|Jim S||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||9:12 pm on 1.16.2000|
|I initially contacted this forum in mid-December 99 with questions about conversion. Since then, the outreach branch of this organization has put me in touch with a Reform Rabbi who has graciously agreed to work with me. I have commenced regular communications with him via telephone and e-mail. I have now embarked upon a course of study and a program which will ultimately lead to conversion. I am reading a lengthy bibliography of foundational/instructional books and responding to various essay questions posted by the Rabbi via e-mail. I am thrilled to finally be following a definite path, and making the progress which will result in my conversion. This is the beginning of the realization of a dream which began a long time ago when G-d placed this call towards Judaism upon my heart and Spirit. |
A question now arises. Perhaps someone out there can share some insight with me. I recently read a quite vitriolic article written by a Chassidic Rabbi, speaking out against the Reform and other liberal branches of Judaism. He claims that they are not true Jews, that they are not Torah observant, and a number of other criticisms. Is this conflict and division wide-spread between the various branches of Judaism? Among Orthodox and Chassidism, are these views of Reform and the other branches common? Perhaps someone can provide some insight upon this phenomenon. I understand that the religious authorities in Israel also do not recognize some of these branches as legitimate. Exactly where does this leave us within Judaism? Your comments and ideas on this will be appreciated.
|EBP2||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||1:35 pm on 1.17.2000|
|Reform and Conservative Jews are Jews. Orthodox Jews see them as off the path but they have an obligation to keep a relationship with them and help them out. Some do this. Some ignore them, and some unfortunately publically criticize them which doesn't do anyone much good.|
Orthodox Judaism does not consider conversions by Reform and Conservative authorities legitimate. Conservative Judaism doesn't consider Reform conversion legitimate. These are for legitimate reasons of Jewish law concerning what you have to do, what you have to know, and the ceremony itself. That's the bad news.
The good news is that IF you decide to further your education and maybe have another conversion someday, the other branches of Judaism will give you alot of credit and you willl have already started much ofthe learning required.
ASide from all of that, the divisions among Jews are very real unfortunately, but amongst all there are many people who rise above the divisions and try to see the universality of the tribe.
My advice to you is not to worry about it yet. Keep learning, and make sure you are learning the correct information from a variety of sources including reform and orthodox and do things that you feel are fufilling and fun (as well as those which are not so fun but necessary - for me it was learning Hebrew at age 26)
|Jim S||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||1:49 pm on 1.17.2000|
|Since you mentioned learning Hebrew, can you make some recommendations? This is something that I have needed to begin on for a long time. I have read several books on the Hebrew alphabet. I have also tried to study the individual letters and their meanings. But can you recommend a self study course that will be beneficial to me. Other than a few words which I have memorized, I do not read, write or speak. Thanks again for your help.
|alf||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||5:21 pm on 1.17.2000|
|The divisions are scandalous and are ripping Judaism apart. Look at what has happened with the divisions in Christianity. I dont pretend to konw who is right or who is wrong. What I know is that you have come to God and want to get closer to him. Know that from a practical standpoint many Jews will reject you if you convert through reform. But Reform now comprises a large majority of affiliated Jews, so most Jews in the US will be with you.|
The vitriole has been thrown form both sides, and when it gets insulting or violent it goes from scandalous to criminal and evil. People on both sides are guilty of this, though I think most of the rare instances of overt violence have been on the Ultra-Orthodox side.
Id implore veryone just to get along.
|EBP2||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||2:17 pm on 1.18.2000|
|Overt violence makes for nice CNN news soundbites but almost never happens.|
Reform Jews are not a majority of Jews. They are only a majority in the US and there are many things they have no input in even here.
Unfortunately many reform Jews don't even recognize reform conversions because they don't like conversion at all. You see, they believe in a mythical institution of the 'cultural jew'. No one has ever been able to explain to me exactly what this is but it somehow involved bagels at least partially. Many of them believe that a convert can't become a cultural Jew and that this is important to Jewish identity. Of course, many reform Jews are much cooler than that and reject such prejudice.
