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Can Reform Judaism Get Its Mojo Back?

Reform Judaism is the largest movement in American Jewry.  The Union for Reform Judaism represents 900 congregations with 1.5 million members.  It recently chose a dynamic new president, Richard Jacobs.  True, Rabbi Jacobs’ election caused an uproar: he drew criticism from the right for his support of J Street and the New Israel Fund and charges from the left that the people he brought to URJ did not include enough women.  Still, the fact that a URJ leadership change could stir such controversy is a sign that people care about the movement’s future. 

Relevant Links
Reforming Reform  Evan Moffic, Forward. What values do the leaders of Reform Judaism mean to highlight as the movement enters a new era?
J Street and Main  Carol Greenwald, JTA. In appointing a member of J Street’s rabbinic cabinet to head the Reform movement, the largest branch of American Judaism has moved away from its recent record of support for Israel.
Reform Has Mandate to Change  Rick Jacobs, Presidential Installation Sermon, Union for Reform Judaism. “Come survive with us” is hardly an inspiring call to Jewish commitment. We can do better.
We Failed Zuckerberg  Dana Evan Kaplan, Forward. A Reform rabbi argues that his movement’s pluralistic theology is to blame for the detachment of young Jews from their faith.

But the Reform movement faces problems far deeper than the distractions of political correctness and ideological minefields.  The recent UJA-Federation study of the New York area’s Jewish population provides a sense of where those problems lie.  The number of Reform Jews in New York has declined both in absolute numbers and as a percentage of the Jewish community.  A startling 74 percent of Jewish children in New York can be identified as Orthodox.  True, New York’s Jewish community has certain unique characteristics; but New York’s trends are apparent in other population centers as well, especially the decline in synagogue affiliation and the growing numbers of interfaith families. 

The American Jewish community as a whole cannot survive if there is no non-Orthodox movement to which American Jews can belong; in other words, survival depends on a strong Reform movement.  But in light of current trends, is that possible?  Some have already answered in the negative.  In 2009, Rabbi Norman Lamm, Chancellor of Yeshiva University, declared, "We will soon say kaddish on the Reform and Conservative movements."  Even within the Reform movement, Rabbi Dana Evan Kaplan recently wrote that without a serious revision in basic structure and heightened expectations of Jewish living, Reform Judaism is doomed. 

I am not so pessimistic.  But, if the survival of a strong Reform movement is indeed possible, what will it require?  Is current leadership up to the task? 

The first indicator of the movement’s problem—the decline in synagogue affiliation—is not hard to understand.  Increasingly, American Jews simply choose not to join synagogues.  People see synagogues as too expensive, boring, or irrelevant.  This trend is most pronounced in precisely those parts of our country, like the West and Southwest, where the Jewish population is growing most rapidly.  The recent economic downturn has merely accelerated an already-existing trend. 

Thus, if Reform Judaism is to survive, the primary task of its leaders is to focus steadily on promoting synagogue affiliation.  Synagogue membership is the citizenship card of Jewish life.  It provides the resources needed to create places in which the growing intermarried population can raise Jewish children and Jewish learning can be transmitted to the vast majority of Jewish children, those who do not attend Jewish day schools.  Synagogue membership provides funding for the URJ and social capital for other Jewish organizations. 

This task does not require us to “reimagine” synagogues or transform the ways in which they are funded; the challenge must be not redefined but met.  Reform synagogues simply need to do what synagogues have done for the last 2500 years: serve as centers of Jewish living and community.  And Reform synagogues, in particular, must maintain an open door for anyone who wishes to walk through it. 

But if that is the central task, is Reform leadership up to it?  The movement needs high-quality clergy, of course; it also needs committed lay leadership. 

The Reform movement was built on the basis of lay-rabbinic partnerships.  We need to attract strong dynamic lay leaders who see and feel that the future of the Jewish people depends on them.  Too often we reward people simply for showing up.  We need to find ways to draw serious people to address the serious challenges of Jewish life. 

The kind of organizational dysfunction we too often see does not have to be accepted; it does not exist everywhere in Jewish life.  The community Federation in my hometown of Chicago (Jewish United Fund of Chicago is the technical title), for example, while it employs skilled and forceful professionals, also engages lay leaders.  More than financial resources, board membership demands a serious commitment of time.  In spite of these demands, or because of them, individuals actually compete to be on the board.  

When lay leaders see that their communities’ future rests in their hands and not just those of professionals, they become energized and active.  Some rabbis seem to fear that engaged lay leadership will weaken the authority of the professionals who run communal organizations, but it is more likely that skilled lay leaders will recognize and respect the professionals’ skills.  True, respect will not always mean acquiescence; but the disagreements that arise are more likely to be serious and constructive. 

Moreover, if lay leadership is stronger, rabbis will be freed to do what they are most qualified to do: articulating a compelling case for Jewish meaning in 21st-century America.  Despite American Jews’ extensive achievements in secular learning, they have produced no significant Jewish theology since Mordecai Kaplan’s 1935 Judaism as a Civilization.  Judaism needs a view of God incorporating advances in neuroscience, an understanding of Jewish identity that includes the many interfaith families who raise Jewish children while incorporating references to other faiths, and an understanding of Zionism that goes beyond boiler-plate affirmation.  This enterprise will strike some as syncretism, capitulation, or assimilation.  Yet, if the Reform movement does not address these matters, who will?   The job is fully large enough to occupy the time and energies of the Reform rabbinate; strong lay leadership will give Reform rabbis a better chance to succeed at it.           

In 1969 Rabbi Richard Levy, later to become president of the Central Conference of American Rabbis, wrote that the American Reform synagogue has “defaulted” on all three of its traditional functions: building community, nurturing study, and engaging in meaningful worship.  Since he wrote, the default has only deepened.  If it is not addressed now, there may be no future opportunity for repair. 

Rabbi Evan Moffic is the spiritual leader of Reform Congregation Solel in Highland Park, Illinois. He writes frequently on Jewish thought and American Jewish life. Thousands read his blog at 

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TheBigJ on November 9, 2012 at 4:03 am (Reply)
The problem with Reform Judaism is that it lacks a coherent philosophy and set of standards, which is why it has become so sterile and also why it is declining. Reform Judaism in America has largely rejected the original founding principles of the Reform movement as founded in Germany and it has also repudiated the Pittsburgh Platform.

The best thing for Reform Judaism would be to dissolve itself into the worldwide Progressive movement, which is basically a Reform-Reconstructionist synthesis with a strong dose of tradition from the Masorti movement. Progressive Judaism is doing quite well in a number of countries in Europe, Latin America, and the FSU, because it has become a lifeline to Judaism for many Jews who seek a Judaism that maintains a fine balance between tradition and modernity.

Also, Progressive Judaism needs to place emphasis on religious observance, traditional textual learning, meditation, and seeking converts.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 9, 2012 at 3:52 pm (Reply)
    interesting proposal. I wouldn't call reform synagogues sterile. sometimes it strikes me as too entertainment-focused. Engaging and serious are what I would say we need.
      טוביה on February 20, 2013 at 2:43 pm (Reply)
      Rabbi, non-Orthodox leaders need to teach people the tradition and challenge the notion that traditional observance is for the Orthodox and that liberal Judaism is all about personal choice.. How many people lay tefillin in a Reform shul? I bet not many. Why is that? Because they are don't know it well enough to realize that it is a beautiful mitzvah.
    Cortland Richmond on November 20, 2012 at 9:06 am (Reply)

    We are those whom the Enlightenment freed from what we then saw as sterile and confining traditions. How are we to define and distinguish ourselves before others without them?

    The Shema and Science both tell us the laws of Physics are the same for everyone, everywhere.   Do we need superstition to lend meaning to that sublime statement?  Awe, we have.  "When I behold the glory of Thy works..."   resonates no less for the secularist that the orthodox, and perhaps across a broader range; there are no limits on scrolls written on the world. Or, moment by moment, on our selves.

    Might we expand our presentation?  

    Study tells us from whence we came and who we were.   Do we have any plan for where we shall go, and who we will become? The place we shall be shown??

    Would it help? What place are we being shown?
Yankel on November 9, 2012 at 6:29 am (Reply)
Te issue is not about organizational strategies it's theology. When you tell a young person "Judaism is about culture, ideals etc but is not a Divine Mandate" then he says to himself why not look elsewhere for other "humann ideas" that might give value to my life.

Secondly Reform is an American movement. It's very weak in other countries. Jews in Australia, Europe, and Israel, while not fully observant attend orthodox synagogues. In fact in most countries, in particular israel the level of observance (see the Guttman Study) is higher where Reform is weak. The city with the highest intermarriage rate in the US is San Francisco, which is the city where Reform is strongest and Orthodox the weakest.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 9, 2012 at 3:54 pm (Reply)
    I think most American Jews, whether Orthodox or Reform, see Jewish practices following out of cultural as well as religious norms. Mordecai Kaplan remains a source of profound insight into American Jewish behavior. As far as Reform around the world, most Jews do not see Jewish law as binding. The most recent studies say at least 80%. Orthodoxy is a small but vocal minority.
      Andrew on May 6, 2013 at 11:14 pm (Reply)
      I grew up Reform. I had 10+ years of Sunday school and a Reform bar mitzvah. They did not teach me anything about religion. I learned Jewish art, Jewish recipes. I learned a bit of modern Israeli Hebrew. ("Yaakov has a new pencil and a notebook.") No religious doctrine. Nothing about Jewish faith or practice or ritual or belief. A little bit of dancing. It was a religion gutted of all religion. Now I'm Orthodox. I have four boys who go to an Orthodox day school. I'm happy and fulfilled.

