Are the Reform and Conservative Still Jewish?
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- This topic has 158 replies, 51 voices, and was last updated 10 months, 3 weeks ago by n0mesorah.
October 21, 2010 3:01 pm at 3:01 pm #592725myfriendMember
There is no question the reform and conservative don’t practice Judaism. The only remaining question is, are they even (by and large) Jewish? Of course anyone born to a Jewish mother, with an intact maternal lineage, is 100% Jewish. But considering the intermarriage rates in the reform and conservative communities, and the acceptance of paternal descent as “Jewish”, the question remains what percent of their communities are actual Jews.October 21, 2010 3:21 pm at 3:21 pm #755190gavra_at_workParticipant
P’shita?October 21, 2010 3:28 pm at 3:28 pm #755191
Not to mention that the invalid conversions they perform add to their non-Jewish ranks.October 21, 2010 3:32 pm at 3:32 pm #755192
Most members of conservative and reform congregations are still halachically Jewish. How long what will continue to be the case is uncertain.
Many conservative or reform “converts” would actually have the status of a safek ger, which is in some respects even more of a halachic problem than if they were out-and-out non-Jew. I’m glad I’m not a rabbi and don’t have to deal with these kinds of problems.October 21, 2010 3:40 pm at 3:40 pm #755193
i once had a shaila about this, i asked my rav…
there was this girl i was talking to who happened to drop that she was jewish. i thought she wasnt, so i asked her about it. she said that her father was jewish and her mother was catholic. i told her that her mother had to be jewish for her to be jewish. she said that her mother had converted via conservative judaism, but had since recanted on that. my rav said that the conversion in the first place was invalid because they do not follow all the halachos of gerus, and because they do not accept all the mitzvos of the torah upon conversion.
so there’s that for what it’s worth…October 21, 2010 3:41 pm at 3:41 pm #755194bptParticipant
Still jews.. unless mom is a goy.October 21, 2010 4:56 pm at 4:56 pm #755195
This question shows a complete ignorance of what goes on in the non-orthodox communities. First of all, Reform and Conservative are not at all the same thing and to lump them together shows a lack of nuance and a lack of sophistication. Conservative conversions are done according to Halacha or they are not accepted. This is in quite different from the Reform Movement where each rabbi decides what his/her standards are.October 21, 2010 5:09 pm at 5:09 pm #755197
and your credentials above my rav are?October 21, 2010 5:16 pm at 5:16 pm #755198
Conservative conversions are the same junk as Reform. Both movements are outside Judaism.October 21, 2010 5:31 pm at 5:31 pm #755199Feif UnParticipant
cynical, Conservative conversions are done via Conservative halacha. For example, Conservative Judaism allows driving to shul on Shabbos. If a person has in mind that driving on Shabbos is ok, the conversion isn’t valid. For Conservative purposes, it might be ok, but not by our values.October 21, 2010 5:44 pm at 5:44 pm #755200myfriendMember
Reform and Conservative have long left the halachic bandwagon. Gedolei Yisroel across the board have declared them both kefira.October 21, 2010 6:08 pm at 6:08 pm #755201AinOhdMilvadoParticipant
“Cynical” – “conservative” conversions are NOT k’halacha. First of all, most “conservative” “rabbis” (let alone laymen) do not even accept the 13 ikarim, do not accept Torah mi’Sinai. That goes double for Torah she’baal peh. The Torah, they will tell you, was written by a bunch of “very wise men”.
Having THAT as a starting point… it goes down hill from there. Do you really think that any woman undergoing a “conservative conversion” accepts upon herself observance of mitzvos -observance of Shabbas, kashrus, taharas hamishpacha??? Most definitely not. Even the “rabbis” who convert them are not makpid about these things themselves.
