Sectors of American Judaism: Reform, Orthodoxy, Conservatism, and Reconstructionism

By Jacob Neusner | Go to book overview

18
REFORM IS A VERB

LEONARD J. FEIN

Dr. Fein goes over the ground of Rabbi Levy's proposal. Having concluded a major study of Reform Judaism, he affirms that among Reform Jews (and many others) is to be discerned "a powerful, perhaps even desperate, longing for community." Like Rabbi Levy, Dr. Fein is confident that Reform Judaism has the resources to respond to that longing. Individuals can be drawn into community, Dr. Fein stresses, but presently Reform synagogues and temples do not succeed in constituting communities. The question, he tells us, is not primarily intellectual or even religious.

Part of the problem is that Reform Judaism has too readily resolved the tension between 'being Jewish' and 'being American.' Dr. Fein argues the tension itself is productive. He has found good evidence that Reform Judaism is not merely a vehicle of assimilation or de- Judaization but "is clearly solidly in the mainstream of contemporary Jewish understandings and commitments." That is why he lays emphasis upon the potential of Reform Jews. The Reform Temple, which embodies Reform Judaism in the local context, has the opportunity to develop that potential. Dr. Fein's main point is that Reform Judaism is to be taken seriously within the spectrum of expressions of American Judaism. Perhaps the most vivid evidence in behalf of this contention lies in the essays--critical, searching, angry--of Reform rabbis and scholars in the employ of the Reform movement.

Against the background of the findings which emerged from both the survey and workshops, those of us involved with the project have, inevitably, formed certain impressions regarding the present state and impending directions of Reform Judaism. In this last section of our report, we turn from specific findings and observations to personal impressions and judgments.


The Reform Jew

Through all of our work, no single conclusion registers so strongly as our sense that there is, among the people we have come to know, a

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