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Orthodox, Conservative, Reform

Hundreds of Jews affiliated with the reform and conservative movements, have asked Ahavat Israel about our position in regards to the Conservative and Reform movements, and their effort to establish themselves in Israel. They want to know: Is there a place for conservative and reform Jews in Ahavat Israel?

The best way to answer this question, is to understand what the conservative and reform movements see as their mission and what are their objectives and beliefs.

Reform Judaism

The International Rabbinic Association of Reform Judaism
Declaration of Principles 1885 Pittsburgh Conference
These are the foundation and basic beliefs of the reform movement:

1. We recognize in every religion an attempt to grasp the Infinite, and in every mode, source or book of revelation held sacred in any religious system the consciousness of the indwelling of G-d in man.

2. The Bible reflects the primitive ideas of its own age, and at times clothing its conception of divine Providence and Justice dealing with men in miraculous narratives.

3. We recognize in the Mosaic legislation a system of training the Jewish people for its mission during its national life in Palestine, and today we accept as binding only its moral laws, and maintain only such ceremonies as elevate and sanctify our lives, but reject all such as are not adapted to the views and habits of modern civilization.

4. We hold that all such Mosaic and rabbinical laws as regulate diet, priestly purity, and dress originated in ages and under the influence of ideas entirely foreign to our present mental and spiritual state.

5. We consider ourselves no longer a nation, but a religious community, and therefore expect neither a return to Palestine, nor a sacrificial worship under the sons of Aaron, nor the restoration of any of the laws concerning the Jewish state.

6. We recognize in Judaism a progressive religion, ever striving to be in accord with the postulates of reason. Christianity and Islam, being daughter religions of Judaism, we appreciate their providential mission, to aid in the spreading of monotheistic and moral truth. We acknowledge that the spirit of broad humanity of our age is our ally in the fulfillment of our mission, and therefore we extend the hand of fellowship to all who cooperate with us in the establishment of the reign of truth and righteousness among men.

7. In full accordance with the spirit of the Mosaic legislation, we deem it our duty to participate in the great task of modern times.

From the above declarations we see that the reform movement defines itself as a "progressive religion" just like other monotheistic religions. The reform movement rules itself by a "Mosaic legislation" which rejects "the primitive ideas" of the Bible. The reform movement considers itself a "religious community" which rejects the concept of a "Jewish state."

Conservative Judaism

There are also several conservative organizations in America, such as the Jewish Theological Seminary (JTS), the University of Judaism (UJ), and the United Synagogue of Conservative Judaism (USCJ). All conservative rabbis agree on two things: They consider the reform movement to be outside of the Jewish faith, and therefore they do not recognize reform conversions into the Jewish faith.

As a matter of fact, the conservative movement was born as a response to the reform movement. As the conservative say: "The reform are too Christian, and the orthodox are too Jewish." The following article from the Jewish Telegraphic Agency of April 12, 1996, clearly illustrates the ideology and goals of the conservative movement:

WASHINGTON, D.C. -- Emphasizing shared values and the desire to create a more civil, "moral society," a coalition of conservative Jews and Christians has formed a new Washington public policy center.

"Our goal is to transcend and heal divisions -- those between Jews and Christians -- and to seize those shared values in public policies that are unfortunately being ignored and shunned because of the polarization marking our differences," said [conservative] Rabbi Yechiel Eckstein, founder and president of the new Center for Judeo-Christian Values in America.

Critics of the conservative movement point to the alarmingly high assimilation rate, over 70%, of the Jews affiliated with the conservative movement. Although not as high as the reform movement's 90% assimilation rate, this assimilation is not seen as a failure, but rather as a success for the movement's stated objective: To merge Jews and Christians into one people, or more accurately speaking: To convert Jews into Christianity!

Israeli Judaism

The issue of the reform and conservative came up in Israel, because of an amendment in 1970 to the Law of Return stating that "For the purposes of this Law, "Jew" means a person who was born of a Jewish mother or has converted to Judaism..." This ammendment to the Law of Return, signed by the socialist Labor party's Golda Meir, conviniently leaves out the words "... in accordance to Jewish Law."

Furthermore, the same ammendment of 1970 states that the Law of Return also applies to "... a child and a grandchild of a Jew, the spouse of a Jew, the spouse of a child of a Jew and the spouse of a grandchild of a Jew." And also, that "It shall be immaterial whether or not a Jew by whose right a right under subsection (a) [above] is claimed is still alive and whether or not he has immigrated to Israel."

This change to the Law of Return makes it possible for any non-Jew to come to Israel under the Law of Return, and to be registered in Israel as a Jew. This is a serious attempt by the Israeli government to change the character of the Jewish state! It must be said that despite numerous attempts, this atrocity whithin Israeli legislation has not been corrected.