So, to answer the original question… Of course if they are Jewish through maternal lineage, then of course they are Jewish. But if they are Jewish through a “conservative” (or “reform”) “conversion” -or the child of a mother from such a “conversion” – then clearly they are NOT Jewish.October 21, 2010 6:10 pm at 6:10 pm #755202ramateshkolianMember
I hope that everyone responding to this thread is doing EVERYTHING they can to help these neshamos. They have the same neshama as you, and it is through Yad Hashem alone that you are FFB (if you are). It is so heartbreaking to see what is going on with these kids- they know NOTHING and to think that only a few generations ago someone in their family was frum…October 21, 2010 6:14 pm at 6:14 pm #755203
This is a loaded topic sure to degenerate into nothing constructive and quite likely destructive. Leave it alone. If there is a Limaase question, take it to a Rav.October 21, 2010 6:22 pm at 6:22 pm #755204
With women “rabbis”, toeiva, abortion, and practically everything else, there is little practical difference beetween the reform and conservatives.October 21, 2010 6:44 pm at 6:44 pm #755205
I believe their intermarriage rate may now exceed 50%. So it well may be that the younger generations in these movements are mostly non-Jewish.October 21, 2010 6:52 pm at 6:52 pm #755206
My credentials are that I’m a Conservative rabbi, so yes, I know a little bit more than you about what goes into a COnservative conversion. I take exception to being lumped with Reform rabbis, not because I disrespect them, but because we have real differences when it comes to Jewish theology and law. I accept the Jewish law is binding, they do not.
As for another comment someone mad about who we accept as Jews – No COnservative rabbi will tell you that the child of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother is Jewish. I have personally been involved with conversions of such children. It may be painful for the family, but we insist on it because it is Halacha.
A response to all the rude comments – You should be careful before you toss another group of Jews into the “junkyard”, someday someone will do that to you and I can’t wait to see how you like it.October 21, 2010 7:03 pm at 7:03 pm #755207WIYMember
True. I don’t know why people start these types of threads.October 21, 2010 8:24 pm at 8:24 pm #755208gavra_at_workParticipant
1: Do you believe all 613 Mitzvos are binding?
2: Does your movement believe so as well?
3: Do you believe in the Divine origins of the Torah, given to Moses by Hashem at Sinai?
In addition, are you “traditional” or “conservative”?
Thanks,October 21, 2010 8:34 pm at 8:34 pm #755209
Do you believe a woman has the right to choose an abortion?
Do you believe it is okay to be gay? (in act, not just orientation)
Do you believe women can be rabbis?October 21, 2010 8:39 pm at 8:39 pm #755211HaLeiViParticipant
WIY, Is it a valid conversion if he thinks it’s fine to pass in front of someone Davening :?)October 21, 2010 8:42 pm at 8:42 pm #755212tzippiMember
Hey Cynical, I was going to write something about how the title of the thread was incendiary but I have to admit that the subject is a real one.
Re conversions: I’m not gonna go there. I do wonder, not knowing the conservative community, is there any trend towards real scholarship among the laypeople? You may have been following the learning boy, shidduch threads and you can see how ongoing intense Torah study is valued. (Re the women, yeah, it’s a different curriculum but we’re not slackers either. We may leave formal education earlier and not commit as much time to ongoing learning but we have ample opportunity to leave as Jews with broad general knowledge of Tanach, philosophy, history, and practical halacha.) Do you see that kind of literacy? If not, what do you think can be done to achieve it?October 21, 2010 8:49 pm at 8:49 pm #755213AinOhdMilvadoParticipant
You say that you are a “conservative rabbi” and that “No COnservative rabbi will tell you that the child of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother is Jewish”.
Don’t you really mean they wont tell you that UNTIL your “Jewish law committee” or whatever name you call it by, with the passage of time, votes that the child of a Jewish father and a non-Jewish mother IS Jewish, – just in the same way that it was decided that is OK to have mixed seating in shul, that it is OK to ordain women as “rabbis”, that it is OK to drive to shul on Shabbas, and numerous other “decisions” made by your “movement” that are contrary to Torah law?October 21, 2010 9:00 pm at 9:00 pm #755214
“But considering the intermarriage rates in the reform and conservative communities, and the acceptance of paternal descent as “Jewish”, the question remains what percent of their communities are actual Jews.”
You’re so right,and consider that conservative geyrus is worthless as well.
By the way, the method of how Jewish population is tallied in the U.S.A. is that a sampling of people are called by phone and if the head of the household is claimed to be Jewish, the demographers consider and count the entire household as Jewish.
