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.