      My parents' many friends have produced only two other grandchildren that are not the product of intermarriage. Reform cannot survive without a soul.
Ken Besig on November 9, 2012 at 6:55 am (Reply)
Will the sect calling itself Reform Judaism survive after having jettisoned the Torah, all of it's Jewish identity, beliefs, rituals, and any positive connections to the Jewish State of Israel?
What a silly question, why of course not!
eugene trainin on November 9, 2012 at 7:02 am (Reply)
Although Rabbi Moffic makes some valid observations, I think that he is missing the essential point. I fully agree that there needs to be an alternative for those Jews who cannot be orthodox, but the reform movement is not meeting that need for a simple, well-observed reason: most reform Jews lack the knowledge and
passion to pass on to their children why the latter should care about being Jewish. There are too many intermarriages as well and it is well known that most of the children of these marriages do not bring up their children as Jews. To me the whole matter is rather hopeless.

Eugene Trainin, M.D.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 9, 2012 at 3:56 pm (Reply)
    You're right to talk about a passion for Jewish life and commitment to pass on that passion to their children. I see intermarriage as an opportunity not a threat. It's an opportunity to show how meaningful Jewish life can be.
      Andrew on May 6, 2013 at 11:17 pm (Reply)
      In theory intermarriage is an opportunity. In practice, it almost always means dropping out. If Reform Jewish life was so meaningful, there wouldn't 50% intermarriage.
E Pluribus Beagle on November 9, 2012 at 7:09 am (Reply)
Once you eliminate God and Judaism and Jewish education there's very little left to adhere to at all. Reform is the 'biggest' because it's not really a faith. It's as nuanced as claiming you're an activist because you shop at Whole Foods. Reform is the Livestrong wristband and the Remembrance Poppy of religions. Which is fine as far as it goes but that's what it is. Most Reform members are atheists with little to zero actual Jewish education or knowledge who view their congregation as a liberal branding to signify to themselves and to each other how concerned they are with the plight of the world's miserables including Hamas, the PLO and the every popular animated corpse of Western Liberal Communism. Yes yes they consider deeply whether the search committee for the next Rabbi should look for a lesbian or a former Peace Corps worker or an anarchist who helped the Gaza Flotillas and such. They run charity drives for Darfur. They go to Buddhist retreats and follow every -ism except Judaism. Which is fine. But it's not the foundation of a faith or an organized religion. If all one need do to belong is nothing then it's just as easy to leave. You come you go, you drop in for a speaker who comes to tell you about their latest jaunt to the Jewish communities of Greece and such. You listen with rapt attention to the political exhortations of whomever from the DNC is tabbed for your shul this month. You write your membership checks and you hope to God who does not exist that your child doesn't mess up the 3 lines of Torah they have to do for their Bnai Mitzvah.
Phil Cohen on November 9, 2012 at 7:59 am (Reply)
The problem it seems to me is even deeper. In my experience Reform laity have significantly lost connection to the Jewish tradition. They eschew learning Hebrew, even learning to read Hebrew. They don't read. They don't travel to Israel. The movement, both lay and professional cannot pose an intelligent, spiritual vision that compels. And the rabbinate, not entirely, but widely, stays away from philosophy, that discipline that provokes both questions and, ultimately, supplies vision in droves. I am often shocked at what Reform rabbis don't know about the tradition. (Many of them, too, avoid text study in the original language.)

However, my knowledge of the sociology of the Jewish community in America tells me that, at least since 2000 when we have the last reliable data nationally, the Reform movement is in growth mode. This is so, I think, because it provides an easy space to exercise some degree of Jewishness, without expecting much or making significant demands. I am not worried about Reform's presence in NYC due to that survey. There, of course, the surprising statistic are the numbers and the dismal economic status of the Orthodox community. The survey does not include the suburbs, so to claim that there is a decline in Reform is uncertain as we lack those numbers.

Thus, my concern for Reform, numbers or no, is what I perceive to be an increasing lack of substance, symbolized, by the way, by the 2000 Pittsburgh Platform, the first of these (dating back to 1885) lacking any philosophical/theological vision.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 9, 2012 at 4:01 pm (Reply)
    Phil, I would say the Pittsburgh Platform of 1885, and even the Columbus platform of 1937, had very clear and coherent philosophies. Those philosophies simply do not speak to a large group of American Jews now. We need a synthesis of Kaplan, Borowitz, neuroscience combined with making sense of the immense diversity in the Jewish community today.
Rob Schwartzman on November 9, 2012 at 9:07 am (Reply)
"The American Jewish community as a whole cannot survive if there is no non-Orthodox movement to which American Jews can belong". What a fallacy. Nothing prevents non-Orthodox Jews from attending or joining synagogues in the Orthodox world. Many Orthodox synagogues have less observant members who drive to services on Saturday and park on the street. How else would they get the inspiration to learn and do more in Judaism? They sure aren't getting it from Reform temples.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 9, 2012 at 4:04 pm (Reply)
    The vast majority of Jews are non-Orthodox. Without non-Orthodox Judaism, there would be no Israel, no vast structure of organized Jewish life. Reform can learn a great deal from the Orthodox, as they can from Reform.
      Ben on November 12, 2012 at 9:11 am (Reply)
      The vast Majority of Jews in the world are "Orthodox". Most Israelis, even the secular, are by US definitions, Orthodox as when they practice Judaism they do it the Orthodox way and go to an Orthodox synagogue. Same elsewhere.
      In fact, what you call "Orthodox" is just called "Judaism" everywhere but in the USA.
        TheBigJ on November 12, 2012 at 10:29 am (Reply)
        "The vast Majority of Jews in the world are "Orthodox". Most Israelis, even the secular, are by US definitions, Orthodox as when they practice Judaism they do it the Orthodox way and go to an Orthodox synagogue. Same elsewhere.
        In fact, what you call "Orthodox" is just called "Judaism" everywhere but in the USA."

        This probably would have been an accurate statement if made in 1990, but things have changed since then.
        In Israel, the Progressive and Masorti movements, while still tiny, have the sympathy of the overwhelming majority of secular Israelis, who desire to see these movements, along with the Karaites and Ethiopian kessim, gain full equality with Orthodoxy in law. Also, there is a secular spiritual movement in Israel that has emerged in the past two decades as a powerful alternative to Orthodoxy. I have no doubt that future generations of secular Israelis will gravitate toward it for their Judaism and spiritual needs, not toward the Orthodox.

        In Latin America, Masorti is extremely strong, due to the presence of the Seminario Rabbinico there. Orthodoxy may have the majority, but it's a bland Orthodoxy that doesn't have the same attraction or devotion that the Masorti have engendered in their communities. In the last decade, Progressive Judaism has grown in leaps and bounds in Latin America. Already, the largest shul in Sao Paulo is a Progressive one (I think it also has a Masorti minyan.).

        Progressive Judaism is holding its own in Europe and is growing in the former Soviert Union, where it has contributed mightily along with the Orthodox, to the revival of Judaism there. Masorti is the fastest growing movement in Britain, having tripled in size since the early 90s, and is making inroads in continental Europe as well.

        There are strong, active Progressive and Masorti communities in Australia, New Zealand, and various Far Eastern communities. People who live there tell me that the rabbis of those communities are particularly dynamic. In South Africa, after a period of decline, Progressive Judaism is making a modest comeback.

        And in Canada, Conservative Judaism now outstrips Orthodoxy in membership, and has recently created a new rabbinic seminary there, in tandem with liberal elements within Orthodoxy.
          Ben on November 14, 2012 at 2:02 am
          "This probably would have been an accurate statement if made in 1990, but things have changed since then."

          I see the opposite. Liberal Judaism may be growing in some tiny Jewish communities, but it is not growing in Israel. It was nothing in 1990 and it's still nothing today. Most seculars don't like or even care about them (I know, I live in Tel Aviv), some just "use" them to enrage the Rabanut, not because they identify with Reform. The membership is still very low and mostly made of US immigrants.
          The trends in Israel, as you know, are Jews becoming more religious, not less. And in the USA Reform is also shrinking very fast.
Muti on November 9, 2012 at 9:10 am (Reply)
The reform and conservative movements are responsible for the mass intermarriage here in america and they will never be able to stem the tide of assimilation without genuine adherence to the Torah like the orthodox Jewish community.
Ellen on November 9, 2012 at 9:15 am (Reply)
The numbers referenced in this article are 20-30 years out of date except the 74% of Jewish children in NY being raised Orthodox. This is important because the Reform movement is playing the same dirty little propaganda game that the Conservative movement played for decades, until it declined so far that even disinformation couldn't obscure the trend. The 1.5 million statistic is an old statistic that is no longer valid, includes nonJews and glides over the well-known fact that most Reform members exist on paper only, and never show up to the synagogue, except at best 2 times per year on the High Holidays.

The Conservative Movement claimed it had 2 million members long after it went into its probably terminal decline. But the decay was visible and the apparent dishonesty of the movement about its own lack of vitality only made its youth more inclined to leave it.

The Orthodox pursued the opposite strategy and are now reaping the benefits. They never claimed in the 50'-70's to be a large mass movement. Rather, they claimed to be a small movement of committed people, with a devotion to large families, that would eventually grow and attract an influx of new people through the quality of its religious and communal life, not the quantity of years ago.
In fact, that is exactly what has happened over the last 40 years. This should be a lesson to liberal Jews. You shouldn't be focused on paper membership, but rather on quality membership. Quality begets quantity.

