Jonathan Mark on Reform Jews

The following was posted on The Jewish Week Associate Editor Jonathan Mark’s blog last night. It is no longer up on The Jewish Week site.


Hopefully they’ll put it back up later, so that the views of their Associate Editor are clear and public. In the meantime, here is the text. Because it was culled from a pasted version, it might be formatted somewhat incorrectly, losing external links and/or missing the final paragraph:

When Glenn Beck Compares Reform Judaism To Radical Islam, He’s Unfair To Islam

When Glenn Beck says that Reform Judaism is like radical Islam, insofar as both are more about politics than faith, he’s being unfair to radical Islam.

Yes, both are deeply involved with politics and confuse their own politics with God’s.

But radical Islamists seems to be much more serious about their religion.

Reform rabbis often lead congregations whose overall culture is indifferent to Shabbat and kashrut, indifferent to daily prayer and intermarriage, and indifferent to religious literacy.

A radical Islamic leader, by contrast, is passionate and conscientious about prayer, the Islamic Sabbath, Halal food, and Islamic family purity. He would not be indifferent to intermarriage or classical Islamic teachings.

Only a Reform rabbi would officiate at an intermarriage on Shabbat itself, as did Rabbi James Ponet at Chelsea Clinton’s wedding. A Radical Islamist wouldn’t do that.

Not even the Ten Commandments are as important to a Reform rabbi as intermarriage. The integrity of Shabbat (Commandment Four) was considered so meaningless that the ceremony couldn’t even wait until sunset. With a Reform rabbi, officiating for Clinton, a political figure, was more important than Shabbat, faith.

A radical Islamist would not have violated the Koran to perform an intermarriage for a king.

It’s hard to imagine a Reform rabbi who didn’t frequently take political positions. Among their political positions is that we shouldn’t be Islamophobic; we should know that jihad is a spiritual struggle, not a violent one; that imams are moderates until proven otherwise. OK, all the more reason Beck is right. Reform rabbis themselves say that Islam is first a religion of peace, more than politics.

It’s had to imagine a Reform rabbi who isn’t infatuated with the great Reform legends of fighting for Darfur, being part of the (imaginary) black-Jewish alliance, advocating for gay and transgender rights, hating Bush and Sarah Palin, cheering Obama’s pressure on Israel, all of which these Reform rabbis will attribute to their faith but it sure sounds like politics.

Reform rabbis love “dialogue,” the idea that all problems in the world — between religions and between nations — are just a big misunderstanding because we’re all basically the same and want the same things.

Radical Islamists don’t give a damn about dialogue. They don’t think all religions or all people, infidels included, are the same, because radical Islamists take their own faith that much more seriously.

Reform rabbis are “troubled” that settlers live in Canaan, that Ariel Sharon walked on the Temple Mount, that Moses, a Jew, used disproportionate force in killing an Egyptian. Hebron is not loved for its holiness, as faith would have it, but thought an obstacle to peace, as politics would have it.

Radical Islamists have faith that the Temple Mount is theirs, and the Western Wall, too. They have faith that they are Abraham’s children and belong anywhere in Canaan. Radical Islamists don’t care that Moses, an Egyptian, killed an Egyptian. Hebron is loved for its holiness, as faith would have it, not something to be negotiated, as politics would have it.

Radical Islamic leaders don’t go around saying that religion just means being ethical and good and voting for Democrats, the way most Reform rabbis do. Radical Islam believe that faith demands personal service to God, not just service to each other.

Radical Islamic leaders don’t define their faith so singularly with one political party, as do most Reform rabbis, who seem to believe that Judaism never, ever, says no to liberal dogma. Their Reform Jewish faith, to hear so many tell it. is indistinguishable from their Reform Jewish poliitics. To many Reform leaders, the left can disagree with the Torah but the Torah can never disagree with the left. When in conflict, the Torah must adapt.

To a radical Islamist, whose faith comes before politics, the Koran doesn’t adapt, everything adapts to the Koran.

