A Young Israel rabbi weighs in on Reform Judaism and Jewish Unity

The Reform Movement, like the Left, talks about equality until it is in a position of power.

Rabbi Prof. Dov Fischer ,

Attempting mixed prayer at Western Wall
Attempting mixed prayer at Western Wall
צילום: Flash 90

Part 2. (Click here for On Reform Judaism and Jewish Unity — Part 1)

In America for many years, we have been witnessing the Left’s double standards. When they are not in power, they speak of “equality” and “fairness.” They endlessly invoke the specter of 1950s “McCarthyism” as their mantra, their never-ending claim, even now, that they face “blacklisting” and discrimination in employment.

1. It Is the Way of the Left to Invoke 1950s Blacklisting and to Ask for Equality and Unity Until They Have Power, and Then They Blacklist and Cancel Others.

And then, as soon as they have even the slightest influence and upper hand, they turn around and ferociously impose blacklists on others with whom they disagree.

For example, they keep conservatives out of the entertainment industry. You cannot make a major-studio movie that exposes what abortion is or that tells a patriotic story unapologetically or a story that presents religion as honorable. Every movie about religion presents Catholic priests and nuns in the worst light, mocks Judaism, extols intermarriage, and mocks G-d. Now that the Left controls Hollywood, there are no more movies like “The Ten Commandments” that offer religious inspiration, “Exodus” that tells Israel’s story, or John Wayne movies that leave the viewer proud to be an American or even just a Westerner devoted to the Judaic-Christian ethos.

Even those movies were deeply flawed: Moshe Rabbeinu (Moses) and Yehoshua (Joshua) did not have girlfriends (!), the Irgun was no less noble than the Haganah and even was more so, most Jews in the Zionist underground were not pursuing American non-Jewish blondes, and the John Wayne films fudged facts. But they all aimed at a deeper purpose: to inspire faith, to admire Israel, to praise America.

Now everything from Hollywood is morally muddled. The only religion that is presented respectfully is Islam.

In the old movies, the police were the good guys, and we despised the crooks. Now, since the days of “Bonnie and Clyde,” it is the bad guys we are persuaded to admire. Don Vito Corleone. Michael. Others. Likewise on television, who couldn’t once love Toody, Muldoon, and the cops of the 53rd Precinct? Today the police are depicted as evil. This is what the Left has done to entertainment as they have blacklisted conservatives, preventing most mass entertainment that challenges the Left’s stereotypes.

The only time Judaism is presented with any respect in the movies is when it is the Judaism of the shtetl, the Judaism of a century or more ago. So, yes, you get “Fiddler on the Roof” and “Lies My Father Told Me” and “Hester Street.” Because that century-old era does not threaten Hollywood and the Left, the intermarried Bernie Sanders / George Soros supporters and their moral doppelgangers who control TV and the movies.

For them, those films are a tribute to their simpleton, unsophisticated grandparents from the Old World, much as they feel compelled to assuage their guilt for denigrating contemporary Israel and Judaism by producing an annual Holocaust movie. So let’s shed a tear for Schindler and then present a moral falsehood over the 1972 Munich massacres. Let’s have Vanessa Redgrave “playing for time” in Auschwitz, and then let’s do a movie where a Reform rabbi has a Black church choir singing “Ein Keilokeinu” in his temple while the unmarried rabbi pursues a non-Jewish blonde who has a subterranean I.Q. Only in Hollywood would such a filmed sacrilege be named “Keeping the Faith.”

Likewise in journalism, on the stage on Broadway, and in academia. The Left screams about McCarthy blacklisting in the 1950s, demands equality and unity, and then slams the door shut on all conservatives who disagree. Presently, they are driving conservatives out of academia by denying tenure to newcomers, while suspending or firing those who got in previously. UCLA just suspended my former professor of law and accounting, while Cornell is cleaning out others. Where is the yearning for equality, for fairness, the contempt and disgust for blacklisting and McCarthyism? Aren’t they clamoring that they want to work together?

2. The Left’s Totalitarian Instinct to Destroy and to Deny Equality to Others Was on Full Display in Israel for 50 Years, and Reform Is the Same

Nor is the American Left experience unique. One does not need to point to Soviet Communism nor to China nor to North Korea. Just reflect on the half century in Israel before the Menachem Begin Revolution of 1977.

Remember the blacklists? Remember how pro-Likud military personnel could not be promoted to the highest ranks of the IDF? Remember how you or your parents could not get a teaching job in the schools unless you joined the Histadrut labor union? Remember how they kept your parents and grandparents out of the better jobs, denied them promotions, often destroyed them, if they openly supported Likud or its predecessors, the Herut Party or the merger of Herut and the classical economic Liberals led by Simcha Ehrlich in the Gachal?

Remember the Altalena? How Ben-Gurion would not allow Jabotinsky’s remains to be brought to Israel for a state burial? Wouldn't call Menachem Begin by name in the Knesset? And remember how the worst discrimination of all was targeted at Sephardim because the Labor Left was rooted in Marxist Russian dogma that was brought to Israel by Ashkenazim like Ben-Gurion, Weitzmann, Sharett, Moshe Sneh, and the rest?

Try to remember all that when the minor and insignificant movement in Israel that advocates Reform Judaism tearfully asks “only” for “equality” and “unity.” Because any time that Reform ever has had the power to do so, anywhere in the world, in any era, it has clamped down on and attempted to destroy Orthodox Judaism. It is not about “live and let live.”