Orthodox and conservative to a lesser degree, do not have these problems of accepting converts.
AS far as divisions in Judaism. Yes, it is a problem the severity of which cannot be overemphasized.
Of course, you don't have to tell people you converted.
|J||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||2:13 pm on 1.19.2000|
|I'd like to add that the vast majority of people who call themselves Reform Jews do not do so because they identify with the goals and aspirations of the Reform movement. Instead, they usually say they are Reform because they do not follow halacha (keep kosher, etc.), or because they are members of a Reform Temple (for various reasons unrelated to ideology).|
I recognize that there are some very committed Reform Jews; however, they are a small minority of those who self-identify as "Reform".
|alf||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||5:00 pm on 1.19.2000|
right and wrong. Yes, many Jews say they are Reform as a code for non-practicing. However, realize that US statistics show that a majority of AFFILIATED Jews are in Reform synagogues, and that this is the fastest growing sector of Jews. I know that affiliation doesnt always mean practicing but at least it shows that out of those who have some semblance of Jewish identification, that ID is increasingly reform.
I know that doesnt make it the best or the most correct, but it does show (in ref. to the original posting) that Reform conversion likely would be increasingly accepted in the US compared to the past.
As an aside, I suggest people read "why I am a Reform Jew" by Daniel Syme, which tells the story of a Reform rabbi and his true identification with the Reform "agenda" rather than just being that way because he doesnt practice.Again, Im not endorsing that agenda, but it does give a legitimate look at that perspective.
|EBP2||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||5:32 pm on 1.19.2000|
|Alf, THe question wasn't whether people identify as reform Jews, it was why.|
THere is still the problem of reform conversion for the reasons I mentioned.
ALso, I find it very hard to believe that reform is the fastest growing affiliation. Reform Jews have very few children and the highest assimilation rate.
ON the other hand, J, I think there are more people who identify as reform jews and are active by ideology than a small minority, (but I still think it's a minority). The unaffiliated who claim to be reform by ideology are a small minority. Most of them in fact are neither affiliated or reform by ideology, they just 'identify' as such. Going to synagogue once a year and having a bar mitzvah is not what I call affiliated which is the extent of many of their involvement.
A lot of those who are seriously affiliated reform Jews end up being Orthodox these days. You can't swing a stick without hitting 3 or 4 bal teshuvas in most Orthodox synagogues these days.
|J||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||2:34 pm on 1.21.2000|
I think "affiliation" is usually measured by temple membership, but, as I said, there are many reasons why people join temples which have nothing to do with ideology. One very common reason people join temples is so that their children can be "bar or bat mitzvahed"; again, this is not an ideological statement.
You may be right about "minority" vs. "small minority", but I don't know how it would be measured. On purely anectodal evidence, the people I know who go to Reform temples do for for several reasons, including
- more English in the service, so it is easier to follow
- services are not so long and boring
- good facilities for a Bar Mitvah or wedding
- their parents went there (or to another reform temple)
- they don't keep kosher and believe all that "stuff"
Again, I know this is purely anecdotal, but I do know dozens of people who are members of Reform temples, and these are the reasons I have heard from them.
|EBP2||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||3:21 pm on 1.21.2000|
|alf||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||5:24 pm on 1.21.2000|
|I definitely realize that affiliation doesnt mean strong belief/practice, but it is one level above unaffiliated, which really is the biggest group of all.|
And, J, the reasons you give for people joining reform temples is admittedly and disappointingly true for many people. But, I think many people in the whole Jewish renewal movement have been pushed from nothingness into active Reform membership; and, there has always been a core of people who really believe in the ideology, praying in the vernacular, or whatever.
