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