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One of the great temptations facing Orthodox (and some Conservative) Jews on SCJ is the opportunity for bashing the Reform movement.
It is easy to understand the temptation; Non-Reform Jews clearly disagree with some very significant aspects of the Reform movement. They feel that doctrines of the Reform movement are wrong, and that many of their strategies (e.g., the best way to deal with such problems as intermarriage and non-observance) are ill-advised. Furthermore, because they have a strong sense of community with all Jews, Orthodox Jews are often pained by some aspects of the Reform movement.
As tempting as Reform-bashing is, it should be avoided for several reasons.
First, distressingly large number of R-bashing posts are simply "I hate Reform" statements without any further information or justification or rationale. They add little to any discussion.
Second, far too many R-bashing posts are based on misinformation. Sometimes the R-bashing statements are absolutely contrary to O-halakha; how often have you read "R Jews are NOT Jews." In other instances, statements are posted such as "Reform rabbis are in favor of intermarriage" or "Reform rabbis co-officiate with non-Jewish clergy at interfaith weddings." The former is not true (although some Reform rabbis will officiate at intermarriages, they do not favor them), and the latter is rarely true. "There are no fourth-generation Reform Jews" or "Fourth-generation Reform Jews are all Unitarians" are both simply untrue. To learn the truth about Reform/Progressive Judaism, interested readers should look at the Reform/Progressive Section of the FAQ.
Third, irrelevant and usually unsubstantiated arguments are often made. Whether there will be many or few Reform Jews in 50 years is heavily conjectural, rarely backed by data, and irrelevant to the question of the correctness of the Reform movement. Think: 50 years ago, who would have predicted the present apparent resurgence of Orthodoxy?
Fourth, these rather crude forms of R-bashing do not simply reflect poorly on the poster; far more significantly (from an Orthodox perspective), they reflect poorly on Orthodoxy. 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 R-bashing messages and conclude that "If this is what Orthodoxy is all about, I want nothing of it."
Finally (closely related to the fourth issue), R-bashing is a spectacularly poor way to present Orthodoxy to non-Orthodox readers. R-bashing gives the impression that the central feature of Orthodoxy is the rejection of Reform. In doing so, R-bashing blinds readers from seeing the beauty, the joy, the compassion, the love of Judaism and the sanctity that Orthodox Jews find in Orthodoxy.
SCJ provides great temptations for R-bashing. But such R-bashing inevitably degenerates to a major hilul haShem, a desecration of G-d's name, because it inevitably offends non-Orthodox readers, and turns them off on Orthodoxy.
SCJ also offers great opportunities for kiddush haShem, for the sanctification of G-d's name. Many SCJ readers have never before interacted with Orthodox Jews, and have heard only negative stereotypes (just as many O Jews have heard only stereotypes about non-O Jews).
By providing thoughtful, caring, compassionate, considerate, answers, it is possible to show the positive side of Orthodoxy. By making reasoned and reasonable comments, others can be convinced that the Orthodox positions are reasoned and reasonable.
There are, in fact, several SCJ readers whose increased levels of observance has been fostered by such posts in the past. And there are other SCJ readers who were once rabidly anti-Orthodox, and whose opposition has been somewhat softened by such posts. There is no evidence of non-observant SCJ readers whose level of observance has increased based on inflammatory R-bashing.
Orthodox Jews should not gloss over OCR differences, or that accept the O-halakhic legitimacy of Reform practices. But Orthodox rejection of Reform practices must be presented with a rationale, must be justified, and must be polite. Orthodoxy rejects Reform practice because Orthodoxy believe they (the practices) are wrong, not because Reform Jews are terrible.
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.
Hopefully, the FAQ will provide the answer to your questions. If it doesn't, please drop Email to email@example.com. 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 firstname.lastname@example.org.
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Daniel P. Faigin <email@example.com>