The political interference by the rabbis is getting more and more
unbearable. The attempt to impose their opinions and lifestyles
upon us, regardless of the preferences of the majority of their
fellow citizens, is outrageous. They are intolerant, increasingly
fundamentalist, arrogant, anti-democratic and coercive.
I refer, of course, to the Reform rabbis of America.
I should state here that I do not criticize the Reform movement
because of the level of observance of Jewish ritual and tradition
of its members. I do not consider it my business or right to tell
other Jews how much ritual and tradition they should be observing
or not observing in their private lives. I have no problem with
those who wish to choose non-observant or secularist lifestyles.
I acknowledge the right of Reform Jews to live as they please. I
am all in favor of religious pluralism.
I should also state up front that the Reform synagogue movement
contains quite a few thoughtful and intelligent leaders and members.
I believe that individual Reform Jewish leaders collectively share
the blame for only one thing - allowing the Reform movement to be
hijacked by leftist extremists and not doing more to stop them.
Let me also point out that I am hardly uncritical of Orthodox rabbis,
especially here in Israel, when they engage in political partisanship,
misbehavior, or general silliness. I have no problem with those
promoting religious pluralism in Israel or anywhere else.
The only problem is that the same Reform leaders who are so enthusiastic
about religious pluralism have made it clear that political pluralism
has no room in the their own movement.
Yes, like the tired plot of a late-night science fiction movie,
the Reform movement has been taken over - by those who believe religion
and liberal social activism are synonyms. While not every rabbi
or every member of the Reform movement has been recruited into the
Political Liberalism as Judaism school, enough have, and that school's
philosophy dominates the pronouncements by the official institutions
of the movement as a whole.
This is the philosophy also known as Tikkun Olam Paganism, due
to its compulsive misuse of the notion of "tikkun olam"
by holding that all of Judaism can be reduced to the agenda of politically
It is a form of political fundamentalism, impervious to challenge.
It believes that the best chances of survival for the eternal and
timeless religion of Judaism are through repackaging it so that
it can appeal to college students in Berkeley, drag queens in Provincetown,
and actors in Hollywood.
The "Political Liberalism as Judaism" pseudo-religion
dominates the main institutions of the Reform synagogue movement,
including its Central Council of American Rabbis (CCAR), which regularly
claims to represent 1.5 million Jews and 900 congregations in the
U.S. and Canada.
And of course the leftist SWAT team for the Reform movement is
the Religious Action Center (RAC) based in Washington, whose "religious
action" rarely has anything to do with Jewish religion.
The RAC has been under the leadership of David Saperstein for almost
as long as Libya has been under the personal rule of Moammar Khaddafi.
Saperstein, who is a Reform rabbi and an attorney, is also active
in such outfits as People For the American Way, set up by the television
producer Norman Lear to save the world from Republicans.
The RAC and the CCAR regularly compose and approve political fatwas,
the collection of which is online and virtually identical in content
with the platform of the furthest-left wing of the Democrat Party.
These cover everything from "globalization" (they essentially
oppose it) to "animal rights" (they want Jews to be vegetarians).
Homosexuality has a special interest for them, bordering on a fixation.
Saperstein recently expressed shock when Boston's Rabbi Chaim Schwartz,
writing in the Boston Globe, compared homosexual relations with
bestiality. In Sapersteins words: "That a rabbi would... demean
the committed and loving relationships that many people share, is
not only irresponsible and hurtful, but wrong."
Only one little problem here. The Torah itself explicitly compares
homosexual relations with bestiality and in fact declares both to
be capital offenses. Maybe Saperstein should actually try reading
the Torah. Maybe the RAC should actually base some of its "religious
action" on the Jewish religion. Does the RAC regard the Torah
itself as "irresponsible and hurtful and wrong?"
A few years back, the Passover cause celebre of the Reform establishment
was Tibet, with Tibetan officials invited to Passover seders and
Jews urged to hold Tibetan "freedom seders" to show solidarity.
The eleventh commandment handed down by Moses is, in their opinion,
"Thou Shalt be Trendy!"
