What a shame and disgrace! As if Israel didn’t already have enough problems and challenges. Israeli Tourism Minister Yariv Levin recently stated that “Reform Jews in the United States are a dying world.”
While calling for an apology to the millions of Reform Jews in this country, David Harris (the Executive Director of the American Jewish Committee, and a member of our congregation) stated that “a robust, engaged American Jewish community requires the individual freedom to express what it means to be a Jew….Comments dismissive of Jews affirming their deeply-held connection to our heritage can only risk driving people away from the collective Jewish world–and that would be nothing short of tragic.”
Who are we Reform Jews? As the largest Jewish movement in the United States, we are diverse in our backgrounds and our personal interpretations of how we live as Jews. And still we face the same question as did the early Reformers of the 19th century: “How can we avail ourselves of the modern world and at the same time affirm and live the highest values and ideals that are at the heart of Judaism?
No, we are not some “minimalist” Jewish movement that is destined to fade away. And many of us are no less committed to Judaism and Jewish well-being than are the most “pious looking” Jews who claim that only they represent Jewish authenticity. To the contrary, from its inception and until today, Reform Judaism seeks to uplift our souls, even as we take upon ourselves the challenge of translating Torah into acts of loving-kindness and the pursuit of justice; Tikun Olam (fixing the brokenness of our world), and reverence for life and for the One who makes life possible.
Rather than secluding ourselves from the world, we believe that we must be an influence in the world for that which is good and just, even as we affirm the ideal of individual autonomy when it comes to ritual life. And in whatever way as we define it, we Reform Jews know that we have a great stake in Israel’s creativity and security, and that of all Jews throughout the world.
From a “mixed multitude” that came out of enslavement in Egypt, we grew into a people who faced repeated challenges, but who never gave up on the ideal of serving God through actions that make our world more humane. Still a “mixed multitude”, we share the same Sabbaths and holidays with other Jews, and we read from the same Torah as we seek to make its lessons relevant to our lives and our world.
We Reform Jews, if anything, represent the future of Jewish life. A future rooted in our past, but ever-changing with each generation. As it is written in the Torah: “for all the people are holy.”