So halachically, there are far less Jews in the United States as officially stated and this would bring the true Orthodox proportion of the actual total of American Jews much higher than the secularists state.October 21, 2010 9:12 pm at 9:12 pm #755215October 21, 2010 9:42 pm at 9:42 pm #755216
No conservative or reform convert intends to accept the 613 mitzvos, thus they are all invalid. No conservative and reform convert intends to keep Shabbos (i.e. not drive, no making fires, opening electricity, etc.) or keep the full taharas hamishpacha.
In any event, the great intermarriage rates in those religions (conservative and reform) are causing a high percentage of their children to be non-Jewish. While their Judaism was long ago discardrd, sooner rather than later there will not even be any Jews left in those religions.October 21, 2010 9:48 pm at 9:48 pm #755217ronrsrMember
they are still our brothers and sisters, and all are children of Hashem.October 21, 2010 10:37 pm at 10:37 pm #755218
…the ones that are Jewish, that is.October 21, 2010 11:52 pm at 11:52 pm #755219WIYMember
Definitely not! 🙂October 22, 2010 12:32 am at 12:32 am #755220HomeownerMember
Hmm. If you daven three times a day and accept the Taryag Mitzvos BUT you (apparently) don’t believe in “dinei d’malchusa k’dina” since you get convicted of tax evasion and money laundering, are YOU still a Jew?
Obviously I agree with ronsr.October 22, 2010 12:47 am at 12:47 am #755221
That’s quite a lot of questions and comments directed at me. I’ll endeavor to answer some of them because I think talking and listening to different types of Jews is very important and I have a feeling that many of you have never met a Conservative rabbi.
Gavra at Work:
I am most definitely a Conservative rabbi. We believe that all the Mitzvoth of the Torah are binding. That said, try to find two sources that identify all 613 Mitzvoth and interpret them in the same way. I have a feeling you will not find it possible to do so. This is the position of the Conservative Movement. Do I believe in Revelation at Sinai? Yes, I do. God entered into a relationship with the Jewish people thousands of years ago. A relationship between man and God is just like a relationship between two people: it involves conversation and dialog, and it grows and changes because the participants do not remain the same. The nature of our relationship with God has changed because we have changed and we believe God has always been aware of this since He entered into that relationship. Jews have long had a metaphor that envisions God as a father or a parent. Just like a parents and children do not relate to each other in the same way from infancy through adulthood, God and the Jewish people continue to adapt to each other because we are committed to each other. I personally believe that this idea of relationship has existed in Jewish tradition for a long time. Don’t we say that it took seven weeks to get from Egypt to Sinai because the ragtag group of impure slaves needed the time to become a real nation worthy of receiving the Torah? There was a time before God would enter into a relationship with us and we needed to grow before we were ready. We didn’t stop growing at Sinai, but rather were just at the beginning. So GAW, the answers to your questions are a definite YES, but a nuanced YES as well.
Your question about abortion is tricky because I’m not sure what you are asking or with what opinion on the subject you are asking it with. “Abortion on Demand” is not a Jewish idea, it’s an American one. Our Halachik sources make it very clear that abortion is not murder and forbidden to begin with. The Mishnah in Ohalot permits it in a case where the mother is in danger and Rambam justifies this by saying that the fetus is a Rodef. Given this position, I see no reason to say that abortion is Assur. If you’re asking if abortion should be used as birth control, I would say no. To do so is an act of extreme irresponsibility. I find it necessary to defend abortion in American law because the people who want to make it illegal want to do so in all cases. This would lead to the death of women; Jewish as well as non-Jewish ones. This isn’t an acceptable outcome.
Is it ok to be gay? You mention orientation as opposed to act. I don’t know what it means to have a gay orientation because I don’t have one. I don’t know what people like that go through, but I do know that we are obligated to treat them with the same level of respect with which we treat other people. Many people say people say this, but few live it. Would I perform a gay marriage? I’ve never been asked and probably not. Would I fight for their rights under American law? I haven’t been involved with this, but if push came to shove I probably would because they deserve the same tax benefits, medical benefits, legal status, etc as a man and woman who have committed to each other in a permanent way.
Can woman be rabbis? Yes. Even in the most recent events surrounding this topic in Orthodoxy, no rabbi came up with a valid Halachic reason why not. Is it the way Orthodoxy does things? No Although I disagree, I feel no need to ask you to conform to me. Then again, I’m not an Orthodox woman who deeply desires to be a Jewish religious leader.
