Questioning Reform Goals


Go for it! That was my response to Rabbi Ammiel Hirsch’s call for strengthened ties of American Reform Jews to Israel (“Reform Jews at Crossroads on Israel,” Oct. 6). But some of Rabbi Hirsch’s arguments left me scratching my head.

Rabbi Hirsch decries the collapse of an agreement on non-Orthodox prayer at the Western Wall. But why would anyone true to Reform beliefs even want to pray at the Western Wall? After all, the Wall’s significance is that it’s a remnant of the Holy Temple. Priests performed sacrificial rites there. The Reform movement long ago rejected those elements of Jewish tradition. That’s why the movement removed the Musaf service, which is all about Temple sacrifices, from its prayer books. Indeed, “Temple” is in the name of many Reform congregations precisely because they see their synagogues as enduring replacements for the Holy Temple, which they have no aspiration to see restored.

Further on, Rabbi Hirsch lays out his plan for a mass Reform movement in Israel, including a major Reform commitment to building schools there. Rabbi Hirsch’s priorities are skewed. First build schools in the U.S. Although Reform is America’s largest Jewish denomination, intensive Reform Jewish education is almost nonexistent. Here in America’s largest Jewish city, there is but a single Reform Jewish day school (Manhattan’s Rodeph Shalom School). And that school stops at the eighth grade. If the Reform movement established more all-day schools in the U.S., Rabbi Hirsch would have less reason to worry that non-Orthodox Jewish identity in America will disintegrate.