Furthermore, the conclusion of the author that a Jewish community with no or little nonOrthodox community would be unviable is groundless. For most of Jewish history in almost all places where Jews lived, there was nothing but an established Orthodox community. Lapsed Jews typically left the community, intermarried and converted. Why should contemporary America be any different?
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 9, 2012 at 4:06 pm (Reply)
    As noted above, the vast majority of Jews in the world are not Orthodox. Without non-Orthodox movements, the Jewish people would be miniscule, divided, and much less connected to the larger world.
Tom Solomon on November 9, 2012 at 9:39 am (Reply)
I find it shocking that a Jewish leader would support J Street and the New Israel Fund. These groups, among other things, have a tenuous association with Jewish life and observance.
Secondly, regarding intermarriage, the Reform has been accepting interfaith relationships and marriages for long enough to realize that this pursuit is largely a dead end, as evidenced by their falling membership levels. It is clear that Jews who intermarry do so because their Jewish indentity is not sufficiently strong to intra marry. As the 2011 Jewish community study shows, their synagogue membership rates are among the lowest, as is their participation in Jewish life. Maybe it's time to raise the bar, instead of constantly lowering it.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 9, 2012 at 4:07 pm (Reply)
    People have been pursuing Reform leads to a dead end for 200 years. We manage to emerge stronger and reinvent ourselves all the time. The future will not be different.
ARTH on November 9, 2012 at 9:55 am (Reply)
The issue has always been if the Jews have their own culture which distinguishes themselves from the other people in their ambient environment. Reform Judaism has always failed to play that role. Rather it serves as a kind of Jewish church which is a halfway house institution between a distinct Jewish identity based on watered down Jewish rituals, and complete integration into American society.
Most members of Reform synagogues do not take the Reform seriously and are usually not even aware of its professed ideas and ideals. It is merely a place where some sort of simple religious rituals can be conducted in a bourgeoise social framework. Nothing more and potentially less than that.
People who grown up in such a religious framework soon turn their backs on it and as far as they are concerned, it is empty and contentless. Jews are very sensitive to that.
Phil Cohen on November 9, 2012 at 10:41 am (Reply)
On the other hand...

Having read the other comments in this section, I have to say that I see stereotypes, prejudices and misunderstanding of Reform. From its inception until recently the Reform movement has always stood for principles and made significant contributions to the Jewish world. I suggest any skeptical reader have a look at the 1976 Centenary Perspective in which the elan of Reform is briefly but effectively parsed.

Issues of culture, intermarriage, education, practice, and so many other topics are enormously serious to be sure, and Reform, as I have said in my earlier comment, has its share in these issues. But Jewish ignorance abounds and not just among Reform laity and even clergy. Low affiliation rates are not to be blamed on the failure of the synagogue to attract as much as on the pull of American secular culture.

American Judaism and Jewry face a raft of serious challenges. But it strikes me as seriously unfair to lay the blame exclusively on Reform when so many other forces press hard upon American Jews.
Pj Suttle on November 9, 2012 at 11:33 am (Reply)
Wow, that's a lot of hate coming from folks. Here's a thought, instead of having families or single persons pay a membership fee (which many cannot afford in todays economy) why not allow people to tithe to their shul as the Christians do for their churches/houses of worship? Synagogue fees are almost if not as expensive as a country club membership.

In addition, Rabbis Barr & Baum from Ohio have been doing online services for Shabbat and all the High Holy Days. You don't have to be a member to participate in the live services or to watch the services stream online. and then there's the Central Synagogue in NYC which is just beginning to reach out to folks not necessarily in NYC. The differences between both temples is evident but there are similarities.

In closing, to say the Reform movement is headed for kaddish is both saddening and epitomizes the blatant separatism amongst the different sects of Judaism. It's the AFTERWIT of ZEMBLANITY! I love that I am Jewish. I love that I am an American. And I love my blended families regardless if they're Jewish, Christian or whatever.

    S W on November 9, 2012 at 2:10 pm (Reply)
    My English vocabulary is now gifted with some new words, i.e. "zemblanity" and "afterwit." I am unsure whether the new vocabulary helps.

    "Wow, that's a lot of hate coming from folks." In a world wherein politics often trumps religion and the first words of Bereishit are so easily dismissed or rejected by those espousing atheism and secular humanism as fine equivalents to scriptural texts, it seems that having a second and perhaps negative view of Reform Judaisma and especially that reform which so easily wants to dismiss Torah as foundational is now the new definition of hatred. If the quote I cite is examined in terms of a simple English dictionary definition, then hatred is most properly defined as "intense hostility and aversion usually deriving from fear, anger, or sense of injury." [ Merriam-Webster ] Those who do not either 1) espouse and validate the American Reform movement and do not fear its shrinkage, and 2) espouse some other view and practice of Judaism therefore cannot "hate" per the terms of the article and comments. Why? They do not fear or exhibit a sense of injury from the demographic shrinkage of Reform Judaism in its several modes. Rather they do not fear for their own non-Reform views, though this now this seems defined as hatred. Silly. It is the Reform movement which evidences fear now. To paper this over with claims of "hatred" assessed against the Orthodox and most of worldwide Jewry is fallacious at best, inexact in word meanings, and itself a form of "hatred" per literal definitions directed outward from the Reform to those who would not uphold Reform Judaism.

    If Reform Judaism has within its theological and organizational abilities the possiblity to turn around its own demographic decline, then accusing other Jews of hatred is a limp attempt to avoid the basic premise. Simply observing decline and speculating on its reasons are not evidence of hatred. One who accuses others of hatred oddly signs off with "peace." A contradiction in terms, it seems. "Blended" perhaps but a contradiction nonethelesss.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 11, 2012 at 4:07 pm (Reply)
    Thanks for the comment. I don't believe it's time to say kaddish at all. Streaming services is an example of ways of innovating that keep Judaism alive. To me it supplements but does not replace physical worship, but it is a way of opening a new door.
Susan Barnes on November 9, 2012 at 12:04 pm (Reply)
Wow, a lot of the commenters here clearly have no idea what Reform Judaism is all about. We did not jettison the Torah, we don't think it's all about culture, etc. These folks would get a real eye-opener if they spent some time in a local Reform congregation.

The numbers the author uses are based on the percentage of Reform Jewish kids in New York. That doesn't mean Reform Judaism is on the decline. It means he Orthodox, on average, have many more kids than the Reform. So, even with Reform staying the same in terms of numbers of people, the percentage would continue to drop. That doesn't mean there is anything wrong with Reform.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 11, 2012 at 4:08 pm (Reply)
    Very good point. Reform, however, has been losing members. Just look at the synagogue affiliations numbers.
Jill Max on November 9, 2012 at 12:46 pm (Reply)
A rabbi who provides a shining example of the what the Reform movement can and should be, take a look at what Rabbi Andy Bachman at Congregation Beth Elohim does in Brooklyn on a daily basis--particularly in the days since Sandy struck NY and NJ.
If he doesn't inspire you to do better, no one will.
And no...he's not even my Rabbi, but I wish he was!
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 11, 2012 at 4:09 pm (Reply)
    Andy is a great rabbi whom I deeply respect.
Sammy Shmeckel on November 9, 2012 at 12:53 pm (Reply)
Reform JZudaism has no set of beliefs and has seperated itself from the authentic Judaism. They seem to go back and forth, originally designating Sunday as the sabbath and taking a stand against the establishment of a Jewish state. Now they have again reinvented reform Judaism adding more ritual and Hebrew prayer moving closer to the conservative movement which is in decline.

Their embrace of intermarriage and patralinial descent has reduced the percentage of Jewish members of their congregation to less than half. When the father of the bar mitzvah boy is called up as Christopher jr ben Christopher the state of reform Judaism is clear. Of the founders of Temple Emanuel in NY, there are no Jewish descendants.

Why bother with a faith where one needs no faith?
Ellen on November 9, 2012 at 2:21 pm (Reply)
PJ, It's not hate, but rather a reasonable response to the travesty of Reform Judaism that masquerades around our media as the "largest Jewish movement." If you want to see real hate, try listening to the tirades of Reform and Conservative rabbis over the years against the primitive, backward looking, ossified, out-of-step with the modern world Orthodox.

These types of tirades have served for decades as a substitute for saying something positive about their own movements, because there was little positive to say. I recently heard a Conservative rabbi give a nice dvar Torah one Shabbat in which he attacked the intellectual decrepitude of leftist professors who tell their students that all the answers to the deepest philosophical questions can be found from the scientific method. This is manifestly false, as Stephen Jay Gould has eloquently written about, although being an agnostic himself. Why haven't more liberal rabbis addressed this issue - the void at the heart of contemporary secularism that drives so many secular Jews into the waiting arms of Orthodox outreach yeshivas and Chabad centers?