Radical Islamists seem to have more fire in the belly when it comes to their faith.

Reform rabbis seem to have more fire in the belly when it comes to their “progressive” politics.

Beck is wrong. Radical Islamists and Reform rabbis are polar opposites when it comes to balancing faith and politics.

There are many Reform Jews that I love and greatly admire. These are my people. I’d rather be the worst Reform Jew than the very best Islamist. And I wish that Reform rabbis were, in fact, more about faith than about politics.

Dennis Prager, the talk-show host and author, is a Reform Jew who actually talks more about the importance of faith and religion than he talks about politics. Debbie Friedman, another great Reform Jew, was unique in how she restored the idea of blessing and God to the Reform sensibility. There are other Reform Jews like Prager and Friedman who prioritize faith over politics, but I don’t get that sense from too many Reform rabbis.

I despise, fear and fight radical Islamic politics but I love and envy their devotion to their faith. I love how even in the midst of the Cairo revolution, they stopped to prostrate themselves in prayer. When was the last time you saw Reform Jews at a political demonstration stop to say Mincha? And by the hundreds?

Here’s some more on Beck, on related issues, from the Zionist Organization of America, from regarding the Jewish Fund For Justice’s anti-Beck campaign, and from David Suissa, an exciting columnist for the Jewish Journal in L.A.

How many people who have opinions on Beck have actually seen him in action? Check out this clip of Beck speaking about Israel, threats to Jews, and attacking Iran.

Beck’s a better man than George Soros, and he’s a better Jew, too. If something bad, God forbid, ever happened to Israel, I’m convinced it would bother Beck more. One guy cares about me and the two countries I love. One guy doesn’t.

I don’t like it when someone who cares about us so much is hated, is laughed at, because his caring is imperfect.

Israel Activism 101

In the wake of Israel’s colossal blunder, how can its supporters help defuse the escalating tensions? Maybe, say, apologize for the deaths, work to reverse Israel’s near-total international isolation, and rethink the wisdom of a French fry embargo on Gaza? Or, alternatively, maybe they should stage triumphalist rallies at Turkish consulates while Turkey buries its dead, thus helping push Israel closer to the brink of war?

Which route do you think Israel’s self-proclaimed “defenders” are choosing?

A Pussycat for Purim


From The Forward’s Purim Supplement. (See also) Last year’s kittens are here.

Filed under Comics, Israel, Purim


Peace in the Middle East: Imminent

For a little context, go here.

“Tonight’s Gonna Be A Good Night”


Sell It

The Jewish Men’s Hall Of Fame

I’m not so good at math, but I’m pretty sure 2 out of 37 is a pretty low percentage. That’s the number of women nominated in the Arts and Entertainment category of The National Museum of American Jewish History’s “Only In America Hall of Fame.” Aside from “Politics, Law & Activism,” women don’t achieve anything near parity in any category.

Of 218 candidates, eighteen winners will be featured in a multimedia exhibition when the Museum opens in its new building. According to the website, the exhibition “will illustrate the choices, challenges and opportunities a select few individuals encountered on their pathways to remarkable achievement.”

The public has until August 6 to vote on its favorites. You can write in candidates, but apparently the Museum has final say. As the Museum’s President and CEO told the JTA: “Not to denigrate in any way the choices that might be made by the public, but there has to be historical integrity.”

Filed under USA


Talk to Chuck

According to a full-page advertisement in The Forward, available as a pdf here, New York Senator Charles Schumer will be making a “Special Appearance” at an event in Central Park that apparently opposes a two-state solution, is opposed to negotiations over Jerusalem, refers to settlers as “heroic pioneer families,” insists “No! To The Surrender of Any Part of Israel,” and commits the cartographical catastrophe of depicting a map of Greater Israel, complete with annexed Territories, in the form of a guitar that stretches into Syria.idc_poster_09

Sarah Silverman: “I’m good for the Jews”

This is a couple weeks old; sorry if it’s been posted everywhere already, I know that’s uncouth. For more cerebral conversations, TPM TV has interviews with Eric Alterman, Michelle Goldberg and Jeremy Ben-Ami after last week’s panel discussion.

