Thursday, July 29, 2010

Is Reform Judaism dying?

It's an interesting situation that we have with the future of Reform Judaism. Keep in mind that it's this denomination that intermarries more so than others. When I was a college freshman in 2003-04, one of my friends and I got into a discussion about the future of the Reform movement. He thought it would be dead in the next 20 years.
Two hundred years ago, on July 17 1810 in the town of Seesen in central Germany, Reform Judaism was born. Its mission was to modernise Judaism and create a bridge between Jewish life and the surrounding culture.

But, on the eve of its bicentenary, some observers question whether in another 200 years Reform Judaism will even exist.

Triumphant catcalls from Orthodox Jews grow ever louder. They pour scorn on Reform Judaism, and the Progressive movement it launched, as heretical and dilute, incapable of stopping its children riding off into the sunset with their non-Jewish spouses, its thinned-out pews sorrowful staging posts on the road to assimilation and the abandonment of millennia of Jewish survival against the odds.

Certainly, widespread assimilation is contributing to a rapid shrinkage of Jewish communities across the Diaspora. But is Progressive Judaism to blame?

Reform rabbis claim they offer an alternative to the stark opposites of Orthodoxy and assimilation. They say that far bigger chunks of the Jewish community would have already broken off and melted away, unwilling to follow orders of unworldly and unelected rabbis, were it not for the break with fundamentalism.

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