They refuse to address this issue because they find the whole subject of faith embarassing to talk about with their highly assimilated audiences. This particular rabbi, after giving such an illuminating talk about the intellectual deficits in our academic elites, then concluded his sermon with a tirade about Orthodox extremists. How sad that even he couldn't resist that pitiful temptation.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 9, 2012 at 4:11 pm (Reply)
    I agree that tirades against other movements make no sense and hurt the Jewish people. Many rabbis and others have addressed what secularism lacks, though you can find a lack of intellectual depth among any particular group of any denomination.
TLF BIY on November 9, 2012 at 2:24 pm (Reply)
I have a view which will likely not be well-received, but here goes:

There is a bare minimum level of regular observance which is required in order for people to self-identify as Jews:

1) Kashrut. The daily Jewish practice reminding oneself of one's Judaism; and
2) Shabbat observance and Saturday shul attendance. Shabbat observance means time with family and friends NOT DOING the things one does during the week. The more 'Shomer Shabbat' the better. So not traveling, driving, handling money, computers, lights, cooking, etc. but rather talking, eating, picnicking after shul, reading.

Orthodox Jews will list other things such as sexual purity, but to me these are the two essentials.

Those who think they can pass on Jewishness thru bagel, yiddish words, holiday seders are fooling themselves. You can't have it both ways....that was the bargain our grandparents thought they could have...but they could not.

to the eternal question of "Who is a Jew" I've always preferred the response "Somebody whose grandchildren self-identify as first and foremost Jewish". By that measure, Orthodox Judaism succeeds far more than Conservative Judaism and Reform Judaism.

The sad truth is that the middle (Reform and Conservative Judaism) is inherently unstable. As generations pass, most either drop down a level (i.e. from Conservative to Reform or Reform to non-practicing). A few (maybe 10%?) drift up to higher levels of daily observance (i.e. Conservative to Modern Orth).

Reform Judaism and Conservative Judaism must go against their big tent instincts and draw firm lines of what constitutes acceptable daily practice. Without such clear lines, they will continue to drift away.....
Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 9, 2012 at 4:08 pm (Reply)
The charge that Reform is a half-way house to assimilation has also been leveled at Reform for 200 years. It has never proven correct.
Jerry Blaz on November 10, 2012 at 4:24 am (Reply)
The problems which Moffic unfortunately thrusts on the narrow shoulders of the Reform movement are problems descriptive of the American Jewish community, in spite of the statistic that 74% of the Jewish children in New York are Orthodox. Were that a meaningful figure, the American Jewish community could forget about the problems attributed to the Reform movement. Part of the problem is the responders to the article like that of a doctor who comes to the patient with a death certificate awaiting the time of death of the patient, so he can sign it and be done with this Reform thing.

However, it is a little more of a problem than whether it is kashrut or not, whether it is the 613 mitzvot or not. The question is whether Jews can survive if they are only a religion. While we may have been religious down through the ages, we engaged in a lot more ways of Jewish living than that. First, there was community. Where is the Jewish community, the one that includes all the Jews regardless of their religious and non-religious behavior.

Then we accept the division of secular-religous as though it really is historically descriptive of what we've been. Whether we are religous -- in any sense of any of the Jewish "trends" -- we have accepted as proper Jewish behavior in our economic lives they way of the land, we regard our Jewish folkways as quaintisms while living in the folkways of the majority people. Then, we put on sackcloth over the problem that our children and grandchildren intermarry thus relieving ourselves of the task of absorbing the new member in a positive Jewish way that opens the possibilities for the newcomer to appreciate and want from the heart to be a Jew with us.

I could go on and enumerate many more instances that spell the difference between living in the milieux of America and Judaism where we chose almost without thinking the American milieu. This is not the problem of one "trend" or another. It is the problem questioning the possibility of a k'lal yisrael.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 11, 2012 at 4:10 pm (Reply)
    Judaism has never been and can never be solely a religion. Even the early reformers knew this, in practice if not in doctrine. The great film Driving Miss Daily exemplifies that culture.
LARRY KAUFMAN on November 10, 2012 at 2:57 pm (Reply)
What a pity that an intelligent, well-reasoned assessment of the Reform movement, as provided by Rabbi Moffic, attracted so many comments that are so far off the mark. Let's face it, the format for the practice of Judaism as religion that has proven to be the biggest failure is so called Orthodox Judaism -- which was, after all, once the normative practice or standard for 100% of Jews, and now -- even during its current spurt of popularity -- attracts perhaps 20% of identified Jews. As Rabbi Moffic points out, without a way to identify as Jewish in the American mainstream -- whether religiously or merely ethnically -- the four and a half million non-Orthodox Jews would say bye-bye altogether, as their grandparents did a hundred years ago to a ritual-dominated Judaism where your most important religious act was to tear the toilet paper before Shabbos. Without Reform Judaism and its off-shoots, we would have a dozen costumed cultic sects in a half dozen big cities across the U.S., no philanthropic establishment, and not even very much Chabad, which only survives on the funding provided by those who don't believe in much of what they are supporting.
    TheBigJ on November 11, 2012 at 4:46 am (Reply)
    Mr Powers
    That percentage is growing. And it is the only percentage that has staying power. It also happens to be the only growing sector of American Jewry so I would hardly call that a failure. The 100% Orthodox Jews of the past were barely educated, hardly literate, and dirt poor immigrants from Eastern Europe and elsewhere. Orthodoxy was what they grew up with so it was all they knew. You can't compare that to today's Orthodox, who are schooled and educated in their tradition. Also, Orthodoxy is the only denomination that has diversity, as a wealth of Jewish cultures, from East European to Middle Eastern, find their homes in it.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 11, 2012 at 4:11 pm (Reply)
    Larry, Thanks for your reasoned and thoughtful perspective, as always.
David E. Powers on November 10, 2012 at 4:20 pm (Reply)
Is it possible that all of this discussion misses the main question, whether rabbinic Judaism is on the verge of collapse and that intellectually rigid and (as illustrated in some comments) intolerant orthodoxy and intellectually disengaged reform both signal that we are on the cusp of a new Jewish revolution, one as basic as the change from Temple to synagogue, from priest to rabbi?

A basic trait of Judaism is worrying whether Judaism will survive, but survival must be for a purpose, not for survival's sake. We are not dumb selfish genes but vibrant and thinking humans and we look for program and purpose. I suspect that it is possible that the article asks all the wrong questions and avoids the look for possible new models of Jewish expression. Rabbi Moffic hints at that, but maybe that is where the dialogue needs to be, not just reform and orthodox leaders each claiming, "Only we can be relevant."
    mS on November 11, 2012 at 4:12 am (Reply)
    Yes! Thank you!
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 11, 2012 at 4:13 pm (Reply)
    David, interesting perspective. I don't think the model of rabbinic judaism is poised to fall. It's been going along well for 2000 years, and the synagogue as an institution has an extraordinary flexibility. I do think we need to think more deeply about purpose. We need to know what to survive for, not just how to survive. t
S W on November 11, 2012 at 2:08 am (Reply)
Given the responses which range from accusations of "hatred" to "costumed cultic sects" to a call that Reform transform itself into "progressive Judaism," it seems rather clear that finger pointing has been the order of the day as regards the question, "can Reform Judaism get its Mojo back?"

The title amused, for I had to look up the word, which I learn comes from an African linguistic history meaning "magic" and seems to have entered English only in the 1920s. It seems used in sports and now in politics, more than in religious circles. Tasty prose, perhaps, but what is "magical" about Reform Judaism or any other "costumed cultic sect?"

Rabbi Moffic states the obvious, that there is a "decline in synagogue affiliation." Demographics and rudimentary economics have always been dispassionate measures by which to gauge growh or diminution. "Decline" is the latter. For all the harsh words in this comment stream, it seems the salient issue has not been answered to anyone's satisfaction, and so name-calling becomes the other debate tactic. But the end of the article states clearly, "default has only deepened. If it is not addressed now, there may be no future opportunity for repair."

Decline. Default. No future opportunity. This is a serious issue, and I suspect the state of this moment is due to the flooding of politics into and over religion in such a way that religion now becomes just another branch of politics. If religion is subsumed and, as Reform Rabbi Moffic states, "the American Reform synagogue has 'defaulted' on all three of its traditional functions," then it seems that the default was symptomatic of something else taking the place of such "traditional functions." I suggest secular politics is the competitor, and an aggressive one too.

As we watch gathering government debt problems from Europe to the Americas, "decline" and "default" will be the vocabulary in which we will be speaking. It seems a rational explanation to understand why Rabbi Moffic's observation is so apt. As synagogues deal with politics while "traditional functions" dilute, "default" and "decline" seem as certain in Judaism as they are in politics the world around. Mojo or "magic" will not be the avenue back.
mS on November 11, 2012 at 4:10 am (Reply)
"the primary task of its leaders is to focus steadily on promoting synagogue affiliation. [...] It provides the resources needed to create places in which the growing intermarried population can raise Jewish children and Jewish learning can be transmitted to the vast majority of Jewish children, those who do not attend Jewish day schools. Synagogue membership provides funding for the URJ and social capital for other Jewish organizations."

- But why would anyone join a Reform synagogue. Continuity for the sake of continuity - let's survive so that we can survive - what's the point? Fund and social capital -- but again, for what? ... I agree that if you're going to have a movement, then the movement needs continuity and resources, but why have your movement?

"The American Jewish community as a whole cannot survive if there is no non-Orthodox movement to which American Jews can belong; in other words, survival depends on a strong Reform movement."

Who says? What is a strong Reform movement for? Just keeping Jews nominally affiliated?

Reform, perhaps, shouldn't be targeted more than other movements.