The RAC is so radical it has motivated many an observer, just a
bit unfairly, in my opinion, to question whether Reform Judaism
should even be regarded as a branch of Judaism, rather than a form
of leftist political agitprop, little more than a sister organization
of Tikkun, A.N.S.W.E.R. and MOVE ON.
But the Reform establishment goes beyond PC goofiness. In recent
years it has been increasingly hostile to Israel and attempts by
Israel to defend itself. The CCAR is on record supporting Palestinian
statehood, eviction of Jewish settlers, and a return by Israel to
more or less its 1949 borders.
The CCAR and RAC recently launched an attack against Israels attempts
to defend its children from terrorists by constructing a "security
wall". The CCAR actually condemned Israel for this in a resolution
passed at its annual meeting. It has also denounced Israel for demolishing
homes of terrorists. It has openly endorsed the leftist-extremist
Israeli splinter group "Rabbis for Human Rights" (which
might more properly be named "Rabbi for Human Rights").
The resolution and other recent statements by RAC have been exercises
in "even-handedness", that is, balanced condemnation of
both Palestinian terror and Israeli attempts to defend its citizens
from that terror.
The Reform establishment, few of whose leading lights live in Israel,
has in recent years canceled youth trip after youth trip to the
Jewish state, does not like Israels "security wall" because
it makes Palestinians unhappy, and in general counsels Israel against
using arms if there's any possibility that Palestinian civilians
might be injured. Since no one has ever fought a war in which only
uniformed fighters get hurt, and since Palestinian terrorists hide
among civilians and never wear uniforms, this counsel amounts to
an insistence that Israel not fight terror at all.
The RAC is more worried about inconveniencing the Palestinians
with a security wall than it is about the rights of Jewish children
to ride buses in Beer Sheba without being blown up. It is often
more critical of the Boy Scouts for not hiring gay scout leaders
than it is of the Palestinian Authority.
Adopting a balanced condemnation of both the Palestinians and Israel
is about as morally high-minded, principled and courageous in 2004
as would have been a balanced condemnation of both Nazi Germany
and the armies and partisans fighting against it in 1943. After
all, the anti-German forces sometimes mistreated innocent Germans,
were insensitive toward homosexuals, and even ate meat.
The Jerusalem Post recently attacked the armchair peaceniks in
the CCAR and their "even-handed" anti-Israel propagandizing,
accusing them of hypocritical moral grandstanding. Saperstein himself
took time off from demonizing the Boy Scouts and fighting for the
promotion of lesbian Reform rabbis to respond to the Post. He insisted,
predictably, that Reform leaders in the U.S. have as much right
to voice their views on Israeli security and issues of war and peace
as do Israel's own leftists.
Actually, U.S. Reform leaders have no such right. If Saperstein
and his comrades wish to promote their agenda, let them make aliyah,
pay Israeli taxes, serve in the army, and suffer on their own persons
the consequences of leftist folly, just like Israel's home-grown
But even then, while they'd have the right to promote their agenda,
they wouldn't have the right to misrepresent leftist political extremism
No less outrageous are the efforts of Reform rabbis who attempt
to impose their liberal political theology not only on fellow American
Jews, but on the U.S. as a whole. While whining about supposed Orthodox
religious coercion in Israel, the Reform establishment today embodies
the worst forms of Jewish religious coercion on earth, with the
religion in question being liberal politics and liberation theology.
The Reform establishment has adopted the entire agenda of the American
Left, down to and including bashing Israel for daring to defend
itself. It is barely distinct politically from the sages of the
Tikkun-Renewal cult of Michael Lerner and Arthur Waskow. It is becoming
so extreme that it increasingly resembles the old anti-Israel Reform
break-off group the American Council for Judaism.
The Reform establishment opposes school choice for Jews; supports
every wacky idea to emerge from the most extreme environmentalist
movements; and endorses affirmative action programs even if they
discriminate against Jews. The number-one item on its agenda these
days is gay marriage. David Saperstein's comments opposing welfare
reform were so outrageous that a few years back they were cited
with approval by the American Communist Party newspaper.
