A Young Israel Rabbi weighs in: On Reform Judaism and Jewish Unity - Part 1‏

We have such chaos in US Jewish life due to the Reform Movement, that if you are in Israel, you cannot begin to fathom the calamity. Op-ed.

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer ,

Reform Jews with unwound Torah.
Reform Jews with unwound Torah.
PR photo

Let it be unequivocally clear: Anyone born of a Jewish mother or converted to Judaism according to halakhic standards is Jewish. Trotsky was Jewish. Soros is Jewish. Bernie Sanders is Jewish.

Indeed, it is hard to imagine non-Jews as antisemitic or as opposed to basic core Judaic values as such people. When one sees a Soros in bed with antisemites on the Left and with J Street or a Bernie Sanders in league with Jew-haters like Linda Sarsour, Ilhan Omar, and Rashida Tlaib, one almost intuits that only a Jew could be so despicably apostate.

It has never been the position of Orthodox Judaism that “Reform Jews are not Jewish.” Rather, that lie about what Orthodox Jews believe always has been a red herring and lie foisted by certain Reform
Their goal is to undermine Israel’s national religious standards and foundational Judaic values to make room for deviations from Judaism and to reverse more than seven decades of Israel’s religious status quo.
rabbis to incite their ignorant and Judaically uneducated minions (but not minyans) to fight Orthodox Jews and to fight against Israel’s Chief Rabbinate. Their goal is to undermine Israel’s national religious standards and foundational Judaic values to make room for deviations from Judaism and to reverse more than seven decades of Israel’s religious status quo.

But do understand that today’s Reform is not the Reform of fifty years ago. It has undergone a sea chane. In the year 1983, Rabbi Alexander Schindler, leader of American Reform’s congregational body for a quarter century, redefined Jewish status to include any child of a non-Jewish mother and Jewish father (“Patrilineal Descent”) if the parents say they will bar-mitzvah or bat-mitzvah the child and rear him or her as Jewish. Initially, that did not matter much. It was thirty-seven years ago, and we all knew pretty-much whose mothers were Jewish and whose not.

But four decades of the Reform adoption of Patrilineal Descent, augmented by countless thousands and tens of thousands of Reform “conversions” — like the ridiculous Hollywood celebrity conversions of Ike Turner, May Britt, and so many others less famous — have turned the ethnically Jewish and theologically Judaic world on its head in America.

Because Orthodox Jews do not intermarry, and because intermarriage was only beginning to skyrocket among Reform Jewish men in America thirty to forty years ago, the overall statistic of Jewish intermarriage today informs us how much Reform Judaism has departed completely from authentic Judaism.

  • Before 1965, the rate of Jews “marrying out” was nine percent.
  • From 1965-1974 it exploded to 25 percent.
  • Between 1975-1984, the intermarriage rate erupted to 44 percent.
  • By the time of the 1990 National Jewish Population Survey, it was pegged at a whopping 52 percent.
  • Beyond all that, the intermarriage rate of non-Orthodox Jews with non-Jews in America was documented at more than 71 percent by 2018.

What does this mean?

First, it means that we now have many tens of thousands, probably hundreds of thousands, of absolute non-Jews, born to non-Jewish mothers, who are honestly and innocently — but absolutely mistakenly and wrongly — identifying themselves as “Jews” because that is what their parents have told them since childbirth — because that is what those parents’ Reform rabbis have told them.

That means that many Reform and Reconstructionist temples ultimately have actualized their own self-fulfilling but once-unthinkable prophecy: huge numbers, often a majority, of people attending many typical Reform or Reconstructionist temple services actually are non-Jews. There are such temples that specialize in catering specifically to intermarried couples where the Jew is the husband, the non-Jew is the wife, and thus virtually all the children in the temple’s Bar/Bat Mitzvah factory’s ever-revolving doors are non-Jews.

When the rabbis at such a temple gets up and now tells congregants that “The Orthodox say you are not Jews,” the rabbis of such specific temples now actually are correct. In fact — “only in America” — the rabbis and cantors themselves now often are non-Jewish. I have heard on Youtube a beautiful rendition of Kol Nidre at a service filmed at a prominent Reform temple on Yom Kippur. The rabbi-cantor is an utter non-Jew, suitable for such a temple, “converted” under standards that do not approach those of halakhic Judaism. And not surprisingly she now conducts interfaith marriages at that temple.

People who today comprise the numbers in anti-Israel groups like J Street, Jewish Voice for Peace, Bend the Arc, IfNotNow, and other such radically extreme-left groups in fact include heavy numbers of outright non-Jews who say they are Jewish. Jews who get identified in surveys by how they vote — whether Democrat or Republican — include huge swaths of voters who ignorantly, sincerely, but wrongly and mistakenly, tell the pollsters that they are Jews.