I just think we need to dedicate our hearts and minds to considering, What is being Jewish? ... If it's just about perpetuating an ethnic identity that makes for stand-up comedy, then count me out. I'll take Plato over Kaplan... Why Jewish? Why does creation need the Jews?
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 11, 2012 at 4:17 pm (Reply)
    A strong reform movement represents a distinct approach to Judaism that I believe is most true to our tradition. One can absolutely disagree with that, but it does give one a reason to join a Reform synagogue. Denominations may not be the be all and end all of Jewish life, but they do enrich our discussion and open more doors to Jewish living.
TheBigJ on November 11, 2012 at 4:42 am (Reply)
I actually find myself agreeing with every single thing you've said here. Reform and Conservative Judaism are declining for the same reason that the mainline Protestant churches and those Catholic parishes and organizations that have embraced theological liberalism, are declining. Reform and Conservative Judaism don't have anything that sets them apart as unique. They, like their Catholic and Protestant equivalents, simply parrot whatever happens to be politically correct and current in Postmodern circles. Doesn't inspire anyone.

Outside of the United States, these movements have much more success, partially because they are minority movements almost everywhere, and partially because their non-American equivalents have coherent philosophies. Progressive Judaism, which is basically Reform Judaism outside the USA is a Reform-Reconstructionist-Masorti synthesis, with a great deal of influence from Rabbi Mordechai Kaplan, which is always good for a non-Orthodox Judaism. Masorti Judaism, which is basically Conservative outside the USA, is very traditional, encourages observance, and in essence, functions as an extremely liberal Orthodoxy. These movements have established standards, whereas the American movements have not. Of course they're going to decline.
Shlomo on November 11, 2012 at 8:35 am (Reply)
I miss the world of moderate (Reform) Judaism of my childhood, when our immigrant grandparents were still alive, where there was still heimishkeit and yiddishkeit, still some cultural literacy. Today, in NYC, when I walk into Jewish events, I feel surrounded by unfriendly strangers whose eyes are bolted straight ahead at the performance of the evening. "Liberal" Jews are totally ignorant (echoing Phil Cohen's comment above) of their heritage and respect only those who are successful Americans; why are they attending at all? The Frummies are cliquish and scornful of those who don't conform. There's a lack of mutual respect and love.

I remember a challenge from Father John Neuhaus to Alan Dershowitz on a TV panel years ago about religion in the public square: Alan, what do you affirm with other Jews? [You can't be a Jew all by yourself.] Dershowitz's life is his best answer. I ask some of my liberal Jewish friends the same question. They bridle. They [really do] think we're a race and that's it: no common affirmations about God or Israel, no mutual responsibilities.

Today, only Orthodoxy and Zionism show real vitality and substance. They have real raisons d'etre. That is because the Diaspora is dissolving mostly through the natural processes of assimilation. Zionism promises a total modern Jewish environment (or laboratory if you will) with a Jewish language and culture. Orthodoxy is atavistic but muscular enough to survive in the Diaspora. Liberal forms of rabbinic Judaism provide a home for moderate majority of Diaspora Jews, but not a program.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm (Reply)
    Shlomo, You make a strong and interesting critique. I think you are right on several fronts, though some Reform synagogues do display the raison d'etre they need. We need a broader focus. In the 1980s and 1990s Reform thrived on the mission of outreach and social justice. What drives us today?
Dave Neil on November 11, 2012 at 10:52 am (Reply)
Just one point friends- Reform is a "stopping over point" for Jews who inter-married and join a Reform synagogue with their non-Jewish spouse- their children will in the end leave Judaism altogether....
Recent demographic studies have shown more of a decline in Conservative than Reform. The reason for this in my opinion is that many people who grew up Conservative and inter-married find the Reform Temple to be more of a fit, and more accepting of their non-Jewish spouses than the Conservative Synagogue is.
Besides the obvious point that Reform claims to be the largest Jewish movement is not true since a third of their members are not Jewish.. there is the other point. That once the children of the inter-married grow up and marry non-Jews they will leave Judaism altogether. Thus Reform's recent steady numbers just reflects the stopping over point of Conservative Jews who inter-married and are really on their way out.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 11, 2012 at 7:31 pm (Reply)
    Once again, the claim that "Reform is a stopping over point" has been leveled in every generation over the last 200 years, and has been proven wrong every time.
Mr. Cohen on November 11, 2012 at 12:55 pm (Reply)
One important statistic is omitted from Jewish population surveys:
the number of Jews converting to Gentile religions, like:
Christianity, Islam, Buddhism, etc.

Orthodox Jews are far less likely to convert to these alien religions than Reform or Conservative, which gives the Orthodox another advantage over Reform and Conservative in maintaining their numbers.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 11, 2012 at 7:32 pm (Reply)
    Interesting point, though anecdotal evidence suggests that the number is not very high.
Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 11, 2012 at 4:16 pm (Reply)
Very interesting and thoughtful. I do think politics and religion do not mix. Even as great a liberal as my teacher Arnold Jacob Wolf once lamented that Reform Judaism has become the Democratic party with holidays. Real religious engagement transcends politics, and is not bound or in service of it.
Larry Kaufman on November 11, 2012 at 6:20 pm (Reply)
The reference to Rabbi Lamm's expectation of saying Kaddish for the Reform movement sent me back to his prediction, and to the response I and others made to it at the time. You can find them here:

In the same time frame, Rabbi Yoffie (who usually does not respond to online attacks) made an exception for Rabbi Lamm, and you'll find his comments here
Larry Engelhart on November 11, 2012 at 11:32 pm (Reply)
This is an important discussion because it involves the future of Jewry and all Jews are responsible to, and or, each other.

I'd like to suggest that trying to force a dichotomy between Judaism as "religion" and Judaism as "culture" is a false effort, untrue historically and untrue socially.
Those institutions which represent Jewish values emanated from the observance of Torah ideals. Hospitals, free-loan societies, food-pantries, clothing drives - all derive from Biblical commandments.

Even today many important communal life-saving institutions are coming from the Orthodox community who will admit that they are "just doing what the Torah demands. During the recent Hurricane Sandy, one of the leading self-help organizations is Achiezer. Hatzala has been saving lives by re-defining emergency first-response, Zaka has used its emergency-response skills in tragedies around the world.

These organizations (cultural institutions) were founded by people loyal to Torah who felt that they had to ACT in Torah-enhancing ways.

I believe that in the vagaries of Reform theology and applied-behavior those norms don't exist. Hence Reform people are inclined do the "right" thing based on their own sense of what feels right (obviously conditioned by Rabbinic and social norms). But they lack the depth of Jewish education, facility with Jewish historical norms and behaviors, and any expectation that they will behave in distinctly JEWISH ways (as opposed to what is called Judeo-Christian values).

That sense of Jewish excpetionalism (unique expectations & hence unique opportunities) may be what is needed to deliver Reform from its decline.

But if they did, would it still be Reform??
Raymond in DC on November 11, 2012 at 11:58 pm (Reply)
Nice try, but the numbers don't lie. Reform Jews intermarry at high rates, have children at below replacement rates, and have low rates of affiliation. Going by their behavior, it would appear few Reform Jews believe they have something worth passing on. Perhaps because they can't even agree what that "something" might be.
The Dude on November 12, 2012 at 1:20 am (Reply)
Rabbi Moffic,

Would you be sad if your child intermarried out of the faith?
What if they loved that person?

