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Wednesday, December 14, 2005

More On The Reform Letter

The Jewish Week has an article up about the GOP response to the anti-war letter put out by the Union for Reform Judaism.
This week the Republican Jewish Coalition began a series of full-page ads in leading dailies — including The New York Times and Washington Post — and Jewish newspapers across the country. Featuring a photo of an Iraqi woman with a purple-stained finger indicating she had voted, the ad, with the caption “To the Union for Reform Judaism,” expressed strong backing for the Bush administration’s Iraq policies.

“We support the President and the war on terrorism,” signers said. “We stand behind our troops and their mission of creating a safe, democratic Iraq. This mission is vital not only for the continuing fight against terrorism, but also for the security of Israel and the stability of the Middle East.”
Many signatories consider themselves members of the Reform movement. Matt Brooks, executive director of the Republican Jewish Coalition, strongly objected to the stance taken by Rabbi Yoffie and other Reform leaders in the letter:
“We’re not attacking Reform Jews, we’re attacking the tactics that the leadership of the Reform movement is using to promote an agenda that does not reflect the totality of American Jewry,” he said.

The Reform leadership “does a disservice to the Jewish community by making representations that they speak for a much larger segment of the community,” he said. “I’m a Reform Jew; they don’t speak for me.”
Rabbi Yoffie, however, disagreed with the argument put forth in the RJC ad.
“In terms of the substance, the facts are very clear: Our resolution was a centrist, mainstream resolution expressing a variety of concerns about the war in Iraq that are held by a majority of Americans, and by an even greater majority of American Jews,” he said in an interview.

Rabbi Yoffie called charges that he was claiming to speak for all Jews “silly.”

“Obviously, any resolution we pass does not reflect the views of every Reform Jew or every Reform congregation. There will always be some who are unhappy.”
I strongly disagree. In my opinion, to put forth a controversial position like this, without taking into account the views of the rank-and-file members of your community is dishonest of the URJ leadership.

12 Comments:

Blogger Robbie said...

In Yoffie's defense, though, it was passed overwhelmingly at the URJ Convention. It wasn't as though the Reform Leadership declared this a Union Position. The attendees at the Convention (the policy-making convention) had the chance to approve (or deny) the statement. I would guess that those complaining didn't show up to dissent at the time - I would hardly call them "rank and file."

For better or worse, the Reform Movement has definite stances on a variety of social and political issues - they even have their own PAC in Washington.

11:40 AM  
Blogger my bald sheitel said...

They shouldn't speak for their whole movement. It's not like the frum world where people follow gedolim. It is a free-for-all with no real rules. Republicans make up a LARGE part of the Reform big money community. I bet this pissed some people with pockets off big time. My mom ran the volunteer room for that convention. She said it was huge. Even if it was within the numbers she says, it was a mere fraction of the # of Reform Jews today.

12:03 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

This is an amusing flip of what the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism did. This summer it got into the business of endorsements and publically supported the nominations of John Bolton for the UN and John Roberts for the Supreme Court. Their letter contained an equally amusing line about since we represent 700 congregations there will be SOME of our members who disagree with us.

After some investigation, I discovered that their encorsement where being made by a committee of less than 10 people and not even major leaders in USCJ had any say in who was endorsed. On that point the Reform jews are doing better since at least they actually had some sort of vote.

Anyway, I haven't seen any other endorsements from the USCJ (i.e. Alito) so perhaps they've back away from this minefield.

12:41 PM  
Blogger Robbie said...

Sheitel -

I wouldn't quite call it a "free for all." The Reform Movement has a policy of taking political sides - it's not like this is the first time they've ever done that. They have a definite platform, and this goes along with it.

Anonymous -

As a Conservative Jew who definitely wasn't represented by the endorsements, I took their statements as the feelings of the USCJ, not the Conservative Movement. (There's a slight difference there, although probably not to the world.)

And on a related note- I seem to remember the OU passing a resolution supporting Bush and the War.

1:01 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

(Same as the earlier Anonymous)
Read the press release:
http://uscj.org/Letter_to_Arlen_Spec6782.html
I think USCJ saying they represent 700 congregations, but some people disagree is very similar Rabbi Yoffi saying his statement doesn't respresent all Reform jews.

As far as OU, as anyone who reads blogs knows, all Orthodox people have identical opinions on all issues and always defer to their rabbis so OU's statements were perfectly reasonable. :)

7:25 PM  
Blogger my bald sheitel said...

I guess I got the free-for-all impression when I researched their responsa to find out their "rules" for certain situations, i.e. Shabbos. I printed them out even only to find a great deal of educated discussion culminating in the idea that "it's really all up to the local rabbi anyway." So, basically I am not sure why they bother having an opinion.

3:27 AM  
Anonymous mycroft said...

Should the OU et al get into controversial positions-eg supporting or opposing Supreme Court nominees?
MY opinion surely not.

6:10 AM  
Blogger Ezer K'negdo said...

Um, Sheitel? Isn't that how it is in most Orthodox circles? Up to the local rabbi? Aren't their many communities where two or more O or UO rabbis disagree on a particular aspect of halacha and rule differently for their own communities? Hechshers are a great example of this. Chalav Yisroel is another example. Chassidishe shechita.....I could go on. The line between minhag and halacha, and how one's leaders rule is blurred and constantly moving. One other point, FYI, is that the Reform movement has never said it is a halachic movement. It clearly defines itself very differently. Its rabbis have more autonomy to make decisions for their communities based on the principles of how each rabbi understands Judaism to stand on a particular issue, and based on where the Reform movement stands on a particular issue. Whether or not we all agree with their philosophy, let's try not to let one's personal anger one's upbringing color intelligent conversation here. Throwing around misinformed generalizations is dangerous, and leads to sinat chinam. No one has to agree with each other's movements or ideas, but let's be respectful.

9:22 AM  
Anonymous charliehall said...

'without taking into account the views of the rank-and-file members of your community'

When do Orthodox leaders ever consult rank-and-file members of their communities before making public policy pronouncements?

5:07 PM  
Blogger my bald sheitel said...

i think that within the orthodox groups there is more uniformity and that on some level the basics of halacha are observed by all. this is the opposite in reform judaism. since as you said they don't do halacha, they can really do anything they want at any time. it is pretty different than orthodoxy. and yes i am bitter and i think the movement is having an extremely negative impact on modern judaism. i don't think that's sinas chinom. i think it's a look at self-preservation for our people.

12:05 PM  
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