So when a Gallup or Quinnipiac or Emerson poll says that “X” percent of Jews voted for Obama or oppose Jewish rights to Judea and Samaria, know that huge numbers of those “Jews” are not even Jews. They say they are, and they truly think they are — but they are not even Jewish. So the good news is that authentic Jews in America, though fewer than the numbers would be if non-Jewish “Jews” also are counted, may actually be more pro-Israel and pro-Judea and Samaria than the numbers have stated.

We now have so much chaos in American Jewish life that, if you are Jewish in Israel, you absolutely cannot begin to fathom the calamity. If you are an American oleh, you are nodding your head in agreement as you read this because you know first-hand that this is one of the primary reasons you moved to Israel, to get away from the chaos in the Exile and to save your future generations from the enormous damage that the Reform Movement has done to Judaism.


Four decades of the Reform adoption of Patrilineal Descent, augmented by..thousands of Reform “conversions”...have turned the ethnically Jewish and theologically Judaic world on its head in America.
You will not hear any of this admitted openly from the institutions of mainstream normative Modern Orthodoxy like the Rabbinical Council of America (RCA), the Union of Orthodox Jewish Congregations of America (OU), or Yeshiva University (YU) because they all are politically correct and terrified that they might offend a donor with lots of cash or be deemed outside the Liberal-Progressive mainstream, but they admit it privately and even those institutions now have serious mechanisms in place to figure out whether a person who says he or she is Jewish really is Jewish, and to filter out the non-Jews.

When my parents put my three sisters and me into yeshiva day school, Brooklyn’s Yeshiva Rambam at 3121 Kings Highway in the 1960s, they simply enrolled me. No one asked whether I was Jewish, whether my Mom was Jewish. In Brooklyn circa late 1950’s and early 1960’s, if you said you were Jewish, then you were Jewish. What kind of non-Jewish nut would go out of his or her way to claim to be Jewish in those days? Where was the gain? The Ivy Leagues then had quotas restricting how many Jews could be admitted into their colleges. Major law firms barred Jews from practicing in their coveted environs in any legal department except for bankruptcy law, which the white-shoed country-club class deemed too slimy and greasy for anyone other than grubby Jews to practice. Even many hospitals still denied admittance privileges to Jewish doctors, forcing Jews in every major American city to build their own Mount Sinai in New York, Cedars-Sinai in Los Angeles, Jewish Hospital in Louisville, Jewish Hospital in Jersey City, and such in every city. But not today.

Today normative mainstream Modern Orthodox rabbis associated with the Rabbinical Council of America quietly conduct investigations that sometimes go back generations to determine whether a prospective bride or groom has authentic matrilineal Jewish roots. The Modern Orthodox rabbis ask the prospective young lovers who approach them to conduct their marriage for names of the maternal grandparents, particularly the maternal grandmother, where those grandparents were born, where they attended shul, what rabbi back then knew them, who can attest to their having been Jewish.

If the maternal grandmother has died and was not a shul-goer, then other investigatory questions are asked: Where are they buried? Is there a ketubah buried somewhere in the archived paperwork? A pair of old candlesticks, a pushka, an old siddur (Orthodox prayer book) or chumash (Jewish Bible)? What proof is there? It is not uncommon for my colleagues and me to get photos of cemetery tombstones emailed to us from smartphones to prove Judaic status.

The same questions are asked in OU congregations when newcomers prospectively apply for shul membership. YU asks it of prospective new students. Every normative mainstream Modern Orthodox Jewish Day School in America today asks, as a fundamental component of a student enrollment form, for incontrovertible proof that the proposed new student is actually Jewish, the child of an authentically Jewish mother or converted halakhically. Those schools do not want their graduation certificate after eighth grade or high school graduation to be used falsely to demonstrate Jewish status that does not exist.

One Shabbat morning I was walking to shul with my beloved wife, Ellen, and my darling son. We passed a Reform temple that usually is closed on Shabbat mornings, except when they have a bar mitzvah, a bat mitzvah, or a yoga class. There were tons of cars in their parking lot and lots of photographs being posed outside. The temple’s street sign said “Today is the double Bar Mitzvahs of Anthony Scuzzilo and Timothy O’Brien.” (names changed but you get the idea)

I commented to my wife and son that this intermarriage chaos is unbearable. My son, then sixteen but wise beyond his years, offered me partial consolation. “Abba (Dad),” he said, “at least a bar mitzvah there of an Anthony Scuzzilo and a Timothy O’Brien may mean the kids are Jewish. The fathers both might be non-Jewish, so it must mean the mothers probably are Jewish, hence the kids. The problem at this temple that should worry us is when it is a bar mitzvah of Seymour Melvin Goldstein. Since the father of that one probably is Jewish, that means it is the mother who may well be the non-Jew, hence the kid being ‘bar-mitzva’d.’” As in the last segment of the Talmudic Tractate Makkot, I could only say: “Aharon, you have comforted me. Aharon, you have comforted me.”