Do we deny love and self-fulfillment to preserve Judaism?
Miriam from Detroit on November 12, 2012 at 6:56 am (Reply)
The historical record of movements that deviated from rabbinic Judaism is instructive. Most such movements last within the Jewish umbrella at most 200-250 years of their founding and afterwards they vanish and their descendants are not considered Jewish by the main body of Jews. Think of the Samaritans, early Christians, Sadduccees, Hellenists, and Karaites.
In the case of Reform, let us take Moses Mendelsson as a harbinger of the Reform movement, due to his many friends and students who went on to found it. He died in 1786 - so we are at the 225 year point at which the movement should be soon fizzling out.
Simple observation shows us that assimilation in the US is usually a 4 generation process. The first generation was nominally “Orthodox”, kept kashrut but stopped keeping the Shabbat. Next generation didn't keep Shabbat or kashrus, but kept some tradition and was very Jewish, and belonged to a Conservative synagogue. Next generation kept nothing but knew they had to marry a Jew and joined a Reform congregation. Next generation married out, belonged to no congregation and for all purposes had stopped any significant Jewish affiliation. This process was often a 3-generation process on the more liberal East and West Coasts.
This is why it is almost impossible to find 4 generations of Jews who are all Reform, despite Reform being around for 200 years. This is also why there are almost no Jewish descendants of the original German reformers.
Before WWII, about 0.5% of American Jews were of the strict Orthodox model known in Eastern Europe before the war. This group has found their way to combine strict observance with the demands of modern life through Jewish education, kashrus certification, rabbinical courts and all the other accoutrements of Orthodox life and today, after 80 years, have rebounded to 10-15% of American Jews with a minuscule dropout rate. The other 99.5% of American Jews followed the assimilatory track mentioned above. Whoever arrived in the early 19th century, their 4th generation has married out and rarely affiliates with any form of Jewish worship. Those who arrived in the 20-30's, their grandchildren are still with Reform.
Remember how Conservative used to be proclaimed the main movement after WWII? What happened is that the children of those who arrived "Orthodox" were joining Conservative en masse, which swelled the movement and made it the biggest movement among American Jewry. When this “Orthodox” drip-off came to an end, due to Orthodox retention, there was no one to keep swelling the Conservative movement, so it began to decrease, while the drip-off from the Conservative to the Reform continued unabated, turning Reform into the largest movement. Now, very little is left of Conservative, and Reform is now hemorrhaging to intermarriage and non-affiliation.
The so-called high numbers quoted for both Conservative and Reform is an illusion, because 1) there are high number of non-Jews in their ranks, 2) they include in their membership numbers anyone who has come to their temples occasionally, i.e. just to make a bar mitzva. If one speaks about members who come weekly, it is doubtful that they even have 100,000 countrywide today.
It is not difficult to understand why all these divergent movements never last. Jews have always been a tiny minority. To be able to remain separate from the huge mass of gentiles among which one lives, and to survive the under-current of anti-Semitism and discrimination which has existed in all societies, one has to be completely committed to his convictions. Only belief in Torah from Sinai, constant Torah study, and a life committed to mitzva observance can do this, not the wishy-washy agenda of divergent movements who primarily imitate the popular values of their host society and change their beliefs and practices according to the zeitgeist.
    Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 12, 2012 at 9:47 am (Reply)
    I'm not sure it matters if the original German Jewish reformers have few descendants in the Reform movement. Reform grows from a number of sources, including conversion and many who leave other denominations. It is true that those who are not Jewish but part of Jewish families do constitute a significant part of Reform synagogues. I would not denigrate that, but rather welcome it as an opportunity to expand Jewish values and traditions. Are we closed off tribe or a faith with a message?
      Miriam from Detroit on November 12, 2012 at 11:09 am (Reply)
      If a movement cannot retain its own children, but needs the input of converts and other denominations to remain viable, that is a failed system.
      It doesn't mean that Reform will disappear. Maybe it will reinvent itself as a new religion, similar to how Paul and Mohammed created Christianity and Islam. They retained many Jewish ideas and practices but adapted them to the needs of their gentile adherents and eradicated those that didn't suit.
      A good case could be made that Evangelical Christianity is closer to rabbinical Judaism than Reform.
      TheBigJ on November 13, 2012 at 4:43 am (Reply)
      Hate to say this to you, Rabbi, but 'many who leave other denominations' in our day and age basically means those who leave Conservative. The number who leave Orthodoxy for Reform in this day and age is, I promise you, miniscule. This may, however, be a different story in other countries, where the Progressive movement operates.
    TheBigJ on November 12, 2012 at 10:11 am (Reply)
    Some of what you say has merit, particularly your analysis of Conservative and Reform Judaism in America and how American Jews used these movements as stepping stones away from Judaism. However, your analysis is not accurate.

    Firstly, Karaite Judaism is very much alive and well. It has 50,000 adherents worldwide, most of them in Israel, but with smaller communities in the USA and Turkey, as well as tiny groups in Europe. 50,000 members is hardly what I would call having 'died out,' and in fact, it is experiencing a rennaissance. Also, Karaite Judaism bears quite a close resemblance to traditional Ethiopian Judaism, which evolved in a very different way from Rabbinic Judaism, but which survived for over 2,500 years even so.

    Second, the Samaritans still exist, albeit in tiny numbers. The whittling down of their numbers was due to forcible conversions of their population to Christianity and Islam over the years, with the result that those who kept their faith were forced at one point to leave Palestine. They returned and today number just over 700, which is a revival due to them reversing the rule against accepting outsiders.

    Third, in some countries the assimilation rate is actually higher among the Orthodox-affiliated than among the Progressive and Masorti. This is very much the case in Britain, for example. I don't believe that the problem has to do with not having the right beliefs, but rather with how well the movement defines its core philosophy and whether it inspires its members to be involved in the community, as well as with learning. Reform and Conservative in America have failed miserably at this, with the exception of a few notable communities, and so has mainstream British Orthodoxy. When you get complacent and become dull and uninspiring, then you're going to lose your people. Actually, outside the United States, the equivalent movements--Progressive and Masorti--are actually doing exceptionally well. Not being the majority (the only major community where they are is Hungary, with its local Nealog Reform movement), they don't have access to the community's purse strings and are not stymied by vested interests. Therefore they've been able to attract many young people. In Latin American countries, these movements are actually vital to the survival of the Jewish communities there, because the Orthodox establishments in those countries are extremely backward and refuse to perform any conversions. Some communities face extinction because of this (i.e. Guatemala, Peru, Ecuador).

    Finally, the whole ideology of 'we have to survive because the gentiles hate us and we're always persecuted and blah blah blah' does nothing but promote a victimhood mentality that perpetuates itself. If that is what it takes for Judaism to survive, then that is truly pathetic. I don't think you can reduce it to that. Judaism has to be pro-active and engage the world, rising to the challenges it faces. Moreover it would help if all forms of Judaism opened their doors wide to converts, who could and I believe, would, come into the Jewish world by the millions. To do that we must jettison this attitude that we're not allowed to seek converts, a position with absolutely no source in halacha whatsoever.
      Miriam from Detroit on November 12, 2012 at 11:33 am (Reply)
      Karaites and Samaritans are no longer considered part of the body of Jewry. The status of Karaites is even worse than that of gentiles since rabbinic Judaism permits converts to Judaism from every group but not Karaites. This confirms what I said earlier - that the fate of these divergent groups is to break off from the main body of Jewry.
      A similar fate awaits Reform in the future. If Reform maintains a large Jewish element in the future, they will likely be rejected for marriage with Jews for questions of mamzerus, similar to the Karaites. This is already a serious problem. The alternative is that they will disappear through intermarriage -- far more likely in America, which has embraced Jews and where Jews suffered from much less discrimination than elsewhere."

      When you talk about "Orthodox-affiliated" you have to differentiate between committed Orthodox Jews and those who just attend Orthodox synagogues for reasons of tradition or convenience but are not observant in their lifestyle.

      I don't know where you get your statistics about Orthodox assimilation in the UK. Here is a report from December 2011:

      Orthodox Jewish population on the rise, new figures show
      STATS: Dr Yaakov Wise
      Posted Tuesday, December 6, 2011 - 07:10

      By Hayley Clarke

      Statistics released by a Manchester-based academic show that more Orthodox Jewish families are having children than non-Orthodox families.

      Dr Yaakov Wise, an Honorary Research Fellow at Manchester University’s centre for Jewish studies, released statistics showing the strictly Orthodox community made up 20 percent of all Anglo-Jewry in 2010.

      In Manchester, the UK’s second largest Jewish community, around 350 births per thousand women occur in the strictly Orthodox community, compared to an average 65 births per thousand among the non-Orthodox Jewish community.

      Dr Wise said: “Although the small, provincial, Jewish communities in the UK are declining rapidly, it is important to point out that the strictly Orthodox population is rising quickly.

      “Because of this huge increase in Strictly Orthodox numbers in immigration, I expect the overall numbers of Jews to continue growing in the UK.”

      Strictly Orthodox couples are having an average of 6.9 children, which Dr. Wise thinks has credited to the 19% Jewish population rise since 2009.

      Dr Wise argues that non-Orthodox Jewish women spend longer in higher education and marry later, causing a lower fertility rate.

      He says that non-orthodox Jewish women under the age of 35 produce even fewer children than their non-Jewish equal.

      “At no point do non-Strictly Orthodox Jewish women attain the fertility levels of their non-Jewish peers or bear children in numbers sufficient to offset population losses from natural causes.”

      As for Reform's great success in Latin America - the growth is due to Latin America having relatively young Jewish communities (most Jewish communities there were started by immigrants in the 20's-30's). There is extensive intermarriage and assimilation, and within a generation or two, the Jewish community will likely fizzle out, as we see happening in the US. Actually, Latin America has seen the formation of many local communities of Jews coming back to Judaism (in Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo, Santiago, etc.) which set up strong Orthodox communities, and they are the only ones that will have Jewish continuity generations from now.

      "the whole ideology of 'we have to survive because the gentiles hate us and we're always persecuted and blah blah blah' does nothing but promote a victimhood mentality"- I don't know where you picked this up from, not from me, but I quite agree. We have to survive because of our covenant with G-d, not because we're persecuted. Being persecuted is the best reason why to assimilate. Orthodox Judaism welcomes converts who want to join the covenant (Torah and mitzvos). There is no other reason why to become a Jew.
        TheBigJ on November 13, 2012 at 4:14 am (Reply)
        Samaritans are not considered part of Jewry, but Karaites are. Karaites are considered Jewish under the Law of Return, and most halachic authorities consider them full Jews.

        There is a group called the Karaim-Karaylar, who are not considered Jewish, and who live mainly in Russia. They practice a syncretistic form of Karaite Judaism, but these aren't even considered Jewish by the Karaites themselves, and the Karaim-Karaylar don't consider themselves to be Jews.

        I agree with you that charedi communities are growing everywhere, especially due to natural increase, but this doesn't change the fact that assimilation in Britain is highest among Orthodox affiliated. As far as Latin America goes, much of the responsibilty for assimilation and intermarriage there can be laid directly at the feet of the Orthodox rabbis in those countries, because they absolutely refuse to do any conversions at all. This is why Masorti and Progressive are doing so well there--their growth cannot be denied.

        Yes, there are growing Orthodox communities in those Latin American countries, and many of them are returnees, but a very large percentage of those are Syrians. The Syrians have a culture that is very closed to all outsiders and they have a racist policy against converts. Most Jews worldwide would not be in any way attracted to the way Syrians do things.
          Miriam from Detroit on November 13, 2012 at 10:36 am
          What is the source of your claim that assimilation is the highest in Britain among the Orthodox affiliated? Are you referring to non-practicing Jews who attend an Orthodox synagogue a few times a year for convenience reasons in the provinces? I would hardly call these people Orthodox.

