Abolish the Rabbinate?

(First published December 14, 2018 on Arutz-7 at http://www.israelnationalnews.com/Articles/Article.aspx/23155)

A spanking new organization called “Ruach Hiddush – Rabbis and Cantors for Religious Freedom and Equality in Israel” – has called for the abolition of the Chief Rabbinate of Israel. It claims to represent the “rich… spectrum” of Jewish life, even transcending denominational lines. In truth, the few “Orthodox” representatives are not at all representative of anyone Orthodox, could fairly be called “Orthoprax” or “neo-Conservative”, and thus this proclamation is yet another call by non-Orthodox clergy for the elimination of the Chief Rabbinate.

Why would they want to do such a thing? In essence, they strenuously object to the Chief Rabbinate’s fidelity to Halacha, its commitment to the preservation of Jewish identity as defined by tradition, the furtherance of Torah and the promotion of the Jewish character of the State of Israel. They would encourage pluralism, freedom of conscience and legitimacy of any and all views professed by Jews, especially including those having little connection to Torah. They vehemently protest the “monopoly” the Chief Rabbinate has on matters of Jewish status, Kashrut, and interpretations of Jewish law, seeing as it is an unnecessary government entity.

Of course, that is the nature of government of any sort: a monopoly on the provision of services and the safeguarding of public trusts. Israel’s tax authority has the monopoly on tax collection, just like local zoning boards have a monopoly on how big your home extension can be. Israel’s army has a monopoly on defending the State, and the Transportation Ministry has a monopoly on the determination of speed limits. One could cogently argue that there should never be any monopolies at all; such a person is called an anarchist and no doubt will attract much support, at least initially. There are plenty of people who would love to be freelance tax collectors, zoning inspectors, generals, race car drivers on public roads, or control any other government interest. Similarly, the proponents here desire anarchy in conversion, marriage and divorce, kashrut, and every other realm of Torah – including mitzvot and Judaism’s fundamental principles. That is not a formula for success or Jewish continuity.

Their appeal is a modern form of “kill the ump!” They don’t like the “three strike rule,” preferring more flexibility and openness, perhaps four or five strikes for those who find three too restrictive. They don’t like the strike zone rules that give the umpire too much discretion and control – even a “monopoly” – over the game. They would prefer baseball without umpires, letting the players police themselves and make up the rules on the fly. Nice try; even the most hardened players and managers know that is not a viable option, even if we don’t necessarily have to agree with every single call.

I know Rav David Lau personally and have witnessed up close his limitless dedication to Torah, his love of every Jew of whatever background and his tireless execution of his duties. His days are impossibly long, and each day includes supervision of the Chief Rabbinate’s Court system, the kashrut apparatus, the personal status issues, ceremonial appearances and teaching Torah in all parts of the country, sometimes visiting three, four, five places in one day and night, to encourage Torah observance, love of Israel, and tolerance, and to spread the light and joy of Torah. His critics should envy his merits.

But the suggestion that the Chief Rabbinate be abolished engendered this thought: what if, instead, the Reform Rabbinate would be abolished?

It is by now incontrovertible that the Reform Rabbinate has been a catastrophe for the Jewish people. From its very origins, it has brought nothing but a renunciation of mitzvot, assimilation, conversion to Christianity and the attenuation of Jewish identity. The early Reformers in Europe switched Shabbat to Sunday, brought an organ into their temples and eliminated the mechitza. A wave of assimilation and conversion followed.

In America, it is enough to recall the treifa banquet on July 11, 1883 in Cincinnati, Ohio, where the first very graduating class of the Hebrew Union College, the Reform ordination school, was feted with clams, crabs, shrimp, and frog legs – all washed down with a dairy dessert. The temples had mixed seating (one Reform rabbi termed the mechitza an abominable “cage”), organs, confirmation ceremonies, a new prayer book that intentionally omitted calls for the return to Zion and the coming of Moshiach. Kashrut restrictions and Shabbat observance were nullified (the leading Reform rabbi of the 19th century mocked what he called “kitchen Judaism”), the marriage and divorce rites were radically altered and bore no resemblance to any Torah requirement.