By the way, the most common reason anybody goes to ANY synagogue, church or whatever is because their parents did. I would challenge everyone to make an adult re-commitment to their religion, or convert to one that better matches their beliefs if they feel that they're just doing things because their family did.
|EBP2||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||5:30 pm on 1.21.2000|
|Shmuel||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||6:37 pm on 1.21.2000|
|Alf, I would say that apostates who abandon their Jewish roots are doing plenty to "tear Judaism apart" as well.
|alf||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||9:58 pm on 1.21.2000|
|My encouragement goes both ways. People should believe what they practice (at least in general;of course struggles over specific issues are common in any religion). If a Christian doesnt believe in Jesus and sees the beauty of Judaism, they should be Jewish. If someone believes in what Christians say of Jesus they should be Christian (as I did; Im sure this is what you are referring to, Shmuel)|
A true voluntary conversion should not be looked down upon. You're quite hypocritical if you welcome and applaude Christians converting to Judaism, but look down upon Jews who voluntarily convert to Christianity out of TRUE BELIEF (not out of convenience, or whatever, as was done much more often in the past).
|Dave||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||3:43 am on 1.23.2000|
|Isn't it interesting that the reform rabbi did not mention these disputes during the conversion process.
|Shmuel||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||8:08 pm on 1.25.2000|
|Alf, considering that Jews refrain from proselytizing and coaxing tactics that Xian missionaries are famous for, I believe that a case of a Xian converting to Judaism is far more credible since there is little doubt that the person converted out of true faith (with the obvious exception of those who convert due to marriage, usually via Reform). As for the Jews who convert to Xianity out of true faith, then I respect their decision. However, I would encourage them to learn more about the Torah and, most importantly, learn it from Jews, not Christians.
|alf||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||8:47 pm on 1.25.2000|
As for myself, I know my faith is true, no one prostelytized to me (in fact as a Jew going to a Catholic priest and deacon and saying I might want to convert led to alot of hemming and hawing and telling me to be really sure, reconsider my old religion,etc. before they would even THINK about instructing me), and I indeed had years of Torah study.
I, for one, beleive that only God can bring you to faith in anything, then the person has to affirm that faith. So aggressive prosyletizing is pointless, aside from being a grave sin in my eyes (and the eyes of many in the Catholic Church). I believe in evangelizing by example only---If someone begins to inquire what led be me to my values, way of life, religion,etc., Ill explain it to them matter of factly.So yes, some young uneducated Jews are certainly preyed upon by some missionaries, but it would be overly simple to say this is always the case (which I know you now acknowledge), or to say that some of these people havent come to a true Christian faith despite the way they were brought to it.
|EBP2||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||1:44 pm on 1.26.2000|
|"I, for one, beleive that only God can bring you to faith in anything, then the person has to affirm that faith"|
What a repulsive, PC, 90's statement of moral relativity.
|alf||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||2:26 pm on 1.26.2000|
Your reply cracks me up. That statement is almost verbatim from the Catholic catechism's quotations of first millenium church fathers---its about as far from 90's PC as you can get! It is a pretty good statement of the Christian concept of the Holy Spririt (and not to different from some of the Kabbalists' statements). It would be much more PC to say that people just happen upon a faith and decide to believe in based purely on human consciousness, and that God has no role. Get with it, man.
|EBP2||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||2:11 pm on 1.27.2000|
Please don't discuss pop-Kaballah here. You may lead people to believe that it's the same as authentic Jewish Kaballah. It isn't.
The way you stated your comment as well as much of what you say, is from a universalist bent. THe only people I let get away with universalism is the Hidus. And only when I'm in a good mood.
Judaism, with the exception of some very late reform people is not universalist at all. Kaballah certainly can't be compared to the Holy Spirit doctrine.
|alf||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||5:15 pm on 1.27.2000|
|Im not into pop Kabbalah as in the New Age sense. Ive studied some of the original kabbalist texts directly, though I dont pretend to be an expert. Kabbalism has alot in common with Christian philosophy and doctrine, actually (please look at it more objectively). The idea of the sefirot alone wreaks of the Trinity. But obviously the 2 things are NOT identical so you or I could each use similarities or differences to prove our argumants. We really could go in circles forever.|
You're right that Judaism has little universalism about it. Ive always had a problem with that.
