Machlokes / Controversy

Jewish World Review Sept. 10, 2001 / 21 Elul, 5761

With Jewry in crisis, Reform are still pushing disunity agenda. WHY!?

By Mandell I. Ganchrow -- THIS week saw the opening of registration for the World Zionist Congress elections. As mortars fell in Gilo, it seemed surreal to serve as the chairman of the Orthodox effort for this election. On the very day that I received calls from the Jewish Community Relation Council and the President's Conference on the need for unity, strength, diligence and an all-out effort for our September 23 solidarity rally for Israel, I also received a fax from Artza, the World Union of Reform Judaism.

The Reform leaflet starts starts off with: "Ultra-Orthodox politicians are threatening Jewish unity and the Jewish community." Let us look at this headline and other charges that the Reform movement makes in this document.

Firstly, it creates a straw man - someone you always love to hate, namely "the ultra-Orthodox."

We ask the question: Are there any ultra-Orthodox slates running in this election? Do the "ultra-Orthodox" belong to the Zionist Congress? Or, in fact, is "ultra-Orthodox" code for all Orthodox parties, Modern, Left, and Center?

Secondly, if there is such an entity as "ultra-Orthodox," then there must be a group of "ultra-liberal" Jews. Does this refer to those clergy who marry gentiles, who do not observe the Sabbath, who recognize patrilineal descent and perform same-sex marriages? Are these members of the "Jewish" clergy, who divorce themselves from Torah and tradition?

Isn't it time to declare "ultra-Orthodox," a pejorative term and discard it from our vocabulary?

"Reform marriages, conversions and burials are not yet recognized," the leaflet declares. Does the Zionist Congress decide these issues? Wouldn't the proper forum for the solution of the Reform Movement's problems to be to take 100,000 American Reform Jews, convince them to migrate to Israel and then run Reform candidates for the Knesset, where these decisions are made?

"Registering and voting in this election will give you a voice in critical decisions to finding 'who is a Jew' and not leave the decisions to ultra-Orthodox politicians," the leaflet continues. Again, these decisions are in the hands of the Supreme Court of the State of Israel and the Knesset. The declarations on these issues from the World Zionist Congress are mere words.

"Ultra-Orthodox politicians call our rabbis 'clowns,'" it cries.

In these elections, which member of any slate running against Reform is guilty of such a crime? Who are these so-called politicians? In fact, this is another example of subjecting the reader to inflammatory and biased suggestions in the hope that they will get angry, rather than understand the issues and the need to vote as good Jews. It is a campaign of hate - hate against all Orthodox Jews.

"A Reform Jewish kindergarten was firebombed."

Who did it? Isn't the intention of this headline for readers to assume that it was the same people who labeled their rabbis "clowns," those "ultra-Orthodox politicians," who threaten Jewish unity by burning reform institutions?

These innuendoes are meant to inflame and incite. Why is it that we hear nothing regarding Orthodox schools and synagogues in Israel which are damaged by vandals, such as in Efrat? If they are not suggesting a culprit, why raise the issue?

"The future of our Movement remains in doubt."

It is clear that voting for the Reform slate for the Zionist Congress will not change the status of the Reform Movement in Israel. The Reform Movement's problem is that the Israeli people are not ready to adapt to a religion that is so radically different from the Judaism of our Torah and of their parents. They understand that, whereas Reform Jewry in Israel does not practice patrilineal descent, or approve of same-sex marriages, the American movement does. When the Israeli movement has gained some credibility they, too, will adopt these changes. It is no wonder that there is only an infinitesimal number of Israelis who have become Reform Jews.

How sad that the Reform movement was the only movement to cancel its Israel programs this summer. This week, thousands of young Orthodox students arrived here to spend at least a year of study. The contrast speaks for itself.

If I had my way, I would forget these whole elections. As long as Jews are dying on the road to Modi'in and in Hebron, and it is unsafe to sit in a pizza restaurant in Jerusalem, it is not the time to be spending millions of dollars on a divisive campaign in America. But if we are going to have an election, let's stop the character assassination.

There is only one line in the Reform Movement's message that should be taken note of... "we can instill tolerance."

Reform should practice what it preaches.

Mandell I. Ganchrow is the executive vice president of the Religious Zionists of America. To comment click here.


© 2001 Mandell I. Ganchrow