Their modern descendants, sad to say, are not much better. Most Reform rabbis do not believe in the existence of G-d, nor do they accept that the Torah is divine or that the mitzvot are obligations and not mere suggestions. They do not feel bound by the Rambam’s thirteen principles of faith. It is they who are largely responsible for producing an intermarriage rate of more than 70% in the American non-Orthodox world, as well as widespread ignorance of any true Torah concept. One is hard-pressed to find any four-generation family of so-called Reform Jews who are all still Jewish. And these are the rabbis that this new group – including the aforementioned Orthoprax rabbis – wishes to entrust with Jewish destiny and the future of Torah in Israel. Having failed miserably on the American scene, they now wish to export their failures to Israel – and become offended when they are excluded from the decision-making processes in the Jewish State. They have destroyed the company and now insist on a promotion and a raise. As they say, only in America…

I know several Reform rabbis. By and large they are decent people, mean well, and don’t at all realize the harm they are causing. They feel they have to find a way to accommodate the intermarried, without the self-awareness that they are perpetuating and exacerbating the problem. Their sermons are almost exclusively limited to elements of the Democrat Party platform (abortion rights, immigration rights, gun control, etc.) occasionally spiced with some railing against the Orthodox establishment for not considering them Jews. Of course they are Jews – that canard has been losing steam for almost two decades even as it is still uttered routinely – as long as the mother is Jewish or they are properly converted (something that is increasingly the problem).

If the Reform rabbinate would be abolished, I don’t doubt that a steady stream of Democrat political operatives could fill in on Shabbat mornings and deliver timely sermons that would be well-received by the audience. Everyone knows that if they are looking for Torah, they will not find it there.

Instead of abolishing the Chief Rabbinate, something that would cause untold harm to the Torah world, the Jewish people and the State of Israel, perhaps we should consider abolishing the Reform rabbinate. Only good would result and many Jews would clamor to reclaim their Jewish identity and their rightful share in G-d’s Torah.

Am I serious? Of course not! This is a parody, as I assume the call by “Ruach Chiddush” for the abolition of the Chief Rabbinate is also a parody.

And if they are serious, and their proclamation is not meant as parody?

Well then…

5 responses to “Abolish the Rabbinate?

  1. “According to [Michael] Medved … you rarely find more than four consecutive generations of secular or Reform Jews.

    When a Jew breaks with traditional Judaism, his children or grandchildren either will intermarry and raise their own children as non-Jews or indifferent Jews, so that the line of the family disappears from the people Israel – or they will return to the Judaism he thought he helped them escape. Thus the typical Reform Jew has an Orthodox predecessor no more than three generations back.”

    SOURCE: The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy (chapter 2, page 15) by David Klinghoffer, 1998, published by Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4267-X

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    “…the Reform movement represented by your local Reform temple has its roots in social ambition, in this case among German Jews. The scholar I. Grunfeld identifies three stages in the early history of Reform.

    The first, naïve stage was initiated in 1810 at Seesen, Westphalia, where a group of wealthy Jews opened the original Reform temple. The service was intended to simulate Christian prayer, complete with church bells.”

    SOURCE: The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy (chapter 3, page 37) by David Klinghoffer, 1998, published by Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4267-X

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    “By 1880, 90% of American synagogues either had been transformed into [Reform] temples or had started out that way. In the [American] South, Reform rabbis sought to give the appearance of Christian clergymen, asking that they be addressed not as “Rabbi,” but as “Dr.,” “Reverend,” or “Minister.”

    Some wore black suits and white clerical collars, like Catholic and Episcopal priests.

    Yarmulkes and prayer shawls were banished, and some congregations met on the Christian Sabbath day [Sunday] instead of the Jewish one.

    “In New York [City] , Rabbi Judah Magnes of temple Emanu-El, a synagogue built to resemble an art deco cathedral, boasted that:

    “a prominent Christian lawyer of another city has told me that he entered this building at the beginning of a service on Sunday morning and did not discover that he was in a synagogue until a chance remark of the preacher betrayed it.”

    SOURCE: The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy (chapter 3, page 38) by David Klinghoffer, 1998, published by Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4267-X

  2. “What beliefs did the Reform movement stand for?

    A fog surrounds them in the minds of most Reform temple-goers,
    but when I visited Rabbi Dinnerstein in his study at the temple in 1995
    to ask for some clarification of his views, he said something that crystallized Reform thinking for me.

    I asked him what he thought happened at Mount Sinai.

    He answered that he wasn’t sure but he
    didn’t think it mattered that much.

    From this blithe dismissal of the most crucial event in Jewish history,
    the rest of his religious outlook flowed naturally.”

    SOURCE: The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy (chapter 3, page 41) by David Klinghoffer, 1998, published by Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4267-X

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    “So from a strict marketing perspective, the liberal-religious strategy cannot work for long. The problem is a simple one of redundancy.

    Many nonreligious institutions in American life provide the benefits offered by liberal religion.

    The New Age movement promises the feeling of spirituality, without G_d. Want to make friends? Join a health club. A whole spectrum of political organizations provide the buzzing high of self-righteousness, without having to sit through an hour-long service and a lengthy sermon.”

    SOURCE: The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy (chapter 3, page 48) by David Klinghoffer, 1998, published by Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4267-X

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    “An invention of the Reform movement, the notion of “confirming” young Jews at age fifteen is borrowed from Christianity. A sort of Judaized first communion…”

    SOURCE: The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy (chapter 4, page 52) by David Klinghoffer, 1998, published by Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4267-X

  3. “But Paul and Carol Klinghoffer could not give me a supernatural community, because they did not belong to one themselves and never had. The Reform movement is a thing entirely of this world.”

