Reform are not martyrs
by Jonathan Rosenblum
July 10, 1998
Senator Daniel Moynihan created quite a stir recently when he revealed that over half the mail sent to his office about Israel in 1997 dealt with some aspect of the 'Who is a Jew' question.
'Much of this correspondence,' the senator stated, 'used the sort of intemperate, angry language we had once expected from Israel's most irrational enemies.'
As a true friend of Israel and the Jewish people, Moynihan admonished all those within the American Jewish community who seek to hold Israel ransom to the 'Who is a Jew' issue not to 'give anyone an excuse to vote against any reasonable request of any Israeli government.'
Unfortunately, that admonition is likely to fall on deaf ears. Not since the late Hasmonean period, when rival factions curried the favor of foreign powers to advance their political interests, have Jews been so quick to turn to the gentile world to force their Jewish opponents into line.
The orchestrated Reform campaign described by Senator Moynihan is but one example. The call by Peace Now and other left-wing groups for boycotts of goods produced in Judea and Samaria is another.
And the portrayal of Israel as on the verge of being transformed into an Iran-style theocracy, which ran as a red-line through the world media coverage of the 50th birthday celebrations, is a third.
Foreign journalists, by and large ignorant of Hebrew, Israel and Judaism, simply reported back the line they were fed by the Israeli Left and the Reform movement. The two groups have joined in an unholy alliance that seeks to link in the world's mind Israeli government policies they oppose with a religion for which the nations of the world have never particularly cared.
The damage to Israel from the Reform campaign cannot be overstated. When
an assistant secretary of state follows the Reform propaganda line and lumps Israel together with Iran as countries that deny religious freedom, Israel's principal claim to American support - common democratic values - is destroyed.
So egregiously hysterical have the portrayals of Israel by the Reform movement become that some within the movement have called for a halt. David Forman, a professor at Hebrew Union College (Reform) in Jerusalem, writing recently in Ha'aretz, urged the non-Orthodox world not to sacrifice Israel on the altar of its parochial interests.
He noted that to hear some of the liberal Jewish leadership in the Diaspora talk, one would think that Reform rabbis were being dragged from their beds in the middle of the night and placed in administrative detention.
Certainly one would never know that non-Orthodox schools and synagogues are being built with the generous financial and organizational help of the Israeli government and the Jewish Agency.
TO JUDGE, however, by Uri Regev's op-ed article last Friday in these pages, charging Israel with violating UN Charter on Human Rights, Forman's plea will go unheeded. Regev claims that the Torah itself denies human rights and a state which adopts Torah law thereby violates the UN Charter on Human Rights.
We have returned to our land after 2,000 years of exile to be told by the nations of the world and Uri Regev that the Torah which held us together during that exile is an affront to human decency.
And if tomorrow the EU follows the lead of Nazi Germany and determines that kosher slaughter violates animal rights, as it has threatened to do, will Regev again bow his head in acceptance of the always-superior modern understanding?
A comparison of some real denials of Jewish religious conscience by other Jews reveals how trivial are the slights of which Regev complains.
In the mid-1800s, the Reform-dominated Community Board of Frankfurt banned all teachers of religion from the city, levied heavy fines on those who continued to teach, forbade renovation of the mikve and an old synagogue by the city's remaining Orthodox Jews, and called in the local authorities to outlaw a Shabbat Torah study group. That was religious coercion.
When Yemenite immigrants had their sidecurls forcibly shorn and the Jewish Agency kept the synagogues locked in the immigrant absorption camps and forbade religious teachers to enter, that was religious coercion.
And so was it religious coercion of the most brutal kind when Israeli doctors in the 1950s routinely ordered autopsies, in the name of science, against the deepest desires of the deceased and their families.
But, in case Regev has not noticed, he is free to believe, write and teach what he wants. Reform temples conduct their services in Israel free from interference. Regev can even convert anyone he wants who wishes to join the Reform faith community and give religious sanction to any marriage - be it between Jew and non-Jew or two members of the same sex - if the happy couple seeks his services.
The only thing he cannot do is force the state to recognize the child thus converted as Jewish or the marriage as a Jewish marriage. (The civil consequences of that refusal are negligible.)
Reform should frankly acknowledge, as the Karaites did in their time,
that those who believe that Torah law is a human rights violation and those who believe it is the revealed word of God are not members of the same faith community (even if they are all halachically Jewish.)
Were it to do so, as some in the movement have urged,its marriages would be recognized like those of any otherseparate faith community in Israel. In the meantime, Regev should stop telling the world that Reform Jews in Israelare religious martyrs.
Related Topics: Pluralism
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