsher Tzedek -- a star project of the Conservative movement which is focused on creating an ethical certification process for kosher foods.



The enormous popularity and success of Hekhsher Tzedek, which has captured the interest of the Jewish community at large, including many of Rabbi Lamm’s Orthodox constituents who are in agreement with my colleague, Rabbi Morris Allen’s call that we take ethical mitzvot as seriously as ritual ones in the preparation of kosher food. The message we are hearing loud and clear is that the American Jewish community is quite literally hungry to lead lives where the ritual is bound up in the ethical underpinning.



This contribution and others, however, have sadly eluded the notice of Rabbi Norman Lamm, chancellor of Yeshiva University, who felt moved to publicly declare the need to recite Kaddish for our allegedly-dying movement in a recent Jerusalem Post interview.



It seems that Rabbi Lamm has been so busy making funeral arrangements that he has missed the news of our movement’s great and global vitality. Our seminaries are respected houses of religious learning and pastoral training, drawing new and committed students to the rabbinate. There are exciting congregational developments around the world, especially in Israel and Europe. Our presence in Latin America is critical. Our warm and welcoming synagogues throughout the United States and Canada offer proof that our movement occupies the very heart of Jewish life in North America.



And our camping and school system could not be stronger and more in demand. If any of our schools are feeling the pinch, it is an indication of the nation’s economic crisis as a whole… not our movement’s failure.



As I prepare to assume my post as executive vice president of the Rabbinical Assembly this summer, I am excited and optimistic at this very moment of transition into new leadership. With Chancellor Arnold Eisen directing the Jewish Theological Seminary and Rabbi Steven Wernick heading The United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism, we are prepared to energetically bring the Conservative Movement forward into the new century.



My advice to Rabbi Lamm is -- save your Kaddish. The imminent demise of Conservative Judaism is a tired and false mantra. Instead, I would suggest that you direct your attention to working cooperatively within the Orthodox community to build for the Jewish future. This, and not eulogizing the institutions where Jews live their lives, ought to be the work in which we jointly and cooperatively engage.



Rabbi Julie Schonfeld

Incoming Executive Vice President

The Rabbinical Assembly

shavuatov said...

Wow - I'm not sure I was expecting this much upset... I was going to comment more fully but I'm not sure I want to! You and I, Chavi, have had the discussion about the phraseology used (more observant, more Jewish etc) before. Throughout all that though, I think we came out the other side of it on good terms, nu?

Anyway, thank you for the interesting post. You keep on keeping on. I totally respect your journey - I'm making mine and enjoying every minute. I know that you are doing it your way, in what works for you. If we were all the same, how dull this world would be!

Good for you for allowing the discussion.

rachel
xx

Tuvia said...

I don't understand how so many people can say what she means by her words with reading only one post, which clearly is what many people have done here.

Its perfectly fine to disagree with what Chavi has to say, and you can have a very different view, which is perfectly acceptable.

To think you know her full beliefs based on this one post is completely wrong though. How can you create an opinion on someone based on a couple of paragraphs. Maybe scroll down a bit and read a few more posts before jumping to conclusions.

This past weekend I went to my Step-Mom's adult Bat-Mitzvah ceremony. She grew up with absolutely no knowledge of judaism except that she was Jewish. If it were not for the reform movement she probably would still have no knowledge, instead she now studies Judaism every week.

JD said...

Tuvia: You are making quite the assumption that we are commenting after reading only this one post. I have been reading this blog for over a year and half. This isn't the first time I have been frustrated by what I read--but I don't expect to agree with everyone, everywhere, every day. I chose to comment this time because I feel strongly about this issue.

BZ said...

Anonymous writes:
Maybe we will be saying Kaddish for some movements because although they have been validated by human minds, they are not valid by the word of G-d himself.Have you spoken directly with God to find out what God thinks?

I can't imagine people from Reform genuinely believe G-d thought "Ooops made a mistake with everything I told Moishe, please ignore and do what makes sense to you".It wasn't a mistake then, but Reform Judaism believes that Torah and halacha evolve, so that what was correct in previous times is different from what is correct now. You clearly disagree, and that's fine, but taking a stance that Torah evolves is very different from saying (chas v'shalom) "To hell with what God thinks".

Tuvia said...

BZ, I think every sect of Judaism admits that laws evolve with time. Do you know of any Jews that follow what the Torah says to the letter? Last time I checked there was no Jews out there who still do animal sacrafices.