Given what I know of the Committee of Jewish Law and Standards, I do not see any way that it will change the definition of Jewishness to include paternal descent. Regarding how it does operate, it is no different from how Jewish religious leaders have made Halachic decisions in the past. The individual members make arguments based on their reading of traditional sources. Conservative Jews are under no obligation to accept everything the Committee says and you certainly do not have one. That is the same way Jewish law has always worked. An Ashkenazic Jew in the 1200’s had no obligation to accept the rulings of the Rashba in Barcelona. The idea of a universal Posek is unheard of in Jewish legal history. Our Teshuvot simply provide people with more than one way to read Jewish texts.
I clearly do not accept Rav Moshe’s psak on this issue and I find many of his writings about COnservative Jews to have been written in a mean-spirited way and without real knowledge of what goes on in our movement. This does not take away from his genius or his knowledge of Torah. It just means that, as I said above, I am not obligated to accept his rulings.
I believe that answers most of the questions directed at me, I’m choosing to ignore the nasty gratuitous comments. I read this forum regularly because it gives me insight into a Jewish community of which I am not a part. I hope you will take the time to read what I have written.October 22, 2010 12:51 am at 12:51 am #755222hudiParticipant
To answer your first question. Generally speaking, I think that many conservative jews are indeed jewish, because they have stronger identity with Judaism that the reform movement. I don’t want to lump all conservative people together or all reform people together, or the two groups together because there are exceptions.
I think that the conservative movement and the reform movement are both wrong. You can’t say that one is wronger than the other because this is black and white halacha (jewish law). You are either wrong or right. There is no in between state or justifications allowed.
To cynical – I’m sure you can sense the frustration on this forum. Orthodox Jews just don’t understand how Jews in 19th century Germany could decide that the truest religion in the world that had been practiced the same way for 1500+ years could be considered wrong and irrelevant to being a Jew. These people wanted a Jewish culture, without a mention of God. And sadly, they succeeded to an extent by mere means of justification. They twisted our precious heritage and turned it into watered down soup. And people went after them – there was a tremendous urge to follow them. The conservative and reform today are innocent victims of their parent’s missteps on the wrong path. We call them “babies that were captured” – children that were taken during war and never knew their parent’s way of life. It is just so frustrating and saddening and maddening that something like this could happen.October 22, 2010 1:14 am at 1:14 am #755223Midwest2Participant
There seem to be three questions here:
1. To what extent can we lump Reform and Conservative together? Answer: no way. I used to be Conservative. Conservatives by and large respect halacha, just don’t keep it. Reform are another story entirely. The whole point of Reform was to reject halacha and being separate from mainstream society, i.e. radical assimilationists.
@. Are most Jews in non-Orthodox circles halachically Jewish? Depends. Conservative, probably still the majority, but better check. Reform – iffy – the real assimilationists drop out after a generation or two, but there are plenty of intermarriages. So – better check for sure. Non-affiliated? Anything goes. Check back three generations.
3. Conversions. By Orthodox standards Conservative conversions can’t be al pi halacha because if nothing else the witnesses aren’t shomer Shabbos and therefore aren’t kosher. Of course, the converts themselves are usually sincere, just ignorant. Conservative converts tend to be fairly well educated. Reform conversion classes seem to be a joke. BTW Conservative rabbis might get a little frustrated, because most serious Conservative converts eventually go on to convert and practice Orthodox. I know one person who went through four conversions – Reform, Conservative, Modern Orthodox and Hareidi. For those FFBs who think so highly of themselves, would YOU have had the mesiras nefesh to do this? I feel privileged to know this person.
The bottom line: NEVER put ANYONE down. No one gets consigned to any junkyard here. You can’t be oiver ahavas Yisroel (including Reform and unaffiliated) and get away with it long-term. And for non-Jews you have to have kavod habrios. HaShem has plans for us all – Orthodox, Conservative, Reform, non-Jew. So let’s stop name-calling and start working on doing our job.October 22, 2010 1:41 am at 1:41 am #755224
Many poskim disagree with this and would require the couple to go throught an Orthodox divorce prior to remarriage. Rov Soloveitchik z’tz’l even required a woman married by a Reform rabbi to a Reform convert to have him write a get before an Orthodox beit din.October 22, 2010 2:06 am at 2:06 am #755225
“No conservative or reform convert intends to accept the 613 mitzvos, thus they are all invalid. No conservative and reform convert intends to keep Shabbos (i.e. not drive, no making fires, opening electricity, etc.) or keep the full taharas hamishpacha.”