          There is a common fallacy when talking about assimilation. Orthodox Jews are said to assimilate when they marry out. Conservative and Reform Jews, by this definition, are already completely assimilated. Intermarriage is not even an issue for them. I read somewhere that the number of Reform adherents with 4 Jewish grandparents are only a small minority today. Therefore, to say that Orthodox Jews are more assimilated than Reform/Conservative/Progessive or any other non-halachic group is a contradiction in terms.

          You confuse conversions with getting citizenship or a country club membership. Conversion is not a matter of performing a ceremony, similar to how one becomes Christian or Muslim. Jewish conversion means a inner fundamental change -- you are joining a covenant that will completely change your beliefs and lifestyle. Without the commensurate change in beliefs and practices, one can go to the mikvah a thousand times, circumcize himself and study Torah all day long and still remain a gentile.

          All these rabbis who convert non-Jews (usually for intermarriage purposes) are essentially declaring a zebra a cow and pronouncing it kosher. You're still left with a striped non-kosher animal. These non-Jews may fill the Masorti and Progressive movements for a generation or two but inevitably the watered down movements will simply disappear.

          The Syrian policy is not so much racist as an emergency policy enacted to keep their community from falling to the assimilatory pressures that have affected other Jewish groups. They can put into effect such a policy because of their tight cradle-to-grave community life and no-questions-asked reverence for their rabbinical leaders. To their credit, they were right, as you yourself testify to. The policy has been highly successful in keeping the Syrians in-married. They may not be that happy about it, but Syrians do intermarry with Ashkenazim and Sephardim so they are not as insular as you think.
    Dave Neil on November 12, 2012 at 12:27 pm (Reply)
    Miriam i agree
    see my comment above and
    i think you would enjoy those articles.
    kol tuv,
Ben on November 12, 2012 at 9:08 am (Reply)
I have no idea where you get your data from but Yankel is right.

"The Union for Reform Judaism represents 900 congregations with 1.5 million members."

Well that's the number for 2000 - and it includes people most Jews would not consider as Jews. The number of Reform Jews today is lower.

"The American Jewish community as a whole cannot survive if there is no non-Orthodox movement to which American Jews can belong"

Why ? There is alost no Reform in Israel or France and the Jewish communities "survive" much better than the US one.
I think on the contrary that Reform Judaism is the main responsible for the decline of US Jewry and assimilation. And don't get me wrong, I am not a religious Orthodox. But that's just a fact, where Reform is strong, Jews disappear.
Rabbi Evan Moffic on November 12, 2012 at 9:48 am (Reply)
I would not say it includes "people most Jews would not consider as Jews." That's a theological argument for another context, but suffice it to say that every group, including the Orthodox, have different approaches to "Who is a Jew" question.
A.Schreiber on November 12, 2012 at 9:53 am (Reply)
I am very much a regular orthodox Jew. (European, family been orthodox forever.) But will readily admit there are plenty of flaws within orthodoxy, and certainly not everyone can be, should be, or wants to be orthodox. So I am happy Rabbi Mofic and others are trying to tackle the problem, and I hope they succeed. As to why Reform Jewry is struggling, I can only offer my outsider perspective, that it is WAY too inextricably linked with liberal, left-wing politics.

Just to explain, in the orthodox world, the vast majority are conservative, and you find your occasional democrat. But it's not the RELIGION. You can go to shul every day of the week, and read every shul bulletin or flyer, and not a hear a single word about political issues. Whereas, it is undeniable that to a Reform Jew, the services and well-nigh the religion itself is indistinguishable from the democratic party. (Example: in Reform prayerbooks of the 1930s there were prayers for the coal miners, when union legislation was the big issue of the day.)Nearly every sermon I read about can easily serve as a speech for the ACLA, the Sierra Club, or some other plan in the democratic colation. If you talk to ballei teshuvah who grew up in reform households, they often say the merger of ancient religion with modern day lefty politics instinctively struck them as inauthentic, causing them to begin their journey and discover orthodoxy.

So, in sum, I am I all for a separate "stream" of Jewry, which leaves out many of the rituals and legalistic halacha details found in orthodoxy. (I wish orthodoxy would "reform" itself from these too, but that's a different story.) But that doesnt mean the gap should be filled by whatever happens to be the current liberal fad of the day.
    TheBigJ on November 13, 2012 at 4:39 am (Reply)
    I absolutely agree with everything you've said here, Schreiber, and I commend you on a poignant and excellent post.

    As long as Reform and Conservative Judaism identify solely with leftist politics, not even engaging in debate about whether these politics really make any sense or are in tune with Judaism, then Reform and Conservative Judaism will decline. The same thing is happening in the mainline Protestant churches--northern Baptists, ELCA Lutherans, Episcopalians, United Methodists, United Presbyterians, United Church of Christ, Disciples of Christ, Reformed Church in America, Church of the Brethren, and their equivalents in other countries--all are experiencing drastic declines and rapidly aging congregations. The same holds true in the Catholic world, where liberal parishes are on their way out. I even read one Catholic writer saying that to adopt theological liberalism is to sound the death knell for your church. Even among the Mormons, it's the same--the Reorganized Church of Latter Day Saints has become very liberal since the 50s, and has lost over half of its membership since then.

    Because leftists are far more attracted to secular religions, such as Marxism, Secular Humanism, and Postmodernism, which have all the left wing activism without the God-talk and the inhibiting theological rules.

    I have a great deal of Orthodox family, and I have a lot of experience in Orthodox communities, and I'd say that in my experience, I've encountered everything from leftist socialist to ultras-conservative. Lots of Republicans in Orthodox communities. Lots of Democrats too. Plenty of Libertarians and Greens as well. It reflects the incredible diversity of Orthodox Judaism, something that Reform and Conservative lack. It's truly ironic that the communities that preach diversity tend to be the most homogenous ones.
TheBigJ on November 12, 2012 at 10:18 am (Reply)
"Why ? There is alost no Reform in Israel or France and the Jewish communities "survive" much better than the US one."

This is incorrect. France has an extremely high rate of assimilation and intermarriage, even among the Maghrebi Sephardim. Also, you should know that there is a prominent Progressive movement in France, which, while a minority of French Jewry, is holding its own quite nicely. Progressive shuls there are actually better attended than Orthodox ones. Also, Masorti has made some significant inroads in the last decade among the younger generation, and half of its participants are Maghrebi Sephardim.

In Israel there are over 90 communities affiliated with Progressive and Masorti, though I agree that this is a drop in the ocean of Israeli Jewry. What is making a far bigger impact there, however, is a secular spiritual movement, with which Jewish spirituality and many traditional practices are filtered through a nationalistic lense. This movement functions much like an Eastern religion and has a God component, but is fully based on Judaism. It even has a Secular Yeshiva through which thousands of people have graduated, with the full gamut of Talmudic and other texts taught in as intense a curriculum as at any Orthodox yeshiva, and for as long hours, but are taught by secular professor types. That movement may prove to be better suited to the Israeli mentality than Progressive or Masorti are.
    Ben on November 14, 2012 at 2:15 am (Reply)
    I really have no idea what you are talking about. I know France quite a bit, I lived there a few years and my wife is French. France rate of intermarriage (that includes people living together and not officially married) is around 30% according to the only study on the subject (Erik Cohen in 2002 and if anything I think it is lower today) - maybe a lot but still much lower than other countries.
    Liberal and Masorati are small minorities that most French Jews despise or ignore. They can grow, but they are growing from 0, so it does not mean much. I know the French community, there is not a chance in the world the non-Orthodox will ever be more than 5-10% - unless the rest leaves France, which is what is also happening slowly.
Shlomo on November 12, 2012 at 12:21 pm (Reply)
Orthodoxy scares away potential converts with its racial barriers and obsession with rituals. It undermines the State of Israel which needs to Jewishly integrate more than a million people who may not be kosher enough for the Orthodox rabbinate and yet wish to join the Jewish nation. Also, we don't see statistics of attrition from Orthodoxy. Mostly to Reform, I bet. There are at least a few formerly Orthodox Jews who swear never to come back to shul.

Unlike countries where the religion (ex. Russian Orthodox Church) is handmaiden to the State, Israel faces the opposite problem; the State is hostage to the national religion. I suppose we can say that Islamic countries face a similar problem: some violent group will always find the national State lacking Islamic authenticity, therefore illegal.
    TheBigJ on November 13, 2012 at 4:27 am (Reply)
    What you have said here about Orthodoxy is nothing but ignorant bigotry against the Orthodox, with no basis in fact whatsoever.

    I agree with you about the Israeli Chief Rabbinate, which is a vile organization that truly is threatening the State of Israel with its increased extremism in practice and its parasitic nature on the body politic. The Israeli Chief Rabbinate needs to be dissolved.

    But it doesn't represent Orthodoxy, and many Orthodox are getting utterly fed up with it. As far as racial barriers against converts, these don't exist. The only community that practices these are the Syrians, with their disgusting racism (though they seem to have no issue with their rabbis getting involved in real estate scams). I never understood this, because you can still preserve and love the Syrian culture, without going to this extreme to protect it. Even the Latin American Orthodox rabbis, who refuse to perform conversions, can be accused of being backward and short-sighted, but they're not racist, because they will accept a convert who converted in Israel or America.