Another problem which emerged in Israel is related to the refusal of orthodox Rabbis to allow reform and conservative representatives to participate in the Orthodox Jewish Religious Councils. To better understand this issue, it must be understood what is a religious council. A religious council provides religious services to the people that requires them. This services include mikvaot, eruvim, and kashrut supervision. By their own definition, the reform and conservative do not require mikvaot, eruvim or kashrut supervision.

So why are the orthodox representatives being forced, under the threat of fines and jail, to allow conservative and reform into the Jewish Orthodox Religious Councils? This is simply another attack to the Jewish institutions of the State of Israel, by the members of the Israeli supreme court! If the conservative and reform movements want to have their own religious councils, then they should be allow to do so, to serve the needs of the conservative and reform population in Israel, if such needs (or population) exist. But they don't belong in the orthodox religious councils, since the reform and conservative define themselves to be different than the orthodox.

Orthodox Judaism

First of all, what is orthodox Judaism? The word "orthodox" was given to traditional Judaism by the reform movement, as an attempt to denigrate Torah true Judaism. "Orthodox" Judaism, started over 3,300 years ago, when the Jewish Nation gathered at Mount Sinai to receive the Torah, the Jewish Laws. Several million Israelites heard the Word of G-d, and were commanded to keep G-d's Commandments.

The Jewish Law received at Mount Sinai was passed from generation to generation throughout the centuries, until the present day and age, when the Jewish Nation is coming back home to the land that G-d, the Creator of the universe, gave to His Chosen People. Indeed, the Jewish People are now coming back home to the Promised Land, the Land of Israel. The Jewish People survived 2,000 years of exile because they kept the Jewish Laws as given in the Torah.

Most of the Jews in the world see themselves as Orthodox Jews, even if they do not keep the Laws of Shabbat and Kashrut 100% as they should, they are still normal traditional Jews. Most of them fast on Yom Kippur, and all of them circumcize their sons, simply because it's written in the Torah. So why don't they observe the entire Torah Laws? Not one Jew in the world can observe all of the Laws in the Torah. Some Laws can only be performed in Israel, some Laws cannot be performed at all. Some Laws are too hard for some people, and some people are not aware of all the Laws. But still, they are all equally Orthodox Jews. This is an accepted fact of life: Not all Orthodox Jews, are religious Jews. And no Orthodox Jew is perfect.

A Question Answered

The answer to your question: "Is there a place for conservative and reform Jews in Ahavat Israel?" Can be answered with the Talmudic approach of answering a question with another question: "Is there a place in YOU for Ahavat Israel?"

In other words, would you rather be associated with a new religion, about 100 years old, a "continuation of Judaism", a mixture of "Judeo-Christian" values? Which simply put: Is not really Judaism! Do you want to assimilate into the nations?

Or would you like to be associated with the "Real Thing", with a Judaism which has over 3,300 years of history and tradition? With a Judaism which in reality consists of thousands of streams of Judaism, with head coverings ranging from huge leather shtreimls to colorful knitted kipot, or even with no head covering at all! But with one thing in common: The adherance, the belief and respect, to the Laws of the Torah, as received by our Jewish ancestors over 3,300 years ago!

Who is a Jew?

In an effort to further divide and confuse the Jewish People, the Israeli establishment together with the reform and conservative organizations, have come up with the issue better known as: "Who is a Jew?"

First of all, the issue should be called "Who is a Convert?" because that's the only issue there is. Everyone agrees that someone born to a Jewish mother, is a Jew. But, just like the reform don't recognize the conversions of the reconstructionists, and just like the conservative don't recognize the conversions of the reform, the orthodox don't recognize the conversions not performed in accordance to Jewish Laws as expressed in the Torah.

And regardless of any amount of legislation passed by the members of the Israeli parliament, the Knesset, and despite all the propaganda issued by the reform and conservative, the fact remains: "The only converts into Judaism are those who convert in accordance to Jewish Law." Otherwise, they may be reform or conservative, but they certainly are not Jewish, and the majority of the Jews in the world will never consider them Jewish. Anybody who truly wants to become Jewish, must convert in accordance to Jewish Law, in accordance to Halacha, by a recognized "Orthodox" Rabbi.

Are you Jewish?

According to Jewish Law, any Jew born from a Jewish mother is Jewish, even if he (or she) has affiliated with the reform and conservative movements. Orthodox Jews understand very well that because of many reasons, Jews have assimilated and joined conservative, reform and other religious movements including secularism, atheism, communism and socialism.

Ahavat Israel personally invites all such assimilated Jews, with all our heart, to come back into the Jewish mainstream. Come back home to your People, come back home to your Torah, and come back home to your Land, the Land of Israel.

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