This is absolutely not true. I know many heterodox converts who wanted to keep the 613 mitzvot and therefore later had orthodox convertions.October 22, 2010 2:35 am at 2:35 am #755226Pashuteh YidMember
Those who are lumping together the woman Rabbi issue with halachic issues are not being honest with Cynical. Please show a siman and s’if in Shulchan Oruch where it says women can’t be Rabbis. Each thing they might do has its own halachos. If it involves visiting the sick in the hospital and getting the title of Chaplain, obviously this is fine. If it involves serving as an eid in a marriage, this is not fine. If it involves making speeches in shul and teaching Torah classes, that is probably fine, as well. There have been numerous educated women such as Beruriah, and Devora, etc. who achieved high levels of learning and even served as communal leaders.October 22, 2010 3:31 am at 3:31 am #755227
Who do you think the kiruv efforts of lev lachim, oorah, you name it, are aimed at, FFBs? Why do you think its called kiruv rechokim and not a geyrus drive? These are rhetorical questions.October 22, 2010 4:53 am at 4:53 am #755228ronrsrMember
Dear helpful, they are all my brothers and sisters, regardless of whether they are Jewish or not.October 22, 2010 6:49 am at 6:49 am #755229
Read what the Gedolim have to say regarding these two treif movements. They dismiss them both for the same apikorsus gamur. We are not even allowed to cooperate with either of them in any way that gives them the illusion of an iota of legitimacy.October 22, 2010 7:05 am at 7:05 am #755230
You deftly skirted answering my pretty straightforward questions.
Do you believe a woman whose life is in NOT in danger may choose to have an abortion?
Do you believe it is permissible (for a Jew) to engage in gay relations?
From your vague responses it seems your answer to both is yes.October 22, 2010 10:17 am at 10:17 am #755231
cynical: you talk of a “changing relationship”…but essentially that’s just how you justify your watered down version of judaism. that’s not even why conservative judaism was started….here’s the thing. you make allowances here and there to prevent the complete collapse of judaism…but that doesnt seem to be working because your numbers are dwindling. you look through the torah (shebichsav and ball peh) for loopholes that you can twist to suit your purposes and you completely disregard hashkafah in your interpretations. after all, how can you possibly allow for propoer hashkafah if your hashkafah is to disregard the mesorah of thousands of years from sinai.
my rav was a talmid muvhak of rav moshe feinstien and has now been a posek for many years. i hold more store in him than i do in you.
let me ask you a question cynical…do you believe that all jews should be conservative (or at least your flavour of conservative whatever that may be)? or do you acknowledge that orthodox judaism is the correct way of life and yours is just a poor attempt at compromise?
when you perform conversions, are they required to accept all the mitzvos completely and unequivocally according to the orthodox tradition?October 22, 2010 12:59 pm at 12:59 pm #755232
Rabbi Saul Lieberman, who was a talmud of Slabodke and the top Talmud professor at JTS, had a six page serious t’shuva on why women rabbis were assur. JTS followed his ruling until his death; after which, their policy changed. As a result, there were many defections and a new movement and seminar was created by those who left, i.e., Halivne Weiss and Roth.October 22, 2010 1:02 pm at 1:02 pm #755233
Why do you bother bomb? The leaders of Torah Jewry have long and consistently stated these clergymen of these two false religions are reshoyim. Period. End of discussion.October 22, 2010 2:25 pm at 2:25 pm #755234
A lot more to answer, but not enough time before Shabbos.
Just a few quick comments.
I do not believe that all Jews should be any flavor of Conservative or any one style of Judaism and I wouldn’t ask them to be. I acknowledge the Orthodox Judaism is A correct way to practice Judaism, not THE correct way (What do you mean by Orthodox Judaism anyway? You talk like there is only one type of person who falls under the umbrella of Orthodoxy). No, I do not ask my converts to follow law as understood by Orthodox Judaism. Why would I? I’m glad you have more store in your Rov than in me, that’s why he’s your Rov.
