Monday, January 23, 2012

Why do we let the Orthodox control us?

I just read this excellent article on It's about the effect of the Ultra-Orthodox on Jewish life in Israel. I related to this article way too deeply, because in some ways it expresses my frustrations with the Reform Movement.

Why do we allow the Orthodox to be the keepers of "real" Judaism? Reform Judaism should be like Protestantism. A definite choice was made to separate from Orthodoxy and to make decisions based on common sense, scientific knowledge and reason rather than ancient tradition and superstition. So why the return? Why does a female Rabbi who wears trousers and a kippah when leading services also bow during the Barechu and insist on celebrating a second day of Rosh Hashana? Why must we show respect to our fellow Jews, even when they are wrong, even when they spit on us and abuse children walking to school? Is it because of the Holocaust? Because Hitler saw no difference between us, we must band together even with people who would grant me no rights as a human being? We're talking about people who would not consider my marriage valid or my daughter a Jew. I don't wish violence upon them, but neither do I wish to be associated with them in any way.

This is what is driving my retreat from Judaism and my alienation from God. I don't want to be associated with the religious if being religious means fearing women, disavowing science and trampling human rights. Why does it feel like my only two choices are religion which moves ever rightward and reason, which turns its back just as forcefully on ritual, celebration and community?

I want to be--no, I am--a Progressive Jew. I believe in science, individual choice and equal rights for all. I love ritual, beauty and community. Why can't I have both?

Note: There is a follow up to this post here.


  1. "I don't wish violence upon them, but neither do I wish to be associated with them in any way."

    Unless you have also ejected Kol Yisrael Arevim Ze-ba-Zeh from your Judaism, you are fully associated with them.

    Don't keep running away. Deal with it.

  2. Hi,

    I'm a reform Jew living in New Zealand. I converted early last year, having been introduced to Judaism through by fiance (as he was then, husband now). I have a degree in philosophy and before my conversion, I would have described myself as a humanist. I would not have converted if I didn't believe that Reform Judaism incorporated enlightenment values. You can have both! Some people will tell you that you can't - but who are they to decide?

    You may not have seen this article in Haaretz last year, if not I recommend it:

    All the best with your journey,


  3. Thanks, Suzanne. I'll check out that article.