Since my retirement as chair of the Israel Reform Movement I, together with co-chair and partner Joan Garson, lead the International Advisory Council of the Movement. Together we continue our long-term commitment to bond the Reform Movement worldwide and the Israel Reform Movement into a meaningful bidirectional relationship. A relationship that both sides contribute and benefit. We do so because it is crystal clear to us that the growth of the Israel Reform Movement and the acceptance of its core values as meaningful to Israeli Judaism, must become an anchor of strength to Judaism to flourish outside of the country.
Most Jews living outside of Israel are not Orthodox or Ultra-orthodox, it is, sadly admittedly, not Reform or Conservative. In most cases Jews disconnect from their heritage in favor of assimilation within the societies they live in, without maintaining that which is unique to them. On the other hand, the Reform Movement is the largest established religious Jewish organization in the world. It does so without the government of Israel having to pour at it billions upon billions of new Israeli sheqels so that it can keep hold of the political clamp of orthodoxy upon the Jews living in the State of Israel.
Mr. John Roth, a member of our International Advisory Committee, called our attention to a response by Rabbi Chaim Ingram published in the Australian Jewish News. Among others he refers to the Israel Reform Movement as if it is an attempt “to graft Diaspora Reform upon the State of Israel” and further making the obnoxious statement that it is “a bit like giving the wrong blood type to a patient.” Utter nonsense, despicable and shameful. Only he who is not integrated into what happens in Israel can come up with such false and atrocious opinions. Have the various Hasidic dynasties of the likes of Sanz, Gur, Belz or Slonim evolved in Eretz Israel or are they transplants brought as is from deep in the diaspora?! Not that I wish to argue against this, it is their right in a democratic country to do so. However, Rabbi Ingram is quick to dismiss my right, an Israeli who was born and raised in Israel, from rights given to any Jew but for the Jews living in Israel. He does not seem to know the Israel Reform Movement, its creativity, its vitality nor does he seem to know its people. He argues that the person, whose letter he responds to, simply wishes to “strip the Orthodox rabbinate in Israel of the right to be Orthodox.” Reality is actually the complete opposite – the Orthodox rabbinate is attempting to force its ultra-orthodoxy onto us all. Doing so it inflicts damage on all of us, and in particular on Orthodox Judaism itself.
At the end of this week’s Haftarah we read the words of the prophet Isiah, “Listen to me, you who pursue righteousness, Who seek the Lord: Look to the rock from which you were hewn And to the quarry from which you were dug. Look to Abraham your father And to Sarah who gave birth to you in pain; When he was but one I called him,
Then I blessed him and multiplied him. Indeed, the Lord will comfort Zion; He will comfort all her waste places. And her wilderness He will make like Eden, And her desert like the garden of the Lord; Joy and gladness will be found in her, Thanksgiving and sound of a melody.” It is difficult to say that Rabbi Ingram pursues righteousness if these are his published thoughts. Those who pursue justice see everyone, understands that all have a right to sit at the table, and certainly there is no right to dismiss the rights of one in favor of another. When he cries out loud for the rights of the Orthodox rabbinate he conveniently forgets the rights of the Conservative and Reform rabbis. He who is unable to see everyone equally, I beg to say, is not one who seriously pursues justice.
In this week’s portion of the Torah, “Ekev”, we recite, “It shall come about, if you listen obediently to my commandments which I am commanding you today, to love the Lord your God and to serve Him with all your heart and all your soul, that He will give the rain for your land in its season, the early and late rain, that you may gather in your grain and your new wine and your oil. He will give grass in your fields for your cattle, and you will eat and be satisfied.” We can choose between right and wrong, between that which is proper and that which is improper, the duty to decide to purse justice and avoid conflict and strife. It is sad to observe that this rabbi thinks that he can make the argument “that which is mine is mine” as well as “that which is yours is also mine”, making the assumption that issues of Judaism are within him to distribute at will. Judaism is given to righteous people so that they can share it with others who can enjoy its brilliance, that which it teaches us, and the way it is implements in our daily lives. This can be done without forcing the other to believe in only a certain way, how marriage will take place, how to be buried and the food to be consumed.
The prophet Isiah says that so well, and so relevant to this topic. “The Lord God has given Me the tongue of disciples, That I may know how to sustain the weary one with a word. He awakens Me morning by morning, He awakens My ear to listen as a disciple. The Lord God has opened My ear; And I was not disobedient
Nor did I turn back. I gave My back to those who strike Me, And My cheeks to those who pluck out the beard; I did not cover My face from humiliation and spitting. For the Lord God helps Me, Therefore, I am not disgraced; Therefore, I have set My face like flint, And I know that I will not be ashamed. He who vindicates Me is near; Who will contend with Me? Let us stand up to each other; Who has a case against Me? Let him draw near to Me. Behold, the Lord God helps Me; Who is he who condemns Me?
Behold, they will all wear out like a garment; The moth will eat them.” Thanks again to our friend John who also was sure to send a response to the editor so as to explain things as they really are.
Shabbat Shalom and wishes for good health to all.
Reuven Marko, 7 August 2020, 18 Av, 5780