Rabbi Joel Roth is most certainly active in the Conservative Movement and is still doing a wonderful job teaching future rabbis and others.
Clearly you disprove the idea of Keshmo Ken Hu. Comments like yours and the leaders you mention are a major reason why there is so much Sinat Chinam among the Jewish people. Look at this forum – You’re making comments like that, I’m not. Which one of us is keeping Mashiach away? Think that over.
A Good Shabbos to all!October 22, 2010 2:30 pm at 2:30 pm #755235
Darchei Noam. whatever the gedolim may or may not say about the clergy, they dont call them separate religions. They also said these things about the clergy 50-60 years ago, because those clergy grew up as FFBs. Why do these very same gedolim endorse organizations such as Aish, Oorah, Lev Lachim and the myriad of “KIRUV” (not GIYUR) organizations? Why do yeshivos send bachurim out to the hinterlands of yiddishkeit every summer under Project SEED. To seek converts to judaism? Surely there are halachic problems with the “jewish status” of lots and lots of people who identify themselves as Jewish, at the same time, to simply write them off as Jews? Reshoim? Thats anything BUT Darchei Noam.October 22, 2010 2:31 pm at 2:31 pm #755236
cynical, After skirting in your answers to my previous inquiry above, it is telling that you chose to ignore my follow-up asking you to clarify your anti-Torah positions.October 22, 2010 2:34 pm at 2:34 pm #755237
The Gedolim themselves refer to them as reshoyim. And they have also clearly and unequivocally stated that they are not practicing any form of Judaism. Don’t shoot the messenger here.
There is no stira about the kiruv work. We should also try to be mekarev a Yid who became a Christian.October 22, 2010 2:36 pm at 2:36 pm #755238
cynical – My error concerning Roth; I haven’t looked at the t’shuva for many years so all names escape me now. I have the t’shuva buried in my files and I can get it if your interested. I have a feeling though that you could probably guess the names of the five or six JTS professors who asked the shaila of professor Lieberman.October 22, 2010 2:48 pm at 2:48 pm #755239SJSinNYCMember
Do you believe a woman whose life is in NOT in danger may choose to have an abortion?
A friend was given a heter to have a late term abortion. Her child had some massive heart and valve problems that would not have allowed the child to live more than a few minutes. The Rabbi told her it was better for her to abort. It was not easy for her to listen to the psak, but she did. [this psak was from an Orthodox Rabbi and her life was not in danger]October 22, 2010 2:51 pm at 2:51 pm #755240tzippiMember
Hey Cynical, my hand’s still raised! 😉
I will accept that there is a segment of Conservative clergy and laity committed to Jewish observance and learning. Regrettably, this is not as widespread as you may like. In fact, here in my out of town community, there’s a lot of blurring of the lines between Conservative and Reform, in youth groups, shared services, etc.
Here’s also something for you to comment on, if you could:
Many if not most non-Orthodox Jews are such because their (great)grandparents succumbed and stopped observing Shabbos. (And it is clear that it is impossible for us to judge them. There was widespread Jewish illiteracy, starvation, missionizing and much more that we can’t imagine.) These grandchildren now are conservative, reform, reconstructionist, etc. if still identifying Jewishly.
(There is a population, probably boomer-age, who may have abandoned Orthodoxy, probably in college, probably because they didn’t have the strongest Jewish identity or had very uninspired and uninspiring teachers.)
But AFAI can tell, this is where the non-Orthodox population comes from, not from any contemporary mass movement from the Orthodox.
I see middle aged people whose parents were traditional and Conservative, they themselves will not mix meat and dairy and will only buy kosher meat, but their kids aren’t continuing. I’ll bet you see this all the time; I’m sure you know what I’m talking about. How can people maintain their own level of non-Orthodox and observance and see it carry over? Does it require a level of exclusivity, not eating in other people’s homes, etc.? You’re right, I don’t have too much interaction with non-Orthodox people, and I’m intrigued by the nuts and bolts of life.
I could go on but I have to get ready for Shabbos myself. Gut Shabbos.
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