Thursday, July 12, 2012

Eliminate Denominations

This is a letter that I submitted to the Washington Jewish Week and was published in the current edition:

Dear Editor,

Chief Sephardic Rabbi Shlomo Amar was roundly criticized for his negative statements about Conservative and Reform rabbis in a recent issue of Washington Jewish Week. ("Message to the 'wicked,' " WJW, June 28). Although he employed harsh language, I believe that Rabbi Amar's essential point was cogent and compelling. The existence of denominations in Judaism has created havoc in the Diaspora, undermining Jewish unity and complicating Jewish identity in multiple ways.

It continually strikes me as bizarre that Conservative and Reform rabbis, after unilaterally deciding to change the hallowed theological beliefs and practices of traditional Judaism, suddenly cry foul when defenders of the tradition refuse to accept the validity of their movements. After denying the truth of the Torah, disregarding the laws of Shabbat and kashrut and most recently "sanctifying" gay marriage, they consider those of us who wish to uphold our 3,500-year-old beliefs and laws to be "intolerant" and demand that their modified version of our religion be acknowledged as "Judaism" on par with the original form thereof. If they wish to institute radical changes, then they should be prepared to deal with the consequences of those changes.

I don't think the solution to the problem is for Orthodoxy to prevail over the other denominations; rather, I believe that the only answer is the elimination of denominations altogether. Many of those who attend Sephardic synagogues, like those who attend Conservative synagogues and Reform temples, drive on Shabbat and are not very observant. Yet they are passionate about Judaism, the one, unaltered, authentic, traditional Judaism with which they were raised, and they would not want to have it any other way.

Sephardic Judaism has been able to eschew denominationalism and preserve its original form without excluding or rejecting individuals whose personal observance or level of belief falls short of the mark. I would encourage Ashkenazic Jews to drop their labels and divisions and return to the faith of their ancestors as it was taught for thousands of years. This, and not the creation and validation of competing movements, is what will help us progress one step closer to our ultimate redemption as a people.

RABBI JOSHUA MAROOF

7 comments:

Livingincomfort said...

I agree with what you said and applaud your effort to help save traditional Judaism for all Jews.

DanO said...

I appreciate this and the other posts found here. Reasonable and reasoned, the author puts forth his arguments in cogent and clear language.

Of course the call to eliminate denominations will go unheeded. The fundamental issue is the source of values: the Torah or current modern thinking. The Conservative, Reform, Reconstructionist, and whomever else, will always opt for current morals and mores.

History has shown that whoever keeps the Torah, the Torah keeps him or her as part of the Jewish people.

Tamir said...

"Many of those who attend Sephardic synagogues, like those who attend Conservative synagogues and Reform temples, drive on Shabbat and are not very observant. Yet they are passionate about Judaism, the one, unaltered, authentic, traditional Judaism with which they were raised, and they would not want to have it any other way."

Reminds me of something Aaron Haleva once said on S.C.J:
"[...] I cannot help but remember what my teacher said many years ago when asked( by an Ashkenazi) why irreligous Sepharadim( which are most often the majority of members in American Sephardic congregations) do not leave their traditional synagogues and join the Reform movement.

'Well, we simply do not need a theology to eat a cheeseburger.'
"

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