Reformed Jew or gentile in trappings? I was recently asked by a gentile (non-Jew) “why can’t all of us (he meant orthodox Jews) just accept these other Jews and their desire to pray at the Kotel, whichever way they want?”…

On the face of it, the question posed is fair and is hard to argue with, because it promotes unity and solidifies a core of any religious aspiration. It is also a question which is hard to answer to a non-Jew because a certain degree of sensitivity needs to be applied, so I did my best in the circumstance and won’t bore you with my reply here, however, it got me to thinking how I would answer a non-practicing or someone who associates themselves with the Reform movement.

I think we need to remember what happened approximately 2000 years ago when some of the cosmopolitan and liberal Jews of the time decided it would be a great idea to welcome new members to gain influence in Rome… Christianity was born.

The Orthodox movement rejected such overtures and did not welcome them into the mainstream, and that is why we have traditional and authentic Judaism today, as well as the centuries of persecutions at the hands of these estranged wannabes. The Reform movement whilst noble in its fundamental ideal of being inclusive, relevant to the times and making it accessible to the wider world in an attempt to break down the historical prejudices against Jews, is, unfortunately, a slippery slope to the complete abandonment of Judaism. Ask yourselves a simple question, what would you call a third generation (I believe I’m being generous here) reform Jew?

I believe if you are honest the answer would be a non-Jew. If the reform movement was an outreach program, which drew disenfranchised and assimilated Jews out into the mainstream Orthodox path, then it would be a movement that most Orthodox Rabbis would endorse. Unfortunately, the Reform movement doesn’t have such aspirations and in many instances, holds their interpretation as the benchmark rather than the compromise that it is.

In this way, it becomes more fundamentally problematic than other religions for the Orthodox world, because the orthodox youth has the perception that these are Jews that live a different life as opposed to gentiles having a different religion. For the record, I’m not some Haredi that sets stones aside for Shabbos altercations, in fact, I come from a family that would insist to go once yearly to an Orthodox shul, for Yom Kippur.

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2 Replies

  1. “I think we need to remember what happened approximately 2000 years ago when some of the cosmopolitan and liberal Jews of the time decided it would be a great idea to welcome new members to gain influence in Rome… Christianity was born.” It seems this is historically incorrect. Christianity as a movement was recognized by that name, first in Antioch on the shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Before that it has been known as a particular sect of Judaism with Rabbi Saul of Tarsus as its most active protagonist. And, before Rabbi Saul became a member the founder was Jesus (Joshua if you prefer) of Nazareth who claimed he was recalling the children of Israel to their roots in Moses and the Prophets. His followers understood there was more to his teachings and recognized him as the promised Messiah. So, Christianity began well before it reached Rome under Rabbi Saul or even those who accepted the new arrivals from the Empire before he arrived.

    1. I am sorry to point out, that there is no corroborating evidence, certainly not in the Talmud which would support that Paul was a student of Rabbi Gamliel or even existed. the only references to him happen in Christian text. Furthermore, the Christian religion was born only after the Council of Nicaea in the year 325, based on memories of memories from disciples. It is poignant to point out the genesis of the “man” to whom the Christian religion is ascribed as discussed in Jerusalem Talmud SOTA 47.

      “The story of Yehoshua ben Perahyah, who is presented as having pushed aside Yeshu haNotzri with both hands. The story that is told is that Yehoshua ben Perahyah was returning to Jerusalem following his flight to Alexandria in Egypt, together with his student, Yeshu haNotzri. When they stopped in an inn and were treated well, Yehoshua ben Perahyah mentioned to Yeshu that the service was good. Yeshu responded that the innkeeper was unattractive. This response led Yehoshua ben Perahyah to ban Yeshu, and Yehoshua ben Perahyah was unable to change his mind until it was too late and Yeshu had turned away from traditional Judaism.

      In standard printings of the Talmud, this story appears without the name Yeshu haNotzri, commonly transliterated as Jesus, which was removed by censors for reasons of sensitivity to the Christian society in which they lived. It should be noted, however, that the story of Yehoshua ben Perahyah, who was driven from Jerusalem by King Yannai, could not have taken place any later than 76 BCE. Thus the reference to Yeshu haNotzri cannot be connected with the individual who established the Christian faith. Many commentaries suggest that all of the Talmudic references to Yeshu refer to another person, or, as is more likely, that there was more than one person with that name who lived during the times of the Mishna. ” RABBI STEINSALTZ (a Talmudic and historical authority)

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