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 BigJournalism.com 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.