Reform and Orthodox just feel it has evolved differently, and each person should be able to chose how they feel it has evolved.

Dunking Rachel said...

"What have I done, you ask? As if I need to qualify myself? To prove I am not a Reform and conservative movement nullifier? Seriously?"


I hope that this is not in response to my post...let me further explain if that is the case.

I am not assking what have you done to quilify yourself...that is not the meaning of my words...

the "What Have you done" to you and to all who read this, is about what have you done to build understanding in yourself , and tolerance if that is needed, what have we done to understand our own paths, and perhaps understanding that there are many ways to be Jewish....Then what have we done collectivly to help our Jewish Borthers and Sisters to find a way to understanding and peace among ourselves.

an example...

I hear someone telling a joke making fun of a reform person ...do I just listen?
do I walk away?...do I say something....Even if I do not choose the Reform path, I have no cause to act poorly towards those in the Reform stream of practice, and in my small way can opt out of such behavior, and if the situation is safe enough, I can even be more vocal about it.

I hope this clears it up....

Anonymous said...

I think that you are being extremely judgemental and I am very put off my your comments and attitudes. Especially this excerpt:
Yes, they have an acoustic guitar and tambourine and piano that made my ears ring and my face turn into a scowl with irritation (reminds me of church camp, seriously), and yes they send kids to the door after services with tzedakah boxes (this was the most disturbing and shocking thing at the shul this past Shabbos), but people were there, if only for the simchas. Yes, the rabbi was taking notes on the bima on Saturday morning for his sermon (writing on Shabbos?!), and yes there were men not wearing kippot and women wearing clothing akin to string bikinis. But it's how those Jews do their Judaism and I applaud them for having some devotion to Shabbat, lifecycle events, and to their family having some knowledge of their Judaism. It isn't how I would ever choose to do my Judaism, and I can't even say that I approve of how Reform Judaism rolls. But it's how I came to Judaism, and I can understand the lens many of those people are viewing Judaism through. Sometimes it needs to be easy and accessible, but that's also the path people start upon that can lead them to Orthodox Judaism and more.
First of all, the people performing these things that you speak of (writing on shabbos etc) are not orthodox Jews. The rabbi taking notes on the bima is not orthodox, why should he be looked down upon for writing on shabbat? You might as well look down equally upon anyone jew or non-jew who writes on shabbat. If they don't qualify themselves as observant orthodox jews then they aren't doing anything wrong. You can't expect reform Jews to uphold the standards that orthodoxy promotes, they are not orthodox jews, why would they do those things? And remember, not so long ago, you were blogging on Shabbat, so I'm surprised at how quickly you can come to judge something that you used to do quite frequently. Also, you say that people choose to follow reform judaism becuase it is easy and accessible, implying that they aren't following Orthodox judaism becuase it is too hard for them, they are unable to make the commitment and go the extra mile. Orthodox Judaism isn't for everyone, being a reform Jew is just as meaningful and special as being an orthodox jew, it is just different. People choose to follow Judaism in the way that means the most for them, and not everyone finds enrichment or benefit from following Orthodox rituals and lifestyle choices. Additionally, I think it is kind of hypocritical for you to judge people that aren't following certain aspects of Orthodox Judaism, although you don't write on shabbat, you still aren't shomer negiah, etc,so how can you pick and choose what to judge someone on? There is nothing wrong with being or not being shomer negiah, it is an individual choice. But unless you are upholding every single aspect of Orthodox Judaism i don't think you have the write to judge others for not observing.

Chaviva said...

A) I'm not judging. I'm stating how I feel personally, in an individual way, toward how the Reform service was. And it was a reflection of attitudes having grown up Christian, not being an Orthodox Jew. Music in shul bothers me, and bothered me when I was a Reform Jew. Giving up writing and spending on Shabbat were two things I did a long time ago as it made sense to me -- even when I still identified Reform I tried to do these things. But my notes in parens were more "oy gevalt!" kind of over-reacting type points. Do you think I freak out if I see someone writing on Shabbos? No. Whatever. If they want to write, they write.

Why is everyone reading me so darn seriously! Not everything I say is said with a stern face and an abrupt tone! Yikes.

What do you think a couple, who maybe was married or dating for 5 or 10 years, does when they decide to convert to Orthodox Judaism? Do you think the rabbi will make them move out of their living arrangement? Disrupt their life in order to practice shomer negiah? Maybe in a Haredi community, but not in my community. It's a case by case basis.

