by Robert Lappin
Am Echad Resources
April 17, 2000
What a pity that the word Judaism has not been copyrighted. Had it been, the Reform movement, of which I am a long-time member and supporter, would never have been able to call itself Reform "Judaism".
My movement does not, after all, subscribe to the observance of kashrut; recognizes people as Jewish under a unilateral standard it calls "patrilineal-descent"; does not recognize others born of halachically Jewish mothers as Jewish; it allows its rabbis to officiate at mixed-faith marriages and now at same-sex ceremonies.
Judaism is based on Torah as the revealed word of God; Reform is based on selective and variable excerpts from the Torah and on a number of its own innovations. The fact cannot be avoided or refuted: my Reform movement simply espouses a different religion from that practiced by my Orthodox and Conservative fellow-Jews.
This is hardly a quibble. The implications of the Reform movement’s misleading use of the word "Judaism" are enormous, particularly for the State of Israel. It is only because the Reform movement promotes itself as Judaism that it has been able to lay claim, before Israel's highest court to the status of a legitimate religious authority authorized to perform conversions to Judaism, Jewish burials, Jewish marriages and the like.
Should it be successful in that misguided and misleading quest, Israel’s Jews will be subject to two separate Jewish religions, and the State itself will be radically transformed, indeed dismembered.
Those of us, regardless of belief or practice, who are halachically Jewish comprise one people, to be sure, but we may espouse what are, in effect, different religions, often with mutually exclusive beliefs and doctrines. Such may be tolerable in the United States (though that too is arguable) but it will surely only create divisive havoc in the Jewish State, where two entirely different visions of Judaism will spell societal destruction.
Can we Reform Jews summon the wisdom and fortitude to admit that our movement simply is not, and should not be called, Judaism? If we can, we may yet be able to arrest the tragic and disunifying drift of the Jewish people from the Jewish religious tradition.
AM ECHAD RESOURCES
[Robert Lappin, a businessman and philanthropist, is a past president of the Federation of the North Shore in Massachusetts]
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