Not "Real" Judaism?


Although many orthodox rabbis critiqued the Orthodox Union for its public stand in late March announcing that Reform and Conservative Jews were not practicing Judaism, the more honest among them [like Rabbi Moshe Tendler of Yeshiva University) had to admit that this is what almost all orthodox Jews really believe, including those who are trying to do damage control on the public image of orthodoxy. Nor is it honest to talk of the Orthodox Union as a tiny fringe group. Though they represent a minority of orthodox Jews in the United States, their position is the official position of many of the most powerful orthodox political parties in Israel, and it is their perspective that has set the agenda and defined the status quo arrangements that currently do not recognize the legitimacy of Conservative and Reform movements operating in Israel.

American Jews rightly feel that their legitimacy as Jews is being questioned. The ultra-orthodox sects who are intent on defining out of Judaism the practices of the Jewish majority seem to have no understanding of ahavat yisrael, the mitzvah of loving their fellow Jews.

Nor do they have much understanding of the actual reality of Judaism. From the moment that prophets began to criticize the way the priests had created a Judaism focused more on animal sacrifices than on social justice and love, there have been multiple interpretations of Judaism. By the time of the struggles among the Tana'im who shaped the Mishnah, and the Amora`im who refined the Gemara - not to mention the struggles between Pharisees and Sadducees - it was clear to anyone with half a brain that there wasn't one correct reading of Torah or one definitive reading of Hallachah (Jewish law, but rather a set of alternative, overlapping readings.

Anyone who thinks they have the only reading simply does not know anything about Judaism. …

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