For Orthodox Jews in America today, there has been a great sea-change in terms of what it means today to “work with the Reform.”
For Orthodox Jews in America today, there has been a great sea-change in terms of what it means today to “work with the Reform.” Of course we work warmly with Reform on combating anti-Semitism, although they see it only coming from the accursed neo-nazis on the right, while so very many of the Reform leaders deny that Jew-hate exists on the left. In fact, they even amazingly cozy-up to some of the worst Jew-haters in America today, from Al Sharpton to Linda Sarsour. They even honor the likes of Sharpton with awards and ovations. So we can work with them on anti-Semitism only on their terms. The vast majority of them oppose Jewish sovereignty rights to Judea and Samaria but curiously demand worship rights at the holiest site in Judaism, the Western Wall.

Likewise, although they complain about “Orthodox intolerance,” for example at the Western Wall, it is a known fact in America that, in many Reform temples, if a newly forming Orthodox group without its own building wishes to rent space to conduct a prayer service, the Reform temple forbids and bans any prayer service under its roof from having a mechitzah (gender separation).

I experienced this first-hand when I was told that, if my then-new shul wanted to conduct a Simchat Torah night service in a room we would rent in a Reform temple, we were banned from bringing in a portable mechitzah to separate men from women. As a result, because we had no other locational option at that time, all our shul’s women had to remain home and miss hakafot that Simchat Torah night, banned by the Reform temple from practicing Judaism as they knew it to be.

Nor is Reform’s intolerance limited exclusively to religious matters. Only a few years ago, the Zionist Organization of America asked me to be their keynote speaker at a meeting they were holding at a Reform temple. I gladly agreed. I also have a personal relationship with the temple’s rabbi. Days before the speech, the rabbi called the ZOA and told them that the program is canceled because ZOA is banned from his temple since he opposes ZOA’s politics. ZOA called me and asked me what to do. I said I would call my friend, the rabbi. On the ensuing phone call he said, “Dov, you know it certainly is nothing personal, nothing aimed at you. It is just that I am the rabbi of this temple, and ZOA never will have a meeting here as long as I am the rabbi.” So the ZOA meeting had to be relocated.

What happened to the “Jewish unity” that Reform leaders always invoke when they demand some new rights in Israel? What about their talk of “Jewish peoplehood”? In terms of that banned Simchat Torah night mechitzah, what about their talk of “religious pluralism,” the idea that “all Jews should tolerate and allow each others’ religious practices”?

Do not be fooled by Reform talk of “Jewish Unity” and of “Working Together” and of “Mutual Acceptance.”

Yes, for those Reform Jews who actually are Jews, we are One People, even George Soros and Bernie Sanders and all the other non-Orthodox apostates. But do not be fooled: ”Jewish Unity” and “Working Together” is a one-way street, just as it is so often is with the Left in secular politics. The rights and privileges that the Left demands for themselves are not rights or privileges they will extend to others with whom they disagree. In secular academia, for example, they demand “academic freedom” to say and write whatever they like without fear of interference; yet they suspend and fire conservative professors who speak or write legitimate thoughts that disagree with the Leftist dominance on campus, and they deny tenure to others who reveal their conservative values and beliefs too soon. The double standards are similar and extraordinarily outrageous when dealing with Reform institutional leadership. But if they did not have double standards, what standards at all would they have?

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer is adjunct professor of law at two prominent Southern California law schools, Senior Rabbinic Fellow at the Coalition for Jewish Values, congregational rabbi of Young Israel of Orange County, California, and has held prominent leadership roles in several national rabbinic and other Jewish organizations. He was Chief Articles Editor of UCLA Law Review, clerked for the Hon. Danny J. Boggs in the United States Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, and served for most of the past decade on the Executive Committee of the Rabbinical Council of America. His writings have appeared in The Weekly Standard, National Review, Wall Street Journal, Los Angeles Times, Jerusalem Post, American Thinker, Frontpage Magazine, and Israel National News. Other writings are collected at www.rabbidov.com .



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