The Reform establishment blocks school vouchers by trotting out
the old bogeyman of religious coercion, while at the same time its
modus operandi is religious coercion of the liberal variety. It
has no patience for policy trade-offs nor nuanced policy analysis,
no time for subtle cost-benefit evaluation, and refuses even to
acknowledge that there are trade-offs involved in real-life policy
decisions. It prefers empty moral posturing and liberal recreational
compassion combined with ignorance about markets and social science.
The Reform establishment supports partial-birth abortion of innocent
babies but vehemently opposes execution of convicted murderers and
terrorists. The Reform movement in Israel has led the local "anti-globalization"
hooligans seeking to make the world safe for Marxism. The U.S. Reform
movement has conscripted itself on behalf of Lori Berenson, jailed
in Peru for her involvement with a murderous group of leftist terrorists.
I have a serious question for David Saperstein and the Reform establishment
(and for certain parts of the Conservative synagogue movement as
well). I am not being facetious:
In your considered opinions, are Michael Moore, Ted Kennedy, Ralph
Nader and Dennis Kucinich Jewish?
I am quite serious. If being Jewish constitutes nothing more than
liberal political activism, why are these people not to be regarded
as Jews? It can't be because Reform doctrine holds that in order
to be an authentic Jew one must eat kosher and keep the Sabbath.
We know, after all, that these are hardly universal practices among
And it can't be because Reform Judaism insists that authentic Jews
base their politics and belief system on the Bible. Where in Jewish
scripture do we find acceptance, much less endorsement, of homosexuality,
Palestinian statehood on the West Bank, and abortion on demand?
(Besides which, many of the Reform leaders I have met know less
of the Bible than your average Mormon schoolboy.)
Seriously, if Judaism is basically just an ethnic version of sanctimonious
liberal agitprop, why can't Moore, Kennedy, Kucinich or Nader be
considered Jewish? And if a Jewish liberal marries a non-Jewish
liberal, why should anyone consider that an intermarriage? After
all, they have exactly the same religion!
As for religious coercion by the Orthodox in Israel - that's little
more than an urban legend. There is virtually no religious coercion
in Israel. True, the politicized religious parties once forced the
cinemas closed on Sabbath, but today every Israeli owns DVDs. True,
the Orthodox politicos once forced the buses to stop running on
Sabbath, but these days everyone has a car.
I would venture to say that almost no secularist Israeli is ever
forced to observe any religious ritual against his or her will.
And other than some minor difficulties for those wishing to have
a "civil wedding", which is quite possible today in Israel,
no secularist in Israel has to have any contact whatsoever with
Orthodox institutions if he or she prefers not to.
The religious parties and their members are not the ones responsible
for Israel's self-destructive policies, for the deepening national
demoralization, for the carnage heaped upon the country in the wake
of liberal peace schemes. The secularists deserve the lion's share
of the blame, though the religious parties certainly have displayed
plenty of cowardice in not attempting to stop all that. (One wag
famously suggested that if the Israeli government ever decided to
turn over the Golan Heights to Syria, the National Religious Party's
main concern would be that the eviction of the "settlers"
there not take place on the Sabbath.)
Contrast the extremely limited nature of religious coercion by
Orthodox parties in Israel with political interference and pressure
on the part of the Reform movement in the U.S. In an era when true
believers in fundamentalist liberalism are an endangered species
outside of Hollywood and parts of Manhattan and Massachusetts, the
Reform establishment lobbies in the name of Judaism and biblical
ethics to impose its leftist political biases on all Jews and, indeed,
on the entire United States. It seeks to hijack Judaism, Jewish
holidays and Jewish ethical authority on behalf of any given week's
leftish fads and fancies.
The time has come to get these rabbis and other Reform leaders
out of our bedrooms, out of our politics, and back to their proper
It is time to introduce some political pluralism into the Reform
movement itself. It is time to stop CCAR-RAC from hijacking the
moral authority of Judaism for its campaign on behalf of pseudo-Jewish