The old adage, judge not lest ye be judged, is something I live by. I was in no way judging here. I was making observations. But obviously I'm being judged all the same.

Believe me, I'm far from perfect. As a non-Jew in the eyes of Orthodox halakah, I have to break Shabbos every week (flip a light or whatever) and that I'm not shomer negiah? That's something that I contend with personally, with my rabbi and my boyfriend, and that is absolutely none of your business and I'm really offended that you'd bring something like that up.

ej said...

Chaviva...don't take offense. Continue on your path towards Orthodoxy, grow in your knowledge and understanding of Judaism, and use these experiences to deepen your spirituality and maturity.

Some ways of talking are more tactful than others as you well know, and in time you will acquire this knack. You are a good writer with something to offer and don't let this pile on get you down.

Rivkah said...

Chavi, I've been reading your blog for a while now and have seen some of your progression from Reform into Orthodoxy. I don't feel threatened by it, but at the same time I can see where readers take your turn of phrase as sometimes derogatory toward the Reform and Conservative movements.

I think a lot of this has to do with your differentiation. As you've sought to grow in your Judaism, you have felt drawn to the Orthodox movement, and in order to identify with that you must push away from the parts of Reform that don't speak to you or feel wrong to you.

I saw this first hand with a friend who was converting to Judaism as he pushed away from the Christianity surrounding us in our small town. Before I was immersed in my own conversion I couldn't understand why he would be so negative, but he had to be in order to differentiate between the culture around us and himself as a Jew.

I think we see you doing something similar as you choose Orthodoxy as your path. With something so personal it is easy to press buttons, and I'm sorry that the conversation has become so enflamed. It's an important conversation to have, and all sides need to try to respect and understand each other without judgement. Thank you for addressing the issue, even though it is a touchy one.

Chaviva said...

@ej Thank you for your comments! You give me hope.

@Rivkah Thank you for your comments, which were very respectful and
meaningful. The thing is, many of the things that "bother" me abt
Reform Judaism, are things that bothered me while I was wholly a
Reform Jew. Although I do not champion, per se, reform Judaism on this
blog any longer, I am constantly defending its right as Judaism as
much as any other constantly. And tonight, I listened to someone who
claims to be non-orthodox, but who davens orthodox, say "authentic" in
his reference to my shul. It drove me NUTS! I have no tolerance for
that kind of talk.

I have a solution to this entire discussion: video blogs. Then not
only can you hear the words, you all can FEEL the words. Those of you who have sat down and talked with me, people who experience my words, know that when I speak, I am not inflammatory or negative and that I choose my words very carefully because -- although I do not NEED or HAVE to be PC or proper or whatever -- I am positive in my word choice, I am affirmative, and I am confident in my speech. Just tonight, at a shul discussion on a new mechitzah setup, I stood up and shared my piece, which many in the congregation likely did not agree with. But I think I spoke eloquently and in a manner that did not upset or offend any specific parties. I'm hopeful when I talk about anything Jewish. It's my lifeblood -- from convert to Reform to Conservative to Orthodox to wherever I go from here.

Stay tuned.

Nadav said...

I find it very disconcerting that throughout this entire thread you haven't once acknowledged how you might have offended us in the movements you now resent. I personally would have a lot more respect of you as a writer if you were accountable for something instead of just issuing reams of praise upon yourself and your perceived verbal eloquence. Please, though, bring on the video blogs. I think it would be a lot better to hear you and what you say you really mean.

Chaviva said...

I actually apologized, at least twice, for my words coming across as they did. I never intended for anyone to be hurt by what I wrote.

But I am not going to apologize for *what* I wrote because I do not feel that what I wrote was offensive at all. You're asking me to apologize for something that I do not even see in my words. That would be like me asking all of the commentors who disagree with me to apologize for THEIR views.

And for the last time, I do NOT RESENT any movements. Not a one.

I wish you all knew how offended I am by everyone telling me that I resent Reform or Conservative Judaism. It hurts. I was almost in tears last night because, even thinking that people out there believe that I RESENT these movements? It kills me.

A Jew is a Jew is a Jew -- no matter HOW they do their Judaism. HaShem is the only judge.

Anonymous said...

There are about 12 million Jews in the world. We are maybe 2% of the U.S. population, with a great deal of intermarriage. We should be more concerned about maintaining a viable world wide Jewish community than whether or not it was your mother or your father was Jewish. Let's get real. Judaism has changed many times since the Bronze Age.

Reform Judaism helps keep Judaism alive and vibrant. That is what counts.

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