Soc.Culture.Jewish Newsgroups
Frequently Asked Questions and Answers

URL: www.scjfaq.org/faq/02-15.html
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Question 2.15:
But Orthodox Judaism isn't Judaism? Why don't they see that?

Answer:

On the other hand, SCJ also provides a temptation for Reform Jews to bash Orthodoxy's traditional approach as outmoded and antique. Resist the temptation!

Rabbi Walter Jacob said: "It is not our task as liberal Jews to complain about the Orthodox attitude or to be bullied by it, but rather to choose our legitimate path according to the inner logic and development of liberal Judaism". By arguing how Orthodoxy is wrong, you do no service to Reform. The best argument for Reform Judaism is to present a positive image of Reform as serious, but embracing of other forms of Judaism. It goes against Reform philosophy to claim that Orthodoxy is not a valid expression of Judaism.

Just like Orthodox Jews, Reform Jews have a sense of community with all Jews. Yet, Reform Jews are often pained by some aspects of Orthodoxy.

As tempting as Orthodox-bashing is, it should be avoided for several reasons.

First, distressingly large number of O-bashing posts are simply "I hate Orthodoxy" or "I hate Orthodoxy's attitudes" statements without any further information or justification or rationale. They add little to any discussion.

Second, far too many O-bashing posts are based on misinformation. For example, many discussions revolve around the O treatment of women. However, to the O, there is nothing wrong: there are different roles, and different roles have different obligations. The same is true for many other O practices. Try to view the practice against the traditional point of view; it is incorrect to judge it against the R point of view. You may choose to disagree with the practice, but that is your choice.

Third, many of the arguments with Orthodoxy are calling for them to accept things that just cannot be accepted. Many Reform practices go against traditional beliefs; to accept them would require Orthodoxy to discard those beliefs. That's the wrong thing to ask. Focus on where Jews are similar, not where Jews are different.

Fourth, these rather crude forms of O-bashing do not simply reflect poorly on the poster; far more significantly (from an Reform perspective), they reflect poorly on Reform. Remember that there are many more lurkers than there are posters. One of the great tragedies of SCJ is that too many people will read some of the crude O-bashing messages and conclude that "If this is what Reform is all about, I want nothing of it."

Finally (closely related to the fourth issue), O-bashing is a spectacularly poor way to present Reform to non-Reform readers. O-bashing gives the impression that the central feature of Reform is the rejection of Orthodoxy. In doing so, O-bashing blinds readers from seeing the beauty, the joy, the compassion, the love of Judaism and the sanctity that Reform Jews find in Reform.

SCJ provides great temptations for O-bashing. But such O-bashing inevitably degenerates to a major desecration of G-d's name, because it inevitably offends readers, and turns them off of Reform.

SCJ also offers great opportunities for kiddush haShem, for the sanctification of G-d's name. Many SCJ readers have never before interacted with Reform Jews, and have heard only negative stereotypes (just as many R Jews have heard only stereotypes about non-R Jews).

By providing thoughtful, caring, compassionate, considerate, answers, it is possible to show the positive side of Reform. By making reasoned and reasonable comments, others can be convinced that the Reform positions are reasoned and reasonable.

Reform Jews should not gloss over OCR differences. However, the focus should be on where the practices are congruent, and differences must be presented with a rationale, must be justified, and must be polite. Reform has different practices because Reform interprets the underlying halacha differently, not because practices or beliefs are outmoded or silly.


The FAQ is a collection of documents that is an attempt to answer questions that are continually asked on the soc.culture.jewish family of newsgroups. It was written by cooperating laypeople from the various Judaic movements. You should not make any assumption as to accuracy and/or authoritativeness of the answers provided herein. In all cases, it is always best to consult a competent authority--your local rabbi is a good place to start.

[Got Questions?]Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to questions@scjfaq.org. The FAQ maintainer will endeavor to direct your query to an appropriate individual that can answer it. If you would like to be part of the group to which the maintainer directs questions, please drop a note to the FAQ maintainer at maintainer@scjfaq.org.

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© (c) 1993-2002 Daniel P. Faigin <maintainer@scjfaq.org>