    SOURCE: The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy (chapter 4, page 63) by David Klinghoffer, 1998, published by Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4267-X

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    “Among secular and Reform Jews, however, there persists an unarticulated hunch that Hasidim (of whom Lubavitchers are the best-known sect) are the most authentically Jewish Jews….

    Most Reform homes have on their walls at least one painting of Hasidim dancing…

    Especially outside of New York City, where you don’t encounter live specimens very often, Jews are glad that Hasidim exist, perpetually dancing or arguing or whatever exactly they do with their time.

    While we ourselves marry Gentiles and bid our children farewell as they exit the Jewish people, thanks to the Hasidim we know there will always be Jews.

    This comforting thought goes a long way toward explaining the money secular Jews are willing to part with to support Lubavitchers.
    They are our excuse, and they are well worth the expense.”

    SOURCE: The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy (chapter 5, page 82) by David Klinghoffer, 1998, published by Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4267-X

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    “Conservative Jews who follow even the trimmed-back Conservative version of Halachah are as rare as bald eagles.

    As a Conservative Rabbi, Stephen C. Lerner, plainly put it in 1979:
    We have been or are becoming a clerical movement.
    We have no observant laity.”

    SOURCE: The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy (chapter 7, page 106) by David Klinghoffer, 1998, published by Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4267-X

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    “The young [Conservative] rabbis-in-training I met were smart, a bit cynical, a little nerdy, with no apparent awe for the [Jewish] holy texts they were studying.”

    SOURCE: The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy (chapter 7, page 107) by David Klinghoffer, 1998, published by Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4267-X

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    “Jewish community leaders are famous for fretting about how to interest Jews in the faith of their ancestors, but the most effective way to draw Jews to Torah is never discussed. Jews need to hear other Jews speak about G*D in a way our leaders are unaccustomed to speaking of Him: as a real, living force in our lives.”

    SOURCE: The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy (chapter 7, page 115) by David Klinghoffer, 1998, published by Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4267-X

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    “Without saying so explicitly, my mother had made clear to me that she would be disappointed if I married a Gentile. So have many other secular, Reform, or Conservative Jewish mothers made this clear to their children.

    But for most of these same mothers, Judaism is mainly an ethnic designation, with no relationship to ultimate truths

    SOURCE: The Lord Will Gather Me In: My Journey to Jewish Orthodoxy chapter 9, page 143) by David Klinghoffer, 1998, published by Free Press, ISBN 0-7432-4267-X

  4. Reform Jews are allies of the anti-Israel Far-Left, so I
    wrote these short blog articles that expose Reform Judaism:

    Rambam [Maimonides] Refutes Reform Judaism:
    https://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2017/11/rambam-vs-reform-judaism.html

    Why Barak Hullman left Reform Judaism and became Orthodox:
    http://blogs.timesofisrael.com/why-reform-judaism-doesnt-work-wont-work-and-how-to-fix-it/

    How a Reform Rabbi Became Orthodox (true story):
    http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2016/07/how-did-reform-rabbi-become-orthodox-jew.html

    Reform Judaism vs. Real Judaism:
    http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2016/05/guest-post-real-judaism.html

    Sephardic Jews REJECT Reform Judaism:
    https://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2017/07/sephardim-reject-reform.html

    How Reform Jews CHEATED on the Pew survey:
    http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2016/06/reform-jews-cheated-pew-survey.html

    Quick quote from Famous Jewish
    mega-donor about Jewish Continuity
    :

    https://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2018/02/mr-sy-syms.html

    Rabbi Samson Rafael Hirsch vs Reform Judaism:
    https://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2018/03/rabbi-hirsch-vs-reform.html

    Reform and Conservative are in Self-Destruct Mode:
    http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0618/glick061118.php3
    https://cross-currents.com/2018/06/12/not-your-bubbes-huc/

    Reform Jews strongly opposed efforts to save European Jews from the Holocaust during World War II. Those rescue efforts were led by Orthodox Jews, who the Reform Jews considered to be an obsolete embarrassment.

    The Reform Jews got what they wanted: the rescue efforts were sabotaged and prevented before they even got started.

  5. Rabbi Yisroel HaLevi Belsky (ZTL ZYA) said:

    “Liberal Jews claim to represent Judaism.

    We have to reject their statements and
    make clear they do not represent Judaism.”

    SOURCE: article by M. Yaffe, Mishpacha
    Jewish Family Weekly magazine, 2008 April 30, page 32

    ===================================
    Rambam Rejected Childless Messiah:
    http://shilohmusings.blogspot.com/2016/08/rambam-rejected-childless-messiah-by-mr.html