In my previous installment, I shared that Reform temples in America, when they feel they have the power
Reform temples in America, when they feel they have the power to do so, ban mechitzah prayer services. That is, if a group within the temple wants to conduct a traditional service or an Orthodox group wants to rent a room.
to do so, ban mechitzah prayer services. That is, if a group within the temple wants to conduct a traditional service, perhaps for visiting relatives, or if an Orthodox congregation needs a place to rent (as mine did during its gestation a decade ago), the Reform temple bans the use of partitions that Orthodox Jews use for separating the genders during prayer. In other words, the very same people who demand “tolerance” and “equality” to conduct their spectacles at Judaism’s most somber and holy site, the Western Wall, ban Orthodox prayer when they have the power.

This is not new. It goes back to the earliest interfacing of a prominent, landed, and established Reform Judaism community with a weaker Orthodoxy when Orthodox Jewish immigrants flocked to America between 1881-1914.

The first American Jews were the Old World Spanish and Portuguese traditional Jews, who had fled the Inquisition in 1492 Spain and 1497 Portugal, and found haven from Catholicism in the New World. However, in time the Spanish and Portuguese financed and dispatched explorers who found South America and brought the Inquisition and persecutions there with them. In 1654, twenty-three Jews sailed aboard “The St. Charles” up the Atlantic coast and settled in New Amsterdam, the one American colony not controlled by European countries that then were persecuting Jews but instead ruled by Holland. (Ironically, the governor of New Amsterdam, Peter Stuyvesant, was an anti-Semite.)

As the community grew, there were some 25,000 mostly traditional Jews in America by the mid-Nineteenth Century. The second major wave then saw 250,000 Jews come to America, mostly from Germany, between approximately 1840 and 1880. These immigrants mostly were Reform Jews. Just as they finally were becoming settled and comfortable in America, in came more than three million Jews between the March 1881 assassination of Tsar Alexander II and the 1914 sealing of America’s borders in the face of World War I. Great multitudes among them were Orthodox. America’s Reform Jewish infrastructure set about to tear them from Orthodoxy.

3. Reform Judaism Arose to Destroy Orthodoxy and Replace It With a Model That Mimicked Protestantism, Abandoned Jerusalem , Rejected Zionism, and Promised That History Would Declare It Ended Anti-Semitism.

Indeed, Reform Judaism is an aberration out of Nineteenth Century Germany, a country where so many millions of Jews were murdered or “only repressed” over the centuries — including but not limited to the Crusades of the Twelfth and Thirteenth Centuries, the Black Death of the Fourteenth Century, Blood Libels and “Desecration of the Host” Slanders, with repressions and persecutions continuing through the “Hep! Hep! Riots” of 1819 and the “Age of Metternich” repressions — that it made the Jews remaining there desperate to find a way to end the obsessions of German anti-Semitism.

The idea of Reform Judaism, going back to its proto-beginnings at the Hamburg Temple of 1818, was that if we just dress like the Protestants and speak like them and worship like them and be just like them and intermarry with them — then finally they will leave us alone and treat us like everyone else.

Reform’s propounders in the 1800s insisted that their “innovations” would prove to have been the successes that finally brought German anti-Semitism to an end, for once and for all.
So Reform’s founders and ideologues brought organ music into their temples to be like the churches. Their rabbis removed head coverings and wore black robes like Protestant ministers. Many Reform rabbis and temples moved Sabbath prayers to Sundays. Some banned circumcisions. Intermarriage was approved. They publicly and aggressively denounced and renounced Zionism and insisted that they want no part of Israel. “Germany is our home, and Berlin is our Jerusalem.” Indeed, they went out of their way to call their worship houses “temples” to emphasize that, for them, the “temple” is right there in Germany, that they want no part of the Temple in Jerusalem.

Instead of composing their own prayers, they arrogated the prayers of the Orthodox siddur (prayer book) and “reformed” them by deleting all references to Zion and Jerusalem. So they deleted certain paragraphs from the Friday night “L’cha Dodi” song. They deleted phrases from the Amidah devotional that is central to every Jewish prayer service. They took out words that referred to the unique relationship of the Jewish People with G-d.

When Orthodoxy warned against these practices, Reform of the 1800s regularly responded, as Leftist “progressives” do today in both the religious and secular political realms, that history will prove them right. Reform’s propounders in the 1800s insisted that their “innovations” would prove to have been the successes that finally brought German anti-Semitism to an end, for once and for all.

It is so hard, if not impossible, to counter the argument that “history will prove us right.” It is hard, that is, contemporaneously. But 200 years later, history actually weighs in.

Did Reform Judaism, which the German Jews of the 1800s imposed on their communities, succeed in finally ending anti-Semitism in Germany? Did worshipping like Christians and abandoning the dream of Zion and Jerusalem achieve the goal of making Germany uniquely friendly to the Jews by the 1900s? Did that open animus towards the Land of Israel, with a particular overt hatred for the Temple and the Western Wall, imbue German Christians with a sense that the Jews really are tightly woven loyalists, integral components of the national fabric of Germany? Did intermarriage achieve the historic goal of ending German anti-Semitism by creating a new world where every non-Jewish German household had so many Jews intermarried within their families such that no one still was anti-Semitic in Germany by, say, the 1930s?

In the early and middle Nineteenth Century no one accurately could say what “history will prove” over time. By the 1930s, History weighed in with its opinion.

Next Installment: How Reform Judaism Worked Feverishly to Destroy Orthodoxy Among the Three Million East European Jewish Immigrants to America