Im not sure why a Hindu could be believed on universalism any more than a Unitarian, for example.
Clearly our concepts of religion are quite disparate.
|EBP2||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||6:21 pm on 1.27.2000|
|You are saying exactly what I thought you would about Kabballah. It's pop stuff. A lot of people fall into that trap with thinking the sefirot are like the trinity. They are completely different. ONe reason Kaballah can be dangerous is because it leads to some of these conclusions if you study it wrong. A lot of christians have latched onto this idea.|
Even if you have read the classic texts - most of which aren't translated, you need a teacher for it and a lot of backround to understand it.
Universalism doesn't work in my opinion. THere are many tpes of universalists, which is kinda interesting. the only ones I think really do a good job are the hindus. and that's only when I'm in a good mood.
unitarians aren't who you think they are i hate to tell you.
I'm not going to list my credentials, just trust me on this one.
|alf||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||9:29 pm on 1.27.2000|
|I think we just see the Kabbalah in 2 different ways. Obviously the Kabbalists would not have supported the Christian idea of Trinity, and would have found ways to vehemently express how Kabbalism is nothing like it. But, objectively it is. Read the writings of St. John of the Cross for one, and you'll see what I mean. But you wouldnt be swayed by a Christian author anyhow, so why bother. I doubt if either of us are true Kabbalah experts, but you can "trust my credentials" too that I know more than the average pop-New Age religion types, and more than most educated Jews.|
If you dont want to reveal too much about yourself, that is fine. I respect anonymity on these boards, but Im intrigued about what you say about Unitarians. I am not a big fan of their philosophy either, but always thought of them as well-meaning...can you say ANY more about what you mean?
|EBP2||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||9:58 pm on 1.27.2000|
|I'm studying for Smicha to become a congregational rabbi and I'm studying accordingly. The list is too long to give you here. As far as kaballah, I've studied the Zohar and some of its analyses, derech mitzvotecha, derech hashem, Tanya, quietism as chassidism, some with instruction. I'm also a follower of the Skulia Rebbe. |
I've taken classes in eastern and western philosphy in college and studied on my own for years.
I think Hinduism (the specific kind I was referring to) is more open-minded that Unitarianism by its simple nature and for cultural reasons. Unitarianism is highly political and therefore cannot be truly unitarian. Also it has factions which says everything.
|alf||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||1:55 pm on 1.28.2000|
|Thank you. That helps to know. Id say you're probably then much more of an expert than I, but I have studied with reputable conservative rabbis (I know that will make you groan) in the past who have red some of the texts along with me (Im not fluent enough to do it totally alone), and reviewed many standard and more modern commentaries. This was awhile ago. Most of memories are about the Zohar. But, again, I still feel like Im not blowing steam over a few chapters from New Age books or missionary tracts.|
Who doesnt have factions? Thats unfortunate human nature (see the discussion above), and as you know even Orthodox Judaism is not immune to that.
As for Unitarianism, there is a large faction that is essentially equivalent to a bizarre spiritualization of the liberal social political agenda (unfortunately, a portion of Reform Judaism is similar)...that is sad, but I have see truly Universalist factions that are so open minded that you cant conceive how these people can even come together for a meeting without breaking out in fistfights all of the time.
Good luck with your Smicha (believe it or not, I really mean that!)!
|EBP2||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||2:00 pm on 1.28.2000|
|I'm not groaning. It is you that assume I would. Zohar is not a good place to start.|
The point is if it were truly universalist it wouldn't have factions. As I said before, I don't think universalist thinking works. I think people have to learn to be *different*, not the same; and share what they can.
|alf||[ Email - Profile - Edit Post ] ||5:22 pm on 1.28.2000|
|Somehow we've come to agreement on something!Lets leave it at that.|
|It is 3:23 am on 5.26.2013 |