Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Eric Yoffie defends himself

Maybe Shafran and Yoffie will end up writing a book together?

Jerusalem Post:

Rabbi Avi Shafran's article comparing the Union for Reform Judaism's convention in Houston with Agudath Israel of America's convention in Stamford, Connecticut, (The Jerusalem Post, December 5) became, to the surprise of no one who follows Shafran's writings, yet one more opportunity to bash Reform Jews and Reform Judaism. Because the Reform movement has no desire to participate in the spectacle of Jew pummeling Jew, we rarely respond to articles by Shafran that are written for the American Jewish press. However, since some of the Post's readership may not be familiar with North American Jewish realities, I offer, with reluctance, these comments on Shafran's essay.
It is interesting that his attack on Reform is presented mostly in generalities. He says that the Reform movement is "hemorrhaging… members"; that it offers "platitudes" but not "true direction"; that it, unlike the "original" Judaism of Agudath Israel, refuses to take Judaism seriously; and that Orthodox Jews possess "spiritual wealth" that Reform Jews do not possess. The impression that one gets from his column is that Reform is withering away while Orthodoxy dominates the North American scene.
FIRST, A reality check. Reform Judaism is vibrant and growing, and is by far the largest of the North American religious streams. Furthermore, in the open and pluralistic religious environment of North America, where no movement enjoys state-conferred privileges and where all streams compete on a level playing field, the overwhelming majority of North American Jews have chosen not to embrace the approach to Jewish tradition that Shafran has to offer. Fewer than 15% of North American Jews identify as Orthodox, and Shafran's particular brand of Orthodoxy constitutes only a modest percentage of that number. It is probably not a coincidence that in discussing conventions, Shafran gave no attendance figures. More than 5,000 people attended the Reform convention, while it is safe to say that only a fraction of that number were at Agudath Israel's meeting...

..Nonetheless, the simple fact remains that the strict halachic observance proposed by Shafran has never appealed to more than a small minority of the North American Jewish community, and there is no evidence that it ever will. A different blend of modernity, tradition and creative religious thinking will be required if our community is to survive and grow, and Reform Judaism - along with the other non-Orthodox streams - provides that alternative. Indeed, Reform Judaism has in many respects become mainstream North American Judaism....
posted by Yeshiva Orthodoxy
at 7:38 PM


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Here's the article so you'll know what he's talking about.

12:51 PM  

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