Filed under Humor


Why We Need a Liberal Israel Lobby

Video of Monday’s talk at the 92nd St Y featuring Jeremy Ben-Ami, Rabbi Steve Gutow, Eric Alterman, Michelle Goldberg and Jane Eisner. (More info and bios here).

Holocaust Studies in Japan

Oddly enough, we did the exact same thing at my Hebrew day school.

More info here.

Filed under Asia, History, Shoah

No Comments

NYC Tonight: Shut Up, He’s Talking

Like many American Jews in their twenties, Gregory Levey was looking into internships while studying at law school. Unlike most, he fell into the job of speechwriter for the Israeli Prime Minister. The result? A surreal and absurdist memoir, Shut Up, I’m Talking: And Other Diplomacy Lessons I learned In The Israeli Government”. Very Short List gave it the best Venn diagram in the world — a combination of Catch 22, The Daily Show and David Sedaris. The book was released today; Greg will be reading and signing copies tonight in New York at 7 PM at Borders on Park and 57th. You can check out an excerpt from the book here.

Disclaimer: I’m a friend of Greg’s. But you all knew I was a whore. (Disclaimer #2: I’m not using the term “whore” in a sexist or gender-politics sense, Jewschoolers.)

This Is Not Jewish

And yet it must be posted.

Filed under Humor, Music


Hitler Hates The Giants

Filed under Humor, Sports


George W. Ahmadinejad


Hey kiddies,

I’ve finally put up a site with some subtle cartoons, some previously published, others rejected from every publication in the world. Please visit, and remember to leave insulting comments. Extra points for proper spelling of “despicable self-hatred.”

EV Comics

Disgrace in France

Choose your thugs: The people who perpetrated this brutality, or the French government for being too cowardly (or too nostalgic for Vichy) to call it what it is.

Days before the presidential elections in France, authorities are reluctant to label as anti-Semitic an incident in which 22-year-old Audrey Brachelle was brutally attacked last Thursday in Marseilles.

…According to Brachelle, her attackers began striking her in the head. Then, one of them pulled a knife, cut a tuft of her hair and slashed her shirt. The two men then drew a swastika on her bare chest and fled the scene.

One thing is clear: In light of this latest atrocity, activists across the world will stage demonstrations against racist, fundamentalist butchers.

Unless, of course, they ignore it.

Full story.

Hat tip to DK.


Manohla Dargis on Verhoeven’s latest film, Black Book.

After dyeing her hair a brassy blond, Rachel insinuates herself into the superdashing Nazi’s confidences and, soon enough, his bedroom. It takes just one glance at the top of her head with its creeping dark roots for Müntze to guess the truth. Grasping her naked breasts in her hands, Rachel pleads her case with Shakespearean gravitas, “Hath not a Jew, er, eyes?”

Yowza! In truth, Rachel — now called Ellis — asks of her breasts and then her hips, “Are these Jewish?” Seduced by the pertness of her argument or perhaps that of her physicality, attractively framed by black garters and stockings, Müntze answers her question silently but firmly.

This looks good.

Dargis’s full review is here.

Where Antisemitism Meets Philosemitism

I hate you because I love you because I envy you because I hate you because I love you – you know what I mean.

“I’ve got big-time lawyers. I’ve got big-time Jew lawyers. … They know that in this country the Jews are running it if you really think about it. I mean, which is not a bad thing, you know what I mean? … They got a lot of power in this world, you know what I mean? Which I think is great. I don’t think there’s nothing wrong with it. If you look in most professional sports, they’re run by Jewish people. If you look at a lot of most successful corporations and stuff, more businesses, they’re run by Jewish. It’s not a knock, but they are some crafty people. Listen, they are hated all over the world, so they’ve got to be crafty.”

– Former Knicks and Nets player Micheal Ray Richardson

Full story.