    There are Orthodox communities that are very multi-racial and where converts are accepted with open arms. There is even now an Orthodox sect that believes in actively proslytizing to Gentiles to encourage them to become Jewish. Statistics of Orthodox Jews defecting to Reform are minor--because it almost never happens in this day and age. Why would they abandon the richness of Orthodoxy for the bland watered down nature of Reform (I don't include the Progressive movement in this classification)? It happened a lot a century ago, but not today.

    As for your claim of the Russian Orthodox Church being a handmaiden to the Russian government and therefore benign, how do you explain the discrimination and harassment that other Christian denominations endure at the hands of the Russian government? How do you justify the fact that in Russia, the only accepted religions besides Russian Orthodoxy are Islam, Judaism, and Buddhism, while all others are treated like crap?
Caspi on November 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm (Reply)
Can Reform Judaism Get Its Mojo Back? No.
Jerry Blaz on November 13, 2012 at 4:10 pm (Reply)
I do not accept most of the remarks for those respondants who believe and/or purport to speak as defenders of Orthodoxy, which comes in a variety of flavors. I defend Orthodoxy just as I defend Reform, Conservative, Reconstructionist, Renewal and "independents." Judaism is and always has been pluralistic. What has become pluralistic is the Jewish community. Now the communities define themselves by the flavor of Judaism they practice or believe. As an old-timer, I remember my Orthodox rabbi complaining that Galitzianer Jews believed that when they die they ascend to heaven on a ladder of diamonds while Litvaks ascend on a wooden ladder. He said that this nasty competition between Jews was bad for the Jews -- but it was and is so typical (two Jews; three opinions).

What piqued me was a comment by Miriam of Detroit whose thoughtless statement,"there are almost no Jewish descendants of the original German reformers" made me shudder when we realize that the German Jews were the first victims of the Nazis. I could make a statement about the responsibility of some ultra-Orthodox rabbis in persuading their Jews not to escape the Nazis as the barbarians moved eastward, and then have their survivors claim that the Nazis were the punishment for "non-Orthodox" Jewish practices.

The very definitions of assimilation expressed here are enough to cross a rabbi's eyes. All I do is look around at Jews, and generally, I can tell where they come from from their very physical appearance. I would not ever be confused in identifying a Yemenite Jew from a German Jew. But according to some assimilationists, there is a presumption that we should look racially alike. Up until the beginning of the 20th century, many Jews accepted the racial definition of Judaism. In the US, we began to define ourselves as a religion. The idea of a Jewish people was the assumption behind Zionism.

In the U.S. around the middle of the 20th century, professional Jews including rabbis and sociologists decided to call Judaism a "religion" because they felt it would be a safeguard in America for us to retain a Jewish identity. Over several generations, most Americans forget where they come from, so ethnicity seemed too frail a hook on which to define Judaism. (After the 60s, ethnicity again came into its own for many groups to define themselves.)However, by defining Judaism as a religion gave the rabbis the status of community leaders, subordinating all other Jews defined as Lay-people.

I advocate a unitary Jewish community, within which we have -- as it now exists -- our pluralistic religious kehilot. Only then will "all Israel be responsible one for the other."
    Miriam from Detroit on November 14, 2012 at 2:09 am (Reply)
    Judaism was only "pluralistic" in the sense that each subgroup had his own particular lifestyle, customs and areas in Judaism that he emphasized while keeping the whole of rabbinic Judaism (i.e. Litvaks vs. chassidim, Ashkenazim vs. Sephardim). Even splinter groups like the Karaites only disputed aspects of Jewish law while keeping most of it. Groups that eviscerated Judaism, like the early Christians and Hellenists, left mainstream Judaism within a short period. And that's the fate that awaits Conservative, Reform, Progressives, etc. too who have gone much further than the early Christians did.
    Pluralism in Judaism is described in the Torah: When Jacob died, his 12 sons of differing temperaments and abilities surrounded him and declared "Hear O Israel, the L-rd is One." Once one deviates from rabbinic Judaism, then one falls into the category of the man-made religions, most of which have adopted many of their practices from the Torah.
    The early Reformers lived in the early 19th century. Many of them and their descendants moved to the U.S. and other places and their descendants had a good chance to escape the Holocaust. But I challenge you to find Jewish descendants. Many of them had children and grandchildren who had already married out and converted.
    But let's look at someone closer to our times. Has anyone done a study on the descendants of Isaac Wise, the leader of Reform in the early 20th century? How many of them still identify themselves as Jewish, no matter what the domination. His descendants running the New York Times no longer do.
    Jewish identity defies definition. We are not a race, not an ethnic group, and we are more than simply a religion or a nation or a people. Rav Saadya Gaon (tenth century) defined Jewish identity by fidelity to the Torah. The Chofetz Chaim (d. 1933) said that one who doesn't keep Shabbat has wiped his name off the rolls of the Jewish people (and it is just a question of time before his descendants will leave all Jewish affiliation).
    Your rabbis' commentary about Galitzianer and Litvish Jews is just good old-time Jewish squabbling. Always existed and always will. And believe it or not, it's good. It keeps the different Jewish groups in line and makes sure no group does anything that will cause an uproar and arouse castigation from other groups.
    Miriam from Detroit on November 14, 2012 at 2:33 am (Reply)
    Just for the correct historical record, the German Jews were not the first victims of the Nazis, if one is referring to their murder machine. It was the Jews of Lithuania, Belarus and Russia, the majority of whom were slaughtered in 1941 by German squads abetted by locals. German Jews were taken care of later, after the Nazis set up their concentration camps in Poland.
Jerry Blaz on November 14, 2012 at 5:45 pm (Reply)
Miriam from Detroit on November 12, 2012 at 11:33 am said, "Karaites and Samaritans are no longer considered part of the body of Jewry. The status of Karaites is even worse than that of gentiles since rabbinic Judaism permits converts to Judaism from every group but not Karaites."

Miriam from Detroit on November 14, 2012 at 2:09 am said, "Even splinter groups like the Karaites only disputed aspects of Jewish law while keeping most of it. Groups that eviscerated Judaism."

It seems that Miriam has pluralistic opinions on the same subject.
rlshmuel on November 28, 2012 at 3:40 pm (Reply)
As a convert, here's my view from the cheap seats. I came to Judaism seeking religious fufillment. Most of the resources I had to learn about being Jewish were Orthodox writings which revealed that to grow as a Jew, you must study and practice (perform) mizvot. The Reform community offered next to nothing for adult learning and this was in the Chicago suburbs. If a Reform community that size can't come up with enough interest to have a weekly Kollel, it won't happen anywhere. Despite a wonderful rabbi, Shabbat services were lightly attended but everybody showed up for the Purim party. The conversion classes I attended for several weeks closed with the rabbi asking what it meant to be Jewish, and nobody could come up with a straight answer. Performing tzedakah until the Messianic age was off the table. So what is a religious Reform Jew to do? I can't study with the Orthodox unless I lie about the origins of my "Yiddishkeit." Joining the Orthodox was out of the question because I couldn't get home from work and off the roads Friday nights on time. Wearing tzitit in a Reform temple is playing dress-up. Here is where I ended up: Reform Judaism isn't religious. Orthodox Judaism is religious. The Orthodox do not recognize me as a Jew, so therefore.....
B.R. on April 9, 2013 at 11:15 am (Reply)
I haven't read every comment on this article, so forgive me if I re-hash what has already been said. Years ago, I converted to Reform Judaism. Later I converted Orthodox. Today, I rarely go to services (if or when I do, it's either Chabad or Conservative). I think that the core issue with Reform is that it began with very strong declarations against traditional (Orthodox) Judaism. Since then, it has been creeping back, in order to retain some semblance to its namesake. Conservative on the other hand was just a response to the extremes of Reform. Later Reconstructionism arose due to increasing emphasis on intellectualism and decreasing emphasis on the supernatural. Yes, I'm paraphrasing a lot here...but anything that is created in response...and not so much as an original concept, already stands on a shaky foundation.

Not that Orthodoxy can do no wrong. In fact, the current state of Jewish Orthodoxy is in shambles...they just don't know it yet. 50 years ago, Orthodox Jewish congregations did not force their members to send their children to expensive day schools. Or set strict social delineations in place based on how observant your parents were/are. Or encourage marriage at age 19-22 and have the parents support their grown children and grandchildren, and have the hundreds of thousands in dollars in resources to do so.

The interesting thing is that I was always told in Reform, that you do whatever mitzvot is meaningful to you. But in practicality, this is not true. How can a married Reform Jewess perform the mitzvah of going to the mikvah if 98% of Reform Jewish congregations don't have one? How can a man pray with a daily minyan with tefillin if these aren't offered? In fact, not only are these things not available, but they are too often openly criticized...if not by Reform lay leaders, than by the congregants themselves.

In this way, I admire the Sephardim...because they never opted to have these splinter groups. For better or for worse, the Sephardim just have one type of synagogue to go Orthodox (traditional) one. I wish we could say the same. I really have no desire to be led by a female rabbi, to sit along side of men during services, to hear English during the service, etc., etc. However I also don't want, can't be forced into a box and a lifestyle that I can not comfortably attain. I don't want to segregate myself from other non-Jews (or non-observant Jews). I don't want to go to the poorhouse supporting my unborn children until they are 30-35. I don't want to be made to feel bad that I listen to the Clash in my car. No, there is no real place for me...especially not Reform. If the non-Orthodox movements can learn to expand without cutting down or cutting out, I think there would be a chance.

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