No one is ‘excluding’ defenders of American-style liberal Judaism

In a recent opinion piece in these pages (“Revivi is not alone,” October 29), Conservative Rabbi Yizhar Hess wrote, as he often does, using similar language, that “Orthodox leaders ostracize currents Reformists and Conservatives of Judaism “. We must end this myth for a long time. As an American rabbi who has followed the collapse of liberal movements on these shores, I must point out that there are only two things that “orthodox” leaders reject: artificial labels that divide Jews into boxes, and the arrogant desire of some to redefine standards. of Judaism for the entire Jewish nation.

Was Maimonides “orthodox”? Was it Rabbi Isaac Luria, the Kabbalist? Or Hillel, famous for his love and patience towards all Jews? Hess would be the first to bristle at such a notion, also claiming them as his intellectual ancestors. Yet all three fiercely promoted a Jewish code of conduct that the American liberal movements roundly reject. Hess may value “Jewish pluralism,” but inherited Judaism from our ancestors is emphatically non-pluralistic.

With all due respect to Efrat Mayor Oded Revivi, declaring (in “Walking the Narrow Bridge with Rav Melamed”, October 22) that “the Talmud and Jewish tradition are replete with opposing views” follows the paradigm of not seeing the forest for the trees. Not only does the Talmud make many more agreements than arguments, but it assumes a common ground: all rabbis believed in God, that the commandments of the Torah must be followed, and that Shabbat runs from Friday night to Saturday night. evening. There was no need to state these and the multitude of other fundamental concepts on which the Talmud debates were built.

In other words, there is no argument in the Talmud that, in a different context, would not be dismissed by activists as “picky.” The rabbis did not argue to express their differences, but to seek the truth down to the last detail. The idea that there is indeed a truth has been the Jewish way for millennia, and it is deeply at odds with the stated beliefs of the American liberal movements.

Put religion aside for a moment. Israelis, like most others outside of North America, define “soccer” as what Americans call “soccer.” Since kaduregel was strongly identified as soccer when the Israel Soccer League (IFL) was formed to play American football, the organizers decided to simply use an English transliteration for their Ligat Futbol HaYisraelit.

No IFL player has entered the football field wearing helmets and shoulder pads, demanding to play in the same league as Maccabi Tel Aviv Football Club (which plays soccer) while throwing an extended spheroid onto the field and showing Maccabi players what that “tackle” means in American sport.

The situation here is precisely analogous, and Judaism is considerably older than football. No one is “ostracizing” advocates of American-style liberal Judaism; it is simply that their ideology is not shared by Hillel, Maimonides or Rabbi Luria. Hess blames the Orthodox rabbinate for rejecting the foreign ideal of pluralism, rather than taking responsibility for trying to change the definition of Judaism.

Pro-Israel protesters chant slogans in New York City in 2015. A segment of American Jews who have reached out to Israel in the past 50 years is the 10% who are Orthodox (credit: REUTERS)

Hess omits mention of the impetus behind his sudden push for recognition in Israel, but it’s obvious: the catastrophic implosion of the liberal movements themselves in America. According to the Pew Research Center, American supporters of Reform or Conservative movements are among the least religious Americans, thus lacking in devotion as secular Israelis who describe themselves are much more likely to engage in Jewish practices. Almost 70% of unorthodox American marriages are with a non-Jewish spouse, while “Jews without religion” now constitute the largest American Jewish “denomination.” Labeling and dividing Jews into denominational boxes has proven to be an utter failure.

The turn of many American Jews against Israel has nothing to do with the prayers at the Western Wall or whose rabbinic standards are paramount: they do not attend synagogue or seek rabbinical guidance in America, so why would they care about these matters in a country where no? not even visit? American Jews who invest, travel and study in Israel, not to mention making aliyah, are overwhelmingly observant Orthodox. Meanwhile, the American liberal movements have produced young people, even young rabbis, so “awakened” that they have been blinded to the reality of Israel.

It is obvious, for example, that when only one country in the Middle East has Jews and Arabs in its government, only a fanatic would call that country “apartheid.” This truth eluded the 90 rabbinical students of these movements, who this summer condemned Israel for “violent suppression of human rights,” referring, in context, to the IDF preventing Hamas terrorists from bombing Israeli kindergartens. Only a fool would imagine that changing Israel’s standards for Jewish marriage or kashrut to accommodate the deceptions of these students will solve anything.

Orthodox leaders do not ostracize any Jews; in fact, they do not recognize artificial distinctions between “Reformed” Jews and what the Reformers called “Orthodox.” Anyone is more than welcome on the playing field of Judaism, but none of us have a license to change the rules of the game. Changing the laws of Israel will not change traditional Judaism, but it will permanently divide the Jewish people in Israel exactly as it has in America, with the same devastating consequences.

Hess would do better to teach young conservative rabbinical students to appreciate the true nature of the Middle East conflict and the value of a country that offers refuge to all Jews. Perhaps, having learned more from ancient and modern Jewish history, and even more from the Bible and the Talmud, they will begin to appreciate the beauty of the State of Israel and Jewish tradition, and will stop trying to drag Israel and Judaism out of the game. .

The writer is founder and chairman of the Eretz Hakodesh Party in the World Zionist Organization, a member of the Board of Governors of the Jewish Agency for Israel, and chairman of the Coalition for Jewish Values.

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